Silicon Valley Tech News Roundup of the Week – June 13th

President Biden reverses Trump’s orders on WeChat and TikTok

On Wednesday, President Biden reversed executive orders implemented during the Trump administration targeting Chinese apps that included WeChat and TikTok. Last year, Trump issued several executive orders intending to ban Chinese apps from the US market citing national security concerns. The Trump administration claimed apps like WeChat and TikTok represented a national security risk.

In their place, the Biden administration issued a new executive order whose primary objective is to protect the Americans’ user data against potential foreign adversaries. Commerce Department has been tasked to generate a report on how to safeguard personal user data (including genetic data) together with another report on additional policy proposals.

Likewise, Commerce Department has to come up with criteria that will assess potential national security risks connected with the apps “owned, controlled, or managed by persons that support foreign adversary military or intelligence activities, or are involved in malicious cyber activities, or involve applications that collect sensitive personal data.”

The Zhurong rover sends a selfie from Mars

Last month, the Chinese National Space Administration’s Zhurong rover landed on Mars. It makes China the second nation in the world to send a rover to Mars. Zhurong rover (named after the Chinese god of fire) is set to explore a part of Mars called Utopia Planitia. Formed by an impact of an asteroid some four billion years ago, it is an area where space probes discovered a vast amount of frozen water below the surface.

Zhurong rover took several pictures, including one of the landing platform. The images were taken with a wireless camera put in place by the rover itself. The rover will stay on Mars for three months. During this time, it is supposed to analyze and gather data about Mars’s climate and geology.

Already on Mars is NASA’s Perseverance rover, whose primary objective is astrobiology. Perseverance is gathering data about the planet’s geology and climate, including searching for signs of ancient microbial life. The two rovers are thousands of miles apart on Mars.

A new set of antitrust bills targets Big Tech

This Friday, after a year of investigating competition in the online marketplace, US legislators presented the new anti-trust agenda. It is supposed to curb the power of the Big Tech (including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google).

Five bipartisan bills, if passed into laws, will be the most significant change to anti-trust laws in decades. Some of the bills include the government’s ability to break up dominant companies, stop discrimination implemented by the dominant platforms, and promote online competition. Likewise, the laws will prevent acquisitions that gobble the competition and expand the market power of dominant platforms.

Rep. David N. Cicilline, the chairman of the House Antitrust Committee, said in the statement: “Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy… They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work.”

$28 million for a seat on Bezos’ Blue Origin Spacecraft

At a live auction held by Blue Origin this Saturday, a seat on the first space tourism flight went for $28 million.

Blue Origin, a company founded by Jeff Bezos in 2000, opened the auction on May 5th. According to the company, more than 7000 people from 159 countries registered interest. Saturday’s auction started at $4.8 million and went to $28 million quickly. The money raised will go to Club for the Future, a Blue Origins foundation. The focus of the foundation is to inspire younger generations to consider a career in science and contribute to the development of future life in space.

The auction’s winner will join Jeff Bezos and the crew aboard the New Shepherd spacecraft set to blast off on July 20th. They will take an 11-minute trip to the edge of space. The winner must meet a series of requirements and complete a training program before the blast-off.

Blue Origins wants to use this launch system for future tourist visits to the edge of space.


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