Silicon Valley Tech News Roundup – August 1st

Big tech companies delay office return – 7/30

Several of the biggest tech companies postponed the office return for their workers until October due to the Delta variant and rising number of Covid-19 cases in the United States.

In an email to Google employees on Friday, Sundar Pichai (Google CEO) stated the company will extend its global work-from-home policy until October 18th. Furthermore, the email states: “Anyone coming to work on our campuses will need to be vaccinated.” The company will implement the policy in the United States first. Afterward, it will roll out globally.

On Wednesday, Lori Goler, Facebook Vice President of People, released a statement via Twitter, saying their employees returning to work will have to be vaccinated. Meanwhile, Apple also delayed their plans to have employees return to the office until at least October.

Twitter closed down its San Francisco and New York offices just two weeks after they reopened. In a statement, the company stated: “After careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions, Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco, as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately.”

Elon Musk’s Neuralink raises $205 million – 7/30

Neuralink, a company developing brain chips, raised $205 million in funding. In a statement released on Thursday, the company said Dubai-based Vy Capital, together with Google’s GV (previously Google Ventures), led the funding. Other investors include five Silicon Valley-based investors and seven venture capital firms.

Elon Musk founded Neuralink in 2016 and the company is based in Austin, Texas. The company wants to create brain implants that will be able to communicate with computers and phones. The neural interface is called N1 Link, and it would sit in the human skull with wires extending into the cortex. The company said this round of funding will go towards developing this device and bringing it to the market.

In a statement, the company elaborated: ” The first indication this device is intended for is to help quadriplegics regain their digital freedom by allowing users to interact with their computers or phones in a high bandwidth and naturalistic way.”

Musk previously stated Neuralink plans to start human trials by the end of 2020. It is unclear if that is the case and whether the company will move from primate to human testing.

EU privacy watchdog fines Amazon $887 million – 7/30

The Luxembourg National Commission for Data Protection issued a €764 million ($887 million) fine to Amazon due to a breach in EU data protection laws (also known as EU General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR). The local regulator is in charge of monitoring Amazon’s compliance because the company has its EU headquarters in Luxembourg. It ordered Amazon to revise some of its undisclosed practices.

The regulator issued the fine on July 17th, but Amazon disclosed it in an SEC filing this Friday. The company released a statement saying: “There has been no data breach, and no customer data has been exposed to any third party… These facts are undisputed. We strongly disagree with the CNPD’s ruling, and we intend to appeal.”

The penalty comes after La Quadrature du Net, a French privacy rights group, filed several lawsuits against big tech companies in 2018, after the EU established GDPR.

DOJ – SolarWinds hack affected federal prosecutors – 7/31

In a statement this Friday, the Justice Department released information the Russian hackers responsible for the last year’s SolarWinds software attack managed to access the email accounts of nearly 30 federal prosecutors all across the United States including Los Angeles, Eastern District of Virginia, and Washington.

The hackers accessed over 80% of Microsoft email accounts in four U.S. Attorney offices in New York. Furthermore, the attack impacted at least nine federal agencies, several private companies, and think tanks. According to the Justice Department, the email accounts were accessed between May 2020 and December 2020. The story broke last December.

The Justice Department stated it informed all the victims. DOJ is working to mitigate “operational, security and privacy risks.”

According to legal experts, some of the federal prosecutors’ offices affected by the hack work on high-profile cases with sensitive and confidential information exchanged via email correspondence. The Justice Department did not release any information on whether the break impacted ongoing cases or what information was accessed.


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