News: Week 51

SolarWinds hack, the EU publishes proposed new laws for tech companies, and Apple's new privacy labels.

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Being the last edition of the year, I took the opportunity to share some interesting stats and learnings since starting the newsletter in August, publishing on LinkedIn - “Writing a business newsletter: early learnings.” 

Meanwhile in homage to the wonderful and late John le Carré there was hacking of government systems, regulator intervention, data privacy debates and system outages, all impacting the last full working week of the year.

So with that, what happened in Week 51;

SolarWinds hack 

A little known IT management software company based out of Texas was hacked earlier this year, providing months of access into its clients systems. Those clients include federal American agencies such as The Department of Homeland Security, Treasury, and Commerce. Over 400 Fortune 500 firms also use SolarWinds software and could have been vulnerable to the hack. Russian foreign-intelligence are suspected to be involved, with it likely being that whoever was responsible has had access to many SolarWinds’ client systems for months. The bad news is that this won’t help speed up the procurement process when you do deals with large organisations. (link $)

EU publishes Digital Markets Act & Digital Services Act 

Policy makers in Europe have been signposting these proposed new laws targeting technology companies for some time, and this week the proposed acts were published for review. The Digital Markets Act focuses on big tech, defined as companies with at least 45 million users in Europe (10% of the population), and endeavours to provide market wide policies around defining and restricting anti-competitive behaviour. Meanwhile the Digital Services Act focuses on curtailing illegal activity on tech platforms, and provides an instrument to fine companies up to 6% of annual revenues when they fail to adhere to its requirements. 

While US prosecutors are targeting individual companies with existing laws, the EU is first trying to update the rules to make them relevant to internet companies, which feels sensible. Either way, there are about to be a lot more jobs for compliance people, and the banks may lose some good people. (link)

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New Apple app privacy labels

Continuing its effort to be seen as big tech’s privacy first advocate, Apple this week released its new requirements for app developers to disclose a set of privacy information in the form of “labels” on its iOS apps. What this means in practice is when you download or update an app, you will be able to see how that app collects and uses data obtained from you. This feels like a healthy thing, let’s hope the user experience is better than web publishers' approach to GDPR and browser cookies when visiting a web site, knowing Apple it certainly will be. (link)

Apple’s new privacy labels will start to appear on new and updated apps.

Affirm and Roblox delay IPOs

Following a frantic end to 2020 for new listings, where DoorDash and Airbnb saw huge pops in their valuation on day one, suggesting they left huge sums of money on the table in their listing price, buy now pay later company Affirm and the game platform Roblox have both announced delays to their IPO. Roblox appears to be directly related to concerns that bankers may underprice their IPO following the DoorDash and Airbnb results, whereas Affirm may still be finalising compliance matters with the securities exchange. 

Coinbase IPO

It was reported on Thursday that the popular cryptocurrency trading platform has filed a draft S-1, with plans to go public in early 2021. This in a week where Bitcoin broke through $20,000 for the first time, and was approaching $23k at the time of writing this. CEO Brian Armstrong made news in September in an open letter to employees stating that Coinbase employees should not debate social or political issues at work, during the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests in America. Some employees took a voluntary severance to leave the company following the statement from Armstrong. (link)   


The share trading app which endeavours to make financial markets accessible for novice investors is under scrutiny for not doing enough to protect its customers’ and their assets from the risks of investing. The securities regulator from the state of Massachusetts has filed a complaint, claiming that Robinhood failed to meet its fiduciary standards. As fintechs get bigger they get more attention, and they need more lawyers and compliance people. (link)

GoCardless raise

The global payments technology firm GoCardless this week announced a $95 million Series F, valuing the company at or near unicorn status. The London headquartered company has built a technology platform that enables businesses to access direct debit schemes around the world to get paid faster on a recurring basis. GoCardless is commonly used via integrated business applications, such as accounting, CRM and subscription management systems. The investment will be used to expand the product into open banking payment APIs, which enables immediate payment confirmation on rails such as the UK’s Faster Payments network. (link)

Google goes down!

After Amazon’s AWS experienced outages in one of its data centre locations earlier this month, it was Google that experienced the outage this week. Early Monday morning US time, Google and YouTube went dark for around an hour, causing panic for many remote workers unable to access Gmail, Drive and Calendar. A reminder that the worlds productivity is heavily reliant on a small handful of companies. (link)

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Signing off for 2020

I’ll be back on January 9th with the Saturday edition. Happy holidays to you all, hope you are able to take a break, spend some time with family and friends in any way that you can, and here’s to a much better 2021 for us all.