Bits: Farhad’s and Mike’s Week in Tech: Uber Isn’t Everything


So here’s the rundown: Travis Kalanick, Uber’s founder and C.E.O., resigned after receiving what amounted to an ultimatum from some of the company’s most powerful investors. There was a lot of drama. Anyone who wants details should read your great story about it.

And, that’s about it. Let’s move on.

Mike: Yeah, let’s talk about “The Simpsons” or something. Do kids still care about that?

Farhad: Maybe 32-year-old kids like yourself.

To me, the scariest story of the week came from our colleague Nicole Perlroth, who dug into a recent cyberattack on a company called IDT. The attack depended on network security vulnerabilities that had been stolen from the National Security Agency. The attackers are unknown, but their methods made such effective use of the “back doors” discovered by the N.S.A. that security experts worry that many other computers could be at risk, including those connected to health systems, utilities and transportation.

In other words: Be very afraid!

Mike: That’s a big pet peeve of mine that we’ve never really dug into — at least not in the newsletter. The N.S.A. has a huge incentive to keep quiet about software vulnerabilities and collect them. It’s kind of similar to stockpiling arms in preparation for war, except we can probably assume that we’re already constantly at war, with governments hacking one another silently in the background.

So what makes them stop? I dunno, probably getting lots of coverage in The New York Times about the fallout from stockpiling these vulnerabilities once they get out into the wild and are used and exploited by others.

Farhad: Sure. Getting a lot of negative press coverage always makes people change their ways. That’s how life works.

Mike: Well, side note from me: I’m in Anaheim for VidCon, which is seriously one of the more surreal experiences of my life.

If you’re unfamiliar with it, VidCon is the place where all of the social media stars and their fans go to congregate. We’re talking Liza Koshy, Lele Pons, Logan Paul and all sorts of superfamous YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram stars who you or I are far too old to have any knowledge of whatsoever.

Imagine watching Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt or some boy band walk around a mall packed with screaming teens trying to get selfies, times 1,000. That’s somewhat close to VidCon.

I never really appreciated the extent to which these young celebrities have figured out how to make themselves a viable brand and really build businesses around themselves from their online followings. Hey, maybe we should start doing that? SponCon, anyone?

Farhad: What do you mean? I already am a social media star!

I also wanted to chat about a story about another (allegedly) gross man in Silicon Valley. The Information reported that six women have accused Justin Caldbeck, who runs a venture capital firm called Binary Capital, of making inappropriate advances toward them while discussing business, including while seeking funding from him.

What was particularly interesting about the piece was that three of the women went on the record — they put their names to their allegations, which is an incredibly unusual and brave thing to do in the hush-hush, male-dominated world of tech financing. Caldbeck denied doing anything wrong but also said he regretted “ever causing anyone to feel uncomfortable.”

Ugh, men in tech.

Men in the Valley have a long history of getting away with a lot of terrible behavior. This could be one of those times. But after everything that’s happened at Uber following the former Uber engineer Susan Fowler’s disclosure of sexual harassment there, I also wonder if a new, less-tolerant-of-terrible-people wind may be blowing through tech.

In fact, on Friday, Axios reported that Caldbeck was taking an indefinite leave of absence from his venture firm.

What do you think?

Mike: I was thinking along these very lines today. Susan’s post speaking out has really empowered a lot of women across the Valley to speak their own truths about a supergross business that is usually only whispered about.

I think it’s great, and I hope it keeps coming. Shedding light and putting that behavior under the public spotlight is usually the most effective way of curbing it. I cannot tell you how many people have DM’d me on Twitter to tell me about their experiences at other companies that have nothing to do with Uber but have similar issues.

Anyway, I think I hear some Uber news breaking. Gotta run.

Farhad: Me too, I have to wash my bathing suit. See ya!

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