Britain’s spy agency MI5 caused a frisson of social media excitement with its debut on Instagram this week, the aim being to get away from “martini-drinking stereotypes”, according to its chief, and attract recruits from different backgrounds.
It coincided with a warning from the intelligence agency for civil servants using the LinkedIn networking service. Here, China has been doing its own social media recruiting — targets are lured to meetings in person where they may be subjected to bribery or blackmail in order to obtain intelligence.
The FT’s editorial board says the pandemic may have intensified hostile states’ online efforts and both actions by MI5 this week speak to the power of social media to attract, to influence and to recruit — the ingredients of spycraft, rebooted for the digital age.
On the future tech front, Jeremy Fleming, director of signals intelligence agency GCHQ, warned today that the UK faces a “moment of reckoning” in the race to protect itself from the influence of adversaries such as China and Russia.
His message was that the west needs to increase its tech capabilities to ensure leadership in areas such as quantum computing.
“Without action it is increasingly clear that the key technologies on which we will rely for our future prosperity and security won’t be shaped and controlled by the west,” he said.
The fear is quantum computing could render existing encryption methods useless and all our secrets could be exposed, without any need for a fake LinkedIn account.
1. China’s Hollywood momentIt’s the Oscars this weekend, with Nomadland director Chloé Zhao tipped to be the first Chinese woman to break into the upper echelons of Hollywood. But the Chinese government has told local media to downplay any coverage and it’s clear the world’s two most important movie markets are diverging.
2. Ant clinging on to lending dataChina’s central bank is attempting to take control of Ant Group’s vast trove of consumer lending data, marking the latest front in Beijing’s crackdown on Jack Ma’s fintech group. Lex says taking this would cause grievous damage, blunting Ant’s competitive edge.
3. Tencent’s Indian investment via EuropeChinese tech giant Tencent quietly backed the Indian social media start-up ShareChat, investing $225m via two European entities, despite harsh rules restricting new Chinese investment into Indian companies.
4. Panasonic’s US buyPanasonic is paying $7.1bn to acquire US supply chain software company Blue Yonder in a deal that highlights the changing global business environment of the pandemic and a resurgence of overseas acquisitions by Japanese companies.
5. Earnings watch: Intel, SnapLeading chipmaker Intel comfortably beat Wall Street expectations in its latest quarter as continued strong sales of PCs during the pandemic made up most of the ground lost from weaker data centre demand. Messaging app publisher Snap posted bumper first-quarter results, with Snapchat revenues rising 66 per cent year-over-year to $770m. Daily active users reached 280m, up 22 per cent.
Sony is anticipating party times with the lifting of lockdowns, announcing three new wireless speakers that include both booming sound and ambient lighting. All three feature carrying handles and X-Balanced Speaker Units with non-circular diaphragms that give more sound pressure and less distortion. There are guitar and microphone inputs for karaoke, while Party Connect allows speakers to be wirelessly strung together. The SRS-XP700 model is £449 (€500) and will be available in June, the SRS-XP500 model is £319 (€369) and the boombox-like SRS-XG500 is £379 (€429).