THE WEEK’S ITEMS OF NOTE

These are the items that I thought were of particular interest during the week:

1 – As a follow-on to our Special Black Powder post yesterday, a bit more information about what makes cellphones work – that would be the spec-sized components called MLCCs, or, multilayer ceramic capacitors.  We, as consumers, never see these tiny parts, but our cellphones contain hundreds of them and our cars, thousands.  The MLCCs, which cost less that 1 cent each, help control the flow of electricity and store power for semiconductors, without which no electronic device could work.  There are only a few makers of these tiny components and they are mostly Asian companies, for example, Murata, Samsung, and Taiyo Yuden.  Perhaps, a new focus for the Make America Great Again campaign – ?

2 – The attacker at the Capital Gazette in Maryland was quickly recognized using facial recognition software, even though he had altered his fingers to avoid fingerprint recognition.  The Anne Arundel County Police Department fed his photo into the Maryland Image Repository System, a data base of mug shots and drivers’ license photos and quickly obtained his identity.  A wave of the future – facial recognition software will be used more and more – it’s quicker and even more accurate than fingerprint identification – given that the photo of someone needing identification is in a database, of course.  But, most people have drivers’ licenses whose photos are stored in state data bases.

3 – Amazon’s recent purchase of PillPack will give the company insight into people’s prescriptions and medical histories, putting the tech company into the highly restricted realm of health information – far more restrictions than the company has been accustomed to in its usual Amazon customer data-mining operations.  Amazon has mastered the use of personal data accrued on its site to analyze people’s purchasing decisions and allow it to predict future purchases, viewing preferences, etc.  This behavioral tracking has been a central feature in turning Amazon into a retailing operation the size and capacity of which has not been seen, with $178 billion in revenue last year.  Without a doubt, the online pharmacy business will add to the company’s annual revenue stream, but the requirements that go with personal medical histories are unlike company requirements of the past.  And, further, one misstep with the HIPAA rules, and Amazon will be facing lawsuits that just won’t quit – and these brought by Federal and State authorities.

4 – California’s new privacy laws have come under fire recently.  Typical of so much of the law-making in the state these days, with a Democratic super-majority in the legislature, the legislators believe that they can do pretty much as they please.  And often do.  As witness the fact that the bill that was touted as “reigning in big tech companies” and prevent them from sharing individuals’ personal data has now been analyzed and found to effect everything from retailers’ customer-loyalty programs to data gathering by tech giants.  The new law is said to be the broadest, most sweeping piece of privacy legislation in the nation.  The legislation, bought and paid for by real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart, was intended to give customers more control over how their data is collected, stored and sold to third parties.  Time will tell if the actuality of his intent plays out as Mactaggart envisioned.

5 – Dell Inc. is working to finalize a deal that will once again make the PC and data-storage company a public entity.  By acquiring the DVMT tracking stock of fast-growing VMware, Inc., the virtualization-software effort, Dell has planned a share swap and several billion dollars in cash to seal the deal.  And, just when one might have thought that Michael Dell was complacent with Dell remaining a private company . . . NOT.

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