In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology and life science news:
- The FBI wants direct tech industry support with encryption
- A blood testing firm is under investigation
- Insomniac to launch VR games
- A mentor to Steve Job dies
- FBI: Using third-parties to break encryption not solution
Hiring outside contractors to help the FBI break into locked iPhones isn’t the only solution, a top FBI official told Congress Tuesday, saying there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer for law enforcement to recover encrypted communications.
Amy Hess said that while the Justice Department opted for “one potential solution” last month when it enlisted a still-unidentified third party to access the phone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, attackers, that path is not the only answer. Each decision must be made case by case, she said.
“We really need the cooperation of industry, we need the cooperation of academia, we need the cooperation of the private sector to come up with solutions,” said Hess, who is executive assistant director of the FBI’s science and technology branch, which oversees the development of surveillance technologies.
Hess, appearing alongside officials from local law enforcement agencies, testified before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Apple’s general counsel, Bruce Sewell, was expected to testify at an afternoon panel.
The hearing comes amid an ongoing dispute between law enforcement and Silicon Valley about how to balance consumer privacy against the need for police and federal agents to recover communications and eavesdrop on suspected terrorists and criminals. It also comes as the Senate considers a bill that would effectively prohibit unbreakableencryption and require companies to help the government access data on a computer or mobile device with a warrant.
The long-simmering clash escalated in February after a judge in California directed Apple to help the FBI break into the phone used by Syed Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people on Dec. 2 before dying in a shootout with police. The Justice Department last month said a third party had approached it with a way into the phone, effectively ending that court case. Another legal fight over a phone in a separate drug case is still pending in Brooklyn.
Asked about the FBI’s reliance on a third party to get into the phone, and its inability to do so on its own, Hess said that to keep up with rapidly evolving technologies, “we do require services of specialized skills that we can only get through private industry.”
- Blood-testing startup Theranos says it is being investigated
Troubled blood-testing startup Theranos acknowledged that it is under investigation by several regulators and agencies.
The investigations follow a series of articles by The Wall Street Journal in which former employees said the company’s tests, which use only a few drops of blood, were unreliable. Theranos called the articles were inaccurate when they were published.
Theranos said in a letter Monday that investigations or inspections have been opened by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Securities Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. It said investigations by the Food and Drug Administration and the Departments of Health in Arizona and Pennsylvania were closed successfully.
Founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes told NBC News in an interview that aired Monday that she was “devastated” that the company didn’t catch and fix issues sooner after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that one of its labs had unqualified workers.
- Insomniac Games to release a trio of VR games in 2016
Insomniac Games is ratcheting up its work in virtual reality.
The developer best known for the “Resistance” and “Ratchet & Clank” franchises is set to release three VR games for the recently released Oculus Rift system in 2016.
After four years in development, the Oculus Rift began shipping to consumers March 28. Despite the technology’s untested position in the marketplace, Insomniac Games is moving full force into the emerging 360-degree interactive medium.
“We went in with open eyes,” said Insomniac Games President and CEO Ted Price. “We knew, at first, that the install base would be low. At the same time, we have a lot of passion for and faith in the growth of VR looking ahead to the future.”
- Bill Campbell, mentor to Steve Jobs, other tech CEOs, dies
Bill Campbell, a former Ivy League football coach who became a management guru for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley luminaries, has died. He was 75.
His death Monday was confirmed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, a venture capital firm that often called upon Campbell to help mold entrepreneurs as they tried to manage the rapid growth often triggered by their innovations. Campbell died after a long battle with cancer, according to the firm, which was speaking on behalf of his family.
Although he wasn’t widely known outside Silicon Valley, Campbell played a pivotal role in shaping the direction of both Apple and Google, two of the world’s most powerful companies.
After working in marketing and sales at Apple during the 1980s, Campbell joined the company’s board in 1997, shortly after Jobs returned as the company’s CEO.
At the time, Apple was flirting with bankruptcy. Campbell frequently served as Jobs’ sounding board during one of the most resounding corporate turnarounds in U.S. history as Apple first redesigned its Mac computer line and then rolled out the iPod, iPhone and iPad to emerge as the world most valuable company. Campbell ended his 17-year stint on Apple’s board in 2014.
Campbell “believed in Apple when few people did and his contributions to our company, through good times and bad, cannot be overstated,” Apple said in a Monday statement.
While working with Apple, Campbell played a behind-the-scenes role in Google’s success, too. Prompted by Kleiner Perkins, Campbell worked with former Google CEOEric Schmidt and company co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to help them work out their early differences and eventually forge one of the most successful partnerships in corporate America.
Alphabet, Google’s corporate parent, is now the world’s second most valuable company, ranking only behind Apple.
In a Facebook post, Schmidt credited Campbell for helping to build Google’s culture and hailed his contributions to the company as “incalculable.”
“We started with him as an external coach but he quickly became the internal management expert,” Schmidt wrote.
Campbell stopped consulting with Google in 2010, citing the conflicts of interest that faced him as an Apple board member. Google makes the Android operating system that powers most of the products competing against Apple’s trendsetting iPhone and iPad.