Congratulations, you made it to Friday. But you still have 1,024 words to read (~4 min) before your week will really be complete. After that, feel free to head home. Tell your boss I said it was cool.
Illustration: Axios Visuals
In December 2013, President Obama was meeting with a group of tech leaders, each urging the government to limit its increasingly widespread digital surveillance activities.
Flashback: Obama, while addressing their concerns, also made the prescient suggestion that the tech industry might want to prepare for questions of its own about the gathering and use of data.
The anecdote is just one of the fascinating stories recounted in Smith's forthcoming book "Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age." Axios got an exclusive early look at the book, which comes out in September and is co-written with Carol Ann Browne.
Smith offers insight and context around nearly every big issue facing tech, from consumer privacy and cybersecurity to artificial intelligence and the digital arms race with China. The overarching point is that every technology can be used for good or ill — and unless we understand both sides fully, we're likely to miss both the benefits and the inevitable pitfalls.
"Even a broom can be used to sweep the floor or hit someone over the head. The more powerful the tool, the greater the benefit or damage it can cause."— Brad Smith, in "Tools and Weapons"
Of note: Many of the ideas in "Tools and Weapons" have been voiced before, often by Smith himself. It's the human stories that make it a compelling read.
My thought bubble: That Smith has smart things to say is hardly a surprise. That he has compelling stories to tell is more unexpected, as the career lawyer is known more for his prudence than his storytelling.
President Trump confirmed yesterday that he is looking into a Pentagon cloud computing contract expected to be awarded to either Microsoft or Amazon, a company with which he has a long-running feud.
"I never had something where more people are complaining,” Trump said, per CNBC. “We’re getting tremendous complaints from other companies."
What's happening: Oracle had sued over the bidding process for the anticipated $10 billion contract, but recently lost in court. IBM had also been ruled out of the process, leaving Microsoft and Amazon as the remaining contenders in a process that has been stirring controversy for more than a year.
Why it matters: "It's highly unusual, possibly improper, for a president to intervene on a federal contract," NYT reporter Scott Shane said in a tweet.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
The government of Kazakhstan has started intercepting all of the secure HTTPS traffic within its borders.
Why it matters: The move is yet another example of the Balkanization of the once-global internet, as different countries seek to monitor or restrict what citizens can see. Authorities in China, Russia and other parts of Asia and Africa have all considered or imposed restrictions on their citizens' internet access.
"As [the] world accepts Chinese and Russian interpretation of Internet sovereignty and borders, this will more and more be the norm."— James Mulvenon, a general manager at defense contractor SOS International and co-author of "Chinese Industrial Espionage," said via Twitter
How it works: Internet service providers in the country are being required to install a special government-issued certificate on customers' devices and web browsers, allowing authorities to decrypt and read secure web traffic, per ZDNet.
Go deeper: A world and web divided
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
The Justice Department has indicated to Sprint and T-Mobile that it will sue to block the companies' merger as soon as next week if they can't agree on a divestiture plan, Reuters reported.
Why it matters: A number of states have already sued to block the deal. The Justice Department hasn't taken an official stand yet, but has reportedly been pressuring the companies to divest enough assets to ensure there is still a fourth national competitor in the market.
This is no way to treat a Pikachu.