Apple unveils new privacy features, digital IDs and changes to FaceTime.

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Daily Business Briefing

June 9, 2021, 7:37 a.m. ET

June 9, 2021, 7:37 a.m. ET

Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, previewing new privacy features at a conference held by his company on Monday. Credit…Brooks Kraft/Apple

Apple once again took aim at the huge digital-advertising business on Monday and unveiled a number of changes to protect iPhones users’ privacy and fortify its position as a gatekeeper between consumers and the rest of the digital industry.

Apple reported that new iPhone software scheduled for this fall, called iOS 15, would add a so-called program privacy report which tells people what information programs are collecting about them. The report will show when an app has gained access to sensitive areas of the device, such as the photo album, contacts list or microphone. Google announced a similar feature for Android devices last month.

Apple also said it’s Mail program would now better protect the identities of consumers from those who send them mails and would block the ability of marketers to track if a individual opens an email.

Apple also showed off a new service that hides users’ traffic from internet providers, similar to the virtual private network, or V.P.N., services sold by a number of other businesses.

The technology paths a user’s net traffic via computer servers designed to conceal the user ’s identity and place. Such technology has been used to get around government firewalls that censor the internet, like in China, and it’s unclear how Apple’s service would work there. The service would be available to people who pay extra for Apple’s iCloud data storage.

Apple’s privacy push has put the company at odds with some huge rivals, most notably Facebook, that rely on collecting data about people to better target advertisements. Despite protests from some corners of Silicon Valley, Monday’s announcements demonstrate that Apple has doubled back on privacy features.

Yet the firm ’s public branding on privacy is also jeopardized by its business in China, where it is putting its Chinese clients ’ data at risk and aiding the government ’s censorship operation to placate government there, The New York Times reported last month.

On Monday, Apple also announced new features designed to make the iPhone the only item someone should carry with them when leaving home. Apple has allowed people to pay for items in stores and get through subway turnstiles with iPhones. Now it is hoping to move government identification cards on the apparatus. Apple said people could soon scan their driver’s licenses to utilize digital versions of the IDs, which is accepted in certain participating states and airport security checkpoints in america.

Apple is also trying to substitute physical keys. The company said it was making it easier to use digital keys to unlock doors at homes, offices and hotels. Hyatt Hotels plans to utilize the technology at more than 1,000 properties beginning in the fall, Apple said.

Apple is also greatly expanding FaceTime, its videoconferencing support. For more than a decade, FaceTime was an program exclusive to Apple users. But it soon will be opened to internet browsers, which will also allow non-Apple devices like Android phones to participate in FaceTime calls.

Apple is adding a range of features that FaceTime callers can use together in a group session. A group on a video call will be able to listen to music or stream movies together. They can also use some programs together — like a shipping program to take turns adding food to an order before meeting up.

The new mobile operating system will add a text-recognition ability into the iPhone camera, allowing a photo of handwritten text to be automatically transcribed into typed text or a photo of a billboard with a phone number to enable you to dial that phone number.

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Justice Dept. Recovers Millions from Colonial Pipeline Hack

The Justice Department said on Monday it had recovered the vast majority of the ransom paid to the hackers who shut down the computer systems of the Colonial Pipeline last month.

The Department of Justice, working with our partners, is committed to using all of our resources at — all the tools at our disposal to disrupt these networks and the abuse of the internet infrastructure that allows this threat to persist. Following Colonial Pipeline’s fast notification to law enforcement, and pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California earlier today, the Department of Justice has found and recaptured the majority of the ransom Colonial paid to the DarkSide network in the wake of last month’s ransomware attack. Now, we turned the tables on DarkSide. By going after the whole ecosystem which fuels ransomware and electronic extortion attacks, including criminal profits in the kind of digital currency, we’ll continue to use all our tools and all our resources to increase the cost as well as the consequences of ransomware attacks and other cyber-enabled strikes.

The Justice Department said on Monday that it had recovered the majority of the ransom paid to the hackers who shut down the computer systems of the Colonial Pipeline last month. Credit Credit…Drone Base/Reuters

The Justice Department said on Monday that it had captured much of the ransom that a major U.S. pipeline operator had paid last month into a Russian hacking collective, turning the tables on the hackers by hitting into a digital wallet to snatch back tens of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.

Researchers in recent weeks traced 75 Bitcoins worth more than $4 million that Colonial Pipeline had paid to the hackers since the attack shut down its computer systems, prompting fuel shortages, a spike in gasoline prices and chaos at airlines.

Federal investigators monitored the ransom as it moved through a maze of 23 different digital accounts belonging to DarkSide, the hacking group, before landing one that a federal judge allowed them to split, according to law enforcement officials and court records .

The Justice Department said it captured 63.7 Bitcoins, valued at about $2.3 million. (The value of a Bitcoin has dropped over the last month )

The sophisticated use of technology to hold businesses and even whole cities hostage for gain is decidedly a 21st-century challenge, but the old adage follow the money still applies, Lisa O. Monaco, the deputy attorney general, said in the news conference at the Justice Department.

Law enforcement officials highlighted the seizure in an effort to warn cybercriminals that the United States intended to take aim at their profits, which are often gained through cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. It was also meant to encourage victims of ransomware strikes — which occur every eight minutes, on average — to notify the government to help recover ransoms.

For many years, victims have opted to quietly pay cybercriminals, calculating that the payment would be cheaper than rebuilding data and services. However, the obligations — which collectively total billions of dollars — have funded and emboldened ransomware groups.

Justice Department officials said that Colonial’s willingness to rapidly loop in the F.B.I. helped reclaim the ransom portion, and they credited the company for its role in a first-of-its-kind campaign by a new ransomware task force in the division to hijack a cybercrime group’s profits.

The Justice Departments announcement also came before President Bidens scheduled meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia next week in Geneva, where Mr. Biden is expecting to tackle what American officials see as the Kremlins willingness to provide protection for hackers. Russia typically doesn’t arrest or extradite suspects in ransomware attacks.

The New York Times reported last month which Colonial Pipeline’s ransom payout had moved out of DarkSide’s Bitcoin wallet, although it wasn’t clear who had orchestrated the movement.

On Monday, the government filled in some of the blanks. DarkSide works by providing ransomware to affiliates. In exchange, DarkSide reaps a cut of the profits.

Officials said that they had identified a digital currency account, often known as a wallet, which DarkSide was used to collect payment from a ransomware victim — identified in court papers only as Victim X, but whose hacking details match Colonial’s.

Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor in chief of The Atlantic, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2019. Charge…Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The Atlantic plans to voluntarily recognize a newly formed union of editorial employees, the magazine’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, said Monday.

Staff members announced on Monday morning they were forming a union affiliated with the NewsGuild, which also represents employees at The New York Times and a number of other outlets. The marriage will pay for about 85 employees, including writers, editors, fact checkers and producers.

The Atlantic Union said in a statement published on Twitter that although the magazine was thriving, “the American press — its freedoms, its stability and its future — is in a precarious moment. ”

We feel that we are stronger collectively than individually, and that the future of journalism is brighter when its workers are united, the announcement said.

Mr. Goldberg said in a note to employees on Monday that the company had received the petition to recognize the marriage that morning.

Im writing to let you know that we have decided to work together with the organizers of this effort on an agreement to voluntarily recognize the Atlantic editorial bargaining unit, Mr. Goldberg wrote in the email. “We look forward to meeting together to chart a path forward. ”

The Atlantic Union is the newest in a recent spate of coordinating efforts across digital media. Journalists at Insider and tech workers at The New York Times announced in April that they had formed unions with the NewsGuild. The New York Times leadership has stated it won’t voluntarily recognize the tech workers ’ marriage, pushing the matter to a formal vote with the National Labor Relations Board.

Andy Mills, the president of Medline Industries, in 2012. The company announced on Saturday that it had obtained a majority investment from a partnership of investors. Credit…Earl Wilson/The New York Times

A group of investors, including the Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group, agreed to purchase the medical supplies supplier Medline Industries for over $30 billion, the company announced on Saturday. It’s the largest leveraged buyout since the 2008 financial crisis — and a indication that private equity firms are prepared to open their wallets for more (and larger ) deals.

Buyout firms that take over firms using lots of debt are now sitting on $1.6 trillion in so-called dry powder, according to Preqin, or funds committed by investors to private equity funds that’s not yet spent. These firms have also continued fund-raising at a healthy pace.

That has filled private equity’s war chests with money that managers are increasingly under pressure to invest — or risk the ire of investors who don’t want their money just sitting around. A few of those investors also have wanted to invest directly in deals alongside the private equity firms, in hopes of capturing some of the exact same investment returns that the buyout firms enjoy.

That has led to a revival of strategies used before the financial crisis. Past the growing size of leveraged buyouts, private equity stores are teaming up to purchase targets, a practice that had fallen out of favor (and ran into concerns about potential antitrust violations). Having said that, the Medline deal isn’t exactly like the club deals of earlier : It entails less debt than previous buyouts, and the private equity buyers are keeping the present management.

Medline, which is based in Northfield, Ill., makes a wide variety of medical supplies for hospitals and other healthcare centers. The organization, which collected $17.5 billion in revenue this past year, has been held for decades and will continue to count its founding Mills family as its largest shareholder after the leveraged buyout.

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Global Minimum Tax Would ‘End the Race to the Bottom,’ Yellen Says

Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, said a minimum tax for corporations would improve global economic conditions and encourage countries to compete positive bases, such as infrastructure. G7 leaders agreed on Saturday to back a worldwide company tax rate of 15 percent.

“For too long, there was a worldwide race to the bottom in corporate taxes, where countries compete by lowering their tax rates instead of the well-being of the citizens and natural environments. The G7 has taken significant steps this weekend to end the existing harmful dynamic, making obligations today that provide enormous momentum towards achieving a solid international minimum tax at a rate of at least 15 percent. That international minimum tax would end the race to the bottom in corporate taxation and ensure fairness for the middle class and working people in the U.S. and across the world. The global minimum tax would also help the international economy thrive by leveling the playing field for companies and encouraging countries to compete on positive bases such as educating and training our workforce and investing in research and development and infrastructure. ” Reporter: “The French wanted to target Amazon and Facebook. What impact does today ’s deal have on businesses like those? ” “It will consist of large, profitable firms and those firms, I believe, will qualify by almost any definition. And essentially what we have agreed is that we will reallocate taxing rights for some of the excess or residual profits of these companies to authorities where they have market activity on the basis of the distribution of the activity. And so, that’s meant to replace an approach that concentrated on just a few U.S. electronic giants. And the agreement is that this new strategy will replace an approach that we found objectionable, that targeted large, effective U.S. electronic companies. ”

Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, said a minimum tax for corporations would enhance international economic conditions and encourage nations to compete on positive bases, like infrastructure. G7 leaders agreed on Saturday to back a global corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent. Charge Credit…Pool by Alberto Pezzali

Finance leaders from the Group of 7 countries unveiled a comprehensive agreement on Saturday that aims to stop large multinational companies from looking out tax havens and force them to pay more of their earnings to authorities.

The New York Times’s Alan Rappeport covered the news from London. Here are the essential elements of the strategy.

  • The arrangement plans for a new global minimum tax rate of at least 15 percent that employers would have to pay no matter where they locate their headquarters.

  • Some of the biggest multinational companies — tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Google as well as other big international companies — may also have to pay taxes to countries based on where their goods or services are offered, no matter whether they have a physical presence in that country.

  • To prevent individual countries from imposing dozens of digital taxation around the world, the agreement would employ a new tax to big companies with a profit margin of at least 10 percent. The tax would be applied to at least 20 percent of profit exceeding that 10 percent margin “for the largest and most profitable multinational businesses. ”

  • Huge sums of money are at stake. A report this month by the EU Tax Observatory estimated that a 15 percent minimum tax would yield an extra 48 billion euros, or $58 billion, annually. The Biden administration projected in its budget last month that the new global minimum tax system could help earn $500 billion in tax revenue over a decade into the USA.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who traveled on Friday to the G7 meeting in London to win support for the landmark tax arrangement, defended the plan on Sunday. I honestly dont think theres going to be a significant effect on corporate investment, ” she said.

Next month, the Group of seven countries have to sell the concept to finance ministers from the broader Group of 20 nations which are meeting in Italy. If that’s successful, officials hope that a final deal could be signed by the Group of 20 leaders when they reconvene in October.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, speaking Saturday after the G7 meeting. She later said a “slightly higher interest rate environment” would be a “ plus ” for the country and for the Fed. Charge…Pool photo by Wpa

Stocks were mixed on Monday, with the S&P 500 ticking down less than 0.1 percent and the Nasdaq composite gaining 0.5 percent.

Biogen shares rose 40 percent after the Food and Drug Administration approved an Alzheimer’s medication manufactured by the company. Biogen is expected to reap billions of dollars from the drug.

A step of investor confidence in the eurozone for June, printed by Sentix, jumped to its highest reading since March 2018. Economists in Pantheon Macroeconomics noted that a large part of the increase was due to an improving assessment of the current situation of the region ’s market, pointing out that future expectations dipped slightly.

European indexes were mostly higher. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.2 percent. Asian indicators were mixed. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong dropped 0.5 percent and the Nikkei 225 in Japan rose 0.3 percent.

Over the weekend, finance leaders from the Group of seven nations agreed to back a new international minimum tax rate of 15 percent that companies would have to pay regardless of where they were established. The tax is expected to affect some large technology companies. The technology-composite Nasdaq was slightly lower at the start of trading.

The 10-year yield on U.S. Treasury notes rose to 1.57 percent, reversing some of Friday’s decline, when the yield dropped seven basis points, or 0.07 percent, after May’s jobs report by the Labor Department showed less hiring than analysts anticipated. On Friday, investors pulled back on expectations regarding how soon the Federal Reserve might consider reducing its monetary stimulus.

On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said “a slightly higher interest rate environment” would “ really be a plus for society’s point of view and the Fed’s point of view,” Bloomberg reported.

Oil prices fell. Futures on West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, declined 0.5 percent to $69.23 a barrel.

  • Jeff Bezos declared on Monday that he would be on board when his rocket company, Blue Origin, conducts its first human spaceflight next month. He said his brother Mark Bezos would join him on the flight. Blue Origin is also auctioning off a passenger seat on the New Shepard space capsule, which is set to take off on July 20. Bidding has attained almost $3 million with almost 6,000 participants in 143 countries, the company said. “Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,” Mr. Bezos said on Instagram, calling the excursion, “The best adventure, with my best friend. ”

Patrons dined at an outside brewery in Phoenix on Thursday. Arizona is one of the states which are ending additional federal payments to unemployed workers. Credit…Juan Arredondo for The New York Times

Bre Starr, a 34-year-old pizza delivery driver who has been out of work for more than a year, will be among the first to lose her jobless benefits in the upcoming few weeks. That ’s because Ms. Starr lives in Iowa, where the governor has chosen to withdraw from all federal pandemic-related jobless assistance on June 12.

Iowa is one of 25 states, all directed by Republicans, that have recently made a decision to halt all or some emergency benefits months ahead of schedule. With a U.S. Labor Department report on Friday showing that job growth fell below expectations for the second month in a row, Republicans stepped up their argument that pandemic jobless relief is hindering the recovery, The New York Times’s Patricia Cohen and Sydney Ember report.

The help, renewed in March and funded through Sept. 6, doesn’t cost the states anything. But business owners and managers have argued that the income, which enabled people to cover rent and stock refrigerators when much of their economy shut down, is now dissuading them from applying for jobs.

Im a Type 1 diabetic, so its really important for me to remain safe from becoming Covid Ms. Starr said, explaining that she was more prone to infection. “I know that for myself and other people that are high risk, we cannot risk going back into the work force until everything is great again. ”

Most economists say there is no clear, single explanation yet for the problem that some companies are getting in hiring. Government relief may play a part sometimes, but so could a lack of child care, continuing fears about illness, paltry wages, difficult working conditions and normal delays related to reopening a mammoth economy.

The specific complaints that government benefits are sapping the desire to work have, nonetheless, struck a chord among Republican political leaders.

Attendees jammed the panel sessions, waiting to hear speakers like Twitter’s chief, Jack Dorsey, who’s a Bitcoin supporter. Charge…Alfonso Duran for The New York Times

At least 12,000 people descended on Miami on Friday and Saturday, flocking into the biggest Bitcoin conference in the world and the first major in-person business conference since the pandemic began.

Bitcoin 2021, an occasional gathering of electronic currency enthusiasts run by a magazine named after the cryptocurrency, heralded the receding of the pandemic, with comfortingly familiar and mundane elements of a business conference : the branded plastic sunglasses, brightly colored sponsor booths, lanyards and panels.

The exuberance of being in person, inside, in a crowd for the first time in more than a year was electrical, reports Erin Griffith for The New York Times. Everyone hugged, nobody masked. The money zipped between electronic wallets. The conference swag included neon fanny packs, festival bracelets and a Lamborghini car. The jargon — stablecoin, peer-to-peer, private key — flowed. So did the liquor.

It was another indication that the often absurd world of electronic currencies was inching its way toward mainstream acceptance, or at least mainstream curiosity. Since late last year, Bitcoin has been on a wild ride, setting price records. A plunge from a high of $64,000 in April to $36,000 now did not dampen spirits. They’re BTD — buying the dip. Wall Street bankers, institutional investors and Senator Cynthia Lummis, a Republican from Wyoming, all came to Miami.

There was a reason we were in Miami and not New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles. The city has gone complete crypto.

Cameron Winklevoss, a crypto entrepreneur, spoke at the event on Friday. Charge…Alfonso Duran for The New York Times
So did Mr. Dorsey, who also conducts the payments company Square. Charge…Alfonso Duran for The New York Times

Bitcoin A.T.M.s sprinkled the Wynwood neighborhood. A cryptocurrency exchange called FTX recently purchased the naming rights to the Miami Heat’s arena. Miami’s mayor, Francis Suarez, announced this year that the city would take tax payments in cryptocurrency, let its workers collect salaries with it and research holding some on its balance sheet.

Onstage, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, entrepreneurs and cryptocurrency billionaires, preached to the choir. Cameron Winklevoss wore a T-shirt with an image of the Federal Reserve building captioned Rage Against the Machine, a reference to how cryptocurrency was not controlled by a central government or bank.

Afterwards, Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter and the payments company Square, provided his own endorsement. If I were not in Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin, he said.

On Saturday, the conference played a video of Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador, announcing a bill to make Bitcoin legal tender in the country. The audience leapt to a roaring standing ovation.

Credit…Shuhua Xiong

Today in the On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide shares what you will need to know about the dispute between several programmers and Apple, where the technology giant and the unhappy app makers both have a point, and her suggestions for attaining program peace.

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