Cyber security and privacy are topics near and dear to my heart, so I was gratified when Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer called for a "Digital Geneva Convention" at the RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco on February 14. The idea of such a convention is that governments would agree to protect the digital privacy of civilians.

One could probably not find a better spokesperson than Smith. A graduate of Princeton and Columbia Law, Smith is an attorney who heads a team of 1,300 with wide ranging responsibilities in intellectual property, government affairs and public policy for Microsoft. As reported by Business Insider, Smith had this to say in a draft blog post:

Just as the world's governments came together in 1949 to adopt the Fourth Geneva Convention to protect civilians in times of war, we need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to implement the norms needed to protect civilians on the internet in times of peace.

Smith called for the creation of an independent organization to investigate cyber attacks by nation states. Smith also called upon the tech sector to work cooperatively to protect individuals from cyber attacks.

Smith also publicly supported Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) position last year when it refused to comply with a Justice Department order to help unlock the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook in the San Bernardino terrorist shootings case. I wrote about the case extensively starting in February last year. I also agreed with Apple that creating a back door that could be used to unlock other iPhones as the government requested represented an unacceptable compromise of the privacy of all iPhone users.

What are the chances of such an accord? I believe, very small. In my experience working for defense contractors, and in effect, the government, the US intelligence community has become very comfortable with the concept of universal continuous surveillance of, well, just about everyone.

Our founding fathers who wrote the Constitution could not have anticipated all the means of technical surveillance now available to national governments. While Apple's fight against the surveillance state is commendable, I believe that a Constitutional amendment is needed to curb governmental power in the Internet age.

"Lawsuits in Motion"

Let me admit up front that I didn't think of "Lawsuits in Motion." I wish I had. It's from an article in The Register by Kieren McCarthy describing a BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) lawsuit against Avaya alleging patent infringement. BlackBerry had initiated the suit last August.

BlackBerry's at it again, this time suing Nokia (NYSE:NOK) for infringement of standards essential patents (SEPs). According to Bloomberg, BlackBerry acquired the patents when a consortium of companies, including Apple, BlackBerry and Microsoft, acquired the patent portfolio of bankrupt Nortel for USD 4.5 billion in 2011.

BlackBerry is required to license SEPs on FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) terms, so BlackBerry isn't seeking to block use of the patents, but merely seeks compensation. Since there's no built in enforcement mechanism for SEPs and no agreed upon standard for FRAND, if companies can't come to terms, the matter winds up in court. In the face of declining hardware sales, it's perfectly reasonable for BlackBerry to seek to maximize the value of its patent portfolio.

However, such cases can drag on for years, so any royalties that might result will not help Blackberry in the near term.

Daimler Retools for EVs

Daimler AG, parent of Mercedes-Benz, has announced that it is going to begin to convert one of its principal internal combustion engine factories to production of electric motors for battery electric vehicles. The plant in question is the Unterturkheim powertrain plant. According to the press release:

With a joint agreement, company and Works Council are creating the framework for further growth of conventional powertrains while preparing for electric mobility at the same time. The agreement has long-term effects for safeguarding the employees at the site and gives the transformation of the tradition-rich plant in the Neckar Valley a new aspect in terms of electric mobility.

The Works Council represents Daimler's unionized work force. Daimler has to move somewhat gingerly, according to electrek, because electric motors are much less complex than ICEs and expected to result in a workforce reduction. Unterturkheim employs 19,000 people.

Daimler intends to set up a pilot facility within Unterturkheim for production of electric drivetrains. This e-technology center is described as only producing prototype components, but it appears to be a first step towards gradual conversion of the plant to support BEV production.

Daimler's move highlights an interesting problem not often discussed by Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) bears when describing the multitude of BEVs that they expect to compete with Tesla in the near future. Yes, the traditional automakers have a wealth of experience and production capacity, but to a large degree its the wrong kind of experience and the wrong kind of production capacity.

At least Tesla doesn't have to worry about converting from ICE drivetrain production. It also doesn't have to worry about placating a unionized work force.

Buffett Likes Apple

Berkshire Hathaway  upped its stake in Apple to 57.4 million shares in the December quarter, which was worth about USD 6.64 billion as of December 31. At current prices, Berkshire's Apple holdings are now worth USD 7.74 billion, according to AppleInsider.

I think this is more of the Trump Effect. I estimate that if Apple repatriates only half of its offshore cash of USD 230 billion, it would allow up to an USD 19.7/share dividend after taxes. Warren knows a sure thing when he sees it. – Seeking Alpha


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