9 great reads from CNET this week

How a startup wants to reinvent privacy on our devices, why lab-grown meat is drawing so much attention, and what exactly is going on in orbit.

3 min read

It's becoming a regular thing: Once again, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before Congress. This time around, it was about how their social media companies handled the 2020 US election, though the questioning also touched on tech addiction, encryption and antitrust. That was midday Tuesday; later in the day, President Trump fired the head of the US' top cybersecurity agency for debunking claims of election fraud.

Outside Washington this week, excitement continued for the latest game consoles , with the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X and Series S remaining hard to get. But we heard from Xbox chief Phil Spencer about how games have become a way of life, and took a deep dive into how Activision created Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the software front, there were some changes of note. For instance, Google Pay is getting an overhaul with a new focus on managing bank accounts and finances, and Google also said it's testing end-to-end encryption for Android text messages. Meanwhile, Apple announced it's dropping the App Store commission it charges to 15% for developers making less than $1 million a year.

And we launched a new package of stories about satellites, called Signals From Above. This week's stories dive into what we can expect from SpaceX's Starlink project for broadband from space and the looming dangers of space debris.

Here are the stories from the past week that you don't want to miss.

Space has become a junkyard, and it's getting worse

We're building a Great Garbage Shell around the Earth, full of defunct satellites and tiny pieces of junk.

space debris
Rob Rodriquez/CNET

Android and iPhones are all about privacy now, but startup OSOM thinks it can do better

The team behind Andy Rubin's Essential is back, but without Rubin. Now called OSOM, it plans to introduce new privacy-focused hardware and software in late 2021.


Beyond the impossible: Lab-grown meat is better for the planet -- if you'll eat it

Cultured meat could be better for the environment, but whether you'll want to eat it is another issue. And don't expect vegans and vegetarians to get on board.

Cultured seafood from Blue Nalu
Blue Nalu

Apple's secret weapon in AR is right in front of us

Exclusive: Apple's AR executives talk about why iPhones and iPads are transforming into world-mapping, object-scanning tools -- and why that matters more right now than glasses.

iPhone 12 Pro Max camera lenses
James Martin/CNET

How SpaceX Starlink broadband will envelop Earth and transform the sky

Elon Musk wants to connect all corners of the planet via space, but his thousands of orbiting routers may pose a risk to satellites and to science.

Satellite broadband from space
Robert Rodriguez/CNET

Creating the new Call of Duty during a pandemic: 'We had no idea how we were going to do any of this'

Making a massive game like Call of Duty isn't easy. Especially during a pandemic while planning for next-gen console hardware.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War screenshot



Uber's national push over gig worker status has been underway for months

Even before its Proposition 22 win in California, Uber was emailing drivers in other states about a plan to keep them classified as independent contractors.

Uber driver wearing a face mask, with a sign taped to the car door saying "The gig is up."
James Martin/CNET

The smell of Napoleon at war: Scientists resurrect the scents of Europe's past

As part of the Odeuropa project, researchers from six countries are bringing historical smells, from the sublime to the stinky, to modern noses. "Smells shape our experience of the world."

"On the Evening of the Battle of Waterloo," by British painter Ernest Crofts
Getty Images

Bridesmaids director Paul Feig is the gin archaeologist we need right now

On CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast, the director of films like Spy and Ghostbusters explains how his passion for gin led to him making his own.

Paul Feig
Robert Spangle
Watch this: Starlink space-based internet, explained