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The State House Versus Big Tech

Yes, but the state legislatures clearly don’t believe issues like data privacy, online expression and tech monopolies are wholly federal matters. Congress also moves slowly or is completely gridlocked on many of these concerns.

It is not clear, though, how far states are permitted to go in these tech regulations and taxes. The Maryland digital advertising tax will almost certainly be challenged in court.

How do tech companies feel about this?

We’ll probably hear more from them that state lawmakers are in over their heads and will hurt their own states’ economies with new taxes or regulation. That’s often how any company responds to more government rules or costs.

And on some issues — notably after California passed strict digital privacy laws — big technology companies are pushing for federal laws, in part to head off any future local or state rules that might be even harsher.

Is there a common theme among new regulations that tech companies are facing in places like Pakistan, Australia and the United States?

It’s a sign of the new reality for Google, Facebook, Amazon and America’s other tech powers. These companies started out as lightly regulated newcomers, but as they grew and went global, other countries started to become concerned about the companies’ effect on their economies, workers and people’s communications.

Now the reconsideration of a laissez-faire approach to tech regulation has landed back in the United States, including in states and cities.

Tip of the Week

In the category of tiny victories, the New York Times consumer technology columnist Brian X. Chen walks through a coming feature for newer model iPhones that recognizes our faces when we’re wearing a mask. Spoiler alert: This won’t apply to everyone with an iPhone.

A nagging annoyance for many iPhone owners in the pandemic is the inability of the device’s face scanner to recognize us with our masks on. That means we can’t unlock our phones while wearing a face mask, and we’ve had to resort to punching in a passcode. There are, of course, bigger problems this year. But still, this feels lame.

There’s a solution on the way — if you have an Apple Watch. In the next version of iOS (14.5), you’ll be able to quickly unlock the phone while wearing a mask. The watch essentially becomes the way for the iPhone to verify that it’s you.

The new iPhone software is still in beta mode, meaning the official version has yet to be released to the public. I typically recommend against installing beta software because it can be prone to glitches. But if you’re eager to unlock your phone sans mask, here’s what you can do:

Sign up for Apple’s beta software program. Then click through the steps to enroll your iPhone and Apple Watch so that they can install the beta software.

After installing the beta software on both the iPhone and Apple Watch, open the Settings app on your iPhone. Then scroll down to “Face ID & Passcode.” In this menu, scroll down to “Unlock with Apple Watch” and toggle on the option to use your Apple Watch to unlock when the image scanner detects your face with a mask.

Next time you’re at the grocery store and you look at your phone, your watch will vibrate once and unlock your phone. Sweet relief.