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Launched by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, Anduril Industries will see 200 of its unmanned towers along America’s southern flank by 2022, thanks to its five-year contract worth “several hundreds of millions of dollars” with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Supporters of the AI-powered technology see it as a cost-effective alternative to pricey (and arguably ineffective) border fortifications proposed by President Donald Trump. (The Washington Post)

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Talking point: Backed by Peter Thiel of Palantir fame, Anduril just scored another US$200 million in funding based on a US$1.9-billion valuation. Though it boasts some novel technology—battering-ram drone, anyone?—it remains one of the few small, Silicon Valley-based defence contractors in a sector dominated by the likes of Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon.

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In an internal presentation about Workplace, Facebook’s effort to challenge Slack and Microsoft Teams, the social media giant debuted a feature that lets employers exert “content control” over certain topics. The presentation included the word “unionize” as an example of a term employers might want to block. The presentation was reportedly taken down the next day; a Facebook spokesperson apologized for the example and said it had “pulled any plans to roll [Workplace] out while we think through next steps.” (The Intercept)

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Talking point: Companies are increasingly turning to tech solutions to suppress unionization efforts. In April, Amazon-owned Whole Foods used a heat-map tool to track stores at the highest “risk” for unionization. Walmart has hired Lockheed Martin to monitor unionization efforts at its U.S. stores. While workers at some Big Tech firms have been organizing around pay equity and sexual harassment, so far, Kickstarter is the only tech company whose employees  have sucessfully formed a union earlier this year. Facebook’s employees have recently taken issue with the company’s lax approach to misinformation and hateful content.”

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The joint U.S.-Canada agency runs the monitoring operation from its Colorado headquarters, and uses 1,500 volunteers to answer emails and 140,000 phone calls annually. (The Associated Press)

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Talking point: In recent years, NORAD has integrated its tracker with popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Amazon’s AI assistant Alexa, expanding the product’s market beyond its own website. In December, the agency announced a partnership with OnStar, General Motors’ subscription-based navigation and security service. For-profit firms built with government-released open datasets are big business—the market for flight trackers was worth US$342 million last year, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com. NORAD also works with companies that are large vendors to the U.S. defence department. The website and app tracker uses maps from Bing, whose owner Microsoft won a disputed US$10-billion Pentagon cloud contract in October. Cesium provides the 3D terrain that Santa flies over; defence contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon also use its technology in visualization tools sold to armed forces and intelligence services.

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In a resignation letter, Paul Wynnyk accused Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, of planning to replace him with Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, then changing his mind and asking Wynnyk to stay. Wynnyk is the seventh lieutenant-general or vice-admiral to leave since 2018. Vance did not address Wynnyk’s allegations, instead lauding him as an “exceptional leader” and “even better friend.” (Global, Ottawa Citizen)

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Talking point: The turmoil among Canada’s senior most military leaders comes as the defence department is facing a number of major issues. On the procurement front, the cost of new warships has ballooned to $70 billion, and Airbus and Boeing are considering pulling out of a bidding process on fighter jets over concerns it’s unfairly tilted toward Lockheed Martin’s F-35. The military is also facing pressure from activists over white supremacists in its ranks and inquiries from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about why the families of soldiers who died in Afghanistan weren’t invited to the dedication of the Afghanistan Memorial in Ottawa. Vance has been trying to resolve those issues while he deals with the revolving door in the senior leadership ranks. Filling Wynnyk’s role may be difficult. The vice-chief of defence job must go to a three-star general. There are a few available, but many of them were only recently promoted to the rank, and the job usually goes to a more experienced officer. There’s also growing unrest with Vance’s leadership among at least some of the senior officers. Although Wynnyk’s letter was only sent to the most senior officers in Canada’s military, it was leaked within 20 minutes.