The government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has said he was rebuked for arguing strongly in favour of imposing Covid lockdown restrictions earlier this year, it has emerged.
In an email uncovered by a BBC Freedom of Information request, Sir Patrick reveals he was given a “telling off” from other senior officials.
Some scientists argue lives could have been saved had a lockdown been introduced earlier. The government insists there was “no delay”.
In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said government policy had been “guided by the advice of world-renowned scientists”.
The UK has one of the highest number of coronavirus deaths per capita in the world, though officials insist it’s too early to draw accurate comparisons with other countries. The Department for Health and Social Care insists there was no delay in locking down.
The email obtained by the BBC appears to be a discussion of a Sunday Times article in May criticising the delays in announcing a lockdown in March.
It’s not known when the “telling off” occurred, but speaking to Parliament’s science and technology committee in July, Sir Patrick referred to advice given by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on 16 March for “additional social-distancing measures” to be implemented “as soon as possible”.
A full lockdown was not introduced until 23 March. It’s now thought the number of cases rose dramatically in the period just before that.
In the email, Sir Patrick writes that he “argued stronger than anyone for action for lockdown” but received a “telling off” from chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and the then Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.
Sir Patrick and Prof Whitty regularly appeared at news conferences together updating the public on measures taken to combat coronavirus, without noticeably disagreeing.
On 16 March, the government issued advice “against all unnecessary social contact with others and unnecessary travel” including warnings to avoid pubs, bars and restaurants. However, premises were not ordered to close until 20 March, whilst on 23 March a full lockdown was introduced whereby people could only leave the home for exercise or grocery shopping.
Scientists have calculated how many mammals might be lost this century, based on fossil evidence of past extinctions.
Their predictions suggest at least 550 species will follow in the footsteps of the mammoth and sabre-toothed cat.
With every “lost species” we lose part of the Earth’s natural history, they say.
Yet, despite these “grim” projections, we can save hundreds of species by stepping up conservation efforts.
The new research, published in the journal Science Advances, suggests that humans are almost entirely responsible for extinctions of mammals in past decades.
And rates will escalate in the future if we don’t take action now.
Despite this “alarming” scenario, we could save hundreds if not thousands of species with more targeted and efficient conservation strategies, said Tobias Andermann of the Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre and the University of Gothenburg.
In order to achieve this, we must increase our collective awareness about the “looming escalation of the biodiversity crisis, and take action in combatting this global emergency”.
“Time is pressing,” he said. “With every lost species, we irreversibly lose a unique portion of Earth’s natural history.”
The scientists compiled a large dataset of fossils, which provided evidence for the timing and scale of recent extinctions.
Their computer-based simulations predict large increases in extinction rates by the year 2100, based on the current threat status of species.
According to these models, the extinctions that have occurred in past centuries only represent the tip of the iceberg, compared with the looming extinctions of the next decades.
“Reconstructing our past impacts on biodiversity is essential to understand why some species and ecosystems have been particularly vulnerable to human activities – which can hopefully allow us to develop more effective conservation actions to combat extinction,” said Prof Samuel Turvey of ZSL (Zoological Society of London).
It’s not uncommon to have tattoos of loved ones, favourite footballers or even pets.
But a Scottish zookeeper has gone one step further by immortalising her beloved animals in ink.
Phoebe Dowens looked after animals at Edinburgh Zoo for seven years before moving to the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig.
Everywhere she goes, she takes her three – soon to be four – favourite animals with her.
Phoebe has worked with dozens of beautiful and exotic animals during her career and believes that by caring for them and spending more time with them than humans, they become part of her extended family.
She says animals can make as big an impact on her life as people.
Phoebe, originally from Edinburgh but now living in Kingussie, said: “My first animal tattoo was of Bertus the rhino on my arm. He is special to me because he was the first rhino I worked with. I was super into learning everything about rhinos at the time too.”
Bertus was at Edinburgh Zoo when Phoebe worked there but moved to Batu Secret Zoo in Indonesia three years ago.
Her next project was Belle the red river hog which she had tattooed on her leg.
Phoebe said: “She was at Edinburgh Zoo and when she died I wanted to commemorate her because I had really got to know her quite well when I worked in the hoofstock section. She struck a chord with me and she was very sweet and a great mum.”
The inspiration for animal tattoo number three came from a placement Phoebe went on in April 2019.
“I went to San Diego safari park for a month and that’s when I worked with Shafira and Acica the giraffes,” said Phoebe. ” I got them tattooed on my leg to remember the whole trip as it was very special.”
When Phoebe started working at Edinburgh Zoo in 2013 she was following in the hoofsteps of her great great uncle. He had worked there as a hoofstock keeper in the 1940s, so she was delighted to work in some of the same cages as he worked in.
Her family is nothing but proud.
“My mum and dad are happy I found a career that they know brings me enjoyment so they are fine with my tattoos,” said Phoebe. “I’m not going to continue to cover myself in them though. I’m just going to occasionally get the very special animals tattooed on me.”
And she already knows what her next one will be.
She said: “It’s going to be of Rotana – a male sun bear who was rescued from a small cage in Cambodia and brought to Edinburgh Zoo.
He was rescued by Free The Bears so his history is important and reminds me why I do this job.”
Phoebe is one of the zookeepers featured in a new programme on the BBC Scotland channel called Inside The Zoo.
The show follows staff at both Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park as they care for some of Scotland’s most-loved animals.
Gail Porter narrates the eight-part series which looks at how state-of-the-art science and conservation affect life at the zoo.
Inside The Zoo is on BBC Scotland channel at 20:00 on Monday 7 September.
Netflix has announced it’s recruited two of the masterminds behind Games of Thrones to adapt bestselling Chinese sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem.
Writers David Benioff and DB Weiss will work on the series with True Blood writer Alexander Woo.
The news has drawn mixed reactions with some fans doubting a US adaptation of the Chinese story will work.
The book is the first instalment of the trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past by writer Liu Cixin.
First published in 2008, the books were soon translated into English and have received both critical acclaim and a global readership, counting former US President Barack Obama and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg among their fans.
The plot of the saga spans from China’s Cultural Revolution to events several thousand years in the future.
“Liu Cixin’s trilogy is the most ambitious science-fiction series we’ve read, taking readers on a journey from the 1960s until the end of time, from life on our pale blue dot to the distant fringes of the universe,” Netflix cites writers and executive producers Benioff and Weiss as saying.
“We look forward to spending the next years of our lives bringing this to life for audiences around the world.”
The streaming company has not released any information on the release date nor other details about the series.
Science Fears over ‘Western stereotypes’ of China
By Zhijie Shao, BBC News Chinese
Before Liu Cixin and his “Three-Body” series, Chinese science-fiction was not prominent, even among Chinese audience. The country has a history of suppressing its development, which used to be seen by the government as “a western view of the future of mankind”.
Liu’s work captured the imagination of Chinese fans in both scientific and philosophical terms without avoiding some controversial parts of Chinese history and society, bringing an innovative sense of modern China to the world stage. And he did it without being a dissident.
A whole new generation of Chinese sci-fi authors and fans have emerged after Liu’s success.
On the Chinese internet, Three-Body fandom continues to go strong. A group of fans even made an experimental adaptation in Minecraft style,
But when it comes to a proper film adaption, many fans doubt that China’s sci-fi film industry is sophisticated enough to handle the grand ideas presented in Liu’s books.
A case in point: the first attempt of a film adaptation of “Three-Body” was announced in 2015 and reportedly finished filming in only a few months. It was never released.
Now with Netflix and a team of western writers involved, fans are instead worried that the Chinese characters and historical events in the story might fall into “western stereotypes”.
Either way, they’re worried they could never enjoy it as much as they have the books.
Liu Cixin, the Chinese author of the novels, will be involved in the project as a consulting producer.
“I have the greatest respect for and faith in the creative team adapting The Three-Body Problem for television audiences,” he said in a Netflix statement.
“It is a great honor as an author to see this unique sci-fi concept travel and gain fandom across the globe and I am excited for new and existing fans all over the world to discover the story on Netflix.”
The movie adaption of The Wandering Earth, another Cixin novel, in 2019 became one of China’s highest-grossing films of all time.
The Netflix announcement was welcomed by some fans hoping the producers will create a series as successful as Game of Thrones while others were doubting it was the right team.
Many Chinese netizens were pointing out that they did not think that US producers could do justice to the novels.
Others though said Netflix will be free of any censorship constraints while a Chinese adaptation would be limited in how it could portray events around the Cultural Revolution for instance.
Chinese streaming platform Tencent earlier this year announced its own adaptation of the novel after having already launched a comic book adaptation last year.
Many teachers are preparing to welcome pupils back to school this week for the first time in months.
Schools in Scotland, Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK are already open. But for many pupils in England, it will be the first time they have been in a classroom since March.
We spoke to teachers about what’s changed, and how they are feeling about schools reopening.
Science ‘I’m trying to be as safe as I can’
Teacher Kemi Oloyede has thought a lot about how safe she feels returning to work. She works in a pupil referral unit, with secondary students who have been excluded from school. When she welcomes her mixed ability class of eight pupils back this week, the 28-year-old says she will be working mainly from her desk.
“I won’t lie to you, I probably will be wearing a mask in the building and wearing gloves as well. I’m trying to be as safe as safe as I can be.”
The Londoner lives with her parents who are classed as being at risk, and this has impacted how she feels about her return to work.
“I am ready to go back to work because the students have missed out on a lot due to schools closing down back in March. But mentally, because of the anxiety, maybe not so much,” she says.
“I am black, my parents are black and I don’t want to put them at risk if they are already at risk. I don’t want to bring anything home. My mum is working from home so she doesn’t have to be in contact with people on a daily basis. But as a teacher, we have to be in contact with our students so that has added to my level of anxiety. I’m just hoping and praying everything will be fine.
She says she feels supported by her school, which is supplying protective equipment.
“I have to work and the students have to learn.”
Science ‘Remote learning was a huge success’
Geography teacher Tom Clark say it’s normal for teachers to feel butterflies before the start of a new term. But this one feels different.
“I don’t know how the kids are going to be,” he says. “I haven’t seen them for six months. I’ve seen them on screen but I don’t know how they are as people.”
The 48-year-old works at Birkdale School in Sheffield, a private school for boys. It has set up bubbles – closed groups of pupils – and a one-way system. It is asking pupils to wear face coverings when in corridors and communal areas, and on school buses.
Soon after lockdown started in March, he and his colleagues were given “intensive training” in remote classroom software and online teaching.
“It was a huge success,” he explains. “So much so that when the government announced in mid-June that certain year groups could go back to school, we decided that not to do that, because it was going to be more disruptive than the online learning that was happening from home.
Mr Clark says the experience will help his school react to any new lockdown this winter.
“If we have to suddenly close down bubbles within the school, we can just revert back to Google Classroom. The idea of doing online learning would have filled me with terror eight months ago but it has become part and parcel of my daily life.”
Science ‘Everything I had been building to got thrown out of the window’
Laura Kline believes classroom learning creates a more level playing field for students than online lessons.
“I had one student who could only be on the laptop on certain days because they’ve got three other siblings in the house.
“One is a university student, another is an A-level student, and so they’re bottom of the list because they’re in Year 9, and it’s really difficult to expect them to complete the work online with a potentially poor internet connection,” she explains.
Ms Kline, 27, qualified as a science teacher last year, and describes the past year as a “huge shock to the system”.
“When I started in September it was already overwhelming because you have a full timetable just like any other teacher; I taught Year 11 for the first time, I had a form for the first time.
“I worked hard and got used to it, and then March came – and everything I had been building to got thrown out of the window because there was a whole new way of learning.”
During lockdown, she sent work out to year groups once or twice a week, and there were also weekly live lessons online which she found a challenge.
“When the children are not directly in front of you, it’s just not the same. You can’t see who understands what you’re saying and who needs a bit of assistance.
“There are some students I know will be far behind compared to where they should be and I can’t see, with the pressures that teachers will now be under, how anyone can make up that lost time; especially for the GCSE students. They will be falling into those lower ability groups where they wouldn’t necessarily need to be.
“Children have really sensitive morale so once you’ve moved them down it is really difficult to get them re-engaged to push them back up to where they really deserve to be.”
Science ‘The budget is stretched’
Lee Batstone, head teacher of Madley Primary School in Herefordshire, says he’s spent £10,000 on adapting to government guidelines on cleaning and social distancing.
Since March the school has only been closed for two weeks – it ran a holiday club over the holidays – and Mr Batstone says his budget is increasingly stretched.
“The longer this goes on without any additional funding, the harder it is going to be” says the 49-year-old.
As well as standard measures such as regular cleaning and hand sanitising, the school is allowing staff and pupils to wear whatever PPE they want in order to feel safe.
“We’re a school that’s based on a pupils taking responsibility for themselves in their own actions, but now everything except going to the toilet is supervised and closely monitored,” he says.
That said, toilets have been an issue, according to Mr Batstone. The school’s existing ones are small and the school is operating a one-in, one-out policy so new, temporary portable toilets have been brought in so that every year group has their own.
“Year 6 at the end of last term had the poshest toilets going – they had wedding toilets that piped music on to the playground,” he says.
Now that the practical measures are in place, Mr Batstone says the school’s main focus will be about helping the children learn to look after themselves without becoming frightened of each other.
“I think one of the mental impacts [of the pandemic will be] making sure children are not scared of other human beings because that could be a long-term effect the longer this goes on.”
People with invisible disabilities have been drawing their experiences of lockdown for a project carried out by Cardiff University.
The striking images, featuring cocoons and black dogs, were found by researchers to be a more accurate expression of their experience of illness than words – and prompted more empathetic responses from viewers.
Lockdown has left many people with invisible illnesses feeling they have been left to deal with symptoms on their own, said Dr Sofia Gameiro, from the School of Psychology.
The most common theme, she said, was a “sense of isolation and longing for human contact”.
In_pictures ‘There are days with fear and darkness’
Cristian Crisóstomo has been working on the front line as a doctor.
“Living with depression during lockdown is not easy,” he says.
“Some days are really hard for me. There are days with fear and darkness.
“But I have to be strong.”
In_pictures ‘Life continued on without you’
Amanda Francey has myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).
“Lockdown was already my normal,” she says.
“Imagine if you were the only person you knew in lockdown while the whole world remained open and life continued on without you. You’re excluded from your family and friends on a daily basis.
“Now imagine on top of this, you are feeling incredibly ill, so ill you can’t bear noise, light, touch or stimulation of any kind.
“Imagine not only being trapped inside your home but inside your broken body, year after year, watching your life pass by, knowing restrictions aren’t going to be lifted in the foreseeable future.”
In_pictures ‘Rapid changes in mood’
Siyona Bhandari is a visual artist and her drawing expressed how the fluctuations in blood sugar can cause rapid changes in mood and increases irritability in a diabetic person.
Stress can make managing diabetes more difficult and cause blood sugar levels to go too high.
Lockdown has been a lengthy period of stress for a lot of people.
In_pictures ‘In my heart there is hope’
Tri Iva Fitriani says: “Mostly, I feel anxious, unsure, sad, mad, tired, empty, lonely, all mixed up.
“But, I still believe, deep inside in my heart there is hope.”
In_pictures ‘Locked in a cage’
Ahanjit Biswas, who has depression, says: “As she [the woman in the image] can’t go out for the lockdown and enjoy the world, she thinks about the sunset, beach, tall buildings.
“It shows that we are also locked in a cage, so we are also thinking about the outer world.”
In_pictures ‘As lockdown starts to lift…’
Tumim and Prendergast say: “This detail expresses how many of us who are having to shield are feeling as lockdown starts to lift and there are more people getting back on with their lives.”
Maria says: “I prefer the idea of being ‘cocooned’, where other people’s kindness and support contributes to the protection of the most vulnerable.
“Cocooning feels far less lonely and becomes a positive image of care.”
In_pictures “I look fine – but I’m not”
Nettle Mouth, by Matilda Tumim, is about small-fibre sensory neuropathy, which causes severe pain.
“It had been especially bad during lockdown,” she says.
“I look fine – but I’m not.”
In_pictures ‘Prison cell’
Molly Robson, who has anxiety, says: “The house begins to feel more like a prison cell than a home, after so much time spent there when you’re unable to leave – and the general monotony of it all, making little things seem big and scary and things that were once exciting dull and grey.”
In_pictures ‘Torn between decisions’
This anonymous artist, who has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), feels “torn between decisions”.
“The arm with question marks represents my OCD ‘tearing’ me up,” they say, “torn” between intrusive thoughts around contamination and “repeatedly checking in my head that I definitely did leave enough distance between people”.
“Staying inside also makes my OCD bad and is unhealthy, so I’m torn between staying inside and going outside for exercise.”
In_pictures ‘Flare-up mode’
Catherine says living with a chronic illness during lockdown has been “extra hard” physically and mentally.
“I imagine my illness to be like an invisible spring that has tightly entangled itself throughout my whole body, ready to constrict and spring into flare-up mode at any moment,” she says.
“The biggest spring-like figure represents this.
“And the little figure is me screaming that the current coronavirus situation just feels like one thing too much.”
To find out more about the Drawing Out project click
Films hoping to compete for the best picture Oscar will have to meet certain criteria over diversity, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says.
The Academy set out four “standards” which it hopes will boost representation and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera.
For the 96th Oscars, in 2025, only films that have met at least two of the standards will qualify for the award.
The Oscars have been criticised for their lack of diversity.
The failure to nominate black or minority actors in 2016 led to a furious backlash, with film stars boycotting the ceremony and the growth of the #OscarsSoWhite movement.
It led to a promise from the Academy to double its female and Bame members by 2020.
The Academy recently invited 819 new members to vote for this year’s Oscars, of whom 45% are women and 36% are non-white, and says it has now doubled the number of women members and tripled the number of people from under-represented ethnic and racial communities.
In_pictures ‘Long-lasting, essential change’
In its latest announcement, the Academy said it was introducing eligibility requirements for the best picture award “to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience”.
It lists in detail the underrepresented groups – which include women, racial and ethnic groups, LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities.
It lays out the following areas where such groups need to be involved:
On-screen acting and storylines, “including at least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group”
Creative leadership positions, departmental heads and crew composition
Paid apprenticeships, internships and training
Audience development, from publicity and marketing to distribution
These detailed requirements will only apply to films made in 2024 for the awards ceremony in 2025, and beyond. Until then, films from 2021 will be required to submit an Academy Inclusion Standards form.
“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them,” Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a joint statement.
“The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”
In an interview published on Wednesday, Halle Berry expressed “heartbreak” that no black women had won the best actress Oscar since she became the first to do so in 2002.
“The morning after, I thought, ‘Wow, I was chosen to open a door”,” she told Variety. “And then, to have no one… I question, ‘Was that an important moment, or was it just an important moment for me?'”
In_pictures Do diversity standards work? A Bafta case study
By Ian Youngs, entertainment & arts reporter
Last year, Bafta, the British equivalent of the Oscars, introduced similar criteria for two of its awards. Films would not be nominated for best British film or best British debut unless they met at least two of four “diversity standards”.
Those standards cover on-screen talent and storylines; creative leadership, team or crew; training and opportunities; and underserved audiences.
However, that didn’t prevent the nominees for best British film this year being dominated by stories predominantly about, made by, and starring white men.
The award was won by 1917, Sir Sam Mendes’s epic that followed two soldiers during World War One. It qualified because it met the criteria for creative leadership (it had a female co-writer and two of the five producers were women) and training.
The other nominees included Rocketman, the Sir Elton John biopic, which qualified because it had a lead character from an under-represented group (presumably LGBT) and the storyline reflected that group; and because it targeted under-served audiences.
The Two Popes, starring Jonathan Pryce and Sir Anthony Hopkins as an ageing pair of pontiffs, was allowed to be nominated because its lead character(s), storylines and locations reflected under-represented group(s). The groups it reflected have not been specified, but religion and age are listed among the “characteristics” used to define under-represented groups. It also met the criteria relating to the creative leadership and team. It was directed by Brazilian Fernando Meirelles, written by New Zealand’s Anthony McCarten, and one of the three producers was female.
Other films nominated for the award included Ken Loach’s Newcastle-set working class drama Sorry We Missed You, which met three of the four diversity standards; and Mark Jenkin’s low-budget Cornish fishing drama Bait, which met all four. The final nominee was the Syrian war documentary For Sama, which met three.
The diversity standards don’t apply to the acting and directing honours – and Bafta found itself at the centre of an outcry this year after unveiling an all-white line-up for the acting awards, and an all-male line-up of directors.
On Wednesday, Bafta issued a statement saying it was “delighted that the Academy has today announced its new representation and inclusion standards”. It said it would “continue to review and expand” its own standards every year.
Bafta has been carrying out a review of its membership, nominations and voting processes, although any changes have not yet been announced.
In a letter to members in June, incoming Bafta chair Krishnendu Majumdar said the 2020 nominations “showed we are a long way from where we want to be”, and that it had been important for the organisation “to acknowledge systemic racism and other unconscious biases, and to address this head-on”.
Ferrari’s cars will race in a special one-off livery at this weekend’s Tuscan Grand Prix, the team’s 1,000th Formula 1 world championship race.
The cars will be dark red, which the team say is a reproduction of the first Ferrari F1 car, the 125 F1 from 1950.
Drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel will wear race suits in the same colour, while fans will be allowed to attend for the first time this year.
Mercedes will paint the safety car in red as a tribute to Ferrari’s standing.
In addition, Mick Schumacher, the son of Michael Schumacher, Ferrari’s and F1’s most successful driver, will do a demonstration run on race morning in his father’s final championship-winning car, the F2004.
The race’s official title also reflects Ferrari’s historic achievement.
Piero Ferrari, the company’s vice-president and the son of founder Enzo Ferrari, said the team’s 1,000th Grand Prix was “a very important milestone which had to be marked in a special way”.
He added: “It’s a tribute to our origins: to our starting point for the amazing Ferrari story, characterised by an endless desire to compete, alongside the will to build road cars that are exceptional in terms of technology and design.
“Ferrari is unique in the world, because the company has the soul of a car manufacturer and of a racing team, an inseparable link that is never questioned.”
Ferrari are having one of the worst seasons in their history, with a car that has lost engine performance as a result of a series of rule clarifications over the winter and a secret agreement with governing body the FIA, which believed the Ferrari engine was not running legally at all times last year but could not prove it.
Their best qualifying position at the last two races, at the historic Spa-Francorchamps and Monza tracks, was 13th, by Leclerc.
But the drivers are hopeful that the different characteristics of Mugello, which Ferrari own and is hosting its first Grand Prix, will be more favourable to them.
The 3.26-mile circuit is situated in the Tuscan hills, not far from Florence, and is renowned for its challenging nature and flowing, high-speed corners. The most famous of these are the two Arrabbiata – or ‘spicy’ – right-handers in the middle of the lap.
Vettel, a four-time champion who is leaving the team at the end of the season, said: “It’s a great honour to be driving a Ferrari in what is the 1,000th Grand Prix for this, the longest-serving of all F1 teams.
“It will be even more of a pleasure to celebrate the anniversary at Mugello and also because for the first time this season, a few spectators will be allowed into the grandstands.
“It is a very nice and super-technical track with changes of gradient and very demanding corners.
“The track should better suit our car, so let’s hope we can deliver something to please the tifosi, both at home and at the circuit.”
Mugello is allowing 2,880 spectators into the track each day from Friday onwards and all will be required to socially distance.
Oracle sells database technology and cloud systems to businesses. It was one of the first companies to help clients structure their records in this way.
Co-founder and current chairman Larry Ellison named the company after the codename given to a project for its first customer, in 1975: the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The firm was founded two years later and went on to complete contracts for the CIA, Navy Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence and the National Security Agency.
News site Gizmodo has detailed Oracle’s involvement with US government intelligence community, and says it is relationship that has been “frequently ignored by people who like to pretend Oracle was just another humble Silicon Valley start-up”.
But its clients and cloud-based services now extend far wider, from serving auto-makers including Mazda and Yamaha to retailers such as the UK’s Co-op and Debenhams chains.
Oracle’s technologies can be used to keep track of everything, Mr Ellison has said.
“The information about your banks, your checking balance, your savings balance, is stored in an Oracle database,” he said in Jeffery Rosen’s 2004 book The Naked Crowd.
“Your airline reservation is stored in an Oracle database. What books you bought on Amazon is stored in an Oracle database. Your profile on Yahoo! is stored in an Oracle database… Privacy is already gone.”
Technology A safe choice?
The US administration claims TikTok and other Chinese apps are national security threats which is why – given its history in intelligence – Oracle might be considered a trustworthy option.
“On the surface, Oracle and TikTok don’t seem like bedfellows,” said Chris Stokel-Walker, author of a forthcoming book about the platform.
“Oracle is a relatively boring business-to-business company, whereas TikTok is a youth-centred, casual app.
“But there is underlying geopolitics. If [US President Donald] Trump’s fears around TikTok are rooted in security, the company would be a safer bet.”
The president had previously said he thought Oracle was best placed to seal the TikTok deal.
“I think Oracle is a great company, and I think its owner is a tremendous guy,” Mr Trump said last month. “He’s a tremendous person. I think that Oracle would be certainly somebody that could handle it.”
Technology TikTok deadlines:
15 September: Deadline given by President Trump for Bytedance to find a deal
20 September: Executive order due to come into effect prohibiting companies under US jurisdiction doing business with Bytedance
12 November: Second executive order comes into effect, giving Bytedance a deadline to fully divest the US assets of TikTok
But any deal would require the approval of both American and Chinese governments – and Chinese state media has reported that Bytedance will not sell the company to Oracle.
Oracle has been accused of hostility towards China, after firing 900 staff from its team in the country last year, in the same week additional tariffs on Chinese goods were introduced in the US.
Employees blamed tensions between the US and China for the cuts.
Technology ‘Tech partnership’
It is understood that Oracle’s involvement in TikTok will not be an outright sale but instead a “tech partnership”, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters report.
That suggests the US firm’s control over the business would be limited.
Two weeks ago, China announced new government restrictions on tech exports. They mean some technologies involving artificial intelligence techniques need government approval before any sale to a foreign entity takes place.
Many view the way TikTok decides which videos to recommend to whom and when as being its key asset, and it may be that Oracle will not be allowed to know exactly how it works or make use of it for other purposes,
“A deal where Oracle takes over hosting without source code and significant operational changes would not address any of the legitimate concerns about TikTok, and the White House accepting such a deal would demonstrate that this exercise was pure grift,” Alex Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook, tweeted.
But another expert thinks the partnership could work.
“The security element with Oracle could ease tensions, but it can also help TikTok be a bit more mature in its outlook,” said Tamara Littleton, founder of The Social Element consultancy.
“TikTok is struggling to control its content at the moment, and its revered algorithm can work against it sometimes. Oracle’s experience could help to fix some of these problems.”
TikTok and Oracle both declined to comment when contacted by the BBC.