posted less than an hour ago on re/code
Plus, listen to the rise and fall of Friendster — the first social network — 15 years later. Tim Cook, Mark Cuban and others talk about how Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s personal drive to win has led to a pattern of risk-taking, from his early startups to Uber, that has at times put the ride-hailing company on the brink of implosion. [Mike Isaac / The New York Times] As a big player in a Russian digital crime ring is sent to jail for hacking-related credit card and identity theft charges in the U.S., here’s how Russian hacking evolved from simple credit card schemes in the 1990s to the Russian government working with cybercriminals. [Sheera Frenkel / BuzzFeed] A Silicon Valley investor trying to pressure Elon Musk into terminating his relationship with the president paid $2 million for full-page ads in The New York Times and other national newspapers. Doug Derwin — who cancelled his Model S order in protest of Musk’s work with Trump — took out ads that say the new president is “a disaster for the fight against climate change.” [Tony Romm / Recode] You could be watching YouTube for a living: Google’s contracted cadre of $15-an-hour “ads-quality raters” look for violence in videos, classify clips as “offensive” or “sensitive,” flag abusive banter — and train the companies’ machines to eventually take their jobs. [Davey Alba / Wired] Here are the biggest e-commerce acquisitions of all time, topped by PetSmart’s recent $3.35 billion acquisition of Chewy — even bigger than Walmart’s of online retailer Jet.com last year. [Rani Molla / Recode] On the latest episode of Recode Decode, Kara Swisher talks with Matt Ross, who plays Hooli CEO Gavin Belson on HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” The satire is more than just a comedy, says Ross — it’s “an incredibly great workplace drama” about how hard it is to make it in tech. [Eric Johnson / Recode] Top stories from Recode Democrats plan to press Trump’s competition cop on his ties to AT&T and other tech giants. They’ll get their chance when Makan Delrahim has his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday. A robot-delivery startup helped write state laws that are locking out competition. New robot laws are popping up across the country. Alphabet claims that Uber was hiding the self-driving technology it allegedly ripped off. Google’s parent company continues to fight for an injunction against Uber. Facebook is offering publishers money to create produced video. The new deals include a mix of both live and produced video commitments. Pinterest is killing off its ‘Like’ button, and wants you to know that it’s different from Facebook and Instagram. Pinterest isn’t a social network, okay? This is cool Friendster 4-Ever In 2003, Jonathan Abrams and his social media website Friendster were at the forefront of an industry that would eventually be worth more than $400 billion. What went wrong? [Gimlet]

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posted less than an hour ago on re/code
Ross tries to bring a sympathetic antagonism to Hooli CEO Gavin Belson. On a comedy like “Silicon Valley,” actors can get away with playing broad, goofy characters, so long as they’re funny. But Matt Ross, who plays the series’ main antagonist, Hooli CEO Gavin Belson, approached the character as a real and serious — but also ambitiously deluded — person. “I was trying to make him not a caricature,” Ross said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “If nothing else, I was trying to play his humanity and his sincerity. I thought there was humor in that.” “The people who are like him in the real world, I’m sure a great deal of their satisfaction probably comes from winning, conquering and being thought of as important in some way,” he added. “Gavin enjoys being the center of attention. I think he genuinely believes he’s 'making the world a better place.’” On the new podcast, Ross explained why the show, which just started its fourth season on HBO, works as both a comedy and “an incredibly great workplace drama.” “We read in our popular culture about tech all the time,” he said. “You can open USA Today when you’re at the airport, and there's stuff about tech. And yet they show, pretty accurately, how incredibly difficult it is to navigate that sea — which I love, aside from the comedy and the dick jokes, which are fantastic.” You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud. Ross, who directed the Oscar-nominated film “Captain Fantastic” last year, said the explosion of online TV platforms has opened doors for everyone — writers, directors, actors and so on. Citing the example of Jill Soloway, who made “Transparent” for Amazon, he said it’s getting more common to find the freshest new creative visions on TV — but there’s a “what if” attached. “Amazon, it’s a huge corporation, they have lots of money,” Ross said. “It seems to me they’re creating content so you might buy other things on the site. That’s unique, I think. There’s no other company, Netflix included, that has that same business model. What does it mean? I don’t know, but thank God it exists.” “What worries me is that it’s the Wild West,” he added. “You could make the argument that some of these companies are overpaying to attract certain talent. If that disappears, then where do those people go and what do they make? That’s the scary part.” If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts: Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud. Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge's Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud. And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher. If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

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posted about 15 hours ago on re/code
They’ll get their chance when Makan Delrahim has his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday. Democratic lawmakers are signaling they plan to question President Donald Trump’s nominee to oversee competition issues on his past ties to corporate giants like AT&T, which is currently seeking the government’s permission to buy Time Warner. Trump’s selection for the post — Makan Delrahim — previously spent years working at a Washington, D.C.-focused corporate law firm, where his legal and lobbying clients included such companies as AT&T, Comcast, Google and Qualcomm, according to federal records. Delrahim cut his ties with many of those companies over the years, including AT&T, which he stopped representing in 2008, as well as Qualcomm, a company for which he terminated his lobbying registration at the end of 2016. Soon after, Delrahim officially joined the White House as one of Trump’s top legal aides. Still, Delrahim’s previous work has triggered renewed scrutiny as he seeks to lead antitrust at the Justice Department, a gig that requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate. The top Democrat on the chamber’s leading antitrust committee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, said in a statement to Recode that she would push Delrahim to sit out of investigations that overlap with his past clients. During his testimony, Klobuchar said she would “ask [Delrahim] if he will recuse himself from matters related to his prior employment, as required by law, to ensure the independence and integrity of the‎ antitrust division.” The Minnesota lawmaker added: “He should of course recuse himself.” Asked specifically about AT&T, a spokesman later clarified that Klobuchar had been referring to “any matter related to a former employer or client.” Delrahim is set to face such a grilling by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Sen. Mike Lee, the Republican lawmaker who oversees the Senate’s top competition panel, told Recode that Delrahim’s corporate connections could serve him well. “It’s not surprising that the president nominated an antitrust attorney to be assistant attorney general for antitrust,” he said, “and it’s not surprising that an antitrust attorney would have represented clients in antitrust matters.” If he’s confirmed as assistant attorney general for antitrust, Delrahim would assume a job that has vast power — not only to approve major mergers, but also to investigate companies for anticompetitive practices. During the Obama administration, for example, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division stood in the way of AT&T’s failed bid to buy T-Mobile, and it brought charges against Apple for the way it priced its ebooks. All nominees to the post — as with most roles in government — must undergo a full ethics review. Under an executive order signed by Trump in January, appointees must sit out of investigations or other matters that involve a former client of theirs for two years after they’re confirmed. In Delrahim’s case, it means he’s likely to recuse himself on issues involving Qualcomm, according to sources familiar with his thinking. Delrahim represented the company as a lobbyist on antitrust issues in 2016, according to federal records. Months later, the chipmaker was slapped with a lawsuit by another agency, the Federal Trade Commission, which alleges Qualcomm tried to harm rivals like Apple. Delrahim’s other corporate entanglements, however, are much older — so he likely won’t have to recuse himself. That might include his work for, then against, AT&T. After Delrahim lobbied on behalf of the wireless giant in 2007, he worked in opposition of AT&T as a representative of telecom companies like DISH that opposed its unsuccessful attempt to buy T-Mobile in 2011. More recently, when asked about AT&T’s latest attempt at an acquisition — its proposed purchase of Time Warner — Delrahim in October said he didn’t believe it poses a “major antitrust problem.” Delrahim also previously lobbied on behalf of Comcast*, which obtained the Justice Department’s approval to buy NBCUniversal in 2011, as well as one of its major trade associations in Washington, D.C. For years, his law firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, had been filing federal disclosures indicating Delrahim represented both clients. In December, though, the firm filed a series of updates that indicate Delrahim ceased working for both Comcast and its group, called NCTA, in 2010. Asked about his corporate ties, a White House spokeswoman said Delrahim would “recuse himself in accordance with the law from matters where certain former clients are parties and any mergers he was involved with in the private sector.” Still, Delrahim’s history may trouble some Democrats, including Minnesota Sen. Al Franken. A vocal foe of media consolidation, Franken told Recode in a statement he would press Delrahim to “ensure he prioritizes consumers and competition over his corporate ties — with everyone from Comcast to Anthem to Pfizer.” Franken did not say whether Delrahim should recuse himself from reviewing AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, a deal that Trump himself previously blasted. But Franken did say that Delrahim had to remain “appropriately independent from the influence of the president — who has already demonstrated a willingness to treat proposed mergers like one of his business negotiations.” * Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.

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posted about 19 hours ago on re/code
It’s all part of Doug Derwin’s $2 million PR campaign. A Silicon Valley investor on a quest to pressure Elon Musk into terminating his relationship with President Donald Trump has taken his fight to the pages of the New York Times and other national newspapers In a series of full-page ads running Sunday, Doug Derwin called on the Tesla and SpaceX leader to “stand up against Trump,” citing the fact that the new president is a “disaster for the fight against climate change.” The open letter — which also appeared in the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle — is part of Derwin’s now-public $2 million campaign to get Musk to disavow Trump and withdraw from an advisory board formed by the president to focus on economic issues. A would-have-been Tesla owner who ditched his Model S order in protest of Musk’s work with the president, Derwin has also promised to run critical television ads in the coming days. Musk has not yet addressed the ads directly. A spokesman for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Previously, though, Musk has argued publicly that engaging the president — however different their views may be — is better than ignoring him entirely. In February, for example, Musk said he raised with Trump the tech industry’s opposition to the president’s initial executive order limiting travelers and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries. Musk also highlighted climate-change issues, he said in a tweet at the time. “I believe this is doing good, so will remain on council & keep at it,” Musk tweeted earlier this year. “Doing otherwise would be wrong.”

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posted about 19 hours ago on re/code
Part 1 of a two-part podcast, because this topic is yuuuge. This week on Too Embarrassed to Ask, Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode are joined by Recode Senior Editor for Policy and Politics Tony Romm for some straight talk on what all this privacy stuff means. With net neutrality getting axed and consumer data up for grabs, there are so many important questions and answers, we decided to make a two-part podcast on the topic. You can read some of the highlights from their discussion at that link, or listen to it in the audio player below. We’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation. Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, Executive Editor of Recode. Lauren Goode: I’m Lauren Goode, Senior Tech Editor at The Verge. You’re listening to To Embarrassed To Ask, where we answer all of your embarrassing questions about tech. It could be anything like will the new Samsung Galaxy battery be as problematic as the last phone’s or if I’m dumb if I don’t want a smart home or why in the world did Yahoo and AOL decide to call their newly formed company Oath and why didn’t Kara Swisher stop them first? I tried. I tried my best. Send us your questions. We do read them all. Find us on Twitter or tweet them at us @Recode or to myself or to Lauren with #TooEmbarrassed. We also have an email address. It’s [email protected], and embarrassed has two r’s and two s’s. While you’re at it, have a listen to our previous episodes too, which you can find at iTunes at iTunes.com/TooEmbarrassedToAsk. Today we’re bringing you Part 1 of our first-ever two-part series on Too Embarrassed To Ask. It’s a two-parter. This is very exciting. It’s very exciting. We were originally going to do this as one episode but there’s really just too much to say about this topic, which is privacy and security. If you’ve been following the news lately in the U.S. then you know that this is a hot-button issue right now. Well, it’s a hot issue all the time but recent moves by the Trump administration to deny us all our privacy by helping internet companies gather more data on us has been at the forefront. I have no idea what you’re talking about. All kinds of things. As we move into AI and all kinds of stuff, there’s all kinds of issues around trust and privacy, especially as we put stuff in the home and how the government interacts with it and how the companies, what rights they have. It’s a big issue and this happens to be an administration that just loves invading privacy quite a bit. That’s right. We definitely knew during the campaign season that increased surveillance and maybe some changes to the way we look at privacy, even things like net neutrality were a possibility and now we are within our first 100 days of the administration and already things are happening really fast. We’re thrilled to have Recode’s new Senior Policy and Politics Editor, Tony Romm, joining us from New York. He’s going to be talking to us about internet policy. Next week we’re going to answer more questions about security, but this week we’re talking about policy changes that are happening as a result of the administration. Tony, welcome to Too Embarrassed To Ask. Tony Romm: Hey, guys. KS: Glad to hear from you. You’ve been doing some great stories for us and I think we’re genius to hire you. I feel very smart about that. LG: I have one question to start and don’t be too embarrassed to answer, Tony. What’s it like working for Kara? It’s been a while for me so I forgot. Oh my God. Well, I’ve only been here for two weeks so I can’t tell you, but I’ll be in San Francisco next week so we can all hang out and find out. KS: All right. Okay. Good. “It’s fantastic,” is the answer, Tony. That’s the immediate answer. The only answer that you need. Yes, all right? Yes. Correct. KS: Okay, because I’m having you under surveillance right now so I know exactly what you’re doing. Oh, that’s fine. KS: Let’s start with this idea of what’s going on right now. You’ve written a lot about it. Let’s talk about ISPs first. Early this week, President Donald Trump officially signed a bill, quite quietly, that repealed some internet privacy rules around how much information is shared about the websites we visit. Can you gives an explainer, please? Yeah, of course. So we have to rewind the clock a little bit back to the Obama Administration. When Democrats, which controlled the FCC at the time, felt that there weren’t enough protections in place for consumers, that a company like a Comcast or a Verizon or an AT&T could do too much with your personal information and had too much visibility into the sorts of things that you look at on the internet and the kind of apps that you download. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler at the time put forward a plan that essentially required internet providers to get your permission and opt-in consent before they take that personal information and sell it to third parties, including advertisers. The rules also had some restrictions in place about how companies protect your information from hackers. At the time, Republicans couldn’t stand the rules. They voted against them. They felt that they were unfair and they were burdensome to telecom companies. And predictably telecom companies felt the same thing, that it wasn’t the FCC’s place to say those sorts of things, that federal laws were perfectly fine and well equipped to handle the challenges posed by the digital age. Telecom companies mounted a very expensive lobbying campaign beginning last year on Capitol Hill throughout the administration, leading to the votes that we saw over the course of the better part of the past couple of weeks, where the House and the Senate voted against those rules to overturn what the FCC put in place. Then President Donald Trump ultimately signed it a few days ago. LG: Now this means that the ISPs, the internet service providers that we all use and we pay for, we’re already paying for them, and now they’re also going to take our browsing data and they can sell it to marketers without our explicit permission. They can do that and they could do that. The important thing to remember about the FCC’s privacy rules is that they didn’t go into effect. While they were passed last year under a Democratic administration, the lion’s share of them, the heart of this notion where they had to ask your permission to take your information and sell it to third-party advertisers, that wasn’t going to go into effect until the end of this year. So yes and no: On one hand, nothing has changed. On the other hand, everything has changed. Those companies can now start to do different things with your data without asking your permission beforehand. LG: I have a question that I’m embarrassed to ask, honestly. KS: Are you? LG: I feel like a Luddite asking it, but when I think about ISPs selling my browsing data I think about, okay, I pay for service at home. I’m sitting at home on my laptop and, you know, I’m browsing on Chrome, wherever I browse, right? Fortunately I’m not browsing very nefarious things, but that data’s now available. What about mobile? What about wireless companies that basically are powering the data service on your mobile device and you’re browsing on mobile? In some cases your wireless provider and your ISP are the same company, right? How does that work? This is the argument that a lot of folks made, right? It was this idea that internet providers of any stripe, whether we’re talking about wireless folks or the old wireline business, the service that you have at your apartment, your house or whatnot, had great visibility into a very large number of things that you did. With a company like Google, for example, if you don’t like what Google’s doing with your personal information, you’re probably in some trouble because Google does a lot of stuff, but you can just choose not to use it. But with an internet service provider, it’s a lot different. They can see all of the addresses you visited, all of the websites that you visited. This was one of the big arguments here, the fact that whether we’re talking wireless or wireline, as we call it in the crazy terrible world of D.C. that I just left, that they had great visibility into you. That’s why we’re now starting to see folks ask these questions, especially at the state level, about whether internet service providers writ large should do more to protect your privacy. KS: When you’re talking about this idea, as we get more stuff in the home, not just mobile but all these devices, Google stuff, Amazon stuff ... LG: Voice searches. KS: ... voice search and everything else, this just sort of favors them. Is this something that can be pushed back in another administration as abuses become clear? Because it just seems like once they get in, they’re in. Yeah, well, there are really two things here. The first is that tech companies weren’t touched by the FCC’s rules. Facebook and Google and Amazon and so forth, they weren’t really affected by the rules put into place by the FCC that require companies to get permission to sell information to advertisers. In fact, that was one of the arguments that telecom companies like an AT&T and a Verizon and a Comcast had as these things were debated. They felt that they were being unfairly singled out while the rest of Silicon Valley could run amuck and do whatever they wanted to do with your personal information. But I think the issue you raise is completely correct. It’s this idea that tech companies have even greater visibility into your lives as well. When we’re talking about connected cars or smart home technologies and so forth, the kinds of data that they’re able to collect is much different. And if you talk to privacy rights folks, they’ll tell you it’s just as concerning and it’s just as troubling for consumer privacy. KS: How do privacy groups think of what happened last week? Are they just having coronaries or what? Oh, yeah. It’s like full-stage, complete heart attack. Folks are freaking out and foaming at the mouth about it, but none of this was a shock, right? Many of the telecom companies said they were going to push for this. We knew Republicans didn’t like it. We heard that they were going to take aim at it once Republicans won Congress in November and there was no reason to believe that the Trump administration wasn’t going to sign the thing at the end of the day. But, you know, privacy folks are still quite upset. They’re still sounding the alarms about what happened in Washington just a couple of days ago. But many of them have now shifted their fight to the states. They seem to think that state regulators can do what Washington didn’t do. KS: California. California’s doing lots of things. Like California or other states. Yeah. California isn’t even the main one. The main one today was Maryland, actually. Maryland had a hearing at the state level, and this was Thursday that they were having this conversation and looking at whether they should put into place rules that were akin to what the FCC wanted. We have Minnesota and Montana and some others that are exploring similar things. But whether it’s California or somewhere else, the consideration is the same. If one state does it, what does it mean for other states and what does it mean for companies that operate there? It’s going to be a hard slog, but privacy folks still seem to think for some reason that the states are going to provide them relief. KS: At least relief in some way. LG: Now on next week’s episode we are going to talk a little bit more about things you can do to protect your privacy, specifically. But Tony, in the near term, if you’re a concerned consumer, what would you say you could do at this point, whether politically or technically? I think you have to read more. Whether it was the beginning of this debate when the FCC was debating rules or now as we’re dealing with the impact of what Republicans in Washington have done, there’s a great lack of information on the part of consumers about what companies are doing, how much information they’re collecting and ultimately what they’re doing with it. It’s remarkable to me that there’s been so many headlines that say that consumers have been stripped of some rights when the rules never actually went into effect. LG: Never went into place. Yeah. That’s just one slice of this. But then you layer it on. It’s like most folks don’t know what Google collects about them. Most folks don’t know how online advertising works. Most folks don’t know why they see the things that they do in their News Feed and they’re not asking those questions about smart home stuff or self-driving cars. We find ourselves in which we can talk about legislative strategies and ways to fix law but none of that stuff happens if consumers aren’t educated about what companies are doing with their information and what they could be doing differently with their information. LG: Mm-hmm. KS: I saw a trailer just this week for — We talked about it, Tony, on Slack — for “The Circle.” Oh no. KS: I know the book wasn’t good but the topics brought up in the movie are, and Tom Hanks is hugely sinister. He feels sinister as the CEO of The Circle, where they’re talking about cameras everywhere and the ability to glean data and stuff. It sort of felt like ... At the time that book came out, you’re like, “Eh.” Now I’m like, “Oh yeah.” You know what I mean? But it actually was very effective for the moment. I feel like it’s a very for-the-moment movie that’s coming out. We’ll see how good it is, but it looks pretty good in terms of the topics we’re talking about right now. I’m legally required to say that “The Circle” is a bad book at all times and that maybe people shouldn’t read it. But I think that you’re right in one respect, which is that the themes in that book, as poorly conveyed as they are, are themes that definitely apply to the conversations that we’re having now. It’s not like there aren’t ways — through things like Snapchat Spectacles, for example — to start capturing these things in real time. Obviously that’s a far cry from what we were talking about with “The Circle.” But again, I think you’re right. That movie’s going to hit weirdly for some people. There’s going to be this “oh my goodness” moment when they see it and maybe start to ask questions about the information that they’re giving up and the ways that companies collect that. But I feel like I have this thought all the time, that there’s always this one moment or this one thing where I think people are going to wake up. I thought many years ago it was the big attack on Sony and PlayStation and so forth, where we were talking about data breaches that affected kids who play games, and it still didn’t do anything. We’ll see if maybe this changes things, but I’m just a terrible cynic at heart and who believes in nothing. KS: I would absolutely agree, because I think people just give up their information. They just do it all day long and don’t seem to ... LG: Have you seen the number of cameras all over the stoplights in Silicon Valley? KS: Yeah, it’s astonishing. They just give it up or they don’t care about it or something like that. LG: Oh, you mean people just browsing. KS: Yeah. LG: They just go onto Facebook and share everything. KS: They just do it, like, “Here, let me give you this information.” LG: Share everything on Facebook and they’re like, “Why is this pair shoes following me around the internet?” KS: Exactly. LG: Well, you’ve been targeted. KS: Well, shoes, not me. Yeah, anyway. The new chair of the FCC — we’re going to do another topic — Ajit Pai has also been a vocal opponent of net neutrality rules. Let’s go back first to what net neutrality rules are, if you can explain them in 5,000 words or less, first off. It was a long-time principle that Obama wrote into law in 2015. Why is Pai so against this, and what does it mean for U.S. internet consumers? And most importantly, internet companies which fought very hard, especially Reed Hastings at Netflix, who’s going to be at the Code Conference talking about this. Can you talk a little bit about the background and where it’s going now with this new FCC chairman? Totally. Net neutrality is like a cockroach. It’s going to survive the nuclear holocaust. It’ll well surpass me. But the idea behind net neutrality is that internet providers need to treat all web traffic equally. Democratic presidents very much have favored net neutrality. Democratic lawmakers rather as well. They truly believe that internet providers need some check-in law that prevents them from slowing down web pages that you visit or blocking access or making it harder to access competing services, whether we’re talking about other companies that offer video streaming or something else entirely. Again, under the Obama administration, Democratic chairman Tom Wheeler put into place rules that essentially treat internet providers like utilities. It’s not the exact same, but it’s close enough and it really set the rest of the telecom industry aflame. Those companies for yet another time challenged the Obama administration’s rules in court. In this instance, the Obama administration won. But Republicans throughout all of this have opposed it mostly because they just oppose the need for net neutrality regulation in the first place. Commissioner Pai, he was a commissioner at the time, obviously voted against them. He felt it was a solution without a problem. Now that he’s taken over the commission, he’s made it all but clear he’s not going to keep those rules in place. While we don’t yet have a timeline for how he’s going to scrap them or whether maybe Congress might take the lead role in scrapping them, it’s very clear that the net neutrality rules that are currently on the books are not going to stay on the books for very much longer. LG: What does that mean? In a nutshell. You mentioned earlier, for example, this idea of internet providers prioritizing maybe their own video over other video providers. What’s a real-life example of what could happen as a result of this? I actually tend to think a lot of the examples that are out there are wildly hyperbolic. This idea that Comcast would make it impossible for your to watch a video from other companies doesn’t really mesh with the reality of how consumers use the internet in the first place. And it sort of doesn’t lend enough credence to the fact that if you’re a Comcast subscriber who couldn’t get access to some of that video content, for example, that you would probably be totally up in arms. We see what a John Oliver segment does on net neutrality, much less if a company actually did that sort of thing. I don’t think at the end of the day that there are no net neutrality laws on the books whatsoever. I just think that the form they take is significantly different and it gives a lot of credit to telecom companies to start to do different things. I think one example of this is this idea of zero rating, which not being in totally wonky terms, is this idea that certain types of content wouldn’t count against your monthly data cap. I think there are a lot of folks on the consumer protection side, on the very strong pro net neutrality side, who think this is a complete violation of the open internet. I think there are a lot of companies that think hey, we’re just providing them with cheaper access to video that they may want and maybe it comes from a company that we’re working with but it’s still potentially better for the consumer. It’s cheaper for the consumer. That’s a really hard example of a net neutrality issue. It’s one that doesn’t really break down along the lines that we’re used to, but I think it’s the sort of thing we’ll see this FCC allow to happen, these things along the margins. But plenty of net neutrality advocates just don’t think that Chairman Pai has as strong a commitment to the open internet as his Democratic predecessors. Again, at the very least, we know he’s going to scrap the rules, but we don’t know what his new ones may or may not look like. LG: It’s interesting Kara brought up Reed Hastings who is going to speaking at Code Conference in May, because I had the chance to ask him about net neutrality down at Netflix. A couple of weeks ago they were hosting this event for the launch of one of their new series and in the past Hastings had been pretty outspoken, specifically against Comcast. He ran some posts on his Facebook page, sort of lambasting, for lack of a better word, some of the practices of internet service providers. But now Netflix is actually participating in the some of these zero-rating schemes but he says that he’s okay with it now. He said he’s okay with it because, for example, T-Mobile in the U.S. is making that option open to all video providers. He still sees it as neutral. KS: Yeah, well, we’ll see. We’ll see where it goes. LG: It’s definitely going to be something that we’ll ask him about when he’s at Code Conference. Tony, you also wrote an article in Recode this week about the seemingly vacant Office of Science and Technology Policy in Washington. What’s going on there? For many, many years, there’s been this little-known office in the White House that provides whoever’s in the Oval Office advice about science and technology policy. We’re talking about everything from issues involving cancer cures and HIV cures to what to do about privacy and cyber security and some of the stuff that we’re talking about today. Under President Barack Obama, that office, which we all know as OSTP, had more than 115 staffers devoted to issues like climate change and technology policy and so forth. Under the Trump Administration, that office is down to even less than its bare bones. It’s even less than half staffed. There are not directors of any of these divisions that oversee science and technology policy in the tech office within OSTP. There is literally only one person appointed by Trump who is left. It’s all important, not just because there aren’t people there but because the Trump administration is making policy without some of these science and tech experts in place. That’s come in the form of the budget, where Trump has proposed to cut billions of dollars in research funding without actually consulting some of the science and technology experts that his predecessors might have. Or, in the case of immigration, where President Trump had proposed multiple times now a ban on immigration from majority Islamist countries. The first one was tossed out. But whereas in a previous administration OSTP would have provided him advice and would have told him what the tech industry thinks when that happened, this time around, as I reported, the Trump administration just didn’t listen to them at all. We have a hub in the White House that’s supposed to be smart on science and tech stuff but they don’t really seem to have the ability to be smart on science and tech stuff. KS: Why, why, why? There is no shortage of reasons. We’d have to have another podcast just to talk about that. But, you know, the Trump administration, Trump generally has a very small inner circle of people that he has gone to for advice, people like Jared Kushner and so forth. While Kushner has some connection to the tech industry, he’s not a tech policy expert. It’s been very difficult for some of the science and tech folks to penetrate that level of the administration. Separate of that, there are many positions in government that just haven’t been filled, whether we’re talking about the science and tech parts of the White House or some of the policy-making parts of the federal agencies, across the board, well beyond science and tech and to things like health care and transportation, this administration is just very much behind. But I think the thing that folks are most worried about is that the Trump administration doesn’t care as much about science. KS: At all. I think not doesn’t care as much. It’s like climate change deniers, all kinds of things. It’s not just that. It’s really clear where Trump stands on something like climate change, but science is more than climate change. It’s more than just environmental issues. We’re also talking about research and health care and things of this sort. While they’re maybe trying to make a point in not reviving some of the jobs Obama had, they certainly in those other jobs haven’t found anybody at all. We find ourselves in a point in which Trump is making lots of policy right now without some of the expertise he might have needed to do it in a way that benefits folks in Silicon Valley. LG: Is this just a result of being so pro business and so wanting to push things through? You know, bring back the coal mines. Build the pipeline. Approve all kinds of medical devices without stringent policy. I mean, is all of this just wanting to get business back? Where is this coming from? Some of it is that. Some of it is that they just don’t believe government has a role to play here. Some of it is that Trump just doesn’t feel very strongly about the size of government. He ran for office talking about cutting government positions, so it’s probably not a shock to anybody that he hasn’t filled a whole lot of them. But separate of that, a lot of these jobs would be beneficial to business. That’s what folks in Silicon Valley tell me, is that when you have people in the White House talk who about research, those research [inaudible 00:21:53] and [inaudible 00:21:54] research agencies who then end up funding startups in other technologies who provide grants and things of the sort. We could spend a third podcast talking about the startups that have come out of DARPA at the Defense Department and so forth. There’s still a business case to be made for some of the science and tech stuff happening at the White House. This is going to come to head really soon as we start talking about infrastructure reform. KS: Are you kidding? This is so anti business of the future. It’s pro business of the past and anti business of the future, really. Sure. But kind of the basic stuff like improving internet access. That’s not even a controversial issue sometimes. Again, you don’t have people in the White House who necessarily are specialized in that right now, and the folks that are there are still getting up to speed. We’re talking about trillions of dollars in infrastructure stuff. The tech industry has a lot to gain or lose here. We’ll see if they’re able to fill those positions in due time. KS: When you look at this administration in general, when it comes to tech savviness and tech policy, I think the answer is zero. We’re less than a hundred days in. What kind of grade would you give them or what kind of impact do you think it has? I think it’s appalling, the lack of interest in real issues that are facing our future, including the Treasury Department, who should know better. This is a very intelligent man talking about that robotics aren’t going to impact the workforce ... LG: For at least 50 years. It’s impacting everything now. KS: This is someone who should absolutely know better and probably does. LG: I think Kara has just answered her own question, Tony. But, anyway. KS: Yes, but I’d like to know what you think, Tony. I think they’re idiots, but go ahead. I’m not going anywhere near that word, but Treasury Secretary Mnuchin did say that he thought it was going to take 50 to 100 years for AI to start to have effects on the economy. I think a lot of folks, be it in the labor community or in Silicon Valley, were completely startled by that, not the least because Trump campaigned on this idea that he wanted to save U.S. factories. But one of the biggest things that encroaches on factories is artificial intelligence and robotics. They’ll hit that roadblock at some point, whether it’s now or in a couple of years. But the question you asked is about how Trump is doing on science and tech, and I think we sort of have to give him an incomplete right now. The reason why is because they’re so behind on appointing people in so many places. This administration was completely not ready for Day One, and that’s just objective fact that we’ll see the people that they put into place. They do have some good smart people there at the White House who were talking about science and tech policy. But as the rubber starts to hit the road on things like infrastructure, we’re really going to get a sense. That being said, there are things that are happening that are completely pissing off Silicon Valley. The big one today is this big fight with Twitter over access to records relating to an account on there that’s been saying negative stuff about Trump’s immigration policy. We have all these alt agency accounts that popped up after Trump won the presidency. Folks who claim to be inside these federal agencies saying negative things about what’s happening at those agencies. The Department of Homeland Security went after Twitter. They wanted Twitter to reveal the identify of one of these accounts, and Twitter just today sued to stop them from doing that. KS: Good for Twitter. That’s the sort of thing where it doesn’t even matter who’s in the White House. It doesn’t matter what your policy is or how smart folks might be in the White House. That’s going to bother the entirety of Silicon Valley when we’re talking about the ability to express one’s self on social media and privacy. It will be interesting to see in the coming days how the rest of the Valley reacts. But it’s not going to help its relationship with the Trump Administration. KS: Just lastly, before we get to our questions for the audience, you know this is a president who loves Twitter. Do you feel he’s governing via Twitter? At the same time, here’s a guy who’s just as good at it and uses it, has used it for the wire tap thing, everything. Every day, there’s whatever. That’s how he puts out his diktats. He certainly knows how to command the narrative through Twitter. But even that I think is starting to have diminishing returns. I think reporters and others have woken up to the fact that they’re playing games with how they release things and the sorts of things that the president says. You can sort of see a little bit of that in what happens every time Trump tweets about a company. I think for a while we all thought, if Trump targeted your CEO or targeted your company that your stock was going to tank and the world was going to end. But as we’re looking at these companies and how they’re doing and how they fared in the hours and in the weeks after Trump has said something, the decline isn’t really that big of a deal. They’re all bouncing back. I think in many ways it’s having a diminished effect on the narrative in Washington. But we’ll see. We’ll see how this continues. KS: The wire tap thing went on for weeks. It’s still going on, the wire tap. Then he attacked Susan Rice. This is where news is coming out from the president. Sure, but counter to that is that the wire tap news was going to be news anyway. Folks cared about the Russia-Trump link or lack thereof regardless of whether Trump was tweeting about it. The Susan Rice story, if I recall correctly, which originally came out in a Bloomberg piece, that wasn’t the result of Trump’s tweets necessarily. After the fact, he capitalized on it. But Trump wasn’t the one that drove that. He’s kept it headlines, and that’s certainly very important, but I don’t think that he is singlehandedly controlling the narrative. At some point, the buck stops with reporters, which is maybe our fifth podcast idea where we talk about ... KS: Tony has invaded our show here. LG: This is actually going to be a five-part ... KS: A 17-part series starring Tony Romm. Tony, thanks. Stay tuned everyone. In a minute we’re going to answer some of the reader questions about policy changes and how it impacts your internet use. That will be on Episode 71. But first we’re going to take a quick break as Lauren reads a word from our sponsor and my favorite word to say, ka-ching! LG: Ka-ching! I have an alternate version of the ad today. Today’s show is brought to you by Government Gator. Are you ready to take your administration to the next level? Sorry. I’ll read the real ad now. KS: Read the real ad that we’re getting paid for, please. [ad] KS: Oh, wow. Ka-ching. That was very heartfelt. That was a heartfelt reading. LG: That was very heartfelt. I feel strongly about Host Gator. Although it sounds like something that’s going to eat your website. Like an alligator. KS: That’s the whole point. But it’s not. That’s the word gator. It’s strong. Okay, so if you’ve been listening to the show you know how it works. Every week we take tech questions from our readers and listeners and we try to answer everything we can. This week we’re answering your questions about online privacy policy. First question. Lauren, please do the honors. LG: First question is from Allen ML. He’s @JoseAllenML on Twitter. “Should we expect Apple and Google to natively adopt protections against the new deregulations?” I guess, I was going to say, maybe we should explain. These aren’t necessarily new deregulations. We talked about it in the first half of the show. But, Tony, take it from here. I was going to say, I’m going to be Answer Gator right now and say that it doesn’t just really apply at all. The FCC’s rules only apply to telecom companies, internet service providers. We weren’t talking about iPhones necessarily. We weren’t talking about Google’s advertising. The answer: Not really any effect at all. KS: Okay. The next one from F Reid @2lotech: “Is ISP tracking an issue or is it more something they can do? Are VPNs really the answer if you don’t know what they do with the tracking? I think if they can do it, they do it. That’s my feeling on all this stuff. The ability is the problem. I think you’re exactly right. If they can do it, they’re going to do it. Verizon didn’t seek to buy Yahoo for no reason at all. There was an actual data and advertising play to be had there. Now, AT&T and Comcast, very quickly after the Trump administration signed its measure, said, “Hey, we’re not violating your privacy. We’re not trying to take your web browsing information and sell it necessarily to advertisers” in the way that I think privacy groups had described it. But I think only time will tell. We’ll see what these companies look to do now that the regulatory playing field has been cleared for them to do the things that they maybe want to do and just haven’t talked about. The second part of that has to do with VPNs. To keep this really short since you guys are going to get into the technical side of this in the next podcast, you shouldn’t only trust a VPN if you have researched the VPN and if the VPN is free, you should ask yourself the question as to whether you and your personal information is the cost of using that VPN. You should really be wary of some of the free ones there. I won’t advise folks to use some VPN over another. Any VPN at all is sort of what makes sense to you. But you should really be careful and read some of the fine print. KS: Absolutely. LG: Freedom’s not free, right Tony? KS: Nothing’s free. LG: Nothing’s free. KS: No free lunch. LG: No free lunch. KS: Is there any more free ones? Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. LG: Is that a Kara Swisher quote? KS: No! That’s Janis Joplin, for God’s sake. LG: Oh. All right. KS: God. God. LG: Who’s that? KS: Next question. LG: I’m just kidding. KS: Go ahead. Next question. LG: Good Lord. Although Spotify did serve up a playlist from the ’90s to me today which really made me feel old and I did enjoy it. This is an email from Ryan McCaully. “With the onset of autonomous and connected vehicles, who owns the data of where cars travel and habits of drivers? Does the recent FCC rule change or impact driver data in any way?” The short answer to that question is no. The FCC rules have nothing to do with connected cars, with information collected by vehicles. Even if they did have to do with that, those rules are no longer on the books anyhow so do whatever you want if you’re a carmaker. There are rules about that sort of thing, and a company like Google or whatnot has that store of data, but there’s no impact whatsoever. Even if the rules had stayed with what the FCC had done. KS: All right. Now, Pablo Osinaga, @P_Osinaga: “What would be the impact for other countries? Should we expect the same kind of laws?” That’s difficult to answer, but I’m going to take a stab at it. The FCC is very unique and the rules that were passed here are also very unique and the way that Congress went about repealing them is super duper unique. I wouldn’t expect other countries to start rolling back privacy rules. In fact, the trend is in the opposite direction. Europe for a very long time has looked to do more regulation of the tech and telecom sector. It’s in the past few years that they’ve tried to update their data protection directive to include more information, to clamp down more on the way that companies are tapping and selling consumer information. You know, I think if there’s any long-term effect when it comes to the international space, it’s probably going to end up pissing off Europeans, who for a long time didn’t necessarily trust the U.S. and it’s ability to regulate privacy. We’ve seen many versions of this over the years, where the U.S. and Europe clash over how data moves from one continent to another. Then the Europeans kind of make fun of the U.S. for not being good enough when it comes to clamping down on Silicon Valley and taking action when the Valley does really creepy stuff. I think this is just going to serve as an example of that. KS: Now we’re creepier. Yeah, I think this is going to serve as an example to some folks in Europe that maybe we haven’t figured it out yet, but the folks in the U.S. would completely disagree with everything I just said. I think they would think privacy is perfectly fine here and everything is great. But I wouldn’t expect to see other companies roll back privacy policy. KS: Margrethe Vestager is pretty pissed right now. Yeah, a lot of folks are not happy. KS: Yeah, I would imagine. All right. Next one, Lauren. LG: Next question is from Eric. He’s @EMCP on Twitter. “Could the fear of ads be misplaced? Could this instead be used to power private security firm efforts to monitor the web en mass?” Then he followed up with an example. “For instance, after listening to the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia, firms claim they need more data. This could be one avenue.” KS: Oh, great. Yeah, I’m not really sure what we mean by “firms” here. But I would not go as far as to say that there’s a whole lot to be said about the intelligence community. I guess if a company is collecting data and it collects more data and there are more companies that collect it, there’s always the fear that governments here or elsewhere are going to be able to get that data. But I certainly am not going to touch anything related to Russia. KS: Yeah, let’s stay away from Russia. LG: Those shoes that follow you around the web? Those are the least of your concerns. KS: That’s true. But I think this Russia thing ... I’m going to make you talk about it. It is causing people to wonder. There’s so much manipulation and so much ability to use data. I think the idea behind Cambridge Analytica and all this other stuff is what people have and what kind of information and what they can use to manipulate it and fake news. It’s all related to each other in some way. I don’t want to sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist but they’re all part of the same, you know, uber trend, essentially. Yeah, I actually think there’s a lot of merit to that. And it’s funny, because in the years that I’ve done this, which is about 2.5 million, a lot of folks separate them into different buckets and I’ve never understood why. They think that political advertising belongs in its own camp of stuff when in fact people in the political space are able to infer a whole lot about you. They’re able to get a whole lot of information about you. As we saw in the course of the 2016 election, they’re probably not really great at securing it. When you mentioned Cambridge Analytica, which is a Republican leading data firm, there are certainly concerns there that they’re able to tap a lot of information and make a lot inferences about you. It’s just the same when we were talking about Edward Snowden. That was the big thing. Tech companies kept saying, “Why are you spying on us? Why are you going out to collect all this information about our users?” A lot of folks from the security side kept saying, “Why are you collecting all that data in the first place?” Of course we’re going to go after it! I think that there’s certainly something there and all of these things are linked. But in terms of specific Russian threats and Intelligence Committee stuff, I certainly couldn’t answer. KS: This is all very tasty treats for everybody, for whatever their goals are. Do you know what I mean? All this data washing around is sort of delicious for politics, for consumers, for spies. It’s all good. LG: Yeah. It’s like a game of Whac-A-Mole. One day you wake up in the news and you say ugh, the ISPs. The next day you wake up and you say ugh, Google and Facebook. The next day it’s spies. The next day it’s some U.S. government hired firm. You never know. But at some point, consumers have to put their feet down. This is where we find ourselves. It’s like people are really upset about Facebook and Google but want to do nothing about it and want to keep using those services. Okay, fine. What do you expect is going to happen? They don’t seem to react to very much when members of Congress don’t vote for legislations on consumer privacy. In the eight or nine years that I’ve been on this beat, we’ve had multiple comprehensive online privacy bills that have died in congressional committee at the hands of lobbying, and consumers were nowhere to be found. That’s why I said the things I said about education. It’s like if this is now suddenly the hot ticket issue, if this is something that we are about on a national level, then folks need to decide that matters to them and they need to go out and do something about it on a political level. KS: Yeah, I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I literally had to listen to someone rant and rant about Uber the other day and then they got in an Uber. I was like, “So there you have it.” Okay. Last question. Well, it’s true. It happens all the time. Question. This is Neil Chilson — and let me just preface by saying @telecomlawyer so you know his opinion about these things. “Why such an uproar over Congress CRA stopping FCC rules but no uproar over 2015 when FCC stripped existing FTC protections?” This to me is like you distract one problematic situation by pointing to what about that. What about that? Answer it anyway, @telecomlawyer. Remember, the reason that we are where we are with the FCC and the FTC has to do with net neutrality. In treating telecom providers in what’s called common carriers, the FCC has sort of walled off regulation of those companies from the FTC. KS: Which is the Federal Trade Commission. Yeah, which is the Federal Trade Commission, which is not allowed to touch those common carriers. There are actually a whole lot of legal repercussions to what Congress did. There are a lot of folks who really believe that we find ourselves in a place right now where no one really has strong consistent authority to go after a telecom company if they violate your privacy. But I sort of agree with you. You can’t point to one issue by raising another, as this question maybe does. But I think it also speaks to the problem we have now, which is that — and this is maybe a parting thought — that agencies are very, very fractured in what they do and don’t do. The laws don’t make sense sometimes, especially in the digital age, and there are lots of gaps that sometimes benefit the telecom industry and sometimes don’t benefit consumers. At some point someone’s got to decide how we want to fix that. KS: Absolutely. Let me ask you one last question before we go. These mergers coming up, the Verizon, AOL and Yahoo and AT&T/Time Warner. It looks like they’re going through, not going through? Just answer super briefly. Yeah, the short answer is that they seem fine. A lot of folks wanted to write stories that said that Donald Trump on the campaign trail was anti big business. They pointed to his comments specifically criticizing the AT&T deal. It all didn’t sort of feel to be the case. In the course of the folks that Trump has either looked at or nominated for jobs that oversee competition and mergers and acquisitions, those folks fall in the lines of conservatives who generally want government to have hands-off in these deals. It looks right now that the AT&T deal in particular is fine. In fact, the guy that Trump has nominated, Makan Delrahim, has previously said he doesn’t believe that AT&T and Time Warner’s merger poses a major antitrust concern. He said that last year before he was nominated. I think that those deals look, at the moment, to be in a good place. KS: Hence the populist. Here we are. All right. Thank you, Tony. This has been a great episode. It’s very helpful. We’re going to have you on for 63 more episodes. Thank you for doing this. I’ve written all of them. KS: Yeah, so now get back to work immediately. Bring us more things. Okay. KS: Bring me more things to please me. LG: Yes, Tony, thank you so much for coming on.

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posted about 22 hours ago on re/code
But first, check out these two new clips. “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO tonight with the debut of its fourth season. We know a little of where the story is going, thanks to the trailer released in March: Pied Piper CEO Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) has some unclear plans to build a “new internet.” If, like me, you’re many seasons behind, here’s a recap to get you up to speed. And for a taste of what you’ll see tonight, you can watch the new clips here:

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posted 1 day ago on re/code
Science is political, but not partisan, said speakers at the San Jose march — but there was no avoiding the “T” word. Today’s March for Science in locations around the world is drawing an obvious comparison to the Women’s March on Washington in January, the first act of mass protest against the Trump administration. But at the official satellite march in Silicon Valley, which drew several thousand people in downtown San Jose, Calif., organizers and speakers were split on how much to use the “T” word. “I was told that this rally is political, but not partisan,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren from the rally stage at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose. “So I struggled with what to say. I will say that we are no fools here in the science community, and we can use deductive to reasoning to understand: We have a political problem, and we can solve it.” Others onstage at the rally — including the emcee, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star Rachel Bloom — were less guarded. Jokes about “alternative facts” were rampant, and Twitter-ready sign punctuated the crowd: “I’m With Her,” with an arrow pointing to the Earth; “Make Earth Great Again”; and “Keep Your Tiny Hands Off Our Data,” with the word “Tiny” spelled out in the elemental symbols for titanium, nitrogen and yttrium. Eric Johnson for Recode “We’re going to come at the red states so hard, they’ll turn blue!” Bloom said, quoting a joke she had heard backstage. “Because of blueshift, right? If you have to explain a joke, that means it’s really funny.” “I was told backstage that there are 10,000 people here today!” Bloom added later. “Of course, you’re all being paid. Your checks are coming in the mail on Monday, so rest assured.” Co-located with Silicon Valley Comic-Con, the San Jose satellite march started as a Facebook event created by Ph.D. student Jennie Richardson. She said she had participated in the San Jose Women’s March and wanted to bring that experience to mobilize “a demographic that is not typically involved with politics.” The organizers stressed in an email to Recode that theirs is a “nonpartisan effort.” “Our mission is to celebrate science, advocate for nonpartisan support of evidence-based policy and make STEM more accessible both in terms of diversity and the public’s access to quality information from scientists,” volunteer organizer Marika Krause said. “This is not an attack on any one person or party.” “I'll add on a personal note: I grew up in a swing state,” Krause said. “I think it's easy to vilify members of ‘the other party’ when they're not your neighbors or friends. This movement is bipartisan because science is universal. It effects everyone and everything. If that feels like it's not the case, we've messed up and need to fix it fast!” Krause noted that tech executives are in a “unique position” to speak out now, acknowledging “there hasn’t been a big statement of support from the most prominent leaders.” She declined to comment on the efficacy of the Silicon Valley exec closest to President Trump, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, because “it’s really too soon to tell.” “Our leaders must step up their advocacy for science and technology,” Krause said. “Getting involved in politics can feel like risky business, but it’s the right thing to do. We can’t afford to look the other way while science and truth are slowly eradicated. How will we innovate without facts and scientific observation?”

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posted 1 day ago on re/code
New robot laws are popping up across the country. Two U.S. states — Virginia and Idaho — have now passed laws to allow delivery robots to operate statewide. The new laws, both of which were passed this year, were written with the help of Starship Technologies, a delivery-robot company based in Estonia that was founded by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, two of the co-founders of Skype. While Starship isn’t currently working in Virginia or Idaho, the company can now legally operate its robot in those states — without a person controlling it — on sidewalks and crosswalks. Starship’s 40-pound robots are designed to deliver things like meals, groceries and other on-demand goods. Similar legislation is now being proposed in Wisconsin. But other robot-delivery companies might not be able to take advantage of the new laws. That’s because the policies that Starship has helped to champion only permit robots under a certain weight to operate autonomously in each state — and Starship’s potential competitors don’t all make the cut. In Virginia, the law states that ground robots have to weigh under 50 pounds to operate legally. In Idaho, the weight limit is 80 pounds. But Marble, a robot-delivery company that started bringing people take-out in San Francisco earlier this month, uses a rover that weighs more than 80 pounds. (The company wouldn’t specify the exact weight of its robot.) Another ground robot — the Gita rover from the makers of Vespa — is designed to follow a person around to carry their bags, and weighs 70 pounds. Though Gita isn’t necessarily for making deliveries, it is supposed to be able to rove autonomously and carry things in areas it has already mapped. “Marble’s robots are built around the form factor of modern-day electric mobility scooters,” CEO Matt Delaney said in a statement to Recode. Delaney said he doesn’t think the weight limits that are being written in the new statewide robot laws are reasonable. Marble is currently in talks with the San Francisco City Council around future robot-delivery regulations in the city, according to a company spokesperson. Starship says it didn’t intend to push for laws that keep competitors out, even if that is what’s happening now. “When we launched our first public affairs efforts, our competitors were still in stealth mode. We still do not know their operational parameters,” Allan Martinson, Starship’s chief operating officer, said in an email. Martinson says that the weight limits are “not random but based on safety estimates.” “The 50-pound limit came about in discussion about what would be the most approachable and safest route that a pedestrian would feel safe with this robot traveling next to them,” said Rep. Ron Villanueva from Virginia, one of the lawmakers who championed the state’s new robot policy. In Wisconsin, a bill about legal operation of autonomous ground-delivery robots is now in committee discussions, and currently proposes an 80-pound weight limit. A spokesperson for state Sen. Chris Kapenga, one of the sponsors of the Wisconsin bill that’s making its way through the state legislature, said that they arrived at the 80-pound weight limit by doubling the weight of Starship’s robot. Both the Virginia and Idaho laws, as well as the Wisconsin bill, have provisions that allow for municipalities to change the law to meet their local needs, like if the robot isn’t allowed on the sidewalks during certain times of the day, or if a city wants to change the weight limit. But creating a local exception would require city officials to make that decision, and that could be a whole process itself. Starship is not currently operating in any of the states where it has worked to pass the robot laws. But a spokesperson from Senator Kapenga’s office told Recode that he couldn’t see why the company would be coming to Wisconsin if it didn’t expect to eventually bring its technology to the state. None of the states that have so far passed laws permitting the use of autonomous robots are major population centers. But if Starship continues to try to pass more laws in more states across the country — like the bill that was filed in Florida with a 50-pound weight limit — Starship’s competitors might want to start pushing back.

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posted 2 days ago on re/code
Thousands have gathered in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of other sites around the world. Thousands have gathered today in Washington, D.C., for the March for Science, with hundreds of satellite marches in motion or coming up around the world, including Silicon Valley: Marches are stepping off at 11 am PT in San Francisco and San Jose. Like the Women’s March in January, the event is serving two masters: There are longstanding concerns about science research funding, health, climate change, etc., at play; organizers have stressed the idea that science should not be politicized at all. But online, where people are sharing their cleverest signs, the march is playing out as a rebuttal to the Trump administration’s attempts to destabilize science and technology. Here’s a live feed of the protest’s main stage on the National Mall, carried by the YouTube channel Earth Day Network: The stage has featured a mixture of musical acts — opening with a jazzy piano version of the National Anthem performed by Jon Batiste, a.k.a. the band leader from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” — and speeches from scientists, politicians and online personalities. “Show the world that science is for all!” TV host Bill Nye (yep, the Science Guy) said in a speech. “Our lawmakers must know that science serves every one of us: Every citizen of every nation and society.”

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posted 2 days ago on re/code
Google’s parent company continues to fight for an injunction against Uber. A new court filing from Alphabet claims that Uber hid a key piece of self-driving technology that it allegedly copied from Waymo, the Google parent company’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary. “They were hiding a device,” Alphabet said in a filing today, supporting its motion for a preliminary injunction that would prevent Uber from working on self-driving technology. Uber says it isn’t hiding anything and did not infringe on Alphabet’s patents. Alphabet has sued Uber over claims it stole its proprietary self-driving technology. At the center of the suit is a former Alphabet executive, Anthony Levandowski, who led its early efforts in developing self-driving technology. Alphabet claims Levandowski stole 14,000 files from Alphabet before leaving to launch his own autonomous truck startup, Otto. Uber acquired Otto last August. The files include designs for Alphabet’s lidar (light detection and ranging) technology, a key component to most self-driving systems. In the latest filing, Alphabet says Uber hid a lidar device Levandowski designed based on these files. The company says Uber obfuscated the existence of a piece of lidar technology at an April 12 hearing. Uber denies this and says it eventually produced the device in question. A representative for Uber told Recode the company did not initially produce the device because they did not think they were required to do so as its designs had been abandoned. Alphabet has declined to say whether it has inspected the device in question. Uber said in a previous filing opposing the preliminary injunction Alphabet’s allegations are “demonstrably false.”

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posted 3 days ago on re/code
The new deals include a mix of both live and produced video commitments. Facebook wants to pay publishers to create more produced video as part of a plan to push the company’s new ad products, according to multiple sources. The new deals are intended to replace the agreements Facebook currently has with publishers to produce live video, which were signed a year ago. The new accords are designed to encourage publishers to create produced video, or VOD, but it also maintains provisions to still pay for live video, the sources say. Facebook is offering publishers a monthly sum in exchange for a minimum amount of produced video every month. The videos can be a combination of VOD and live, but live content can’t account for more than half of the monthly tally. The videos also have to be long enough so Facebook can drop at least one ad in the middle of play. That means a produced video has to be least 90 seconds long, with live videos at least 6 minutes in length to count towards the deal, according to multiple sources. Facebook will recoup the cost of payments to publishers by taking the revenue from these mid-roll ads. After Facebook makes its money back, the two sides will split the rest of the ad dollars, with 55 percent going to the publisher and 45 percent going to Facebook. Facebook started testing mid-roll video ads in live videos last fall, and started doing the same with produced videos earlier this year. Paying publishers for video content gives Facebook more inventory to go out and sell those ads. At least that’s the hope. Most of these new deals are set to expire at the end of 2017. A Facebook spokesperson sent Recode the following statement when asked about the deals: “As we shared last year, we are funding some seed video content from our partners, and are evolving the initial Live deals to include other types of video content we’d like to experiment with. We want to show people what is possible on the platform and we learn best from our partners. With this program, we hope to enable creativity and experimentation with video that is community-driven and takes advantage of the social interaction unique to Facebook. In the long-term, we expect to support partners through a rev share model, like Ad Break.” Many major publishers, including The New York Times, Buzzfeed, The Washington Post and Vox Media (which owns this website) have been making money from Facebook in exchange for live video content for the past year. Most of those deals recently expired, or are expiring soon, and Facebook is looking to keep its site flush with video content. Publishers have been waiting anxiously for Facebook to roll out a video ad product, a way to finally make money from the billions of daily video views Facebook users generate each day. Facebook has been staunchly against pre-roll ads, an industry norm. Mid-roll ads, akin to a short TV commercial, are Facebook’s alternative. A number of publishers in talks with Facebook are hesitant to sign the new offerings, though some have already agreed. Publishers are worried about putting those mid-roll ads into their produced videos. Because they’re new, and unproven, publishers we spoke with are concerned it will kill video completion rates, and ultimately hurt their overall audience. A few publishers are also surprised that live video was offered as part of the new deal. As Recode reported in January, publishers were not expecting Facebook to renew those live video contracts; many believed the amount they made from those live videos didn’t merit the time and resources it took to produce them. Some publishers we spoke to believe that live video is part of the new proposals to help take the pressure off of a deal that would otherwise be 100 percent dependent on VOD mid-roll ads.

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posted 3 days ago on re/code
Kimberly Salzer started at Ozobot in April. Hyperloop One, the company trying to bring Elon Musk’s idea for a tube-based, high-speed transport system to fruition, has lost its chief marketing officer, Kimberly Salzer. Salzer left Hyperloop One in mid-March after spending a year with the company, she told Recode in an interview. The executive has now taken a job at Ozobot as its chief marketing officer. Ozobot is a robotics company that makes small robots that can help teach kids how to code. She started last week. “I voluntarily decided to leave,” said Salzer, who noted the scope of Hyperloop One was moving in a different direction than her background, which is in consumer technology. Before her time at Hyperloop, Salzer worked in the video game industry, helping to build brands for Electronic Arts and Activision. Hyperloop One is delaying the public testing of its tube transport system and reducing the size of its test track that was supposed to host the trial run of the prototype, according to a report earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal. “It’s a moonshot idea, and I really respect it,” Salzer said about the Hyperloop One project. Separately, Joby Otero, who formerly held a role as the chief creative officer at the robotics company Anki, is joining Ozobot as its chief product officer. He left Anki, another consumer-facing company that makes a small interactive robot, in January of 2016, Otero shared in an interview.

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posted 3 days ago on re/code
The demand made by the Department of Homeland Security — which was later rescinded — drew a lawsuit from Twitter. A federal watchdog is investigating whether the Trump administration abused its legal powers when it sought to force Twitter to unmask an anonymous so-called “alt agency” account that has been tweeting criticism of the president. In March, officials at the Department of Homeland Security tried to tap customs laws in an attempt to figure out the identify of @ALT_USCIS, which claimed to be comprised of disaffected employees at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In response, Twitter sued the Trump administration, claiming it was trying to stifle free speech — and federal officials quietly withdrew their request. Still, the Department of Homeland Security’s actions drew a sharp rebuke from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who later asked the agency’s inspector general to review the matter. In a letter sent back to the lawmaker today, the watchdog office confirmed it is probing whether the DHS had done anything “improper” in its attempt to unmask the anonymous account — as well as whether there’s “potential broader misuse of summons authority” at the DHS. For now, the inspector general said it already has found that the @ALT_USCIS account has not shared classified information. It also confirmed in writing to Wyden that it would not try to determine the identify of that anonymous Twitter user. “The summons raised serious concerns about improper political use of [the agency’s] summons power to quash free speech,” Wyden said.

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posted 3 days ago on re/code
Pinterest isn’t a social network, okay? Pinterest is not a social network — and it’s very important to Pinterest that you know that. The visual discovery startup announced that it’s killing off its “Like” button on Friday, claiming people engage more with Pins when it’s not there, and that some users found it confusing to distinguish between the company’s “Like” and “Save” buttons. But Pinterest is also trying to do something else: Separate itself from other photo-heavy social platforms where “Like” buttons are prominent, primarily Facebook and Instagram. Pinterest took a not-so-subtle swipe at Facebook and its recently announced VR and AR efforts in its email sent to Recode announcing the change. “While other companies want you to live in a virtual world, Pinterest encourages people to live in the real world,” a spokesperson wrote. “We like to say, be yourself and not your selfie. There are many services out there with the mission of helping you connect and share with friends; we’re the one app exclusively in the visual discovery business.” Why is Pinterest trying to distance itself from Facebook and Instagram? We’re not entirely sure. But here’s a theory: Pinterest is thinking about an IPO, and other public companies that are considered to be in the social space — Snapchat and Twitter — are constantly compared to Facebook. Given Facebook’s size and scale, that’s usually an unfortunate comparison. Pinterest is clearly trying to plant some seeds so that users (and investors) know it isn’t competing with Facebook. It’s also launching an ad campaign this summer to get that point across. "The No. 1 challenge is getting people to understand that Pinterest isn't a social network," CEO Ben Silbermann told Bloomberg. Either way, the “Like” button is gone, and Pinterest will save the pins users liked on a separate, private pin board so they don’t go away. The update will roll out “in the coming weeks.” Pinterest There’s the soon-to-be-removed “Like” button, in the upper left-hand corner.

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posted 3 days ago on re/code
Plus, Apple starts lobbying on autonomous vehicles. Tech giants like Facebook, Google and Microsoft focused some of their lobbying dollars in Washington over the past three months on combating President Donald Trump, as he eyed major changes to the U.S. tax code and imposed new restrictions on foreign immigrants. Both issues feature prominently on many companies’ first-quarter lobbying reports, which were due to the government by midnight. In total, five of the industry’s biggest names — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft — spent a combined $13.3 million to influence regulators in the nation’s capital between Jan. 1 and March 31, records show. Facebook specifically revealed it devoted a portion of its $3.2 million in spending during that period to fighting Trump’s executive order limiting travelers and refugees from some Muslim-majority countries. The social giant, like many in Silicon Valley, has blasted the order publicly and signed onto legal briefs challenging the administration’s actions. Google, too, spent some of its $3.5 million in lobbying on “legislative responses” to Trump’s travel ban, according to the company’s newly filed report. Apple, for its part, spent $1.4 million in the first quarter of 2017 as the iPhone giant looks to shape the upcoming debate over tax reform. CEO Tim Cook, has been a vocal advocate for streamlining the tax system and allowing companies (including his own) to return billions of dollars in foreign earnings without incurring a major U.S. penalty — and Cook has taken that message personally to Congress and the White House in recent months. But Apple’s agenda exceeds Trump. The company also revealed it’s now lobbying on “issues related to autonomous vehicles.” That disclosure comes days after Apple received a permit in California to begin testing self-driving cars in the state. Microsoft similarly took aim at changes to the tax code: It explicitly said it “opposed” any proposal that would “increase the taxation of income earned by foreign sales of intangible goods by U.S. based corporations.” Translation: Some of the ideas percolating in Washington right now. Microsoft also spent some of its $2.3 million in early lobbying dollars supporting science and research funding, even as Trump proposes vast cuts to such programs. And it deployed one of its lobbyists, a former aide to now Vice President Mike Pence, specifically to press the country’s second-most-powerful leader on high-skilled immigration and trade issues, the records show. Amazon, meanwhile, slowly has grown its lobbying footprint in the nation’s capital, and it spent $2.9 million to influence regulators on tax and immigration reforms to open 2017. Earlier this year, Amazon also retained a lobbying firm run by one of Trump’s leading campaign advisers. The firm did not provide much detail on the work it’s doing on behalf of the e-commerce giant.

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posted 3 days ago on re/code
PetSmart’s acquisition of Chewy is the cherry on top. As Recode reported Tuesday, PetSmart is acquiring online pet store Chewy for $3.35 billion — the biggest e-commerce acquisition of all time. For context, this is an even bigger deal than Walmart’s acquisition of online retailer Jet.com last year — which was then the biggest e-commerce acquisition to date. These companies are using e-commerce acquisitions to improve their online retail prospects. Here’s a list of the top 15 biggest e-commerce mergers, acquisitions and buyouts of all time, by deal size, according to data from research firm PitchBook. (function() { var l = function() { new pym.Parent( 'recode-biggest-e-commerce-deals-of-all-time-1__graphic', 'https://apps.voxmedia.com/at/recode-biggest-e-commerce-deals-of-all-time-1/'); }; if(typeof(pym) === 'undefined') { var h = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0], s = document.createElement('script'); s.type = 'text/javascript'; s.src = 'https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/pym/0.4.5/pym.js'; s.onload = l; h.appendChild(s); } else { l(); } })();

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posted 3 days ago on re/code
Plus: 20 million people watch a recipe for ice cubes. Uber has extended its internal investigation into sexual harassment claims at the company. In a memo to employees, board director Arianna Huffington briefly outlined the investigation, which is being led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.[Kara Swisher / Recode] Oracle will pay more than $850 million for Moat, a New York company that tracks digital ads for marketers. YouTube recently said it would work with Moat to ensure that advertisers’ messages aren’t running next to offensive videos.[Peter Kafka / Recode] The FCC just relaxed more regulations for AT&T, Verizon and other players in the broadcasting industry. Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also met with Apple, Facebook and others to discuss net neutrality changes to come.[Tony Romm / Recode] Facebook is looking to hire a head of news products to combat fake news, but the company is having trouble finding someone with both the news and technology chops necessary to fill the role.[Kurt Wagner / Recode] Yahoo's demise is a death knell for digital news organizations and other web-native sites that depend on ad revenue for survival. Meanwhile, Facebook and Google accounted for about 99 percent of all advertising growth in Q3 2016.[Adrienne LaFrance / The Atlantic] Bill O'Reilly may get a payout of up to $25 million for his exit from Fox News — the equivalent of one year of his salary. The expulsion of O’Reilly and Ailes means that Rupert Murdoch’s son James is now in charge.[Emily Steel, Michael S. Schmidt /The New York Times] Top stories from Recode Google is seeing more requests for user data worldwide, but it’s responding to fewer. The company also has more users than before. Europe’s competition cop says she’ll monitor Google’s ad-blocking efforts.Margrethe Vestager tweeted her concern. Google Home can now recognize different users by their voice.As many as six people can have accounts on one Home device. A messaging startup used by White House staff is being sued for allegedly not being as secure as it promises.The suit says Confide has some holes that make it possible to screenshot “secure” messages. What’s the best smartwatch for working out?On the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, fitness-tech expert Ray Maker, a.k.a. D.C. Rainmaker, shares his picks for everyone from casual walkers to Olympic athletes. This is cool IcebreakerOne of those overhead-view cooking videos appeared on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube yesterday, instructing viewers on "How to Make Homemade Ice." It has had nearly 20 million views on Facebook in less than 24 hours. [Meh.]

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posted 3 days ago on re/code
Wearables expert D.C. Rainmaker offers his picks on the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask. When buying a smartwatch, it’s important to consider how active you are — and how active you want to be. At the low end would be someone who rarely if ever works out; at the other end are consumers like this week’s guest on Too Embarrassed to Ask, fitness wearables expert Ray Maker. Maker is better known by his online pseudonym D.C. Rainmaker (an old Blogspot username that stuck). He reviews practically every fitness gadget on the market on his website, using his body “as a test vehicle.” And he’s a serious athlete: Once, Maker got hit by a car mid-triathlon and finished the race with a broken femur. “I actually ran one of my fastest 10ks ever, but I couldn’t walk the next day,” he said. For people who are looking for a serious fitness device, Maker recommended two of the latest watches from Garmin: The Fenix 5 or the Forerunner 935. “The maturity level is so high now and they’re not starting from scratch every time,” Maker said. “They’re actually building upon their past products. A lot of products will do a whole reset every time. Like, the iPhone, when you go from version to version, you’re not going backwards in time, while that’s true for a lot of [wearables]: You go backwards for a few months and then you go forward.” You can listen to the new podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud. For less active consumers, Maker said there’s little difference between Fitbit and Garmin. And for all activity levels, he acknowledged that Garmin’s software is a “mixed bag.” “Fitbit’s in a little easier spot, because they’re not trying to cater to two vastly different audiences,” he said. “Garmin is trying to cater to someone who’s not even going to run at all, just going to walk and wear this activity tracker, at the same time as someone who is an Olympic athlete and a gold medalist who is trying to get very granular data.” “But I think even with that in mind, Garmin can do a heck of a lot better job on the dashboard page of the app, to see that basic data,” he added. Maker said the Apple Watch is “the best smartwatch period,” but not the best for fitness. And across the board, he said the companies making wearable fitness devices could be doing way more with the vast amounts of data their hardware is collecting. “Right now, you may get your summary at the end of the day: ‘Good job! you did more steps!’ or it tries to add some pseudo-big data twist on it like, ‘This is more than most people of this gender,’” he said. “It’s like, ‘Okay, great, but what does that actually tell me?’ I want a watch to tell me, at 4:00 as I’m getting ready to go home, ‘Hey, this day was pretty calm, let’s up your run from this to this.’” Have questions about fitness tech that we didn’t get to in this episode? Tweet them to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed, or email them to [email protected] Be sure to follow @LaurenGoode, @KaraSwisher and @Recode to be alerted when we're looking for questions about a specific topic. If you like this show, you should also check out our other podcasts: Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud. Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud. And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, such as the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher. If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara and Lauren. Tune in next Friday for another episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask!

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posted 3 days ago on re/code
Here’s the memo from board director Arianna Huffington on the state of the investigation. Uber has extended its internal investigation into sexual harassment claims at the company, according to sources. The investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, was sparked by charges of sexual harassment by a former female engineer as well as charges of a wider cultural problem across Uber. Holder has asked the board for more time to complete his inquiry, the sources say. Holder has not gotten interviews with several key figures in the investigation, including top HR execs, as yet, according to sources. He plans to do so in the coming weeks. Some insiders are skeptical the review will yield results, but now Uber has come under more pressure after the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News led to the ouster of Bill O’Reilly. Uber is worried about tide of public opinion. "We've got to get this right," said one person close to situation. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick hired Holder earlier this year to conduct an internal review to look into allegations of harassment and a hostile workplace culture. Board director Arianna Huffington briefly outlined the current state of the investigation in a memo to employees that was sent out tonight: Subject line: An update on the Holder report Hi everybody, When Eric Holder and Tammy Albarrán began their review, the Board subcommittee (consisting of David Bonderman, Bill Gurley, and myself) to which Eric and Tammy have been reporting on a weekly basis assured them that they would have all the support and time necessary to conduct an intensive, thorough review of Uber’s workplace and culture. Eric and Tammy have now asked us for more time to complete their assessment, which includes information received from hundreds of employees through interviews and anonymous online focus groups and reflects the global scale of the company’s operations. To ensure that no stone is left unturned, the Board subcommittee has granted that request and we anticipate the report by the end of May. Thank you, Arianna

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posted 3 days ago on re/code
The suit says Confide has some holes that make it possible to screenshot “secure” messages. Confide, an “off the record” messaging service, has been mentioned several times as a tool that White House staff, as well as Republican insiders, use to privately send information. But now the New York-based startup has a new headache: A lawsuit filed today in the Southern District of New York alleges that it’s possible under specific circumstances to capture information on who sent messages, as well as the content of those messages. The suit isn’t about Confide’s servers or encryption technology, but instead it takes issue with a more manual problem: That messages sent on the platform are not always safe from being captured with a screenshot. On Confide’s website, the company boasts its messages are “screenshot protected.” “Confide prevents screenshots on most of our platforms,” its website says today. “Where prevention is not technically feasible, our patent-pending reading experience ensures that only a sliver of the message is unveiled at a time and that the sender’s name is not visible. We also kick the recipient out of the message and notify the sender that a screenshot has been attempted.” But according to Chris Dore, an attorney with the law firm representing the plaintiff, it’s possible to toggle the settings on Windows so that when using the desktop version of the app, users can take a screenshot of the entire message, along with the sender’s name in full view. The app also fails to alert the sender that someone has taken a screenshot, the suit claims. The suit further alleges that Confide’s “sliver” feature, which is supposed to only show a portion of the message at a time, and hide the identity of the sender, doesn’t work on the desktop versions of the app. Here’s a photo, cited in the lawsuit, that demonstrates how the sender’s name, as well as the contents of their message, is fully visible on both Windows and Mac versions of the desktop app: Confide says it disagrees with the claims spelled out in the lawsuit. “The accusations set forth in the complaint are unfounded and without merit,” Jon Brod, Confide’s co-founder and president, said in a statement to Recode. “We look forward to responding to this frivolous complaint and seeing this case swiftly thrown out of court.” It’s also worth noting that — like with any “secure” app, screenshot alerts or not — it’s possible to take a picture or video of the “decrypted” message with another camera, like a second iPhone. (Security researchers also found critical vulnerabilities in Confide earlier this year, but reported that they alerted Confide of the problems and that they were quickly resolved.) Read the lawsuit against Confide here.

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posted 4 days ago on re/code
Note: The company also has more users than before. Google received the most government requests for user data it has received in any six-month period, according to the company’s latest transparency report. The requests were made in the second half of 2016. How companies respond to data requests from the government has gotten more attention since the election of President Donald Trump, as many people became wary over the possible development of a Muslim registry. Tech companies came under pressure after the election to take a stand against building a database, and Google, Twitter and others all said they would not contribute to such an effort. This is Google’s first such report since the election. Given the time period it covers, it doesn’t demonstrate any change in the rate of requests since the new administration entered the White House. What the data show are a couple broad trends, which it should be noted were offset by user growth. What’s particularly interesting is that Google is seeing more requests for user data worldwide and in the U.S., but it’s responding to a decreasing percentage of them. Google reported 45,500 government requests for user data worldwide in the second half of 2016, up about 600 requests from the first half of 2016. The company said it received only about 12,000 requests in the second half of 2009. About 13,600 requests in the most recent period pertain to the U.S., which was actually a decrease of 500 requests from the previous period, and has fluctuated at other points as well. But the overall trend in U.S. requests, like trends worldwide, is up. “In many ways, this shouldn’t be surprising,” wrote general counsel Kent Walker in a blog post. “As more people use more of our services, and as we offer new ones, it is natural that we are seeing an increase in government requests. For example, Gmail had around 425 million active users in 2012 and more than one billion by 2016.” As requests have increased, Google reports the percentage of requests in which the company produces data has decreased. The company reported that in the second half of 2010 it produced data in response to 76 percent of requests. In the second half of 2016, that went down to 60 percent. Google is more responsive to U.S. requests, returning data for 79 percent of requests in the last six-month period. That’s down from 94 percent in the second half of 2010.

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posted 4 days ago on re/code
Margrethe Vestager tweeted her concern. European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager is keeping an eye on Google’s development of an ad blocker. Google is working on a feature for its Chrome browser on desktop and mobile that would either filter certain types of ads or filter ads entirely from sites that run what it sees as “bad ads,” according to sources. The feature could still end up not being released and it may or may not qualify as an ad blocker in the way people typically think about ad blockers. Still, Vestager, who heads up the EU’s regulatory body in charge of anticompetitive behavior, has her ears perked. “We will follow this new feature and it’s effects closely,” she tweeted in response to a question from a reporter. A Google-made ad blocker could stifle competition among third-party ad blockers, especially if it were promoted as a built-in feature in Google’s Chrome browser. Google might also have an incentive to maintain ads served by its own ads network, giving its business an additional edge. Google declined to comment on Vestager’s remarks. Vestager has made numerous allegations of antitrust toward Google, including claims the company uses its dominance in digital advertising to promote results from Google products such as Google Shopping, even when they are not the most relevant to users. @jamestitcomb @JackMarshall Yes. We will follow this new feature and it's effects closely.— Margrethe Vestager (@vestager) April 20, 2017

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posted 4 days ago on re/code
The tech industry is nervous about Pai’s potential plans to scrap his predecessor’s open internet rules. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai visited executives at Facebook, Oracle, Intel and other tech giants in Silicon Valley on Monday, as he considers how he might rethink and replace the agency’s hotly contested net neutrality rules. Speaking to reporters Thursday, Pai stressed he’s been “consistent” in his view that he “favor[s] a free and open internet and that I oppose Title II,” a reference to the portion of law that Democrats tapped in order to subject the likes of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to utility-like regulation. “Outside of the context of any pending proceeding, I’ve been simply soliciting thoughts on how to secure the online consumer protections that people have talked about,” Pai said. A spokesman for Pai did not immediately respond to a request for more details about the meeting. Pai himself did not provide further information about his consultations when asked at a press conference following a series of votes Thursday that relaxed regulations on the telecom industry. A longtime foe of the agency’s net neutrality rules, Pai in recent weeks has explored his own alternative: Encouraging companies to commit voluntarily that they won’t block or slow down competitors’ web traffic. Under such a plan, sources say, net neutrality would be enforced by another agency, the Federal Trade Commission, which generally can punish companies that violate their public promises to consumers. Pai previewed such an idea earlier this month in a private meeting with the telecom industry’s leading lobbying groups in Washington. Those corporate giants long have opposed the more onerous approach put in place by Pai’s predecessor, former Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Many in the tech industry, however, have bristled at the early contours of Pai’s plan. That includes one of the Valley’s leading lobbying groups, the Internet Association, which represents companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter. “The internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition and innovation online,” the association told Pai in a private meeting last week. “In other words, existing net neutrality rules should be enforced and kept intact.” Asked about the early jostling around his proposal, Pai said Thursday he didn’t present any specific new regulations to the companies he’s consulted. “I simply was exploring outside the context of any pending proceeding how to secure some of those principles of free and open internet that I think most people agree on,” he said.

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posted 4 days ago on re/code
Republican Chairman Ajit Pai delivers some wins for AT&T, Verizon and a few players in the broadcasting industry. The Federal Communications Commission offered another round of regulatory relief to the nation’s largest telecom companies on Thursday. This time, the agency’s Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, opened the door for two potential changes: Increases in prices for certain organizations to access speedy internet services, and another round of consolidation by TV station owners. In his first move, Pai successfully removed restrictions on the likes of AT&T and Verizon, which now have more leeway to raise prices for businesses that rely on dedicated links to their networks. That includes hospitals and schools, for example, which tap this so-called “business data services” market — a different pipe than, say, your usual home internet — to transmit large quantities of data quickly and reliably. The agency’s sole Democratic commissioner, Mignon Clyburn, stressed on Thursday that Pai’s plan would “open the door to immediate price hikes for small business broadband service in rural areas and hundreds of communities across the country.” Pai, who joined with the FCC’s other Republican on a 2-1 vote approving the order, rejected that criticism. “Price regulation — that is, the government setting the rates, terms and conditions for special access services — is seductive,” he said. “Who can possibly resist the promise of forcing prices lower right now? But in reality, price regulation threatens competition and investment.” Pai also relaxed some rules on TV stations owners: His order, also approved on a 2-1 vote, changes the way those stations calculate their footprints. In effect, Pai’s move makes it easier for TV station groups to grow without tripping a federal cap on their size — and as a result, it could set off another wave of industry consolidation. In strongly opposing that proposal, Clyburn cited comments from CBS Corporation CEO Leslie Moonves, who signaled earlier this year that he could “buy some more stations” if such a cap was lifted. She also highlighted recent comments by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which told the FCC something similar in a private meeting. Democrats in Congress have raised their fears with the commission that more consolidation could harm consumers. Speaking at today’s meeting, Pai said the move is necessary as part of a broader rethinking of some of the country’s media ownership rules. “Today, the FCC is wiping the slate clean,” he said.

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posted 4 days ago on re/code
Plus, internet ad seller Google readies an ad blocker, and VCs are getting into the green stuff. Facebook continues to go full-on futuristic at its F8 developer conference. The social network is building a tool that would let you type with your brain, and it has built a helicopter drone to provide wireless internet to disaster areas. Here’s a look inside the company’s secretive Building 8 hardware lab, home to its most out-there projects. [Kurt Wagner / Recode] Amazon, Facebook, Google, Snap and more than 150 other tech companies told a federal court it should toss Donald Trump’s latest attempt to ban refugees and travelers from many majority-Muslim countries. [Tony Romm / Recode] Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News. James and Lachlan Murdoch convinced their father Rupert that the star anchor had to go, as sexual harassment claims piled up and advertisers fled. Tucker Carlson will take O'Reilly’s 8 pm time slot. [The New York Times] Google is readying an ad-blocking setting on both the mobile and desktop versions of its Chrome browser. Yes, Google’s entire business pretty much depends on internet advertising, but it also wants to keep web users from using third-party ad-blocking tools Google doesn’t control. [Tess Townsend / Recode] Alphabet’s Ruth Porat and Intel’s Brian Krzanich are coming to the Code Conference. They’ll join a lineup that includes Uber’s Travis Kalanick, Netflix’s Reed Hastings, Kleiner Perkins’ Mary Meeker and Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes. [Peter Kafka / Recode] Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” is getting a TV adaptation — it only took 16 years. On the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, Gaiman talks about what had to change in the TV business before his sprawling Americana-fantasy could come to the Starz network. [Eric Johnson / Recode] Top stories from Recode Autonomous driving is here, and it’s going to change everything. Welcome to the hands-free world. Republicans have friends in Silicon Valley, too. Some powerful GOP lawmakers — including party leader Mitch McConnell — are headed to the Bay Area for a high-dollar fundraiser at the home of Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison. Trump signed an executive order to review high-skilled H-1B immigration visas. It’s part of a continued push to clamp down on companies — including, potentially, some in the tech industry — that hire foreigners instead of Americans. Facebook designed another 360-degree video camera. But you don’t have to build this one yourself. Tesla has settled its lawsuit against self-driving startup Aurora Aurora was founded by Chris Urmson, the former CTO of Google’s self-driving car project, and Sterling Anderson, Tesla’s former director of Autopilot. This is cool It’s getting easier bein’ green American venture capital firms, including Peter Thiel-backed Privateer Holdings, have invested hundreds of millions in the weed industry — here are four stocks that have made triple-digit gains. Montreal-based startup Hyasynth Bio hopes it has the next big thing — it’s creating THC oil out of yeast, with no cannabis involved. [Vice Money]

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