May 23, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

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1 big thing: Europe remains fertile ground for techlash

Mark Zuckerberg and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Corbis via Getty Images

After CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced off against the European Parliament on Tuesday, the media’s immediate takeaway was that Facebook dodged a bullet — after all, the hearing’s format let Zuck avoid answering a lot of tough questions.

Our take: That's missing the point. This isn’t a sports match or debate club. The real question is what action policymakers will take. And it’s Europe — not the U.S. — that’s most likely to take steps to rein in Big Tech, having already done so with both Microsoft and Google.

To that end: Competitors are taking advantage of the mood in Europe. Yelp filed a fresh complaint on Tuesday with the EU, arguing that Google's local search results also improperly favor its own listings over rivals.

The M word: A couple of lawmakers asked Zuckerberg point blank to make the case why Facebook isn't a monopoly that should be broken up. Now, that's not to say that's where things are headed, but that's not the kind of thing you hear much from politicians in the U.S.

What's next: Lots of lawmakers left the hearing dissatisfied and wanting more. Facebook is due to provide written answers to some of the many questions Zuckerberg didn't address directly. (Gizmodo came up with a list of 40 that were left unanswered.)

"Today's pre-cooked format was inappropriate & ensured #Zuckerberg could avoid our questions. I trust that written answers from Facebook will be forthcoming. If these are not accurately answered in detail, the EU competition authorities must be activated & legislation sharpened."
— European Parliament member Guy Verhofstadt tweeted

Go deeper: I talked more yesterday about how the hearing went, in an appearance on NPR's "Here & Now."

2. IBM bringing 1,800 AI jobs to France

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. Photo: IBM

Driving the news: Speaking of Europe, IBM chief Ginni Rometty is in Paris this week where she is announcing a plan to create 1,800 jobs in France in areas like AI, blockchain, cloud computing and IoT.

  • The company is also expanding a big effort to train workers for what it has called "new collar jobs." (IBM has been making a similar pitch in the U.S.)
  • IBM plans to hire both new graduates and experienced workers for a range of positions, including business consultants, IT architects, developers and technical experts. 
  • Rometty is making the announcements later today at the Tech for Good Summit, where she is speaking along with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Also this week:

  • Rometty is expected to make a new commitment on data privacy as well as castigate tech companies that can't protect their customers' data and/or won't commit to not using it without permission. That will come Thursday (a day before GDPR protections kick in) as she speaks at VivaTech.
  • Finally, IBM is teaming up with some new partners on efforts to promote the social good.

The bottom line: IBM continues to make moves aimed at distancing itself from peers caught up in the techlash.

Meanwhile: Rometty isn't the only techie in Paris this week. Bloomberg's "Sooner Than You Think" conference lineup includes:

  • Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie
  • Facebook's chief AI scientist Yann LeCun
  • Atomico CEO Niklas Zennström
  • DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman
3: Amazon's face recognition gets frowns

Amazon touts the public safety uses of its Rekognition technology. Screenshot:

Meanwhile, back stateside, Amazon was in the spotlight over its facial recognition software, Rekognition.

What's happening: The ACLU found the software is being used by various law enforcement agencies. A coalition of civil liberties groups is calling on Amazon to stop selling the Rekognition technology to government entities.

Why it matters: This hits on two hot button issues: facial recognition technology and the broader question of just what types of technology Big Tech companies should sell to the government.

Between the lines: This tweet, from Gizmodo's Kashmir Hill, puts things in perspective:

"Google held back from offering facial recognition for years because it 'crossed the creepy line.' Meanwhile, Amazon has started selling it for $12/month."

Meanwhile, Rep. Ro Khanna weighed in, calling Amazon's actions "troubling." He tweeted:

"I find it troubling that Amazon is providing police departments with surveillance technology that could be easily abused without any public oversight. Technology should be used to improve the lives of ordinary people, not create an unaccountable surveillance state."
4. Turning the tables on Nigerian email scammers

Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A group has infiltrated the inboxes of 78 email accounts held by Nigerian scammers aiming to see how they operate.

"We’re using social engineering on them the way they have used it on other people," Markus Jakobsson of email protection group Agari told Axios' Joe Uchill.

Why it matters: Studies have examined data provided by victims of Nigerian scams, but this is the first to look at data collected on the other end.

Go deeper: Joe has more here. (And you can click here to get Codebook, his twice-weekly cybersecurity newsletter.)

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Acer is holding a global press conference in New York.
  • Okta's Oktane continues in Las Vegas.

Trading Places

  • Zulily has hired former Amazon clothing executive and Shopbop CEO Jeff Yurcisin as president.
  • Tesla has hired Snap VP of monetization engineering Stuart Bowers as a VP of engineering, Cheddar reported.
  • Credit Karma has hired Colleen McCreary as its first chief people officer; she previously held the same role at Vevo.


6. After you Login

To anyone who says ping pong isn't a sport, I offer this as rebuttal.

Ina Fried