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Today's Login is 1,510 words, a 5-minute read.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
A chorus of civil rights and privacy groups is calling on U.S. cities to end partnerships with Amazon's Ring camera unit, saying the deals raise a range of privacy, discrimination and other concerns.
Why it matters: Per the Washington Post, more than 400 agencies have deals with the Amazon subsidiary.
Driving the news: More than 30 civil rights and privacy groups have signed an open letter calling for an end to such deals, saying the partnerships "threaten civil liberties, privacy and civil rights, and exist without oversight or accountability." "The letter calls for future deals to involve "community engagement" and approval by elected offiicials."
"To that end, we call on mayors and city councils to require police departments to cancel any and all existing Amazon Ring partnerships, and to pass surveillance oversight ordinances that will deter police departments from entering into such agreements in the future."— Open letter from 30+ civil rights groups
How it works:
The big picture: Alliances between law enforcement and tech companies, such as Palantir's contracts with local police departments, have a history of raising hackles, and rising concerns in the U.S. over privacy have put some consumers on edge about tech that tracks their moves.
What they're saying:
President Trump with FCC chairman Ajit Pai in April. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images
President Trump and FCC chairman Ajit Pai had lunch at the White House the day the FCC won a major legal battle over its repeal of net neutrality regulations, according to two people familiar with the gathering, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.
Why it matters: Interactions between FCC leaders and the White House have drawn intense scrutiny because the FCC is an independent agency. Both people described the gathering as a "family" event.
Details: The timing of the Oct. 1 lunch was a coincidence, both people said. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that morning upheld most of the FCC's repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality rules, in a victory for Pai and the telecom industry.
What they're saying:
"The mere fact that he's meeting with the chairman is not nefarious, but if the president — who has been known to direct his agency heads to do various and sundry things — directed the chairman to do something and the chairman does it, that's very troublesome."— Gigi Sohn, a distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law and former FCC official
A slew of digital media acquisitions over the past few weeks shows how unreliable private valuations can be, Sara Fischer and Kia Kokalitcheva write. The lesson from the media world applies more broadly to tech as well.
Why it matters: The only way for anyone to really know how much any private company is worth is if it sells in an all-cash deal. When privately-held companies sell via all-stock transactions or via a mix of cash and stock, dealmakers can essentially make up the value of the assets they are looking to purchase.
Driving the news: Group Nine Media said Monday that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire PopSugar, a lifestyle digital media company that caters to millennial women, in an all-stock transaction.
The big picture: The Group Nine/PopSugar deal was the third major media deal that happened in the last month, signaling that consolidation is afoot.
Between the lines: Digital media execs and investors have privately told Axios that the combined valuation of Vice Media and Refinery29 should be much lower than the total $4 billion figure that has been reported.
Be smart: Private company valuations are set by a small number of investors, not markets. There's no guarantee an acquirer will agree with those figures, and "headline" valuations might mask all sort of structural mechanisms that protect investors at the expense of stock-holding employees, per Axios' Dan Primack.
The Justice Department's latest arguments against encryption, presented at a summit in Washington Friday, focus on child predators and take aim at only certain kinds of data, Joe Uchill reports.
Why it matters: This isn't the first salvo in the encryption debate — it wasn't even the first last week — but it does show how Attorney General William Barr plans to make the case for "back doors" in encryption, a case law enforcement agencies have tried and failed to win since the 1990s.
Driving the news: Law enforcement officials have long argued that when tech firms use secure encryption methods, police and intelligence agencies can't access potential evidence even when they have a warrant.
The arguments made at the Friday summit offer some new twists to the debate.
Child exploitation is the new terrorism: Under former FBI director James Comey, the last DOJ official in charge of making the case against encryption, the main argument was that encryption enabled terrorism. Friday's summit shifted the argument to child predators.
Changing the debate: Barr is explicitly narrowing his case for limiting encryption to chat apps and data at rest (i.e. data sitting on a hard drive). But encryption is also important for "data in transit" — it's what prevents eavesdroppers from capturing banking or e-commerce transactions.