Mar 13, 2019

Axios Login

Ina Fried

Situational awareness: Spotify has filed a complaint with the European Commission charging Apple with unfairly limiting competition in its App Store.

And, Happy Birthday, Login! (See below.)

1 big thing: Amazon's wide Washington reach
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Data: Federal lobbying disclosures; Get the data; Graphic: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Amazon lobbied more federal entities last year than any other public U.S. company, Axios' David McCabe and Erica Pandey report. The retailer is pressing its case throughout the government at a time when its power and reach is under a magnifying glass.

Why it matters: The sprawling nature of Amazon's lobbying operation is a reflection of its vast business. What began as an online retailer is now a behemoth that touches health care, cloud computing, media and the transportation sector — and the regulatory challenges it faces are just as complex.

The bottom line: In its filings last year, Amazon disclosed lobbying 40 different federal entities on 21 different general issue areas.

  • Amazon's total number of federal entities lobbied was higher than any other public company's, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. (The group's totals also include forms filed by individual outside lobbyists on behalf of the companies.)
  • Among public companies, Amazon ranked below Alphabet, Bayer, DowDuPont and Parker Hannifin on another metric — the total number of issues lobbied, according to the group's data.
  • Yes, but: The issue codes used in lobbying disclosures are very broad, often encompassing several major issues in one category. And there can be discrepancies in how different companies fill out their disclosure forms.

Details: Of course, Amazon advocates on a host of traditional tech and telecom issues, like net neutrality and data breach standards. It has also been locked in a battle with competitors over a Pentagon cloud computing contract.

  • But its lobbying records also show a company with interests in regulatory fights around food, drugs and transportation.
  • Amazon lobbied last year on self-driving car and drone issues, a sign of its investments in autonomous delivery of customers' packages.
  • A growing player in the grocery business, Amazon lobbied on a forthcoming pilot program to allow online grocers to participate in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, as well as on the standard for labeling bioengineered food.

The big picture: Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and a prominent critic of the company tells Axios...

"When you put all these data points together, [Amazon] looks like a giant squid with many arms busy reconfiguring nearly every corner of our economy — and our laws. This is one reason monopoly power is a problem."
"Left unchecked, these giant corporations inevitably begin to govern us. It should be the other way around."

The other side: Amazon issued a statement...

"Amazon provides a wide range of products and services for our customers, and we're always looking for ways to innovate on their behalf. Our Washington, D.C. team is focused on ensuring we are advocating on issues that are important to policymakers, our employees and our customers."

Go deeper:

2. Happy 30th, World Wide Web

Normally I hate anniversary stories. However, the World Wide Web turned 30 years old Tuesday and people took to social media to post some incredible memories.

The reactions came in response to a call from the founder of the web himself, Tim Berners-Lee, who also took his own stroll down memory lane. The goal of the effort is to build a timeline of the internet.

Here are some of my favorite #web30 posts:

3. Login turns two

Image: Ina Fried/Axios

Since we are celebrating anniversaries today, we may as well celebrate our own. Login launched 2 years ago today.

Flashback: For those who weren't reading it at the time, here's the debut issue, featuring an interview with Bill Gates and an analysis of Intel's purchase of Mobileye (which Axios' Dan Primack and I came so close to scooping). And, of course, it had the very first After you Login.

The bottom line: We couldn't do it without you, our readers, and a hearty thanks to all of you.

4. IBM trained facial recognition using Flickr images

IBM is facing a backlash after NBC News reported the company is using a set of Flickr images to help train a facial recognition system.

Why it matters: Although the photos in question were shared under a Creative Commons license, many photographers note they never imagined their images would be used in this way. Furthermore, the people shown in the images didn't consent to anything.

IBM defended its project as an effort to improve the accuracy of facial recognition and said it was being used for research, rather than commercial purposes. They said...

"IBM has been committed to building responsible, fair and trusted technologies for more than a century and believes it is critical to strive for fairness and accuracy in facial recognition."
"We take the privacy of individuals very seriously and have taken great care to comply with privacy principles, including limiting the Diversity in Faces dataset to publicly available image annotations and limiting the access of the dataset to verified researchers."

Community technologist Jessamyn West, who publicly criticized IBM for using 15 of her images, told Axios that she's concerned about the way permissions granted in one context are being used to do something entirely different.

"I'm less concerned with my own photo being used in some
weird way by IBM but by what I see as 'mission creep' where these
things start out as one thing and turn into another," West said.

In response, IBM said those looking to opt out of the project, whether photographers or subjects, can do so here.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • The cool kids are still scootering around Austin for SXSW.

Trading Places

  • Uber has hired Sarah Timoney Paul, a former staffer for Sen. Dean Heller, to work in its D.C. federal policy office.
  • ANGI Homeservices, parent of Angie's List and HomeAdvisor, promoted Jamie Cohen to CFO.

ICYMI

  • Jigsaw, part of Google parent Alphabet, released Tune, a Chrome plug-in that aims to help filter out some of the toxic parts of the web. (CNET)
  • Foxconn chief Terry Gou angrily responded to Microsoft's suit over patents. (Bloomberg)
  • Amazon closed its deal to buy mesh router maker Eero and added a fresh pledge to keep user data private. (The Verge)
  • Speaking of Amazon, the company is hiring up to 3,000 remote customer service reps. However, the jobs are temporary, part-time and pay Amazon's minimum wage of $15 per hour. (Axios)
6. After you Login

Someone put these awesome "clap activated" stickers on scooters at SXSW. Now all I want is video of someone trying to follow those instructions.

Ina Fried