May 9, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Situational awareness: In the New York Times, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes called on the U.S. government to break up the company. "Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but our government can," he wrote.

Last night was a stressful, but ultimately successful time for the Bay Area sports teams as the Sharks won game 7 to advance and the Warriors held off the Rockets to take a 3-2 lead in their series.

  • Hold on, I'm being told that Axios Sports is another newsletter entirely. Apparently I am supposed to be writing about tech. OK, so, yes, Draymond Green got a tech, but the Warriors still won...
1 big thing: What Apple, Facebook and Google each mean by privacy

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Apple, Facebook, and Google are all firmly on the record now: They agree that privacy is a good thing, that government should protect it, and that you can trust them to respect it.

But, as Axios' Scott Rosenberg reports, each company defines privacy differently and emphasizes different trade-offs in delivering it.

For Apple, privacy is primarily about keeping your personal data between you and your device.

  • Apple was making its case long before the recent wave of privacy scandals and data spills. It's built on the Mac's reputation for being more secure than Windows, and on strong device-level encryption that's built into most iPhones.
  • It also helps that the company's profits come mostly from selling hardware rather than selling ads, which are targeted based on user data.

Yes, but: Users don't even think about where their data is stored, and Apple's sales pitch may become increasingly irrelevant as the cloud becomes even fuzzier at the edges.

  • Many users backup their iOS devices to Apple's iCloud. While Apple doesn't normally access those backups, it will provide them to law enforcement with a court order.
  • Also, Apple has begun touting a shift to revenue from services, which will put it more in the same game that Facebook and Google play.

For Facebook, privacy chiefly means limiting who can see what you post or send.

  • Under CEO Mark Zuckerberg's new pivot to privacy, the social network is encouraging users to move their interactions from the "town square" of public profiles and pages to the "digital living room" of private groups.
  • It's also committed to encrypting each of its three messaging services — Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and the long-encrypted WhatsApp.

Yes, but: This approach to privacy barely acknowledges the complaint from users and critics that they're most concerned about how much Facebook itself knows and shares about them — and what they most want is privacy from Facebook.

  • Encryption only protects direct messaging, not posts shared in groups and on limited-access profiles.

For Google, privacy is now an option that you can invoke.

  • The search giant's new privacy agenda, unveiled this week, offers users a host of settings that allow them to limit or opt out of Google's collection and retention of personal data. It's also promising to limit advertisers' use of sensor data from Google's growing hardware lineup.
  • CEO Sundar Pichai is emphasizing that data collection is what makes Google's services useful — like when Google Maps knows where "home" is for you, or when aggregation of anonymous traffic data tells you how bad your commute is today.
  • According to Pichai, only "a small subset of data helps serve ads that are relevant and that provide the revenue that keeps Google products free and accessible," and "if receiving a customized ads experience isn’t helpful, you can turn it off."

Yes, but: Most users never bother to change default settings. And Google still collects a ton of data, which can be a concern for those worried that the government might improperly access it.

Go deeper

2. Uber drivers noisily strike ahead of IPO

Frustrated over low pay and other issues, Uber and Lyft drivers aimed to send a message Wednesday, with sporadic walkouts just ahead of the ride-hailing service's planned stock offering.

Yes, but: Despite protests outside Uber's San Francisco headquarters and in at least 10 U.S. cities, it's not clear what impact the actions will have, in either the short or long term.

  • This was nothing like a traditional strike, since technically Uber drivers are contractors who set their own hours.
  • In many of the cities, passengers reported little trouble hailing rides and, ultimately, Uber's supply of drivers seems to remain strong given the number of people who have a car and need extra income.

Why it matters: Arguably, the biggest opportunity for the drivers is that they might attract interest from regulators in a position to act in support of workers.

  • They can also keep filing arbitration claims against the company, Bloomberg noted, adding that some 60,000 drivers have filed such claims, per the company's SEC filings.

What's next: Uber is plowing ahead toward its IPO, with the stock expected to be trading publicly by the end of the week.

3. GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Hawley cited Candy Crush as an example of "pay to win" games. Photo: Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is proposing legislation that would ban "pay to win" features in some video games, as well as certain in-game "loot boxes," Axios' Orion Rummler reports.

Details: These bans would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general. They would target games for children under 18 and games with a wide user base but "whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions," per Hawley's press release.

Hawley's office says the FTC would treat the distribution of games with "pay to win" features and "loot boxes" as an "unfair trade practice."

  • Hawley said game developers "shouldn't be able to monetize addiction" in children and highlighted the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act as a baseline guide for the bill.

Go deeper: How loot boxes hooked gamers and left regulators spinning

4. Chart of the day: Big companies are creating fewer jobs

Increasingly, big companies aren't adding jobs as fast as they are gaining in market value. This chart looks at the average number of jobs per $1 billion in market cap for the 20 largest U.S. firms by market capitalization in recent years.

Expand chart
Data: PwC analysis for Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: This could be a harbinger of things to come, as adoption of artificial intelligence and automation further disconnects wealth creation and job creation.

5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Steve Singh is stepping down as CEO of Docker, to be replaced by former Hortonworks CEO Rob Bearden. Singh will remain chairman of Docker's board.
  • Airbnb hired Melissa C. Thomas-Hunt as head of global diversity and belonging. She was previously a vice provost at Vanderbilt University.


  • Roku shares rose after-hours on Wednesday in the wake of quarterly financials that showed sizable growth in revenue and users. (MarketWatch)
  • Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg face subpoenas in Canada, though to enforce the order, they would have to enter Canada. (CBS News)
  • A U.K. government official says the country's 5G rollout may be slowed to address security concerns. (Reuters)
6. After you Login

Warner Bros. punked Pokémon fans with a fake version of Detective Pikachu "leaked" to YouTube ahead of Friday's theatrical release.

Ina Fried