May 2, 2019

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Situational awareness: A settlement proposal being discussed between Facebook and the FTC could see federally approved privacy officials installed at the company and potentially make CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally responsible for compliance, according to reports from Politico and the New York Times.

1 big thing: What Amazon knows about you

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Depending on how much you shop, watch and read with Amazon, the e-commerce behemoth may know more about you than any other company on earth.

The big picture: Naturally, they know what you've browsed or bought on their main service. They also know what you've asked Alexa, watched on Prime, and read on your Kindle.

  • Plus, they now know even more thanks to their ownership of Whole Foods, Ring, Eero, Twitch, Goodreads, IMDB and Audible.

Between the lines: As with Google or Facebook, what Amazon knows depends on how much you rely on its services. That said, these days Amazon's services are all around us.

  • Case in point: Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant, of course knows all the things you ask it — but that's only the beginning.
  • Amazon isn't recording everything you say, but rather starts recording when Alexa is summoned via a specific wake word (Alexa, Amazon, Computer or Echo). But there are instances where Alexa gets activated inadvertently and collects audio you had no intention of sending Amazon's way.

What else?

  • Key by Amazon: An optional delivery service for Prime members that literally invites the Everything Store into your home, car or garage to deliver goods ordered online. Amazon stresses that no one enters your premises without explicit permission, that delivery personnel don't themselves get access codes, and all of them undergo background checks.
  • Amazon Go: The company's cashier-less stores rely on deep surveillance of its aisles to allow customers to buy products without a formal checkout process. To do that, Amazon uses an array of cameras and sensors to determine who is taking what off the shelves.
  • Advertising: One of Amazon's fastest-growing businesses is serving up ads, a testament to just how much it knows about you.
  • Amazon Web Services: Amazon's cloud-computing service leads the market, capturing 32% of the global spend. But, as is the norm in the cloud industry, Amazon doesn't access any of the data stored on its services by businesses, with limited exceptions for court orders or security investigations.

Steps to protect yourself:

  • Delete your browsing history. Amazon offers some options to limit its information-gathering. For example, you can delete your browsing history and turn off the collection of browsing data.
  • Mute Alexa and delete recordings. Amazon's Alexa-powered Echo devices have a physical microphone-off button that can be pressed to ensure no recording takes place. Amazon also offers an option to delete the Alexa recordings it has made.
  • Choose alternatives. No other store offers quite as broad a selection as Amazon, but there are other megastores, such as Target and Walmart, as well as other options for digital media, smart home gear and physical retail outlets.

Go deeper: Click here to read the full story and see some of the different types of information gathered. And read the rest of our series...

2. Florida's Space Coast sees startup growth

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Florida’s Atlantic coast is experiencing a resurgence of space enthusiasm, but this time it’s driven by Pacific Coast billionaires with thick wallets and brainy entrepreneurs asking for cash, Axios' Kim Hart reports from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Why it matters: It’s been 50 years since the launch of Apollo 11 inspired a generation to pursue space travel. But a decade ago the Space Coast was hit with an economic double whammy — NASA’s shuttle program was canceled, and the nation was drowning in a devastating recession, just as renewed global competition raises the stakes.

  • Meanwhile, Space Florida, a state-chartered economic development program, and various economic development groups stepped in to promote aeronautical business in certain areas to fill the void left by the shuttle program.
  • Steve Case, AOL co-founder and venture capitalist, spent Tuesday touring the Space Coast on his "Rise of the Rest" tour that highlights startups and innovation outside the usual tech hubs.

What's happening: Today, the space center sees frequent launches, thanks in part to Elon Musk's SpaceX. As soon as this month, SpaceX plans to launch satellites to low earth orbit to provide broadband service.

  • Jeff Bezos' BlueOrigin is expanding its facilities here.
  • So is OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture with Airbus that just got a $1.2 billion investment from Softbank. The company plans to build hundreds of low earth orbit satellites to beam broadband.
  • Boeing, Embraer, Harris Corporation, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman employ thousands of people.

The big picture: The big companies have helped attract technical talent and nearby colleges are graduating a steady stream of engineers. But the private space tech ecosystem is still young, and local officials are trying to boost the fledgling startup scene.

What's next: NASA plans to return to the moon in 5 years, but can't do it alone, said Kira Blackwell, who runs NASA's iTech program, which matches new space tech companies with private investors.

"Technology is moving so quickly that it makes much better sense for us to partner with entrepreneurs to put boots on the moon."
— Kira Blackwell

Go deeper: Read Kim's full story.

3. Zynga CEO on moving from defense to offense

A quarter after declaring his company's turnaround complete, Zynga CEO Frank Gibeau tells Axios that he has shifted from defense to offense.

What's new: Zynga on Wednesday reported revenue ahead of expectations and also hiked its outlook for the full year, with Gibeau predicting Zynga will be a growth story through 2021.

"This is really the fun part."
— Frank Gibeau

The bigger picture: Gibeau acknowledges that Zynga is competing not only against other mobile games, but also against other leisure activities.

"We feel very comfortable competing against social networks and video services," he said. "More and more people are playing games."
4. AI takes center stage at Facebook's F8

Facebook’s annual developer conferences, F8, continued for a second day Wednesday with a focus on more technical news announcements, particularly around AI.

Here’s a rundown from Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva of what the company announced:

  • AI tools: Facebook announced the release of an update to its open source deep-learning framework, PyTorch, as well as other AI tools. The new version comes with additional developer tools to make it easier to use beyond the research phase.
  • AI for moderation: Facebook also discussed various facets of its use of AI to police content on its services, including self-supervised learning models which can use and understand data with less human supervision.
  • AI for inclusion: Another application of AI that Facebook showed off is its use in Portal, the social network’s video chat device, to make sure it can detect all people on the screen. Facebook said it’s making sure to train its technology on a wide and diverse range of data.

The big picture: Facebook has long touted the important of AI for its company and services, which operate globally and are used by more than 2 billion people. It's no surprise to see it showcase not only some of its home-grown tech, but also how it’s trying to be careful in its application.

Go deeper:

5. Take Note

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Trading Places

  • Lyft hired Google’s Tal Shaked as its first head of machine learning and AI.
  • Snowflake replaced longtime CEO and former Microsoft exec Bob Muglia, installing former ServiceNow CEO Frank Slootman.


  • Fortnite creator Epic Games is buying Pysonix, creator of Rocket League, a game where vehicles play soccer. (The Verge)
  • Qualcomm expects to record $4.5 billion to $4.7 billion in revenue during the quarter resulting from its settlement with Apple. (Axios)
  • The family of an Apple engineer who died during a car crash involving his Tesla in Autopilot mode is suing the carmaker. (TechCrunch)
  • Google said it will let consumers set their location and other data to be automatically deleted after either 3 or 18 months. (VentureBeat)
6. After you Login

A baby sea lion loitered on a California freeway Tuesday, before eventually turning itself in to a Highway Patrol officer.