Apr 5, 2018

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By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

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Facebook blitzes media before Capitol Hill trip

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is due to testify at two congressional hearings next week, but Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg are first making the rounds with reporters.

What we're hearing: Zuckerberg spent nearly an hour taking questions on a conference call Wednesday. Among the highlights:

  • Most of its 2 billion users could have had the public parts of their profiles scraped before Facebook turned off some search options on Wednesday.
  • So far Facebook has seen no "meaningful" defections from users or advertisers.
  • Zuckerberg admitted making some big mistakes but still believes he is the right person to lead the company. And no one has been fired because, he said, "I started this place, I run it, I’m responsible for what happens here."

Ahead of the press call, Facebook revealed more people than previously thought — as many as 87 million — may have had their information accessed by Cambridge Analytica (something that firm denies, per TechCrunch). Facebook also detailed 9 new steps it's taking to better protect users' information.

Meanwhile, Sandberg is scheduled to do several interviews Thursday, including sit-downs with PBS NewsHour, Bloomberg TV, the Today Show, NPR and Fox News. Zuckerberg will take a break from the press and focus on preparing for his congressional testimony.

The bottom line: By rolling out privacy updates and interviews with apologetic executives, the company is trying to give Zuckerberg material he can use to save himself when he faces fired-up lawmakers. But the new revelations about the scale of Facebook’s privacy scandals are giving critics on Capitol Hill more to work with, too.

Between the lines: Zuckerberg's challenge is to avoid the screw-ups of other corporate executives called to account on Capitol Hill. That includes coming across as defiant, as Bill Gates did defending Microsoft in the heat of his firm's '90s antitrust battle, or tone deaf, like the auto executives who flew private to D.C. seeking a bailout.

David McCabe and Sara Fischer have more here.

Amazon extends its lead in parental controls

Amazon's new dashboard lets parents remotely see what their kids are up to. Screenshot: Amazon.com

Amazon, which already has some of the most parent-friendly options for its Fire tablets, is adding 2 key improvements on Thursday.

Specifically, Amazon is:

  • adding a new web-based parent dashboard that provides insights on what your children are doing on their devices and also lets parents remotely change the parental controls on a kid's device.
  • debuting discussion cards that provide possible conversation points related to the apps, books and videos kids are using.

Background: The company points to a recent survey of a thousand parents that found 72% want kids to have their own tablet or smartphones and three quarters don't want to hover. At the same time, parents want to know what their kids are up to and to set limits.

"We do view our role as helping parents really accomplish these goals," Amazon general manager Kurt Beidler told Axios. Beidler said Amazon's products aim to "create spaces where your kids can explore and learn independently."

Why it matters: The moves come as Apple and Google are expected to invest more in this area.

Amazon tries to ease security for AWS users

Amazon's AWS Secrets Manager. Photo: Amazon

Meanwhile, another part of Amazon is trying to make it easier for business customers to do the right thing when it comes to security.

What's new: At a conference in San Francisco Wednesday, Amazon announced AWS Secrets Manager, a new tool designed to keep people from storing passwords and other sensitive information in plain documents.

  • "People will do that sometimes because it's convenient," Amazon's Ariel Kelman told Axios. With the new tool, Amazon hopes to make it just as easy to do things in a secure way.

Why it matters: As Kelman puts it, the biggest problem in computer security isn't the technology, it's the people using it.

More details on the YouTube shooting

A more detailed, if still not yet complete, picture of Tuesday's shooting at YouTube's headquarters has started to emerge. Police confirmed that they believe Nasim Najafi Aghdam, the suspect in the YouTube shooting, was motivated by her anger at the video site for restricting her videos.

The details, per San Bruno police:

  • Aghdam was at a Bay Area gun range the morning of the shooting.
  • Aghdam apparently entered YouTube through a parking lot. She apparently was able to get from there to a campus courtyard, but not into the YouTube building itself.
  • They have secured her vehicle, and agencies are serving 2 search warrants at homes in Southern California.
  • The gun was legally possessed and owned.

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I'm not much for golf, but I'm a sucker for family sports stories. And Jack Nicklaus' grandson hit a hole-in-one at Augusta National on Wednesday. You can watch the shot here.

Ina Fried