Jun 11, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Hello from Code Conference, where it's 107 degrees outside and even hotter on stage if you are a tech executive being forced to explain your handling of hate speech. But more on that in a moment.

If you are counting words, today's Login comes in at 1,103 words. (But some of them are really short ones.)

1 big thing: What Apple knows about you

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Apple pitches itself as the most privacy-minded of the Big Tech companies, and indeed it goes to great lengths to collect less data than its rivals.

Nonetheless, the iPhone maker will still know plenty about you if you use many of its services. In particular, Apple knows your billing information and all the digital and physical goods you have bought from it, including music, movie and app purchases.

Yes, but: Even for heavy users, Apple offers a different approach. It uses a number of techniques to either minimize how much data it has or encrypt it so that Apple doesn't have access to iMessages and similar personal communications.

Between the lines: Apple is able to do this, in part, because it makes its money from selling hardware and increasingly services, rather than through advertising.

  • Well, it does have some advertising business and also gets billions of dollars per year from Google in exchange for being Apple's default search provider.
  • But Apple maintains that its commitment to privacy is based not just on its business model but on core values.

How it works: In order to collect less data, Apple tries to do as much work on its devices as possible, even if that sometimes means algorithms aren't as well tuned, processing is slower, or the same work gets done on multiple devices.

  • Photos are a case in point. Even if you store your images in Apple's iCloud, Apple does the work of facial identification, grouping, labeling and tagging images on the Mac or iOS device, rather than on the service's own computers.
  • Some of the most sensitive data that your device collects, including your fingerprint or Face ID, stay on the device.

Maps: While Apple does need to do some processing in the cloud, it takes a number of steps to protect privacy beyond its competitors.

  • First, the identification and management of significant locations like your home and work is done on the device.
  • And the location information that does get sent up to the cloud is tied to a unique identifier code rather than a specific individual's identity — and that identifier changes over time.

Location information: Beyond Apple's Maps program, other applications, including some from Apple, can make use of location data with user permission. Apple is adding new options with iOS 13, due this coming fall, including...

  • The ability for users to share their location with an app just once, rather than giving ongoing access.
  • For apps that are making routine background use of location, Apple is also letting users review a map of the locations these apps are seeing, so they can decide if that is information they really want to be sharing.

Read more of this story, with further info on iCloud, Apple email, Messages, Safari, Siri, Apple Pay, Apple Music and TV — plus what you can do about it.

Go deeper: Read the rest of the series on what companies know about you, like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

2. Exclusive: Google CEO on breaking up Big Tech

Screenshot from "Axios on HBO"

Google CEO Sundar Pichai says there are a lot of positive things that Big Tech companies can do by virtue of their size, but it will be up to society to decide whether they have grown too large.

"It's not for us to say what is the right size," Pichai said during an interview with "Axios on HBO."

  • But he also added, "We see benefits which we can bring to bear."
  • "We're able to work hard on important areas for society and take a long-term view in developing those foundational technologies."
  • Watch the clip

Meanwhile, Facebook executives also addressed the bigness question at Code Conference, but spoke emphatically about why the company shouldn't be broken up. Instagram head Adam Mosseri said doing so would hurt the social network's ability to fight election fraud and other big issues.

  • Mosseri noted that there are more people at Facebook working on integrity and safety than all the people working on Instagram. "If you split us up, you would cut that off," he said.
  • Read more
3. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on the hot seat
Susan Wojcicki. Photo: Asa Mathat for Vox Media

Really, is that the best you can do?

Essentially, that was the question put to senior executives at Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at Code Conference on Monday.

What's happening: Leaders at each of the firms found different ways to articulate the magnitude of the problem and defend their companies' actions.

  • YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki began her interview by apologizing to the LGBTQ community for the hurt caused by the handling of the Steven Crowder/Carlos Maza controversy, but then proceeded to say she agreed with YouTube's actions. I pressed Wojcicki on the contradiction and she said that had YouTube taken down Crowder's video, it would have had to take down lots of others as well. Watch the video of my question and her answer.
  • Twitter product head Kayvon Beykpour and lead counsel Vijaya Gadde discussed the range of product and policy moves the company is making to address the health of its conversations, including giving those who start a thread more control over the ensuing dialogue.
  • Facebook VR/AR executive Andrew Bosworth and Mosseri, as mentioned earlier, talked up the value of having their large company's combined resources to address the scale of the challenges, rejecting the idea that Facebook has created these problems because of its size. "This isn't circular logic; this is an economy of scale," Bosworth said.

The bottom line: This conversation is key right now. But it's not about who can come up with the best line on stage, it's about who can create a healthy community.

4. Chart of the day: Mobile is gaming's future
Expand chart
Data: PwC; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Social gaming is expected to catch up to traditional console gaming in the next few years in revenue and popularity, Axios' Michael Sykes and Sara Fischer report.

  • Mobile and social gaming are expected to grow nearly 7% by 2023 to $13.8 billion, per PwC.
  • Traditional, console-based gaming is expected to jump about 3% in that same span to about $15 billion.
  • 39% of the gaming population polled in a Deloitte study say they use a mobile device at least half the time.

Go deeper

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Code Conference continues in Scottsdale, Arizona. Mary Meeker will issue her infamous PowerPoint of internet trends, while speakers include the New York Times' A.G. Sulzberger, SoFi's Anthony Noto and Delta CEO Ed Bastian.
  • Video game trade show E3 officially kicks off in Los Angeles, though much of the key news is already out at this point.
  • The U.S. women's soccer team begins its World Cup play in a match against Thailand at noon PT.

Trading Places

  • My editor, Scott Rosenberg, was able to watch Game 5 of the Warriors-Raptors series on TV, while I was busy reporting for most of the game.

ICYMI

  • A U.S. Customs subcontractor suffered a breach after someone copied license plates and photos from the agency's network, highlighting security concerns over government collection of sensitive information. (Axios)
  • Shutterfly is being acquired by Apollo Global for $2.7 billion. (CNBC)
  • Intel is buying Barefoot Networks. (TechCrunch)
6. After you Login

Forget charging people 10 cents. This is the way to make shoppers remember to bring their own reusable bag.

Ina Fried