Jul 11, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Dear Washington D.C., thanks for the warm welcome. A little less warm and a lot less muggy would have been even better.

1 big thing: Why Apple needs (but hates) to sue leakers

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While Apple hates when people spill its secrets, it also hates having to go to court against leakers. That’s because the legal process often forces the company to talk about things it would otherwise never reveal.

Why it matters: In the latest case, Apple would appear to have had little choice. Criminal charges were brought Tuesday by the U.S. government against former Apple autonomous vehicle system engineer Xiaolang Zhang.

The intrigue: Zhang is accused of trade secret theft for downloading thousands of Apple documents and stealing a server before taking a job with Xiaopeng Motors, a Chinese company pursuing autonomous vehicle efforts.

Be smart: In going to the cops, Apple now has to deal with revelations about a project that Apple has said precious little about. Several key details were revealed in the initial complaint:

1. 5,000 people had access to information related to Project Titan, Apple's autonomy project. This is the most widely discussed detail.

  • Some are misreading this to suggest Apple has 5,000 people devoted to self-driving efforts. That's probably not the case, but it also indicates that reports that it has more than 1,000 people on the effort are likely true.
  • Zhang was a "core employee" on the team and one of 2,700 Apple employees with access to one or more of the team's databases.

2. Apple had to confirm various pieces of the project, including the fact it is working on both software and hardware and using custom circuit boards to analyze sensor data.

3. Apple also detailed its efforts to protect sensitive information, including a process requiring those that need access on a secret project to be "sponsored" by an employee that already has access.

History lesson: In past court cases, such as the Samsung lawsuit, the public learned how Apple designs its products around a kitchen table, and got a peek at various iPhone and iPad prototypes, among other revelations.

The bottom line: It's always a cost-benefit analysis for companies like Apple. When they do take legal action, it means that they have decided that clamping down on leaks is of greater importance than the further disclosures that will inevitably flow from such litigation.

Our thought bubble: While Tuesday's filing didn't exactly lay bare Apple's plans, it's certainly more than Apple would have otherwise shared.

Go deeper: Read the whole story here.

2. Social media is key to political movements
Expand chart
Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Note: Respondents who did not give an answer are not shown; Chart: Axios Visuals

A majority of Americans think social media is important for getting elected officials to pay attention to issues or creating sustained social movements, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

The details: Roughly half of Americans have been civically active on social media in the past year, with just over a third saying they have taken part in a group that shares an interest in an issue/cause.

The poll also found that social media platforms are especially important to black and Hispanic users and that Democrats are more likely to say that social media is important for helping users find others who share their views.

Why it matters: Protests and social movements in the U.S. are escalating faster and happening more frequently, due in large part to the ability for large groups of likeminded people to collect online and share information on social media.

Go deeper: Sara Fischer has more here.

3. Facebook faces British fine

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

British regulators are calling for Facebook to be fined about $660,000 in conjunction with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the maximum amount allowed by law.

What's next: Facebook still has a chance to respond to the allegations and proposed fine.

The bottom line: In dollar terms, the maximum fine would have minimal impact. Kevin Roose from the New York Times calculated it equates to about 7 minutes' worth of revenue for the company. But, as Syracuse professor Jennifer Grygiel points out, it would also create documentation that could be used as the basis for further actions.

Meanwhile, Sara reports that Facebook is launching a slate of video shows on its video platform, Watch, on July 16.

4. Uber's HR chief out

Uber app logo on smartphone. Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Uber's head of human resources, Liane Hornsey, has resigned from the company, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports. Her departure comes a day after Reuters contacted Uber about an investigation into complaints about Hornsey's handling of allegations of race-based discrimination, according to the outlet.

Why it matters: Hornsey joined Uber in early 2017 shortly before the company entered a long period of controversies over its workplace culture, which led to then-CEO Travis Kalanick's resignation a year ago.

The details of the allegations, per Reuters:

  • A law firm investigated allegations by an anonymous group of Uber employees that Hornsey systematically dismissed complaints of race-based discrimination.
  • The group also alleged that Hornsey made derogatory comments about Bernard Coleman, Uber's global head of diversity and inclusion, and had disparaged and threatened Bozoma Saint John, Uber's then-chief brand officer, who left last month.
  • The law firm's investigators reportedly substantiated some of the allegations (though it's unclear which ones) and made recommendations to Uber's leadership.

Uber declined to comment on the investigation and allegations.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • The house is holding a hearing on the impact of intellectual property laws on innovation.
  • The RISE conference continues in Hong Kong.

Trading Places

  • Apple combined its Siri and machine learning teams under former Google executive John Giannandrea, TechCrunch says.
  • Dolby hired former Samsung marketing executive Todd Pendleton as chief marketing officer.
  • Cloud data management firm Rubrik has hired former Box legal chief Peter McGoff as its first chief legal officer and former Adobe executive Jeff Vijungco as chief people officer.


6. After you Login

Now this is how you fold a fitted sheet.

Ina Fried