May 14, 2020

Axios Login

So … How about those … Got any summer travel … Seen any good … Look, you try writing one of these every day while life remains shut down. Nevertheless: Good morning! Thanks, as always, for reading.

Today's Login is 1,503 words, a 6-minute read.

1 big thing: The Biden camp's bridges to tech

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A loose constellation of tech veterans is lining up to support presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The contingent is forming a largely moderate, Beltway-fluent contrast to President Trump's smaller bench of tech loyalists, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill and Kyle Daly report.

The big picture: Biden is drawing support from the technocratic circles that made for an amicable relationship between the Obama White House and Silicon Valley, including some people who once worked for Obama or Biden and now hold powerful positions at major tech firms.

What to watch: Here are some notable tech figures who are serving as Biden bundlers (that is, major fundraisers marshaling large sums of money from other donors):

  • Microsoft president Brad Smith and former president Jon Shirley
  • Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky
  • Facebook board member Jeff Zients (an ex-Obama official who co-hosted a fundraising event last year with other veterans of the administration including top Amazon spokesperson Jay Carney and Lyft policy chief Anthony Foxx) and former board member Erskine Bowles
  • Airbnb director of strategic partnerships Courtney O'Donnell
  • Hyperloop head of government affairs Michelle Kraus
  • Longtime tech investors Doug Hickey and Alan Patricof

Between the lines:

  • Despite Biden kicking off his campaign with an April 2019 fundraiser hosted by Comcast executive David Cohen, there aren't many other telecom veterans among the ranks of his bundlers.
  • The bundlers' names appear on a list the Biden campaign voluntarily disclosed in December 2019.

Biden has also received individual campaign donations from a smattering of tech insiders with past close ties to Biden specifically or the Obama administration more generally, according to Federal Election Commission records. They include:

  • Louisa Terrell, a McKinsey executive and Facebook veteran who served in several capacities in the Obama administration before leading the Biden Foundation from 2017 to 2019;
  • Terrell McSweeny, a Biden staffer in both the Senate and White House who subsequently became a Federal Trade Commissioner before entering private practice in 2018;
  • Scott Blake Harris, general counsel for the Obama Energy Department;
  • Tom Wheeler, FCC chairman under Obama; and
  • Apple executive Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Obama administration.

Meanwhile: At least two tech veterans are on record as officially advising the Biden campaign.

  • Cynthia Hogan, a top Apple policy executive in Washington, is one of four co-chairs of the selection committee charged with proposing a running mate for Biden. Hogan served as counsel to Biden when he was in the Senate and for both terms of the Obama administration. And, as Axios reported yesterday, Hogan plans to leave Apple next month.
  • Larry Strickling is serving as a policy coordinator for the campaign after filling a similar role in the Buttigieg campaign, according to his LinkedIn profile. Strickling headed Obama's National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Why it matters: Campaign fundraisers and well-connected donors can play an outsize role in shaping a presidency. Sometimes tapped for policy consultation, they can also bring people into an incoming president's orbit to fill open positions in the administration, or become candidates for those roles themselves.

The catch: It's hard to predict where a Biden administration might land on the largest collision points between tech and Washington — competition and privacy. His tech supporters may have a moderate tint, but the overall Democratic Party has grown more aggressive.

  • "Biden generally moves left or right with the broad strokes of his party," said Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, which tracks moves between the private sector and executive branch.

For more on the 2020 race, including how Trump's tech support lines up, read the full story.

2. Tech group presses Pence on reopening guidance

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A top tech trade group is pushing the Trump administration to provide clear nationwide guidance on how companies should approach reopening during the coronavirus pandemic, Margaret reports.

Why it matters: Conflicting guidance from federal, state and local authorities on how to safely get back to work is muddying an already daunting prospect.

Details: In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday, Information Technology Industry Council president Jason Oxman is seeking a clear set of guidelines that address the following topics:

  • Assessing readiness: Creating a checklist of measures employers should consider taking before reopening that includes social distancing practices and cleaning protocols.
  • Health monitoring: Identifying effective COVID-19 screening methods that can be used in a workplace, as well as encouraging widespread testing as capacity increases.
  • Transmission mitigation: Techniques employers can use to reduce virus spread such as reconfiguring cubicles or workspaces, determining who is responsible for providing face coverings, and maintaining records on contact tracing.
  • Employee support: How to respond to employees whose immigration status is uncertain due to the pandemic or who must care for family members.

Go deeper: Reopening debate opens tech rift

3. Snapchat preps young users to vote in November

Snapchat is working to get younger users to register to vote ahead of the 2020 general election, executives tell Axios' Sara Fischer.

Why it matters: The company is redoubling voter engagement efforts after successfully registering 450,000 voters through its app during the 2018 midterms. New data shows that more than half of those that registered actually went out and cast ballots.

By the numbers: The new data from DemocracyWorks, a nonpartisan nonprofit that runs civic tech companies like TurboVote and BallotScout, shows that 57% of Snapchat users last cycle that registered on the platform did indeed cast a ballot.

  • Of those that registered, 57% were between the ages of 18 and 24, a demographic that generally sees low turnout.
  • "Snap's success on voter engagement is more important than ever, given that on-the-ground voter engagement can’t be counted on in a pandemic environment," says Mike Ward, VP of Voter Engagement at DemocracyWorks.

The big picture: Snapchat has leaned into civic engagement over the past two cycles, upping its political content and pushing to get more of its largely young user base to register, find their polling places and obtain accurate information about the election.

  • In February, Snapchat launched a new voter registration initiative, which pushes notifications to user profiles when they turn 18 with directions to register to vote.
  • Over half (52%) of 18-to-24-year-old Snapchatters will be voting for the first time this November, according to a new survey from GlobalWebIndex.
  • In a normal election year, first-time voters would likely be registering on-campus at college, but amid the pandemic, those options are limited.

Between the lines: Candidates are pushing to get in front of Snap's audience.

  • Snapchat's flagship original show "Good Luck America" has hosted nearly every presidential contender this cycle, including former Vice President Joe Biden, whose three-part interview on the show debuted Wednesday and runs again on Thursday and Friday.
  • Data shows that President Trump's reelection campaign has built the largest following on the platform.
4. Groups want FTC to probe kids’ privacy on TikTok

A coalition of children's advocacy groups accused video-sharing platform TikTok of violating children's privacy and called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate in a complaint Thursday, Margaret reports.

Why it matters: TikTok is facing heat from Washington over concerns about how well it's protecting kids who use its wildly popular app — and it paid $5.7 million last year to settle an FTC investigation alleging that a predecessor app illegally obtained children's personal information.

Details: The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy and others argue TikTok has not lived up to the terms of last year's FTC settlement and continues to violate the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by:

  • Failing to destroy personal information of users under 13 years old that was collected prior to the 2019 settlement.
  • Not giving proper notice to parents or obtaining their consent before collecting kids' personal information.
  • Not allowing parents to review or delete their children's personal information.

The other side: "We take privacy seriously and are committed to helping ensure that TikTok continues to be a safe and entertaining community for our users," a TikTok spokesperson said in response to the complaint.

  • The company is working to alert lawmakers to recent efforts to address concerns including kids’ privacy, and last month it announced greater controls for parents over how their teens use the app.
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • The Nordic Innovation Summit, which was slated to be an in-person event in Seattle, will take place today online. Among the likely highlights is a panel of top public health officials from the Nordic region, including Iceland's top medical officer, Alma Möller, who will share what the country did to test, trace, track and virtually eliminate COVID-19 on its soil.

Trading Places

  • Mozilla named former Salesforce, Microsoft and Google veteran Adam Seligman as its new COO.
  • Marc Levoy, who had headed the photography efforts within Google's Pixel team, left the company in March, per The Information.


  • Beginning next week, Uber will require that drivers and passengers wear masks, among other COVID 19-related safety measures. (Axios)
  • New York City has moved to cap delivery fees to restaurants at 15%. (Axios)
  • Intel is updating its corporate social responsibility goals, hoping by 2030 to help spur broader societal change around environmental sustainability, access to tech and improving health and safety. (Fortune)
  • Facebook is launching Bitmoji-like avatars for use within Messenger. (CNET)
  • Google veterans say the company has dramatically rolled back its diversity and inclusion initiatives, though Google disputes it. (NBC News)
  • An amendment to Patriot Act reauthorization legislation to keep law enforcement from digitally surveilling Americans without a warrant failed to pass in the Senate. (Vox)
  • Amazon is calling for federal legislation banning price gouging after third-party sellers on its site jacked up prices for protective gear and sanitizer, among other products. (CNBC)
  • President Trump extended an executive order aimed at pushing Huawei and ZTE hardware out of the U.S. (Reuters)
6. After you Login

I love the "nature returns" meme skewering puffed-up claims about wild animals quickly reclaiming empty cities. But here's an actual video of some (escaped domestic) goats running wild through San Jose.