Aug 7, 2018

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Situational awareness: Elon Musk is considering taking Tesla private, tweeting this afternoon that he's got the funding to buy the company at $420 a share (roughly $85 billion).

  • Why it matters: Axios' Dan Primack notes that either Musk has quietly pulled a huge coup by securing enough financing to buy his company at a premium, or he's about to get crushed by the SEC for market manipulation.
1 big thing: Your face is your password

Photo: Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Your face is increasingly serving as your password, whether for boarding on some international flights, clearing a security line for an entertainment event or opening your iPhone X.

Why it matters: The privacy tradeoffs for this added convenience and security will be a major issue for companies and governments.

The latest:

  • Tokyo's 2020 Olympic Games will use facial recognition for all accredited individuals, the AP's Mari Yamaguchi reports, in an effort to reduce crowding and make logistics easier. Long lines for athletes are a routine hassle at the games.
  • Mineta San Jose International Airport is the first U.S. airport on the West Coast to embrace biometric security systems from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • China's e-commerce giant JD.com is going global with its unmanned store technology, which uses facial recognition to charge customers. The concept is already popular in China, and JD has just opened its first humanless store in Indonesia.

What they're saying:

  • “I would find it superconvenient if I could use my face at the gate,” AI researcher Jonathan Frankle told the N.Y. Times, on the idea of facial recognition as a boarding pass.
  • "[But] the concern is, what else could that data be used for?”
  • Axios' Kaveh Waddell emails to distinguish between government and commercial uses: "Both have their potential downsides, but they're very different: Taken to their logical ends, one path leads to Minority Report-style advertising and the other leads to Xinjiang-style policing and surveillance. Right now, airports are mixing commercial and government facial recognition."

The big picture: This goose is somewhat cooked. Something like half of Americans adults are in police facial recognition databases, a Georgetown study estimated in 2016.

Bonus: Photo du jour

Photo: Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP

Crystal Easter comforts her dogs as they flee a wildfire in California. This is her second evacuation this year.

2. What you missed
  1. Google and its products combined for 34.2% of all time on digital media in June. Go deeper.
  2. Trend watch: We'll be paying attention to Michigan's gubernatorial primary tonight, where Abdul el-Sayed puts the progressive single-payer push to the test. Go deeper.
  3. 48% of Republicans agree that "the news media is the enemy of the American people," according to an Ipsos poll released by The Daily Beast. So do 26% of independents and 12% of Democrats. Go deeper.
  4. Private equity firm TPG has closed on over $10 billion in total commitments for its eighth flagship buyout fund and a new health care focused fund. Go deeper.
  5. Problems in Florida: The toxic algae bloom, found in saltwater, now spans well over 100 miles of Florida's western coastline. The ongoing red tide event is unusually severe and long-lasting this year, causing major fish kills, and making people cough and choke when they visit area beaches. Go deeper.
  6. And in California: The massive wildfires burning in California are emitting so much smoke that parts of the state, as well as neighboring states, now have some of the most hazardous air quality readings of anywhere in the world. Go deeper.
3. 1 film thing

Hilary Swank and Jared Leto, who have portrayed transgender characters. (AP Photo)

"When actress Scarlett Johansson reversed course recently and canceled plans to play a transgender man in the film 'Rub & Tug,' transgender actors like Scott Turner Schofield were gratified — and pleasantly surprised," the AP's Jocelyn Noveck reports.

  • "'To have someone with any amount of power be reflective, and say, 'I did something wrong, I learned something and I'm sorry' — that absolutely feels like change,' says Schofield, a veteran trans performer who stars in the upcoming European film "The Conductor.'"
  • "Now, Schofield and others hope Hollywood will understand an even bigger point — that the 'authentic casting' debate stoked by the Johansson episode isn't just about who gets acting roles."
  • "The real goal, he says, is access for the transgender community at every level of the Hollywood storytelling process, from the first idea pitch to the final product."

Go deeper.

Mike Allen