Apple Watch Series 4; Instagram’s Story; Re-discovering The Beatles

After a summer hiatus, Codebrief is back! I’ll be experimenting with the format over the coming weeks, so let me know what works and what doesn’t. The general charge will be to “organize the internet“; There’s so much good content out there, my goal is to put it in front of readers each week. Additionally, I wrote two articles this week, one about the Apple Watch Series 4 (below), and one highlighting the history of watchmaker Patek Phillipe, for the rappers out there.

Main Course

In 2017, Tim Cook announced to the world that the Apple Watch was the “#1 watch in the world” – in revenue – not just in units sold. So how does the new Series 4 move the needle? Unlike most categories, Apple doesn’t make the “nicest watch” (leave that to others (my history of Patek Phillipe). But, wearing an Apple Watch does convey a different type of status, one equally coveted in today’s world: “Taking care of one’s self is the newest status symbol, and the Apple Watch might just be the best way to communicate to others that you live a life worthy of such status… Usually, an Apple product is a symbol that you own the nicest product in that given category (as John Gruber deftly put it in his review). The Apple Watch though, is something slightly different: it’s a symbol that you’re living the nicest life possible.” Read my full take here.

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📷 Why Instagram’s founders left: TechCrunch has an in-depth, well-sourced analysis of why Instagram’s two founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, have put in their two weeks notice at parent company Facebook. Perhaps this paragraph explains it most succinctly: “Systrom and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg historically got along, but they had occasional diverging opinions. A source said that a few times a year they’d clash before resolving things. Those clashes included “Sharing back to Facebook. Kevin wanted to keep the sharing on Instagram but at some point Mark wanted content production on Instagram to flow to Facebook. But things got more heated lately. “Recently Mark decided to pull all of the links to Instagram from Facebook.

In short, Instagram’s co-founders built a spectacular product and sold it to Zuckerberg before they had to worry about making money. The relationship was perfectly symbiotic: Instagram could build its ad business off the back of Facebook’s already well-developed network, and Facebook could continue to grow, even as its main product (Facebook.com, that is) stagnated. And now that it’s increasingly looking like Instagram has won the product battle against Snapchat by introducing Stories, it’s again up to Facebook to figure out how to monetize a well-built Instagram product. Oh, for another tale of founder-is-acquired-then-leaves-Facebook check out Forbes’ great profile of WhatsApp founder (and recent Facebook defector) Brian Acton. Key quote: “Facebook ‘isn’t the bad guy. I think of them as just very good businesspeople.’ Sound like the Instagram story?

Continue reading Apple Watch Series 4; Instagram’s Story; Re-discovering The Beatles

Thoughts on the Apple Watch Series 4; Or, What Even Is a Watch?

“#1 watch in the world.” That’s how Tim Cook opened the Apple Watch portion of the September 2018 Apple Keynote. At 2017’s Keynote, Cook explicitly mentioned that Apple was actually the largest watch brand in terms of revenue – not just units sold – surely sending chills down the spines of Rolex and other Swiss watch execs in the old boys club.

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Top 5 watch brands, by revenue

What Even Is a Watch?

Since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 and became the most ubiquitous product since the Furby, there’s been a common chorus: “why do I need a watch, my phone tells time just fine?” There’s some truth to this sentiment: if we were really wearing watches primarily for their functionality, we’d all be wearing minimalist, time-only, quartz-powered pieces that cost a couple bucks to manufacture in China (oh wait, there’s one company that built a nice business selling just that, and another that was just acquired for some $100 million). But the truth is we wear watches for a variety of reasons: what they say about us (e.g. wearing a Daniel Wellington says something like “I’m a minimally aware millenial that makes most of my purchasing decisions so that I look more like a well-crafted Instagram post”), an aesthetic we’re trying to communicate to others, or an appreciation for the movement and craftsmanship that goes into a well-made mechanical piece. A watch is so much more than its functionality; it’s an item we wear daily that subtly communicates status and taste. In the old days, people bought divers to be like Cousteau, Daytonas to look like Newman, Explorers to feel like Hillary.

But in a modern world increasingly defined by the “consumerist church” of SoulCycle and Lululemon, spending time and money on your own health and fitness is the most ostentatious display of wealth. Instead of wanting to be divers, drivers or climbers, we simply want to get a bike for the 8 a.m. SoulCycle, with a watch to match that lifestyle.

Apple Watch: Flawed Genius

Any watch collector will tell you: “90% (or some arbitrary, but high percentage) of a vintage watch’s value is in the dial.” Is it an original dial? How’s the patina? This is the crux of the problem for the Apple Watch: the attribute that most limits its functionality and elegance is the lack of an always-on dial. If you’re in a meeting, you have to deliberately turn your wrist towards you to wake the screen. But by then, your boss is looking at you with that “oh is this fucking boring to you?” face.

And we can’t yet have an always on dial because of battery-life limitations. Further, there is an old-world charm to having something on your wrist that doesn’t require a battery, that relies on mechanical power alone (like the good old days!). In a world where we feel little connection to our electronics products – manufactured in a Chinese factory thousands of miles away – you can almost feel the master watchmaker toiling away on the hundreds of tiny pieces inside your mechanical watch, made to last for hundreds of years, and not until the next upgrade cycle.

Perhaps more than anyone, Apple’s designers understand the appeal of a watch. Jony Ive is a watch guy. Steve Jobs was intrigued by Patek Phillipe. In fact, the Apple Watch does contain many subtle nods to haute horology: one of my favorite is the smooth-moving seconds hand, emblematic of a mechanical watch (as opposed to the jumping seconds hand of a quartz watch). Even referring to the buttons on your Apple Watch screen as “complications” is a fun nod to horology. Ives has claimed an affection for the Patek Phillipe’s luxury sportswatch, the Nautilus; perhaps coincidentally, many of the Apple Watch’s faces mimic the hands of a Nautilus (which itself imitates the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak). And honestly, this homage makes sense. To me, the Apple Watch plays the role of “sports watch” in my rotation. I wear it to the gym (wear it has complications no $30,000 watch can match), or out when I know I’ll be having a particularly active day.

On another note, the Apple Watch re-introduced me to the idea of wrist-as-retail space. I wasn’t wearing a watch everyday until I finally bought a Series 3. Not long after, I had re-immersed myself into the world of mechanical watches. I can’t imagine I’m the only person under the age of 40 for whom this is the case. All we’ve known is a world dominated by battery-powered commodity watches; for some reason, the Apple Watch made me realize that a watch could be something more.

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I’ve often thought the hands of many Apple Watch faces and those of luxury sports watches bear a striking resemblance.

Health: The New Grand Complication

Which brings us to the Apple Watch. While the first three series of the Watch seemed to wander through the abyss looking for an actual purpose, the Apple Watch Series 4 has finally found its true calling: health and fitness. In 2014, Apple introduced the Watch by highlighting its various functionalities, without focus on any particular one. Four years later, Apple’s focus is decidedly on the Watch’s fitness capabilities (just look at the main page for Apple Watch). Additionally, Apple has clearly been putting its R&D money where its marketing mouth is: two of the Watch’s biggest technological leaps – the ECG and fall detection – are health focused.

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Above: Apple Watch, 2014 Keynote | Below: Apple Watch, 2018 Keynote

In a world where watches tell the world (and ourselves) what type of life we lead, wearing an Apple Watch says something like “I can afford to spend $35 on a SoulCycle class; yes, that’s why I look so damn good in these $110 yoga pants”. And if it’s good enough for Kobe to wear to the Oscars, shouldn’t it be good enough for you? As Kanye himself recently rapped “hospital band a hundred bands, fuck a watch”. This from a guy whose 2011 album Watch the Throne is dripping with references to Hublot, Audemars Piguet and Rolex (mostly from noted watch aficionado Jay-Z, granted).

Taking care of one’s self is the newest status symbol, and the Apple Watch might just be the best way to communicate to others that you live a life worthy of such status. Sure, Apple has always made beautifully designed, elegant products – and the Apple Watch is now designed about as good as it can be – but much of an Apple product’s value is also tied up in the intangible status one gains by owning an Apple product. Usually, it’s a symbol that you own the nicest product in that given category (as John Gruber deftly put it in his review). The Apple Watch though, is something slightly different: it’s a symbol that you’re living the nicest life possible. You’ve got time and money to spend on your own health and fitness, which, in the end, is the ultimate luxury. Yes, more than that New Patek, Mr. Uzi Vert.

So yes, an Apple Watch might technically not be a watch. Call it a small computer on your wrist or whatever. But you’re not wearing that $200,000 Patek just to tell time either (look at you, Uzi).

Platforms are like doctors; A day with Bezos; AI poetry from a lion

Main Course
HBR: Platforms Should Become Information Fiduciaries

Harvard professor Johnathan Zittrain writes in HBR that large internet platforms should have a fiduciary duty to users: “Like doctors, lawyers, and financial advisers, social media platforms and their concierges are given sensitive information by their users, and those users expect a fair shake — whether they’re trying to find out what’s going on in the world or how to get somewhere or do something.” It’s an idea increasing in popularity among academics; we’ll see if it gains traction in policy rings, or if politicians remain content with Committee hearings and grandstanding.

Report: How the right uses YouTube to influence and “sell” a political ideology.
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Data & Society’s report visualizes how YouTube’s recommendations can lead users from moderate to increasingly radicalized channels.

A new Data & Society report analyzes how political influencers adopt the techniques of brands to build audiences and sell them a political ideology. Of note: “YouTube is a principal online news source for young people. Which is why it is concerning that YouTube… has become the single most important hub by which an extensive network of far-right influencers profit from broadcasting propaganda to young viewers. Social networking between influencers makes it easy for audience members to be incrementally exposed to, and come to trust, ever more extremist political positions.”


Lighter Fare

⌚️ Watch out: Hodinkee’s got a review of the Apple Watch Series 4 after a week on the wrist. The cult classic Ikepod watch (perhaps most recognizable now because its strap design is used on the aforementioned Apple Watch) is also back, starting at less than $400. Quartz for now, but since the Kickstarter has already blown past its goal, those hoping for an automatic version may have something to look forward to in 2019.

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Ikepod is back and better than ever; if you squint, doesn’t it look like the Apple Watch? | Source: Ikepod

🌮 A Financial Times columnist reflects on the enduring regionalism of cuisine, writing,  “To eat out is to see through the world-as-village conceit. Except at the lowest price point (McDonald’s) and the highest (Nobu), a global dining scene — in which each cuisine is, like an iPhone, consistent across the world — remains not just elusive but unimaginable.

🍌 Elsewhere in food: peeling back the history of the banana, and American habits are changing faster than fast food can keep up (or, restaurant visits are at a 28-year low).

🤑 Forbes’ interview with Bezos. One of the best quotes from the $160 billion man: “Friends congratulate me after a quarterly-earnings announcement and say, ‘Good job, great quarter,’ and I’ll say, ‘Thank you, but that quarter was baked three years ago.’ I’m working on a quarter that’ll happen in 2021 right now.

Amazon Go opens its fourth location, this time in Chicago. Salesforce’s Benioff purchases TIME for $190 million. This week in the genre of tech-founder-gives-news-outlet-an-opportunity-to-profile-to-prove-he’s-an-okay-guy: Kairos’ Ankur Jain is profiled by the New Yorker, and Business of Fashion’s Imran Ahmed is profiled by the Guardian. At the intersection of politics and retail: #NikeBoycott is over, and why retail activism rarely changes anything. Important reminders for men in tech (and elsewhere). Can the maker of Tasers provide answers and new technologies to assist with police abuse? Ikea’s self driving ambitions.

🍾 A week of anniversaries: WIRED turns 25 and the Economist turns 175, with the requisite reflective essays to accompany the milestones.

📱 Apple v. Kanye. The Financial Times points out that two industries historically poles apart – fashion and tech – will go head-to-head on Friday. Adidas’ Yeezy line will have its biggest drop yet, while Apple will debut the first of its new phone line. Apple has always gladly straddled the line of luxury brand disguised as tech company (or is the other way around?), while Kanye has declared a goal of democratizing high-end fashion. His $220 sneakers are a good start.

🦁 Please Feed the Lions: Designer Es Devlin, who has in the past found herself in the good graces of Kanye West and Beyonce, is behind a new project titled Please Feed the Lions. Visitors to the sculpture in London’s Trafalgar Square “feed” the lion a word via tablet. The lion then uses AI to create a poem using the word.

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AI-powered poetry, brought to you by a lion | Source: Google

Amazon Go Opens In Chicago

When Amazon opened its first Amazon Go location in Seattle earlier this year, I wrote:

On January 22, Amazon opened Amazon Go, its cashier-less convenience store concept, to the public. Pictures of the store show a small, 7-Eleven-like space filled with grab-and-go items, meal kits, and even alcohol. Almost as soon as news of its opening spread, speculation of Amazon’s plans for the technology behind Amazon Go spread as well. Will they license the technology to others? (eh, maybe) Bring it to Whole Foods? (eventually) Build Amazon Go stores across the United States? (yep).

Seven months later, Amazon has opened three more Go locations in Seattle, and on September 17, it quietly opened the first Go location outside of its home city, in Chicago’s Loop.

Here are a few photos of the new location, at 113 S Franklin, for those in Chicago (it’s the same building as Amazon’s office in the city).

The entrance is unremarkable, just one door that opens to the street and another that opens into the attached office building (where Amazon resides). The space itself is also small, no larger than a 7-Eleven you might find in a downtown area.

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The entrance to Amazon Go’s new Chicago location.

Inside, the store is also pretty ordinary, with a long L-shaped refrigerated around along the walls, and a few rows of common convenience items lining the internal rows. The items have a decidedly more health-focused bent then traditional packaged goods one might see at convenience stores. The fridge space is filled with read-to-eat items for breakfast and lunch, and boxed dinners that can be taken home and prepped in “about 30 minutes,” Blue Apron style.

Continue reading Amazon Go Opens In Chicago

Platforms are the New Corporation; Technology and Basketball

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An eagle and a fox fight over a rabbit; or, Amazon’s fight for food delivery dominance.

🏢 Do Platforms Work?, Aeon

The distributed network has gobbled up the hierarchical firm. Where once we had the ‘corporation’, now we are witnessing the ascendancy of the ‘platform’. The platform economy is in its early days, but to date, profits generated by these large internet platforms (Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple) have accrued to their owners. But the future of platforms provides promise for workers (through the current platform model, or through crypto networks) to build and own their own platforms. This provides opportunity for them to actual participate in and own the value being created, rather than having it be skimmed by remote investors or shareholders.

“The traditional structure of the firm might have reached its use-by date. But if societies can embrace the economics of the platform while shifting its ownership to workers, a more equitable, resilient and democratic society could well be in store.”

🥑 How Amazon Is Using Whole Foods in a Bid for Total Retail Domination, Fortune

As part of its profile of Fortune 500 companies, Fortune provides a peak into Amazon’s Whole Foods strategy, a year since the merger took place. The online food delivery business is different than the traditional ecommerce business Amazon has perfected, but its Whole Foods purchase gives it just the door needed to win over the fridge space of its 100-million-strong Prime subscriber base. Indeed, many of Amazon’s most well-known and consumer-facing efforts – Amazon Key, the Ring purchase, Alexa – will all play critical roles in the ecommerce giant’s efforts to sell us our kale and avocados.

“’Food is the platform for selling you everything else,’ says Walter Robb, the former co-CEO of Whole Foods. ‘It’s an everyday way into your life. There’s nothing else that happens quite that way.'”

👸 Queens of Infamy: Anne Boleyn, Longreads

Before royal weddings were nationally televised and Harry wiped away a tear for millions to see, there was Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. A brilliantly funny and informative tour of Boleyn’s life.


 

With the NBA Finals beginning today, a few basketball-themed tech long reads:

⛹️‍♂️ The Instagram Stars of High School Basketball, The Atlantic

Around 2014, the hyper-local world of high school basketball began to change.

Zion Williams, a high-school phenom and Duke’s latest five-star recruit, has more than 1.5 million Instagram followers.

Short-form video began to proliferate on social networks and more digitally native high-school athletes, armed with their own cellphones, started posting clips of themselves and friends doing dunks and trick shots, and cobbling together their own highlight reels for YouTube. These clips spread like wildfire, amplified by the rise of basketball-focused media companies like Ballislife and Overtime, which have dedicated increasing resources to covering the high-school market.

It’s another fascinating story illustrating the way in which digital platforms have influenced the way we act in the physical world.

🏀 The Curious Case of Bryan Colangelo and the Secret Twitter Account, The Ringer

In one of the weirder internet-meets-sports stories since Manti Te’o and the dead girlfriend, The Ringer details the weird story of Philadelphia 76ers’ president of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo and his five fake Twitter accounts. The accounts disclosed non-public information, debated 76ers’ front office moves and strategy, and crticized NBA players.

Cool things of the week 🤔: 

🦅 A fox and a bald eagle fight over a rabbit in mid air.

🎬 A trailer for the Winnie the Pooh live action film that might make you cry.

📚 And, all the books Bill Gates has recommended.

Patents, Spotify, and Incentivizing Innovation

💊 PATENTS AND INCENTIVIZING INNOVATION

Tuesday brought decisions from both patent cases argued in front of the Supreme Court this term, Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group and SAS Institute v. Iancu. At issue in both cases was the process of inter partes review (IPR), which was instituted in 2012 after the passage of the America Invents Act. The process allows a competitor to bring call for an IPR, which, if institute, initiates a trial-like process engaging both parties. The USPTO has the sole discretion in reconsidering and potentially invalidating the patent at issue.

In Oil States v. Greene’s Energy, the question before the Court was whether the adjudication of IPR petitions by the USPTO is an exercise of the “judicial power” that under Article III of the Constitution can be exercised only by courts. The Supreme Court’s resident patent expert, Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote the opinion, holding that IPR does not violate the Constitution. Thomas wrote that because patents are a public right and the IPR process is simply a reconsideration of that grant, Congress has the authority to conduct the reconsideration. There has long been an academic argument about whether patents are public (e.g. statutorily created) rights or private (e.g. common law) rights, with Justice Thomas falling on the former side of that debate. But, Thomas was careful to articulate that the decision should not be misconstrued as suggesting that patents are not property for purposes of the Due Process Clause or Takings Clause.

According to Court documents, the IPR process has been used to invalidate some 1,300 patents since 2012. Tech companies are largely please with the decision, as it allows them to continue to use the IPR process to challenge patents instead of having to undergo long, drawn out litigation against alleged patent trolls.

But, pharmaceutical and biotech companies are more worried about the ruling, fearing it may open the door for competitors to more easily (and cheaply) invalidate patents through IPR. This gets to the difficulty of treating two fundamentally different industries (tech/internet companies and pharm/biotech companies) with different business models the same when it comes to intellectual property.

For modern tech companies, potential returns are much greater. Modern internet companies are driven by network effects that can generate massive returns to scale for innovation. They’re able to spread fixed costs over a massive user base that can scale quickly. Meanwhile, Moore’s Law (yea, I went there) implies that R&D cost, on a per unit basis, continues to decline for computing-based R&D.

On the other hand, evidence suggests that biotech and pharmaceutical R&D is only getting more difficult and more costly. Some have even referred to drug discovery as operating under a “reverse-Moore’s law,” and while machine learning may facilitate the drug discovery process, this promise is largely unfilled as of yet.

The Constitution gave Congress the power to “promote the progress of Science and and useful arts,” but the reality is spurring innovation requires different tactics in different industries. We can quibble about how strong patents should be in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, but the heavy capital investment required to innovate in these sectors necessitates some statutory protection. But, the case for government-granted monopolies (patents) for software innovations is much more tenuous.

While we wait for the merging of software and biology (or, for software to eat biology), it’s important to recognize the different capital structures at play for different industries and structure incentives accordingly. We don’t need the government to incentive investment in the next “one-click buying” patent, but we do need to incentivize continued commercial investment in biological R&D. Government-granted monopolies are an impure means to an end (innovation), and it’s important to critically evaluate when and where they should actually be issued.

The second, less exciting opinion held that when the USPTO institutes an IPR process to review an already issued patent, it must decide the patentability of all claims the petitioner has challenged.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash
Some inventions require patents (above). Some don’t. Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash.

🎧 SPOTIFY THE HITMAKER

On April 24, Spotify announced its new free tier with a few major changes. First, it’ll recommend music to users on the fly using its machine learning. Second, and more importantly, it’ll let free-tier users listen on-demand to whatever song they want, as many times as they want, if the song appears on one of Spotify’s 15 personalized discovery playlists. These playlists account for about 750 tracks in total.

As I wrote after Spotify filed its F1, its success depends largely on its ability to cut out the music labels, whose content currently accounts for 87% of content streamed on Spotify. With the overhaul of its free tier, Spotify is attempting to mint new hints, allowing the 90 million users of its free tier to listen to certain songs, selected by Spotify, as often as they want. Spotify’s success depends in large part on its ability to serve as a platform for new or up-and-coming artists, helping users discover new artists while at the same time helping new artists get discovered. It’s a beneficial relationship for both listener and musician, with Spotify sitting in the middle taking a cut of the transaction. Providing free users access to unlimited listening of select songs drastically increases Spotify’s ability to be a hitmaker.

Apropos the patent discussion above, note that while Spotify has patents related to its machine learning and recommendation algorithms, these may not be essential to its business. The fact that it has 160 million total users makes the cost of acquiring these patents relatively trivial. Either way, the data Spotify continues to gather on its users is much more valuable (and protectable) than any patent it may or may not have acquired.


🎬 NETFLIX THEATRES?

From one subscription media business to another. Reports have emerged that Netflix is looking for ways to get into the movie theatre business. While it may not be interested in Mark Cuban’s Landmark Theatres anymore, it sounds like Netflix wants to get some of its productions in theatres so it can qualify for awards. Jeff Bezos has long been obsessed with garnering awards with his Prime Video service, so it seems he’s not the only one with a complex (the Prime Video section of his shareholder letter is basically one long sentence about how awesome Prime is because of all the meaningless awards its various shows received).

Of course, Netflix (and to a lesser extent, Prime Video), are successful illustrations of the “laddering up” strategy that Spotify is now pursuing. That is, they built businesses off of licensing copyrighted content from TV and movie studios, building a war chest to invest in their own original content and cut out the middle man.

But, there may be differences between music and video that make this strategy harder for Spotify. Namely, old music still holds a ton of value, while old TV shows and movies are less valuable. I love to bump the Beatles, but only watch I Love Lucy when I’m home during the holidays and my mom makes me.


🦅 Bird’s Eye View. In China, facial recognition technology was used to spot a man in a crowd of 60,000 concert goers.

💡 From the Printing Press to the Internet. A chart showing productivity from 1440 printing press to today. Other academics have studied causes of the productivity slowdown since 2004, illustrating it’s more than just a “measurement problem” (Business Insider, Marginal Revolution).

Mr. Zuck Goes to Washington

ZUCK BE HUMBLE

Mr. Zuckerberg goes to Washington, and the tech journo community can barely contain its excitement, ready to pour itself a big glass of lulz as it watches the little fucker squirm.

From the The New York Times:

Internal staff has pushed Mr. Zuckerberg to answer lawmakers’ questions directly, and not to appear overly defensive. Their goal is to make Mr. Zuckerberg appear as humble, agreeable and as forthright as possible, the people close to the preparations said

Zuck will testify before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees on Tuesday and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Expect calls for privacy regulations from the Left, claims of bias in social media from the Right, and a whole lot of nothing in the end. Oh, Wall Street will be watching closely too: Facebook stock is down about 15% since the Cambridge Analytica news broke, mostly on fears that Facebook’s ad-driven business model or data collection practices may finally run up against regulation from Washington.

The Congressional testimony comes a week after Zuckerberg fielded 45 minutes of questions from big-time jouros (basically a dry run for his Congressional testimony). One recurring theme: that Facebook is an “idealistic and optimistic company”, and for the first decade of its existence, it didn’t really think about how its tool could also be used for bad. And in Zuckerberg’s defense, neither did other people: from the ’08 Obama campaign to the Arab Spring and many grassroots efforts in between, social media has been a tool used for good. Even now, the #MarchForOurLives kids have done a great job using social media to mobilize. As Congress contemplates legislation, it’s important to keep this in mind.

As it turns out, his prepared remarks – released in advance of his testimony – are similar to remarks from last week’s press conference, with Zuckerberg closing out by saying “I know we’ll look back and view helping people connect and giving more people a voice as a positive force in the world.” Yea, if only he could get the Nazis to stfu in the meantime.

No matter what happens, SNL’s Mark Zuckerberg summed it up best this weekend: “unlike my facial expression, Facebook is going to change.”

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It never really made sense to me that the “front” of the Capitol doesn’t face the National Mall | Photo by Louis Velazquez on Unsplash

🚘 Picture me rollin’

Meanwhile, the FTC has confirmed that it’s already investigating Facebook’s privacy practices. It could a huge ass fine, with some 87 million users having their data exposed and Facebook potentially on the hook for a $40,000 fine per violation. Oh, and now some consumer groups are saying the FTC should investigate Facebook’s collection of face and biometric data. TFW 😱

🚫 Deja CubeYou…

In other (or really, the same) news, CubeYou and its Apply Magic Sauce quiz was suspended from Facebook for doing basically what Cambridge Analytica did. This time it took a CNBC investigation to get Facebook’s attention. So have we really learned anything yet?

👩‍⚕️ What to ask next time you see your doctor

Wanna check my data too? In the New York Times, Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain proposes that Facebook, like doctors or lawyers, should be deemed “fiduciaries,” meaning they’re legally obliged to place clients’ or patients’ interests above their own. It kind of makes sense, right? Companies like Google and Facebook have similarly sensitive, and much more, information as compared to our doctor or lawyer (I skipped both those annual check ups this year), and can certainly wield a lot of power over users. And as these companies and their algorithms get better at predicting and shaping our behavior, wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t just use that power to sell us more stuff or place us in little filter bubbles?

😇 Honestly?

Finally, Facebook has formally announced its support for the Honest Ads Act, which would require all digital platforms with more than 50m users to maintain a public file of all election ads purchased by a person or group who spends at least $500 on the platform. Fast forward to 2020 when thousands of Russian accounts are buying $499 worth of ads.


BACKPAGE.COM ON THE FRONT PAGE

The Feds shutdown Backpage.com on Friday, following it up with a 93-count indictment on Monday, charging its two co-founders and five other employees with money laundering and facilitating prostitution. Backpage is a classifieds website (think Craigslist for creeps/felons) that’s faced persistent allegations of facilitating illegal prostitution that law enforcement has been after for years. Importantly, this has nothing to do with Congress passing a crappy bill called FOSTA/SESTA, which, while trying to stop online sex trafficking, will make the problem worse (my explanation). President Trump hasn’t signed the bill into law yet, so color me shocked when a Congresswoman is trying to claim victory for something she didn’t really have anything to do with:

The shutdown is actually the result of long-running court cases in numerous states that have recently found Backpage.com is not entitled to immunity under Community Decency Act § 230, the statute which generally provides for immunity from liability for internet intermediaries.


👮‍♂️ This week Amazon should…

Call Alexa to the witness stand. This according to a CNet report, where a man’s own pacemaker is being used against him to show he committed arson, and wasn’t asleep – as he’d claimed – when his house caught fire. Of course, it won’t stop at pacemakers. From the law’s perspective, the data is fair game under the 4th Amendment, so if law enforcement gets a warrant, Alexa can be dragged into court.  And if it’s Alexa’s word against mine, I don’t like my chances.


📬 I don’t care about your damn emails! In a sign that whitehouse.gov might be as vulnerable as whitehouse.com, a report says that most domains under the purview of the Executive Office of the President aren’t using a certain protocol to protect email addresses from phishing and other hacking attacks (Cyberscoop).

🎭 When is anonymous anonymous? A Texas court may soon have the answer, but not before Big Tech weighs in (Law360).

👾Instructions on how to use Cloudflare’s new 1.1.1.1 to get a truly encrypted DNS service and keep your ISP out of your shit (Ars Technica).

🎧 What’s a stream cost? Music licensing is complex and expensive (unless you’re YouTube. A graph comparing artist revenue, users, and loss per user of major streaming platforms (Information Is Beautiful).