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The Huawei-DoD throwdown that almost didn’t happen

Good morning! This Thursday, delivery costs a fortune but nobody makes any money, Huawei and the DoD spar over security, and all that NSA spying sure didn't find much.

People are talking

Ditch your screens for Lent, Pope Francis advised Catholics everywhere:

  • "It is the time to turn off the television and open the Bible. It is the time to disconnect from your cellphone and connect to the gospel."

TikTok is basically spyware, according to Reddit CEO Steve Huffman:

  • "I look at that app as so fundamentally parasitic, that it's always listening, the fingerprinting technology they use is truly terrifying."

One under-discussed possibility for AI: fixing the supply chain, Accenture's Dr. Rumman Chowdhury says in this week's Protocol Braintrust:

  • "Did you know that nearly 1.3 billion tons of food simply rots on shelves in stores due to poor infrastructure, and that this waste is identified by the U.N. as one of the top sustainability problems worldwide? Better predictive models to determine demand, combined with tracking technologies, can reduce that waste."

Autonomous drones will be a bear to regulate, Skydio's Brendan Groves told Protocol:

  • "It's going to stretch the regulatory framework in ways it's never been stretched —but this is a good stretch, it's like yoga for the regulatory system."

Apple's shareholder event became office hours with Tim Cook on a number of issues:

  • On coronavirus: Cook called it "a fairly dynamic situation," that has been "a challenge" for Apple.
  • On sustainability: His goal is "to create an Apple product without taking anything from the Earth. This is one of the things people say you can't do — we're going to find a way to do it."
  • On "Friends": "It doesn't feel right for Apple to just go out and take a rerun."

The big story

The hidden cost of your delivery order

When you order delivery for dinner, you should probably expect to pay a delivery fee. And a tip! But what about a "service fee" on top of that? And what if the food itself is more expensive, because restaurants are gouging app users to make up for huge commissions?

The New York Times found all those things to be true, and the cost really adds up:

  • Across the four big apps — GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats — orders came with a markup between 7% and 91%.
  • Some of the charges are even crazier than you think, like a $3 "small order" fee from Uber Eats — in addition to all the others.

All that nickel-and-diming, and somehow there's still not much money to be made: Analysts think Uber Eats will lose money on every order for years.

The city of New York is also cracking down on delivery apps, according to another Times report. Officials are considering a package of bills designed to regulate some of the practices the city deems harmful to restaurants, like taking huge commissions and engaging in wacky phone number-replacement schemes.

Meanwhile, GrubHub launched a rewards program called GrubHub+.

  • The company, which loves reminding people that it's "the only profitable company in our space," is also trying desperately to be the biggest player in the space. (Like all the others, then.)
  • And it figures if it can become the default option, it can make far more money.
But given the already-insane prices from delivery apps, the already-problematic fees they're charging restaurants, and the looming threat of regulation, where's that money coming from?

Are you a Postmates addict? Can't stand Uber Eats? Tell me everything:


An international 5G throwdown at RSA

The RSA conference is still going strong, and Protocol's Adam Janofsky is tracking all the conference's biggest stories. (And petting every dog he can find.) On Wednesday, he says everyone was talking about that Huawei panel:

  • RSA organizers gave the Democratic debates a run for their money by taking a Huawei cybersecurity chief and a top Department of Defense acquisitions official, and putting them on a panel together with two other cybersecurity experts.

Katie Arrington, the DoD's acquisition official, said Huawei is a known vulnerability that can't be trusted in 5G systems.

  • "China has been blatantly ignoring IP law, blatantly taking whatever they want, and you can't have it both ways," she said. "You can't have your data be yours, and give it to a country who takes it, copies it, undersells and underbids you continuously."
  • Panelist Bruce Schneier concluded that America's best hope for 5G is that "ours won't work, but [China's] won't work either."

Andy Purdy, Huawei's CISO in the U.S., told Adam that the panel almost didn't happen.

  • "It's astounding that this panel is going to happen with me on it, given what's been going on behind the scenes," he said. "We should have more open discussions about this stuff — don't just complain behind the scenes and try to shut down a panel. We're in a weird time in this country, I tell you."
  • Purdy got the last word in the panel discussion. "Block Huawei if you must," he said, "but we need to do a whole lot more to make America safer and more competitive in the world."


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Reddit opens up about fighting problem content

While Facebook and YouTube are off wringing their hands about stopping bad people on their platforms, I like to imagine Reddit executives just sitting there shaking their heads. I've forgotten more about banning Nazis than you'll ever know, kid.

Reddit is an old hand at dealing with issues of toxic content, harassment, bullying and misinformation compared to most companies. And it's becoming more willing to talk about how it approaches the subject:

  • In its annual transparency report, Reddit said its moderators removed more than 84 million pieces of content. The site's admins removed another 53 million. That's a lot! But it's only a tiny fraction of the nearly 3 billion posts made to Reddit last year.
  • Of those 137 million removals, about 54,000 were appealed — and just shy of 20% of appeals were granted.
  • The company also received 110 removal requests from 12 countries, mostly Russia and Turkey. Reddit only took action on 37% of those requests.

Reddit is unusual in the social space, in that its subreddits are designed to be self-sufficient, and each is allowed to design its own rules.

  • "The self-moderation our users do every day at this community level is the most scalable solution we've seen to the challenges of moderating content online," the company said in its report.

Still, it has become more willing over time to step in itself. Just this week, members of The_Donald said Reddit was canning moderators and changing policy in the subreddit.

In related news: There's a subreddit called wallstreetbets that is way more important to the stock market than anyone could have guessed.

Number of the day

$80 million

That's how much Google bought Invite Media for in 2010. That turned out to be a magic number, just below the threshold that would have triggered an FTC review before the acquisition went through. And Bloomberg reports that just before it was acquired, Invite Media took some pretty unusual steps to get its assets and valuation down below the line. Now, the FTC may want to have a belated look.

In other news

One more thing

The world's best photo archive goes online

The Smithsonian has a library of 155 million photos — as large a photographic history as exists anywhere. And the museum is slowly starting to get them all online. It started this week with 2.8 million images, including everything from the Apollo 11 lunar command module to Owney the dog, the Post Office mascot from the 1890s. Everything is now publicly available, and the Smithsonian said it'll add another 200,000 photos this year. Next time you need a new phone wallpaper or a #thisdayinhistory Instagram post, you know where to start.


CLEAR is transforming the need for ID

CLEAR confirms your identity with your eyes and fingerprints, making life easier in airports and venues nationwide.

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to me,, or our tips line, Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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