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The case against the search engine for your face

The case against the search engine for your face

Good morning! This Thursday, Microsoft reshuffled Windows, Clearview argued for its right to scrape your face, and Uber got its self-driving license back in California.

People Are Talking

Quantum-related security risks are already here, said McAfee CTO Steve Grobman:

  • "It is possible for malicious actors to siphon off and store encrypted data, and then decrypt it as quantum computing becomes practical."
  • Grobman is a member of Protocol's Braintrust — a group of experts who will weigh in on the biggest questions in tech. Their first roundtable is all about cybersecurity risks that aren't being taken seriously enough.

Google is stalling an antitrust inquiry, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton:

  • "It seems like a strategy by Google: Let's just slow this down. We'll just make this drag out for years and years … We can just fund whatever it is, however long it takes." (Google says it's "working constructively" with the AG but doesn't want its confidential info shared with "vocal complainants." )

The FTC could put the VC world on notice by blocking the Harry's-Edgewell deal, says Union Grove's Greg Bohlen:

  • "The FTC is now an identifiable risk. This is kind of a wakeup call."

Sonos is suing Google in part because other companies can't afford to, its CEO Patrick Spence told Protocol's Janko Roettgers:

  • "These concerns seem to be pretty widespread," Spence said. "I feel like it is our duty to shine a light on these things."

The Big Story

The not-so-strong legal case for Clearview AI

Hoan Ton-That, the CEO of Clearview AI, would like you to know that it's totally super fine for him to scrape the internet for pictures and add your face to its searchable facial-recognition database.

  • "Google can pull in information from all different websites," Ton-That told CBS This Morning. "So if it's public, and it's out there, it can be inside Google's search engine, it can be inside ours as well."

Google called the comparison "inaccurate," pointing out that site owners can opt out of or control what's shared in search results. Meanwhile, some of the services that Clearview's software is scraping to get its three-billion-picture database really don't like what's happening.

  • YouTube, Venmo and Twitter have all sent cease-and-desist letters to Clearview saying the company is violating their rules. "YouTube's Terms of Service explicitly forbid collecting data that can be used to identify a person," YouTube's Alex Joseph said. "Clearview has publicly admitted to doing exactly that, and in response we sent them a cease and desist letter."
  • Facebook's response was the bluntest: "Scraping people's information violates our policies."

Ton-That's counter-argument is his "First-Amendment right to public information." But legal scholars told Protocol's Issie Lapowsky that Ton-That has it wrong:

  • First, by agreeing to a company's terms of service, Clearview has a contract with that company. "The First Amendment becomes invisible if you're violating a contract," says University of Colorado law professor Margot Kaminski.
  • Kaminski also pointed to the so-called "Daily Mail principle," which says that the government can't punish a publisher for sharing lawfully obtained truthful information that is a matter of public significance. But unless you're Brad Pitt, your face is not of public significance. (If you are Brad Pitt, Clearview's pretty much got you nailed. Sorry Brad.) And Kaminski says that she's not certain courts would view algorithmic data scraping as analogous to publishing, anyway.

Windows

Microsoft hardware and software, under one roof

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced that its chief product officer Panos Panay is now also in charge of Windows, which is part of a new team called Windows and Devices. Joe Belfiore, who previously ran the Windows team, will now be working on the Office Experience Group, and will continue running the Essential Products Inclusive Community. (The org structure at Microsoft is roughly as understandable as your average yarn-on-the-wall crime show tapestry.)

This is more than just everyday corporate reshuffling, though. It's a powerful statement about what kind of company Microsoft has become.

  • Putting Windows under Panay means a single team will now be building Microsoft's software and its hardware. Sounds like all those Apple commercials saying "we design the hardware part, and the software part" finally got to Microsoft.

This integration is going to be very important, very soon, as Microsoft tries to build software — and an app ecosystem — for dual-screen devices like the Surface Duo and Surface Neo. Microsoft execs have told me that they see "two-in-one" devices as the company's best chance to edge into the mobile market, and they know it won't work without the software.

  • Panay said in an email to his new team that "Designing hardware and software together will enable us to do a better job on our long term Windows bets (dual screen, silicon diversity, connectivity, app platform, etc.)," according to ZDNet.

This is yet more evidence that Microsoft truly is no longer "The Windows Company." Microsoft's working with Google and building Android apps; it's happily partnering with Apple on iOS. And it's attaching the future of Windows ever more to the future of Surface.

What do you make of dual-screen devices? Do foldable phones or Surface Duos or any of these funky new form factors excite you? Tell me all about it: david@protocol.com.

A MESSAGE FROM NASDAQ

Reimagining Markets Everywhere

Nasdaq Technology is reshaping the future of global markets by redefining what a marketplace can be.

Learn more here.

Venture Capital

A VC firm where time really is money

Dan Portillo is running a new kind of investment firm. Rather than give a company money in exchange for a stake and a board seat, he's offering his team's time and expertise. That firm, Sweat Equity Ventures (which is definitely a better name than Elbow Grease Capital or In The Weeds Associates), is launching out of stealth today starting with $30 million from Reid Hoffman.

  • Portillo told Protocol's Biz Carson that "There's no fund that I know of that will write a statement of work that commits to: we will ship this product, we will hire these people, we will work with you to secure funding."
  • When SEV invests in a startup, they commit to a roadmap, and don't leave until it's complete.

So far, SEV has worked with companies like Nuro.ai, Coda and Colony Labs. And it's hoping to get involved with the companies that traditional VCs are fighting over, because it's offering something different — particularly recruiting help.

Read Biz's story for lots more on Sweat Equity Ventures' unusual plan.

Making Moves

  • LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner is ceding the top job. Ryan Roslansky, who was previously LinkedIn's svp of product — and Weiner's first hire at the company — will be the new CEO.
  • Tinder's Chief Product Officer is out. (I will not make a swipe left joke, I will not make a swipe left joke.) Ravi Mehta was at the company less than a year, and reportedly disagreed with CEO Elie Seidman on the future of the product.
  • Ancestry is laying off about 100 people, which is about 6% of its workforce. In a blog post, CEO Margo Georgiadis blamed "a slowdown in demand across the entire DNA category."

In Other News

  • A study of two tech billionaires: On Wednesday, Bill and Melinda Gates pledged $100 million to fight coronavirus ... while Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez looked at $100 million homes in LA.
  • Want a peek inside the closed-door campaigns to rewrite California privacy law, again? Protocol's Issie Lapowsky investigates how Google, Facebook, the EFF and others lobbied Alastair Mactaggart — and what they managed to get.
  • Spotify is buying The Ringer to bolster its ongoing podcast ambitions. It's spending a lot to be more than just a music service, and so far it's working: the company reported a 200% increase in podcast listening on Spotify over the past year.
  • How would you like Stress Engineer to be your job title? Think you could hack it as a Scrum Master? Protocol's Lauren Hepler runs down the strangest job listings in tech.
  • Uber got a permit from the California DMV to resume testing its self-driving cars on public roads. Uber hasn't been not-driving on CA roads since a fatal crash in 2018.
  • Flywheel and Peloton settled a lawsuit, with Flywheel admitting it infringed on Peloton's bike-ercise IP. Tim Grieve, Protocol's executive editor and a devoted Flywheel customer, is presumably suitably embarrassed.
  • Huawei, meanwhile, is suing Verizon for patent infringement. It says Verizon violated patents on security tools, parental controls, remote sharing, and even a contacts app design. Way to make friends, Huawei.
  • Casper, whose IPO nobody assumed was going to go well, cut its valuation. After initially hoping to go public at between $17 and $19 a share, it's now priced its stock at just $12.
  • Mike Lynch, the man who sold Autonomy to HP and is now being sued for allegedly massively inflating its value, gave himself up for arrest in the UK. He's contesting extradition to the US, where he would face criminal charges.

One More Thing

Rent your own storage space … in actual space

You know what's cooler than burying a time capsule in the ground? Launching your precious memories into freaking space. That's not technically the point of the new SpaceX rideshare program for its Falcon 9 launches — it's meant for satellite owners who need to get gear into the atmosphere but don't need a whole rocket's worth of space — but if you've got a bunch of home videos that you want aliens to see thousands of years from now, and $1 million to spend on storage space, I can't see anything in the handy online booking tool that would stop you.

A MESSAGE FROM NASDAQ

Reimagining Markets Everywhere

Nasdaq Technology is reshaping the future of global markets by redefining what a marketplace can be.

Learn more here.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to me, david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. See you tomorrow.