April 13, 2022
Photo: Louis Velazquez/Unsplash
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Policy! You may be hearing a lot about privacy from Big Tech again, but it’s actually about the momentum behind antitrust reform. I’ll explain. Plus, injuries at Amazon warehouses are up, the inside story of labor’s deal with Uber and Lyft, and Yelp’s new coverage for employees seeking abortions.
It’s the “Would Pepsi be OK instead?” of tech policy: Companies are telling lawmakers that if Congress wants to do something really good, it’ll forget all this silly competition stuff and go back to focusing on a privacy law.
Smart industry allies know it’s better to redirect lawmakers than refuse them outright.
Privacy really is super important, and genuinely seems to be a top tech concern for voters, but let’s be clear: Companies don’t mean exactly what everyday people do when they say that new privacy law, instead of new competition laws, is a better outcome for the techlash.
Congress isn’t really listening.
But meanwhile, a few policymakers in Washington are interested in setting up a “be careful what you wish for” situation for tech.
Khan’s FTC sees a lot of urgent new questions in privacy, even if state laws are sprouting loopholes and lawmakers are twiddling their thumbs.
There’s no telling when Congress might finally take up those issues seriously — let alone come up with answers. But when they do, perhaps tech will wish lawmakers had tackled antitrust after all.— Ben Brody (email | twitter)
Progressives working on tech antitrust are mostly willing to partner privately with a conservative anti-trans group to achieve their goals, but some on the left are uneasy about the coalition, according to POLITICO.
Muslim civil rights group CAIR is urging the FTC to crack down on the location-tracking industry as a whole. The group’s petition follows revelations of surreptitious surveillance of users on apps designed primarily for Muslims.
Injuries at Amazon warehouses accounted for almost half of all such injuries in the U.S. last year, according to a new analysis of federal safety data by a pro-union group. Injuries at Amazon facilities were also up 20% in 2021 compared to the year before.
With abortion rights under intense threat in several states and nationally, Yelp will cover expenses for employees and dependents who need to travel out of state to terminate pregnancies. It joins Apple, Match Group and other companies offering similar coverage.
Thousands of Etsy sellers have closed their storefronts for a week in protest of the company hiking its transaction fee to 6.5% from 5%.
100% of C-suite staff surveyed by Workplace by Meta said that frontline workers were a strategic priority for their business in 2022, but nearly two in three of them said that keeping their frontline staff, who bear the brunt of the stresses of the workplace most acutely, had only become a priority since the pandemic hit.
A Twitter shareholder has, inevitably, sued Elon Musk for his belated disclosure of a substantial ownership stake in the company. The complaint alleges that people who sold their stock during the period after Musk should have gone public missed out on the price bump that resulted when the almost-Twitter-director eventually did file the right paperwork.
The CFPB sued TransUnion, alleging the company “deployed digital dark patterns to dupe Americans into subscription plans” after agreeing it would make plans easy to cancel.T-Mobile allegedly hired a third-party firm to buy back stolen customer data, Motherboard reports. According to unsealed court documents, the third-party firm attempted to pay for exclusive access to the T-Mobile customer data, which could limit its spread. Even though the third-party firm paid the hackers $200,000, the hackers continued to sell the data. Here’s the kicker: One of the companies T-Mobile credited with its response to the hack was Mandiant, which Google agreed to acquire for around $5.4 billion in March.
Here’s the inside story of how unions and labor politicians quietly came together with Uber and Lyft for a backroom deal in Washington state, even as battles over gig worker classification prove bruising, public and expensive elsewhere.
Google has made clear employees who signed concealment clauses can still talkabout assault, harassment, discrimination or retaliation they experience at work. The company was wedged between new state laws on the issue and a shareholder proposal that would have required Google to issue a public report studying the impact of the clauses.
I asked Lev Gershenzon about image search results on Russia’s Yandex showing the Kyiv suburb of Bucha as lovely and whole, even though it’s the focus of concerns about potential Russian war crimes. Gershenzon, the former head of Yandex News who previously told Protocol about a purported handshake deal over headlines between the company and Putin’s regime, said Yandex has always been slow to index new images, but the issue “can be solved if you really want to.”
Huawei is reportedly pulling back from Russia and telling employees there to go on leave because of the impact of sanctions. Huawei and ZTE together provide up to 60% of Russia’s telecom equipment. Ericsson and Nokia — both of which announced halts to Russian operations earlier this week — provide most of the rest.
Research suggests TikTok’s ban on new uploads in Russia let pro-war content slip through in its early days, and then kept out new revelations about the unfolding horrors in Ukraine.Microsoft is reportedly ready to make changes to the way it licenses its software for customers that want to run the technology in other cloud environments. The move comes after European competition authorities started digging around. Of course, two decades ago, cases against Microsoft kicked off the modern tech antitrust fights, but in recent years, the enterprise market has largely avoided the ire of enforcers.
The Meta engineer who is trying to help his bosses get around Apple’s anti-tracking measures had some thoughts on Tim Cook’s speech: Ben Savage tweeted the CEO’s remarks were “nakedly self-serving” and “bullshit,” and said Apple should protect users on the iOS level, not via App Store restrictions.
Google autocomplete appears to be prompting searchers who type in prominent transgender people to look up pre-transition photos and names.
Fewer than 10,000 people: That’s the daily audience for CNN+, inside sources told CNBC. If the figures are right, the streaming service may be headed toward Quibi territory. An unnamed CNN executive told Insider that CNN+ had a launch budget of around $250 million. CNN executives originally expected to draw around 2 million U.S. subscribers in the first year. They still have time, but can’t be happy with those launch numbers.
Businesses are starting to turn to workplace communication tools. Such tools enable frontline workers to feel more connected to the rest of their business, to raise concerns and to provide feedback on potential pain points or points of improvement. By bridging that divide, companies can unlock new savings and efficiencies, and build a business that can last for the long run.
Did your boss schedule a recurring two-hour meeting on Friday at 5 p.m.? Make sure you hide any frustration. Zoom announced a new feature that allows sales meeting hosts to perform post-meeting sentiment analysis. “We’re looking at things like speaker cadence and other factors in the linguistic approach to try to disentangle one speaker from another,” Zoom head of Product Josh Dulberger told Protocol.
Thanks for reading — see you Friday!