Gotta fight for your right to repair
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Gotta fight for your right to repair

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Good morning! This Thursday, the right-to-repair movement gets a major win, U.S. cities are quietly racing to make chips, and Republicans put Jessica Rosenworcel in the hot seat.

Fix it yourself

"Move fast and break things" works — unless you're talking about your tech.

Tech breaks all the time, and it's often a headache to fix, particularly when it comes to Apple products. If your iPhone breaks, the best place to take it is the Apple Genius Bar. Historically, Apple has wanted to keep it this way. But yesterday it changed course and announced that it will help customers repair their own iPhones.

Consumers will be able to order the parts, tools and manuals necessary to fix their own devices starting early next year. The program will start with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 in the U.S., and will later expand to M1 Macs and other countries throughout the year.

  • To access parts, users will first have to read Apple's Repair Manual. Then they can place an order for the required tools through Apple's Self Service Repair Online Store.
  • Apple said the self-service program is intended for "individual technicians with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices," not just casual users. That's something people in the right-to-repair movement will push back on. "If you design a product right, anybody should be able to fix it," said Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, which helps Americans repair devices.

It's a major pivot for Apple, which has actively fought the right-to-repair movement. The manufacturer is notoriously stringent about sharing device information with independent technicians, and it's put quite a bit of effort into squashing right-to-repair legislation.

  • Apple is known for quiet defensive plays in Washington and state capitals. It backs trade groups such as TechNet, which has been lobbying against right-to-repair legislation in multiple states.
  • The company was hardly eager to let outsiders in on its repair business, or make it easy for customers to hold off on plunking down a couple hundred dollars for new hardware every few years.
  • For most of Apple's history, independent technicians had to pay to become "authorized service providers" and receive genuine Apple parts. Apple finally extended device info access with its Independent Repair Provider program in 2019.

But the tides have been changing as the right-to-repair movement gains momentum. Apple and other device manufacturers are facing sustained pressure from the FTC, state lawmakers and several activist groups.

  • The FTC voted in July to fight repair restrictions after a report found "scant evidence" justifying them. It was a rare display of bipartisanship inside an agency facing political divisions and gridlock. The FTC's unanimity suggests Apple wouldn't escape the issue at the federal level, even when Republicans eventually retake power at the agency.
  • Twenty-seven different states have introduced right-to-repair bills, all based on the Repair Association's legislative template. Massachusetts voters last year adopted a right-to-repair measure, and New York's state Senate this year passed a right-to-repair act.
  • "They're staring down a double-barrel," Wiens said. According to him, Apple's reversal was likely inevitable. "If right-to-repair passed, they would have been required to do this anyway. They're not going above and beyond what the proposed laws say."

Will this change how other Big Tech device makers approach repair? Unclear, but it at least puts other companies' policies in the spotlight. And if legislators take action, they may have no choice but to open access. If customers are less reliant on specific device manufacturers to repair their products, maybe their products will live longer.

"If we're going to put these products out in the world and go through the effort of manufacturing them, with global warming and CO2 emissions, we need to have a plan for making these things stand the test of time," Wiens said.

— Lizzy Lawrence (email | twitter) and Ben Brody (email | twitter)

A version of this story first appeared on Protocol.com. Read it here.

On the schedule

A holiday shopping season like no other

The 2021 holiday shopping season is shaping up to be a bumpy ride due to supply chain disruptions and chipset shortages. Join us at 11 a.m. PT on Nov. 30 for a discussion on how these issues affect holiday shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and beyond, and where the industry goes from here.

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Rochelle is one of many experts working on privacy at Facebook—to give you more control over your information.

Hear from Rochelle on why Facebook supports updating regulations on the internet's most pressing challenges, including federal privacy legislation.

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People are talking

PlayStation's Jim Ryan thinks Activision Blizzard "has not done enough" with its response to allegations against Bobby Kotick:

  • "We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation."

Cristiano Amon says Qualcomm's relatively high stock price is unsurprising:

  • "I think Qualcomm is being recognized for this incredible technology we have."

On Protocol | Workplace: The stigma of taking parental leave is worse for men, said Amy Beacom, who leads the Center for Parental Leave Leadership:

  • "We live in a culture that actively tells men it is unmanly to take leave, they should be the breadwinner and anything less isn't taking care of their duties."

Over 200 public health experts are pushing Amazon to make workplace conditions safer:

  • "In the past, injuries among Amazon workers increased dramatically during 'peak times' like the holiday season and Amazon's Prime Day."

Making moves

Threads is closing at the end of December. Instagram introduced the app as a standalone messaging platform a couple years ago.

Cher Scarlett's last day at Apple is tomorrow. Scarlett has been a key figure in the #AppleToo movement that gained traction over the summer.

Camille François joined Niantic as its first global director for trust and safety and policy. She last worked on trust and safety issues at Graphika.

Indeed promoted a bunch of people to its senior leadership team: LaFawn Davis, Sean McSherry, Anthony Moisant, Lisa Ramirez and Brendan Sterne.

Uzair Qadeer is Carbon Health's new chief people officer. He most recently served as the chief diversity officer at Alexion Pharmaceuticals and worked at Deloitte before that.

In other news

Activision Blizzard shareholders want Bobby Kotick to resign, a day after company workers staged a walkout with the same demand. The shareholders are also asking for two board directors to retire, and if they don't, the group won't vote in a reelection.

Salesforce is asking workers to get together by the end of the year. The company is officially aiming for a January reopening, but it's telling managers to organize some sort of gathering with their teams before the new year.

Jessica Rosenworcel's Senate confirmation hearing got dicey at times. The acting FCC chair avoided most pushback from Republicans, and lawmakers instead turned their attention to Alvaro Bedoya, a privacy lawyer whom Joe Biden wants in the FTC.

On Protocol | China: Shared docs are a nightmare for Chinese tech companies. A spreadsheet listing a bunch of bad managers at large Chinese internet platform companies went viral recently, and that's not the first time tech workers have created shared docs to help one another.

Lots of companies say they don't need Biden to mandate vaccines. More than half of companies surveyed said they'd follow through with Biden's vaccine rules, regardless of whether the federal plan remains in place.

Cities are quietly racing to become chip powerhouses. Places like Taylor, Texas, are trying to get chip production underway, which could help businesses in their respective neighborhoods and offset the chip drought in general for the United States.

Why does Netflix rarely have service issues? It uses a distribution network called Open Connect, which has allowed the platform to avoid crashes and allow users to stream highly popular shows without worry.

A YouTube co-founder dislikes taking away dislikes

YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim, like many creators and YouTubers users, isn't a fan of the platform's decision to remove the dislike button from public view. And he's going as far back as YouTube's first-ever upload to prove it.

Karim edited the description to "Me at the Zoo" to include a whole tangent about why the removal of dislikes seems "off." He thinks it's odd for the platform to make the decision even when tons of creators want the dislike button to stay. "In business, there's only one thing more important than 'Make it better.' And that's 'Don't fuck it up,'" he wrote.

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Rochelle is one of many experts working on privacy at Facebook—to give you more control over your information.

Hear from Rochelle on why Facebook supports updating regulations on the internet's most pressing challenges, including federal privacy legislation.

Learn more

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