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Biden has a new plan for TikTok

TikTok bomb

Good morning! This Thursday, Biden takes on Trump's TikTok executive order, Facebook is working on a smartwatch, Marqeta had a big first day on the market, and please stop flaunting your bitcoin.

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The Big Story

The TikTok tug-of-war

It's been less than a year since President Trump signed a series of executive orders aimed at shutting down WeChat and strong-arming TikTok into a sale. The knee-jerk orders kicked off a frenzied bidding war between giants like Microsoft and Oracle and nearly torpedoed TikTok's business before being blocked by the courts.

Those Trump-era measures were officially laid to rest Wednesday by President Biden, who revoked them in an executive order of his own. Biden's order also attempts to actually answer the question that was underlying the TikTok debacle all along: What should the country do about Americans' data getting into foreign adversaries' hands?

  • Trump turned TikTok into a boogeyman during a time of escalating tensions with China. But the truth is, TikTok is far from the only company potentially spilling Americans' data overseas.
  • As I've written, there are even plenty of other ByteDance apps with U.S. users that are transparently sharing data directly with China without any scrutiny. Trump's orders missed this forest for the TikTok tree.

Biden's order takes a different approach. It directs key members of his cabinet to conduct a review and issue recommendations on protecting the U.S. against "harm from the unrestricted sale of, transfer of, or access to United States persons' sensitive data" to foreign adversaries.

  • It also directs Cabinet members to suggest specific actions that might "address the risk associated with connected software applications that are designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by persons owned or controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of, a foreign adversary."

Biden's trying to define the risks and develop some overarching solutions. It's a slower approach than shutting down two of the most popular apps in the world, to be sure. But it's one that could have implications for companies far beyond TikTok.

It's clear this order is targeted at China. But these are questions that governments around the world are asking about the overseas transfer of data.

  • Let's not forget that in the European Union, where data is protected under the General Data Protection Regulation, regulators are currently sorting out what to do about European data being transferred to the U.S., where no adequate national protections exist. After all, it wasn't long ago that the NSA was caught doing some pretty aggressive snooping of its own.
  • Of course, if the U.S. had a stronger federal privacy law, which might help solve some of these issues around data flowing both in and out of U.S. borders. But that remains, at least for now, something of a pipe dream despite supposed support from tech leaders and lawmakers alike.

I think Ashkan Soltani, former chief technology officer at the Federal Trade Commission, put it best when he called Biden's order further evidence of the "web of (mis)trust" that exists between countries — and companies — and is enveloping the world. "Europe doesn't trust data transfers to the US ... US doesn't trust data transfers to China/Russia. Apple doesn't trust Facebook," he wrote on Twitter Wednesday. "Welcome to the Internet."

— Issie Lapowsky (email | twitter)


It's not just Amazon employees who experience the benefit of increasing their starting wage to at least $15 an hour — a recent study from the University of California-Berkeley and Brandeis University found that when Amazon raised wages, the average hourly wage in the surrounding area rose by 4.7%.

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People Are Talking

On Protocol: Stacey Abrams and Lara Hodgson started a fintech company to solve a problem they and other startups kept having:

  • "You find yourself in this awful situation of doing seemingly everything right because your business is growing, the customers like your product, they're ordering more and more and more, but at the same time, you're not getting paid and so you can't pay your suppliers and your employees. We realized that more businesses grow out of business then go out of business."

Jason Kilar shook up Hollywood, and now some rivals (like this anonymous exec) are gleefully watching his fall:

  • "He got hit by the same bus he hit everybody else with: the AT&T ineptitude bus."

All those tweets about your crypto winnings are a security risk, Coinbase's Matt Muller said:

  • "Don't brag about your cryptocurrency holdings online, just like you wouldn't advertise inheriting $50 million."
On Protocol: Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez said AB 5 was only the beginning of her gig-work fight:
  • "These companies, for whatever reason, can't seem to be satisfied, even with the rules that they wrote. It seems to me that the terms and conditions of what they promised in Prop 22 seems to be turning and whether they adhere to them, I think will be an issue of litigation as well. I can't say we're going to automatically be successful, but we have to continue to fight."

Making Moves

Carolyn Everson left Facebook. She's been at the company for more than a decade, and was hugely influential in the business as its head of global ad sales.

Matt Furlong is the new CEO at GameStop, and Mike Recupero is the new CFO. Both are former Amazon execs, who will be tasked with turning the company into … well, something like Amazon.

Noom hired a bunch of new executives: Sean Foster is the new CMO, Angela Crossman is the new head of people, and Firdaus Bhathena is the new GM of health care.

Allen Denison is leaving Apple. He's been at the company since 1997 — and at NeXT before that — most recently working on developer technologies for the company.

Valo Health is getting SPAC'd. Its merger with a Khosla Ventures SPAC values the company at about $2.8 billion.

Marqeta hit the public market and had a big first day. Its price jumped 20% at the beginning of trading and stayed up throughout trading.

In Other News

  • On Protocol: Most Facebook employees can work from home forever. Initially, the company was only letting some senior and long-tenured employees go remote, but now almost anyone can apply to WFH. Mark Zuckerberg — who probably didn't need to apply — is planning to work remotely at least half of next year.
  • Meanwhile, IBM is reopening its offices the week of Sept. 7. It's working on ways for fully-vaccinated employees to work without masks.
  • Bill Gates owns more than 100,000 acres of land used for American agriculture, though he doesn't have much say over how the land is farmed.
  • On Protocol | Policy: The Emergency Broadband Benefit program has problems. People eligible for the scheme say glitches and confusion are causing them to be rejected by Comcast and Spectrum after being approved by the FCC.
  • One Fastly customer basically brought down the internet. An otherwise totally normal settings change triggered a bug, the BBC reported, causing 85% of Fastly's network to return errors.
  • On Protocol: Europe has more antitrust on its mind. It released preliminary findings on voice assistants and smart devices, and said it found possible competition concerns in the "attempts to restrict the number of voice assistants accessible on smart devices."
  • Airbnb wants to pay for you to live somewhere else. It's looking for 12 people to "live exclusively in listings on Airbnb for approximately one year," and will pay for all the living and travel. Yet another reason to embrace that hybrid life!
  • The Boring Loop is up and running. The 1.7-mile loop underneath the Las Vegas Convention Center is home to lots of Teslas and passengers, though it's still slower and lower-tech than the ultimate vision.
  • Facebook is reportedly working on a smartwatch. It will have two cameras that can be detached and used for taking pictures, The Verge reported, which makes it spiritually more like Snap's Spectacles than the Apple Watch. And as one Twitter user put it: can't wait for everyone to disagree about what time it is.
  • Watch out, tax data leakers. AG Merrick Garland said Wednesday that he believes IRS inspectors "were working on" investigating who leaked the data used in ProPublica's story about billionaires avoiding taxes. Just as Protocol's Biz Carson predicted yesterday.

One More Thing

Desk phone 2.0

Be honest: You miss your desk phone a little. You might not have had one in years (and if you're new to the workforce, you might never have had one), but there was something nice about the big handset, the buttons and the feeling like every time you picked up the phone it was An Event.

Well, Zoom's trying to bring it back. It's working with Poly and others on "Zoom Phone Appliances," which would bake the app into a desk phone with a touchscreen. It's mostly meant for audio calls, sure (and we could all use more camera-free calls, right?), but you can even get one with a webcam that sticks out of the top. It's like a 1950s videophone dream come to life. And it means instead of the awkward wave goodbye on Zoom, you can now end a call by slamming the handset down. Isn't that just better?


Kimberly thinks Amazon is "setting a good example for not only Florida, but every other state where the minimum wage is below $15/hr." That's because she has seen the difference $15/hr has made for her, her family, and her community.

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