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Google has a plan to ‘fix’ online privacy. Everybody hates it.

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Good morning! This Monday, the internet is banding together against FLoC, Facebook is about to take on Clubhouse and Peloton's in regulatory trouble.

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The Big Story

FLoC off

Google recently decided to adopt a new way to track users: Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC. Google says it's more private than cookies and still nearly as effective for advertising. (Here's a good explanation, but the short version is this: Rather than track you individually, FLoC puts you into a larger group with other people who share your interests.)

So far, the rest of the internet pretty much hates FLoC.

  • The WordPress development team is proposing to "treat FLoC as a security concern," and opt every site out of the system by default. Given that WordPress powers about 40% of the entire web (and its market share is even higher among publishers), that could be a massive blow to FLoC as a concept.
  • Meanwhile DuckDuckGo, Brave, Vivaldi and others have all promised to block the new tracking systems. Though none of those will scare Google nearly as much as WordPress: They're all privacy-focused companies largely trying to grab market share by making Chrome the bad guy.

The de facto explanation for why FLoC is a bad idea is this blog post from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Under FLoC, EFF's Bennett Cyphers writes, "users begin every interaction with a confession: here's what I've been up to this week, please treat me accordingly."

  • Also from the post: "Google will surely tout this as a step forward for 'transparency and user control,' knowing full well that the vast majority of its users will not understand how FLoC works, and that very few will go out of their way to turn it off."

Google has a tricky decision to make here. It doesn't have to make any change, really; Chrome is so dominant that any feature it turns on will near-immediately become a de facto web standard. FLoC will work if Google decides to make it work. But the idea that privacy is a feature worth switching or paying for is gaining steam, and it's not impossible to imagine that FLoC could be scary enough to send people running to Edge or Brave. Is that a risk worth taking for the Chrome team?

Social

Facebook Clubhouses

Facebook is about to announce a number of new features in a category it's calling "social audio," Recode reported. "Social audio" being, of course, the category term for what Clubhouse is.

  • It's expected to include a standalone product — its Hotline prototype is probably a decent guide — and integrations into existing Facebook products. You'll apparently be able to make audio posts on Facebook, or create audio-only rooms in Messenger.
  • Messenger would be the closest thing to a Clubhouse clone: Facebook has already been testing "Live Audio" rooms, which are open to anyone on Facebook.
  • Messenger doesn't get talked about like Facebook's other platforms, but it's massive — upwards of 1.3 billion users — and crucial to Facebook's private-communications future.

This is a big moment, and there's a lot of pressure on Clubhouse to make exactly the right decisions from here on.

  • Clubhouse just raised more money — in addition to the other money it raised, after the other money it raised — and is now valued at $4 billion. It's now flush with cash to keep throwing at growth.
  • And yet all signs point to it losing steam. It's dropping in the App Store rankings, its Google Trend lines are pointing downward and "who will kill Clubhouse" is a more common conversation in tech circles right now than "were you in that great room last night?"

So expect Clubhouse to start making big changes. It's going to release an Android app soon, it's planning to use its new funds to expand internationally and I would bet on its invite-only status going away before long. The only question is whether it can do all that before the likes of Facebook catch up.

People Are Talking

Adobe co-founder Charles Geschke passed away on Friday, and Shantanu Narayen sent a note to the staff remembering his achievements:

  • "As much as his inventions changed the world, it is his focus on people, purpose and culture that has profoundly impacted each of us at Adobe. As he always said, Chuck wanted to create a company where he would want to work. He believed that good ideas come from everywhere in the company and that it's not only what we do but how we do it that matters most. He dedicated much of his time and talent to various philanthropies and community organizations throughout his lifetime."

The possibility of losing health care made it hard to vote for a union in Bessemer, Amazon worker Darryl Richardson said:

  • "They were scared that healthcare was going to be taken away. That's why a lot of them voted 'no' against the union. We got the outcome we have now because they threatened them, that benefits and wages were going to drop."

Welp, we're not getting any Trump-Facebook decision anytime soon, said the Oversight Board:

  • "The Board will announce its decision on the case concerning former U.S. President Trump's indefinite suspension from Facebook and Instagram in the coming weeks. We extended the public comments deadline for this case, receiving 9,000+ responses.

On Protocol | Fintech: Alfred Chuang said crypto is a chance for a fresh start in IT:

  • "We're going to need a major reboot. This major fintech trend moving into crypto will give us the opportunity for that reset. I think the really smart regulators, they all know that. There's a race going on. It's a tech race among countries on which one will get there first."

A MESSAGE FROM CLEAR | HEALTH PASS

CLEAR is working to help you connect your vaccine to your Health Pass. You will soon be able to create a digital vaccination record in the free CLEAR app. Download the app and get ready.

Learn more

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Join Protocol's Tomio Geron for a discussion on the future of commerce with Whatnot's Grant LaFontaine and a16z's Connie Chan at #CollisionConf on April 21. Learn more

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Coming This Week

Apple's Spring Loaded event is tomorrow, where we might see everything from new iPads to colorful iMacs to the long-awaited AirTags.

Oculus is having a gaming event on Wednesday, which should be an interesting litmus test for the VR gaming biz as a whole.

Netflix, IBM, Snap and Intercom all report earnings this week. Earnings season is back, baby!

In Other News

  • On Protocol: Meet Google's data center contractors. They love the good pay and engaging work — but resent that Google and its staffing firm make them quit every two years.
  • The White House is starting a huge pro-vaccine social media push, including sending push notifications to Facebook and Twitter users and sending a "social media toolkit" to thousands of organizations around the country.
  • All ISPs have to offer $15 per month basic internet in New York, thanks to a new bill. A higher-speed broadband plan is capped at $20 a month.
  • Ant's figuring out how to get rid of Jack Ma, Reuters reported, in an effort to appease regulators. The company is reportedly exploring ways for Ma to divest his financial stake in the company.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission told people to stop using the Peloton Tread if they have small children at home, following one child's death. Peloton called the CPSC's release "inaccurate and misleading."
  • Two people died in a seemingly Autopilot-related Tesla crash. It appears that no one was in the car's driver seat at the time of the crash.
  • SpaceX is building NASA's moon lander, winning a $2.9 billion contract from the agency.
  • GameStop's CEO is leaving, the latest in a flurry of executive departures since Ryan Cohen became the company's chairman.
  • Amazon canceled its "Lord of the Rings" game, reportedly due to contract disputes between Amazon and Tencent, which acquired the company Amazon was working with on the game. Seems Amazon still can't crack gaming.

One More Thing

Don't choose your own adventure

Remote work works! Flexibility is good! But Nick Bloom, a Stanford professor and researcher on all things work, said the key is to have a level playing field. "Set one policy for everyone," he told Business Insider. "Don't let people choose."

Bloom's ideal setup includes a couple of days at home a week, and a couple of days in the office. And when the team's in the office, everyone is in the office. That makes sure people get face time, that meetings don't have to be hybrid and that nobody has to worry about whether their future-of-work setup is better or worse than the rest of their team's. It's not exactly the freeform, digital-nomad utopia some hope for, but it might work?

A MESSAGE FROM CLEAR | HEALTH PASS

CLEAR is working to help you connect your vaccine to your Health Pass. You will soon be able to create a digital vaccination record in the free CLEAR app. Download the app and get ready.

Learn more

---

Join Protocol's Ben Pimentel for a conversation about the future of banking with Clearbanc's Michele Romanow and Wells Fargo's Ather Williams III at #CollisionConf on April 22. Learn more

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Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.

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