More data, more problems
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More data, more problems

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Good morning! Peiter Zatko testified before Congress yesterday, adding more details to his initial whistleblower complaint. The long and short of it: Twitter has struggled with handling its data.

Data, the root of all evil

Twitter whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko’s testimony before Congress yesterday can be summed up in three words: sloppy data handling.

Twitter simply has too much user data and does a pretty bad job at managing it, Mudge told lawmakers.

  • Among Zatko’s grievances: Too many engineers had too much access to too much data, making it hard to track and opening the door for bad actors to use the data in bad ways.
  • “They simply lacked the fundamental abilities to hunt for foreign intelligence agencies and expel them on their own,” he said during the testimony.
  • Twitter isn’t necessarily the only social media company with this level of data collection, though. Lots of mobile apps already collect the data Zatko described. And Zatko dealt in potential risks, rather than actual instances of harm.

Twitter leaders also didn’t see security as a top concern, which is an issue that Zatko had described in his original whistleblower complaint.

  • Rather than addressing security problems head-on, Zatko explained that leadership would get around their issues by lying to the FTC or hiding the fact that most employees could take over Twitter accounts if they wanted.
  • Twitter isn’t as afraid of the FTC as it is of European regulators, especially in France, because those agencies tend to dig deeper and impose harsher restrictions, Zatko said.

Elon Musk wasn’t really a highlight of the testimony, in case you were wondering. Lawmakers didn’t ask too many questions regarding the acquisition, even as Twitter shareholders approved the deal during a (checks notes) seven-minute meeting that was also held yesterday.

So what happens now? Zatko didn’t offer any suggestions for what Washington could actually do aside from having more oversight on social media companies’ data practices. So as always, we might just have to wait for Washington to decide what it wants to do next. And that could take a while.

— Sarah Roach

The corner store cornerstone

If there’s one dependable mainstay in the world of retail, it’s the corner store. And it’s not just useful for when you need that late-night snack: Corner stores hold a wealth of opportunities for fintech.

Customers in emerging markets depend on corner stores more than ever, according to new data from the fintech VC firm Flourish Ventures.

  • Fintech firms are uniquely poised to fill these stores’ needs, including helping the often cash-based businesses transition to digital payments or making short-term credit easier to manage, Protocol Fintech reporter Veronica Irwin reports.
  • This stands to benefit merchants, too. Research by the United Nations Global Pulse suggests that fintech can accelerate financial inclusion by serving “micro-merchants” that lack sufficient access to traditional banking services. Digitizing things like inventory, store analytics or bookkeeping could also help their bottom line.
  • Investors are taking notice: Three companies in Y Combinator’s latest batch plan to offer services to convenience store merchants.

There's a huge opportunity here: Getting fintech solutions right for these merchants isn’t just good for business; it’s important to the broader economy, Flourish managing partner Arjuna Costa told Veronica. “We can have this significant impact on the corner store owner and the customer, so shouldn’t we collectively be putting our best minds and our capital against getting the … experience just right?”

— Nat Rubio-Licht

Can mapping make cycling more appealing?

Google Maps can make driving easier. Biking, not so much. Making the app more bike-friendly could make people less reliant on cars, which is particularly urgent, given that the transportation sector is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases, writes Protocol Climate reporter Lisa Martine Jenkins.

  • Setting up a mapping algorithm for biking isn’t as easy as it is for cars, since finding the best route is a lot more qualitative. Cyclists might not just care about speed, but also things like safety or air quality.
  • A quiet residential road with speed bumps but without a bike lane, for instance, can feel more comfortable for bikers — especially new bikers — than a busy thoroughfare with a painted-on bike lane.

This presents a tremendous opportunity for tech companies willing to take on the challenge of becoming a single, comprehensive bike-routing app. Read the full story here.

A MESSAGE FROM PROJECT LIBERTY

Combining the power of cutting-edge tech, effective governance principles and a civic movement, Project Liberty is transforming how the internet works and who it works for. Join us at Unfinished Live, September 21-24, to learn more and to get involved.

Learn more

People are talking

Justin Trudeau criticized political rival Pierre Poilievre for promoting crypto:

  • “Telling people they can opt out of inflation by investing in cryptocurrencies is not responsible leadership.”

Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi said inflation is bringing in more drivers:

  • “If anything, 72% of drivers in the U.S. are saying that one of the considerations of their signing up to drive on Uber was actually inflation.”

Making moves

George Arison will become Grindr’s new CEO next month as the company prepares to go public. Passport Labs’ Vanna Krantz is also joining as CFO.

Bob Iger is joining Thrive Capital as a venture partner. Instagram, Spotify and Stripe are among the companies that Thrive has backed.

Jim Bartolomea is ClickUp’s new SVP and global head of people and places. He previously served as ServiceNow’s VP of people.

Reena Choudhry is Obsidian Security’s first CRO. Choudhry most recently held the same role at Very Good Security.

Lindsey Scrase is joining Checkr as CRO. Scrase previously led the SMB and startups unit at Google Cloud.

Patreon laid off 17% of its staff. The company plans to keep investing in its product, engineering and design teams but reduce its efforts in marketing, recruiting and other internal support resources.

In other news

The EU fined Google over $4 billion for using its Android operating system to hold back competitors. It's a record fine for an antitrust violation.

Google is also facing claims for up to $25.4 billion in damages over its ad tech practices in two lawsuits that will be filed in coming weeks by British and Dutch courts.

And South Korea fined Google and Meta over $70 million for breaking privacy laws. The country's watchdog said the two companies didn't get legitimate consent for collecting user information.

Apple's expanding its ad inventory. The company is planning to introduce new "ad placements" later this year, CNBC reported.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill requiring social media firms to post their policies related to issues like hate speech and report data on their enforcement of those rules.

Adam Neumann is handing over part of his new startup’s holdings in exchange for a $350 million investment from Andreessen Horowitz, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

The FBI seized MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's phone in a case about a Colorado county clerk accused of messing with voting equipment.

Meta is merging its integrity and ad moderation teams, according to Axios. CISO Guy Rosen will lead the new integrity unit.

The U.S. Commerce Department signed a deal with Google to research chips that will be used to develop nanotechnology and semiconductor devices.

SpaceX superfans

Elon Musk has attracted quite the following. But some have taken super-fandom to a whole new level, flocking to what’s now known as “Rocket Ranch,” an isolated piece of land in the small Texas town of Boca Chica, to show their Musk support. The town is the home of Starbase, the primary site where SpaceX is building and testing its Starship. From Rocket Ranch, fans can see launches from afar. And some superfans have even moved there to watch rockets fly.

A MESSAGE FROM PROJECT LIBERTY

Combining the power of cutting-edge tech, effective governance principles and a civic movement, Project Liberty is transforming how the internet works and who it works for. Join us at Unfinished Live, September 21-24, to learn more and to get involved.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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