TikTok’s many possible futures
Image: Juan Pablo Bravo / Protocol
Good morning! This Friday, everybody wants something different from TikTok, Amazon wants to track everything about you, and get ready to start charging your face mask.
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TikTok has become a Rorschach test over the last few months. You can look at it and imagine turning it into … well, apparently just about anything. It's the future of entertainment! A trove of data! An advertising gold mine! The next generation of shopping! Maybe it'll fix Quibi! (It won't fix Quibi.)
The most recent idea comes from Walmart, which has thrown its weight behind Microsoft's bid to buy the company. It's currently unclear what that joining of forces would look like, exactly. But what Walmart sees in TikTok is pretty clear:
Walmart doesn't need to own TikTok to be the Official Shopping Partner of the fastest-growing thing in social. So the company's smart to get in with whoever TikTok's new owner is.
Whatever's going to happen, it now seems likely to happen ahead of the September 20 deadline, and maybe as soon as next week. Three numbers you should know in the meantime:
Mike Murphy writes: On the surface, Amazon's new Halo wearable seems like a pretty straightforward offering, on par with Apple's Watch and Google's Fitbit. The water resistant wearable band tracks your activity and sleep quality, but the app also has a few features that go well beyond what competitors offer. Unlike the next Apple Watch or the newest Fitbit, they could have potentially damaging ramifications if rolled out improperly.
This tweet about how Amazon uses data, from Ali Alkhatib, a research fellow at the Center for Applied Data Ethics, had me thinking about the company's history with automated systems.
Halo could really raise the stakes on what could go wrong: It's dealing with complex systems that would require huge, diverse datasets to work fairly and with any level of accuracy. Amazon told Protocol that Halo's features were "trained on a large amount of data across demographics," but history shows that bias is rife in machine learning algorithms.
Shakeel Hashim writes: Robocalls have ruined many things in life: lie-ins, movie nights, our entire sense of trust. But amid the COVID pandemic, they could have life-threatening consequences.
Contact tracing relies on being able to call up strangers and speak to them. But thanks to the rise of spam calls, Glenn Weinstein told me, "people don't answer the phone as often." Weinstein is the chief customer officer at Twilio, which is licensing its communications technology to numerous state and city organizations, including Illinois and New York City.
Weinstein said Twilio's tech is helping in other ways too, like getting large remote call centers up and running. Some agencies are also using "outbound interactive voice response systems" — where you get a call from a robot that records your answers and passes them into a system.
Twilio is charging government agencies for these products, and has begun working with some universities and private companies too. That means you could find yourself on the receiving end of a Twilio-powered call soon. If you answer it.
Edge computing is an emerging concept that holds great promise. AI best practices are still evolving in the cloud. Join us on Tuesday at 9 a.m. PT for our virtual event Computing at the Edge. Protocol's Tom Krazit will host a discussion with Edgeworx's Farah Papaioannou, IBM's Rob High, Cox Communications' Nancy Li and Swim.ai's Simon Crosby. This event is presented in partnership with Intel.
After the shooting in Kenosha, Color of Change's Rashad Robinson urged Facebook employees to force change:
Amazon started operating in Sweden, and the country's Consumer Association had some not-so-welcoming remarks:
What does Lindsay Graham think about QAnon? Here's what Lindsay Graham thinks about QAnon:
Amazon sued Brian Hall when he left for Google, and he said his isn't the only such story:
Chano Fernandez is the new co-CEO of Workday. He was previously co-president, and will now run the company alongside Aneel Bhusri.
Delivery Hero acquired InstaShop, as the global delivery-app market continues to consolidate. Delivery Hero paid $360 million for the company.
Nick Kalayjian is Rivian's new EVP of engineering and product. He joined from Plenty, but was at Tesla for more than a decade before that. Tesla and Rivian are already engaged in an unrelated lawsuit, so this probably won't be a particularly popular move in Fremont.
Okta is the latest company to go permanently remote. It expects up to 85% of its 2,600 employees to work remotely, and CEO Todd McKinnon said a lot of people are thinking about moving to Canada.
Honestly, I'm surprised it took this long before someone came out with a battery-powered, full-featured, tech-out-the-wazoo face mask. Oh, sorry, "wearable air purifier."
Edge computing is an emerging concept that holds great promise. AI best practices are still evolving in the cloud. Join us on Tuesday, September 1 at 9 a.m. PT / noon ET for our virtual event "Computing at the Edge." Protocol's Tom Krazit will host a discussion with Edgeworx's Farah Papaioannou, IBM's Rob High, Cox Communications' Nancy Li and Swim.ai's Simon Crosby. This event is presented in partnership with Intel.
Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to email@example.com, or our tips line, firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your weekend, see you Sunday.