Uncle Sam next to text reading WE WANT YOUR DATA
Illustration: Stocktrek Images/Getty Images; Protocol

In data, we give

Source Code

Good morning! Big Tech is bending over backwards to comply with other countries’ rules around sharing data. But the biggest number of data requests are coming from right here in the U.S.

Gimme, gimme, gimme user data

Governments worldwide are pressuring Big Tech to abide by rules that give other countries more oversight of user information. But Twitter revealed yesterday that most of the calls for data are coming from inside the house.

The U.S. is the global leader in government data requests from Twitter, the company wrote in its annual transparency report. Its information requests accounted for 20% of the global volume, ahead of India, Japan and France, in that order.

  • The U.S. has led the world in data requests from Twitter every year since 2012. The second half of 2020, when it slid to the No. 2 spot, was the only exception.
  • More broadly, the U.S. requests more data from across tech companies (Apple, Facebook and Twitter) than other countries, too.

At the same time, tech is under pressure from worldwide powers to meet certain requirements around content, as well as share user data. Human rights activists are concerned because it puts too much power in the hands of governments and risks privacy as a result.

  • As my colleague Hirsh Chitkara wrote earlier this week, there’s a changing narrative that social media can’t stand for a “neutral” set of values any longer.
  • Tech companies are complying with new rules in countries like Indonesia, India and Nigeria out of fear that they’ll be kicked out if they don’t. And many of those rules require companies to share user data and comply with other content moderation policies.

The Biden administration has expressed interest in pushing back against authoritarian uses of the internet globally, especially if it means a U.S. tech company runs the risk of being banned outright for not complying. But this country wants lots of information, too. It just has a different way of getting it.

— Sarah Roach

Meta’s identity crisis

Meta is reportedly starting to slash funding to U.S. news partners that run content on Facebook's News tab. A lot has changed since Facebook first brokered its deal with publishers in 2019, and news is now no longer a major driver of Facebook’s traffic.

It’s the second time in a little over a week that Facebook revealed a major priority shift. Mark Zuckerberg previously announced that Facebook would begin placing friend, page and Group posts into a separate tab called Feeds, turning the home feed into an algorithmic page with “content we think you'll care most about.”

But the changes make sense. Like TikTok, Facebook is trying to position itself as an entertainment company rather than a social media or news-sharing platform, prioritizing engagement over anything else.

  • Facebook can afford to jilt those users because they’re “not the platform’s power users,” Protocol Policy editor Kate Cox told me.
  • The same thing is happening with Instagram. While the app wants to become more like TikTok, its most-followed users — Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, etc. — are rallying fans to petition against it. Now facing the heat, Instagram is walking back some of its changes.
  • Jenner did the same thing to Snap: The last time she tweeted a complaint about Snapchat’s design in 2018, it lost $1.3 billion in market value in a day. And yes, Snap ended up changing the design following backlash.

With its big metaverse bets and the rapidly shifting and unclear priorities of its platforms, it’s clear that Meta and its subsidiaries are still figuring out what they want to be. What it does know, though, is who it's beholden to.

— Nat Rubio-Licht

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The next Amazon is Amazon

Amazon posted yet another quarter of high revenue, making it the shining star of ecommerce. Its results don’t speak for the rest of the sector.

Amazon’s earnings beat analysts’ expectations, bringing in $121.2 billion compared to the $119.1 billion expected. Despite the company posting losses of $2 billion, after-hours shares still popped around 12%.

The same can’t be said for other ecommerce companies, which are already grappling with declining demand as the world continues to open up.

  • Shopify laid off 1,000 employees this week, claiming it overhired in a time of crisis. The company’s shares are down 73% year over year, and it reported a net loss of $1.2 billion.
  • Meanwhile, share prices for ecommerce companies like Rakuten, BigCommerce and even Etsy (despite solid earnings) are down between 45% and 77% year over year.
  • The one sign that Amazon took a pandemic hit: It’s looking to ditch its excess warehouse space that it snagged to keep up with early COVID demand.

But the worst may yet come. With the GDP falling for the second consecutive quarter — a strong recession signal — consumers will likely restrict spending, especially if unemployment creeps back up, said Dean Kim, head of equity research at William O’Neil.

With current layoffs, companies are “bracing for what could happen in terms of if they see a deep plunge in the economy,” Kim said. But if revenue falls even more, and as we reported this week, Shopify’s layoffs may only be the beginning.

— Nat Rubio-Licht

People are talking

Adam Mosseri said deciding what content users want is safer:

  • “Recommendations afford us more opportunities to improve safety than a connected experience.”

Martin Shkreli said he’s gotten a lot of support since leaving prison:

  • “Every VC in the community has called me in the last week or two.”

Tim Cook said Apple will be “deliberate” with spending in the near future:

  • “We believe in investing through downturns — we’ve always done that.”

Making moves

Marcus Jadotte is Google Cloud’s new VP of global affairs and public policy. He’s joining Google from Crowley Maritime, where he was SVP of government relations.

Mike O’Malley is Noname Security’s new CMO. O’Malley was previously CyberArk’s SVP of global marketing.

Sydney Schaub is Opendoor’s new chief legal officer. Schaub has held similar roles at Gemini, Rent The Runway and Block.

Ben Robbins is a new general partner at GV. He’s also invested in Aspire, Rodin, Headway and other health tech companies.

Jen Yang-Wong is the new director of product at Contrary Capital. She was formerly a founding product manager at Novi Connect and a senior product manager at Uber.

Charles Lim joined JPMorgan to lead quantum communications and cryptography. Lim is an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore.

In other news

Samsung warned that chip demand will weaken as people shop less. Then Congress passed the Chips bill. Oh, the timing!

Intel had the worst quarter it has had in years, reporting declining data center revenue amid a slide in its PC business.

Apple barely topped earnings estimates, with iPhone and iPad sales doing better than expected during the quarter.

Roku warned investors of a rocky ad market as it plans a “significant slowdown in TV advertising spend.”

Democrats revived the fight for net neutrality, introducing a bill that would reclassify broadband internet as an essential service.

Sequoia’s opening an office in New York, sources told The Information. It’s the VC firm’s first post outside Silicon Valley.

Instagram's coming for BeReal. It added a feature called Dual that looks just like BeReal photos.

Bill Gates is betting on greener ACs. His investment fund led a $20 million round for Blue Frontier, which is trying to make ACs more energy efficient.

Twitter's raising the price of Twitter Blue from $2.99 to $4.99 a month.

The Tyre Extinguishers

If you see an SUV in New York, San Francisco or Chicago with deflated tires, it might be the result of The Tyre Extinguishers. It’s a group of Gen Z-ers who take to the streets at night and stuff lentils into tire valves to release all the air. “The amount of damage from a flat tire is nothing compared to climate change,” one of the Extinguishers told The Guardian. Though it’s hard to argue against that, we’re sure the SUV owners have some thoughts.

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