Benner on Tech: Tim Cook Stands Up for Privacy

Katie Benner is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about technology, innovation, and the cult and culture of Silicon Valley. She lives in San Francisco.
Read More.
a | A

People are Talking About ...

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook reiterated his stand that customers shouldn’t have to give up their privacy and security in order to use products made by big Silicon Valley companies.

“We can, and we must provide both [privacy and security] in equal measure. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demand it, the Constitution demands it, morality demands it,” Cook said in a speech during an Electronic Privacy Information Center event in Washington D.C., where he was being honored for "corporate leadership."

According to TechCrunch, Cook went on to say:

“I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

Whither Huffington?

AOL and Verizon executives are meeting this week to hammer out the future of the Huffington Post, according to the New York Times. The newspaper says AOL has attempted for years to sell the property. Life as part of Verizon could make it hard for the Huffington Post to execute an ambitious plan to expand its readership and video offerings, create original content and maybe even acquire other businesses. And Arianna Huffington may not stay at the company after her contract expires this year.

Prosperity for All

Big-name venture investors including Vinod Khosla, Steve Jurvetson, a partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Joe Schoendorf, a partner at Accel Partners signed an open letter that talks about a need to examine the impact the digital economy has had on the broad economy.

The fundamental facts are that we’re living in an ever-more digital and interlinked world, and the benefits of this technological surge have been very uneven.

Previous surges brought with them greatly increased demand for labor and sustained job and wage growth. This time around, the evidence is causing some people to wonder if things are different.

Other signatories include Carl Bass, the CEO of Autodesk, Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com, Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media, and economists from Berkeley and Stanford.

Trolls Inc.

If you’re going to read one tech feature this week, make it Adrian Chen’s New York Times Magazine piece about an underground group in St. Petersburg, Russia, whose mission is to spread false information on the Internet.

As Savchuk and other former employees describe it, the Internet Research Agency had industrialized the art of trolling. Management was obsessed with statistics -- page views, number of posts, a blog’s place on LiveJournal’s traffic charts -- and team leaders compelled hard work through a system of bonuses and fines. “It was a very strong corporate feeling,” Savchuk says. Her schedule gave her two 12-hour days in a row, followed by two days off. Over those two shifts she had to meet a quota of five political posts, 10 nonpolitical posts and 150 to 200 comments on other workers’ posts. The grueling schedule wore her down. She began to feel queasy, she said, posting vitriol about opposition leaders of whom she had no actual opinion, or writing nasty words about Ukrainians when some of her closest acquaintances, including her own ex-husband, were Ukrainian.

Wanted: Employees on the Spectrum

Microsoft, SAP and HP Australia have started programs to hire people with autism; the startup Ultra Testing, which finds software bugs, says 80 percent of its staff has an autism spectrum disorder. Bloomberg explores why the software industry has been a good fit for people with this particular disability.

Ventureland

Fitbit plans to sell 29.85 million shares for $14 to $16 to raise $478 million in an initial public offering that is expected to price on June 17. The deal would value the fitness band company at $3.3 billion. (Bloomberg)

Jawbone laid off 20 employees as part of an ongoing restructuring effort. (the Information)

Medium is undergoing a dramatic strategy shift from publishing platform to social network, which will mean upheaval for many of its nascent online publications. (BuzzFeed)

Mic, a media startup that targets millennials, raised $17 million in new financing in a round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. It also poached Madhulika Sikka from her post as executive editor at NPR News to become executive editor of Mic. (New York Times)

Pinterest is moving into e-commerce with Buyable Pins, which are small price tags that appear under items that are available for purchase on the site. (Bloomberg)

Performance data for some Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins funds could be released by the University of California, if the California state assembly approves a bill that was recently passed by the state Senate. (PE Hub)

People and Personnel Moves

Malcolm Harkins joined the security startup Cylance as global chief information security officer. Harkins was previously vice president and chief security and privacy officer at Intel.

Companies

Amazon will offer all customers, even those without Amazon Prime, free shipping on popular, small items such as makeup and electronics accessories. No minimum order will be required. (Bloomberg) The company is trying to figure out a way to get into the payments business, too. (the Information)

Facebook opened up an artificial intelligence research hub in Paris. Instagram is opening up its photo feed to all advertisers. (New York Times)

Synchronoss Technologies, which makes software for wireless devices, hired Qatalyst Partners to explore a sale. (Wall Street Journal)

Twitter kicked off its “Official Partner Program,” which will help businesses market on the platform.

Yahoo options contracts show traders are still worried new IRS rules around spinoffs could harm the company’s deal to spin off its Alibaba stake. (Bloomberg)

Media Files

L.A. Reid, the chairman and CEO of Epic Records, is working with Pegasus Capital to buy a piece of Rhapsody. (New York Post)

Security Watch

The Senate approved the USA Freedom Act, which curtails some of the government’s powers to spy on citizens. (New York Times)

The IRS didn’t upgrade its security systems, which made it much easier for hackers to recently steal the personal data of 104,000 taxpayers. (Washington Post)

News and Notes

Mark Zuckerberg’s real estate issues continue. A Nov. 9 trial date has been set in the case between Mark Zuckerberg and the developer Mircea Voskerician. (Bloomberg) Zuckerberg’s former neighbors Moris Kori and Betty Frayman-Kori claim in a separate lawsuit that the couple had been trying to get Zuckerberg to buy them out when Voskerician allegedly conspired with their real estate agent to the acquire rights to their home and sell it to the Facebook founder. (Bloomberg)

When U.S. immigration policies push Ivy league grads out of American tech companies, those workers can find opportunities to be leaders in India’s booming tech industry. (Bloomberg)

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the editor on this story:
Maria Lamagna at mlamagna@bloomberg.net