Which tech giant do you trust? How Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are doing privacy

Which tech giant do you trust? How Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are doing privacy

11:07am, 11th May, 2019
There’s a common theme running through the spring season of developer conferences and tech events: trust and privacy. With the tech industry faceing a backlash from consumers and regulators, tech giants including Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft are looking to assure everyone that they’re listening. But each company is approaching the issue in a very different way, and with a very different track record on the topic. On this episode of the GeekWire Podcast, we listen to the CEOs of these companies talk about privacy, and analyze the different approaches. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in : “But we also share a deep responsibility together. It starts with us as platform providers, but we have a collective responsibility. A few years ago when we started talking about it, it felt a bit prosaic to talk about responsibility in tech conferences where it’s all about the glitz of technology, but it’s no longer the case to us really thinking about the trust in everything that we build in the technology we build is so core.” Google CEO Sundar Pichai. (Flickr Photo / Maurizio Pesce) Google CEO Sundar Pichai talking about Google Maps : “In addition to finding easy access to your privacy controls, you’ll find a new feature, incognito mode. Incognito mode has been a popular feature in Chrome since it launched, and we are bringing this to maps. While in incognito in Maps, your activity, like the places you search and navigate to, won’t be linked to your account. We want to make it easy to enter in and out of incognito. And maps will soon join chrome and YouTube with support for incognito and we’ll be bringing it to search as well this year.” Apple CEO Tim Cook promotes privacy at the company’s recent product event. Apple CEO Tim Cook discussing Apple News : “We felt we could make a difference in the way that news is experienced and understood. A place where the news would come from trusted sources and be curated by experts.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the F8 developer conference. (Facebook Photo) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg : “Privacy gives us the freedom to be ourselves. It’s easier to feel like you belong when you’re part of smaller communities and amongst your closest friends. So it’s no surprise that the fastest ways that we’re all communicating online are private messaging in small groups and in stories. As the world gets bigger and more connected, we need that sense of, of intimacy more than ever. So that’s why I believe that the future is private.” Zuckerberg’s comments were a radical departure from the company’s recent strategy, but in some ways . But the Facebook CEO is having a hard time convincing the industry and the public that he’s genuine in his sudden concern for the issue. PREVIOUSLY: Microsoft is coming to these issues with the most experience and the least to lose. The company fought its own battles with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy back in the day, and it doesn’t rely on advertising revenue as the main driver of its business, having shifted from traditional software licensing revenue to subscription-based software and services. Apple is in a similar position, making most of its money from devices and paid subscription services, which makes it easier for the company to tout privacy as a competitive advantage. Google’s business is largely based on advertising revenue, and because of that it’s walking a fine line as it introduces new privacy controls. But Pichai went public with a thinly veiled criticism of Apple on this topic in , writing, “Our mission compels us to take the same approach to privacy. For us, that means privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services. Privacy must be equally available to everyone in the world.” Listen to the full podcast for more details and our analysis. You can play the show above, or subscribe to GeekWire in your favorite podcast app. Other stories covered on this episode:
Trust, privacy, and then what? Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opens Build developer conference

Trust, privacy, and then what? Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opens Build developer conference

1:35pm, 6th May, 2019
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opens the company’s Build developer conference in downtown Seattle on May 6, 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Over the decades, Microsoft’s developer conferences have provided the first glimpse of some of the company’s most important products, from Windows 95 and Internet Explorer 5.5 to the .NET framework and Azure cloud computing platform. But they have also been the launchpad for some of its biggest flops, like “Longhorn,” which morphed into the doomed Windows Vista after its coming out party at the 2003 Professional Developers Conference. So how will Microsoft Build be remembered? First, for the fact that Microsoft was way ahead on this whole trust and privacy thing. But perhaps not for a whole lot else. “A few years ago when we started talking about it, it felt a bit prosaic to talk about responsibility at tech conferences where it’s all about the glitz of technology, but it’s no longer the case,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, opening the developer conference in Seattle on Monday, before outlining the company’s agenda for privacy, cybersecurity and “responsible” artificial intelligence. In fact, privacy and trust are the new hot thing in a tech industry facing a backlash over repeated leaks and revelations about online manipulation of elections and politics. And Microsoft was way ahead on this front, thanks in part to the privacy battles of it’s youth. “We’ll talk a lot about this opportunity throughout this keynote and throughout this conference, but we also share a deep responsibility together,” Nadella said. “It starts with us as platform providers, but we have a collective responsibility. To us really thinking about trust in everything that we build, in the technology we build, is so core, and as engineers we need to truly incorporate this into the core design process.” Nadella’s remarks stood out as a natural extension of a conversation Microsoft has been having for years, rather than what amounted to an abrupt change of direction from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the social network’s privacy-oriented F8 conference last week. Google, which holds its I/O developer event in California this week, has also been under the microscope for privacy issues. Microsoft backed up its words with technologies, or at least with announcements, and elections officials to operate more securely, for example. The company returned to the theme of trust and privacy throughout the Build keynote address. NEW COVER: How Satya Nadella remade Microsoft into the world’s most valuable company — Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV) But even as the company is lauded for its turnaround under Nadella, it needs to maintain and drum up excitement among developers, whose decisions and loyalties can make or break technology platforms. With Windows settling into its role as a reliable utility on PCs and laptops, and no popular smartphone platform to call its own, Microsoft faces a significant challenge on that front. A demo glitch to kick off the show didn’t help, as a re-enactment of the Apollo 11 moon landing on Hololens devices went bust due to an unspecified problem. The rest of the keynote focused heavily on mostly non-glitzy business technologies and applications, sticking to the area that has fueled Microsoft’s resurgence. The company is looking to push the boundaries in the field of conversational artificial intelligence, between a virtual agent and a person. But many of the company’s initial announcements at Build were updates to existing technologies, not enough to give this developer conference a place in the history books. The company is , open-sourcing elements of its and . Even for this highly technical audience, there wasn’t an attention-grabber on the level of the Azure Cosmos DB globally distributed database , or the integration of Xamarin mobile development technologies into Visual Studio, . Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella walks onto the Build keynote stage to deliver his closing remarks. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) But as with many Microsoft developer conferences past, it may take more time for the real story of this Build to emerge. At the very end, Microsoft of Minecraft, appearing to allow gamers to play Minecraft in the real world, a la Pokémon Go. In the meantime, the company seems to be banking on incremental product and platform advancements, combined with Nadella’s best efforts to keep developers in the fold. “It’s really exciting to see the developer opportunity in front of us,” the Microsoft CEO said to conclude his keynote address. He called the company’s platforms “a rich canvas for you in this era of the cloud and the edge, to enable you to turn the dreams that you all have into reality, not just imagine the future, but to create it, to build these magical experiences.”
Microsoft doubles down on trust and privacy as Satya Nadella opens Build conference

Microsoft doubles down on trust and privacy as Satya Nadella opens Build conference

1:04pm, 6th May, 2019
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opens the company’s Build developer conference in downtown Seattle on May 6, 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Over the decades, Microsoft’s developer conferences have provided the first glimpse of some of the company’s most important products, from Windows 95 and Internet Explorer 5.5 to the .NET framework and Azure cloud computing platform. But has also been the launchpad for some of its biggest flops, like “Longhorn,” which morphed into the doomed Windows Vista after its coming out party at the 2003 Professional Developers conference. So how will Microsoft Build be remembered? In part, at least, for the fact that Microsoft was way ahead on this whole trust and privacy thing. “A few years ago when we started talking about it, it felt a bit prosaic to talk about responsibility at tech conferences where it’s all about the glitz of technology, but it’s no longer the case,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, before outlining the company’s agenda for privacy, cybersecurity and “responsible” artificial intelligence. In fact, privacy and trust are the new hot thing in a tech industry facing a backlash over repeated leaks and revelations about online manipulation of elections and politics. “Now we’ll talk a lot about this opportunity throughout this keynote and throughout this conference, but we also share a deep responsibility together,” Nadella said. “It starts with us as platform providers, but we have a collective responsibility. To us really thinking about trust in everything that we build, in the technology we build, is so core, and as engineers we need to truly incorporate this into the core design process.” Nadella’s remarks stood out as a natural extension of the conversation Microsoft has been having for years, rather than what amounted to an abrupt change of direction from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the social network’s privacy-oriented F8 conference last week. Backing up its comments with actual technologies, Microsoft and elections officials to operate more securely and returned to the theme of trust and privacy throughout the Build keynote address. NEW COVER: How Satya Nadella remade Microsoft into the world’s most valuable company — Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV) But even as the company is lauded for its turnaround under Nadella, it still needs to drum up excitement among developers, whose decisions and loyalties can make or break technology platforms. With Windows settling into its role as a reliable utility on PCs and laptops, and no popular smartphone platform to call its own, Microsoft faces a significant challenge on that front. A demo glitch to kick off the show didn’t help, as a re-enactment of the Apollo 11 moon landing went bust due to an unspecified technical problem. The company focused heavily on business technologies and applications, sticking to the focus that has fueled its resurgence. Many of the company’s initial announcements at Build were updates to existing technologies, not enough to give this developer conference a place in the history books. The company is , open-sourcing elements of its and . Even for this highly technical audience, there wasn’t anything on the level of the Azure Cosmos DB globally distributed database announcement at Build 2016. But as with many Microsoft developer conferences past, it may take more time for the real story of this Build to emerge. At the very end, Microsoft of Minecraft, appearing to allow gamers to play Minecraft in the real world, a la Pokémon Go.
GeekWire Podcast: How Microsoft is boxing Amazon into a corner on privacy and taxes

GeekWire Podcast: How Microsoft is boxing Amazon into a corner on privacy and taxes

12:39pm, 30th March, 2019
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. (Space Foundation and Microsoft Photos) This week on the GeekWire Podcast: Microsoft is putting Amazon into a difficult position by , as part of from the Redmond tech giant. Meanwhile, Apple is as a feature with its latest announcements, . And we talk about , Zulily co-founders Darrell Cavens and Mark Vadon. Plus, we finish with the return of the Random Channel. Audio editing by Jim Valley.
Apple unveils TV+, News+, and Arcade subscription services, touting privacy as a feature

Apple unveils TV+, News+, and Arcade subscription services, touting privacy as a feature

1:31pm, 25th March, 2019
Apple CEO Tim Cook at the event in Cupertino, Calif., this morning. (Via webcast) Apple unveiled a magazine subscription service, a new Apple TV+ streaming service, an Apple Arcade gaming service, and a new Apple Card digital credit card in Cupertino, Calif. The new Apple TV+ streaming service has support from some of the biggest names in Hollywood, with stars including Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Jennifer Aniston and Steven Spielberg appearing on stage at the announcement. Apple TV+ positions the company as a challenger to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which lead the U.S. market for paid video streaming services. But Apple also said it would be integrating its updated Apple TV app with Amazon Prime Video and the Seattle company’s FireTV streaming hardware. Introducing Apple TV+. A new streaming service with original stories from the most creative minds in TV and film. — Apple TV (@AppleTV) The common thread is an expansion of Apple’s services business, moving the company further beyond software and hardware, and a focus on privacy as a competitive advantage against Google, Facebook and other companies that rely on advertising revenue to fuel their businesses. The new $9.99/month magazine subscription service, Apple News + builds on the company’s . Apple News+ will offer access to more than 300 magazines. Apple made a point of differentiating its approach amid broader economic and political threats to journalism, as well as growing privacy concerns. “We believe in the power of journalism and the impact it will have on our lives,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, on stage at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple HQ in Cupertino, Calif., after unveiling the new service. “We think Apple News+ is going to be great for customers, and great for publishers.” Apple says the service will also include premium digital subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal, TheSkimm and the L.A. Times. “We don’t know what you read, and in addition to that, we don’t allow advertisers to track you,” said Roger Rosner, Apple’s vice president of applications. “What you read about in Apple News will not follow you across the web.” Also announced this morning: A new Apple Card credit card will be integrated into Apple Pay on the iPhone, extending the company’s reach into digital payments. Apple says it won’t track what users spend or share that information with third-parties. Apple is partnering with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard on the Apple Card. Apple unveiled a new gaming subscription service called Apple Arcade, with the ability to play more than 100 games across Apple devices, with offline play available. Apple TV Channels, a new feature in the Apple TV app that integrates content from Apple as well as subscription services including Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. The Apple TV app is also coming to the Mac, and for the first time to smart TVs, with Roku and Amazon FireTV integration. This is part of a broader push by Apple into digital services. The company’s Services business , to more than $37 billion. The event is ongoing and. Developing story, more to come.
Microsoft president says WA state privacy bill could impact facial recognition technology globally

Microsoft president says WA state privacy bill could impact facial recognition technology globally

1:28pm, 1st March, 2019
Microsoft President Brad Smith speaks at Seattle University. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg) Two of the top companies developing facial recognition software are in Washington state, where . Because Amazon and Microsoft would be regulated by the law, Microsoft President Brad Smith says its implications would impact billions of people living outside Washington’s borders. Microsoft and Amazon both highlight the benefits of the facial recognition technology they offer — from diagnosing disease to locating missing children. But they diverge when it comes to the controversy surrounding the technology. Amazon has come under fire from the ACLU and others worried facial recognition can amplify racial bias. The use of Amazon’s technology by law enforcement agencies rankles civil rights activists. Microsoft, meanwhile, is calling for government regulation of facial recognition. The company is endorsing one Washington state bill, . Speaking at a Seattle University event on Thursday night, Smith explained why Washington’s bill could lead to more oversight of facial recognition everywhere. It has to do with a provision of the bill that requires companies developing facial recognition to make their software available for third-party testing to detect issues like racial or gender bias. “The theory is if we can get one jurisdiction, that is important enough, to pass a law that requires your company to make available its service for testing, then by definition it’s going to be available for testing around the world. So I’m actually quite bullish on the prospect that if this bill can get passed in Washington state, we could take a major step, not just for the 7 million people who live here, but the 7 billion people who live everywhere to help address this. “ If enacted, Washington’s bill would forbid government agencies from using the technology in ongoing surveillance of individuals in public spaces without a court order or life-or-death emergency. Companies that make the software would need to get consent from consumers before using it on them and Washington residents would need to be conspicuously notified when entering websites and physical spaces where facial recognition is in use. Microsoft’s general counsel for privacy and regulatory affairs, Julie Brill, has been in Olympia, Wash. At a hearing in January, she told lawmakers that the legislation took the best provisions from existing privacy laws in California and Europe. “I believe it’s fitting that here in Washington state, where so many of the technologies that are changing the world are being developed, that the Washington state legislature has the historic opportunity to adopt privacy laws that will protect consumers in this state and help define privacy protection in ways that will influence privacy law throughout the United States,” she said during the hearing. A few weeks before, about facial recognition technology and the need for regulation during a speech in Washington D.C. “We have advocated for regulation,” Smith said Thursday. “We think that’s the only way to avoid a race to the bottom where just all standards are lost.”
Microsoft wants Washington state to double down on infrastructure and privacy

Microsoft wants Washington state to double down on infrastructure and privacy

1:27pm, 11th February, 2019
Microsoft President Brad Smith. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy) Microsoft will press the Washington state legislature to prioritize privacy legislation and infrastructure improvements this year, according to penned by Brad Smith, the company’s president and legal chief. Microsoft published its legislative wishlist Monday, outlining the company’s policy goals in its home state for 2019. Each year, Smith puts out a road map of policy priorities that Microsoft will throw its weight behind. Here’s what’s on Microsoft’s 2019 agenda: Infrastructure improvements Housing is a key area of focus for Microsoft this year. The Redmond, Wash., tech giant last month that will invest in middle- and low-income housing and provide grants to homeless service providers. Microsoft is urging the legislature to invest an additional $200 million in the state’s Housing Trust Fund for low-income homes. The company is also pressing local governments in the state to re-zone neighborhoods to allow for more density and asking the state to reconsider policies that create barriers to development. In addition to housing, Microsoft wants Washington to improve access to broadband internet for rural residents. Microsoft’s goal is to close the rural broadband gap across the country through its . The company wants Washington to create a State Broadband Office and invest $25 million to create a grant program that would encourage broadband development to underserved areas. Finally, Microsoft will continue its push for a high-speed rail line connecting Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash., and Vancouver, B.C. to help study whether high-speed rail was feasible and “confirmed this service could be operated cost-effectively,” according to Smith’s blog post. Now the company is backing Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s $3 million proposal to establish a formal partnership between the three cities and move forward with a high-speed rail line. Privacy Microsoft is of privacy legislation working its way through the Washington state House and Senate. The bills would give residents of the state more information about and control over data that is collected on them. It would also require companies that develop facial recognition technology, including Microsoft, to make their software available for third-party testing, among other regulations. “There is no more reason for a company in the facial recognition market to object to third-party testing than there is reason for an automobile company to object to testing the airbags in a new car,” Smith writes.