Top Facebook exec defended data collection in leaked 2016 memo: ‘Maybe someone dies’

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An explosive new memo details one of Mark Zuckerberg’s most trusted executives attempting to justify growing concerns over the company’s data collection methods, and its relentless push to acquire new users. Titled “The Ugly,” the memo has never been circulated outside of Facebook’s offices until today, when Buzzfeed News got its hand on it. The memo, penned by Facebook Vice President Andrew “Boz” Bozworth, attempted to push a narrative where the ends certainly justified the means in regards to doing whatever it takes to ensure future growth, even at the expense of user privacy. The ugly truth is that we…

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Today in Apple history: Apple exec bets his wine cellar on Newton

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March 25, 1993: Apple executive Gaston Bastiaens bets a journalist that the eagerly anticipated Newton MessagePad will ship before summer ends. The prize? Bastiaens’ well-stocked personal wine cellar, worth thousands of dollars. The bet takes place at the CeBit trade show in Hanover, Germany. Bastiaens’ outburst comes in response to a reporter’s needling. The gamble […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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Uber has withdrawn a job offer to a top Amazon exec after discovering a discrepancy

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Amazon’s voice-shopping VP, Assaf Ronen, was set to replace Daniel Graf as product head.

Uber has rescinded a job offer it made to Amazon’s top voice-shopping VP, Assaf Ronen, to become its top product exec, after it discovered a discrepancy related to his tenure at the e-commerce giant, according to a memo from CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

Sources said that Ronen had left Amazon at the very end of 2017 and was not working for the company as Uber had thought he was at the time of the hiring. It was not clear why he had left Amazon.

Apparently, Uber found this out after Recode broke the news of the hire earlier this month, which disqualified Ronen for the job.

This botched hiring is a clear setback for Khosrowshahi, who is also dealing with a tragic accident earlier this week involving one of Uber’s self-driving cars in which a pedestrian was killed in Arizona.

Ronen was also a big get for Uber, having done stints at Microsoft and Amazon. At the e-commerce giant, he was VP of voice and natural user interface shopping and was brought in to stabilize the key unit at Uber.

Product VP Manik Gupta, who came from Google and has been running large swaths of maps and marketplace, will run the product organization on an interim basis.

Former product head Daniel Graf also remains an adviser to Uber. He came to Uber in late 2015 as head of Marketplace Dynamics, managing the algorithms that matched drivers with riders and set prices; he reported to then-VP of product Ed Baker. Graf later replaced Baker when he left the company in March 2017.

Here is Khosrowshahi’s memo to staff today:

Team:

I wanted to let you know that we have had withdrawn our offer to Assaf Ronen.

Hiring is, quite literally, the heart and soul of our company and rescinding Assaf’s offer was not a decision we took lightly. I also recognize that it’s one more disruption for our stellar Product organization. But when it comes to who joins our team, we have very clear expectations, and this was the right thing for us to do.

There is one silver lining: we have a strong bench. Effective today, Manik Gupta, who was recently promoted to VP, will take over interim leadership of the overall Product organization. As I said last week, Manik has an amazing reputation in Silicon Valley and has been an incredible mentor and coach for many at Uber. I trust him completely to keep the Product team firing on all cylinders as we continue to create the best experience for riders and drivers around the world.

Onward –

Dara


Recode – All

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Uber has reportedly rescinded its job offer for the Amazon exec that was its potential product lead

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Uber appeared set to hire Assaf Ronen, the former vice president of Amazon’s voice and natural user interface shopping, to lead its products — but it looks like that isn’t going to happen due to a discrepancy in his working history, according to Recode.

Uber discovered a discrepancy related to his tenure at Amazon, where the company appeared to be under the assumption he was working at Amazon at the time of offering him the job, and rescinded its offer, according to Recode. Ronen had actually left Amazon at the very end of 2017 and was not actually working at Amazon at the time, according to Recode, which posted a memo of new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s explanation of what happened. Ronen was brought in to take over the lead product role following the departure of former Twitter product lead and Google Maps exec Daniel Graf.

Since taking over, Khosrowshahi has tried to distance himself from the Uber under former CEO Travis Kalanick . Often times, CEOs will tell you that their number-one job is recruiting. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has mentioned it on a quarterly earnings call at least once a year for the past three years, for example, usually something to the extent of “my primary focus is on recruiting.” That’s obviously going to be a big tenet that will determine Khosrowshahi’s vision for the company and, ultimately, his legacy.

Current product VP Manik Gupta will be running the company’s product operations in the mean time, according to the memo obtained by Recode. Ronen would have been a marquee hire for Uber, but as the company has gone through a myriad of blunders under Kalanick, in addition to one of its autonomous vehicles being involved in an accident with a pedestrian on Monday, it looks like Uber is facing another hiccup in its turnaround at the top.

We reached out to Uber for additional comment and will update the story when we hear back.

Mobile – TechCrunch

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The Facebook exec who helped hunt down Russia’s political ads is leaving the company

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Alex Stamos is out.

Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer and one of the key execs who helped the company track down Russian political ads on the service, plans to leave the company, according to a source familiar with his role.

Update: Stamos tweeted Monday afternoon that he is “still fully engaged with my work at Facebook,” though did not say that he was staying at the company indefinitely. He also confirmed that his role internally has changed. “I’m currently spending more time exploring emerging security risks and working on election security.” Our sources say that while Stamos is still at Facebook, he does plan to leave. The New York Times reported that he plans to stay at Facebook until August.

Stamos, who joined the social giant almost three years ago after a very public stint in a similar role at Yahoo, ran the team inside Facebook tasked with hunting down ads related to the Kremlin’s efforts to sow unrest in the U.S. ahead of the Presidential Election.

But Stamos’s responsibilities have eroded over the past few months, and most of his team was reassigned to other managers inside the company, including Chris Cox’s product group, according to two sources familiar with his role.

Stamos also lost his day-to-day role overseeing Facebook’s security team back in December, and didn’t always see eye to eye with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg about how the company should handle the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, The New York Times reported Monday. The Times was first to report Stamos’s departure.

More recently, Stamos, who was one of Facebook’s most vocal executives on Twitter, tweeted a thread over the weekend defending the company for its role in the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal before abruptly deleting the tweets. Stamos said he, “should have done a better job weighing in.”

This isn’t the first time that Stamos has left a job seemingly at odds with his bosses. His decision to leave Yahoo in 2014 was at least partly to do with disagreements he had with CEO Marissa Mayer over the company’s security standards, which he felt were not strict enough.

Stamos is the most high profile Facebook executive to leave since the 2016 election, and really the first public word of that Facebook’s leadership team might not be on the same page with how to deal with the company’s fake news problem. Facebook has a very tight, and long-tenured executive team, and while Stamos was not necessarily in CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s most immediate circle, he had a significant role at a very significant moment for the company.


Recode – All

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Amazon hires former FDA exec for secret health care team

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Amazon has made a big hire for its secret health care division internally known as 1492, according to CNBC: FDA's first chief health informatics officer Taha Kass-Hout. The e-commerce giant reportedly brought him on board to work under former Google…
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Former Uber exec Aaron Schildkrout is joining the board of bike-sharing startup Jump

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Jump is also looking to raise a new round of funding.

Bike-sharing and ride-hailing have obvious parallels: Fighting local regulatory battles and coming up against an entrenched incumbent while trying to transform the way people travel.

That has led to a sharing of top talent between the two industries. The top ranks at most of the bike-sharing companies are littered with Uber and Lyft alumni, and now Jump, which has a partnership with Uber, is bringing on Aaron Schildkrout, Uber’s former head of driver product, to help advise the company as an independent board director.

Jump already has at least three former Uber employees in its management ranks, including COO Kenny Tsai, who was previously the general manager of Uber Freight.

Former Uber execs have gone on to found bike- or scooter-sharing startups, such as Travis VanderZanden, who started scooter sharing company Bird. There is also Davis Wang, the CEO of dockless bike-sharing company Mobike, and Chris Taylor, an executive at Chinese bike share company Ofo.

Schildkrout, who first came into contact with the Jump team at Uber while members of his team negotiated the partnership, is joining its five-member board, which includes Jump CEO Ryan Rzepecki and Menlo Ventures partner Shawn Carolan, who led his firm’s investment in Uber.

For Jump, Schildkrout brings a number of things to the table: In addition to his network and connections with Uber, Schildkrout has critical experience to lend from heading up the data science team and then the growth team, followed by leading the teams that managed the rider and then driver apps and services at Uber.

“While I was at Uber, I observed — up close — the incredible power of the product-market fit achieved by ride-sharing,” Schildkrout told Recode. “Jump’s dockless e-bike feels very reminiscent of that, only we’re still in inning one or two.”

Dockless bike- and scooter-sharing companies have seen intense momentum in the last 18 months, with investors pouring funds into the space. Ofo closed an $ 866 million funding round earlier this week; it has now raised a total of $ 2.2 billion. Bird closed a $ 100 million round weeks after the company closed its initial $ 15 million series A round.

Dockless bike and scooter sharing is a highly capital-intensive industry — given the costs of operating a fleet of bikes. That is compounded by the addition of e-bikes and scooters. That’s why Jump is in the middle of raising a growth round.

In January, the company was the only dockless bike service to receive a permit to operate in San Francisco. In February, the first full month of operation, Jump says the company saw around four trips for each of its 250 bikes a day at an average distance of 2.6 miles per trip.

Jump, previously called Social Bikes, only recently began operating its own fleet of dockless bikes. Prior to that it sold dockless bikes to a variety of clients like small fleet operators in more than 40 markets.

While Rzepecki said it was harder to raise funds as the company was repositioning from an equipment seller to a fleet operator, Jump’s years of experience working with local governments has been a clear advantage as the company scales.

Some of its competitors have rolled out its services in major markets as well as smaller towns and college campuses. Rzepecki said he doesn’t believe the latter two will be sustainable because the utlization rates won’t be high enough. That’s why Jump has its eye primarily on major markets both here and in Europe.

The company’s ambitions will certainly require a great deal of capital. But as investors place their bets on bike- or scooter-sharing companies, there will likely be consolidation among those that are struggling to attract funding.


Recode – All

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Uber has hired a top Amazon voice exec as head of product as Daniel Graf departs

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Daniel Graf

Assaf Ronen has been running the e-commerce giant’s voice shopping efforts.

In another high-profile executive departure at Uber, product head Daniel Graf is leaving the company, according to sources. His replacement is Amazon’s top voice shopping VP, Assaf Ronen.

It is not clear where Graf, who had previously held top product jobs at Google (good) and Twitter (not as good), will be going.

Update: Uber confirmed the hiring of Ronen and the departure of Graf, who will remain as an adviser for a time. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also sent a memo to staff (see below).

Uber declined to comment, and Graf did not return a message requesting comment.

Ronen is a big get, having done stints at Microsoft and Amazon. At the e-commerce giant, he was VP of voice and natural user interface shopping — no, the Israeli entrepreneur was not responsible for the evil Alexa laugh — a big area of growth there.

The move is another sign that Khosrowshahi, who replaced the ousted Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick as CEO, is consolidating his management team. He has hired a new COO and top legal officer, for example, as many from the Kalanick era depart. Culture head Frances Frei left recently, although she will remain an Uber adviser.

Graf came to Uber in late 2015, as head of Marketplace Dynamics, managing the algorithms that matched drivers with riders and set prices; he reported to then-VP of product Ed Baker. Graf later replaced Baker when he left the company in March 2017.

In an interview with TechCrunch last fall, Graf seemed stoked about the new regime: “If I look where we are now, with Dara on board, with our product pipelines, with what we’ve shipped over the last few months with our business numbers, if I look at all this as a holistic picture, I couldn’t feel better about the company.”

Graf is not the only top product executive to leave in this new era of Uber. As Recode first reported, Graf’s direct report and head of driver product Aaron Schildkrout left the company in December 2017 — a decision, he told staff in an internal memo, that was long in the offing.

Here is Khosrowshahi’s memo to Uber staff. (I am the leaked-to reporter mentioned, although I work hard for my money, Dara, so props please!)

Team Uber:

I wanted to let you know about some changes in the Uber Product world. After nearly 2.5 years at Uber, Daniel has decided to leave. This was not an easy or quick decision. In true Swiss fashion, Daniel wanted to ensure that 2018 planning and perf were done, the team was stable and I had a plan for leadership of the team going forward.

We had hoped to announce this in a few weeks, but unfortunately it leaked to a journalist and we wanted to let you know first.

Fortunately, we’ve got some good news, too: Assaf Ronen will be joining Uber as SVP and Head of Product beginning later this month. Assaf currently leads Alexa voice shopping for Amazon, and previously spent many years at Microsoft running a number of consumer and enterprise products including Skype.

I am so grateful to Daniel for all he has achieved. He is a brilliant product strategist, an enthusiastic evangelist for Uber’s products (while at the same time always taking a measure of our competition), he is never satisfied with “good enough,” a fantastic team builder, and is incredibly hard-working. Daniel has agreed to stay on as an advisor to the company and help get Assaf up to speed.

As I’ve said, we’re going to lean in on product this year — it’s the core of our service and will be key to our continued success in the future. Thanks to Daniel for helping lay an incredible foundation, and welcome to Assaf as he gets started soon!

Onward,

Dara

Recode – All

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Mazda rotary engine returning in 2019 as EV range extender, exec says

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It seems that a range-extended Mazda electric car with a rotary engine is for real, and coming sooner than expected. An automotive news outlet from the Netherlands called AutoRAI spoke with Mazda's European vice president for sales and customer servi…
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Apple hires another Sony TV exec to boost its streaming efforts

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Apple sure likes to use Sony's TV wing as a talent pool for its streaming video team — it just lured away another executive. Angelica Guerra, Sony Pictures Television's production leader for Latin American and US Hispanic content, has joined Ap…
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