Uber executive suggests digging up dirt on journalists

BuzzFeed wrote about Uber executive Emil Michael suggesting that the company should dig up dirt on journalists who criticise Uber.

By now, you probably have read about the comments by the Michael, the backlash and Uber’s response to the incident. If you haven’t, the following sums up what he said:

Over dinner, he outlined the notion of spending “a million dollars” to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into “your personal lives, your families,” and give the media a taste of its own medicine.

There was a particular journalist he singled out:

Michael was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny.” She wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service. “I don’t know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritize our safety,” she wrote.

At the dinner, Michael expressed outrage at Lacy’s column and said that women are far more likely to get assaulted by taxi drivers than Uber drivers. He said that he thought Lacy should be held “personally responsible” for any woman who followed her lead in deleting Uber and was then sexually assaulted.

Then he returned to the opposition research plan. Uber’s dirt-diggers, Michael said, could expose Lacy. They could, in particular, prove a particular and very specific claim about her personal life.

After receiving the strong backlash after his comments were made public, this is what Michael had to say:

The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner — borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for — do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.

How can he make a statement and then go on to say that they do not reflect his views? I don’t buy that.

Especially not from someone who would say this:

At the Waverly Inn dinner, it was suggested that a plan like the one Michael floated could become a problem for Uber.

Michael responded: “Nobody would know it was us.”

Does that sound frightening to you? If you are unaware, any Uber employee is able to track your location using an internal tool called God View. Do they do it on the assumption that nobody would know they are doing it?

So how did the Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick respond to all this?

https://twitter.com/travisk/status/534789412094496768

https://twitter.com/travisk/status/534789934490857472

He then goes on to tweet about values and Uber’s commitment to the community. But nothing close to an apology. Don’t even expect Michael to be fired. Someone who “showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from [Uber’s] values and ideals” will remain a senior executive because “his duties here at Uber do not involve communications strategy or plans and are not representative in any way of the company approach.”

https://twitter.com/jwherrman/status/534791992958787584

I’m not sure about you but I would be very cautious when it comes to using the services of a company that has shown no respect for the privacy of its customers.

Michael suggested vengeance and investor Ashton Kutcher defends it by calling the journalist ‘shady’ with no facts to back his claim.

https://twitter.com/aplusk/status/535091002151690242

Uber needs to understand that it is not simply about how good a service you provide. Your ethics and integrity is as important as the quality of services rendered.

Yahoo Finance: Apple Pay sides with credit card industry over consumer interests

Aaron Pressman wrote on Yahoo Finance about Apple Pay siding with the credit card industry over consumer interests.

Apple has regularly delighted its customers with cool products on its way to becoming the most valuable company in the United States. But it hasn’t always stood up for its customers’ best economic interests.

Let’s be clear here. Apple Pay’s decision to side with the credit card industry is against the interests of retailers, not consumers. Consumers get to enjoy the incentives of using a credit card and that draws people to use them. You get to air miles or points that you can redeem for rewards, and some credit card companies give cash rebates.

Part of the reason retailers want to avoid Apple Pay is to gain access to the customer information so they are able to tailor their marketing profile to the customer. By using Apple Pay, customer details remain private during a transaction. How is this considered against consumer interests?

W3C – the group that rules the web

Paul Ford wrote on The New Yorker about the group that rules the web.

You might have read that, on October 28th, W3C officially recommended HTML5. And you might know that this has something to do with apps and the Web. The question is: Does this concern you?

The answer, at least for citizens of the Internet, is yes: it is worth understanding both what HTML5 is and who controls the W3C. And it is worth knowing a little bit about the mysterious, conflict-driven cultural process whereby HTML5 became a “recommendation.” Billions of humans will use the Web over the next decade, yet not many of those people are in a position to define what is “the Web” and what isn’t. The W3C is in that position. So who is in this cabal? What is it up to? Who writes the checks?

What do you know about the people who decide on the standards of the internet?

Misconceptions about Apple Pay

John Gruber wrote a commentary on a WSJ article about the effect of apps on the web.

Christopher Mims, writing in the WSJ::

Take that most essential of activities for e-commerce: accepting credit cards. When Amazon.com made its debut on the Web, it had to pay a few percentage points in transaction fees. But Apple takes 30% of every transaction conducted within an app sold through its app store, and “very few businesses in the world can withstand that haircut,” says Chris Dixon, a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz.

As Gruber pointed out, this is a misconception that confuses in-app purchases with transactions made in the app.

That’s patently false. Even with Mims’s own example, Amazon. Just a few minutes before sitting down to write this piece, I used Amazon’s iPhone app — the one distributed through Apple’s App Store — to buy some stuff. I added items to my cart, signed in with my getting-close-to-two-decades-old Amazon account, and I was done. Apple won’t see one penny of that transaction. Not one.

If Amazon started using Apple Pay in their app, Apple would have gotten a fraction of a penny of each dollar I spent — but those pennies would have come from my credit card company, not Amazon.

Retailers who sell through native apps do not pay Apple anything, let alone 30 percent. What Apple charges 30 percent for are purchases for in-app digital content. I can’t buy Kindle books in the Kindle app, or Amazon MP3 music, because of this — but I can buy everything else from Amazon.

It makes sense for Apple to charge for in-app purchases because the digital content is delivered by Apple’s servers to the consumers. Apple does not earn a commission from in-app transactions that are not handled by Apple. In Mims’s example, Amazon is the one delivering the purchases to the customer, not Apple.

Mims rightly suggested that the web should be kept open.

The Web was intended to expose information. It was so devoted to sharing above all else that it didn’t include any way to pay for things — something some of its early architects regret to this day, since it forced the Web to survive on advertising.

But the irony of that, as Gruber pointed out, is, his article is published on a site with a pay wall.

How secure is your messaging app?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation rates the security of messaging apps.

I’d like to see WeChat and LINE on the chart.

Samsung reviews its own products

In an attempt to blow your mind, Samsung has written an unofficial review of their own product on the official Samsung blog.

Maybe they decided to skip paying others to review their products and just do the review on their own.

Deregister iMessage from a browser

Finally. If you’re still facing this problem, you can deregister your number here.

But with the recently-released web tool, all you need to do is enter the phone number you wish to uncouple from Apple’s iMessage system. Apple will then send you a confirmation code over SMS — type it into the browser window and you’ll be home free. via The Verge

Samsung refuses to pay Android royalties to Microsoft

Android Central reported on Samsung refusing to pay Android royalties to Microsoft because the latter was a direct hardware competitor.

We reported a while about Microsoft’s action against Samsung.

Samsung is now stating that since Microsoft owns Nokia’s devices unit, sharing sensitive data with the company would result in a breach of US antitrust laws.

If Samsung is so adamant about not breaching antitrust laws, perhaps Samsung should stop using Android. That way it won’t have to pay licensing fees and won’t invite charges of collusion.

Be a savvy Uber user

Sometimes when you read stuff on the Internet, your first reaction is to think that some billion-dollar company scammed a poor user. So it’s no surprise to see that some folks are up in arms over this:

Uber surprised a 26-year-old Baltimore woman with a spooky Halloween bill that hit $326 on a routine ride, resulting in her inability to pay her rent and general Internet outrage.

I don’t know about her, but I think Uber does a pretty decent job of explaining its controversial surge pricing when it kicks into effect. Surge pricing basically adds a multiplier to the cost of the Uber in order to adjust for supply and demand. So if you’re trying to catch an Uber during peak hour, the cost might be 2X or even 9X. This isn’t any different from retailers raising prices when goods are in short supply. Some would deem it opportunistic, but it’s just supply and demand adjusting itself. If this were a 9X price on something that we absolutely must have to survive, then it’s a cause of concern, but there are alternatives to Uber out there, and as always, users can vote with their wallets. They can choose not use Uber, or wait until the surge ends. I usually just wait it out or take a regular cab.

I think it’s a pretty common practice to check the price of something before purchasing too. So if you see that the price is jacked up nine times, I think common sense would be to not buy it unless it’s an absolute necessity.

I do find her solution intriguing though. Using a crowdfunding service like GoFundMe to get herself out of a fix might be frowned upon, but I don’t see much difference from asking your mates for some help from time to time.

Hopefully this incident does bring more awareness to Uber’s surge pricing model though. Next time before you book that Uber, just take an extra glance to make sure you’re not agreeing to something you’re not comfortable paying for.

Former Android VP calls iPhone 6 ‘the most beautiful smartphone ever built’

The Verge reported on former head of Android and current Xiaomi VP Hugo Barra praising the iPhone 6.

Using careful language, Barra suggested that Xiaomi phones and software sometimes resemble existing products because the company is young and its designers lack confidence.”It’s a fight, but I think we’re learning and we’re progressing,” he said. “When you look at the stuff that’s coming next from us, you’re going to see some unique new twists.”