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Data Sheet—Facebook, Uber, and Tronc Have a Terrible Day in Techland

March 20, 2018, 3:06 PM UTC

Do you ever have a day when it becomes increasingly apparent you should have stayed in bed?

* The world piled on Facebook—first we build ‘em up, then we knock ‘em down—given the revelations of loose controls abused by dark-arts political consultants and a shockingly tone deaf and defensive response. This isn’t just a bunch of media whining anymore. Facebook’s shares plunged nearly 7% and dragged down the rest of tech, and perhaps the market, with them. The fear is legitimate. If enough consumers become disgusted with Facebook’s practices they’ll move on to the next fad. Already Facebook’s user numbers look shaky, causing a significant revision of expected performance by investors. Late in the day The New York Times reported that a senior Facebook executive has bolted over disagreements about the right amount of transparency.

* Tragedy struck in Tempe, Ariz., where a self-driving Uber car with a human behind the wheel but in autonomous mode struck and killed a pedestrian walking her bike. Uber immediately suspended self-driving experiments in four cities. One death doesn’t condemn the self-driving trend; there’ll be more than 35,000 auto-related deaths involving human drivers in the U.S. this year. And everyone who has studied this topic carefully agrees self-driving cars will reduce fatalities because it’s not like people are so great at this driving thing. But none of that minimizes how creepy it is to think we could be struck down by a robot whose sensor malfunctioned.

* Entrepreneur Michael Ferro, once head of the disastrously named media company Tronc, “retired” Monday morning, with a spokesman telling media outlets he wanted to go out at the top of his game. What Ferro’s peeps neglected to mention was that last week Fortune’s Kristen Bellstrom and Beth Kowitt contacted Ferro to check facts for an article they published Monday afternoon about two women who accused Ferro of horribly inappropriate behavior. The article is meticulously reported and deeply disturbing. Ferro didn’t challenge anything in it.

Adam Lashinsky


Undeleted data? Elizabeth Denham, the head of Britain's Information Commission, said the watchdog agency was seeking a search warrant to raid the offices of Cambridge Analytica, a political data consultancy that has come under for fire for its alleged inappropriate harvesting of Facebook user data. Cambridge Analytica, for its part, said it deleted the data. Retaining the data "would be a grave violation of Facebook’s policies and an unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments these groups made," Facebook said in a statement.

Deadly crash. A preliminary police investigation into the fatal accident involving one of Uber's self-driving cars indicates that the victim may have been to blame for the collision. The woman, who police suspect was homeless, appeared to walk abruptly into oncoming traffic from the center median with a bicycle and plastic shopping bags in tow. "I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident," Sylvia Moir, Tempe, Arizona's police chief, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Black gold. President Donald Trump has banned U.S. citizens from purchasing the Petro, a Venezuelan cryptocurrency that critics say is designed to attract foreign investment and skirt economic sanctions. President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela has campaigned for the virtual currency, supposedly backed by the country's oil reserves, in an attempt to salvage his nation's cratering economy and counteract runaway inflation.

Rainclouds. Oracle shares tumbled a little over 7% on news of its cloud computing business' slowed growth during its third quarter. Investors worry that the enterprise tech company's transition to cloud services could be slowing down. Revenues came in at $9.77 billion, more than the $9.21 billion it pulled in last year but slightly short of Wall Street's $9.78 billion estimate.

Right swipe. In response to Match Group filing a patent infringement lawsuit against Bumble, the dating app released a sharply worded letter calling the e-romance conglomerate a "bully." Match, whose subsidiary Tinder once employed Whitney Wolfe Herd, Bumble's founder and CEO, alleges that its smaller rival stole its "card-swipe-based" technology. Bumble called the claim "baseless."

Another IPO. Tech "unicorn" DocuSign has confidentially filed to go public, TechCrunch reports, citing unnamed sources. The company's IPO-exploration comes just as other big tech firms, like Dropbox and Spotify, seek listings of their own. DocuSign has raised more than $500 million from private investors at a valuation of about $3 billion.


As Adam referenced above, Chicago investor Michael Ferro on Monday resigned as chairman of Tronc, a news publisher whose portfolio includes The Chicago Tribune, The New York Daily News, and The Baltimore Sun, just hours before Fortune published an unsettling report that documented alleged improprieties by the entrepreneur. In the following piece, Fortune's Kristen Bellstrom and Beth Kowitt detail two women's accounts of Ferro's unwelcome sexual advances.

Kathryn Minshew finally felt like a weight had lifted. It was September of 2013, and after months of back-and-forth, Michael Ferro, then-chairman of investment firm Wrapports, had at last signed a term sheet promising her career-advice startup, The Muse, the $750,000 infusion of capital it needed to make it past the end of the year. Now, at Ferro’s suggestion, the two were headed to his company’s corporate apartment in downtown Chicago for an evening of takeout and discussion of how The Muse might go on to a land a much bigger round of funding.

But once they stepped into the apartment, Ferro seemed to forget about their plans to strategize. He poured two glasses of bourbon and, giving one to Minshew, put his hand on the back of her head and pulled her face in for a kiss, she says. Although the move was forceful enough that she couldn’t pull away, she says she was able to turn her head so that Ferro’s lips landed on her cheek.

“I stopped thinking in complete thoughts. My whole body felt like ice,” recalls Minshew.


Apple and IBM Unveil Artificial Intelligence Service That Coca-Cola Is Testing, by Jonathan Vanian

Amazon Dishes About Its First Amazon Go Cashier-Free Store, by Phil Wahba

The Quest That Hawking Pioneered, by Michio Kaku

Why Facebook Suddenly Shed $35 Billion in Value, by Lucinda Shen

Apple Watch and iPhone Owners Are Accidentally Triggering Emergency SOS Calls, by Don Reisinger

HTC Cuts the Price of Its Vive VR Headset, by Chris Morris

Google's Latest Search Program Could Help Retailers Fend Off Amazon, by David Meyer


Emily Wilson lays bare the creative process. The classicist and University of Pennsylvania scholar maintains an entertainingly edifying Twitter feed in which she exposes to public scrutiny all the justifications behind the choices in her English translation of Homer's The Odyssey, the first by a woman. Is "canapés" too odd? Should mentions of the color blue exist, though they are famously absent from the original text? Wilson airs her views to the masses—and engages with her audience. As this short profile in The New Yorker puts it, "It reminds us that Homer’s poem, too, was a crowd-sourced database of generations of knowledge, customs, set pieces, and legends."

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Robert Hackett. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.