Data Sheet—Apple’s To-Do List at Its Annual WWDC Gathering

This is the web version of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

Apple convenes its annual developers conference this week in San Jose, Calif. While these events over the years have provided a marquee showcase for the debut of key products or important new features, the core of the event truly is for developers. These are the engineers who make products that work on Apple’s platform. While the cameras are pointed at top Apple brass as the events kick off, the mundane meat of the meeting happens in the hundreds of classes that take place behind closed doors. It’s an intimate affair for geeks more than a media opportunity for investors and journalists.

That said, here are three themes to watch for as the Worldwide Developers Conference unfolds.

  1. Known for its sleek devices, Apple always has been a software company, too. Lately, its software has been found wanting. The Wall Street Journal has an astute write-up that counts the ways, and the paper expects Apple to spend plenty of time convincing software coders everything is in working order.
  2. Apple hasn’t always been swift to acknowledge the addictive force it unleashed on the world through the iPhone. Expect at least its messaging around this troubling trend to change. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, one of the best-sourced Apple’s scoopsters around, says the company will introduce a new way for users to monitor their time spent on Apple devices. I doubt Apple can get very far ahead of this issue, but if it can, it’ll be good for society.
  3. For better or worse, Apple’s success these days is all about the iPhone. The Financial Times notes that this is a problem, especially given how Apple has touted its new smart speaker, the HomePod, and its virtual assistant, Siri, in the past. Without backing away from the iPhone, Apple must convince developers there’s money to be made writing programs for its other products. That’s a tall order.


Sharing is caring. More piling on to criticize Facebook's data sharing practices arrived on Monday with a triple-bylined New York Times expose of the company's agreements with phonemakers. Apple, Samsung, Blackberry, and others had access to a lot of personal data of Facebook users. It's not clear that the companies actually collected much of the data themselves or used it to do anything beyond expand the features of Facebook's mobile app.

Never stop listening. After major employee pushback, Google will not renew its contract to develop military AI applications for the Pentagon. The deal started last fall and runs until March 2019. Dubbed Project Maven, the aim was to use AI to help analyze video footage shot by drones.

Just desserts. A decade after former Microsoft exec Nathan Myhrvold raised $3 billion for two funds to invest in patents, the returns on Myhrvold's ventures are pretty ugly, Forbes reports. One fund generated an internal rate of return of -15% and the other showed a -25% IRR. Critics who saw the effort as little more than well-funded patent trolling rejoiced in the news on Twitter. "The fact that investors in these funds are losing their shirts makes me happy in a deeply petty and satisfying way," John Wilbanks, Chief Commons Officer at Sage Bionetworks, tweeted. "Maybe he can go back to writing exorbitantly priced cookbooks?" joked MIT Professor Dean Eckles.

Unlikely friends. The open-source software code repository GitHub will be acquired by Microsoft as soon as Monday, Bloomberg reported. Although Microsoft once dismissed the importance of open source programs, the company has become one of the largest contributors to such projects under CEO Satya Nadella.

Don't blame the boss. Remember all those hoverboards that were spontaneously catching fire a couple of years ago? Amazon sold piles of them, but a state court in Tennessee ruled last week that the e-commerce giant could not be held liable for a hoverboard fire that burned down a family's home. "Amazon's role in the transaction was to provide a mechanism to facilitate the interchange between the entity seeking to sell the product and the individual who sought to buy it," Judge William Campbell wrote in a decision dismissing the lawsuit.

Feeling hungry. The governing body of the wacky and wild world of emojis released about 50 candidates to be added to the libraries of major operating systems. Sloths, flamingos, yo-yos, waffles, and falafels are among the possibilities, according to the Unicode Consortium.

Interior redecorator. The new CEO at Hulu, Randy Freer, appears to be remaking his executive team after former CEO Mike Hopkins jumped ship last October to head Sony's programming unit. On Friday, chief content officer and Hopkins' hire Joel Stillerman left. Senior vice president of content Craig Erwich takes over responsibility for original content now.


We carry our smartphones everywhere we go, but how much privacy do we expect regarding possible government surveillance of our movements? That's the question at the center of a debate over the use of stingrays, devices that can track mobile phones by acting like cell phone towers and thus tricking the phones into reporting their locations. Many police departments and other law enforcement agencies use stingrays to track suspects without getting a search warrant. Cyrus Farivar has a deep dive at Politico into the history of legal challenges to stingrays. Some courts are starting to pay attention to the privacy issues, he reports:

Now that lawyers know what to look for and how to challenge them, some of those efforts have been successful. Notably, in March 2016 a state appellate court in Maryland took local law enforcement to task, and ruled unequivocally: “We determine that cell phone users have an objectively reasonable expectation that their cell phones will not be used as real-time tracking devices through the direct and active interference of law enforcement.” The three-judge panel in the State of Maryland v. Andrews case also noted that such a non-disclosure agreement is “inimical to the constitutional principles we revere.”

In other words, judges now seem to be resoundingly echoing the 1967-era Supreme Court language—“reasonable expectation of privacy”—of a landmark privacy case known as Katz v. United States, finding that the use of a stingray does require a warrant. But as of this writing, no cases challenging the use of stingrays have reached the Supreme Court, so this legal theory hasn’t been cemented just yet, as stingrays continue to be used in everyday law enforcement.


What to Expect of Google and Softbank Star Nikesh Arora, the New CEO of Palo Alto Networks By Robert Hackett

Twitter Is Banning Users Who May Have Signed Up Before They Were 13 By Lisa Marie Segarra

Amazon’s Alexa Has A Clear Favorite—And Some Savage Analysis—For the NBA Finals By David Z. Morris

Spotify Drops Hate Conduct Policy After Artist Backlash By Sarah Gray

Facebook Kills 'Trending' Topics, Will Test 'Breaking News' Label By Chris Morris

Why Prominent Seed Firm SV Angel Will Not Raise a New Fund By Polina Marinova

Fortnite Might Finally Make Its Way to the Nintendo Switch—And Soon By Don Reisinger


The anti-gun warriors at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School got a surprise pep talk at their graduation on Sunday. Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon showed up to deliver a stirring–and funny–commencement address. "You should feel incredibly proud of yourselves," Fallon said. "That doesn't mean you should rest on your laurels—or your yannys."

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.
Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Artificial IntelligenceCryptocurrencyMetaverseCybersecurityTech Forward