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Facebook May Be Nasty But That’s Not the Real Question—Data Sheet

September 24, 2019, 12:41 PM UTC

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News flash: Facebook uses hardball tactics.

The Wall Street Journal scored a scoop Monday that lawyers for Snapchat’s parent company have been keeping a file about Facebook’s dastardly ways. Snap says Facebook threatens its “influencers” and copies its products. The former is surprising only if you live inside some particularly sheltered environment, like perhaps The Truman Show. The latter allegation has been well known for years. Facebook, like Google, Apple, and Amazon, skillfully apes—and then often exceeds or buys—its smaller competitors.

Now the competition is sharing its observations with regulators of all stripes, all eager to make their bones slaying a giant.

The issue here won’t be determining if Facebook is nice or nasty. It is nasty. It also won’t come down to whether its tactics are anti-competitive. They are. Just ask the news industry. The key question will be if regulators and legislators can make the case that Facebook and its behemoth brethren disadvantage consumers. Facebook and Google rarely charge consumers anything. Amazon prides itself on driving down prices. (Apple is another subject altogether; it charges a lot and never has high market share.) The only way to say this makes life hard for consumers is to argue they’ve been deprived of something that would have gotten but for Facebook’s anti-competitive behavior.

Makes sense to me.

***

If you’re not watching Succession on HBO you’re missing out on the best program on television right now. I won’t spoil anything from the last episode by telling you there is a hilarious treatment of tech players at a conference that looks an awful lot like Allen & Co.’s shindig in Sun Valley, Idaho, lanyard nametags included, and one of the funniest lines ever to exploit Mark Zuckerberg’s name. On a far more serious note, I just finished the six-part Netflix series The Spy, starring a brilliant Sacha Baron Cohen. I highly recommend it.

Adam Lashinsky

On Twitter: @adamlashinsky

Email: adam_lashinsky@Fortune.com

NEWSWORTHY

Do you remember me now? Europe's right to be forgotten cannot be used to force Google to delete search results for users outside of that jurisdiction, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on Tuesday. Since the right was created in 2014, Google says it has deleted 1.3 million web site search results while rejecting requests to delist another 1.6 million addresses.

Cheaper and cheaper. Forget the streaming wars, let's move right on to the gaming wars. Google announced it would offer a mobile gaming service much like Apple's Arcade called "Google Play Pass." The $5 per month service will include access to 350 games with no ads and no in-app purchases. It kicks off in the United States this week at a promotional price of just $2 per month for the first year.

My heart beats for you. Not sure if we'll see them at Amazon's hardware event on Wednesday, but the company is now rumored to be working on some AirPod-like ear buds that would include health-tracking sensors. That's stoking rumors that Amazon may be interested in buying struggling wearables maker Fitbit, too.

The stars at night are big and bright. After getting some tariff waivers from the Trump Administration, Apple said it would assemble its new Mac Pro computer in a plant in Texas. It's the same factory where Mac Pro's have been built since 2013. Trump had tweeted on July 26 that he would not grant the waiver requests on Mac Pro parts made in China.

Hooning. Autonomous driving startup Aptiv is creating a joint venture with Hyundai Motor Group to build self-driving vehicles. Aptiv is putting tech, IP, and workers into the 50-50 venture, while Hyundai puts in $1.6 billion in cash and $400 million of R&D resources. The aim is to have robotaxi-ready cars available in 2022.

That'll show 'em. Messaging app Kik is shutting down and letting most of its staff go amid an ongoing legal battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC sued Kik in June over the company's 2017 initial coin offering that raised almost $100 million. “While we are ready to take on the SEC in court, we underestimated the tactics they would employ,” founder Ted Livingston wrote on Medium.

Bananas is as bananas does. Okay, all this news and nothing bananas about the company formerly known as WeWork? Apparently, CEO Adam Neumann was not ousted on Monday, but here's another long profile of his bananas reign (i.e. he told people that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was going to quit to become his personal banker) courtesy of Vanity Fair to satisfy your cravings for another day.

Open the pod bay doors. If you want more in-depth coverage of artificial intelligence, don't forget to subscribe to our weekly Eye on A.I. newsletter. The newest issue comes out later today.

ON THE MOVE

Struggling phonemaker HTC named Yves Maitre as CEO for current boss Cher Wang, who will remain as chair of the board. Maitre had been EVP of consumer equipment and partnerships at European wireless carrier Orange...Spotify grabbed Amy Hudson from Facebook, where she oversaw sports media partnerships, to run its sports programming...Data center owner Equinix hired Justin Dustzadeh as chief technology officer. He had previously been at Uber, where he was head of global network and software platform.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Starbucks was in the dumps a few years ago, with sales growth stagnating and its stock price stumbling. But lately the chain's hitting its stride like a perfectly steaming latte arriving at your breakfast table. Much credit goes to Roz Brewer, the former Walmart exec who joined as chief operating officer in 2017 under new CEO Kevin Johnson. Our Fortune colleague Beth Kowitt has an in-depth profile that delves into some of the strategies–and emotional moments–that helped Brewer succeed. Analyzing the data was one key:

Under (Howard) Schultz, Starbucks had often been a place led by intuition and instinct. But Johnson, with his background in tech, and Brewer, who trained as a chemist, turn more readily to the numbers. So Brewer looked at the research as she set her sights on imposing order on the stores. She discovered that 40% of employees’ time was spent on tasks away from the customer—counting milk jugs three times a day or unnecessarily restocking the floor to create what Rossann Williams, head of Starbucks U.S. retail, jokingly calls “the Leaning Tower of Pisa” of cups. Brewer and her team moved to eliminate, simplify, or automate tasks so those hours could instead be spent with customers. Stores with the most mobile orders got a barista exclusively dedicated to making those drinks. Cleaning was moved from daytime to after close.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Google Says It’s Cutting Back on Audio Data Collection on Google Home Speakers By Lisa Marie Segarra

Facebook Is Buying CTRL-Labs, Neuron-Reading Startup to Help Control Its AR Glasses By Danielle Abril

To Protect Against Cyber Attacks, Companies Need to Address Data Manipulation. Here’s How By Peter J. Beshar and Ari Mahairas

Apple TV+ Ads Ruled the Emmys. Here’s What That Means for the Service’s Strategy By Isaac Feldberg

Why Discord Is One of Tech’s Hottest Startups By JP Mangalindan

Disney+ Begins Taking Pre-Orders By Chris Morris

BEFORE YOU GO

Remember way back last month when you were going to collect $125 because Equifax spilled your personal data? The headlines were bigger than the checks people will end up getting. Now comes the Yahoo Mail settlement with an even juicier offer: up to $358.80...depending on how many people seek compensation. Don't spend it all in one place.

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