Each week, technology reporters and columnists from The New York Times review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.
Hello, readers! I’m Dai Wakabayashi, a technology reporter in San Francisco. It’s my turn to write this newsletter, and, as luck would have it, my moment in the sun comes on a light summer news week.
The great thing about the summer is that it’s barbecue season. That means lots of casual conversations where I break free from my technology and news bubble and gauge whether the things we write about are reaching a broader audience.
This year, more than I can remember in the recent past, it’s clear how ingrained the tech industry has become in our lives and how people are constantly discussing the ripple effects of its influence and money. Tech was central to discussions I had about local and national politics, real estate prices and how to raise children. The company that most people wanted to talk about? Facebook.
Last weekend, while I was in Seattle, Facebook was Topic A with a group of non-tech folks. One told me that she had deleted her Facebook account a month ago. I asked if it was because she was upset about the role Facebook played in the 2016 presidential election. It wasn’t really that, she said. Facebook made her feel bad about herself. She found herself being a person she didn’t like when she was scrolling the News Feed, and she decided that she could live without it. She remains on Instagram because she enjoys it.
My colleague Kevin Roose captured this idea early this year — people may be tiring of Facebook, but they love Instagram.
In my limited sample size, the complaints about Facebook were less about misinformation on the platform or the proliferation of ads. They seemed more basic than that: relatives writing distasteful posts about politics or acquaintances oversharing about their personal lives. For the first time, I noticed people were making excuses as to why they were even on Facebook anymore as though it was an embarrassing vice.
Facebook’s bad news cycle doesn’t appear to be coming to an end anytime soon, despite the mea culpa commercials. This week, we found out that a federal investigation into Facebook’s sharing of data with Cambridge Analytica has broadened to include more agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission. Kevin also wrote an interesting article about how the Supreme Court vacancy is already playing out in Facebook ads.
I’m heading out on vacation soon with the goal of detoxing a little from my tech use. But before I go, I have to order a few last-minute items on Amazon, download kid-friendly shows from Netflix for my iPad, arrange a few social outings with friends on Facebook Messenger and make sure my privacy settings are in order because my family is definitely going to tag me on Facebook in vacation photos. There is no escape.
In other news:
■ The ride-hailing world is really getting into bicycles. Lyft acquired the core operations of Motivate, the parent company of CitiBike and other bike-sharing programs in United States cities. A few months earlier, rival Uber bought Jump Bikes, a motorized bike-sharing service.
■ Increasingly, tech companies are finding that the harshest critics for their policies are coming not from the outside world but from their own employees. In his latest column, Farhad Manjoo examined why the tech activism trend hasn’t caught on at Twitter, President Trump’s favorite soapbox.
■ He’s baaaaaack. Anthony Levandowski, the self-driving car engineer who was at the center of the intellectual property lawsuit between Waymo and Uber, appears to be involved with a secret self-driving truck company, according to TechCrunch. It’s a wonder that he had the time to start a new company after invoking his Fifth Amendment rights in that Waymo-Uber legal kerfuffle, starting a religion around A.I. and being sued by a former nanny.
■ And finally, smart televisions aren’t just smart, my colleague Sapna Maheshwari found. They’re a little creepy, too, by watching what you watch.
Daisuke Wakabayashi covers Alphabet and Silicon Valley for The Times. You can follow him on Twitter here: @daiwaka.
Follow Daisuke Wakabayashi on Twitter: @daiwaka.