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Code/red: Big Tech Calls for Deactivation of NSA’s Eye of Sauron

Plus, Samsung's plans to shrink its smartphone lineup, the wait for Apple’s trillion-dollar market cap and a grooming tip for Larry Ellison.


  • Sony holds a strategy briefing for investors.
  • Demo Fall gets under way in San Jose, Calif.
  • Fur seals are attempting sex with some very unfortunate penguins.

Big Tech to Congress: Leave the Data-Gathering to Us

Some of the biggest names in technology are urging Congress to pass a bill to temper the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency. In an open letter published Monday evening, the Reform Government Surveillance coalition — whose membership includes Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, among others — called for passage of the USA Freedom Act, which would end the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records in the U.S. and install special privacy advocates in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the body that oversees the agency’s activities. “Now is the time to move forward on meaningful change to our surveillance programs,” the coalition said. “We encourage you to support the USA Freedom Act.” The measure, the subject of months of bitching and negotiation, is headed to a vote today. If it doesn’t garner the support necessary to push it forward before the end of the year, we may not see significant NSA reform for some time, as midterm elections will adjust the balance of power in Congress and open the door to still further grandstanding and negotiation.

Next Samsung Smartphone Lineup to Feature Improved Focus

With its revenue and profit declining, Samsung is finally rethinking the flood-the-market device strategy responsible for its comically vast smartphone lineup. During an investor presentation Monday, Samsung executives said they planned to streamline the company’s smartphone portfolio, reducing it by at least 25 percent. A big cut and one that should significantly reduce Samsung’s manufacturing costs, making the company more profitable as it wrestles with Apple at the smartphone market’s high end and aggressive newcomers like Xiaomi at its lower end.

Point/Counterpoint: The Web Is Dying vs. Time to Recalibrate the Wayback Machine, Mr. Peabody!

Christopher Mims, the Wall Street Journal: “The Web — that thin veneer of human-readable design on top of the machine babble that constitutes the Internet — is dying.”

John Gruber, Daring Fireball: “I can’t believe someone is still writing this in 2014.”

Did I Mention Taylor Swift’s Discography Is Available on Sony Music Unlimited? I Did?

Taylor Swift’s decision to pull her music off Spotify is giving companies like Sony cause to re-evaluate their support for ad-supported music streaming services. “What it all really comes down to is how much value are the music company and the artist getting from the different consumption methods,” Sony CFO Kevin Kelleher said during an investor briefing. “The key question is, are the free, ad-supported services taking away from how quickly and to what extent we can grow those paid services? That’s something we’re paying attention to as content owners who license our content to the different platforms.”

And We’ll Keep Predicting It Until We’re Right

How long before Apple’s market capitalization reaches $1 trillion? Perhaps not that long at all, says Alexander Alternative Capital’s Michael Corcelli, who believes the company could attain that milestone — “absolutely, without a doubt” — next year.

“Trying” Being the Operative Word Here

FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives: “Microsoft has done the best job of trying to skate where the puck is going.”

Albini Serenades Music Industry With Heartfelt Version of “Let It Go”

Musician and recording engineer Steve Albini: “I believe the very concept of exclusive intellectual property with respect to recorded music has come to a natural end, or something like an end. Technology has brought to a head a need to embrace the meaning of the word ‘release,’ as in bird or fart. It is no longer possible to maintain control over digitized material and I don’t believe the public good is served by trying to.”

Why Yes, Ousted Rap Genius Co-Founder Absolutely Is an Entitled Ass

Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam: “When I started working on, Whole Foods was our first ‘angel investor’ — without stealing all the food I stole from the Berkeley Whole Foods, I would never have been able to spend a year bootstrapping, working on the site full-time.”

Pretty Sure Larry Ellison Would Be Perceived as Abrasive if His Face Were as Smooth as a Baby’s Butt

Personal brand and style strategist Joseph Rosenfeld: “Larry Ellison of Oracle has facial hair, but it can look a little rough, like sandpaper on him, and he could be perceived as being abrasive to some.”

Off Topic

The Danish National Chamber Orchestra plays “Tango Jalousie” while eating ferociously hot chili peppers and “Frozen” meets “Breaking Bad” in “Do You Want to Build a Meth Lab?

Thanks for reading. Send tips, comments, Off Topics and sperm-size nano-sculptures to, @johnpaczkowski. Subscribe to the Code/red newsletter here.

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