clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Recode Daily: Inside the $21 billion market to track your every move

Plus: Was Spotify’s unusual IPO a trendsetter or an anomaly?; Amazon is making its own server chips — potentially threatening Intel; an interactive cannabis museum and 2019’s munchie trends.

A hand holding a mobile phone displaying an Uber map of an airport Sean Gallup / Getty

Your apps know where you are, when you are — and sell that info to the highest bidder. In a months-long investigation, the New York Times found that companies that buy location data from mobile apps have the capability to identify individual people without consent, even if the companies say they are only interested in aggregate trends. The data is so precise that they could pinpoint a phone at a person’s address and follow that phone throughout a day, linking it with public records to identify a name. Many location companies say users know what they are signing up for when they approve location services in apps, but the explanations “are often incomplete or misleading,” according to the Times. [Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Natasha Singer, Michael H. Keller and Aaron Krolik / The New York Times]

[Want to get the Recode Daily in your inbox? Subscribe here.]

Instagram has promoted Vishal Shah to head of product, filling one of its most important executive vacancies. Shah oversaw the company’s shopping efforts, ad products and its IGTV video service; he replaces Adam Mosseri, who now runs the company after being promoted following the departure of the company’s two co-founders this fall. Instagram will soon account for a sizable part of owner Facebook’s revenue growth, and also keeps Facebook connected to younger people online while helping fend off a potential threat from rival Snapchat. Here’s video from Shah’s September appearance at Recode’s Code Commerce conference. Meanwhile, Instagram has added a voice messaging feature to its Direct messages; users can record audio messages up to one minute long by holding down the microphone button. [Kurt Wagner / Recode]

Spotify’s unconventional IPO didn’t disrupt Wall Street — but Airbnb and Slack might do that next year. Spotify decided to sell its shares in an IPO directly to regular people rather than to a pre-chosen group of its bankers’ friends — a move known as a direct listing. On the precipice of a new year that will see some of the tech sector’s most iconic startups become public companies — including Uber, Lyft and Postmates — both Airbnb and Slack are weighing direct listings, and their decisions will go a long way toward signaling whether Spotify’s so-far singular move was an aberration or a trendsetter. [Theodore Schleifer / Recode]

A Chinese court banned the import and sale of nearly all of Apple’s recent iPhone models, up to and including the iPhone X, citing infringement of two Qualcomm patents. Apple is already disputing the scope of the ban, saying it only applies to iPhones that run on an older operating system. The direct impact is limited to the domestic Chinese market, but it represents a significant disruption to Apple’s business, and could bring the two parties to the negotiating table in their long litigation war. Apple is appealing the decision. [Davey Alba / BuzzFeed News]

Amazon is now making its own homegrown server chips for use inside the millions of servers in its data centers around the world. The world’s largest online retailer and cloud-computing company doesn’t plan to sell its new chips directly to customers, but the decision to go the do-it-yourself route is the latest sign that big internet outfits are willing to cut out longtime suppliers like Silicon Valley chipmaker Intel. Apple beat the other tech giants to this cost-saving trend four years ago when it unveiled its first custom-built chip for the iPhone; Google has also designed specialized chips for its artificial intelligence technology, and Facebook and Microsoft have indicated that they are working on similar AI chips. [Cade Metz / The New York Times]

Layoffs are the latest thing in cryptocurrency, as startups are reducing headcount to survive the young market’s biggest selloff to date. Blockchain venture firm ConsenSys recently cut 13 percent of its staff; Steemit, which runs a blockchain-based social network, last week laid off 70 percent of its staff. A number of smaller firms that raised money during the manic 2017 cryptocurrency rally have retrenched sharply or quietly closed. Bitcoin is down more than 80 percent from its December 2017 high, and the total market value of all cryptocurrency, currently about $111 billion, has fallen 87 percent from its early January high of $827 billion. And job seekers appear to be losing interest in the business: The number of searches on for jobs related to blockchain or cryptocurrency fell 3 percent in the 12 months through October; a year earlier, there was a 482 percent increase. [Paul Vigna / The Wall Street Journal]

Top stories from Recode

Live updates from Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s testimony to Congress today. The search giant’s CEO begins his hearing before the House Judiciary Committee at 10 am ET / 7 am PT. [Shirin Ghaffary and Kurt Wagner]

A group of Google employees are calling on tech workers to band together to end forced arbitration. The practice is still prevalent across the tech industry, despite recent criticism and some limitations on its use in cases of sexual harassment. [Shirin Ghaffary]

Framebridge CEO Susan Tynan explains why it’s okay to be analog in a digital world. On this episode of Recode Decode, Tynan talks about overcoming investors’ skepticism in order to start her online framing company. [Kara Swisher]

This is cool

The interactive cannabis museum.

Munchie trends of 2019.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.