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Recode Daily: Going for a ride in Waymo’s just-launched driverless taxi service

Plus: Internal tensions are boiling over at Facebook, which is no longer No. 1 on the “best places to work” list; working undercover at an Amazon fulfillment center; the top sounds and visions of 2018.

Two people sitting inside a Waymo driverless minivan Waymo

Waymo’s self-driving car unit officially launched the first commercial driverless taxi service in a roughly 100-mile zone across four Phoenix suburbs. The service, called Waymo One, will operate via an app similar to those used by ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, and will include a human driver behind the wheel to intervene in the event of an emergency. Here’s what it felt like when the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal went for a ride in one of Waymo’s fleet of Chrysler Pacific Hybrid minivans. Pricing for Waymo’s around-the-clock taxi service is in line with that of Uber and Lyft: A 15-minute, three-mile cost of $7.59, just above the $7.22 offered by Lyft. Producing revenue is a strategic milestone, putting Waymo ahead of its U.S. rivals. [Alexandria Sage / Reuters]

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A newly released trove of internal Facebook emails is a startling reminder that you are Facebook’s product. Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have used access to users’ personal data to reward strategic partners and punish competitors over the years. At one point, Zuckerberg even considered selling that data to outside app developers. That was made clear by 250 pages of internal Facebook emails and other documents released by British lawmakers yesterday. [Kurt Wagner / Recode]

Facebook’s board of directors backed COO Sheryl Sandberg’s handling of research into billionaire investor George Soros. In a letter to Soros’s Open Society Foundations, the board said it “was entirely appropriate” for Sandberg to ask if Soros shorted the company’s stock after he called the social media giant a “menace.” The president of Soros’s foundations wrote Facebook’s board saying that Sandberg misled him in a private phone call when she said she did not know about the company’s use of opposition research company Definers Public Affairs to look into Soros. The exchange is the latest twist in a difficult two years for Facebook, where internal tensions are boiling over as the company has faced one controversy after another — one ex-employee said staff are “hoping for a Sundar or Dara moment.” Meanwhile, Facebook dropped from No. 1 to No. 7 in Glassdoor’s 2019 list of best places to work in the U.S., as chosen by employees. [Deepa Seetharaman / The Wall Street Journal]

The U.S. Secret Service plans to test a facial recognition program in the vicinity of the White House, with the goal of identifying “subjects of interest.” The ongoing test — which may already be in operation, given its scheduled start date listed on a Nov. 19 document — would compare closed-circuit video footage of public White House spaces against a database of images, and then save any identified matches for review by humans before they are eventually deleted. The American Civil Liberties Union publicized the existence of the document, which acknowledges that running facial recognition technology on unaware visitors could be invasive. [Adi Robertson / The Verge]

President Trump’s task force scrutinizing U.S. Postal Service operations is proposing an overhaul of the financially distressed mail agency, including changes to how it prices packages shipped by retailers like Amazon, a frequent target of the president’s attacks. The Treasury-led task force says the USPS should price packages “with profitability in mind” and impose higher rates on general e-commerce goods and other nonessential items sent through the mail. Trump commissioned the report earlier this year after accusing Amazon of ripping off the USPS and treating the agency like its “Delivery Boy.” [Steven Overly / Politico]

Ever wonder what it’s like working at an Amazon fulfillment center? An anonymous seasonal employee, a.k.a. “fulfillment associate,” takes us behind the scenes for an ongoing multi-part tour, starting with orientation and training, where we learn how everyone’s warehouse workday is managed down to the second through the use of digital trackers and indicators, and witness the painful physical and emotional toll of the actual work of making this complex and wealthy company run. If we learn anything from Part 2 of the series, it’s this: Amazon workers don’t like lugging your heavy bags of dog food and kitty litter any more than you do. [Anonymous / The Guardian]

AirPods alternatives are coming from Google and Amazon, says Apple-focused analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. There are already a wide range of also-rans and wannabes on the market at both lower and higher price points; Kuo expects Apple to work on holding its market lead by adding new functionalities, which may include Siri support, water-resistance and health sensors; he expects shipments of AirPods to break 100 million by 2021. [Ben Lovejoy / 9to5Mac]

Top stories from Recode

NBC journalists Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell and Hallie Jackson talk about social media’s impact on democracy, how the media has changed under President Trump and who’s running in 2020. The latest episode of Recode Decode with Kara Swisher was recorded live at the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. Here’s the podcast, with a full transcript of the conversation. [Kara Swisher]

Here’s what happens when the media companies take their content off Netflix. The streaming media pioneer could lose about a fifth of its content hours. [Rani Molla]

This is cool

Reuters picked its 100 top pictures of the year; the Atlantic narrowed its list down to an unforgettable 25.

Spotify listed its most-streamed artists and podcasts of 2018.

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