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Jeff Bezos on why you have to work with people you don’t agree with

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  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently told employees the company needs to work with lawmakers across the political spectrum.
  • “You have to be able to work with people who don’t agree with you on everything,” Bezos said during an all-hands meeting in November. 
  • The comments, which were on a recording reviewed by Business Insider, were in response to a question about Amazon’s increasing political spending and about donation’s by Amazon’s political action committee to Republican politicians including Senators Mitch McConnell and Lyndsey Graham.
  • Bezos noted that there are ‘certain issues that are extreme enough that they would be disqualifying,’ but he did not provide any examples.
  • Bezos’ comments underscore the growing importance for Amazon to work with the country’s top policymakers, as it faces a more hostile political environment, both at home and abroad.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says it’s important to engage with politicians from both sides of the aisle — even if their views are at odds with Amazon’s professed values.

That was the message during last month’s internal all-hands staff meeting when an employee asked why Amazon’s political action committee, or PAC, donated to some politicians who actively oppose the company’s core values. The questioner asked how Amazon plans to “reconcile this behavior discrepancy” and whether employees should believe the company’s “words or the money.”

“When you’re working with people in general, and we have 600,000 people in this company, there’s no two people in this company who are going to share the same identical set of views on every issue,” Bezos said, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by Business Insider. 

“You have to be able to work with people who don’t agree with you on everything.”

Bezos’s comments come at a time when Amazon is being attacked on all fronts from lawmakers and regulators, including presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who are calling for the breakup of the tech giant. President Donald Trump has made Amazon and Bezos, who owns the Washington Post newspaper, a regular target of his Twitter barbs. And in 2018, Amazon was forced to abandon plans to open a second headquarters in New York City after running into strident opposition from local lawmakers.

Amazon declined to comment..

Here’s Bezos’s full answer to the question:

“When you’re working with people in general, and we have 600,000 people in this company, there’s no two people in this company who are going to share the same identical set of views on every issue. You have to be able to work with people who don’t agree with you on everything. And at the same time, I would say when you look at candidates, and who you’re funding, there are certain issues that are extreme enough that they would be disqualifying, and you would say, ‘No, I’m not going to support somebody who has that issue because that, in my view, is so disqualifying that even though they agree with me on this issue, I’m still not going to support them.’ 

But outside of those extreme cases, you have to be able to work with people who don’t agree with you on everything. And I think in our current political climate, that’s getting more difficult to do because people, you know, they kind of have these litmus tests for everything. But it’s not right. The right thing to do within reason, again, outside of those disqualifying issues, is to acknowledge that in the way it works in the world and life and in democracies is that we don’t agree with everybody on everything and that’s okay. It has to be.” 

Amazon’s growing PAC spend

Amazon’s PAC spending almost tripled in 2018 to $1.8 million over its 2016 level, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s roughly at the same level as its tech peers, such as Google and Microsoft, and more than double that of Facebook’s PAC. Amazon’s PAC spending was almost evenly distributed between Democrats and Republicans.

Some of the high-profile officials that received Amazon’s money include Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. McConnell has previously expressed more conservative views on issues like climate change and gay rights, which is opposite Amazon’s more progressive stance. Rep. Mark Walker, who’s part of a group pushing for Amazon to resell a “gay conversion therapy” book, was also a recipient.

During the event, Amazon’s top spokesperson and policy chief Jay Carney said the PAC is meant to be bipartisan and that the donations primarily help Amazon “engage with elected officials.” 

“We donate to candidates, or elected officials, based on the positions they take that are good for our customers, are good for our employees, and good for our businesses,” Carney said. “It doesn’t mean we agree individually, or as a company, with every position of each politician who receives a donation.”

For Amazon, the engagement is important as more lawmakers are scrutinizing its market power. The company has received a growing number of lawmaker complaints in recent years over its business practices, such as the way it monitors fake reviews or how it endorses certain products through the “Amazon’s Choice” badge. President Trump, meanwhile, continues to be its loudest critic, questioning everything from the company’s tax payments to how its market power is damaging retailers. 

But the lack of transparency over how the PAC is spent could potentially backfire for Amazon. Microsoft, for example, had to suspend its PAC last year after employees complained about its spending. At the time, Microsoft said it would review its PAC policies to give employees greater transparency over its spending criteria, according to a report by GeekWire.

It’s unclear what criteria Amazon’s PAC uses for its political contributions. But in a company wide email earlier this year, seen by Business Insider, Amazon’s CEO of worldwide consumer Jeff Wilke said the goal is “to create a pro-customer public policy environment.”

“We continue to face new legislative challenges and opportunities as our business continues to expand into new areas and the federal political environment changes in Washington, DC,” Wilke wrote in the email. “Strong public policy advocacy allows us to continue to innovate on behalf of our customers, employees, and the many authors, artisans, and small businesses that sell in our stores. Our Amazon Political Action Committee (PAC) is an important component of that advocacy in the U.S.”

And for those who don’t agree with the way Amazon’s PAC spends its money, there are other ways to contribute individually, Carney said during the event. 

“There are certainly other opportunities for all of you as citizens to put your money where you think it’s best placed on behalf of a candidate — so you’re welcome to do that,” Carney said. “But don’t stop giving to the PAC.”



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Apple iPhone 11 Pro ‘can override location settings’

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Apple’s much-vaunted user control is acknowledged by a security researcher, despite his discovery

Apple’s flagship iPhone 11 Pro tracks users’ locations even when they have set it not to, a security researcher has discovered.

Brian Krebs found that the phone collects data about a user’s position even if location sharing has been turned off in every individual app.

However, the user could avoid being tracked if the entire system was set to never share location.

Apple said it was “expected behaviour” and denied it was a security problem.

The company has made big play of the fact that it allows users granular control over sharing their location – so for instance they can have location switched on for Maps but off for everything else.

Mr Krebs found users could disable all location services entirely via Settings>Privacy>Location Services, but if they chose the individual controls, they might still be tracked.

‘Expected behaviour’

“One of the more curious behaviours of Apple’s new iPhone 11 Pro is that it intermittently seeks the user’s location information even when all applications and system services on the phone are individually set to never request this data,” Mr Krebs wrote on his blog.

He contacted Apple to report the issue, sharing a video which showed the location services icon on, even though every app and system service was set to “never request” this information.

An engineer replied: “We do not see any actual security implications. It is expected behaviour that the locations services icon appears in the status bar when location services is enabled,” adding that some system services “do not have a switch in Settings”.

That, argued Mr Krebs “seems at odds with the company’s own privacy policy”.

In 2018, Google was found to be recording locations even when users had asked it not to.

In a report from Associated Press, a Princeton University researcher tracked his daily commute and found that Google saved location markers even though location history had been turned off.

To disable this entirely, users had to switch off another setting called Web and App Activity, which was enabled by default and did not mention location data.



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How Google’s Founders Slowly Stepped Away From Their Company

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SAN FRANCISCO — About a month after Donald J. Trump was elected president in 2016, Larry Page, the Google co-founder, was summoned along with other prominent tech executives to a meeting at Trump Tower.

It was a rare public appearance for Mr. Page. He sported a tan suit and shifted in his seat as he introduced himself and noted (incorrectly) that his company was probably the youngest in the room. “Really glad to be here,” said Mr. Page, who did not look glad to be there.

By the time he was again summoned in 2018 — this time to testify to Congress on tech’s various problems — Mr. Page had all but abandoned the roles typically associated with leading one of the world’s richest and most powerful companies. He didn’t show, and senators placed an empty chair and his placard alongside the other speakers.

On Tuesday, Mr. Page and Sergey Brin, his Google co-founder, said they were stepping down from day-to-day executive roles at Alphabet, Google’s parent company. While the move seemed sudden, it was the culmination of a yearslong separation between two of Silicon Valley’s most prominent founders and the company they began 21 years ago.

For some time, Mr. Page and Mr. Brin have drawn down their daily involvement in the company, ceding managerial tasks to deputies so they could focus on a variety of projects, including self-driving cars, robotics and life-extension technology. They left the often messy business of running Google itself to Sundar Pichai, a trusted deputy who became Google’s chief executive in 2015.

Tuesday was the capstone of that split. The founders named Mr. Pichai as the chief of both Google and Alphabet, while they will remain on Alphabet’s board of directors. Mr. Page and Mr. Brin still hold 51 percent of Alphabet’s voting shares, giving them effective control over the company — and Mr. Pichai, if they wish.

In a letter announcing the change, Mr. Page and Mr. Brin compared their 21 years at Google to raising a child, saying now was the “time to assume the role of proud parents.”

Mr. Page and Mr. Brin helped unleash the modern internet and Silicon Valley as cultural and business phenomena. Over the past two decades, they oversaw a company that was central to one of the most consequential periods in the history of business.

That singular innovation gave rise to a company and product that functions as an effective tax on the internet. Billions of people navigate the web through Google’s search box, and it charges a toll in the form of tracked and targeted advertising.

Google has grown to be dominant in several markets. Its search engine handles nine out of 10 internet searches, and the company’s Android software powers roughly three-quarters of the world’s smartphones. And for a generation of young people, YouTube, which Google acquired in 2006, has all but supplanted television.

But to some observers, the more powerful Google became, the less interested its founders appeared to be in running it.

“They’re accidental entrepreneurs,” Mr. Greenstein said. “Given their origins, it’s not surprising. They probably still harbor a desire to be a professor with a lab.”

After Mr. Page and Mr. Brin formally founded Google in September 1998, they turned out to be skilled businessmen. Still, investors worried that they were not ready to run what many rightly believed could become one of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies.

By 2001, Google’s board pushed the founders to bring on an experienced executive to lead the company. Mr. Page and Mr. Brin picked Eric Schmidt, a former chief executive of the software company Novell, as Google’s new chief executive, in part because the three had bonded at Burning Man, the arts festival in the Nevada desert.

Credit…Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

While the founders were initially wary of having a boss, they quickly warmed to Mr. Schmidt. One of the benefits of no longer being chief executive, colleagues told Mr. Page, was that he would no longer have to perform tasks like talking to advertisers and investors, according to “In the Plex,” a book about Google’s beginnings by Steve Levy.

Instead, the founders sought out new efforts, such as mapping the world, digitizing books, developing artificial intelligence and creating new smartphone software to rival Apple’s iPhone.

“I didn’t think of Google as a transportation company,” Mr. Thrun said. “But Larry thought of Google as a company that pushed innovation in any area.”

Mr. Thrun led Chauffeur under Google X, the so-called moonshot lab where engineers were encouraged to build science-fiction projects they thought might never work. Many of their projects did fail, like space elevators, jet packs and teleportation, but others are still in development, like delivery drones, energy-producing kites and internet-beaming balloons.

Like most of the futuristic projects at Google, the lab was the brainchild of the founders. Mr. Brin particularly wanted something to work on because he was getting bored in management, said Michael Jones, a co-founder of Google Earth, who spent 11 years at the company.

In 2011, Mr. Page retook the chief executive job atop Google, getting something of a hero’s welcome. Yet the pattern — wanting to be in charge but not wanting to deal with the day-to-day job — would quickly repeat itself.

He seemed no more interested in the menial aspects of the job. He was frustrated by having to deal with things like executive infighting and turf wars that are an unavoidable part of corporate life, according to three former executives who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Even then, well before the recent employee uprisings, he had grown disillusioned with what he saw as entitled behavior from Google engineers, said two other executives who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. He also started to experience health problems, most notably paralysis of his vocal cords. Executives who met with Mr. Page, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he sometimes used an electronic speaker to amplify his strained voice.

“Larry is like a professor who’s a business star. I don’t think he has any appreciation or love or desire to run a company actually,” said Mr. Jones, the former Google executive. “The thing he cares about is pushing toward innovation.”

“I’ve also delegated this question to Sundar,” Mr. Page responded. “I help him think about it. But I don’t have to answer this question now.” He smiled, and the crowd laughed.



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Four fresh SNES games are coming to Nintendo Switch Online next week

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Things have been quiet on the Nintendo Switch Online front ever since the company dropped 20 classic SNES games onto its wildly popular hybrid console’s $20 a year subscription service back in September, but that’s about to change. Four more SNES games and two fresh NES games are coming on Dec. 12, Nintendo revealed Wednesday.

The SNES selection includes Star Fox 2, Super Punch-Out, Kirby Super Star and Breath of Fire 2. The tale of Star Fox 2 is pretty fascinating: It was planned for a summer 1995 release but canned because Nintendo didn’t want it to be overshadowed by Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. We finally got the chance to play it in 2017, when Nintendo hid it on the SNES Classic retro console.

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If Kirby’s dances don’t warm your heart, I’m sorry. Maybe playing Kirby Super Star will help.


Nintendo/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

If you want to go a bit more retro, the NES games — action RPG Crystalis and sci-fi platformer Journey to Silius — are both from 1990. The latter game was originally supposed to be a Terminator tie-in, but developer Sunsoft lost the rights.

Japanese subscribers get a different selection of games this time — no Super Punch-Out, Breath of Fire 2, Crystalis or Journey to Silius in that region. Instead, people in Japan get NES games Famicom Wars and Route 16 Turbo.

On Thursday, Nintendo said it sold 830,000 Switches and Switch Lites in the US over Thanksgiving weekend. It also plans to launch the console in China — a market of 1.3 billion people — on Dec. 10.

First published at 3:27 a.m. PT.
Updated at 4:09 a.m. PT: Adds more detail.



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