CBP says it’s “unrealistic” for Americans to avoid its license plate surveillance

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has admitted that there is no practical way for Americans to avoid having their movements tracked by its license plate readers, according to its latest privacy assessment.

CBP published its new assessment — three years after its first — to notify the public that it plans to tap into a commercial database, which aggregates license plate data from both private and public sources, as part of its border enforcement efforts.

The U.S. has a massive network of license plate readers, typically found on the roadside, to collect and record the license plates of vehicles passing by. License plate readers can capture thousands of license plates each minute. License plates are recorded and stored in massive databases, giving police and law enforcement agencies the ability to track millions of vehicles across the country.

The agency updated its privacy assessment in part because Americans “may not be aware” that the agency can collect their license plate data.

“CBP cannot provide timely notice of license plate reads obtained from various sources outside of its control,” the privacy assessment said. “Many areas of both public and private property have signage that alerts individuals that the area is under surveillance; however, this signage does not consistently include a description of how and with whom such data may be shared.”

But buried in the document, the agency admitted: “The only way to opt out of such surveillance is to avoid the impacted area, which may pose significant hardships and be generally unrealistic.”

CBP struck a similar tone in 2017 during a trial that scanned the faces of American travelers as they departed the U.S., a move that drew ire from civil liberties advocates at the time. CBP told Americans travelers who wanted to opt-out of the face scanning was to “refrain from traveling.”

The document added that the privacy risk to Americans is “enhanced” because the agency “may access [license plate data] captured anywhere in the United States,” including outside of the 100-mile border zone that the CBP typically operates within.

CBP said that it will reduce the risk by only accessing license plate data when there is “circumstantial or supporting evidence” to further an investigation, and will only let CBP agents access data within a five-year period from the date of the search.

A spokesperson for CBP did not respond to a request for comment on the latest assessment.

CBP doesn’t have the best track record with license plate data. Last year, CBP confirmed that a subcontractor, Perceptics, improperly copied license plate data on “fewer than 100,000” people over a period of a month-and-a-half at a U.S. port of entry on the southern border. The agency later suspended its contract with Perceptics.

Daily Crunch: Rackspace is going public again

We look at Rackspace’s finances, a Facebook code change causes numerous app issues and electric vehicle company Rivian raises $2.5 billion. Here’s your Daily Crunch for July 10, 2020.

The big story: Rackspace is going public again

The cloud computing company first went public in 2008, before accepting a $4.3 billion offer to go private from Apollo Global Management. Rackspace says it will use the proceeds from the IPO to lower its debt load.

Alex Wilhelm took a deep dive into Rackspace’s finances, concluding that the proper valuation is a “puzzle”:

The company is tech-ish, which means it will find some interest. But its slow growth rate, heavy debts and lackluster margins make it hard to pin a fair multiple onto.

The tech giants

New report outlines potential roadmap for Apple’s ARM-based MacBooks — Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that a 13.3-inch MacBook powered by Apple’s new processors will arrive in the fourth quarter of this year.

Facebook code change caused outage for Spotify, Pinterest and Waze apps — Looks like Facebook was responsible for some crashing apps this morning.

California reportedly launches antitrust investigation into Google — This makes California the 49th state to launch an antitrust investigation into the search giant, according to Politico.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Rivian raises $2.5 billion as it pushes to bring its electric RT1 pickup, R1S SUV to market — The company plans to bring its electric pickup truck and SUV, as well as delivery vans for Amazon, to market in 2021.

A glint of hope for India’s food delivery market as Zomato projects monthly cash burn of less than $1 million — “We’ll only lose $1 million this month” doesn’t feel like a huge accomplishment, but at least things seem to be headed in the right direction.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

How Thor Fridriksson’s ‘Trivia Royale’ earned 2.5 million downloads in 3 weeks — The latest game from the QuizUp founder was (briefly) the top app in the App Store. We talk to Fridriksson about how he did it.

COVID-19 pivot: Travel unicorn Klook sees jump in staycations — With bookings for overseas experiences plummeting, Klook began offering do-it-yourself kits for stay-at-home projects and partnered with landmark sites to offer virtual tours.

Operator Collective brings diversity and inclusion to enterprise investing — The firm, founded last year, said it currently has 130 operator LPs, 90% of them women and 40% of them people of color.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

NASA signs agreement with Japan to cooperate across Space Station, Artemis and Lunar Gateway projects — Japan first expressed its intent to participate in the Lunar Gateway program in October 2019, making it one of the first countries to do so.

Equity: Silicon Valley is built on immigrant innovation — The latest episode of Equity discusses how recent visa changes will affect Silicon Valley.

Five reasons to attend TC Early Stage online — July 21 and 22! I will be there!

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Google’s Fitbit deal could avoid EU antitrust probe by agreeing not to use health data for ads

Google announced its plans to acquire Fitbit for $2.1 billion back in November. As of this writing, the deal has yet to go through, courtesy of all the usual regulatory scrutiny that occurs any time one large company buys another. EU regulators are often a key hurdle for these sorts of deals, and this time it may be no different.

Citing “people familiar with the matter,” Reuters notes that Google may be facing down some scrutiny in the form of an EU antitrust investigation if it doesn’t make some concessions. The heart of the concern here is a matter of health privacy. Fitbit — like many other wearable companies — collects a tremendous amount of health information from wearers.

Google, of course, is a company tremendously invested in data and advertising. Critics of the deal have suggested that purchasing Fitbit would provide yet another rich vein of data for Google to mine. As such, the deal could hinge on the promise that Google will never use health data to sell ads.

The stipulation is in keeping with a promise the company made when the acquisition was first announced, with the company’s head of hardware Rick Osterloh promising, “[P]rivacy and security are paramount. When you use our products, you’re trusting Google with your information. We understand this is a big responsibility and we work hard to protect your information, put you in control and give you transparency about your data.”

In a follow-up to this week’s reporting, the company noted that it believes the acquisition would increase competition. While Fitbit has a sizable footprint, Apple, Xiaomi and Huawei currently dominate the category, due in part to Fitbit’s late start in the smartwatch category. Google’s efforts to make inroads through Wear OS have largely come up short, though the company did also purchase a chunk of smartwatch tech from Fossil last January.

A spokesperson also attempted to put to rest potential regulatory fears, stating, “Throughout this process we have been clear about our commitment not to use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads and our responsibility to provide people with choice and control with their data.”

Regulators are set to decide on the deal by July 20. Google reportedly has until July 13 to present its concessions.

How Thor Fridriksson’s ‘Trivia Royale’ earned 2.5M downloads in 3 weeks

In its first few weeks of release, the latest game from QuizUp founder Thor Fridriksson took the top spot in the Games Section of Apple’s App Store and was the top app (for a brief time) in the App Store at large.

Since its launch on June 17, Trivia Royale has been downloaded more than 2.5 million times, with day-one retention of 45% and week-one retention of 45% on iOS, according to the company. Average daily usage per user is around 30 minutes. It currently sits in the number six spot in the Free Games category on the App Store.

There is no shortage of mobile games, but in such a cluttered space, it’s difficult to break through the noise. So how did Trivia Royale do it?

The game, which lets users compete in a 1,000-person, single-elimination trivia tournament, is built on the Teatime Games platform. Teatime emphasizes the fun of playing against other humans in the mobile gaming landscape, giving users the ability to communicate via video chat while they play in a game on their smartphone.

The platform allows game developers to use this video chat functionality, which comes with Snapchat-like face filters or Apple Memoji-style avatars, on their own games. But for Teatime to truly succeed as a gaming platform, the company needed a hit game, Fridriksson said.

The serial entrepreneur told TechCrunch that he decided to take off his CEO hat and return to his product roots by focusing on a category that few people know as well as he does: trivia.

The Trivia Royale tournament combines the scale of Battle Royale with the durability of trivia — whether it’s Jeopardy, HQ Trivia, bar trivia or this, we can’t get enough of it — or lets users match against one other player in a single category of trivia.

I’ve played around on the game for a while now and can say that it’s very well done, from the design to the production value. But more important than the mechanics of the tournament or the typeface or even the content of the questions are the avatars, which let users express themselves through customization and their real-life facial expressions.

But none of that means anything if players don’t join the game. So how did Trivia Royale earn more than 2.5 million downloads (and climbing) in a matter of days?

A big bet on TikTok

Fridriksson told TechCrunch that he has to give a ton of credit to his kids (who are 15 and 11). His daughter told him about TikTok and gave him a list of her favorite stars, including Addison Rae and Dixie D’Amelio.

LA-based Replicated adds former GitLab head of product as its chief product officer

Replicated, the Los Angeles-based company pitching monitoring and management services for Kubernetes-based applications, has managed to bring on the former head of product of the $2.75 billion-valued programming giant, GitLab, as its new chief product officer. 

Mark Pundsack is joining the company as it moves to scale its business. At GitLab Pundsack saw the company grow from 70 employees to 1,300 as it scaled its business through its on-premise offerings.

Replicated is hoping to bring the same kind of on-premise services to a broad array of enterprise clients, according to company chief executive Grant Miller.

First introduced to Replicated while working with CircleCI but it was the company’s newfound traction since the launch of its kubernetes deployment management toolkit that caused him to take a second look.

“The momentum that Replicated has created with their latest offering is tremendous; really changing the trajectory of the company,” said Pundsack in a statement. “When I was able to get close to the product, team, and customers, I knew this was something that I wanted to be a part of. This company is in such a unique position to create value throughout the entire enterprise software ecosystem; this sort of reach is incredibly rare. The potential reminds me a lot of the early days of GitLab.”

It’s a huge coup for Replicated, according to Miller.

“Mark created the core product strategy at GitLab; transforming GitLab from a source control company to a complete DevOps platform, with incredible support for Kubernetes,” said Miller. “There really isn’t a better background for a product leader at Replicated; Mark has witnessed GitLab’s evolution from a traditional on-prem installation towards a Kubernetes-based installation and management experience. This is the same transition that many of our customers are going through and Mark has already done it with one of the best. I have so much confidence that his involvement with our product will lead to more success for our customers.”

Pundsack is the second new executive hire from Replicated in six months as the company looks to bring more muscle to its c-suite and expand its operations.

LA-based Replicated adds former GitLab head of product as its chief product officer

Replicated, the Los Angeles-based company pitching monitoring and management services for Kubernetes-based applications, has managed to bring on the former head of product of the $2.75 billion-valued programming giant, GitLab, as its new chief product officer. 

Mark Pundsack is joining the company as it moves to scale its business. At GitLab Pundsack saw the company grow from 70 employees to 1,300 as it scaled its business through its on-premise offerings.

Replicated is hoping to bring the same kind of on-premise services to a broad array of enterprise clients, according to company chief executive Grant Miller.

First introduced to Replicated while working with CircleCI but it was the company’s newfound traction since the launch of its kubernetes deployment management toolkit that caused him to take a second look.

“The momentum that Replicated has created with their latest offering is tremendous; really changing the trajectory of the company,” said Pundsack in a statement. “When I was able to get close to the product, team, and customers, I knew this was something that I wanted to be a part of. This company is in such a unique position to create value throughout the entire enterprise software ecosystem; this sort of reach is incredibly rare. The potential reminds me a lot of the early days of GitLab.”

It’s a huge coup for Replicated, according to Miller.

“Mark created the core product strategy at GitLab; transforming GitLab from a source control company to a complete DevOps platform, with incredible support for Kubernetes,” said Miller. “There really isn’t a better background for a product leader at Replicated; Mark has witnessed GitLab’s evolution from a traditional on-prem installation towards a Kubernetes-based installation and management experience. This is the same transition that many of our customers are going through and Mark has already done it with one of the best. I have so much confidence that his involvement with our product will lead to more success for our customers.”

Pundsack is the second new executive hire from Replicated in six months as the company looks to bring more muscle to its c-suite and expand its operations.

HBO Max is making a Gotham City police series with the director of ‘The Batman’

HBO Max, the WarnerMedia-owned streaming service that launched in May, announced today that it has made a series commitment to an untitled TV show tied to the movie “The Batman” (currently scheduled for release in 2021).

The show will be set in the Gotham City police department, with a creative team that includes Matt Reeves, the movie’s co-writer and director, along with “Boardwalk Empire” creator Terence Winter.

This sounds like familiar territory — the police department of a city overrun by colorful criminals was probably perhaps best explored in the “Gotham Central” comics series (written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka and drawn by Michael Lark), but it was also the focus of the recent (bad) Fox TV show “Gotham.”

However, the announcement from HBO Max emphasized that this will be an extension of the feature film, “ultimately launching a new Batman universe across multiple platforms.” It’s an approach that the streamer is also taking with “Dune: The Sisterhood,” a series that ties into the upcoming “Dune” movie.

“This is an amazing opportunity, not only to expand the vision of the world I am creating in the film, but to explore it in the kind of depth and detail that only a longform format can afford — and getting to work with the incredibly talented Terence Winter, who has written so insightfully and powerfully about worlds of crime and corruption, is an absolute dream,” Reeves said in a statement.

It also remains to be seen whether the show is influenced in any way by the ongoing protests for racial justice. It might be seem absurd to connect real-world political issues with a comic book TV show, but the protests have led to a Hollywood reckoning with how movies and television have glorified the police — for example, Andy Samberg recently said the writers and cast of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” are trying to rethink the show to make something “that we all feel morally okay about.”

HBO Max is making a Gotham City police series with the director of ‘The Batman’

HBO Max, the WarnerMedia-owned streaming service that launched in May, announced today that it has made a series commitment to an untitled TV show tied to the movie “The Batman” (currently scheduled for release in 2021).

The show will be set in the Gotham City police department, with a creative team that includes Matt Reeves, the movie’s co-writer and director, along with “Boardwalk Empire” creator Terence Winter.

This sounds like familiar territory — the police department of a city overrun by colorful criminals was probably perhaps best explored in the “Gotham Central” comics series (written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka and drawn by Michael Lark), but it was also the focus of the recent (bad) Fox TV show “Gotham.”

However, the announcement from HBO Max emphasized that this will be an extension of the feature film, “ultimately launching a new Batman universe across multiple platforms.” It’s an approach that the streamer is also taking with “Dune: The Sisterhood,” a series that ties into the upcoming “Dune” movie.

“This is an amazing opportunity, not only to expand the vision of the world I am creating in the film, but to explore it in the kind of depth and detail that only a longform format can afford — and getting to work with the incredibly talented Terence Winter, who has written so insightfully and powerfully about worlds of crime and corruption, is an absolute dream,” Reeves said in a statement.

It also remains to be seen whether the show is influenced in any way by the ongoing protests for racial justice. It might be seem absurd to connect real-world political issues with a comic book TV show, but the protests have led to a Hollywood reckoning with how movies and television have glorified the police — for example, Andy Samberg recently said the writers and cast of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” are trying to rethink the show to make something “that we all feel morally okay about.”

Tech at Work: DE&I at Facebook, Prop 22 and gig worker earnings

Hey, ya’ll. I’m experimenting with a bi-weekly roundup that looks at the state of labor in tech.

We’ll use this space to explore topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion, the future of work, issues relating to pay equality, notable personnel changes and much more.

This week, we’re looking at Facebook’s civil rights audit, a new gig worker earnings study, the latest on California ballot measure Proposition 22 and layoffs amid COVID-19. 

Stay woke

The artist Celos paints a mural in downtown Los Angeles on May 30, 2020 in protest against the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while being arrested and pinned to the ground by the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s been less than two months since the police killing of George Floyd. While the tech industry has continued on with its funding rounds, mergers and acquisitions, there is still work to be done on the racial justice front. Here’s a look at some developments over the last couple of weeks. 

Facebook’s civil rights audit highlights gaps in DE&I work

As seen in Facebook’s final civil rights audit report conducted by former ACLU attorney Laura Murphy, the social networking giant still must do more to increase diversity in its senior leadership roles and C-suite. These roles for Black, indigenous and people of color must also not be “limited to diversity officer positions as is often the case in corporate America,” the report states. 

According to the audit, there must also be company-wide recognition that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are not to fall solely on those in underrepresented groups, but rather on all members of the senior leadership team and managers. The audit also highlighted employee concerns around “a lack of recognition for the time URM employees spend mentoring and recruiting other minorities to work at Facebook.”

Tech at Work: DE&I at Facebook, Prop 22 and gig worker earnings

Hey, ya’ll. I’m experimenting with a bi-weekly roundup that looks at the state of labor in tech.

We’ll use this space to explore topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion, the future of work, issues relating to pay equality, notable personnel changes and much more.

This week, we’re looking at Facebook’s civil rights audit, a new gig worker earnings study, the latest on California ballot measure Proposition 22 and layoffs amid COVID-19. 

Stay woke

The artist Celos paints a mural in downtown Los Angeles on May 30, 2020 in protest against the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while being arrested and pinned to the ground by the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s been less than two months since the police killing of George Floyd. While the tech industry has continued on with its funding rounds, mergers and acquisitions, there is still work to be done on the racial justice front. Here’s a look at some developments over the last couple of weeks. 

Facebook’s civil rights audit highlights gaps in DE&I work

As seen in Facebook’s final civil rights audit report conducted by former ACLU attorney Laura Murphy, the social networking giant still must do more to increase diversity in its senior leadership roles and C-suite. These roles for Black, indigenous and people of color must also not be “limited to diversity officer positions as is often the case in corporate America,” the report states. 

According to the audit, there must also be company-wide recognition that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are not to fall solely on those in underrepresented groups, but rather on all members of the senior leadership team and managers. The audit also highlighted employee concerns around “a lack of recognition for the time URM employees spend mentoring and recruiting other minorities to work at Facebook.”