This week we look at how the latest iPhone software update ties into the debate about regulating big tech.

Facebook, Apple, and Google may have very different approaches to user privacy, but they do have something in common: All three companies are currently being investigated for antitrust violations.

Facebook is being accused of allowing its market dominance to erode its data privacy protections. Apple and Google are being investigated, in part, for enforcing their own privacy safeguards at the expense of competitors—Apple because of the changes in iOS 14.5, and Google because of coming updates to its Chrome browser. It’s a messy, complicated tangle of events. The situation also reveals the sphere of incredible power these companies operate in, where even tiny software changes can affect the data of billions of users.

This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED cybersecurity writer Lily Hay Newman and WIRED politics writer Gilad Edelman join us to talk about how giant tech companies handle your privacy.

Show Notes

Read Lily’s story about ad tracking in iOS 14.5 here. Read Gilad’s story about how privacy and antitrust are on a collision course here. Read the New York Times story about the beef between Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook here.

Recommendations

Lily recommends hugs. Gilad recommends unbuttoning one more button on your shirt than you normally do. Lauren recommends the show Call My Agent. Mike recommends crushed Calabrian chili peppers.

Lily Hay Newman can be found on Twitter @lilyhnewman. Gilad Edelman is @GiladEdelman. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

If you have feedback about the show, or just want to enter to win a $50 gift card, take our brief listener survey here.

How to Listen

You can always listen to this week’s podcast through the audio player on this page, but if you want to subscribe for free to get every episode, here’s how:

If you’re on an iPhone or iPad, open the app called Podcasts, or just tap this link. You can also download an app like Overcast or Pocket Casts, and search for Gadget Lab. If you use Android, you can find us in the Google Podcasts app just by tapping here. We’re on Spotify too. And in case you really need it, here’s the RSS feed.

Transcript

Michael Calore: Lauren.

Lauren Goode: Mike.

MC: Lauren, have you updated your iPhone to iOS 14.5 yet?

LG: I have a very tech-reporter-y answer to that, which is that I do have an iPhone here that is running 14.5, but then I also have an older iPhone that is not, and I have an Android phone, that of course is not. And so, yes and no.

MC: I hate to break it to you, but you’re not exactly the model of anti-tracking software then.

LG: Yeah, don’t I know it.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

MC: Hi everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Michael Calore, a senior editor here at WIRED.

LG: And I’m Lauren Goode, a senior writer at WIRED, whose information is just apparently all over the internet.

MC: We’re also joined by WIRED senior writer, Lily Newman, from New York.

Lily Newman: Hello.

MC: We are also joined this week again by WIRED senior politics writer, Gilad Edelman, from Washington, DC. Hi, Gilad.

Gilad Edelman: Thanks for having me guys.

MC: This is the first time that you’ve been back on since you threatened to replace me as host. So this is a privilege for you.

GE: Well, you got the last laugh by icing me out of the 500th anniversary extravaganza. Lauren, did you guys get any fan mail about that?

LG: I did, I got a DM. Someone slid into my Instagram DMs. Note: Listeners, do not do this. And they said, “WTF, you guys did not invite Gilad …” and misspelled your name “… on for the 500th episode.” So you have at least one fan, who is clamoring for you to participate in our anniversary episode. And I’m sorry that we left you out.

GE: I forgive you.

LG: Thank you.

MC: Well, it’s fitting that you bring up your Instagram DMs, Lauren, because this week we are talking about user privacy—not about Instagram though. So this week, Apple released a software update for iPhones and iPads. One key feature of the new iOS 14.5 gives users more control over how ads track them while they’re using mobile apps.

With this software, all apps are required to notify a user, if the app will be tracking their activity. Apps are also required to let the user opt out of being tracked. The move has been supported by privacy advocates, but it’s also upset companies that rely on user data to sell ads. Apple’s move has particularly cheesed off Facebook, after all Facebook’s primary business model involves harvesting user data, to improve ad targeting.

If Facebook knows you look at a lot of running shoes, and Danish furniture, while you’re plunking around on your phone, well, they might also know a few folks who could pay top dollar, to show you ads for running shoes and Danish furniture. If every iPhone user now gets the option to cut off that flow of data, it ends up being something of an existential threat to Facebook.

Now, Lily, you wrote about Apple’s new app tracking transparency feature, iOS 14.5 just rolled out this week. Tell us what specific changes people might notice after they upgrade?

LN: That was a great explanation by the way, this stuff is very complicated. What you’re going to notice is, apps prompting you with this question about, whether or not you consent to be tracked, and for the first time it’s giving you this granular opportunity to say yes or no.

And as we heard, this isn’t location tracking, this is … essentially, this is assigning an identifier to you, so companies can work together to track your web activity, and app activity across different services.

So let’s say a company owns a bunch of different apps, you might assume that they at least have the ability to share data between the apps, and figure out what users are doing across their apps. Maybe they do it, maybe they don’t, but it makes sense that they would be able to.

But there’s this whole other ecosystem out there, that’s kind of invisible to users, where companies that don’t seem to have anything to do with each other, create the ability to track you, and what you’re doing, and what you’re looking at, and combine all of that data, to get a composite picture of what you have going on in your browsing.

And the fact that, that’s so unintuitive, I think is a big part of what Apple is trying to address here, by surfacing it every time an app is asking for this.

LG: So how has this change in iOS 14.5, which is mobile specific, right? It’s specific to iPhone, different from the changes that Apple made to desktop Safari back in 2018?

LN: iOS, previously provided a mechanism to cut off this type of tracking all together. The types of ideas that we’re talking about here are called IDFAs, and those IDs … You had the ability in previous versions of iOS to say, I want to turn off all IDFA tracking. So, Apple has already made some forays into this area on iOS.

But the change now is, first of all, they’re going to be prompting you, it’s not something that’s deep in the settings. And second of all, you’re going to have more granular control, app to app, because sometimes maybe you’ll want to select, that the tracking is allowed, maybe you’ll find that turning it off breaks features that you want to use, or the ads you’re getting are really random, and you don’t want that.

So, having the control, app to app, and surfacing it in a pop-up, or sort of an overlay, rather than just on or off, of the fire hose deep in the settings. That’s the big change in 14.5.

GE: There’s there’s another difference here, which is that … So Safari, has a feature called intelligent tracking prevention, which is Apple’s attempt to block cross-site trackers. But the difference is that, when you’re on Safari, you are browsing the entire internet, and Apple doesn’t control what sites you can go to.

And it’s tracking prevention is not perfect, it’s an attempt to prevent cross-site tracking, but it doesn’t always work. This change to the app store is different, because Apple somewhat controversially as we’ve seen, exercises total control over what’s allowed in the app store, and it’s not just, that they’re restricting access to the IDFA, the advertising identifier.

Under the terms of the app store, apps are not allowed to come up with other ways of getting around this, coming up with other ways to track user activity, whether it’s email log-ins, or some other technological solutions.

So in theory, if a company comes up with some work around, Apple could kick them out of the app store, and so one thing that … so that’s a big difference from tracking prevention in Safari, where if it works, it works and if it doesn’t, they can’t kick a website off the internet.

So, a thing that will be interesting to see is what does the enforcement actually look like? There’s millions of apps out there, not all of them are going to jump into compliance, and so what will look like, when the rubber meets the road.

MC: And that’s going to play out over the next months and years. So, yeah, will be interesting to watch. There’s one app in particular I want to focus on Lily, because you mentioned in your story, that Facebook has been very vocal and aggressive in its objections to this move by Apple. What has the company said about this new policy?

LN: Yes, the company has been extremely aggressive on this. They’ve really focused on the potential threat to small businesses, that this is the new world order essentially, and this is how mom and pop shops reach their audiences, and target the right segment of users. And, that this is just going to screw all of that over basically.

And they took out full page ads in national newspapers, they have been making comments in advertising industry meetings, obviously sort of rallying support. They’ve also been noting the potential concerns for their business in earnings meetings.

So, a full court press on this issue, but Apple’s response has basically been, you can still do all of this tracking within your own apps, and for Facebook, that’s a lot of apps and a lot of users.

So one thing this really reveals, is the fact that even though Facebook does have so many billions of users across multiple incredibly popular platforms like the Facebook main site, Instagram, Messenger on and on, they actually get a lot of their information on users.

And some studies have shown, the vast fast majority of their information elsewhere, from other platforms, and from that cross-platform tracking, of being able to create the composite image of, what users have going on.

GE: Yeah, almost any app you use probably has Facebook software development kit embedded in it. And that is just a straight information pipeline back to the Facebook mothership. And one reason this is important is because, as nice as it is for Facebook to see what you clicked on when you’re on Facebook, or when you’re on Instagram, they’re selling ads, and what do advertisers care about the most? What do you buy? What do you pay money for?

And so that kind of information is super valuable, and so if there’s any apps where you are doing … where you’re a customer, then being able to track your transactions, is super valuable to any platform that’s selling advertising.

LG: Do any of these new anti-trafficking features apply to Apple’s own apps, in 14.5? If you switch regularly between the mail app and calendar, or I don’t know, any other app is basically on your phone, and you can’t get rid of?

GE: Apple offers targeted advertising to advertisers in the app store, but to do that, that’s device level tracking, right? Because, you’re operating … Because when you’re using your iPhone, you’re on Apple’s property the whole time, they don’t need to do cross context, cross app tracking because you’re on your phone.

And so you can keep all that information about what you’re doing on the device, and still create a profile for advertisers in the app store to target you, essentially advertising apps for you to buy.

LN: It’s a good question, because these things have come up before with Apple’s rules for itself, versus its rules for others. But certainly the broad takeaway, and the reason I think it’s true, that they don’t rely on this type of tracking between their own apps is that, the whole point of this is, this is hitting other company’s revenue of models where it hurts, in a way that it’s not hitting Apple’s, right?

That’s the whole reason they’re able to take this step, and they pride themselves on that, and present it as almost a humanitarian course. But it also, just relates to the realities of their business model, the fact that they have a successful hardware business, which many companies don’t, or haven’t really attempted.

And just a totally different setup, than a lot of other companies. So, they are able to make this move, without it being a hit for them.

MC: And as far as Android goes … I’m an Android user, do I have anything like this on my phone, where I can stop apps from watching my activity?

LN: There is a feature on Android, similar to what iOS offered before, to reset those advertising IDs, and you can also zero them out permanently, I believe. So, it can be a one-time reset if you’re just sick of the same, ads for hiking boots following you around the web, or it can permanently undermine the tracking by not being a real identifier.

But I don’t believe currently, Android has anything like this in terms of throwing up a notification, like, this is what the app wants to do, are you OK with that? And going app by app.

I also think that because iOS is taking this step, a lot of organizations are going to need to rely more heavily on user tracking across platforms in Android, and in browsers on the open web. And as Gilad was saying, whatever roadblocks come up to try to make it harder, they’re going to be trying to work around those, and just figure out other technological ways to do it, and just keep going on all those users who are not on iOS.

But at the same time, this is going to make any intel on what iOS users are doing, and again, that composite picture, trying to get that larger view, it’s going to make any information on iOS users, a lot more valuable and sought after.

GE: I was going to say that, information on iOS users is always more valuable and sought after, because that … we’re talking about two halves of the American mobile market, of course internationally, Android is much more dominant, but here, about half of people use iPhones, and those people tend to have a lot more money to spend, right? iPhones are more expensive.

And so to the question of, how does this shift the water around the advertising spending balloon? It’s really an interesting, and a hard question to answer, because advertisers aren’t just going to pack up and stop trying to reach Apple users, right?

Because that remains a valuable consumer segment. So, it is possible that this shifts money directly to Android advertising for sure, but it’s also possible that advertisers lean into other forms of advertising, that are still taking place on Apple’s platforms, but that don’t require personal data gathered by tracking people individually.

MC: All right, well, that’s a good place to take a break. And when we come back, let’s talk about what happens when privacy and antitrust collide.

[Break]

MC: Welcome back. One dynamic that has emerged in the debate around privacy is that, antitrust allegations are being logged at companies, whether they’re seeming to strengthen privacy, or disregard it.

As our colleague Gilad Edelman, put it, this is the place where privacy and antitrust collide. For example, last year, the federal trade commission filed antitrust lawsuits against Facebook, saying the company’s dominance has led it to becoming less stringent about protecting the private data of its users.

But now Google, is at the center of another antitrust case. This one relating in part to it plan to kill off third party cookies in Chrome, which would help protect user privacy. And Apple, is now facing an antitrust complaint from a German media and advertising company, because of its new anti-tracking rules that we just talked about.

In other words, some companies are being sued for their privacy lapses, others are being sued for strengthening privacy features, it’s very complicated. Gilad, what is going on here?

GE: Privacy can play a few different roles in antitrust cases. So if we start at a really high level, antitrust law is about fair competition. It’s not just about the size of companies, it’s about, do we have competitive markets? And so in general, when an antitrust lawsuit is making some kind of claim about, how companies are harming competition, and the negative consequences of that.

So in the Facebook case, the role that privacy plays is, as evidence that Facebook’s social media monopoly has been a bad thing. And this is a theoretical innovation in antitrust law, because if you think about a company like Facebook, it’s always hard to show how they’re directly harming users, because Facebook is free.

So the classic anti-monopoly case would say, you corner the market and then you raised prices, but Facebook to its users doesn’t have any prices to raise.

But what it can do is degrade the quality, because that’s another thing that having a monopoly allows you to do. If you don’t have competition, you don’t have to worry as much about offering something that people like.

And so the big lawsuits filed by the FTC, and the coalition of states last year, this was a central part of their allegations against Facebook. If you go back to the beginning of the company at the time that Facebook launched, the biggest player in social networking was MySpace, and MySpace had these notorious privacy problems, where it was a free all, and anybody could access your page, and there were kids on it, and there were predators on it.

When Facebook rolled around, it was really different because it was limited at first to college networks, then it expanded gradually beyond that, but you had to log in … it was based on your true identity, it was at first limited to communities that felt a little smaller, more secure, with people who actually knew each other.

In the end, they very self-consciously marketed themselves, as being awesome for privacy. And they said, we will never track users, and we will never do all this shit that they ended up obviously doing, and making hundreds of billions of dollars doing.

And so, the lawsuits against Facebook say, this fact is deeply related to their growing dominance over social media, where once they push other companies out of the market and, or bought other companies like Instagram, they didn’t have to worry as much about users privacy expectations.

And then there’s this really fascinating email exchange, that the investigation uncovered, that’s mentioned in the lawsuits. This is when Google was launching Google plus, and it wasn’t yet obvious that it would be a colossal failure, Facebook was contemplating some change that would make your photos, I think, less private.

And there’s this email where they’re basically like, let’s hold off on this, until we crush Google plus, and people don’t have a direct competitor to compare us to. So this is a long way of saying that in a case like Facebook, the role that privacy plays is, it’s a way that a company could make the consumer experience worse, once it doesn’t have to worry about competition.

MC: So, how are these other antitrust cases different?

GE: So Google and Apple, are both in the position of recently making slash announcing, changes that should strengthen privacy. So we’ve already talked about what Apple is doing, in the case of Google, they’re phasing out third party cookies in their Chrome browser, which is by far the most popular internet browser.

MC: Yeah. It’s over 60 percent browser share, right?

GE: Yeah. So, you might look at Google phasing out third party cookies and say, “Oh, that’s cool.” We all have a sense that third party cookies are bad, they’re tracking us. But a lot of people are not happy with what Google is doing.

And the reason is … and this is where it gets into the antitrust thing is, who makes the most money in the universe, by tracking users extensively across the web, and across the physical landscape, and selling advertisements based on the data? Google.

And so there’s a case to be made that, by restricting access to third party tracking, but retaining its ability to track what you’re doing when you’re in Google Chrome … And let’s keep in mind, right? Google Chrome, is very pushy about, or nudgy you could say, or nudgy [pronounced “noodgy”] Lily and I would say, about getting you to log in, right?

GE: So when you log into Gmail, then you go to YouTube and somehow you’re already logged into YouTube, because you’re logged into the browser. So long story short, Chrome doesn’t need third party cookies to track you.

If you’re using an Android phone, they don’t need third party cookies to track you. And so here, the antitrust argument is, you are behaving anti-competitively. You are doing something unfair, because you have so much control over the browser, the phone … you have so much control over where users are, that you can turn off the spigot of tracking to third parties, make your own data even more valuable, and hurt everybody else.

And so, there are multiple antitrust investigations into this move by Google, to get rid of third party cookies. So here we have two opposite scenarios, right? Where you have, Facebook, you’re bad for reducing privacy. Google you’re bad for increasing privacy, and both might be true.

LG: So what is the solution that would effectively strengthen privacy for consumers, particularly here in the U S, we have lagged behind some privacy protections compared to Europe.

Where also we’re not inadvertently or directly, putting more power in the hands of tech companies that already have so much power over our everyday tech existences.

GE: Right? So there’s a couple of big astrocies on the Google discussion. The biggest one is, we don’t really know if whatever they replace third party cookies with, will really protect privacy in any meaningful way.

I’ve written about how the very concept of privacy is very up for debate, and what a lot of people told me is, well, there’s only protects privacy, if you define privacy as not having third parties tracking you. If you think that Google tracking your every move, is a privacy problem, then it’s not really so great what they’re doing.

LG: Right.

GE: So that might be a partial answer. You have to really scrutinize what’s really happening here.

LG: Right. Or the other side of that being well, do you consider strengthened privacy quote, unquote, to be a series of notifications that tell you, you’re being tracked. And giving you the chance to opt out, like a lot of consumers just aren’t going to do that.

GE: Right. In the Apple scenario, there’s a couple of important differences. The first is that, by changing the defaults … because that’s what Apple is doing, right? Now, the default is, you’re not being tracked unless you opt in, that is a meaningful shift.

And the second thing is that Apple, unlike Facebook and Google, does not primarily make its money by tracking users and selling advertising, based on the data they gather. Now, complicating that is that, Apple does sell some advertising.

They sell ads in the app store, and people have complained that even Apple is benefiting itself by restricting tracking on iOS, while retaining its own right to keep an eye on what you’re doing on your phone.

So it’s all just horrifically complicated, but if we can just simplify it a little bit, let’s just imagine Apple is basically a company that’s not in the surveillance advertising business. You don’t worry so much about them moving the privacy dial, because they don’t have this big ulterior motive.

So one question you want to ask is, well, let’s step back, how does this company make its money? If it makes its money by essentially, the mass invasion of billions of users privacy, maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to be in the position of deciding the privacy rules of the internet.

LG: So does the fact that these tiny software changes, can have such massive impact, only really underscore how powerful some of these companies have become, particularly if they’re building a wealth ecosystem.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported a story about Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg, increasingly icy relationship, you might even call them frenemies. And how this series of meetings between the two executives over the years, have just become a little bit more fraught.

And one of the anecdotes in this story that stood out to me was, how the result of one of their meetings was that, photos from iPhone could be shared a little bit more easily to Facebook, right? They had arrived at some sort of partnership, and it was just going to make that … there was that small little change, that was going to make things a little bit easier between iPhone and Facebook.

And I remember reading and thinking, gosh, that seems like such a small thing, right? It’s not that hard to share your iPhone photos to Facebook, but I guess this decision was arrived at, between the two executives, that was going to make it easier.

But then you think about, Apple has more than a billion installs of its devices around the world, Facebook has more than 2 billion users around the world, and you think about the scale of that potentially, it’s actually quite massive.

So it seems like a small thing, but it’s huge. And I guess I’m wondering, doesn’t that only serve to underscore, how powerful these companies have actually become?

GE: Totally. I mean, for what it’s worth, I don’t think Apple’s latest change is small at all. I think it’s an absolutely colossal deal, because people who care about privacy have been saying for years, you need to change the default, so that people are not being tracked by default, that they have to opt in.

The government has not achieved that in the United States, but Apple, for the half or so, of the mobile market that uses its products, is now implementing that for apps, so that’s a big deal. But this is such a banal point, but where these conversations always end up is two places.

One, these companies are too powerful and we need more competition in these markets. And two, both on antitrust and on privacy stuff, the government needs to govern.

And these companies are acting in the vacuum left by government, that’s just not addressing these problems on its own. And so we’re always stuck choosing between imperfect solutions.

MC: Yeah, right. The issues that are being brought up, are pretty much all made possible by the philosophical idea, of the open web being this wonderful, beautiful thing, which it is right? The famous saying, “There are no speed limits or guardrails on the information super highway.” This is the result, right?

So if legislators start actually putting their hands on the dials, won’t that make the web, a more difficult place to do business, and a more difficult place to be as a user?

GE: I mean, it’ll make it more difficult to do certain kinds of businesses, right? In my ideal world, it becomes very difficult to make money by surveilling people, when they don’t know that you’re doing it, and then using that to microtarget them with ads.

That business, makes it harder to be a citizen on the internet, sites load really slowly, because they’re doing this automated advertising option, and then loading ads, it sucks basically.

So I think there’s ways for the government to stick its crabby meat hooks in, and make things worse, but the status quo sucks.

MC: Yeah, fully.

LN: I also think, I … what Gilad said about, just not having the same players who make the products, make the decisions about how we conceptualize privacy? I think that is a crucial point.

I think governments definitely have a role to play, but as you’re saying, Mike, the internet is, or aspires to be a global service, so no one government can resolve everything, but just having other entities do the nudging would be really helpful.

Because currently, for example, Google as a company, does a lot of important advocacy on privacy and security issues, but it’s always controversial, because the issue is just inherently, that they have a conflict of interest every time.

Even though a lot of what they’ve done and rallied around, done coalition building on, is good, it’s just impossible to disentangle from their own interests. And so to Lauren’s point, all those small decisions are really magnified, because they’re being championed by people who have an interest in promoting their products as well.

MC: Well, this is an invigorating and important conversation, but we do have to stop here and take a break. And when we come back, we will do our recommendations.

[Break]

MC: OK, welcome back everyone. This is our final segment of the show, where we ask our hosts and our guests, to recommend things that they’ve been enjoying, that our audience might also enjoy. Lily, you go first, what is your recommendation?

LN: OK. I wanted to have a privacy tie-in recommendation, or something like that. But just with everything going on in the world, my recommendation that I think listeners may enjoy is hugs. Just hugging a loved one or someone you know, or someone you haven’t seen in a long time, really runs the gamut of closeness in relationships, but just hugs are really great. I am currently rediscovering them, and highly recommend to all.

LG: Lily, do you recommend that people be vaccinated if they hug?

LN: Yes. I recommend whatever the CDC is currently recommending, tough to even keep up, but I am fully vaxxed and two weeks out, and the whole shebang. And you should be too. So pro hugs. Hugs, it’s a private thing. Don’t let advertisers into your hugs, it’s just-

LG: Can we monetize them?

GE: Oh, definitely.

MC: Opt into hugs, opt out of the tracking of the hugs. Gilad, what’s your recommendation.

GE: We did lemons already, right?

MC: We did. Yes.

LG: For those of you who can’t see the Zoom, Gilad has a very sneaky smile on right now.

GE: I’m going to go with, I recommend … I really think this is the summer where we all unbutton one more button of our shirts, than we’re used to.

LG: Oh, no. I’m turning off my Zoom.

GE: What? I’m just saying a nice deep V, especially when you’re out and about, right? We’re all going to be getting out there, we’re all going to be hugging, and it feels nice. You know what I’m saying Calore, come on bro.

MC: Yes. I wear glasses, you probably wear sunglasses. It’s a good place to keep your sunglasses, right?

GE: Actually, that’s a sensitive subject. I find that when I unbutton … so, usually, right? You button the … I guess technically, the third button of the shirt is the typical male, at least button up shirt situation.

But, when I go one lower, actually it feels like a little bit … the sunglasses are too low, but that’s OK. That’s why my other recommendation is breast pockets. I’m such a fan of breast pockets.

LN: Can I ask you a question about the buttoning? Is this an opt in situation, where I can elect to opt out as the default?

GE: Well, you’re wearing a pullover shirt, so I don’t think you even can, opt in right now, Lily. You need to get a software upgrade.

LN: I’m all about the button-downs.

GE: Yeah, see Lauren’s getting into it. She’s unzipping that zip.

LG: Yeah. But just to be clear, I do have a t-shirt on, underneath.

GE: I’m not talking about doing anything inappropriate here, guys.

LG: Yeah.

MC: Certainly not.

GE: These are very personal calibrations. I’m just saying, don’t think that you know the perfect number, let’s put it that way.

LG: OK.

GE: You go on your own individual journey about, that’s context dependent-

LG: Mm-hmm.

GE: … and very personal about what the right buttoning level is for you this summer.

LG: And what’s your recommendation around chest hair?

GE: Let me answer that question.

LG: No, don’t. Its just like-

GE: Let me answer that question with words. What did you think I was going to say? My recommendation is whatever makes you comfortable, man.

LG: I look forward to your future recommendation of side boob.

MC: Oh my God.

GE: I’m not recommending that, but I’m not not recommending it.

MC: It’s hard to be the host this week, because I don’t know what to say, and also, I don’t know when to jump in. So I’m just going to end this now, and kick it to Lauren, tell us your recommendation.

LG: OK. Well, I feel like maybe the characters on this show will greatly appreciate Gilad’s recommendation, and actually Lily’s too. I just started watching Call My Agent on Netflix.

GE: So good.

LG: I’m a little behind the curve. It’s a 2015 French TV series, that came to Netflix in 2019. And then throughout 2020, I would hear from friend, as we were … many of us were sitting home, not vaccinated and not hugging. They were watching it and enjoying it.

I finally got into it, it’s a delightful show about a talent agency in Paris that represents actors, but the agents themselves create a lot more of the drama than the actors do. Yeah, it’s just delightful. I’m already on season two and it does have subtitles.

I like that, because it means that I can’t be on my phone, or an iPad, or checking work while I’m watching the program, I have to actually watch and pay attention. So yeah. Check out, call my agent, if you’re looking for something new to watch, or old, but new to you. Mike, what’s your recommendation this week?

MC: Well, since we have a couple of gourmands as our guests this week, who’ve brought many, a wonderful food-related recommendation. I am also bringing a food-related recommendation this week.

It will up your game, no matter what type of cuisine you cook, it is crushed Calabrian chili peppers. These are chili peppers, they’re very hot. They’re grown in the south of Italy in Reggio Calabria, which is like the toe of the boot.

If you look at the map of Italy, it’s easy to find. Anyway, very hot. They’re like Mediterranean hot peppers, and you can get them in a jar, crushed with olive oil and salt mixed in. Trader Joe’s sells them. There is a brand called Tutto Calabria, that sells a whole bunch of different products from Calabria.

GE: All of them. If the name is to be believed.

MC: No matter which brand you get, these are very hot, they bring a lot more heat than you might think. And they’re perfect on just about everything you can imagine putting hot sauce on.

If you don’t want the Mexican flavors, or you don’t want the Asian flavors, and you want like a good Mediterranean flavor, this is the perfect hot sauce. So, you can put it on pizza, you can put it on pasta, you can put it on sandwiches, you can put it on your breakfast sandwiches, you can put it on eggs, you can put it in soups. You can put it in lentils, it’s just delicious.

A big scoop will do you … I cannot recommend this highly enough. If you need some heat, they will make you sweat. They may make you sweat enough, that you will have to unbutton that extra button on your shirt.

LG: Oh no.

LN: I do want to acknowledge you, for differentiating between sandwiches and breakfast sandwiches, very important.

MC: They are very important.

GE: And then you hit all my favorite food groups there. We got soup, we got lentils. We got breakfast sarnies, love it.

LG: So Gilad. What strange thing are you going to mix these with?

GE: You know, as much as I talk a big game, my diet maybe coming out of the pandemic is so funny, it started to change, but has gotten quite repetitive. So I’ll just put it in all my normal boring things.

MC: Yeah, that’s the way to do it, because it’s the same thing with every … everybody was way into baking bread, and then everybody was way into making their own pickles.

And then people were just cooking elaborate things. And now people are just shoving whatever it is in front of them, into their face. So this is a good way to spice that up.

GE: Yeah, keep shoving, but with a pepper on top. I want to put it on a meatball, so that I can then say the thing after I eat the meat.

MC: All right. Well that is our show, thank you to Lily and Gilad for joining us.

LN: Thanks for having me.

GE: Yeah, anytime guys.

MC: And thank you all for listening. If you have feedback, you can find all of this on Twitter, just check the show notes. This show is produced by Boone Ashworth, goodbye. We will be back next week.

[Gadget Lab outro theme music plays]


More Great WIRED Stories