Big Tech Firms Increase Spending to Influence Lawmakers

Big Tech is now one of the biggest lobbying groups in Washington, D.C. Facebook posted the greatest increase in spending last year, followed by Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. By increasing spending in lobbying, the companies hope to influence privacy legislation, pursue government contracts and rebut charges of unfair competition. Alphabet is the only Big Tech company to reduce its spending for lobbying in 2019, by 44 percent to $11.8 million. It also ended its relationship with lobbyists at six outside firms. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Increase Spending to Influence Lawmakers

Microsoft Bets on Internet of Things, Ends Xbox TV Feature

Although many observers would name Microsoft’s Xbox as the tech company’s biggest hardware business, chief executive Satya Nadella instead points to the company’s cloud. In fact, Microsoft is building an entire cloud infrastructure from data centers to servers and network stack. Nadella said that he doesn’t want the company to be defined “by what we achieved.” He pointed to the Internet of Things about to emerge. “We look at if there’s going to be 50 billion endpoints,” he said. “Let’s go … and define a strategy for that.” Continue reading Microsoft Bets on Internet of Things, Ends Xbox TV Feature

Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

Clearview AI has scraped over three billion photos from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Venmo and hundreds of other websites to create a facial recognition database now used by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and over 600 law enforcement agencies. Twitter just sent a cease-and-decease letter to the startup demanding that it stop taking photos and other data from its site and to delete any data it has already collected. Twitter accused Clearview AI of violating its policies. Continue reading Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

Netflix Grows Globally but Disney+ Takes Limelight at Home

New streaming service Disney+ signed up 10 million customers on the first day it debuted in November. Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings acknowledged the new streamer’s compelling content, saying that Disney+ “takes away a little from us.” It did: in Q4 2019, Netflix posted 420,000 new customers, less than the projected 600,000, noting that the slump may be due to Disney+. Disney, meanwhile, has moved up its launch date for Disney+ in the United Kingdom and parts of Western Europe, from March 31 to March 24. Continue reading Netflix Grows Globally but Disney+ Takes Limelight at Home

Apple Drops iCloud Encryption Plan Based on FBI Concerns

According to six sources, in response to FBI concerns, Apple dropped the plan to allow iPhone users to encrypt backups in its iCloud service. Although this took place two years ago, it is just now being reported. Stress between Apple’s stance on privacy and law enforcement’s push to have access to its phones re-emerged a few weeks ago when a Saudi Air Force officer killed three Americans at Naval Air Station Pensacola. U.S. attorney general William Barr and President Donald Trump urged Apple to unlock the killer’s two iPhones. Continue reading Apple Drops iCloud Encryption Plan Based on FBI Concerns

IBM Releases Policy Proposal to Regulate AI, Prevent Bias

As lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe ponder how to best regulate artificial intelligence, IBM called for the industry and governments to jointly create standards to measure and avoid AI bias. The company, led by chief executive Ginni Rometty, issued a policy proposal on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Although their policies are not as strict as governments might otherwise propose, the goal is to find a consensus among all parties. IBM, which has lagged in technology, now focuses on AI and cloud services. Continue reading IBM Releases Policy Proposal to Regulate AI, Prevent Bias

AI Regulation’s First Testing Ground Is the European Union

Artificial intelligence and its potential to harm consumers has been much in the spotlight — now, more than ever, in Europe. Several Big Tech executives are in Europe, prior to heading to Davos for the annual World Economic Forum, and some, such as Microsoft president Brad Smith, are meeting with the European Union’s new competition chief Margrethe Vestager. Under the European Commission’s new president Ursula von der Leyen, new rules regulating free flow of data and competition are under consideration. Continue reading AI Regulation’s First Testing Ground Is the European Union

Instagram Removes the IGTV Button From Its Main Screen

Instagram has removed the IGTV button from the main screen of its app because so few people use it, instead “finding IGTV content through previews in Feed, the IGTV channel in Explore, creators’ profiles, and the standalone app,” according to the company. Instagram, which launched IGTV in 2018 as a way to post long-form video, has not stated whether it will replace the icon with another. IGTV allows video uploads of up to one hour for celebrities and influencers and 10 minutes for everyone else. Continue reading Instagram Removes the IGTV Button From Its Main Screen

ByteDance Building a Gaming Division to Take On Tencent

ByteDance has quickly built up a gaming division to enter a mobile arena currently dominated by Tencent Holdings. The company purchased gaming studios and exclusive rights to title distribution as well as building a team of 1,000 people by hiring and poaching talent. Its first two games will be released this spring to a global market. ByteDance first debuted Toutiao, a Chinese news aggregation app and launched TikTok and its Chinese version Douyin. Via the latter app, ByteDance has access to 400 million daily active users. Continue reading ByteDance Building a Gaming Division to Take On Tencent

Google Bypasses Cloud to Offer AI to Enterprise Customers

AI can enable many important tasks from manufacturing to medicine, but only if the applications are speedy and secure. Communication via the cloud adds latency and risks privacy, which is why Google worked on a solution — dubbed Coral — that avoids centralized data centers. Coral product manager Vikram Tank described Coral as a “platform of [Google] hardware and software components … that help you build devices with local AI — providing hardware acceleration for neural networks … right on the edge device.” Continue reading Google Bypasses Cloud to Offer AI to Enterprise Customers

FBI and Law Enforcement Use New Facial Recognition Tool

A small startup named Clearview AI, led by Hoan Ton-That, created a facial recognition app that may exceed the scope of anything built by the U.S. government or Big Tech companies. Now in the hands of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and hundreds of other law enforcement agencies, the app allows the user to take a photo of a person, upload it and search a database of more than three billion images to find public photos of that person with links to where they appeared. Images have been scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and “millions of other websites.” Continue reading FBI and Law Enforcement Use New Facial Recognition Tool

As Sales Shift to E-Commerce, Bose Shutters Retail Stores

Bose, which opened its first retail store in 1993, will close its remaining 119 retail stores in Australia, Europe, Japan and North America. The company didn’t reveal how many jobs will be lost due to the closures, but it is believed to be in the hundreds. Bose stated that the move is due to “the dramatic shift to online shopping in specific markets,” and that “approximately 130 stores located in Greater China and the United Arab Emirates; and additional stores in India, Southeast Asia, and South Korea” will remain open. Continue reading As Sales Shift to E-Commerce, Bose Shutters Retail Stores

NBCUniversal Unveils Peacock to Media Prior to April Debut

NBCUniversal presented its Peacock streaming service to journalists, ahead of the planned April 15th launch. The service, which relies on ads not subscriptions, will offer news, sports and other live broadcasts in addition to 15,000 hours of TV shows and movies. NBCUniversal chairman Stephen Burke described Peacock as “the equivalent of a 21st century broadcast business, delivered on the Internet.” Tina Fey, Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon were on hand as well as NBC News anchors Rachel Maddow, Lester Holt and Savannah Guthrie. Continue reading NBCUniversal Unveils Peacock to Media Prior to April Debut

NSA Discovers Windows Vulnerability — and Tells Microsoft

The National Security Agency (NSA) discovered a vulnerability in versions of Windows and, instead of retaining it, reported it to Microsoft, which is now patching the flaw in its handling of certificate and cryptographic messaging functions. The vulnerability could have enabled attackers to use malicious code that would pretend to be legitimate software. Microsoft also warned all current users of Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate to upgrade immediately. Continue reading NSA Discovers Windows Vulnerability — and Tells Microsoft

Mojo Vision Demonstrates Prototype of Smart Contact Lens

After five years of work, California-based Mojo Vision demonstrated Mojo Lens, a smart contact lens that is still in research and development. For now, the demonstrations are via a virtual reality headset rather than an actual contact lens. But Mojo Vision’s goal is to create a means of “invisible computing,” which will provide an interface that enables consumers to reduce their use of screens. Co-founder/chief technology officer Mike Wiemer explains that Mojo Lens will be “very discreet.” Continue reading Mojo Vision Demonstrates Prototype of Smart Contact Lens

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