Lawmakers Grill Major Tech Companies in Antitrust Hearing

Republican and Democratic lawmakers excoriated tech giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google this week on Capitol Hill. Chief among the critics were Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who oversees the Constitution subcommittee, and Representative David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) who leads an antitrust subcommittee. Although the companies acknowledged the upheaval their technology has created in many industries, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) responded that, “every time Americans trust you, they seem to get burned.” Continue reading Lawmakers Grill Major Tech Companies in Antitrust Hearing

Apple Takes On Original Podcasting to Compete with Rivals

To compete with Spotify and Stitcher, Apple plans to roll out exclusive original podcasts and is already in conversation with media companies to do so, said sources. The company has not yet described its strategy, but did say it will make unprecedented deals to build up its podcast collection. Industry experts reported that, currently, 50 to 70 percent of all podcast listening already takes place from the Apple Podcasts app. Since debuting Apple Podcasts in 2005, however, Apple has made few changes. Continue reading Apple Takes On Original Podcasting to Compete with Rivals

Facebook in Global Crosshairs for Privacy, Antitrust Issues

The Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook about $5 billion for privacy violations, but the sum is considered a slap on the wrist since it neither hurt the company’s bottom line nor limited its ability to collect data. But, since 2016, 43+ countries have passed or introduced laws regulating social media and the spread of fake news, and U.S., European and Canadian regulators have initiated investigations and proposed regulations that will likely be much more draconian. Congress is considering a federal privacy law. Continue reading Facebook in Global Crosshairs for Privacy, Antitrust Issues

Report: Mobile Apps and Games Have Impressive Quarter

According to App Annie, consumers downloaded 11.2 billion mobile games for iOS and Android in Q2 2019. Games served as 35 percent of global downloads, but were responsible for almost 75 percent of consumer spending on iOS and Google Play. Overall, mobile apps had a record quarter: 30.3 billion apps were downloaded, while iOS and Google Play saw $22.6 billion in consumer spending. Arcade, action and casual games collectively represented the third-largest category for Google Play Q2 growth year-over-year. Games served as the top contributor to download growth for iOS, led by arcade, action, and puzzle games. Continue reading Report: Mobile Apps and Games Have Impressive Quarter

Tech Expands its NYC Foothold, Investors Build Film Studio

Although Amazon bypassed New York City for its second headquarters four months ago, the Big Apple has attracted numerous other high-tech companies that are renting office space and creating jobs. Google inked a deal to lease 1.3 million square feet in lower Manhattan, with plans to add 7,000 jobs over 10 years. Facebook is also in talks to lease one million square feet of office space on the far West Side. Now, actor Robert De Niro and his son are part of an investment team building a film and TV production studio in Queens. Continue reading Tech Expands its NYC Foothold, Investors Build Film Studio

Twitter Guidelines Narrow Scope of Dehumanizing Speech

Almost a year ago, two of Twitter’s top executives decided that banning all speech considered “dehumanizing” would be a solution to making its site safer. This week Twitter unveiled its official guidelines of what constitutes dehumanizing speech — and they now solely focus on religious groups, representing a retreat from some of Twitter’s first unofficial rules. The company said the narrowing of its scope is due to unexpected obstacles in defining speech for its 350 million users who speak 43-plus languages. Continue reading Twitter Guidelines Narrow Scope of Dehumanizing Speech

Researchers Identify Bugs in Microsoft Excel, Apple macOS

Threat intelligence firm Mimecast revealed that hackers are exploiting a Microsoft Excel feature called Power Query to facilitate Office 365 attacks. This feature lets legitimate users combine data from various sources by linking to those components in a spreadsheet. Hackers replace a link with another that leads to a site infected with malware. The hacked Excel spreadsheets then allow attackers to install backdoors, using the software program’s own tools. Meanwhile, Apple has yet to fix a macOS bug first identified by a cybersecurity researcher in February. Continue reading Researchers Identify Bugs in Microsoft Excel, Apple macOS

Lawmakers Aim to Control Malicious Content Enabled by AI

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee began a series of hearings to look into “emerging technological breakthroughs” to control malicious content posted on digital platforms by AI-enabled software including bots. Facebook head of global policy management Monika Bickert testified that the company has prioritized the development of such tools. Chief information officers at numerous tech companies are paying attention, worried that lawmakers are considering regulating the use of AI. Continue reading Lawmakers Aim to Control Malicious Content Enabled by AI

Facebook Agrees to Hand Over User Data to French Judges

Marking a world first, social giant Facebook has agreed to turn over data of French users who are suspected of hate speech on the popular platform. Cédric O, state secretary for the digital economy of France, who has been influential in shaping French President Emmanuel Macron’s perspective on Big Tech, made the announcement yesterday. The Facebook decision follows a number of successive meetings between President Macron and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It has been reported that Macron is actively interested in regulating hate speech worldwide and taking control of false information online. Continue reading Facebook Agrees to Hand Over User Data to French Judges

Ahead of G20, U.S. Adds Chinese Tech Entities to Blacklist

In advance of a meeting between President Trump and President Xi Jinping during the G20 summit in Japan, the Commerce Department added four Chinese companies and one Chinese institute to a blacklist that prevents them from buying U.S. tech products without a waiver. Those “entities” are Sugon (a leading supercomputer manufacturer); microchip makers Higon (AMD’s Chinese joint-venture partner), Chengdu Haiguang Integrated Circuit and Chengdu Haiguang Microelectronics Technology; and the Wuxi Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology. Huawei was added to the list in May. Continue reading Ahead of G20, U.S. Adds Chinese Tech Entities to Blacklist

Change in Antitrust Thinking Could Be Problem for Big Tech

A shift in antitrust thinking is gaining momentum in the U.S. as regulators are increasingly scrutinizing Big Tech. Scholars are examining antitrust issues in a context that focuses on the clout of leading companies. Antitrust regulation has historically focused on consumer welfare and whether or not there is economic impact. In recent decades, tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have experienced massive growth by offering free or cheap digital services. “People might enjoy using the tech platforms but they are also asking, ‘What kind of society do we want?’” suggests Hal Singer of George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy. Continue reading Change in Antitrust Thinking Could Be Problem for Big Tech

Apple’s 2020 iPhones to Introduce 5G and Design Updates

Industry insider Ming-Chi Kuo reported that Apple plans to introduce some significant changes in its 2020 iPhones, including 5G connectivity and design upgrades. But owners of iPhones and other iOS devices are likely concerned about the recent news that every one of the world’s current 1.4 billion iPhones and iPads can be hacked. Israel-based Cellebrite demonstrated that it can perform a “full file extraction” on any iOS device, as well as on high-end Android devices. Further, law enforcement can pay for that ability without having to send devices to Cellebrite. Continue reading Apple’s 2020 iPhones to Introduce 5G and Design Updates

Apple iPhones Can Now Be Repaired at Any U.S. Best Buy

Apple and Best Buy announced the two companies are extending their partnership so that technicians can repair iPhones at any of the 992 Best Buy locations in the U.S. The companies also revealed that 7,600 Geek Squad techs are now certified for iPhone repairs using genuine parts from Apple. While Apple will continue to offer repairs at its own stores, the new deal should prove beneficial to iPhone users in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming, since Apple does not presently have stores in these states. Continue reading Apple iPhones Can Now Be Repaired at Any U.S. Best Buy

Epic Opens Digital Store with Favorable Split for Publishers

For 10+ years, video game developers have given up 30 percent of their revenue from digital stores run by Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sony and Valve, which also take a percentage of in-game purchases via a revenue-sharing model that has become the industry standard. Now, Epic Games founder/chief executive Tim Sweeney, whose company put out the immensely popular “Fortnite,” opened a digital store that collects only 12 percent of sales. Sensor Tower reports that an average of $114.5 million was spent between the combined top game publishers in Android and Apple stores last quarter. Continue reading Epic Opens Digital Store with Favorable Split for Publishers

VOD Platform Inks Licensing Deals With Hollywood Studios

Los Angeles-based startup ROW8 has signed licensing deals with Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. as part of its strategy to compete with transactional VOD offerings from the likes of Apple and Amazon. The streaming movie service, which launched last year with foreign and indie titles, is now targeting mainstream audiences with library titles and new releases from major Hollywood studios. It is taking an industry standard approach with $5.99 new-release rentals and $2.99-$3.99 catalog titles, but is also adding a feature that offers customers the ability to receive future credits for movie rentals they did not enjoy. Continue reading VOD Platform Inks Licensing Deals With Hollywood Studios

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