Facebook Announces Three New AI-Powered Portal Devices

Facebook is introducing three Portal models, starting at $129, a more competitive price than previous models. Two offer a smart display with screen, camera and microphone, and the third can turn a TV into a venue for video chat. The first Portal offered AI-enabled tracking that kept all the participants in the frame and could follow a single person. The AI has been upgraded to provide more accuracy. Although the company “paused” human review of audio, it will resume the practice for some Portal audio. Continue reading Facebook Announces Three New AI-Powered Portal Devices

Japan’s Virtual YouTube Celebrities Test the Waters in China

Japan’s most popular YouTube star is Kizuna AI, a virtual teenager with thigh-high socks and a pink hair ribbon, brought to life by an off-screen actress. Millions of fans follow Kizuna, the brainchild of Activ8, a Tokyo-based company. According to Activ8 founder Takeshi Osaka, what sets such so-called virtual YouTubers (or VTubers) apart is that “you can believe they actually exist.” To create Kizuna, Activ8 uses motion capture gear to create skits, music videos and game streams for its over four million subscribers. Continue reading Japan’s Virtual YouTube Celebrities Test the Waters in China

Google Updates Algorithm, Guidelines to Aid Original Stories

Publishers complain that their news scoops, when posted online, are quickly nabbed and recycled by other publications, leading to a loss in traffic. To stem the flow, Google made changes to its algorithm and its guidelines to favor original reporting. Google vice president of news Richard Gingras said that the company would make it easier for readers to “find the story that started it all.” He later added that the shift also benefited Google Search and Google News in its efforts to “retain the trust of [its] users.”

Continue reading Google Updates Algorithm, Guidelines to Aid Original Stories

Instagram Aims to Reduce Influencer Impact on Young Users

Facebook’s photo- and video-sharing app Instagram announced its plans to restrict certain content, including posts that promote cosmetic surgery procedures and weight-loss products, from users who are younger than 18 years of age. While some posts will be hidden from young users, other posts will be removed altogether from both Instagram and Facebook, including those from A-list celebrities such as the Kardashians. The move is part of an effort by the social networks to address growing concerns regarding the significant impact of influencer marketing on children. Continue reading Instagram Aims to Reduce Influencer Impact on Young Users

Facebook Set to Launch Portal TV Streamer With Video Chat

For the holidays, Facebook plans to unveil a Portal TV streaming device that will feature a camera and far-field microphones and offer video chat with TV viewing and augmented reality. Rather than competing directly with Fire TV or Roku, the device focuses more on video chatting. It is also likely to run Android, as does most Facebook hardware including Oculus Go and Oculus Quest VR headsets. By being based on the Android operating system, the Portal device will synch seamlessly with Android-based TV apps. Continue reading Facebook Set to Launch Portal TV Streamer With Video Chat

New NFL-Facebook Contract Will Run Through 2020 Season

The NFL and Facebook renewed their video deal through the 2020 season. In the original deal, inked in 2017, the NFL provided recaps from all 256 regular season games plus other content for Facebook Watch. The NFL will continue to supply the season recaps, along with original content, content related to the NFL’s 100th anniversary and material from the NFL Films archive featured on “NFL Throwback.” Facebook says that, in 2017 and 2018, over 22 million people watched at least a minute of an NFL recap. Continue reading New NFL-Facebook Contract Will Run Through 2020 Season

Streaming Options Impact Bandwidth Consumption Rankings

With the dramatic increase in the amount of video streaming from Internet-based apps, Netflix has ceded its position as the No. 1 consumer of bandwidth. That’s according to Sandvine’s 2019 Global Internet Phenomena Report, which added that HTTP media streaming accounted for 12.8 percent of downstream Internet traffic globally in the first six months of 2019, whereas Netflix accounted for 12.6 percent. In the Americas, Netflix’s downstream traffic in the same period dropped to 12.9 percent from last year’s 19.1 percent. Continue reading Streaming Options Impact Bandwidth Consumption Rankings

Technology Chief Executives Lobby for Federal Privacy Law

Congress just received an open letter on behalf of the Business Roundtable, an association comprised of the chief executives of the U.S.’s biggest companies. Signed by 51 tech company executives, the letter asks legislators to create a federal law on data privacy, thus avoiding the patchwork-quilt of state laws now being passed. Amazon, AT&T, Dell, IBM, Qualcomm, SAP, Salesforce, Visa, Mastercard, JPMorgan Chase, State Farm and Walmart are just some of the companies whose chief executives signed the letter. Continue reading Technology Chief Executives Lobby for Federal Privacy Law

Companies Prep for Brunt of California Consumer Privacy Act

Beginning January 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will allow that state’s residents to find out exactly what personal data companies hold about them — and ask them to delete such information. Consumers will also have the option of opting out of allowing their personal information to be sold. The legislation — which was designed to make Amazon, Facebook, Google and others more transparent — will impact a wide range of companies, large and small, including airlines, banks, retailers and restaurants. Continue reading Companies Prep for Brunt of California Consumer Privacy Act

Government Makes Bipartisan Push to Investigate Big Tech

Democrats and Republicans have come together to examine big tech companies. Last Friday, a bipartisan group of attorneys general in eight states and the District of Columbia began an antitrust probe of Facebook, and, on Monday, another such group announced its intention to investigate Google. Sources said attorney general Ken Paxton (R-Texas) is leading the Google investigation. The Federal Trade Commission, Justice Department, and House and Senate committees are also scrutinizing the tech companies. Continue reading Government Makes Bipartisan Push to Investigate Big Tech

Tech Firms, U.S. Officials Strategize 2020 Election Security

As the 2020 U.S. presidential election nears, government officials met in Silicon Valley with Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to discuss how to prevent the foreign interference that took place during the 2016 election. The companies’ security teams and representatives from the FBI, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security attended the daylong meeting at Facebook’s headquarters. The group talked about detecting potential threats and methods of strategic collaboration. Continue reading Tech Firms, U.S. Officials Strategize 2020 Election Security

Facebook’s Dilemma: Achieving Data Portability and Privacy

Facebook is trying to make good on two key promises: to protect users’ privacy and to allow them to move their data elsewhere. But the two goals may not be compatible, and Facebook is looking outside the company to get ideas on how to deliver both. The European Union and California passed laws that require Facebook to make users’ social media profiles easy to move to a competing platform. At the same time, Facebook agreed to enforce data protections as part of a $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. Continue reading Facebook’s Dilemma: Achieving Data Portability and Privacy

Exposed Database of Facebook User Data Is Found Online

More than 419 million records of Facebook users in the United States, United Kingdom and Vietnam — including Facebook IDs and user phone numbers — were recently found online (although Facebook disputes that number). The exposed server was reportedly not password-protected, which suggests the database was accessible to anyone. The server contained user data across multiple databases that could potentially enable spam calls and SIM-swapping attacks. According to Facebook, the breach involved user data collected prior to the introduction of new security measures. The company has since taken the exposed data set offline.  Continue reading Exposed Database of Facebook User Data Is Found Online

DARPA Attempts to Stop Automated Disinformation Attacks

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) published a concept document for the Semantic Forensics (SemaFor) program, aimed at stopping “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” by detecting fakes among thousands of audio clips, photos, stories and video. As the 2020 Presidential election approaches, U.S. officials are working to prevent hackers from spreading disinformation on social platforms, but Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell won’t consider any election security laws. Continue reading DARPA Attempts to Stop Automated Disinformation Attacks

Facebook Toughens Ad Rules in Lead-Up to 2020 Election

As the 2020 U.S. presidential election approaches, Facebook said it is strengthening how it verifies who is paying for political advertising, in an attempt to curtail the spread of disinformation on the site. Last year, Facebook began to require political advertisers to reveal the names — and prove the identities — of the organizations behind ads. At the same time, as numerous Democratic hopefuls vie for the presidential nomination, the cost for advertising on Facebook is skyrocketing. Continue reading Facebook Toughens Ad Rules in Lead-Up to 2020 Election

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