Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

A bipartisan group of Congress members castigated Facebook for hiring contractors to transcribe audio clips and urged regulation to prevent it in the future. The transcriptions were made to help Facebook improve its artificial intelligence-enabled speech recognition, and are part of a move to improve the capabilities of voice assistants (Amazon, Apple and Google are among companies that have taken similar approaches). Last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) circulated a draft law that would impose steep fines and even prison for executives who failed to protect users’ personal data. Continue reading Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

FTC Chair Open to Option of Breaking Up Major Tech Firms

Federal Trade Commission chair Joe Simons stated that, in the face of anti-competitive and antitrust behavior, he would be willing to break up the big tech companies, although, “it’s not ideal because it’s messy.” He’s head of a task force to examine these behemoths, including a close look at whether Facebook acquired startups, such as Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, to stifle competition. The FTC approved both purchases. The FTC is working in parallel with the Justice Department’s antitrust unit. Continue reading FTC Chair Open to Option of Breaking Up Major Tech Firms

Facebook Ad Campaigns to Carry Movie Reminders, Times

Facebook is introducing two new features in the U.S. and U.K. that will allow entertainment studios to post movie reminders and showtimes as standard components for ad buys on the platform’s News Feed. There will be no additional cost to include the new information. Since interest in many films is generated early when trailers and ads first appear, Facebook believes movie fans would be greatly served with reminders when those films hit theaters. Users tap the “Interested” button on the movie’s Facebook ad to register for the reminder. The notification arrives when the film launches, and includes a link for showtimes and purchasing tickets. Continue reading Facebook Ad Campaigns to Carry Movie Reminders, Times

Facebook Moves to Defend Itself Against Regulatory Threats

Under pressure from legislators and others, Facebook has taken steps to protect itself. According to sources, the company ceased talks to buy video-focused social network Houseparty to forestall increased antitrust concerns. In response to calls to break up Facebook, the company took internal measures to make that more difficult to do by reorganizing its departments and rebranding Instagram and WhatsApp. Elsewhere, the European Union is expected to issue decisions by the end of the year related to privacy issues involving Facebook. Continue reading Facebook Moves to Defend Itself Against Regulatory Threats

Draft Executive Order Gives FCC, FTC Sway Over Internet

According to sources, the White House drafted an executive order that would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to determine how Facebook, Twitter and other large tech companies curate their websites. The FCC would be tasked with developing regulations on how (and when) the law protects social media platforms when they remove or suppress content, and also charges the Federal Trade Commission with taking the new regulations into account when investigating or suing these companies. Continue reading Draft Executive Order Gives FCC, FTC Sway Over Internet

Facebook, FBI Face Brewing Conflict Over Data Collection

Facebook, which has been under scrutiny for its privacy policies, just settled with the U.S. government for a record $5 billion fine. But the FBI has now complicated that picture by more aggressively monitoring potential threats on all social media platforms. Last month, the FBI asked for third party vendors to submit proposals by August 27 for examining public data to “proactively identify and reactively monitor threats to the United States and its interests” on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Continue reading Facebook, FBI Face Brewing Conflict Over Data Collection

Latest Facebook Pitch to Publishers Offers Licensing Fees

Facebook, in preparation for a news section due to launch later this year, has offered news outlets as much as $3 million to license headlines and article previews. According to sources, Facebook has pitched Disney’s ABC News, Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones, The Washington Post and Bloomberg, for deals that would last for three years. Google already offers AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) allowing articles to load quickly on smartphones, and Snapchat has revenue-sharing deals with publishers on its “Discover” tab. Continue reading Latest Facebook Pitch to Publishers Offers Licensing Fees

Facebook Plans to Test Selling VOD Subs Directly to Users

Facebook will launch a small-scale test in the U.S. over the coming weeks to sell video subscriptions directly to its users for BritBox from BBC Studios and ITV, Dropout by CollegeHumor, Motor Trend On Demand and Tastemade Plus. Facebook will initially test the waters with these four smaller services. While no major streaming video services are scheduled to be part of the test, Facebook has contacted networks such as HBO and Showtime about selling their OTT services on the social platform and has reportedly talked with Disney, Hulu and Netflix about offering their streaming services via a new TV chat device rumored to be launching this fall. Continue reading Facebook Plans to Test Selling VOD Subs Directly to Users

Some Execs Oppose Rebranding of Popular Facebook Apps

Facebook is adding its name to Instagram and WhatsApp as part of a decision to unify its apps by branding them with the parent company’s name. The Facebook moniker will be visible on marketing and within the apps. Some Facebook employees purportedly oppose the move. The rebranding will bring the two popular apps in line with the naming conventions of Oculus, Portal and Workplace. The move to rebrand the two apps was first discovered in March, but at the time Facebook said it was just “testing the change” on a handful of users. Continue reading Some Execs Oppose Rebranding of Popular Facebook Apps

FTC Looks into Facebook Purchases of Promising Startups

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Facebook and its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg purchased startups to forestall the competition they might pose. Sources said that the FTC is already reaching out to the founders of some of these startups. S&P Global estimates that Facebook has purchased about 90 companies over the past 15 years. Facebook isn’t alone in this behavior. A U.K. antitrust panel reported that the top five tech companies have acquired more than 400 companies over the last decade. Continue reading FTC Looks into Facebook Purchases of Promising Startups

Companies Support the Khronos Group’s OpenXR Standard

After launching an experimental version of the OpenXR specification several months ago, the Khronos Group consortium debuted the official version of the standard aimed at enabling cross-platform AR and VR applications. The Group said it will continue to improve the spec and maintain “full backwards compatibility.” Microsoft quickly embraced OpenXR, releasing it in its store before the official version was introduced. Any user of Windows Mixed Reality or HoloLens can install it to run any OpenXR-based app. Continue reading Companies Support the Khronos Group’s OpenXR Standard

Facebook-Funded Brain-Interface Study Publishes Results

Facebook has invested in university research with the goal of creating a device that can analyze brain signals. Two years ago, the company stated it wanted to develop a headband that would translate a person’s thought into typing, at a speed of 100 words per minute. Funded by Facebook, a University of California, San Francisco paper describes research, led by neuroscientist Edward Chang, into “speech decoders.” The research could demonstrate the feasibility of a wearable brain-analysis device. Continue reading Facebook-Funded Brain-Interface Study Publishes Results

Apple Revenue Rises via iPad/Mac Sales, Services Growth

Apple’s revenue rose 1 percent to $53.81 billion despite a 12 percent decline in iPhone sales, for the quarter ending June 29. Profit also slumped for the third straight quarter — 13 percent to $10.04 billion. At the same time, per-share earnings of $2.18 surpassed analyst predictions. Apple was able to achieve positive revenue despite lagging iPhone sales by growth in iPad and Mac sales as well as App Store sales, mobile payments and device insurance, which rose 13 percent to $11.46 billion. Continue reading Apple Revenue Rises via iPad/Mac Sales, Services Growth

Tech Companies Join Forces to Ask FCC For Faster Wi-Fi

Apple, Broadcom, Facebook, Google, HP, Intel, Marvell, Microsoft and Qualcomm are all petitioning the FCC to approve a Very Low Power (VLP) category of Wi-Fi, which would allow them to take advantage of the FCC’s recent opening up of the 6GHz band for unlicensed activity. VLP would enable short-range, point-to-point connections between two devices that travel below a specific power threshold (14 dBm EIRP); they say they can deliver 2Gbps at a distance of three meters — and that VLP is necessary for the proliferation of 5G. Continue reading Tech Companies Join Forces to Ask FCC For Faster Wi-Fi

Facebook Agrees to Record FTC Fine, Extensive Oversight

In addition to fining Facebook $5 billion for violating a 2011 privacy settlement, the Federal Trade Commission ordered Facebook to create an independent privacy committee on its board and appoint compliance officers and an outside assessor to oversee how data is handled. Further, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives must submit to regular privacy audits. The FTC commissioners approved the measures in a 3-2 vote; the fine is the largest ever levied by the federal government against a tech company. Continue reading Facebook Agrees to Record FTC Fine, Extensive Oversight

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