Tech Firms Working With Feds to Create Privacy Legislation

After years of fending off federal attempts to regulate handling of private data, some tech companies are now working with policy makers to create federal privacy laws. The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and Salesforce, hopes that federal legislation would preempt state regulations, such as the strict online privacy laws recently adopted by California, and create a single regulation rather than a confusing array of multiple state laws. Continue reading Tech Firms Working With Feds to Create Privacy Legislation

Despite Obstacles, Google May Make its Way Back to China

Getting back into China after an eight year absence isn’t going to be easy for Google, even though the company developed a mobile search app capable of employing censorship. President Trump is threatening to dramatically expand existing tariffs against China, which could retaliate by blocking the operation of U.S. businesses there. Recently, Qualcomm ended its attempt to buy NXP Semiconductors after China withheld approval; China also sidelined Facebook’s plan to build an innovation hub there. Continue reading Despite Obstacles, Google May Make its Way Back to China

Vizio Adds WatchFree Service to SmartCast TVs via Pluto TV

On Wednesday, Vizio debuted WatchFree to its TV sets with its SmartCast operating system, adding more access to free, ad-supported TV programming. Pluto TV, an ad-supported streaming service, powers the service, which will offer 100 channels including NBC News/MSNBC, Fox Sports, MST3K and The Surf Channel, as well as movie channels. In the near future, “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” and “Unsolved Mysteries” will appear as pop-up channels. Vizio’s SmartCast operating system was first launched in 2016. Continue reading Vizio Adds WatchFree Service to SmartCast TVs via Pluto TV

New Tools Help Users Limit Time on Facebook and Instagram

Facebook will soon unveil new tools that tell the user how much time he’s spending on its site and Instagram, part of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 vow to “fix” the platform’s problems. In addition to protecting the community from hate speech and abuse, Zuckerberg mentioned, “making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.” According to Facebook, the company did its own extensive research and got feedback from users in addition to relying on “leading mental health experts and organizations, academics.” Continue reading New Tools Help Users Limit Time on Facebook and Instagram

Verizon’s VPN Product Protects Mobile Users on Public Wi-Fi

Verizon debuted a VPN (virtual private network) product, dubbed Safe Wi-Fi, marketed as a security measure for smartphone users who log onto public networks, as well as an ad-blocker. Public Wi-Fi networks can make it easy for advertisers and bad actors to track a user’s IP address, which the VPN will hide from public view. Safe Wi-Fi — available to Verizon customers on Android and iOS devices — is priced at $3.99 per month per account. Safe Wi-Fi can protect up to 10 devices on a single account. Continue reading Verizon’s VPN Product Protects Mobile Users on Public Wi-Fi

Lenovo Debuts the First Smart Display With Google Assistant

Lenovo has begun shipping smart displays integrated with Google Assistant that will allow users to visually interact with the voice assistant. The device was first shown at CES 2018, where it was demonstrated instantly displaying maps and sending them to the user’s phone. Assistant can also show step-by-step visuals of a recipe, present a visual weather summary, manage to-do lists — all capabilities similar to those of Echo Show. A three-month YouTube Premium subscription comes free with the purchase. Continue reading Lenovo Debuts the First Smart Display With Google Assistant

Cloud Services and Advertising Push Amazon to Major Profits

Amazon posted $2.53 billion in profit for the first time, with the highest profit margin ever, the result of the company’s more recent service businesses, including cloud computing, advertising and other services for sellers. The Q2 profit compares to $197 million a year earlier, and represents three straight quarters of profits over $1 billion, forever changing Amazon’s former profile as a company that posts either red ink or bare bones income. Alphabet and Microsoft, however, still deliver much bigger profits. Continue reading Cloud Services and Advertising Push Amazon to Major Profits

New App for Manufacturing Workers Adds AI to Google Glass

At this week’s Google Cloud Next conference, Israeli company Plataine demonstrated a new app for Google Glass, pointing to artificial intelligence as the technology that will drive the success of the spectacles. The easy-to-use app, which is aimed at factory workers, understands and replies in spoken language. Plataine’s clients already include Airbus, Boeing and GE, and the company is now working on adding image recognition capabilities to the app, which was built using Google Cloud AI services and support from the tech giant. Continue reading New App for Manufacturing Workers Adds AI to Google Glass

Google to Open Up Its AutoML Vision AI Tool for Public Beta

At its Cloud Next conference, Google revealed that its AutoML Vision, which allows non-experts to train their own self-learning models for image and object recognition, will soon be available in public beta. It also debuted AutoML Natural Language and AutoML Translation. To democratize such techy AI tools, Google relied on a simple graphical interface and such widely adopted interfaces as drag-and-drop. The company is also pitching its cloud services to corporations, having recently nabbed Target as a client. Continue reading Google to Open Up Its AutoML Vision AI Tool for Public Beta

Google Absorbs EU Fine, Alphabet’s Other Bets Burn Money

Despite the impact of new European regulations, Google just reported sales and profit that exceeded analysts’ expectations. The Silicon Valley company’s shares hit an all-time high, rising 3.9 percent to $1,267 in after-hours trading. The result is proof that advertisers aren’t put off by European regulations or allegations that Google abuses its dominant position in the marketplace. Its parent company Alphabet, however, continues to see losses in its “Other Bets” category, which includes Waymo autonomous vehicles. Continue reading Google Absorbs EU Fine, Alphabet’s Other Bets Burn Money

At G20 Meeting, Europeans Push Enactment of a Digital Tax

At a meeting in Argentina of G20 finance ministers and central bankers, the Europeans pushed to advance global rules to tax the digital economy, contrary to the point of view of the U.S. delegation. The group’s final communiqué reiterated the body’s commitment to “address the impacts of the shift to a digital economy on the international tax system by 2020,” but gave no further details. Earlier this year, the European Commission proposed rules to make digital companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google pay more taxes. Continue reading At G20 Meeting, Europeans Push Enactment of a Digital Tax

Technology Titans Join Forces on New Data Transfer Project

Tech giants Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter have announced the Data Transfer Project (DTP) to help people move data more easily between online services. DTP was formed last year with plans “to create an open-source, service-to-service data-portability platform” that any online service could join. While numerous services allow individuals to download data, only few allow uploading data to multiple accounts. If successful in creating universal data portability, the project could dramatically impact the tech industry and its current business models. Continue reading Technology Titans Join Forces on New Data Transfer Project

Microsoft Azure Grows to the No. 2 Spot in Cloud Computing

Amazon has thus far dominated the cloud computing business, but Microsoft is now a strong No. 2. The latter, in a quarterly financial report, indicated that its Azure cloud computing unit grew 89 percent over the same period a year ago and demonstrated growth in other cloud offerings. Synergy Research Group reports that the overall “core cloud business” is valued at $60 billion a year, having grown by 50 percent in Q1 2018. Amazon is responsible for a 33 percent share, which had held steady since the end of 2015. Continue reading Microsoft Azure Grows to the No. 2 Spot in Cloud Computing

Google Quietly Working on Fuchsia as Successor to Android

Google engineers are working on Fuchsia, a project to create software that would replace Android. The new software is designed from the ground up to offer improved voice interactions, frequent security updates and “look the same” across multiple devices from laptops to IoT sensors. The move is in line with chief executive Sundar Pichai’s stated goal of integrating artificial intelligence with consumer products. Google first started posting Fuchsia code in 2016, and allowed some app developers to try out open source code. Continue reading Google Quietly Working on Fuchsia as Successor to Android

Congress Scrutinizes Social Media Liability for User Content

Social media platforms such as Google and Facebook are exempt from liability for user-posted content, a protection that top Republican legislators want to end. House Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) quizzed Twitter representatives about the exemption, asking why they should be “treated differently than,” for example, a hotel that faces limited responsibility for illegal actions on its property. Goodlatte is one lawmaker who also looked at the purported silencing of conservative points of view on the platforms. Continue reading Congress Scrutinizes Social Media Liability for User Content

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