Big Tech Firms Step Up Acquisitions Despite Antitrust Probes

Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft — the five largest U.S. tech firms — are speeding up their acquisitions, even as they are under antitrust investigation by federal officials and state attorneys general. By the end of June, the companies had disclosed 27 deals, up 29 percent from the same period last year, when they announced 21 deals. The increase in purchases could be used as proof by regulators and economists that these companies are using their wealth to dominate competitors and increase their market share. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Step Up Acquisitions Despite Antitrust Probes

Advertisers Turn to Streaming Services For More User Data

As streaming services proliferate, so does the technology that tracks their viewers. AT&T, Roku, and ad giant Publicis, among others, are harvesting viewers’ email addresses and the devices they use to stream content. Privacy advocates are concerned, with Center for Digital Democracy executive director Jeff Chester calling the practice a “digital daisy chain of data-gathering on viewers.” But advertisers find the opportunity to gather the specific data available with streaming services too appealing to pass up. Continue reading Advertisers Turn to Streaming Services For More User Data

Researchers Find Fire TV, Roku Channels Are Tracking Data

Princeton University and University of Chicago researchers studied over 2,000 channels on streaming devices Amazon Fire TV and Roku — and found that 89 percent of the Fire TV channels and 69 percent of Roku channels included trackers. Those trackers collect data on viewing habits and preferences, device serial numbers and IDs, Wi-Fi network names and MAC (media access control) addresses, which are network interface identifiers. Some channels had 64+ different tracks. Users have no tools to examine the traffic or block ads. Continue reading Researchers Find Fire TV, Roku Channels Are Tracking Data

Facebook’s Latest Misstep: Culling Data From Popular Apps

Many smartphone users provide personal data to apps, from intimate health information to shopping habits. What the users don’t know is that Facebook culls the data seconds after they enter it, even if they have no connection to Facebook. Eleven popular apps, which have been downloaded millions of times, have been sharing data with Facebook — without any obvious disclosure to users providing that sensitive data. The revelation of that information has created a shakeup at Facebook and the involved apps. Continue reading Facebook’s Latest Misstep: Culling Data From Popular Apps

Amazon Launches In-Car Delivery, Testing Privacy Boundaries

Amazon is rolling out an in-car delivery service that allows its delivery drivers to deposit packages in the trunks of specific vehicles. That’s similar to the feature introduced last year that lets drivers drop off packages inside customers’ homes. Taking another step into its customers’ lives is a risky move in an atmosphere where privacy concerns are paramount. Still, Amazon vice president of delivery technology Peter Larsen says customers “love features like keyless guest access” and that “in-car delivery … gives customers that same peace of mind.” Continue reading Amazon Launches In-Car Delivery, Testing Privacy Boundaries

At 1 Billion Video Hours Daily, YouTube May Topple TV Views

Worldwide, people are watching more than 1 billion hours a day of YouTube videos, a number that threatens to topple the primacy of U.S. television viewing. That represents a 10-fold increase in YouTube viewership since 2012, said to be pegged, in part, to Google’s use of artificial intelligence to recommend videos. These personalized video line-ups keep people watching, and YouTube’s exponential growth of content — 400 hours of video uploaded each minute — means there’s always something new to watch. Continue reading At 1 Billion Video Hours Daily, YouTube May Topple TV Views

Copyright Act Exemption to Reverse Engineering Takes Effect

Until now, people risked a lawsuit if they reverse-engineered their cars, PCs or even insulin pumps. Now, there’s an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that protects those who want to hack a device they own, without fearing that the manufacturer of that device will sue them. More specifically, the exemption covers security research on consumer devices, and digital repair of vehicles. The Library of Congress’ Copyright Office enacted the exemption in October 2015, but implementation was delayed for a year. Continue reading Copyright Act Exemption to Reverse Engineering Takes Effect