Pandemic Fosters Wider Adoption of QR Codes and Tracking

During the COVID-19 pandemic, QR codes that allow customers to order and pay for food and drinks caught on in restaurants and appear to be here for good. Retail chains including CVS and Foot Locker have also added them as have marketers. Because QR codes can store digital information and open an app or website that tracks peoples’ personal information, they’re ideal for vendors looking to create their own customer databases. Consumers will soon be served customized offers marketed within QR code payment systems. Continue reading Pandemic Fosters Wider Adoption of QR Codes and Tracking

ByteDance Pauses its IPO After Meeting with Chinese Officials

Beijing-based ByteDance, parent company of social video app TikTok, which was valued at $180 billion in December, indefinitely put plans on hold for a public offering. The company had been considering an IPO in the United States or Hong Kong but its founder and CEO Zhang Yiming changed his mind after meeting with China’s cyberspace and security regulators who reportedly told him to focus on data-security risks and other issues. Another reason for holding off is that the company did not have a chief financial officer at the time. Continue reading ByteDance Pauses its IPO After Meeting with Chinese Officials

Legislators Planning to Revamp Antitrust Laws for Digital Era

U.S. antitrust laws date back to the days of Big Oil. When a federal judge this week dismissed antitrust lawsuits brought against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and 48 states, experts called for a modernization of the laws themselves. The judge who dismissed the lawsuits said that the FTC didn’t prove its claim that Facebook was a monopoly and the states brought their case too long after Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Representative David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) said the U.S. needs a “massive overhaul of our antitrust laws.” Continue reading Legislators Planning to Revamp Antitrust Laws for Digital Era

ByteDance Revenue, Profit Leap in 2020 But No IPO in Sight

Privately-held startup ByteDance, owner of TikTok, reported that its revenue more than doubled to $34.3 billion last year, rising 111 percent from a year ago while gross profit rose 93 percent to $19 billion. As of December 2020, ByteDance — which also runs Douyin, the domestic Chinese version of TikTok, and Jinri Toutiao, a news aggregation app — had about 1.9 billion monthly active users on all its platforms. Due to share-based compensation to workers, the company had a $2.1 billion operating loss last year. Continue reading ByteDance Revenue, Profit Leap in 2020 But No IPO in Sight

European Union Plans Framework for Secure Digital Identities

The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, announced a proposal yesterday to create a European Digital Identity system that would “be available to all EU citizens, residents and businesses in the EU.” The goal is to enable citizens who are interested “to prove their identity and share electronic documents from their European Digital Identity wallets with the click of a button on their phone.” In addition, these citizens would “be able to access online services with their national digital identification,” that would be recognized throughout European Union’s Member States. Continue reading European Union Plans Framework for Secure Digital Identities

Senators Press Ad-Auctioneers for Personal Data Sales Info

Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) heads a bipartisan group of U.S. senators attempting to understand more about digital advertising auctions and their relationship to personalized ads. The group sent a letter to the largest companies that run these auctions, including AT&T, Index Exchange, Google, Magnite, OpenX Software, PubMatic, Twitter and Verizon Communications. The senators want the names of all foreign clients gaining access to user data through the auctions, citing concerns of national security. Continue reading Senators Press Ad-Auctioneers for Personal Data Sales Info

Top EU Privacy Regulator Calls for Total Ban on Targeted Ads

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Wojciech Wiewiórowski, the European Union’s top privacy regulator, called for a complete ban on targeted advertising. That’s a harsher recommendation than that of the European Commission, which simply suggested increased transparency on political ads and limits to micro-targeting and psychological profiling. Wiewiorówski’s proposal was in response to a request for EU lawmaker consultation on the Commission’s Digital Services Act (DSA) introduced in December. Continue reading Top EU Privacy Regulator Calls for Total Ban on Targeted Ads

ETC Executive Coffee: Equinix Ponders Consequences of AI

Equinix executives led the fifth installment of ETC@USC’s Executive Coffee with… series. “AI development and ethics, what are the intended and unintended consequences of the rollout?” was the topic of the October 22 discussion. Kaladhar Voruganti, VP of technology innovation and senior fellow, and Doron Hendel, senior manager of global business development, ecosystem development, partnerships and alliances at Equinix led the discussion. Eleven graduate and undergraduate USC students, mostly computer science and data science majors, participated. Continue reading ETC Executive Coffee: Equinix Ponders Consequences of AI

EU Regulators: IAB Europe Is Not in Compliance with GDPR

Belgian investigators are scrutinizing the Belgian-based Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Europe, which they say is responsible for how its members buy, sell and use individuals’ data in digital ads. According to their internal report, Google and other major online advertisers are violating Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation in its auctions. The investigation was prompted by complaints against the use of personal data in the real-time bidding (RTB) component of programmatic advertising. Continue reading EU Regulators: IAB Europe Is Not in Compliance with GDPR

Federal Government Probes Foreign Investments in U.S. Tech

As part of ongoing security concerns focused on technology, the Trump administration is now re-examining investments in U.S. tech startups by Chinese and other foreign groups, even investments that are years old. Heading the investigation is the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) which, after gathering information, can decide whether to probe specific deals more deeply and even demand that the foreign investor divest. The probe is based on the government’s belief that the United States did not sufficiently scrutinize these investments from China and other countries. Continue reading Federal Government Probes Foreign Investments in U.S. Tech

India Hails Google’s New Fund but Plans to Regulate Big Tech

About half of India’s 1.3 billion people are not yet online, and Google hopes to improve its profile there with a new $10 billion Google for India Digitization Fund. The tech tech giant plans to invest in the country over the next five to seven years via equity investments and partnerships. But a recent government-ordered report urged India to create a data regulator position to oversee “the sharing, monetization and privacy of information collected online.” The report names Google (among other companies) as “squeezing new entrants and startups.” Continue reading India Hails Google’s New Fund but Plans to Regulate Big Tech

Big Tech Firms Face More EU Scrutiny, Facebook Loses Case

The European Union increased its efforts to regulate major U.S. technology companies, including Amazon, Apple and Google, with a new tool that allows it to investigate any potential antitrust issue and force changes without proving illegality. EU antitrust head Margrethe Vestager warned that the tech behemoths potentially risk being broken up as a “last resort” if they don’t adhere to the rules. Meanwhile, a German high court ruled against Facebook finding it abused its social media dominance to illegally harvest user data. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Face More EU Scrutiny, Facebook Loses Case

Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Facebook has acquired the GIF platform Giphy for $400 million. Giphy’s 100+ million active daily users send over 1 billion GIFs a day. Facebook stated that Giphy’s content database will be integrated into its apps including Instagram, although it didn’t state a timeframe. Since every social app offers at least some GIF integration, including many that rely on a GIF keyboard and Giphy’s database, Facebook’s purchase is both a competitive edge and another way to harvest the kind of data that attracts advertisers. Continue reading Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Judge Greenlights Facebook’s $5B Agreement With the FTC

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia judge Timothy Kelly approved a deal reached last summer whereby Facebook will pay a $5 billion fine to settle with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy violations related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook will also be restricted in some of its business decisions and will be subject to ongoing oversight. Facebook chief privacy officer for product Michel Protti noted that the agreement “has already brought fundamental changes to our company.” Continue reading Judge Greenlights Facebook’s $5B Agreement With the FTC

USC Students Respond to Media Questions at ETC Meeting

A panel of six undergraduates from the USC Iovine and Young Academy and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences spent an hour answering questions about their media habits. The questions were asked by ETC member company executives at the December 12, 2019 All Members Meeting held in Burbank at Disney. Where do students get their media recommendations? What’s a good length for a viewing experience? What do they think about having their personal data gathered, and about data analytics in general? What do they pay to subscribe to? Watch this 9-minute highlight video to find out. Continue reading USC Students Respond to Media Questions at ETC Meeting

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