Instagram Reels, Rival to TikTok, Launches in 50+ Countries

Facebook’s Instagram debuted Reels, its short-video feature designed to compete with Chinese app TikTok. Instagram previously aped Snapchat’s disappearing photos with its own Instagram Stories, which has since become hugely popular. TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer called out Reels as a “copycat product,” but Instagram director of product Robby Stein said that Instagram plans to distinguish Reels from the competition by “adapting to users.” The launch takes place amid tumult over TikTok’s future in the U.S. Continue reading Instagram Reels, Rival to TikTok, Launches in 50+ Countries

FTC to Fine Twitter for Using Consumer Data for Targeted Ads

Twitter revealed that the Federal Trade Commission may hit it with a fine up to $250 million for using consumers’ email addresses and phone numbers — collected for “safety and security” purposes — to target ads, something it said it did “inadvertently” between 2013 and 2019. This is a violation of its 2011 agreement with the FTC, in which Twitter agreed that it would no longer mislead consumers by not disclosing other potential uses. Twitter has already received a draft complaint from the FTC. Continue reading FTC to Fine Twitter for Using Consumer Data for Targeted Ads

Legislators Urge FTC to Scrutinize Mobile Ad Data Collection

Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging it to investigate how the mobile advertising industry tracks consumers without their knowledge via digital display ads. The covert practice, known as “bidstream” data, enables the collection of sensitive information about consumers that is then packaged and sold by data brokers. Meanwhile, Google released “Ads Transparency Spotlight,” a Chrome extension to inform consumers about how advertisers are targeting them. Continue reading Legislators Urge FTC to Scrutinize Mobile Ad Data Collection

With Trump Approval, Microsoft to Acquire TikTok’s U.S. Unit

After weeks of negotiations and following a phone call between President Trump and Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, the company stated it will purchase TikTok’s U.S. operations. Microsoft will work to seal the deal — which will also include Canada, Australia and New Zealand — with ByteDance by September 15. Stating appreciation for Trump’s “personal involvement,” Microsoft added that U.S. users’ data would be transferred to and remain in the country. Trump earlier said he would ban TikTok from the U.S. Continue reading With Trump Approval, Microsoft to Acquire TikTok’s U.S. Unit

Big Tech Executives Are Grilled During Congressional Hearing

At a congressional hearing this week, the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google endured frustration and hostile criticism from bipartisan lawmakers. House Antitrust Subcommittee chair David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) started by saying that, “Our founders would not bow before a king. Nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy,” referring to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai. The companies are collectively worth almost $5 trillion. Continue reading Big Tech Executives Are Grilled During Congressional Hearing

TikTok Counters Critics, Regulators With More Transparency

TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer published an open letter aimed at regulators intent on curbing its reach. After listing some of the app’s accomplishments in its thus-far short term in social media, he focused on charges critics are levying. He admitted that, “with our success comes responsibility and accountability,” but insisted that the company is made up of “responsible and committed members of the American community that follows U.S. laws.” The company has launched an effort to win over critics with increased transparency. Continue reading TikTok Counters Critics, Regulators With More Transparency

Privacy Shield: Top EU Court Strikes Down Data Transfer Pact

The European Union’s top court voided a transatlantic data-sharing pact this week, ruling that EU residents’ data, when moved to the U.S., are not sufficiently protected from that government’s surveillance. The legal battle began in 2013, when privacy activist Max Schrems complained to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, pointing to Edward Snowden’s leaks as proof that U.S. law did not protect against scrutiny. Countries outside of the European Union and companies that want to move EU data abroad must now meet strict EU data laws. Continue reading Privacy Shield: Top EU Court Strikes Down Data Transfer Pact

Amazon Debuts Smart Shopping Cart for Simplified Checkout

Amazon unveiled the Dash Cart this week, a “smart” grocery shopping cart fitted with a touchscreen that can automatically detect the items placed in it. The shopper can then take the Dash Cart through a special lane to digitally check out via a combination of computer vision algorithms and sensors. The Dash Cart is the result of Amazon’s aim to apply everything it’s learned in building its Alexa-enabled products to create more convenience in the brick-and-mortar world. The Dash Cart will first be deployed in Amazon’s grocery store in Woodland Hills, a Los Angeles suburb. Continue reading Amazon Debuts Smart Shopping Cart for Simplified Checkout

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

FTC and DOJ to Probe TikTok Violation of Child Privacy Rules

Chinese app TikTok has had a tumultuous few weeks. After being banned in India due to political tensions between that country and China, TikTok ceased its activities in Hong Kong in response to its concerns about the mainland’s imposition of a natural security law. In the U.S., the Trump administration is considering limiting the app’s access to its users. Now, sources say the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are probing allegations that TikTok has violated a 2019 agreement on children’s privacy. Continue reading FTC and DOJ to Probe TikTok Violation of Child Privacy Rules

Big Tech Firms Cease Processing User Data From Hong Kong

When China imposed a National Security Law in Hong Kong on June 30, tech companies including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Dubai’s Telegram Group ceased processing requests for user data from that city in protest. A Facebook spokesperson said the company believes “freedom of expression is a fundamental human right.” Facebook-owned WhatsApp paused reviews “pending further assessment,” including consulting with human rights experts, of the Chinese law. In addition, TikTok stated it will stop offering its social media app in Hong Kong. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Cease Processing User Data From Hong Kong

ThiefQuest Is New Ransomware and Spyware Aimed at Macs

K7 Labs malware researcher Dinesh Devadoss discovered a new form of malware aimed at Mac computers. ThiefQuest (originally dubbed EvilQuest, until researchers discovered that’s the name of a Steam game) isn’t simply ransomware but also contains spyware that allows it to exfiltrate an infected computer’s files, search it for passwords and cryptocurrency wallet data, and nab passwords and credit card numbers. Even after a computer reboots, the spyware lingers as a backdoor that could be used for a second-stage attack. Continue reading ThiefQuest Is New Ransomware and Spyware Aimed at Macs

Comcast Inks Deal to Adopt Mozilla’s Firefox DNS Encryption

In a new partnership, Comcast will be the first Internet Service Provider (ISP) to offer users of Mozilla’s Firefox browser with private and secure encrypted Domain Name System (DNS) services via Mozilla’s Trusted Recursive Resolver (TRR) Program. Comcast’s DNS over HTTPS (DoH) will be activated by default for Firefox over Comcast’s Xfinity broadband network. Users will be able to switch to Cloudflare or NextDNS, which were already included in Mozilla’s program. No date of availability was released. Continue reading Comcast Inks Deal to Adopt Mozilla’s Firefox DNS Encryption

Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition

After recent reports revealing government use of facial recognition that fails to correctly identify people of color at a much higher rate than white people, Democratic lawmakers have proposed the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to ban government use of the technology. Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have already temporarily stopped selling their facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies, and the bicameral bill would make this state of affairs permanent. Continue reading Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition

Google Plans Changes to How Long It Holds on to User Data

Google disclosed that it had changed its policy regarding how long it will hang on to users’ search data. Last year, the company introduced an option that allowed users to automatically delete data related to Internet searches, requests made to Google Assistant and location history after three months or 18 months. Beginning now, Google’s default policy is to automatically delete location history, voice recordings and web/app activity on new accounts after 18 months. The settings on existing accounts will remain the same. Continue reading Google Plans Changes to How Long It Holds on to User Data

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