Facebook in Global Crosshairs for Privacy, Antitrust Issues

The Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook about $5 billion for privacy violations, but the sum is considered a slap on the wrist since it neither hurt the company’s bottom line nor limited its ability to collect data. But, since 2016, 43+ countries have passed or introduced laws regulating social media and the spread of fake news, and U.S., European and Canadian regulators have initiated investigations and proposed regulations that will likely be much more draconian. Congress is considering a federal privacy law. Continue reading Facebook in Global Crosshairs for Privacy, Antitrust Issues

Privacy Concerns Grow Over Facial Recognition Data Sets

Social networks, dating services, photo websites and surveillance cameras are just some of the sources of a growing number of databases compiling people’s faces. According to privacy advocates, Microsoft and Stanford University are among the many groups gathering images, with one such repository holding two million images. All these photos will be used to allow neural networks to build pattern recognition, in the quest to create cutting edge facial recognition platforms. Some companies have collected images for 10+ years. Continue reading Privacy Concerns Grow Over Facial Recognition Data Sets

Spotify Allows Music Labels to Access Data About its Users

Music streaming service Spotify allows users to “pre-save” an upcoming release to their accounts. But users don’t realize that, by doing so, they are also agreeing to let Spotify release more personal data than is typical to the upcoming release’s label. Those labels can access information to track a user’s listening behavior, change the musicians they follow and possibly even control their music streaming remotely. In an era in which data privacy is receiving more consumer attention, Spotify’s practice is likely to become an issue. Continue reading Spotify Allows Music Labels to Access Data About its Users

Facebook Agrees to Hand Over User Data to French Judges

Marking a world first, social giant Facebook has agreed to turn over data of French users who are suspected of hate speech on the popular platform. Cédric O, state secretary for the digital economy of France, who has been influential in shaping French President Emmanuel Macron’s perspective on Big Tech, made the announcement yesterday. The Facebook decision follows a number of successive meetings between President Macron and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It has been reported that Macron is actively interested in regulating hate speech worldwide and taking control of false information online. Continue reading Facebook Agrees to Hand Over User Data to French Judges

Alphabet Unveils Master Plan for Toronto Smart City Project

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs project began in 2017 when Toronto invited the company to turn an undeveloped 12-acre lot, Quayside, into a model of the digital city of the future. Now, Alphabet has issued a 1,524-page master plan that, in four volumes, details how it will spend the $1.3 billion earmarked for the project. Among those plans, Alphabet details using environmentally-friendly timber, installing an underground pneumatic tube for garbage removal, and building streets for autonomous vehicles from subsidiary Waymo. Continue reading Alphabet Unveils Master Plan for Toronto Smart City Project

Proposed Law Would Make Media Platforms Liable for Posts

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) introduced legislation to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to hold big tech companies such as Facebook and YouTube liable for content published on their platforms. Tech companies now have protection under Section 230 from being found liable for what users post. Known as the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act, the proposed legislation has sparked backlash from both sides of the aisle. According to Hawley’s office, his bill is aimed to limit political bias. Continue reading Proposed Law Would Make Media Platforms Liable for Posts

Apple’s 2020 iPhones to Introduce 5G and Design Updates

Industry insider Ming-Chi Kuo reported that Apple plans to introduce some significant changes in its 2020 iPhones, including 5G connectivity and design upgrades. But owners of iPhones and other iOS devices are likely concerned about the recent news that every one of the world’s current 1.4 billion iPhones and iPads can be hacked. Israel-based Cellebrite demonstrated that it can perform a “full file extraction” on any iOS device, as well as on high-end Android devices. Further, law enforcement can pay for that ability without having to send devices to Cellebrite. Continue reading Apple’s 2020 iPhones to Introduce 5G and Design Updates

Slack, Other Chat Apps Aim to Supplant Email in Workplace

Slack, valued at $7 billion during its last funding round, went public yesterday and closed at $38.62, which is 49 percent higher than the $26 reference price set by the New York Stock Exchange. The company, which provides workplace collaboration tools, said it currently has 10+ million daily users and 88,000 paying customers. While it positions itself as an antidote to overstuffed email boxes, it has heavyweight competition with Google (Hangouts Chat), Facebook (Workplace) and Microsoft (Teams). The latter, which is bundled with Office software, is already in use by 500,000+ organizations according to Microsoft. Continue reading Slack, Other Chat Apps Aim to Supplant Email in Workplace

Amazon Enables Tailored Recommendations via AI Service

Amazon is launching a new service called Amazon Personalize in select regions of the U.S., Asia and Europe, with additional locations to be added. The service, first revealed at last year’s re:Invent conference, aims to personalize the customer experience by helping developers build apps, websites, email marketing and content management systems that provide product recommendations and personalized search results. “We are excited to share with AWS customers the expertise we’ve developed during two decades of using machine learning to deliver great experiences on Amazon.com,” said Swami Sivasubramanian, VP of machine learning. Continue reading Amazon Enables Tailored Recommendations via AI Service

Tech Companies Have Long Prepared for Antitrust Scrutiny

Apple, Facebook and Google have been preparing for announcements from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that leading U.S. tech companies were going to be closely scrutinized for evidence of antitrust behavior. The news has sent shares roller-coasting but the three companies’ lawyers are, said sources, taking a “wait-and-see” approach. While Apple has been battling antitrust battles for years and Google has already faced antitrust investigations in the U.S. and Europe, some experts believe Facebook is not as prepared for the coming scrutiny. Continue reading Tech Companies Have Long Prepared for Antitrust Scrutiny

WWDC: Apple Unveils iOS 13, iPadOS and Project Catalyst

At this week’s WWDC, Apple unveiled its latest mobile operating system for iPhones and iPod touches, iOS 13, which includes faster performance, upgraded Siri, Dark Mode, advanced Photo and Camera tools, and new privacy features. The company also announced a separate iPadOS for its tablets, which features the same upgrades as iOS 13 in addition to multitasking improvements and a redesigned home screen. Apple is encouraging developers to create new apps that work across all its devices, including Macs. The company announced Project Catalyst (formerly code-name Marzipan), a set of tools that make it simple for developers to make their apps accessible on the Mac. Continue reading WWDC: Apple Unveils iOS 13, iPadOS and Project Catalyst

Apple Reinstates Kid Controls, App Developers File Lawsuit

Apple abruptly reversed a decision made a year ago to remove iPhone apps that use one of two technologies to allow parents to control their children’s use of Apple devices. The company revealed its move to allow parental controls in a short blog post on its website. The reversal comes on the heels of news that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are scrutinizing Silicon Valley tech companies for antitrust behavior. App developers filed a lawsuit in California accusing Apple of monopolizing app distribution. Continue reading Apple Reinstates Kid Controls, App Developers File Lawsuit

Apple Promotes Privacy Features at Developers Conference

At this week’s WWDC in San Jose, California, Apple introduced an anonymous login system and tools that prevent apps from tracking the user’s location, in an attempt to gain the high ground among big tech companies targeted by regulators for privacy issues. Apple also differentiated itself from Facebook and Google, which rely heavily on tracking users’ behavior and activity. The company’s next mobile operating system, iOS 13, slated to debut this fall, will allow users to log into apps without giving up any personal information and generate “automated and random” email addresses. Continue reading Apple Promotes Privacy Features at Developers Conference

In Google Tweak, Only Enterprise Customers Can Block Ads

Google has doubled-down on a change made in January to Manifest V3, Chrome’s extensions system, that would prevent the effective functioning of current ad blockers. Despite backlash to the change by extension developers and power users, the company said that only enterprise users will be able to continue to use such ad blocking software. Manifest V3 includes other changes, such as a tweaking of the permissions system. Now, all extensions must use the “minimum set of permissions necessary” when requesting access to data. Continue reading In Google Tweak, Only Enterprise Customers Can Block Ads

Amazon Launches Echo Show 5 and Alexa Privacy Features

Amazon unveiled Echo Show 5, the third generation of its Alexa-enabled Echo Show, which offers a 5.5-inch 960×480-pixel diagonal smart display and built-in far-field microphones. Although in numerous ways, the Echo Show 5 resembles past generations of the device, it differs in that it includes a mechanical slide that lets the user close the shutter on the device’s front-facing camera. To assuage consumers’ privacy concerns about Alexa, Amazon has also added the “Alexa Privacy Hub,” an online collection of privacy settings. Continue reading Amazon Launches Echo Show 5 and Alexa Privacy Features

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