WhatsApp Chief Pledges to Safeguard Messaging Encryption

WhatsApp head Will Cathcart revealed that the app now has more than two billion active users; numbers were last released two years ago. Cathcart also emphasized that he will continue to defend the messaging app’s encryption, noting that, “for all of human history, people have been able to communicate privately with each other … and we don’t think that should go away in a modern society.” Facebook, which acquired WhatsApp for $21.8 billion, finds encryption a barrier to recuperating its investment. Continue reading WhatsApp Chief Pledges to Safeguard Messaging Encryption

EU Presses Facebook for Documents Related to Competition

The European Commission’ antitrust probe into Facebook is now seeking internal documents related to allegations that Facebook suppressed competition by leveraging its own access to users’ data. EU investigators are also looking into changes Facebook made to software interfaces that enabled app developers to access data, as well as more information on Facebook’s use of Israeli VPN app Onavo it purchased in 2013. Facebook, which shut down Onavo last year, said it disclosed its data collection to users. Continue reading EU Presses Facebook for Documents Related to Competition

Shares Rise as Twitter’s Revenue Passes $1B for First Time

Twitter revealed that, in Q4, revenue rose 11 percent to $1.01 billion, the first time that quarterly revenue topped the billion-dollar mark, and surpassing the $992 million projected by Wall Street analysts. The company stated that income was $118.8 million, with costs rising 22 percent from a year earlier. Its operating income, a closely watched number, was $153 million, down from $207 million the previous year and lower than the $161 million predicted by analysts surveyed by FactSet. Shares rose about 15 percent. Continue reading Shares Rise as Twitter’s Revenue Passes $1B for First Time

Google Adjusts New Design Updates Following Complaints

Google controls approximately 90 percent of Internet search, and regulators, politicians, advertisers and users are sensitive to the tech giant’s efforts to wring more dollars out of that dominance. Twenty years ago, Google introduced text ads above search results and, over time, the company has made those ads less conspicuous. A recent design change prompted users to accuse the company of trickery to get them to click on ads, and marketers to complain the practice is a “shakedown” to push them to pay for ads. Continue reading Google Adjusts New Design Updates Following Complaints

Facebook Revenue Strong, Despite Facial Recognition Suit

Facebook’s revenue rose 25 percent to $2.11 billion for the quarter, beating analysts’ expectations of $20.9 billion. Its 2019 revenue rose almost 27 percent, with Q4 profits a 7 percent lift to $7.35 billion. The company reported that, even as expenses grew, its user base grew 9 percent from a year earlier to 1.66 billion, topping FactSet’s prediction of almost 1.65 billion. Not all is rosy, however: Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to settle an Illinois class-action lawsuit over use of its facial recognition technology. Continue reading Facebook Revenue Strong, Despite Facial Recognition Suit

Facebook Reveals More Details About Its Oversight Board

Facebook’s Oversight Board, comprised of people from outside the company, will determine if specific user posts violate its rules. But the company just divulged that it expects the board to “come to a case decision, and for Facebook to have acted on that decision, in approximately 90 days,” a lengthy period of time that makes it unlikely the board will be able to block misinformation from spreading virally. The board may play a role, however, in changing the company’s policy on paid political ads. Continue reading Facebook Reveals More Details About Its Oversight Board

Big Tech Firms Call For Regulation, Lobby Specific Policies

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, major tech players such as Alphabet, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft asked lawmakers for regulations they once fought. Facing antitrust probes and pushback on AI, privacy and encryption among other issues, these companies believe laws are inevitable and want to have a role in creating them. They also fear a patchwork quilt of global laws. Most recently, the Justice Department sparred with Apple over its request for help to unlock the iPhones of the Saudi Arabian naval trainee who killed three people in Florida. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Call For Regulation, Lobby Specific Policies

Big Tech Firms Increase Spending to Influence Lawmakers

Big Tech is now one of the biggest lobbying groups in Washington, D.C. Facebook posted the greatest increase in spending last year, followed by Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. By increasing spending in lobbying, the companies hope to influence privacy legislation, pursue government contracts and rebut charges of unfair competition. Alphabet is the only Big Tech company to reduce its spending for lobbying in 2019, by 44 percent to $11.8 million. It also ended its relationship with lobbyists at six outside firms. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Increase Spending to Influence Lawmakers

Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

Clearview AI has scraped over three billion photos from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Venmo and hundreds of other websites to create a facial recognition database now used by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and over 600 law enforcement agencies. Twitter just sent a cease-and-decease letter to the startup demanding that it stop taking photos and other data from its site and to delete any data it has already collected. Twitter accused Clearview AI of violating its policies. Continue reading Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

Apple Drops iCloud Encryption Plan Based on FBI Concerns

According to six sources, in response to FBI concerns, Apple dropped the plan to allow iPhone users to encrypt backups in its iCloud service. Although this took place two years ago, it is just now being reported. Stress between Apple’s stance on privacy and law enforcement’s push to have access to its phones re-emerged a few weeks ago when a Saudi Air Force officer killed three Americans at Naval Air Station Pensacola. U.S. attorney general William Barr and President Donald Trump urged Apple to unlock the killer’s two iPhones. Continue reading Apple Drops iCloud Encryption Plan Based on FBI Concerns

Spotify Plans to Run Targeted Ads in its Exclusive Podcasts

During CES 2020, Spotify revealed plans to leverage its massive amount of user data in order to introduce targeted advertising in its exclusive podcast content. With its proprietary Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) tech, Spotify will analyze data based on user location, type of device, gender, age and more to insert advertisements in real time (Spotify already automates dynamic ad insertion for its music streaming). The company could eventually become a major podcast ad network if it ends up placing ads in other networks’ content as well. Continue reading Spotify Plans to Run Targeted Ads in its Exclusive Podcasts

Bipartisan Law Regulating Facial Recognition Being Planned

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform held its third hearing in less than a year on facial recognition, planning to introduce legislation to regulate its use by the federal government, law enforcement and the private sector. Committee chair Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) stated the draft legislation will appear in the “very near future” and noted the need to “explore” the privacy protections already in place. Facial recognition is already in use with smartphones, job interviews and in airports. Continue reading Bipartisan Law Regulating Facial Recognition Being Planned

CES: Marketers and Creators Give Audience Starring Role

CES 2020 expanded its media and entertainment-oriented C-Space to cover more interests, but four themes repeated across virtually every conversation and panel: data, privacy, quality and a genuine respect for the audience. Data was at the heart of the discussions. Never before has there been more information available, but how it is managed emerged as a consensus issue because few companies are organized to share data and insights across their enterprise. With the promise of optimizing experiences for consumers is a balance of privacy. Continue reading CES: Marketers and Creators Give Audience Starring Role

CES 2020: Location-Based AI is Enabling an Efficient Future

Location-based data is key to many of the efficiencies promised in smart, AI-enabled cities. HERE Technologies got its start in location data in 1985 when, as Navteq and later Nokia, its goal was to digitize mapping and pioneer in-car navigation. In 2015, HERE was sold to a consortium of German automakers and currently has nine direct and indirect shareholders. The company now creates 3D maps and other location-based solutions. During CES, HERE senior VP development & CTO Giovanni Lanfranchi described how the company ran a hackathon in Istanbul that challenged ordinary citizens to come up with new location-based solutions. Continue reading CES 2020: Location-Based AI is Enabling an Efficient Future

CES 2020: The High-Wire Tension of Innovation and Privacy

CTA director of regulatory affairs Rachel Nemeth, who moderated a CES panel on innovation and privacy, asked Baker Botts co-chair, antitrust group Maureen Ohlhausen to put the topic in historic context. “The Congressional debate on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (1970) brought forward many of the same issues we’re discussing today,” said Ohlhausen, who also served as a commissioner and acting chair of the FTC. “People were worried about computers and the use of their data. The FTC has long enforced privacy statutes, and began to apply them to the Internet once it became consumer-oriented.” Continue reading CES 2020: The High-Wire Tension of Innovation and Privacy

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