Facebook, Google and Others Challenge Zoom’s Dominance

The group video chat app Zoom has been No. 1 in the Apple store for more than a month, growing 740 percent in the last month, according to App Annie. The company, valued at $47 billion, now boasts 300 million daily participants. Success spurs competition, and Zoom is now in the crosshairs of Big Tech and telecommunications companies. After Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg urged a focus on completing its video chat projects, the company launched Messenger Rooms for as many as 50 people. Continue reading Facebook, Google and Others Challenge Zoom’s Dominance

China Launches Test of DCEP Digital Currency in Four Cities

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the country’s central bank, introduced a digital currency known as DCEP (Digital Currency Electronic Payment), which it said will share some features of bitcoin and Facebook’s Libra. It’s being internally tested in four large cities — Shenzhen, Suzhou, Chengdu and Beijing satellite city Xiong’an — aimed at improving its functionality and, in part, to prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The PBOC started its digital currency research in 2014. Continue reading China Launches Test of DCEP Digital Currency in Four Cities

Instagram’s New Stickers to Help Support Small Businesses

Instagram noted that, “small businesses are an important part of our community, and many are facing immense challenges during the COVID‑19 crisis.” The social media platform is now making it easier for small businesses to share gift card, food order and fundraiser stickers in their profiles and Stories. Aimed at increasing user engagement, Instagram is also trying out a new “Challenge” sticker for Stories which, when applied, would allow users to tag connections and invite them to partake in visual competitions. Continue reading Instagram’s New Stickers to Help Support Small Businesses

Rivals Apple and Google Collaborate on Contact-Tracing Tool

Long-time rivals Apple and Google joined forces to build software into smartphones that would alert people who have recently been in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. Users will have to opt-in to use the tool, which will be ready to release in “several months” and enable smartphones to “constantly log other devices they come near,” to accomplish what is called contact tracing. It also relies on a user’s voluntary report of having become infected. The two companies said they teamed-up in the last two weeks. Continue reading Rivals Apple and Google Collaborate on Contact-Tracing Tool

‘Zoombombing’ on the Rise, Zoom Works to Improve Security

As use of Zoom Video Communications’ conferencing services have soared, the company’s chief executive Eric Yuan has had issues scaling up the popular app. The nine-year-old tool, once a favorite in the business world, is now ubiquitous among a wide swathe of consumers, educators and others. Issues with privacy and hacking have arisen, and Yuan admitted he “messed up” on security, especially with the claim — proven false — that Zoom offered end-to-end encryption. Yuan said the full encryption feature will be available in a few months. Meanwhile, some users are switching to other platforms. Continue reading ‘Zoombombing’ on the Rise, Zoom Works to Improve Security

Washington Inks Facial Recognition Law Backed by Microsoft

In Washington state, governor Jay Inslee just signed a law regulating facial recognition backed by Microsoft that could potentially be a model for other U.S. states. The law allows government agencies to use facial recognition but restricts it from using it for broad surveillance or tracking innocent people. It is more permissive than at least seven U.S. cities that have blocked government use of facial recognition technology due to fears of privacy violations and bias but stricter than states without such laws. Continue reading Washington Inks Facial Recognition Law Backed by Microsoft

Zoom Use Skyrockets, Revealing Privacy and Security Issues

Remote conferencing services company Zoom Video Communications has become an overnight success as more Americans stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. Zoom, once mainly used by businesses, is now being used for everything from yoga courses to happy hours, but is also stretching the tool’s limits to serve both those who pay for the premium service and consumers who gravitate to the free version. There’s also a dark side to Zoom’s uptick: online trolls who “Zoombomb” meetings, and concerns about the San Jose-based company’s privacy policies. Continue reading Zoom Use Skyrockets, Revealing Privacy and Security Issues

Government, MIT Analyze Location Data For Spread of Virus

During the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. federal government, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local governments, is receiving analyses of people’s movements — based on location data from millions of mobile phones — in “certain areas of geographic interest.” The data, provided by the mobile advertising industry, is being used to understand how such movements may be impacting the spread of coronavirus. MIT researchers are also debuting a project to track COVID-19 patients via a phone app. Continue reading Government, MIT Analyze Location Data For Spread of Virus

Stanford Project Studies Phone Use, Aims to Identify Patterns

Starting three years ago, Stanford University researchers began the Human Screenome Project to create a digital map with detailed information about how people use their phones. Stanford School of Medicine professor of pediatrics Thomas Robinson, one of the lead researchers on the project, is focused on the portion of the project on adolescents. Although the iPhone first debuted over ten years ago, said the researchers, we have very little information about how such screens impact this cohort’s well-being. Continue reading Stanford Project Studies Phone Use, Aims to Identify Patterns

House of Representatives Okays Extension of Surveillance Act

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 278 to 136 for the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020, to extend provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This legislation established rules for surveillance and information collection “between foreign powers or agents of foreign powers suspected of espionage or terrorism.” Although the House is led by Democrats, the vote was bipartisan, with 152 Democrats and 226 Republicans approving the act. The measure will now go to the Senate, on recess next week. Continue reading House of Representatives Okays Extension of Surveillance Act

Bipartisan Bill Would Further Regulate Online Content for Kids

Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) introduced the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, which would regulate how companies such as YouTube and TikTok handle what is accessible to children online, including advertising, app design and potentially harmful content. One of the main targets of the new bill are so-called unboxing videos, such as YouTube channel “Ryan’s World,” which can get millions of views. The KIDS Act would not ban the content, but prohibit the platform from recommending it to kids, curbing its distribution. Continue reading Bipartisan Bill Would Further Regulate Online Content for Kids

TikTok Now Political Forum For Youth, Tech Execs Decry App

The younger demographic that gravitates to TikTok is turning it into a political force, forming political coalitions — called hype houses — for their favored candidates, fact-checking others, posting news updates and commenting in real-time. Hype houses come in conservative, liberal, bipartisan and undecided flavors, and are amassing hundreds of thousands of followers. Reddit chief executive and co-founder Steve Huffman, however, is concerned about TikTok’s privacy policies, calling the app “fundamentally parasitic.” Continue reading TikTok Now Political Forum For Youth, Tech Execs Decry App

EU Plans to Propose New Regulations on Artificial Intelligence

As the European Union readies to release new rules to govern digital platforms, Big Tech chief executives have made the trip to Brussels to add to the discussion on artificial intelligence. Alphabet chief executive Sundar Pichai, for example, noted during his trip to Brussels that, “while AI promises enormous benefits for Europe and the world, there are real concerns about the potential negative consequences.” With its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU has set a standard that others look to follow. Continue reading EU Plans to Propose New Regulations on Artificial Intelligence

Facebook White Paper Reveals Ideas For Internet Regulation

Facebook published a white paper outlining how it would like lawmakers to regulate the Internet, including a new model for platforms’ legal liability and a “new type of regulator” to oversee the rules governing harmful content. The white paper appeared at the same time chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote an op-ed published in The Financial Times and went to Brussels for meetings with European Commission executive vice president/competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager and other senior EU officials. Continue reading Facebook White Paper Reveals Ideas For Internet Regulation

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

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