Back to my normal schedule 10/1
Friday, September 20, 2019
Check the full article for an Apple Tag rumor roundup
"Details about Apple Tags, the company’s Tile-like location trackers you can attach to things like your keys, bag, or bike, have leaked again. The latest screenshots come courtesy of MacRumors, and show a new “Items” tab, that replaces the “Me” tab in the new Find My app that rolled out yesterday with the global release of iOS 13.Apple’s location tracking Tags detailed in new leak | The Verge
”Keep track of your everyday items,” reads the Items tab when clicking in. “Tag your everyday items with B389 and never lose them again.” B389 is the internal Apple codename for Apple Tags, first mentioned by 9to5Mac back in April. The screenshots were sourced from an internal build of iOS 13 released in early June, according to MacRumors."
A more constrained Slack (at least in the enterprise)
"The share of large organizations that use or plan to use Slack next quarter has declined slightly to 33 percent while Teams has increased to 65 percent, according to preliminary surveys of company chief information officers and other leaders from market research firm ETR. So far for next quarter, ETR has measured responses from 845 of the world’s biggest organizations, including those in the Forbes Global 2,000, Forbes’ list of the 225 biggest private companies, and the US government.Startups still love Slack but big companies are bailing | Recode
ETR data also showed that 13 percent of large companies plan to decrease their Slack spending next quarter compared with 1 percent that plan to do so on Teams.
The general consensus among these big companies is that Slack may be a better product, but not so much better that it warrants paying for extra software on top of Microsoft Office, which they already require for business staples like Excel, Word, and PowerPoint."
Thursday, September 19, 2019
Amazon will order 100,000 electric delivery vans from EV startup Rivian, Jeff Bezos says | The Verge
For details on the overall Amazon climate strategy, see Jeff Bezos pledges that Amazon will swiftly combat climate change | The Verge
"Rivian is a relatively new name in the electric vehicle industry, having only debuted its pickup truck and SUV at the end of November 2018. But the company has been operating in stealth since 2009. Originally founded to make something that competed with Tesla’s first car, the Lotus-based Roadster, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe eventually pivoted the company toward a more action-adventure customer segment.Amazon will order 100,000 electric delivery vans from EV startup Rivian, Jeff Bezos says | The Verge
Rivian’s main push this year has been a massive fundraising effort, with the company securing enormous investments from a host of major players, Amazon included. Bezos’ company led a $700 million funding round last February, but it did not disclose the exact amount it was contributing. In April, Ford announced a $500 million investment in Rivian that the companies said would result in a new electric vehicle to be sold by the auto giant. Most recently, Rivian landed a $350 million investment from Cox Automotive, a big name in the retail and logistics space."
Obama offers a thinly veiled critique of Trump’s penchant for social media and TV news | Washington Post
On a related note, see Are Democrats ready for the coming disinformation tsunami? | Washington Post
"Speaking at a private event hosted by data company Splunk, Obama explained how he had approached the job, including some 3,000 political appointments, before offering this advice: “The other thing that is helpful is not watching TV or reading social media."
“Those are two things I would advise, if you're our president, not to do,” he said. “It creates a lot of noise and clouds your judgment.”"Obama offers a thinly veiled critique of Trump’s penchant for social media and TV news | Washington Post
WeWork’s Adam Neumann wants to live forever, be king of the world and the first trillionaire, says report | CNBC
Also see I got a contact high just reading this bananas profile of WeWork’s founder | The Verge; the full WSJ article may also be available without a subscription
"WeWork has attracted scrutiny over its unusual business model and governance structure, but the company’s strangeness seems to start at the top with CEO and co-founder Adam Neumann, according to a remarkable profile in The Wall Street Journal.WeWork’s Adam Neumann wants to live forever, be king of the world and the first trillionaire, says report | CNBC
Neumann has expressed interest in becoming Israel’s prime minister and the president of the world, living forever, and becoming the world’s first trillionaire, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation. He is also said to have told employees that the company could one day end world hunger."
From an excerpt of Bob Iger's new book, The Ride of A Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company; on a related note, see Disney CEO Bob Iger has resigned from Apple’s board | The Verge
"With every success the company has had since Steve’s death, there’s always a moment in the midst of my excitement when I think, I wish Steve could be here for this. It’s impossible not to have the conversation with him in my head that I wish I could be having in real life. More than that, I believe that if Steve were still alive, we would have combined our companies, or at least discussed the possibility very seriously."“We Could Say Anything to Each Other”: Bob Iger Remembers Steve Jobs | Vanity Fair
From a GM transformation strategy reality check
"Taking vast resources from businesses that make money and moving them toward businesses that (so far) lose mountains of it is obviously a large and risky bet. But the gamble isn’t the decision itself. It’s the timing. GM, which is pushing hard into electrics and racing into autonomy faster than any other carmaker, could be blowing cash for years before there’s any payoff. Already, its Cruise Automation unit has postponed plans to deploy autonomous cars this year. If driverless and electric vehicles take off more slowly than Barra expects, then GM will have prematurely jettisoned thousands of skilled veterans and killed off its smaller gasoline models, leaving the company even more vulnerable to a spike in fuel prices than it is now. Worse, it could cede a chunk of profits from the remaining decades of the internal combustion era to others.GM’s Mary Barra Bets Big on an Electric, Self-Driving Future | Bloomberg
Barra is adamant that GM will sell a million electrics a year in the very near future, while lowering costs and gaining an economy-of-scale edge that Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. would envy. In autonomous driving, Dan Ammann, CEO of Cruise Automation, believes a small group of companies will divide a trillion-dollar market. That’s the potential that has Barra risking so much."
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
The Game of Life: Visualizing China’s Social Credit System | Visual Capitalist
"In 2018, people with a low score were prohibited from buying plane tickets almost 18 million times, while high-speed train ticket transactions were blocked 5.5 million times. A further 128 people were prohibited from leaving China, due to unpaid taxes.One of several visualizations in the post:
The system could have major implications for foreign business practices—as preference could be given to companies already ranked in the system. Companies with higher scores will be rewarded with incentives which include lower tax rates and better credit conditions, with their behavior being judged in areas such as:
Despite the complexities of gathering vast amounts of data, the system is certainly making an impact. While there are benefits to having a standardized scoring system, and encouraging positive behavior—will it be worth the social cost of gamifying human life?"
- Paid taxes
- Customs regulation
- Environmental protection
The Game of Life: Visualizing China’s Social Credit System | Visual Capitalist
Facebook unveils charter for its ‘Supreme Court,’ where users can go to contest the company’s decisions | Washington Post
On a related note, see Why Facebook’s 'Values' Update Matters | Lawfare
"Facebook on Tuesday unveiled its blueprint for an independent oversight board to review the company’s decisions about the posts, photos and videos it takes down or leaves online, responding to a wave of criticism that inconsistent policies have undermined the platform.
The roughly 40-person panel is supposed to function as the social media giant’s version of a “Supreme Court,” serving as the final word for Facebook users who want to appeal the company’s moderation decisions. It will also offer recommendations for how the tech giant should tackle problematic content in the future.
“We are responsible for enforcing our policies every day and we make millions of content decisions every week,” chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a post. “But ultimately I don’t believe private companies like ours should be making so many important decisions about speech on our own.”"Facebook unveils charter for its ‘Supreme Court,’ where users can go to contest the company’s decisions | Washington Post
Review: Edward Snowden and the Rise of Whistle-Blower Culture in “Permanent Record” | The New Yorker
From a review by Jill Lepore; on a related note, see United States Files Civil Lawsuit against Edward Snowden for Publishing a Book in Violation of CIA and NSA Non-Disclosure Agreements | U.S. Department of Justice
"The patriot-traitor divide should be less a matter of opinion than a matter of law, but the law here is murky. On the one hand, you might think, if Snowden is a patriot who did what he did for the good of the country, then he deserves not only the protection of First Amendment freedom of speech but also the legal shelter afforded whistle-blowers, under legislation that includes the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act—except that Snowden signed an oath not to disclose government secrets, and neither the Whistleblower Protection Act nor its many revisions and amendments extend its protections to people who disclose classified intelligence. On the other hand, you might think, if Snowden is a traitor whose actions put his country at risk, the Justice Department was right to charge him under the Espionage Act—except that it doesn’t sound as though he were a spy. (Unlike Julian Assange, Snowden has criticized Putin, and the F.B.I. believes that Snowden acted alone.) “Permanent Record” doesn’t settle any of these questions, or even evince much concern about them. Instead, Snowden appears to have other worries. “Forgive me if I come off like a dick,” he writes, knowingly."Review: Edward Snowden and the Rise of Whistle-Blower Culture in “Permanent Record” | The New Yorker
Opinion: UC investments are going fossil free. But not exactly for the reasons you may think | LA Times
A timely and encouraging milestone from Jagdeep Singh Bachher (the University of California’s chief investment officer and treasurer) and Richard Sherman (chairman of the UC Board of Regents’ Investments Committee); on a related note, see Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns [Bill McKibben] | The New Yorker
"We are investors and fiduciaries for what is widely considered the best public research university in the world. That makes us fiscally conservative by nature and by policy — “Risk rules” is one of the 10 pillars of what we call the UC Investments Way. We want to ensure that the more than 320,000 people currently receiving a UC pension actually get paid, that we can continue to fund research and scholarships throughout the UC system, and that our campuses and medical centers earn the best possible return on their investments.Opinion: UC investments are going fossil free. But not exactly for the reasons you may think | LA Times
We believe hanging on to fossil fuel assets is a financial risk. That’s why we will have made our $13.4-billion endowment “fossil free” as of the end of this month, and why our $70-billion pension will soon be that way as well."
For a related perspective, see Why Apple Owns The AR Industry Even Without Owning AR Glasses (Comment Of The Week) | New World Notes
"Facebook has been working to develop augmented reality glasses out of its Facebook Reality Labs in Redmond, Washington, for the past couple of years, but struggles with the development of the project have led the company to seek help. Now, Facebook is hoping a partnership with Ray-Ban parent company Luxottica will get them completed and ready for consumers between 2023 and 2025, according to people familiar.Facebook working on smart glasses with Ray-Ban, code-named ‘Orion’ | CNBC
The glasses are internally codenamed Orion, and they are designed to replace smartphones, the people said. The glasses would allow users to take calls, show information to users in a small display and live-stream their vantage point to their social media friends and followers."
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
IBM's cloud capitulation continues
"In IBM’s vision of cloud computing, Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. will be allies rather than rivals.IBM CEO Sees Amazon and Microsoft as Cloud Allies, Not Rivals | Bloomberg
Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty is betting on the hybrid cloud, which lets IBM offer services on corporate customers’ cloud-based servers as well as on third-party clouds operated by the likes of Amazon and Microsoft. International Business Machines Corp. has traditionally viewed these cloud giants as direct competitors, but it now aims to partner with them by supporting clients as they shift sensitive databases on to the cloud, regardless of which provider they use."
"The company had been expected to hold its initial public offering within weeks. But in a statement released late Monday night, WeWork’s parent, the We Company, said that it anticipated the offering would be completed by the end of the year.WeWork Pushes Back I.P.O. After Chilly Reception From Investors | NYT
The decision comes after many investors had questioned the valuation of the company. WeWork had been privately valued at $47 billion in January, when SoftBank of Japan made a large investment. But the prospect of going public has focused attention on a business that is deeply unprofitable and will most likely remain so for years.
The We Company has been trying to rescue its public offering in a number of ways. On Friday, the company said it would reduce the power of its co-founder and chief executive, Adam Neumann, amid criticism of the business’s corporate governance."
First and final paragraphs:
"Despite being just $5, Apple Arcade still seems like a tough sell for some gamers, who are already bombarded with other monthly services like Xbox Game Pass. And I'll admit, as someone who doesn't spend much time on mobile games these days, there wasn't much about the service that truly excited me when Apple announced it in March. Sure, a library of mobile games that you can easily play across iOS devices, Macs and the Apple TV sounds nice, but I've already got way too much to play on other platforms. After spending some time with a few of Apple Arcade titles last week, though, I'm convinced it'll delight diehard gamers and casual players alike. Yes, there's a lot more than Frogger to choose from.Apple Arcade's best selling point: Games you'll actually want to play | Engadget
These games alone make Apple Arcade seem like a no-brainer subscription for anyone with an Apple device. It's $5 for the entire family -- the price of many individual mobile games -- it already has a handful of strong titles, and you can easily play across iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac. Apple needs to maintain the stream of quality of games, and could very well raise the price eventually, but for now, Apple Arcade seems like one of the best deals in gaming."
Also see Stallman's final interview as FSF president: Last week we quizzed him over Microsoft visit. Now he quits top roles amid Epstein email storm | The Register
"Famed computer scientist Richard Stallman has resigned from his position at MIT over recent comments he made concerning Jeffrey Epstein’s victims. He has also resigned as president of the Free Software Foundation, an organization Stallman founded in 1985, as well as from its board of directors. Stallman is perhaps best known for having initiated the development of the GNU operating system in 1983, as well as for his work campaigning for the use of free software.Richard Stallman resigns from MIT over Epstein comments | The Verge
Last week it emerged that Stallman had cast doubt upon the reports that AI pioneer Marvin Minsky had sexually assaulted one of Epstein’s victims. In an email chain sent to the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) mailing list that was published by Motherboard, Stallman said that “the most plausible scenario” was that Epstein’s victim “presented herself to [Marvin Minsky] as entirely willing.”"
Monday, September 16, 2019
Also see The Biggest iPhone News Is a Tiny New Chip Inside It | Wired
"You've heard of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 5G. Now it's time to learn another wireless communication term, because Apple has built it into its new iPhone 11 and 11 Pro smartphones. The technology, ultra wideband, or UWB, lets you pinpoint the exact location of phones, key fobs and tracking tags, helping you find lost dogs or automatically unlock your car.Apple built UWB into the iPhone 11. Here's what you need to know (FAQ) | CNET
UWB calculates precise locations by measuring how long it takes super-short radio pulses to travel between devices. It's well suited to Apple's rumored tracker tags. But UWB could also bring new smarts to your house, car and devices. Right now its use cases are limited, but UWB could lead to a world where just carrying your phone or wearing your watch helps log you in to everything around you and log you out when you leave."
"It should be clear that I’m pretty skeptical of the TV Plus project, but that shouldn’t take away from the broader story - that Apple is, mostly, doing things that are entirely natural and correct for this stage of the smartphone S Curve. 4bn people now have a smartphone, 5bn have a mobile phone and there are only about 5.5bn people over 14 on earth - this is a maturing market, with a maturing product. Apple won the high-end, Google won the rest, and this is now the time to optimise, iterate and execute, while thinking about what might be next. Glasses? Cars? Remember, Apple was working on the iPhone for 5 years before it launched, and Apple’s R&D budget is now larger than its total revenue in 2005."Apple, services and moats | Benedict Evans
Purdue Pharma, drugmaker accused of fueling the opioid epidemic, files for bankruptcy | Washington Post
Also see New York Uncovers $1 Billion in Sackler Family Wire Transfers | NYT
"Under the settlement announced last week, more than 2,000 small government plaintiffs and 24 states have agreed to the dissolution of the company and a contribution from the Sacklers, valued at $10 billion to $12 billion. But the settlement valuation is in dispute, and a number of states have balked at those terms.
The settlement, which does not include any admission of wrongdoing, would reorganize Purdue during the bankruptcy into a trust that would continue to produce OxyContin, as well as overdose “rescue’’ drugs that would be distributed at no cost to communities across the country."Some related statistics from Understanding the Epidemic | Drug Overdose | CDC Injury Center:
- "From 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people have died from a drug overdose.
- Around 68% of the more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid.
- In 2017, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and illegal opioids like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl) was 6 times higher than in 1999.
Purdue Pharma, drugmaker accused of fueling the opioid epidemic, files for bankruptcy | Washington Post
- On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose."
From a timely tech reality check
"But according to its most recent quarterly report, the number of Facebook accounts used daily (1.59 billion) and monthly (2.4 billion) each increased by 8 percent over the prior quarter. Despite all the anecdotes you’ve heard about people deleting their accounts, the company’s flagship app added about a million new daily users in the United States alone. Revenue was up 28 percent. Even factoring in the F.T.C. fine, Facebook recorded a profit of $2.6 billion.There Is No Tech Backlash | NYT
Facebook is not the only demonized tech platform; social media companies in general are routinely criticized as toxic swamps full of trolls, liars and bots. But again, there’s no evidence of any exodus. In the same quarter, Twitter added five million new daily users, and Snap reported that the daily user base of its flagship Snapchat app grew 7 percent, its best-ever performance as a public company. According to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of Americans use some form of social media, a percentage that has risen steadily for years and shows no sign of flagging. (The people I know who quit Facebook all use Facebook-owned Instagram, WhatsApp, or both.)"
Friday, September 13, 2019
Does the new iPhone creep you out? Scientists grapple with why tiny holes scare some people | Boston Globe
"The backlash comes from people who say they suffer from an obscure and perplexing condition called ‘‘trypophobia’’ - a fear of clusters of small holes like those found in shoe treads, honeycombs and lotus seed pods. Essex University Professor Geoff Cole, a self-diagnosed trypophobe and researcher in the United Kingdom who studies the condition calls it ‘‘the most common phobia you have never heard of.’’Does the new iPhone creep you out? Scientists grapple with why tiny holes scare some people | Boston Globe
The phobia isn’t recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose patients. But self-described sufferers and some researchers claim the images can evoke a strong emotional response and induce itching, goose bumps, and even nausea and vomiting."
Thursday, September 12, 2019
Final paragraphs from a curiously titled hybrid reality check:
"Coupled with some of the bigger changes in iPadOS coming later this month, it’s clear the iPad is increasingly moving towards more laptop-like tasks than ever before. There’s even mouse support for the iPad, although it’s limited at the moment. Now that every big iPad supports a keyboard we’re a step closer to seeing exactly where Apple will take this device in the future. The software that powers the iPad is steadily moving away from its smartphone roots, and now the hardware is offering iPad fans a way to transform the device into something beyond a tablet.Every iPad wants to be a Surface now | The Verge
Microsoft and Apple are at the front of the race to offer tablets that combine laptop tasks. Apple is catching up on the laptop-like side, and Microsoft still has a long way to go to address the tablet experience. Apple’s strength is the touch-friendly apps and simplified OS that exists for the iPad, and Microsoft’s is the three decades of traditional computing experience that has gone into Windows.
The search for the perfect 2-in-1 device has been going on for nearly 10 years. Now it seems within reach. We’ll be watching closely to see how initiatives like iPadOS, Windows Lite, and maybe even Chrome OS bridge the gap between the tablet and PC. One of these, or a combination of approaches, will ultimately address the needs of the majority."
New energy economics
"Iberdrola SA’s Scottish Power Renewables unit has submitted a bid for its 1.4-gigawatt East Anglia Three project, off England’s east coast. East Anglia One, which this week started to generate electricity from the first of its 102 turbines, won a similar auction in 2015, with a price of 119 pounds ($147) per megawatt-hour.Offshore Wind-Power Prices Are Plunging | Bloomberg
This latest round could see bids less than half of that, according to an executive at the company. The slide in prices highlights how rapidly offshore wind has transformed from a niche technology to a core part of the global push to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
“It’s going to be at a price that’s cheaper than anything we’ve seen before in the U.K. and probably at a price sitting below the government’s own projections,” said Jonathan Cole, managing director of Iberdrola’s offshore wind business."
Earlier in the article: "Larry Ellison, Oracle’s founder and chief technology officer, will handle Hurd’s responsibilities along with Safra Catz, the other CEO."
"In a separate statement, Oracle reported fiscal first quarter profit of 81 cents a share, excluding certain items, on $9.22 billion in revenue, which was roughly flat on an annualized basis. Earnings for the quarter, which ended on Aug. 31, met estimates, while sales came in just shy of the $9.29 expected by analysts polled by Refinitiv. Almost three-fourths of Oracle’s revenue now comes from cloud services and license support.Oracle CEO Mark Hurd to take a leave of absence for health reasons | CNBC
With respect to guidance, Catz said on the conference call that Oracle expects second quarter earnings per share of 87 cents to 89 cents. Analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected earnings of 91 cents a share, excluding certain items.
Oracle shares fell about 5% after the close. The stock is up about 25% this year."
In other Facebook + politics news, see The Myths of the “Genius” Behind Trump’s Reelection Campaign | ProPublica
"While all the major social media sites base ads on an individual’s online behavior, Facebook takes much of the guesswork out of it for advertisers. Millions already use it to talk about their fondness for one candidate, or dislike of another, so political ads can be aimed at exactly those voters most likely to respond. In effect, buying ads on Facebook should generate more bang for the buck.In 2020 race, Facebook winning the money game — again | Boston Globe
If only. In fact, the cost of reaching an individual via Facebook is soaring, because so many candidates are vying for their support — as much as $100 in ad spending for every $1 in donations. And that means an even bigger payday for Facebook."
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
A big win for Google Cloud Platform
"Mayo Clinic, one of medicine’s most prestigious brands, announced Tuesday that it has struck a sweeping partnership with Google to store patient data in the cloud and build products using artificial intelligence and other technologies to improve care.Later in the article:
The 10-year partnership is a testament to Google’s expanding role in the U.S. health care system and gives Mayo greater access to the engineering talent and computing resources it needs to embed its expertise in algorithms and commercial devices.
Google said it will open a new office in Rochester, a city whose economy, and very identity, is inextricably linked with Mayo, which invented the medical record more than a century ago and is now seeking to mine its data for new insights into patient care. The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed."
"[...] Mayo has also been exploring projects with DeepMind, Google’s subsidiary based in London. “There are enormous opportunities in our health care system to be able to diagnose and manage disease at a distance. We clearly expect to supply solutions outside our physical walls to be used by other health systems.”Google, Mayo Clinic strike sweeping partnership on patient data | STAT
From a timely academic funding reality check; also see On Joi and MIT | Lawrence Lessig and Thoughts on Larry Lessig’s thoughts on the MIT Media Lab / Epstein mess | Mary Lou Jepsen
"What might block an institution from accepting gifts from specific donors, to protect their reputation and a clash with institutional mission and values? The most obvious, as in the Epstein case, would be a donor accused or found guilty of a significant crime. A variant would be gifts from an autocratic country like Saudi Arabia, guilty of human rights violations or even murder.Fundraising in academia and the Epstein problem | STAT
Donors involved in non-criminal but embarrassing personal or professional events are also reputationally problematic. Another class of objections relates to politics, such as a donor whose political views and funding of causes that are not popular in the recipient community create angst about naming opportunities. David Koch, a prominent philanthropist who died last month, is a relevant case study. Though his politics were opposed by many, his substantial philanthropy was accepted by diverse New York arts institutions and several leading cancer centers, including the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, presumably following internal debate about balancing potential adverse effects on image and reputation against the benefits to mission."
Check the full post for a recap of the event highlights.
The 5 biggest announcements from Apple’s September 2019 event | The Verge
"Apple’s big hardware event for 2019 has wrapped, and, as expected, it brought a bounty of exciting announcements. Of course, the iPhone 11 happened — and, yes, a version is really called the iPhone 11 Pro Max — but there were a bunch of other good moments that are worth talking about."Perhaps the most significant news -- iPhone pricing (also see Apple’s iPhone 11 Has a New Feature: A Lower Price | NYT):
The 5 biggest announcements from Apple’s September 2019 event | The Verge
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Also see Apple 'Improves' App Store Search By 'Handicapping' Its Own Apps | Gizmodo
"Apple told the Times that the App Store was actually working as designed in these instances. “There’s nothing about the way we run search in the App Store that’s designed or intended to drive Apple’s downloads of our own apps,” Phil Schiller, the Apple vice president who oversees the App Store, said in an interview on the subject. “We’ll present results based on what we think the user wants.” The idea that someone would “want” to see the iTunes Remote or Clips apps ahead of Spotify or Pandora when searching for “music” frankly seems a little idiotic. That reasoning doesn’t really hold up.Apple ‘improved’ App Store search after its own apps unfairly dominated results | The Verge
But there was another culprit to blame. Apple says it had an algorithm in play that would often group together apps from the same developer in results. Since Apple’s apps have basic names like Podcasts or Music, they’d show up first — followed by a batch of other, irrelevant Apple apps right after.
The algorithm was updated in July, a few months after Spotify filed a formal complaint about Apple’s tactics, and search results quickly looked more sensible and balanced afterward. As the company faces an antitrust inquiry from the EU, Apple’s executives were careful to avoid admitting any wrongdoing or harmful mistakes. “It’s not corrected,” Schiller said of the algorithm. “It’s improved,” added Eddy Cue, who ran the App Store before Schiller took over those duties."
See Understanding Updates to Your Device’s Location Settings | Facebook Newsroom for Facebook's justification
"iOS 13, the forthcoming version of the iPhone software, will provide a pop-up that informs users about how many times an individual app has used background location over the past few days. Background location can be useful for many apps like maps or for Facebook functions like check-ins, but it can also be abused by app makers to collect data against the wishes of its users.Facebook warns about iPhone privacy change that could unsettle Facebook users | CNBC
That means that some Facebook users may soon be confronted with an Apple-created pop-up telling them that Facebook has used their location in the background some number of times over the past few days, and including a map marking where Facebook asked the phone for its coordinates."
"SoftBank and its Saudi-backed Vision Fund have pumped more than $10bn into the office space provider. But SoftBank’s enthusiasm for a listing has waned as bankers have slashed the valuation they believe the We Company can attain when it lists.SoftBank urges WeWork to shelve IPO | FT
Advisors for the We Company were said to still be testing investor appetite at a valuation of between $15bn and $20bn, according to people briefed on the matter. That is far below the $47bn valuation given to WeWork when SoftBank invested $2bn in the business this year.
SoftBank itself is trying to raise $108bn for a second Vision Fund to invest in technology start-ups. The Japanese group could face challenges raising that sum if the We Company were to list at a steep discount to its last funding round, the people said."
Monday, September 09, 2019
Also see How Each Big Tech Company May Be Targeted by Regulators | NYT and 15 Ways Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon Are in Government Cross Hairs | NYT
"The nation’s state attorneys general have tangled with mortgage lenders, tobacco giants and the makers of addictive drugs. Now, they’re setting their sights on another target: Big Tech.Facebook, Google face off against a formidable new foe: State attorneys general | Washington Post
Following years of federal inaction, the state watchdogs are initiating sweeping antitrust investigations against Silicon Valley’s largest companies, probing whether they undermine rivals and harm consumers. Their latest salvo arrives Monday, when more than 40 attorneys general are expected to announce their plan to investigate Google, delivering a rare rebuke of the search-and-advertising giant — and its efforts to maintain that dominance — from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The states seek to probe allegations that the tech industry stifles start-ups, delivers pricier or worse service for Web users, and siphons too much personal information, enriching their record-breaking revenue at the cost of consumer privacy."
Also see Microsoft Says Trump Is Treating Huawei Unfairly | Bloomberg and Microsoft’s president chides Facebook, urges new approaches to combat weaponization of tech | Washington Post
"Market shifts and the evolution of Microsoft’s business over the years help explain the transformation. It is less a consumer company than its peers. For example, Microsoft’s Bing search engine and LinkedIn professional network sell ads, but the company as a whole is not dependent on online advertising and the harvesting of personal data, unlike Facebook and Google.How Top-Valued Microsoft Has Avoided the Big Tech Backlash | NYT
And while big, Microsoft no longer looms as the threatening bully it was in the personal computer era. The company is a healthy No. 2 in markets like cloud computing (behind Amazon) and video games (behind Sony) rather than a dominant No. 1.
“Microsoft can afford to be more self-righteous on some of those social issues because of its business model,” said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School."
How an Élite University Research Center Concealed Its Relationship with Jeffrey Epstein | The New Yorker
Also see Director of M.I.T.’s Media Lab Resigns After Taking Money From Jeffrey Epstein | NYT and He Who Must Not Be Tolerated | NYT
"The M.I.T. Media Lab, which has been embroiled in a scandal over accepting donations from the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, had a deeper fund-raising relationship with Epstein than it has previously acknowledged, and it attempted to conceal the extent of its contacts with him. Dozens of pages of e-mails and other documents obtained by The New Yorker reveal that, although Epstein was listed as “disqualified” in M.I.T.’s official donor database, the Media Lab continued to accept gifts from him, consulted him about the use of the funds, and, by marking his contributions as anonymous, avoided disclosing their full extent, both publicly and within the university. Perhaps most notably, Epstein appeared to serve as an intermediary between the lab and other wealthy donors, soliciting millions of dollars in donations from individuals and organizations, including the technologist and philanthropist Bill Gates and the investor Leon Black. According to the records obtained by The New Yorker and accounts from current and former faculty and staff of the media lab, Epstein was credited with securing at least $7.5 million in donations for the lab, including two million dollars from Gates and $5.5 million from Black, gifts the e-mails describe as “directed” by Epstein or made at his behest. The effort to conceal the lab’s contact with Epstein was so widely known that some staff in the office of the lab’s director, Joi Ito, referred to Epstein as Voldemort or “he who must not be named.”"How an Élite University Research Center Concealed Its Relationship with Jeffrey Epstein | The New Yorker
Friday, September 06, 2019
Perhaps this pattern should be called the Galloway Effect (see, e.g., WeWTF)
"WeWork’s parent, the We Company, is considering selling its shares at a more than 50 percent discount to its valuation from earlier this year, according to two people familiar with the matter. And in recent days, the company has discussed having one of its biggest backers, the Japanese technology giant SoftBank, provide yet more cash and delaying the offering.After Breakneck Expansion, WeWork Stumbles as It Nears I.P.O. | NYT
If the public offering stumbles or is delayed indefinitely, it would be a big turning point for the often-frothy world of private companies backed by venture capitalists. Skeptics of WeWork who looked on in disbelief at the We Company’s rapid growth — the business is the largest tenant in the Manhattan office space market — would surely feel vindicated."
Facebook is making its own AI deepfakes to head off a disinformation disaster | MIT Technology Review
See Creating a data set and a challenge for deepfakes | Facebook AI blog for more details
"Facebook fears that AI-generated “deepfake” videos could be the next big source of viral misinformation—spreading among its users with potentially catastrophic consequences for the next US presidential election.Facebook is making its own AI deepfakes to head off a disinformation disaster | MIT Technology Review
Its solution? Making lots of deepfakes of its own, to help researchers build and refine detection tools.
Facebook has directed its team of AI researchers to produce a number of highly realistic fake videos featuring actors doing and saying routine things. These clips will serve as a data set for testing and benchmarking deepfake detection tools. The Facebook deepfakes will be released at a major AI conference at the end of the year."
Now available in the U.S.; see It’s Facebook Official, Dating Is Here | Facebook Newsroom for more details
"On balance, I suppose the privacy concerns about Facebook Dating are better grounded than concerns over competition. Dating apps are one of the most competitive spaces in the tech industry, with multiple highly popular new networks popping up each year. (In the end almost all of them are bought by Match Group, which owns Match.com, Tinder, and OKCupid, among many others.)Facebook Dating could have an unfair advantage over its competitors | The Verge
But then — social networking seemed pretty competitive when Facebook bought Instagram and WhatsApp, too. Facebook Dating is now available in 20 countries, and can bootstrap its own growth by promoting itself in one of the most popular apps in the world — while further enmeshing itself with Instagram. (Dating apps like Tinder and Hinge let you integrate with Instagram as well — but will that always be the case? Will Instagram stories come to them, too?)
And for the moment, it’s ad-free and doesn’t require in-app purchases to use any of its features. That’s a luxury that smaller products simply can’t afford."
A handy option, if you're still hanging on to any non-Apple devices...
"Apple Music is getting a big expansion today with a new web interface that will let subscribers stream music directly from a browser without having to install iTunes or a separate Apple Music app. The new web interface launches today as a public beta for subscribers at beta.music.apple.com.Apple Music launches on the web | The Verge
The interface looks a lot like Apple’s new standalone Music app that the company is launching with macOS Catalina later this year, except it runs inside a web browser. Apple says that it should work in all browsers, including Google Chrome, and on all devices, including Windows 10, Chrome OS, and even mobile platforms like Android."
Thursday, September 05, 2019
Excerpt below; also see An Op-Ed From the Future on Election Security | Lawfare
"Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft met with government officials in Silicon Valley on Wednesday to discuss and coordinate on how best to help secure the 2020 American election, kicking off what is likely to be a marathon effort to prevent the kind of foreign interference that roiled the 2016 election.On a related note, from an interview about The Fifth Domain: Defending Our Country, Our Companies, and Ourselves in the Age of Cyber Threats, by Richard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knake:
The daylong meeting, held at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., included security teams from the tech companies, as well as members of the F.B.I., the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security."
"Dave Bittner: [00:14:24] I must admit, I'm puzzled that given what we saw in the 2016 election, what I would have thought would have been a non-controversial notion that defending our electoral system would have bipartisan support. That's not what we're seeing. We're seeing, you know, Mitch McConnell blocking efforts to strengthen our security when it comes to elections.Big Tech Companies Meeting With U.S. Officials on 2020 Election Security | NYT
Richard A. Clarke: [00:14:49] Well, Mitch McConnell is - there are Republican senators that are interested in making progress on election security - Senator Lankford, Senator Rubio - but Mitch McConnell is blocking it. And his argument is pretty transparently false. His argument is, well, we don't want to federalize the Federal elections. That's nonsense. I think Mitch McConnell is once again pimping for Donald Trump and the White House. They don't want to improve our election security because they want the Russians to interfere again in the next presidential election. You saw Trump joking about it with Putin. The two of them sitting next to each other laughing and Trump wagging his finger at him and say, oh, you don't interfere in our election, and then laugh. You know, that's almost a treasonous act, I think. They want the same outcome as they had in 2016, which is the Russians being able to manipulate social media and perhaps even the election machinery to get this guy re-elected. They got him elected the last time, they want to get him elected the next time. McConnell knows that, and McConnell wants that outcome."
Also see YouTube’s FTC settlement won’t end its problems with regulators | The Verge
"The FTC’s complaint alleges that YouTube did not properly notify parents and get their consent before collecting and using their children’s personal information. Specifically, YouTube collected “persistent identifiers” – such as cookies that are used to track viewers over time and across websites – for advertising to children. For example, a toy company with a YouTube channel could set its account so that a child who visited its channel received ads for the company’s toys when the child visited another website. Such use of persistent identifiers to track children on child-directed websites without parental consent violates COPPA.YouTube pays big for tracking kids | FTC
Besides paying $34 million to the State of New York and a record-setting $136 million COPPA penalty – which goes to the U.S. Treasury – YouTube must create a system for the channels on its platform to identify their child-directed content. Once the order has been implemented, viewers of that content will no longer be tracked for advertising purposes. The settlement also requires YouTube to provide COPPA training to employees responsible for managing YouTube channels. And YouTube must comply with the rest of COPPA’s requirements."
For more details, see Slack plunges after posting first earnings report since going public | CNBC
"Slack Technologies cut an unusual path to its public debut earlier this summer, so it seems only fitting that the company’s first round of quarterly results is also breaking some new ground, namely showing that a stock can lose a quarter of its value and still be priced for perfection.Slack Was Too Tightly Wound | WSJ [Apple News+ link]
Slack posted its fiscal second quarter results late Wednesday, the first report since the company’s direct listing in late June.
The report showed the predictable strong revenue growth, deeper operating losses and continued cash burn as Slack continues to prioritize its expansion. But the key numbers were all ahead of Wall Street’s estimates, as was the company’s revenue growth forecast for the current quarter and fiscal year ending in January. Still, the stock slid nearly 14% after hours."
Wednesday, September 04, 2019
Social media is the perfect petri dish for bias. The solution is for tech companies to slow us down. | Recode
Separating fact with friction
"“Bias can kind of migrate to different spaces,” Eberhardt said on the latest episode of Recode Decode with Kara Swisher. “All the problems that we have out in the world and in society make their way online. ... You’re kind of encouraged to respond to that without thinking and to respond quickly and all of that. That’s another condition under which bias is most likely to be triggered, is when you’re forced to make decisions fast.”Social media is the perfect petri dish for bias. The solution is for tech companies to slow us down. | Recode
In her most recent book Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, Eberhardt recounts how the local social network Nextdoor successfully reduced racial profiling among its users by 75 percent: It introduced some friction.
Requiring those users to complete a three-item checklist — which included an educational definition of racial profiling — shifted the “cultural norm,” Eberhardt explained, away from “see something, say something” and toward “if you see something suspicious, say something specific.”"
In other recognition news, see Facebook will no longer scan user faces by default | The Verge
"Stephanie Hare, a technology ethics researcher, told the Post that the company probably decided to give customers the option to pay with their hands instead of their face, because it would feel less like a mugshot. She warns, however, that it might not be wise to give a company your biometric data and risk being a data theft victim, especially now that there are "a couple of nation states that are really good at stealing data..."Amazon may launch a hand recognition payment system for Whole Foods | Engadget
The Post says Amazon is hoping to roll the technology out to a handful of Whole Foods stores by the beginning of next year. It has no specific locations in mind for the launch, but it's planning to make the system available at all the supermarket's US locations. For now, Amazon is apparently refining the technology so it can bump its accuracy up from within one ten-thousandth of 1 percent to a millionth of 1 percent before launch."
Tuesday, September 03, 2019
Presumably easier to return...
"Samsung Electronics Co. is preparing to unveil its second foldable device early next year, a luxury phone that folds down into a compact-sized square.Samsung Is Secretly Working on a Foldable Phone That Collapses Into a Square | Bloomberg
The South Korean smartphone giant is working on a device with a 6.7-inch inner display that shrinks to a pocketable square when it’s folded inward like a clamshell, according to people familiar with the product’s development. Samsung is seeking to make its second bendable gadget more affordable and thinner than this year’s Galaxy Fold, they said. The launch of the successor device may, however, hinge on how well the Fold performs after its imminent launch, one of the people said."
iOS 13 Code Suggests Apple Testing AR Headset With 'StarBoard' Mode, 'Garta' Codename, and More [Updated] | MacRumors
Hopefully we'll see more about this during Apple's 9/10 event
"Namely, internal builds of iOS 13 include a "STARTester" app that can switch in and out of a head-mounted mode, presumably to replicate the functionality of an augmented reality headset on an iPhone for testing purposes. There are two head-mounted states for testing, including "worn" and "held."iOS 13 Code Suggests Apple Testing AR Headset With 'StarBoard' Mode, 'Garta' Codename, and More [Updated] | MacRumors
There is also an internal README file in iOS 13 that describes a "StarBoard" system shell for stereo AR-enabled apps, which implies a headset of some kind. The file also suggests Apple is developing an augmented reality device codenamed "Garta," possibly as one of several prototypes under the "T288" umbrella."
Also see Another convincing deepfake app goes viral prompting immediate privacy backlash | The Verge
"A Chinese app that lets users convincingly swap their faces with film or TV characters has rapidly become one of the country’s most downloaded apps, triggering a privacy row.Chinese deepfake app Zao sparks privacy row after going viral | The Guardian
Released on Friday, the Zao app went viral as Chinese users seized on the chance to see themselves act out scenes from well-known movies using deepfake technology, which has already prompted concerns elsewhere over potential misuse.
Zao is owned by Momo Inc, a Tinder-like dating service that is listed on the US Nasdaq."
Actual results may vary
"The American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and other groups said they had recently met with health regulators to push for changes to the rules. Without federal restrictions in place, the groups argued, consumer apps would be free to share or sell sensitive details like a patient’s prescription drug history. And some warned that the spread of such personal medical information could lead to higher insurance rates or job discrimination.Getting Your Medical Records Through an App? There’s a Catch. And a Fight. NYT
“Patients simply may not realize that their genetic, reproductive health, substance abuse disorder, mental health information can be used in ways that could ultimately limit their access to health insurance, life insurance or even be disclosed to their employers,” said Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, an anesthesiologist who is the chair of the American Medical Association’s board. “Patient privacy can’t be retrieved once it’s lost.”"