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If you are a developer and you want to use the Google Maps Platform to power direction or other location-based features in your applications, things can quickly get expensive. Mapfit, which today announced that it has raised a $5.5 million funding round, promises to challenge Google on price while offering geocoding services and vector-based maps that are just as accurate as Google’s (and sometimes even better). Among other things, Mapfit promises that it can figure out the correct entrances of buildings for 95 percent of addresses, making door-to-door navigation easier, for example. Mapfit also argues that it’s new vector-based maps are 95 percent smaller than the map tiles that other services often use. The service does offer those traditional tiles, too, though, and they include support for 3D buildings and public transit info. The company was founded in 2015 and gets its data from a wide variety of sources, including both commercial and open data sets. It then takes this data and runs it through a number of steps to validate it and enhance it with its own algorithms for aligning addresses with pedestrian and vehicle entrances, for example. Mapfits offers a free plan for non-commercial projects and developers who simply want to kick the service’s tires, as well as a $49/month ‘growth’ plan for startups that comes with 250,000 map views, 150,000 geocode requests and 150,000 directions requests. There is no limit to the number of mobile SDK and web users under this plan. For users who need more API requests, Mapfit charges $0.50 per 1,000 additional requests or users can opt for the $1,499/month enterprise plan which includes 5 million map views. The company’s funding comes from a group of entrepreneurs and investors that include Cavalry Ventures, Weihua Yan (Diapers.com, Quidsi), Roderick Thompson (ePlanet Capital, Baidu, Skype), Auren Hoffman (Safegraph, Liveramp), Daniel Waterhouse (Balderton), Jeroen Seghers (Sourcepoint), Matias de Tezanos (Hoteles.com, PeopleFund) and Joost de Valk (Yoast).

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Squarespace is launching its first email marketing product today. CEO Anthony Casalena and Director of Product Natalie Gibralter both told me that the Squarespace platform has been gradually expanding beyond a simple website builder by adding things like e-commerce and analytics. Gibralter said the goal is to turn Squarespace into an “all-in-one platform” for businesses, with email as “the first segue into a broader suite of marketing tools.” There’s no shortage of email marketing products out there — not just standalone tools, but also email marketing options added to competing website builders like Weebly. But for Casalena and Gibralter, one of the main advantages is how Squarespace has integrated email marketing into the larger platform. “We already have a lot of information about who’s been buying things from your site, we know if you have a blog … we can build all those touchpoints substantially better,” Casalena said. “It can be both simpler to use, easier to use and, you know, more on-point.” It also seems that Squarespace has used what it learned on the website side to a straightforward email builder that nonetheless results in a slick, professional-looking message — which is what Gibralter ended up with after a few minutes of demoing the product for me. The email builder includes customizable templates to start from, the ability to import content from your website or blog, and responsive layouts so that the emails will look good on desktop or mobile (not to mention a responsive design that allows you to compose or edit messages from your phone). It’s all managed from a central dashboard where you can see all your past campaigns, check their performance and reuse old layouts. Plus, it’s integrated with the broader Squarespace analytics product, which means that you don’t just see which emails got opened, but which ones actually drove traffic and purchases on your site. Gibralter said Squarespace is also helping businesses less obvious — but still important —ways like dropping in reminders about needed disclosures and options to ensure the emails are legally compliant, and saving colors for future use so that your emails reflect a consistent brand. (In fact, Gibralter said this feature is so useful that it will be added it to the website builder, too.) At the same time, Gibralter described this as “really the beginning,” with additional features like customer segmentation and drip campaigns on the roadmap. Squarespace says it’s starting to roll out email marketing to its existing customers at no cost. Starting in the fall, the company plans to begin selling this as an add-on to any subscription, with pricing starting at an additional $8 per month.

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Looking to expand the footprint of its toolkit giving developers a unified database software that can work for both relational and post-relational databases, YugaByte has raised $16 million in a new round of funding. For company co-founder, Kannan Muthukkaruppan, the new database software liberates developers from the risk of lock-in with any provider of cloud compute as the leading providers at Amazon, Microsoft and Google jockey for the pole position among software developers and reduces programming complexity. “YugaByte DB makes it possible for organizations to standardize on a single, distributed database to support a multitude of workloads requiring both SQL and NoSQL capabilities. This speeds up the development of applications while at the same time reduces operational complexity and licensing costs,” said Kannan Muthukkaruppan, co-founder and chief executive of YugaByte, in a statement.  Muthukkaruppan and his fellow co-founders know their way around database software. Alongside Karthik Ranganathan and Mikhail Bautin, Muthukkaruppan built the NoSQL platform that powered Facebook Messenger and its internal time series monitoring system. Before that Ranganthan and Muthukkaruppan had spent time working at Oracle . And after Facebook the two men were integral to the development of Nutanix’s hybrid infrastructure. “These are tens of petabytes of data handling tens of millions of messages a day,” says Muthukkaruppan. Rangantahan and Muthukkaruppan left Nutanix in 2016 to begin working on YugaByte’s database software. What’s important, founders and investors stress is that YugaByte breaks any chains that would bind software developers to a single platform or provider. While developers can move applications from one cloud provider to another, they have to maintain multiple databases across these systems so that they inter-operate. “YugaByte’s value proposition is strong for both CIOs, who can avoid cloud vendor lock-in at the database layer, and for developers, who don’t have to re-architect existing applications because of YugaByte’s built-in native compatibility to popular NoSQL and SQL interfaces,” said Deepak Jeevankumar,  a managing director at Dell Technologies Capital.  Jeevankumar’s firm co-led the latest $16 million financing for YugaByte alongside previous investor Lightspeed Venture Partners. What attracted Lightspeed and Dell’s new investment arm was the support the company has from engineers in the trenches, like Ian Andrews, the vice president of products at Pivotal. “YugaByte is going to be interesting to any enterprise requiring an elastic data tier for their cloud-native applications,” Andrews said in a statement. “Even more so if they have a requirement to operate across multiple clouds or in a Kubernetes environment.”  With new software infrastructure, portability is critical, since data needs to move between and among different software architectures. The problem is that traditional databases have a hard time scaling, and new database technologies aren’t incredibly reliable when it comes to data consistency and durability. So developers have been using legacy database software from folks like Oracle and PostgreSQL for their systems of record and then new database software like Microsoft Azure’s CosmosDB, Amazon’s DynamoDB, Apache’s Cassandra (which the fellas used at Facebook), or MongoDB for distributed transactions for applications (things like linear write/read scalability, plus auto-rebalancing, sharding and failover). With YugaByte, software developers get support for Apache Cassandra and Redis APIs, along with support for PostgreSQL, which the company touts as the best of both the relational and post-relational database worlds. Now that the company has $16 million more in the bank, it can begin spreading the word about the benefits of its new database software, says Muthukkaruppan. “With the additional funding we will accelerate investments in engineering, sales and customer success to scale our support for enterprises looking to bring their business-critical data to the cloud,” he said in a statement. 

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Swedish telehealth startup Kry has closed a $66 million Series B funding round led by Index Ventures, with participation from existing investors Accel, Creandum, and Project A. It raised a $22.8M Series A round just over a year ago, bringing its total raised since being founded back in 2014 to around $92M. The new funding will be put towards market expansion, with the UK and French markets its initial targets. It also says it wants to deepen its penetration in existing markets: Sweden, Norway and Spain, and to expand its medical offering to be able to offer more services via the remote consultations. A spokesperson for Kry also tells us it’s exploring different business models. While the initial Kry offering requires patients to pay per video consultation this may not offer the best approach to scale the business in a market like the UK where healthcare is free at the point of use, as a result of the taxpayer funded National Health Service. “Our goal is to offer our service to as many patients as possible. We are currently exploring different models to deliver our care and are in close discussions with different stakeholders, both public and private,” a spokesperson told us. “Just as the business models will vary across Europe so will the price,” he added. While consultations are conducted remotely, via the app’s video platform — with Kry’s pitch being tech-enabled convenience and increased accessibility to qualified healthcare professionals, i.e. thanks to the app-based delivery of the service — it specifies that doctors are always recruited locally in each market where it operates. In terms of metrics, it says it’s had around 430,000 user registrations to date, and that some 400,000 “patients meetings” have been conducted so far (to be clear that’s not unique users, as it says some have been repeat consultations; and some of the 430k registrations are people who have not yet used the service). Across its first three European markets it also says the service grew by 740% last year, and it claims it now accounts for more than 3% of all primary care doctor visits in Sweden — where it has more than 300 clinicians working in the service. In March this year it also launched an online psychology service and says it’s now the largest provider of CBT-treatments in Sweden. Commenting on the funding in a statement, Martin Mignot, partner at Index Ventures, said: “Kry offers a unique opportunity to deliver a much improved healthcare to patients across Europe and reduce the overall costs associated with primary care. Kry has already become a household name in Sweden where regulators have seen first-hand how it benefits patients and allowed Kry to become an integral part of the public healthcare system. We are excited to be working with Johannes and his team to bring Kry to the rest of Europe.” As well as the app being the conduit for a video consultation between doctor and patient, patients must also describe in writing and input their symptoms into the app, uploading relevant pictures and responding to symptom-specific questions. During the video call with a Kry doctor, patients may also receive prescriptions for medication, advice, referral to a specialist, or lab or home tests with a follow-up appointment — with prescribed medication and home tests able to be delivered to the patient’s home within two hours, according to the startup. “We have users from all age groups. Our oldest patient just turned 100 years old. One big user group is families with young children but we see that usage is becoming more even over different age groups,” adds the spokesman. There are now a number of other startups seeking to scale businesses in the video-call-a-doctor telehealth space — such as Push Doctor, in the UK, and Doctor On Demand in the US, to name two.

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Sumo Logic has long held the goal to help customers understand their data wherever it lives. As we move into the era of containers, that goal becomes more challenging because containers by their nature are ephemeral. The company announced a product enhancement today designed to instrument containerized applications in spite of that. They are debuting these new features at DockerCon, Docker’s customer conference taking place this week in San Francisco. Sumo’s CEO Ramin Sayer says containers have begun to take hold over the last 12-18 months with Docker and Kubernetes emerging as tools of choice. Given their popularity, Sumo wants to be able to work with them. “[Docker and Kubernetes] are by far the most standard things that have developed in any new shop, or any existing shop that wants to build a brand new modern app or wants to lift and shift an app from on prem [to the cloud], or have the ability to migrate workloads from Vendor A platform to Vendor B,” he said. He’s not wrong of course. Containers and Kubernetes have been taking off in a big way over the last 18 months and developers and operations alike have struggled to instrument these apps to understand how they behave. “But as that standardization of adoption of that technology has come about, it makes it easier for us to understand how to instrument, collect, analyze, and more importantly, start to provide industry benchmarks,” Sayer explained. They do this by avoiding the use of agents. Regardless of how you run your application, whether in a VM or a container, Sumo is able to capture the data and give you feedback you might otherwise have trouble retrieving. Screen shot: Sumo Logic (cropped) The company has built in native support for Kubernetes and Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (Amazon EKS). It also supports the open source tool Prometheus favored by Kubernetes users to extract metrics and metadata. The goal of the Sumo tool is to help customers fix issues faster and reduce downtime. As they work with this technology, they can begin to understand norms and pass that information onto customers. “We can guide them and give them best practices and tips, not just on what they’ve done, but how they compare to other users on Sumo,” he said. Sumo Logic was founded in 2010 and has raised $230 million, according to data on Crunchbase. Its most recent round was a $70 million Series F led by Sapphire Ventures last June.

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Another fallout from the massive Yahoo data breach that dates back to 2014: The UK’s data watchdog has just issued a £250,000 (~$334k) penalty for violations of the Data Protection Act 1998. Yahoo, which has since been acquired by Verizon and merged with AOL to form a joint entity called Oath (which is also the parent of TechCrunch), is arguably getting off pretty lightly here for a breach that impacted a whopping ~500M users. Certainly given how large data protection fines can now scale under the European Union’s new privacy framework, GDPR, which also requires that most breaches be disclosed within 72 hours of discovery (rather than, ooooh, two years or so later in the Yahoo case… ). The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) focused its investigation on the more than 515,000 affected UK accounts which the London-based Yahoo UK Services Ltd had responsibility for as a data controller. And it found a catalogue of failures — specifically finding that Yahoo UK Services had: Failed to take appropriate technical and organisational measures to protect the data against exfiltration by unauthorised persons; had failed to take appropriate measures to ensure that its data processor — Yahoo! Inc — complied with the appropriate data protection standards; had failed to ensure appropriate monitoring was in place to protect the credentials of Yahoo! employees with access to Yahoo! customer data; and also that the inadequacies found had been in place for “a long period of time without being discovered or addressed”. Commenting in a statement, the ICO deputy commissioner of operations, James Dipple-Johnstone, said: “People expect that organisations will keep their personal data safe from malicious intruders who seek to exploit it. The failings our investigation identified are not what we expect from a company that had ample opportunity to implement appropriate measures, and potentially stop UK citizens’ data being compromised.” According to the ICO personal data compromised in the breach included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords, and encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers. It considered the breach to be a “serious contravention of Principle 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998” — which states that appropriate technical and organisational measures must be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data. Happily for Oath, GDPR does not apply historically because the UK’s domestic regime only allows for maximum penalties of £500k. And given Verizon was able to knock $350M off the acquisition price of Yahoo on account of a pair of massive data breaches, well, it’s not going to be too concerned with the regulatory sting here. Reputation wise is perhaps another matter. Though, again, Yahoo had disclosed the breaches before the acquisition closed so any damage had already been publicly attached to Yahoo. An Oath spokesman told us the company does not comment directly on regulatory actions — but pointed to several developments since Yahoo was acquired, including the doubling in size of the global security organization; the creation in March of a cybersecurity advisory board; and the relaunch in April of an integrated bug bounty program. Also, as we reported last year, Yahoo’s chief information security officer, Bob Lord — who was in charge at the time the breach was unearthed — lost out to AOL’s Chris Nims in the merger process, with the latter taking up the security chief’s chair of the new umbrella entity, Oath. Security is certainly now being generally pushed up the C-suite agenda for all organizations handling EU data as a consequence of GDPR concentrating minds on much more sizable legal liabilities. The regulation’s data protection by design requirements also mean privacy considerations need to be baked into the data processing lifecycle, ergo policies and processes must be in place, alongside strong IT governance and security measures, to ensure compliance with the law — with the idea being to shrink the ability for attackers to intrude as happened so extensively in the Yahoo breaches. “Under the GDPR and the new Data Protection Act 2018, individuals have stronger rights and more control and choice over their personal data. If organisations, especially well-resourced, experienced ones, do not properly safeguard their customers’ personal data, they may find customers taking their business elsewhere,” added Dipple-Johnstone. Earlier this year the ICO issued a larger fine for a 2015 hack of Carphone Warehouse which compromised data of more than 3M people, and also included historical payment card details for a subset of the affected users.

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MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has created a system that can see your body through walls, recreating your poses when you walk, sit, or simply stand still. It uses RF waves to sense where you are and then recreates your body as a simple stick figure. It’s called RF-Pose. From the release: The researchers use a neural network to analyze radio signals that bounce off people’s bodies, and can then create a dynamic stick figure that walks, stops, sits and moves its limbs as the person performs those actions. The team says that the system could be used to monitor diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis (MS), providing a better understanding of disease progression and allowing doctors to adjust medications accordingly. It could also help elderly people live more independently, while providing the added security of monitoring for falls, injuries and changes in activity patterns. The team is primarily interested in using this system for healthcare, allowing for passive monitoring of a subject inside a room without cameras or other intrusions. “All data the team collected has subjects’ consent and is anonymized and encrypted to protect user privacy,” wrote the researchers. “For future real-world applications, the team plans to implement a ‘consent mechanism’ in which the person who installs the device is cued to do a specific set of movements in order for it to begin to monitor the environment.” The researchers trained the neural network by showing a machine a video of a person walking next to the RF interference they made as they moved. They then overlaid stick figures on the movement and trained the network to do the same automatically. Because RF signals are ubiquitous, it was easier to use than other sensing technologies. Interestingly the researchers never trained the system to see through walls but it was able to “generalize its knowledge to be able to handle through-wall movement.” “If you think of the computer vision system as the teacher, this is a truly fascinating example of the student outperforming the teacher,” said researcher Antonio Torralba. There is no word if the system will be used other commercial purposes.

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Facebook is cracking down on Chinese shopping sites and others that bait and switch customers by delivering lower quality products than what they advertised on the social network. Today, Facebook launches a new e-commerce review option inside its “Recent Ads Activity” dashboard that lets buyers give feedback about slow shipping times, weird smells, and junky merchandise. Users are able to access the ads that they have clicked, and provide feedback, by clicking on their Ads Activity, where they can also provide feedback on any ad they may have intentionally or unintentionally clicked on. Now, those responses will be tailored when they are related to ads that have resulted in a purchase, and they will also get fed back to advertisers as well as Facebook itself. Facebook is also expanding feedback options to more areas for those who have purchased items on the back of ads: for example, with prompts in their notifications. There appear to be two aims to the new feedback option. On the more optimistic side, for those advertisers who are selling but not managing customers’ expectations well enough, they are able to get more information to modify their practices. On the more practical (and pessimistic) side, if a business receives a critical mass of bad feedback, Facebook will notify them with an ultimatum to improve. If they don’t, Facebook will refuse to run their ads. Facebook’s efforts as an e-commerce platform are relatively young: it was only last week that it launched a way for those posting items in its community-focused Marketplace to advertise them also in the News Feed; and in May it expanded its Craigslist competitor also to include home services professionals. So, to make sure that its e-commerce advertising doesn’t die on the vine, it has to boost trust, or else its 2.2 billion users might stop clicking its shopping ads for fear of getting burned. “We’ve all had negative customer experiences with businesses,” Sarah Epps, product marketing director for Facebook, said in an interview. “Sometimes they’re hard to reach, late shipping items, or ship you low quality goods. What we hear from people is that bad shopping experiences cost them money and are really inconvenient. They’re bad for people, bad for good businesses on Facebook, and they’re bad for Facebook.” There is another reason for making the experience better for both users and advertisers: there has been research that indicates that some companies, which have grown entire businesses on the back of selling items via Facebook ads, are now looking for alternative platforms after the ads started to become too expensive. While policing the claims of every sketchy e-commerce vendor would be impossible, it can at least use negative reviews to choke off their traffic and absolve itself of profiting off their scams. Today’s announcement is a start to balancing reliability with avoiding censorship or unscalable enforcement. In that regard, it’s similar to the approach that Facebook has been taking with regards to offensive posts and outright fake news: rather than expecting or hoping that its algorithm can identify everything accurately, it’s also trying out upvotes and downvotes on comments, and currently works with third parties to fact check and flag news. Facebook’s move to let users’ experiences shape how advertisers sell products — and in the worst cases whether they sell them at all — stems from two years back, when Buzzfeed first brought to light an ongoing issue among those who were clicking on Facebook ads for merchandise — specifically clothes — and getting products that were far from what they expected. Facebook says that it’s taken two years to roll this out because of the nature of how things are purchased off the back of ads on Facebook. “We were exploring this issue before it was surfaced by the press,” a spokesperson said. “The biggest challenge is that this activity was happening off of Facebook — we only have limited ability to understand what you do once you leave Facebook from an ad. So it took us time to develop the proper feedback mechanism to solve this problem, and we wanted to make sure it was fair to businesses and helpful to people.” He added that the company already had policies in place that prohibit things like online scams, publishing ads with text that misrepresent products, and Facebook had already been proactive in enforcing against landing pages that do not represent an ad. “We enforce against businesses all the time when we learn they do these things. But now we want to get this feedback directly from the community,” he said. “Sometimes ads are totally in line with our policies but those businesses don’t provide shoppers with the best experiences after people have purchased with them — or once they’ve left Facebook. We spoken to people around the world to solve this problem.” What’s important to note here is that this is not a slam-dunk, where banning advertisers or certain ads from Facebook is the inevitable outcome. Facebook says that it’s just as likely that advertisers are making bad choices in how they present or run their businesses; not that they are intentionally misleading people. A bulk of the ads originally identified by BuzzFeed were found to be coming from companies out of China, pointing both to logistical and language challenges, among other issues. “We give businesses time to act on the feedback,” said Epps. “Of the hundreds of the businesses we’ve shared negative feedback with so far, many have taken steps to change. If they don’t show improvement over time, their ads won’t deliver to people’s news feeds. The reaction from businesses has been positive so far. That’s been surprising for us. There are some bad actors out there to scam people, but [most businesses do want to offer a good experience].” Updated with more comment from Facebook

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Yet more pressure on the precariously placed EU-US Privacy Shield: The European Union parliament’s civil liberties committee has called for the data transfer arrangement to be suspended by September 1 unless the US comes into full compliance. Though the committee has no power to suspend the arrangement itself. But has amped up the political pressure on the EU’s executive body, the European Commission . In a vote late yesterday the Libe committee agreed the mechanism as it is currently being applied does not provide adequate protection for EU citizens’ personal information — emphasizing the need for better monitoring in light of the recent Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, after the company admitted in April that data on as many as 87 million users had been improperly passed to third parties in 2014 (including 2.7M EU citizens) . Facebook is one of the now 3,000+ organizations that have signed up to Privacy Shield to make it easier for them to shift EU users’ data to the US for processing. Although the Cambridge Analytica scandal pre-dates Privacy Shield — which was officially adopted in mid 2016, replacing the long-standing Safe Harbor arrangement (which was struck down by Europe’s top court in 2015, after a legal challenge that successfully argued that US government mass surveillance practices were undermining EU citizens’ fundamental rights). The EU also now has an updated data protection framework — the GDPR  — which came into full force on May 25, and further tightens privacy protections around EU data. The Libe committee says it wants US authorities to act upon privacy scandals such as Facebook Cambridge Analytica debacle without delay — and, if needed, remove companies that have misused personal data from the Privacy Shield list. MEPs also want EU authorities to investigate such cases and suspend or ban data transfers under the Privacy Shield where appropriate. Despite a string of privacy scandals — some very recent, and a fresh FTC probe — Facebook remains on the Privacy Shield list; along with SCL Elections, an affiliate of Cambridge Analytica, which has claimed to be closing its businesses down in light of press around the scandal, yet which is apparently still certified to take people’s data out of the EU and provide it with ‘adequate protection’, per the Privacy Shield list… MEPs on the committee also expressed concern about the recent adoption in the US of the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (Cloud Act), which grants the US and foreign police access to personal data across borders — with the committee pointing out that the US law could conflict with EU data protection laws. In a statement, civil liberties committee chair and rapporteur Claude Moraes said: “While progress has been made to improve on the Safe Harbor agreement, the Privacy Shield in its current form does not provide the adequate level of protection required by EU data protection law and the EU Charter. It is therefore up to the US authorities to effectively follow the terms of the agreement and for the Commission to take measures to ensure that it will fully comply with the GDPR.” The Privacy Shield was negotiated by the European Commission with US counterparts as a replacement for Safe Harbor, and is intended to offer ‘essentially equivalent’ data protections for EU citizens when their data is taken to the US — a country which does not of course have essentially equivalent privacy laws. So the aim is to try to bridge the gap between two distinct legal regimes. However the viability of that endeavor has been in doubt since the start, with critics arguing that the core legal discrepancies have not gone away — and dubbing Privacy Shield as ‘lipstick on a pig‘. Politically bold and at the same time unavoidable finding on #PrivacyShield (aka #SafeHarbor 1.1)… #EUdataP #GDPR #DSGVO https://t.co/tdng3HQuz6 — Max Schrems (@maxschrems) June 11, 2018 Also expressing concerns throughout the process of drafting the framework and since: The EU’s influence WP29 group (now morphed into the European Data Protection Board), made up of representatives of Member States’ data protection agencies. Its concerns have spanned both commercial elements of the framework and law enforcement/national security considerations. We’ve reached out to the EDPB for comment and will update this report with any response. Following the adoption of Privacy Shield, the Commission has also expressed some public concerns, though the EU’s executive body has generally followed a ‘wait and see’ approach, coupled with attempts to use the mechanism to apply political pressure on US counterparts — using the moment of the Privacy Shield’s first annual review to push for reform of US surveillance law, for example. Reform that did not come to pass, however. Quite the opposite. Hence the arrangement being in the pressing bind it is now, with the date of the second annual review fast approaching — and zero progress for the Commission to point to try to cushion Privacy Shield from criticism. There’s still no permanent appointment for a Privacy Shield ombudsperson, as the framework requires. Another raised concern has been over the lack of membership of the US Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board — which remains moribund, with just a single member. Threats to suspend the Privacy Shield arrangement if it’s judged to not be functioning as intended can only be credible if they are actually carried out. Though the Commission will also want to avoid at all costs pulling the plug on a mechanism that more than 3,000 organizations are now using, and so which many businesses are relying on. So it’s most likely that it will again be left to Europe’s supreme court to strike any invalidating blow. A Commission spokesman told us it is aware of the discussions in the European Parliament on a draft resolution on the EU- U.S. Privacy Shield. But he emphasized its approach of engaging with US counterparts to improve the arrangement. “The Commission’s position is clear and laid out in the first annual review report. The first review showed that the Privacy Shield works well, but there is some room for improving its implementation,” he told TechCrunch. “The Commission is working with the US administration and expects them to address the EU concerns. Commissioner Jourová was in the U.S. last time in March to engage with the U.S. government on the follow-up and discussed what the U.S. side should do until the next annual review in autumn. “Commissioner Jourová also sent letters to US State Secretary Pompeo, Commerce Secretary Ross and Attorney General Sessions urging them to do the necessary improvements, including on the Ombudsman, as soon as possible. “We will continue to work to keep the Privacy Shield running and ensure European’s data are well protected. Over 3000 companies are using it currently.” While the Commission spokesman didn’t mention it, Privacy Shield is now facing several legal challenges. Including, specifically, a series of legal questions pertaining to its adequacy which have been referred to the CJEU by Ireland’s High Court as a result of a separate privacy challenge to a different EU data transfer mechanism that’s also used by organizations to authorize data flows. And judging by how quickly the CJEU has handled similar questions, the arrangement could have as little as  one more year’s operating grace before a decision is handed down that invalidates it. If the Commission were to act itself the second annual review of the mechanism is due to take place in September, and indeed the Libe committee is pushing for a suspension by September 1 if there’s no progress on reforms within the US. The EU parliament as a whole is also due to vote on the committee’s text on Privacy Shield next month, which — if they back the Libe position — would place further pressure on the EC to act. Though only a legal decision invalidating the arrangement can compel action.

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Big tech firms including Google, Facebook and Twitter have expressed major concern after Vietnam’s government passed a law that promises to introduce tighter restrictions on free speech online. The new regulation passed this week strengthens the government’s position on censoring the internet, drawing Amnesty International to decry that it leaves “no safe place for people to speak freely” in Vietnam. Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) — a group that represents Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Line and others — furthered cautioned that it would harm the development of the country’s digital economy. Among the broad points, the new cyber security law forbids internet users from organizing with, or training, others for anti-state purposes, spreading false information, and undermining the nation state’s achievements or solidarity, according to reports. “This decision has potentially devastating consequences for freedom of expression in Vietnam. In the country’s deeply repressive climate, the online space was a relative refuge where people could go to share ideas and opinions with less fear of censure by the authorities,” Amnesty International added in a statement. Internet censorship isn’t new to Vietnam, but the law increases the state’s potential to act. Concern is already high following a string of arrests over the past year which has seen bloggers jailed for discussing environmental issues, politics and more online. Beyond limiting free speech, the cyber law also applies pressure to foreign internet companies who will now be required to operate a local office and store user information on Vietnamese soil. Currently, in the case of Google and Facebook, data on Vietnam-based users is stored overseas in locations such as Singapore and Hong Kong. Google and Facebook both declined to comment, but they are part of the AIC which did make a statement condemning the new law. “The provisions for data localization, controls on content that affect free speech, and local office requirements will undoubtedly hinder the nation’s fourth Industrial Revolution ambitions to achieve GDP and job growth,” AIC wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, these provisions will result in severe limitations on Vietnam’s digital economy, dampening the foreign investment climate and hurting opportunities for local businesses and SMEs to flourish inside and beyond Vietnam,” the organization added. The people of Vietnam have also voiced their discontent at the new law. Bloomberg reports that demonstrations took place on Sunday ahead of the voting.

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If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why an app is requesting microphone access when there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason why it should need to snoop on the sounds from your surroundings, hold that thought — and take a closer look at the T&Cs. Because it might turn out that spying is exactly what the app makers have in mind. To wit: La Liga, an app for fans of Spanish soccer which has been discovered using microphone access combined with the precise GPS location of Android users to listen in on people’s surroundings during match times — in a bid to catch bars that might not have a license to broadcast the match being watched.  As surveillance capitalism goes, it’s a fiendishly creative repurposing of your users as, well, unwitting volunteer spies and snitches. It’s also of course terrible human behavior. Behavior that has now garnered La Liga a bunch of one-star reviews for the Android app — along the lines of “this app converts you into a police whistler without you noticing!” and “it spies on you via the microphone and GPS. Rubbish. Don’t install”. The snitch feature appears to have surfaced largely as a result of the European Union’s new data protection framework, GDPR — which requires app makers to explain more precisely what exactly they’re doing with people’s data. Ergo, La Ligo users started noticing what the app wanted to do and discussing and denouncing it on social media, where it blew up into a trending topic, as El Pais reports. In a statement on its website responding to the snitch scandal, the league defends its actions writing that it has “a responsibility to protect the clubs and their fans” from unlicensed broadcasts being made in public places, claiming that such activity results in the loss of an estimated €150M annually from the league. It also specifies that the feature is only deployed in its Android app — and claims it has apparently only been active since June 8. It also says it’s only used within Spain. La Liga further claims the spying functionality is used solely for the purpose of detecting unlicensed broadcasts of soccer matches. (According to its explanation of how it works, captured audio is converted locally into an irreversible binary code — and it claims “the content of the recording will never be accessed”.) A further technical measure implemented to limit how the feature can be used means La Liga only activates the microphone and geolocation of its app users’ mobile devices during time slots of matches in which its teams compete. So, tl;dr, the league is only spying on you to a timetable. It also defends itself by claiming information about the spy and snitch function is provided to users in a transparent manner and people are specifically asked for their consent and can choose not to allow it or to revoke it at any time. Although, the app’s description on the Google Play store does not include among several listed features — such as “live minute-by-minute commentary” and “schedules, scores, standings” and “real-time notifications and alerts right from kick-off” — ‘turning on your microphone to snoop on your surroundings during match times’… Funny that. According to Google Play store stats the La Liga app has had more than 10M downloads to date.

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Robot maker Patrick Stefanski has created a 3D-printed – and animated – model of L3-37, the droid in the recent Solo movie. L3-37 is one of the funnest – and woks – droids in recent memory and this recreation is fun and ingenious. Stefanski used Alexa voice controls to let the robot head respond to voice commands and he set the wake word to “Hey L3” to which the robot responds with a grumpy “What!” The version you see above is painted and weathered but you can 3D print your own pristine version from here and then add in a Raspberry Pi and Arduino with a simple servo to control the head motion. In all it looks like a lot of fun and the hardest part will be printing all of the larger head parts necessary to recreate L3’s saucer-like dome. It could make for a nice weekend project and looks to be surprisingly simple to build. Just don’t be surprised L3 rallies your DVR and air conditioner to revolt against attacks on droid rights.

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Metaboards, an Oxford-based startup that is developing new wireless charging technology, has secured $5 million in funding. The round is led by Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), with participation from RT Capital Management, and Woodford Investment Management. The burgeoning company will use the new funds to expand the team with the aim of bringing its patented ‘metamaterials’-based wireless charging tech to market. Founded in 2016 by professors and published researchers from Oxford University, Metaboards is applying the use of ‘metamaterials’ to potentially create a much-better wireless charging solution that would negate some of the shortcomings of today’s tech. This will include removing the need for alignment between the charger and device, and the ability to charge multiple devices without multiple charging points. More broadly, metamaterials are new types of materials made up of compounds such as plastics or metals that are arranged in ‘geometric structures’ that have properties not found in nature. The most extreme example could be an ‘invisibility’ cloak! However, metamaterials are a hot area of industrial research that has a plethora of more tangible applications. Metaboards thinks wireless charging is definitely one of them. In a brief call, Metaboards CEO Nedko Ivanov, who previously led audio and haptics company Redux — which we reported was acquired by Google last year — told me the startup already has a working prototype that it will demo at the next CES and Mobile World Congress. It is also in discussions with various OEMs to explore ways to bring products to market based on the tech. As well as negating the need for alignment, which, Ivanov notes, means that current wireless charging solutions aren’t that different to actually plugging a device into a charger, Metaboards’ solution has much better vertical reach/penetration. So, for example, rather than having to drill into a table to retro-fit a charging solution, in theory Metaboards’ technology could be placed on the underside of a table and effectively charge through it. Add in the ability to charge multiple devices on the same surface and things get interesting. “Metaboards’ technology makes it possible to charge tablets, games consoles and controllers, computers and any other non-metal electronic device at the same time and on the same surface,” says the company. It also points to a recent report from Grand View Research that predicts that the global wireless charging market will be worth $22.25 billion by 2022. Adds Ivanov in a statement: “This investment will help us to grow the company and extend our capabilities across all wireless power technology platforms to ensure we offer universal capabilities. We already have interest from companies looking into licensing the technology in the next six to 12 months”.

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Valve is officially bringing its Steam game platform to China as it aims to take a chunk of the world’s largest market of gamers. Valve said it will work with local partner Perfect World, which it previously collaborated on to release major games Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Shanghai-based Perfect World will control local promotional, the selection of games and distribution. There’s no confirmed date for when the Steam China service will go live. The move makes perfect sense. For one thing, Valve has a vast opportunity to tap into. China’s games market is booming, with Newzoo forecasting that it represented $32.5 billion in 2017, ahead of the U.S., Japan, Germany and the UK. PC gaming has always been the base for revenue, but mobile is growing fast with Tencent — one of the largest gaming firms on the planet — recently reporting that its mobile revenue has overtaken that of PC. But, as with all things China, access is uncertain. Parts of Valve’s service were blocked in China last December, although the ability to guy games remained intact. It isn’t clear why the partial blockage occurred — China frequently upgrades its firewall technology which can trigger changes — but working with a local partner is a more reliable approach than going solo. That said, Perfect World will have to manage the inevitable government censorship demands. Despite having no official presence in China, more than one-quarter of Steam users have the language set to Basic Chinese, second only to English, according to a user survey. Whilst that also accounts for the Chinese diaspora, it is a sign that Steam already has significant traction among China’s gamers. There’s plenty of competition in this space, so Valve won’t simply waltz into dominance. Tencent has its own Steam-like platform while NetEase has partnered with big U.S. gaming companies like Bungie and Blizzard.

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“The next hundreds of millions of riders for us are going to come from outside of the United States”, Uber’s head of rider experience Peter Deng tells me. The transportation giant already sees 75 million riders per month and 15 million rides per day. But to grow in the developing world, it had to rethink its app to work on the oldest phones and slowest networks. So Deng’s team traveled the globe asking people what they needed from Uber, but also what they didn’t. The result is Uber Lite. It’s launching today in India before rolling out to more countries, though there’s still a waitlist form instead of a download link. The Android app takes up just 5 megabytes. “You delete three selfies, you have room for Uber” Deng laughs. 300-millisecond response time means its quick to hail a ride, even for the 4 percent of users in India on sluggish 2G networks. And by streamlining the design and only showing maps by request, it won’t burn much data for users on a budget. Uber needs to score growth in developing markets after retreating while cutting deals with local winner like Didi in China, Grab in Southeast Asia, and a forthcoming arrangement with Yandex in Russia. India’s Ola rideshare service already has a ‘Lite” app that’s just 1 megabyte and a 45% share of the taxi market, compared to Uber’s 35%. Uber has reported has talked with Ola about a possible merger in India, sources have told TechCrunch and others. With the country making up 10% of Uber’s rides, it’s a market it can’t forfeit. To reach its full potential, Uber has to start out-competing homegrown competitors. Success with Uber Lite could give it leverage with Ola and path to gaining more of it around the world. “We know we’re not just a U.S. company, we’re a global company. Not only have we built this for the world, it was built in India” Deng tells me. Deng came to Uber in March 2017 after 10 years at Facebook’s various companies. It was early to the “Lite” idea, with its shrunken app reaching over 200 million users.  But Deng says Uber Lite didn’t come from stripping down the main app, but building it up from scratch. “The team has traveled to markets around the world to do in home interviews to understand the needs of the customers.” Compared to the 181 megabyte standard version, Uber Lite is a lot easier for low-storage phones to handle. Uber Lite launches not to a map or a text entry box, but instead a suggested nearby business or landmark based on your GPS. “You have to do less typing and can do more tapping” Deng explains. It also tries to guess your destination based on pre-cached popular city spots. You can input addresses, but Uber Lite won’t load a data-heavy map unless you purposefully grab for it. ‘Tap for map’. Same goes for your driver’s ETA. After you’ve selected your vehicle type and hailed, you’ll just get a countdown to their arrival unless you tap to see them on their way. Payment for now is cash only. But soon Uber plans to add India’s popular Paytm payment platform and credit card options. It’s also still lacking notifications, which seem worth the data. More languages will come too. Uber wouldn’t explain how, but it also revealed that it plans to offer offline hailing, possibly through some peer-to-peer Bluetooth mesh network or other technology. One other interesting test its running in India lets users punch in a code found at a bus stop to instantly hail a ride there. Another lets older or less phone savvy users phone in to an accessibility team that can hail a ride for them. It’s already offered web bookings. “The whole charter is to allow everyone around the world to experience Uber” Deng says. What Uber wouldn’t skip in v1 was the in-app support and a way to share your ETA with loved ones so they can watch out for you. “We knew how important safety was in these markets. I’m really proud we took additional steps to empathize” Deng says. The company is clearly trying to put the darker moments of its past behind it. While cynics might take the compassion talk as just lip service like the company’s big apology ad campaign, it’s also the reason some tech talent has stayed at or joined Uber. If the company is going to be unavoidable, making it secure and accessible is a pretty good reason to wake up in the morning.

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Naspers, the South Africa-based firm that famously backed Chinese giant Tencent in its infancy, is in talks to invest in Singapore-based startup Carousell, according to two sources with knowledge of discussions. Carousell offers a mobile app that combines listings with peer-to-peer selling across Southeast Asia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. That makes it well-aligned with Naspers’ portfolio, which features some of the world’s largest classifieds services including OLX, which covers 45 countries, Letgo in the U.S. and Avito in Russia. TechCrunch understands that Naspers is pursuing a deal with Carousell with a view to making it the firm’s key play in Southeast Asia and other parts of the APAC region. Discussions are at a relatively early stage so it isn’t clear what percentage of the company that Naspers is seeking to acquire, although it would be a minority investment that values the Carousell business at over $500 million. The deal could be a first step towards Naspers acquiring a controlling interest in the business further down the line, one source said. Carousell declined to respond when asked for comment. “It is our company’s policy to neither acknowledge nor deny our involvement in any merger, acquisition or divestiture activity, nor to comment on market rumors,” Naspers told TechCrunch in a statement. Timing of the discussions is notable since Carousell announced a $85 million investment round in May. (TechCrunch broke news of the round the previous October.) That deal — the startup’s Series C — took it to $126 million from investors to date and added big names to the Carousell cap table. EDBI, the corporate investment arm of Singapore’s Economic Development Board, and Singapore’s DBS, Southeast Asia’s largest bank, took part in the Series C, which also included existing backers Rakuten Ventures, the VC linked to Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, Golden Gate Ventures, Sequoia India and 500 Startups. Earlier this month, Carousell CEO and co-founder Siu Rui Quek told Bloomberg that the company had turned down acquisition offers in the past. Carousell is highly-regarded in Singapore for being one of the first home-grown startups to show promise — its three founding members each graduated the National University of Singapore, NUS. Aside from raising significant investor capital, it has scaled regionally it is battle against larger and better-funded e-commerce rivals Alibaba -owned Lazada and Shopee, a business from NYSE-listed Sea. In May, Quek told TechCrunch that Carousell has helped sell over 50 million items between users and it currently has over 144 million listings. Naspers, meanwhile, has upped its focus on Southeast Asia in recent times, although its sole deal is a $5 million investment in crypto startup Coins.ph. The firm remains best known for its Tencent deal, which is legendary in investment circles. Back in 2001, it bought 46.5 percent of Tencent for $32 million. Over time that was diluted to 33 percent, but it grew significantly in size as Tencent’s business took off, going on to become Asia’s first $500 billion company last November. Naspers resisted the urge to sell until March 2018 when it parted with two percent of the firm in exchange for around $9.8 billion. Another of Nasper’s big wins this year was Flipkart’s sale to Walmart which earned it $2.2 billion in returns.

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Sony wanted its E3 2018 press conference to be an event. Not the “we have 50 new titles to show you” event Microsoft just put on, so much as the get up and walk around kind.  It was kind of like one of those trendy experiential restaurants. The portions are small and you’re still hungry after the final course, but it’s kind of fun, I guess. The Last of Us Part II A trailer bookended with a passionate kiss showed up some extremely refined gameplay for the post-apocalyptic survival game. It was…gory. But, then, that’s kind of what we’ve come to expect from the series, and the crowd went predictably wild with each close up hack and slash on the big screen. Ghost of Tsushima Another stunning — and amazing gory — one on the giant display. This samurai story is set during a Mongol invasion, featuring a whole lot of sword to torso action and got its gameplay debut at the show. Control Not a lot to go on here, but the trailer has a real first-person shooter crossed with Inception, which is perfectly okay with us. Resident Evil 2 A remake for the popular zombie murdering series got what may well have been the most excited crowded reaction from the bunch. Lot of reveals here, but man was that face eating shot nice and close. It’s up for preorder today and will hit retail January of next year, Trover Saves the Universe From one of the co-creators of Rick and Morty, the trailer was fishing for laughs, but came up short, even in a crowd full of Playstation fans. Looks colorful, though. Death Stranding Norman Reedus ripping off his toenail was somehow more unsettling than all of the zombie murders of the past half-hour put together. Definitely one of the most innovative trailers we’ve seen so far — beautiful landscapes, close up child birth and hey, neat future umbrella. Marvel’s Spider-Man Game Due out in September, we knew this one was going to get some solid face time at the event. Sony showed off a good deal of gameplay, featuring your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man battle some familiar supervillians inside the Raft super prison.

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Coinbase may be one of the most-lauded crypto exchanges, but it supports just four coins right now which is far fewer than most others. That’s about to change a little after Coinbase announced plans to add Ethereum Classic (ETC), a fork of the Ethereum crypto token, to its service “in the coming months.” Ethereum Classic was created in July 2016 following a major hack on The DAO, a fundraising vehicle for the project. In short: the Ethereum Foundation, which manages the Ethereum token, continued on post-hack, but a splinter group created its own version of Ethereum — Ethereum Classic — that rescued the lost funds. A date for the introduction of ETC will be communicated via Coinbase blog and Twitter account in due course, according to the company. Coinbase is announcing its intention to list Ethereum Classic ahead of time so that it can test integrations as part of its new policy on adding new tokens, but that move is also in response to concerns that around inside trading when the exchange added Bitcoin Cash last December. Coinbase went so far as to investigate the incident which saw service outages and wild price fluctuations for Bitcoin Cash right after its addition to the exchange. Indeed, the price hit a high of $8,500 on Coinbase and its GDAX service for professional investors, which was almost three times higher than the $3,500 price on all other exchanges. That led to speculation that Coinbase staff and insiders could have profited by buying BCH on other exchanges in the knowledge that it was about to be added to Coinbase, thus spiking the price significantly. This time around with ETC, Coinbase will hope that its statement of intent to list the token further down the line will avoid the potential for foul play. This listing could be the first of many for Coinbase this year. In today’s announcement, the company again reiterated its intention to add support for ERC20 tokens — the type that are generated by an ICO — and Bitcoin forks in the future. Outside of adding new tokens, Coinbase is exploring how it can work with new blockchain technology including atomic swaps, sharding, proof of stake and more, according to CTO Balaji Srinivasan who joined earlier this year. Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

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If you had trouble accessing Netflix earlier today, you weren’t alone. Netflix tweeted that it was “aware” of streaming issues, but said soon afterward that they had been resolved. We are aware of members having trouble streaming on all devices. We are investigating the issue and appreciate your patience. — Netflix CS (@Netflixhelps) June 11, 2018 The streaming issues we reported earlier have now been resolved. Thank you for your patience, and as always, happy streaming! — Netflix CS (@Netflixhelps) June 11, 2018 A map from Outage.Report shows that Netflix was down for users around the world, with outages going on for a couple of hours. Outage.Report map TechCrunch has contacted Netflix to ask what caused the issues.

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Facebook’s hundreds of pages of follow-ups to Senators make for decidedly uninteresting reading. Give lawyers a couple months and they will always find a way to respond non-substantively to the most penetrating questions. One section may at least help put a few rumors to rest about Facebook’s role in the 2016 Presidential campaigns, though of course much is still left to the imagination. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), whose dogged questioning managed to put Mark Zuckerberg on his back foot during the questioning, had several pages of questions sent over afterwards. Among the many topics was that of the 2016 campaign and reports that Facebook employees were “embedded” in the Trump campaign specifically, as claimed by the person who ran the digital side of that campaign. This has raised questions as to whether Facebook was offering some kind of premium service to one candidate or another, or whether one candidate got tips on how to juice the algorithm, how to target better, and so on. Here are the takeaways from the answers, which you can find in full on page 167 of the document at the bottom of this post. The advice to the campaigns is described as similar to that given to “other, non-political” accounts. No one was “assigned full-time” on either the Trump or Clinton campaign. Campaigns did not get to hand pick who from Facebook came to advise them. Facebook provided “identical support” and tools to both campaigns. Sales reps are trained to comply with federal election law, and to report “improper activity.” No such “improper activity” was reported by Facebook employees on either campaign. Facebook employees did work directly with Cambridge Analytica employees. No one identified any issues with Cambridge Analytica, its data, or its intended use of that data. Facebook did not work with Cambridge Analytica or related companies on other campaigns (e.g. Brexit). It’s not exactly fire, but we don’t really need more fire these days. This at least is on the record and relatively straightforward; whatever Facebook’s sins during the election cycle may have been, it does not appear that preferential treatment of the two major campaigns was among them. Incidentally, if you’re curious whether Facebook finally answered Sen. Harris’s questions about who made the decision not to inform users of the Cambridge Analytica issue back in 2015, or how that decision was made — no, it didn’t. In fact the silence here is so deafening it almost certainly indicates a direct hit. Harris asked how and when it came to the decision not to inform users that their data had been misappropriated, who made that decision and why, and lastly when Zuckerberg entered the loop. Facebook’s response does not even come close to answering any of these questions: When Facebook learned about Kogan’s breach of Facebook’s data use policies in December 2015, it took immediate action. The company retained an outside firm to assist in investigating Kogan’s actions, to demand that Kogan and each party he had shared data with delete the data and any derivatives of the data, and to obtain certifications that they had done so. Because Kogan’s app could no longer collect most categories of data due to changes in Facebook’s platform, the company’s highest priority at that time was ensuring deletion of the data that Kogan may have accessed before these changes took place. With the benefit of hindsight, we wish we had notified people whose information may have been impacted. Facebook has since notified all people potentially impacted with a detailed notice at the top of their newsfeed. This answer has literally nothing to do with the questions. It seems likely from the company’s careful and repeated refusal to answer this question that the story is an ugly one — top executives making a decision to keep users in the dark for as long as possible, if I had to guess. At least with the campaign issues Facebook was more forthcoming, and as a result will put down several lines of speculation. Not so with this evasive maneuver. Embedded below are Facebook’s answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the other set is here: View this document on Scribd

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Facebook finished its homework. In a pair of newly uploaded letters, the two Senate committees that grilled Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in April have published the social media giant’s written answers to their considerable body of questions. Zuckerberg faced criticism for not answering many of the more intricate or controversial questions from members of Congress in the moment, but by playing it safe the company bought two months’ worth of time to craft its answers in perfect legalese. If you’re interested in combing through the 454 pages worth of explanations on everything from accusations of conservative censorship to Cambridge Analytica, you can dig into the documents, embedded below. Facebook’s answers to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee: View this document on Scribd Facebook’s answers to questions from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation: View this document on Scribd

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CircleCI is on something of a tear. The company’s continuous integration and deployment build platform is used by hundreds of thousands of developers around the world to create their own software. It has also received $59 million in venture capital funding, including a $31 million Series C earlier this year. As it looks to continue growing, the company is expanding its global footprint. It has opened its first international office outside of its SF headquarters, in Tokyo, Japan. As part of the opening, CircleCI is intending to eventually build an office of 4-5 employees and create partnerships with local companies. The company has experience in the geography, with several remote workers stationed there. It’s also the third largest market for the company, after the United States and the United Kingdom, where it works with local companies like CyberAgent and DeNA. “We are really excited about Japan, excited about global,” CEO Jim Rose explained. “Japan has been a market that has had its own momentum, and it has had speed that has picked up over the years.” Rose joined CircleCI as COO in 2014 through the company’s acquisition of Distiller, and became CEO in 2015. CircleCI has had a bottoms-up sales model, where developers can install Circle on their infrastructure anywhere around the world. The company’s message has been heard widely, with roughly 35-40 percent of the company’s gross revenues coming from global customers, according to Rose. However, CircleCI’s product is not just click-and-install. It’s also a whole new way of managing software in a cloud-native environment, which means that developers and managers are increasingly needing to work together to migrate legacy codebases from old models to cloud and Git-native ones. “What we have seen over the last six quarters is that that practice is starting to embed itself in large enterprise,” Rose said. However, that education, training and cultural change has been tougher in non-English speaking markets like Japan. Rose says that once a company gets beyond the first step of installing a system like Circle, “there is another step of socializing the product inside of those companies,” and “those efforts require local knowledge.” The hope is that a dedicated, localized team designed to bridge that gap will help CircleCI cement its products in developers’ workflows. While the U.K. is the second-largest market for the company, the company chose Japan to launch international expansion since its English language resources have proven adequate so far, and complications from Brexit make strategic planning in Europe more complicated. “There are a lot of moving parts around Brexit and GDPR and whether you can approach them as a single market or multiple. At the very least, you have to approach the U.K. as its own market separate from the EU,” Rose explained. CircleCI is still determining the right way to set up its international expansion in Europe to encompass successful markets for the company like Germany, France and the Nordic countries. Rose sees the company eventually increasing the share of global revenues to 50 percent. Japan then is just the start of intensifying global expansion for the company.

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As U.S. President Trump preps for a historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Twitter doesn’t want you to forget to tweet about it under the right hashtag. In a choice that seems to make light of a lot of really quite serious things at once, Twitter is promoting its new #TrumpKimSummit emoji for Tuesday’s summit in Singapore. US President @realdonaldtrump will meet North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un on 12 June in Singapore. Tweet with these hashtags to unlock a special #TrumpKimSummit emoji. pic.twitter.com/THa3IRlnTi — Twitter Government (@TwitterGov) June 10, 2018 The event-specific symbol features what appears to be a high-five between a hand representing the U.S. president and one representing the North Korean dictator known for executing his political enemies and exiling large swaths of his nation to prison camps where they face starvation and torture. Presumably they are high-fiving over the successful but by no means guaranteed or likely negotiation of an extremely delicate denuclearization agreement and the deescalated international threat of the mass loss of life through nuclear annihilation. The summit won’t be Trump’s first foray into treating an established despot and human rights abuser like or perhaps better than the leader of an allied nation, though it is Twitter’s first time treating such an event like a Game of Thrones season finale. Twitter’s event-specific emojis, sometimes called hashflags, are usually reserved for things like Coca-Cola branding campaigns (#ShareACoke) or the Super Bowl, not possibly misguided diplomacy efforts between international adversaries. In the future, they should probably stay that way. Goodbye grades. Hello shades. #LastDayofSchool #ShareaCoke pic.twitter.com/WBYPMzbKmU — Coca-Cola (@CocaCola) June 1, 2018 We’ve reached out to Twitter with questions about what inspired the #TrumpKimSummit emoji campaign and will update this story if we hear back or manage to make any sense of it ourselves. Assuming that nuclear war doesn’t break out.

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The web is a big place, and changing the way it works isn’t a simple process. But it has to happen somehow or we’d all still be using Mosaic and transmitting our private data in cleartext. A new security standard called TLS 1.3 is the latest big change to how our browsers communicate, but the process by which it was created is a little weirder and less structured than you might think. “Anyone can participate from anywhere. There’s no cost — you can just send your stuff in,” said Sean Turner of the Internet Engineers Task Force, an official sort of collective that evaluates new standards for the web and decrees them best practices. Turner and Joe Salowey, with whom I spoke after the standard was approved, are co-chairs of the Working Group that put together TLS 1.3 that upends years of security practices — all for the better, they hope. Far from being a smoke-filled room where elites and captains of industry dictate the protocols and algorithms that will define the next generation of online products and services, the IETF and bodies like it are throwbacks to the early days of the internet: lots of giant open email threads, hard tech talk and almost certainly a lot of subtle shade thrown at each other’s Linux distributions. But it’s still something of a closed system: How does the average developer get their suggestions considered by the committee considering a given proposal or piece of code? In the past pretty much everything was done by mailing lists. It worked well enough, but for TLS 1.3 the team decided to shake things up and move the process into a semblance of modernity. “This time we did things a little different,” Sean said. “We actually put the document on GitHub and let anyone comment. And then we were getting these comments where we were like, who are these people and how are they so good at this?” “The IETF has generally had this process with the mailing list,” explained co-chair Joe Salowey. “GitHub provided a richer mechanism for communication. It let people actually propose changes to the document that anyone could see.” “You had to actually propose what you wanted to see in the text rather than say, ‘I want to make this faster by changing it to this.’ It can be difficult to express those details on the mailing list, he continued. “GitHub facilitated that exchange, the direct editing.” Despite said facilitation, the process of creating TLS 1.3 took four years, which for people in the security world is simultaneously forever and no time at all. Standards must be ruthlessly vetted and optimized, since once in place they’ll be used billions of times a day and a mistake or rushed protocol could derail entire businesses. But at the same time, the security world is one of constant and evolving danger — so the sooner a better option is adopted, the better. “Every week there was another attack and people were like, ‘please make this stop,’ ” said Turner. But the process was neither shorter nor longer than it had to be. “People will say, oh it took so long. It took four years, and the average time is actually probably four years. We actually built in pauses so researchers could check stuff.” “We had participation from lots of people: browser makers, privacy advocates, Mozilla, the ACLU. We also got the researcher community involved and it was a wild success, to be perfectly honest,” said Salowey. “People were following different aspects of TLS and were able to provide feedback throughout the process.” Ultimately however, the group had to fall back on its legacy options: in-person discussion and the mailing list, which are the final arbiters for negotiation and ratification respectively. “There were a couple times we were stuck, but eventually it was about whether or not it works. If it was over two or three bytes, people would get over that.” Turner recalled of an IETF meeting in Hawaii. “One time we were at a meeting and two people agreed on the way forward — I pointed out that one of them worked for the ACLU and one worked for the NSA. I figure that’s the possible consensus.” But it doesn’t just come down to majority rule. “We don’t vote, we use things like hum,” Turner said. At first I thought “hum” must be an acronym or some specialized mail daemon. But when I asked about the practice, it turned out to be weirder and in a way more elegant than anything I could think up. “We literally ask people in the room to hum,” he clarified. “It’s very Quaker-ish and they’ve been doing it for a long time. It just kinda works.” “It gives a chance to be more anonymous rather than raising a hand or vote,” said Salowey. “People stand up and spread out, and we make sure the bosses are there. People can not hum, they can hum at whatever vol they want,” explained Turner. “People will hum yes and then one person will hum no, and he’ll convince everyone that they were wrong.” Anyone can volunteer to be more specific than humming or ask for more information, but there you have it: the future of the web is at least partly decided by people in a room humming together. Technically there’s a final consensus process done by email, but clearly the hum has stuck around for a reason. In this case the team was more than happy at what they’d managed to create. “It’s really hard to deploy crypto, but trying to get rid of stuff that’s out there is even harder,” said Turner. “We got away with simplifying, getting rid of the cruft.” “We took a lot of things out. We did surgery on pieces of the protocol that were prone to attracting vulnerabilities,” added Salowey. “That’s a hard thing to do. Some of the things that people may still rely on in certain circumstances are going to be going away, because the mechanisms are not as secure or robust as modern ones.” “But there were tangible benefits, speed and security — people were like, ‘let’s get together on this,’ ” he continued. So everyone’s a little safer, but both Salowey and Turner downplayed any credit they and their colleagues might be due for guiding the process. “People aren’t in it for individual fame or glory…we don’t really work that way,” said Turner. “If you can make something better or faster that’s just good.” Was there any tangible benefit aside from the warm, fuzzy feeling developers get after reducing the turnaround time for an encrypted packet? “Well… I made t-shirts for everyone,” Turner said. “And stickers!” said Salowey. You can get humming with the IETF by learning more here.

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posted 6 days ago on techcrunch
E3 news is officially coming fast and furious, a day ahead of the show’s official launch. Following a fairly disappointing showing from Square Enix, Ubisoft brought out the big guns, including Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy titles and a cameo by a beaming Shigeru Miyamoto. Here are the biggest announcement’s from today’s event. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Set in ancient Greece, the latest addition to the hugely popular title got a gorgeous new trailer, complete with Socrates — because what action-adventure title would be complete with out one of history’s great philosophers? The title is due out October 5 — refreshingly fast for a show full of “pre-alpha” demos. Beyond Good and Evil 2 The followup to the 2003 critical darling kicked off the show with an extended trailer and a touch of gameplay. The prequel is built around open-world action Star Wars-style space adventures. Currently in pre-alpha, the game is soliciting contributions from fans through Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hitRECord startup. Trials Rising The BMX sequel got some high-intensity gameplay footage at today’s event. Currently available in beta, the title will arrive on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch next February. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 Quite possibly the only game trailer with an Abraham Lincoln in the middle, the new Tom Clancy title is set in the nation’s capital following a zombie-style plague. The title will launch in March 2019. Skull & Bones Pirate games? This E3’s got ’em. Based on the naval battles from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the new title features large-scale tactical open-seas action. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle — Donkey Kong Adventure Another familiar face joins the Ubisoft/Nintendo crossover. The downloadable add-on arrives June 26 for the Nintendo, with Donkey Kong in tow. Starlink: Battle for Atlas Speaking of Nintendo, legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto was on-hand at the event to help introduce Fox McCloud and other Star Fox characters as exclusive add-on content for the action-adventure space title. Starlink is due out October 18.

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