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Apple accuses Facebook of ‘disregard for user privacy’ | Technology

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Apple has criticised Facebook for trying to “collect as much data as possible” from users, saying it will push ahead with its planned launch of a new privacy feature despite objections from the advertising industry.

The company’s director of global privacy, Jane Horvath, made the criticism in a letter to a coalition of privacy groups, reassuring them that the feature, which will require users to actively allow developers to track how they use other apps, would still be launched.

“We developed [App Tracking Transparency] for a single reason: because we share your concerns about users being tracked without their consent and the bundling and reselling of data by advertising networks and data brokers,” Horvath wrote.

She defended Apple’s approach to targeted adverts, which she said was based on demographic details rather than user tracking. “Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting,” Horvath wrote. “Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads.

“Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetise detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products,.”

The claim drew a strong rebuke from Facebook, which accused Apple if “using their dominant market position to self-preference their own data collection, while making it nearly impossible for their competitors to use the same data”.

“They claim it’s about privacy, but it’s about profit,” the company said.

The ATT feature, which is expected to be launched in early 2021, has sparked a wave of controversy since Apple announced its plans in July. When it is enabled, any app running on iPhones or iPads will need to ask users’ permission before accessing particular data that can be used to track them across other apps. This data is called the “identifier for advertisers” and the advertising industry fears users will refuse permission, harming its ability to personalise adverts.

In September, Apple agreed to delay the introduction of ATT to give the industry more time to prepare. That delay prompted another outcry, from the privacy campaigners Horvath addressed in Apple’s letter on Friday.

The Ranking Digital Rights campaign, a coalition including Access Now, Amnesty International and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: “These features will constitute a vital policy improvement, with the potential to strengthen respect for privacy across the industry. Apple should implement these features as expeditiously as possible.”

Apple has faced a separate complaint based on the very existence of the ID for advertisers. In a privacy case filed on Monday, the consumer rights activist Max Schrems argued that the tracking capabilities violate privacy regulations – and would continue to do so even after Apple’s planned changes were implemented.


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Amazon pushes holiday shoppers to pick up packages at stores

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An Amazon worker delivers packages amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Denver, Colorado, U.S., April 22, 2020.

Kevin Mohatt | Reuters

Amazon is pushing holiday shoppers to retrieve their own packages from brick-and-mortar retail locations and neighborhood “hubs,” as it braces for a surge in online orders.

The company said in a statement Monday that Amazon shoppers nationwide can now get their gifts delivered to one of its physical bookstores, called Amazon Books, or an Amazon 4-star location.

Amazon also highlighted its network of contactless pickup points, referred to as Amazon Hub, as an “alternative delivery location” for holiday orders. Hub locations refer to Amazon’s network of self-service kiosks and manned pickup counters, located inside or near local shops, as well as in residential apartment buildings.

Amazon said it was offering shoppers new ways to pick up their packages as a means of keeping their holiday season “spoiler free.”

“This year many customers and their families are opting to stay home so the challenge of keeping those special gifts under wraps from family, friends or loved ones is going to be greater than ever,” John Felton, vice president of Amazon’s global delivery services, said in a statement.

But it could also benefit Amazon in other ways. By pushing shoppers to have their orders sent to Hubs and brick-and-mortar stores, Amazon can cut down on the number of last-mile delivery trips that are necessary. The last-mile is an especially labor-intensive and expensive step in the delivery process.

To that end, Amazon also pointed shoppers to its “Amazon Day” delivery option, which allows them to pick a day of the week to receive all of their orders, cutting down on the number of boxes and deliveries. It reduces the number of trips Amazon has to make to a single address.

Amazon will likely need all the help it can get when it comes to deliveries this holiday season. For months, large shippers such as FedEx and UPS have been warning of a potential capacity shortfall, as the pandemic-induced surge of online shopping, coupled with the holiday peak, leaves them struggling to keep up.

Online sales this holiday season are expected to spike 33% year-over-year to a record $189 billion, according to Adobe Analytics.

Amazon is also managing tight capacity inside its warehouses after experiencing months of peak online ordering activity due to the pandemic. The company encouraged consumers to start their holiday shopping early in anticipation of the delivery crunch. Amazon kicked off its holiday deal season in late October, a month earlier than usual, following a delayed Prime Day.

Other retailers have followed suit. Walmart and Home Depot nixed one-day store events in favor of rolling out deals over several days.


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Snapchat to give users share of $1m a day for most entertaining clips | Technology

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The promise of viral fame has always been a lure for online content creators, but Snapchat hopes it has found a more immediate way of encouraging people to post pictures and videos: a share of a daily $1m (£747,000) prize.

The messaging app is to begin paying its users for their most viral snaps, as the platform moves to head off a feared exodus to TikTok with a new feed of user-generated content.

The new feature, called Spotlight, will be a major change to how Snapchat users find content on the platform – and also represents one of the most serious efforts yet on the part of a social media company to share revenue with all its users, rather than a narrow selection of the most famous creators.

“Spotlight will surface the most entertaining snaps from the Snapchat community all in one place, and will become tailored to each Snapchatter over time based on their preferences and favourites,” Snap said in a statement.

“As a way to celebrate and reward the creativity of the Snapchat community, Snap will distribute over $1m every day to Snapchatters who create the top Snaps on Spotlight, at least through the end of the year.”

The company created the new feature after realising that videos created with the Snapchat camera were regularly going viral on other platforms, such as TikTok and YouTube, because creators had little opportunity to grow their audience on Snapchat itself.

For users, the feed will be reminiscent of TikTok’s “For You” page, the crown jewels of the video-sharing app. But behind the scenes, Snap’s philosophy is very different.

Users must explicitly decide to post videos to Spotlight, but by default, their profiles will be obscured when they do so – a move which allows creators to dabble in content creation without running the risk of unwanted attention.

That anonymity also lets Snapchat promote the feed as a meritocracy: one where previous fame counts for little. The videos users see in their Spotlight feed won’t be affected by who they follow on the platform, and a new post from someone with millions of followers faces exactly the same hurdles as a first-time video from a new user in reaching the higher tiers of viral fame.

The company hopes that approach will prevent famous users from coasting on mediocrity, as well as encourage normal people to produce the most entertaining videos they can.

As will the $1m fund. Other platforms, such as Twitch and YouTube, have revenue-sharing agreements with top creators, but all require a certain level of fame to qualify. Snapchat is instead promising that any video that gets big – around 100,000 views in a day, the company says – will receive its share of the cash.

Before users can end up in the Spotlight feed, however, they will need to pass through a tier of human moderators, who both categorise the video – helping some of the personalisation elements – and ensure it fits the company’s content guidelines. Those include the expected limitations, such as bans on copyright infringement or underage alcohol consumption, as well as some others that fit the platforms idiosyncratic approach: “Spotlight is an entertainment platform, rather than a space for news or overtly political content,” the guidelines say, adding that they “should be vertical videos with sound”, rather than still images or text-only snaps.

Despite strong competition from TikTok and Instagram, Snapchat remains one of the world’s largest social media apps. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, Snap said it had 249 million daily users, with an 18% growth year on year. More than 40% of the US Gen Z population watched sports content on Snapchat’s publisher platform, Discover, in August, it added.

Snap hits

Damn Daniel

Teen Snapchatter Josh Holz’s videos of his friend Daniel’s white Vans trainers went unexpectedly viral in 2016, bringing the pair onto Ellen Degeneres’ show.

Anime lens

Snapchat’s AI-powered lenses have regularly gone viral in their own right, and a filter that turned users into Japanese Anime characters is its most recent success – though many of the most successful videos were made in Snapchat then posted to TikTok.

Jaden Smith

Snapchat’s Discover platform is a more traditional publisher-run space, where the company and media partners produce shortform content – like Jaden Smith’s series from this September, the Solution Committee, which addressed social and racial justice and urged viewers to vote.

Dance challenges

Sometimes the company has seemed to actively court Tiktok success. One recent collection of lenses saw Snapchat partnering with four TikTok stars to create lenses, which worked with specific dance trends, in order to encourage users to film themselves on one app and post to the other.

Jeremy Corbyn

In 2016, the then-Labour leader became the first head of a major UK party to join Snapchat, and his Stories were briefly the talk of Westminster.



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Amazon Echo Buds fitness tracking update released

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Amazon announces new wireless earbuds, Echo Buds, at an event in Seattle on Sept. 25, 2019.

CNBC | Todd Haselton

Amazon announced on Monday that it’s rolling out fitness-tracking features to its Echo Buds headphones. It’s a feature CNBC noticed Amazon was testing last year.

Amazon said the Echo Buds can track the duration of a workout, the steps you take, estimated calories burned and how fast or how far you walk or run. The feature is rolling out over the next couple of days, according to the company.

CNBC hasn’t tested the feature yet but dedicated fitness products, like smart watches, are probably able to provide more detailed information since they measure from your wrist. Amazon’s Halo wearable seems to be the company’s more serious approach into health monitoring.

Amazon said customers can get started by doing this:

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap “More” on the bottom of the screen.
  • Tap “Settings.”
  • Choose Account Settings.
  • Tap Workouts.
  • Select “Create Workout profile.”

After a workout, Echo Buds users can see stats by doing this:

  • Open the Alexa app.
  • Tap devices.
  • Choose “Echo & Alexa.”
    Select “Echo Buds.”
  • Select “Workouts.”

Echo Buds owners can start a workout by saying “Alexa start my run.” You can also ask Alexa to pause a workout, end a workout and request an update on your pace.


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