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Snapchat Rolls Out Lens Challenges, A Global Feature Tied To Music, Dance, Holidays And Events.

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Snapchat has launched a new feature called Lens Challenges, which allows users around the world to take part in challenges with other users.

Participants create and send “Snaps” that use a lens tied to a song, dance, holiday, event or the like. One holiday-themed example debuting along with Challenges is a sing-along to Gwen Stefani’s version of “Jingle Bells.”

The Challenges feature is intended to “inspire creativity, self-expression, and community for Snapchatters and Lens Creators alike,” the company said in its announcement.

Snap’s announcement said the company expects Lens Studio to be used by Challenge participants. The first community-created Lens Challenge is the “Disappear” Challenge, which invites users to share what the company calls “their most creative ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ moment.” The Lens was made by Jye Trudinger (known in Snapchat circles as Jinnie the Wew) and prompts users to take two photos that superimpose, causing the photo’s subject to disappear.

While it remains popular with teens and 20-somethings, who are highly prized by brand marketers, Snapchat saw a decline of 2 million daily active users in the third quarter, to 186 million. The company has seen some senior executives depart in recent months and faced ongoing complaints about its 2017 app redesign and long-delayed Android upgrade. Within its social media peer group, however, it has managed to avoid the privacy, data and political scandals that have afflicted Facebook and Twitter.

Investors remain circumspect about the company’s fortunes. Its stock price began the year at $14.50 a share but in recent weeks sank to $5.51, an all-time low. Thus far today, it is up 1% to $5.71.

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Facebook’s Data-sharing Deals With 150 Companies Reportedly Under Criminal Probe After Users’ Data Was Shared Without Their Consent

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Facebook is being investigated for allegedly sharing its users' data with dozens of tech companies without their knowledge.

Prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals struck by the social media giant with some of the world’s largest technology companies amid intense scrutiny of the firm in recent years.

A New York grand jury has subpoenaed records from two smartphone makers involved in the partnerships, anonymous sources told The New York Times.

It is understood that data shared without users' knowledge included friends' names, genders and birth dates.

Facebook claimed in June that it provided dozens of tech companies with special access to user data after publicly saying it restricted such access in 2015.

The New York Times reported that Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony, cut data sharing deals with the world’s dominant social media platform.

However, Facebook continued sharing information with 61 hardware and software makers after it said it discontinued the practice in May 2015.

The agreements let the companies see users’ friends, contact information and other data, sometimes without consent.

Facebook has phased out most of the partnerships over the past two years.

A spokesman for the social network said: 'We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously.

'We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions and pledged that we will continue to do so.'

It is not known when the grand jury inquiry, overseen by prosecutors with the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, began or exactly what it is focusing on.

Facebook is facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over its privacy practices, including ongoing investigations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and two state agencies in New York.

In addition to looking at the data deals, the probes focus on disclosures that the company shared the user data of 87 million people with Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm that worked with U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign.

Since then, Facebook CEO Marc Zuckerberg has testified in front of Congress and the European Parliament to answer questions about Facebook's handling of user data.

In April Zuckerberg took questions for nearly five hours in a Senate hearing without making any further promises to support new legislation or change how the social network does business, foiling attempts by senators to pin him down.

Zuckerberg faced broad concerns from members of Congress about how Facebook shares user data.

'How can consumers have control over their data when Facebook does not have control over the data?' asked Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce committee.

The latest estimate of affected users is up to 87 million.

Patience with the social network had already worn thin among users, advertisers and investors after the company said last year that Russia used Facebook for years to try to sway U.S. politics, an allegation Moscow denies.

Lawmakers have sought assurances that Facebook can effectively police itself, and few came away from the hearing expressing confidence in the social network.

'I don't want to vote to have to regulate Facebook, but by God, I will,' Republican Senator John Kennedy told Zuckerberg on Tuesday. 'A lot of that depends on you.'

Zuckerberg deflected requests to support specific legislation. Pressed repeatedly last year by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey to endorse a proposed law that would require companies to get people's permission before sharing personal information, Zuckerberg agreed to further talks.

'In principle, I think that makes sense, and the details matter, and I look forward to having our team work with you on fleshing that out,' Zuckerberg said.

Facebook has defended the data-sharing deals, first reported in December, saying none of the partnerships gave companies access to information without people's permission.

A spokesman for the United States attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York, which The New York Times reported is overseeing the inquiry, said he could not confirm or deny the probe.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has taken hits to her reputation as she continues to be the frontwoman for Facebook's excuses over its privacy shortfalls.

It emerged last month that the company took advantage of Apple's enterprise developer certificate, which enables companies to distribute apps internally, to create an app that paid users as young as 13 to share their phone activity with Facebook.

Among the data collected from teens by the app was all of their phone and web activity, information on apps they installed, when they used them and what they did on them.

'I want to be clear what this is. This is a Facebook research app,' Sandberg told CNBC.

'It's completely opt-in. There is a rigorous consent flow and people are compensated.

'The important thing is that people involved in that research project knew they were involved and consented.'

Source: Daily Mail.

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Twitter’s Updated Camera Looks A Lot Like Instagram.

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Twitter today introduced a revamped version of its camera that’s designed to promote more sharing of photos and videos on the text-centric network. Swipe left on the timeline in the updated app to see the camera, which allows you to snap a photo or take a looping video of up to two minutes by tapping or holding a circular capture button. You can also tap a “live” button to begin broadcasting a stream to your followers directly from Twitter.

The new camera does not include an option to upload photos or videos that you’ve already taken, although you can still do that from the regular tweet composer. Keith Coleman, Twitter’s vice president of product, told reporters this week that the company wants to encourage people to capture more visual moments from the world around them directly from the app.

It also promotes live-streaming using a foundation built by Periscope, the live-streaming app that Twitter acquired in 2015 and is increasingly integrating into its flagship app. No Periscope branding appears on the camera’s new live-streaming feature, which lets you broadcast either via video or audio-only feeds.

Photos and videos captured using the new camera will get special visual treatment inside Twitter. Once you’ve snapped your image, a colorful chyron appears on top, ready to add an optional location and caption. You can change the chyron from the default blue to one of five other colors.

Twitter will also search the area around you for events where you might be tweeting, such as this week’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, where Coleman demonstrated the new features. Walking around Austin this week, Twitter suggested I add #SXSW to my tweets — and if I did, the tweets would be added automatically to the event carousel for SXSW that appears in search.

By giving the images captured inside the app a more colorful visual treatment, Twitter might encourage more people to use its long-neglected camera. While the company has dabbled in adding more creation features to the camera, most notably stickers, it has long been an afterthought for the company’s notoriously lethargic product division.

In part, that reflects a belief at the company that the timeline would always be primarily text-based, as it had already lost the image-sharing game to Instagram and others. At the same time, viral images have been essential to Twitter almost since the beginning. One of the company’s breakout moments came a decade ago when a user snapped a photo of a US Airways plane crash-landing in the Hudson River. (At the time, Twitter didn’t even host photos natively, forcing the user to post a link to a now-dead service called TwitPic.)

When I’ve asked current and former employees about the Twitter camera in the past, they’ve told me that the company has not prioritized its development because very few people use it. Of course, the reverse is also true: very few people use it because Twitter so obviously does not prioritize it. Coleman told reporters that the company plans to increase the pace of development on camera features in coming months. If so, it will be both welcome and long overdue.

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Spotify Files Antitrust Complaint Over ‘Apple Tax’

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Spotify announced this morning that it’s filed an antitrust complaint against Apple with the European Union, alleging that the iPhone maker is harming consumer choice and stifling innovation via the rules it enforces on the App Store.

As Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek outlined in a blog post, the company is particularly annoyed about the 30 percent cut Apple takes from subscriptions made via the App Store. This “tax,” suggests Ek, seems designed to harm streaming services that compete with Apple’s own.

Ek says that if Spotify pays this cut it has to “artificially inflate” its prices “well above the price of Apple Music.” But if it doesn’t pay, Apple applies “a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions” that make Spotify an inferior experience. Ek also notes that Apple “routinely blocks our experience-enhancing upgrades,” including locking Spotify and other competitors out of Apple services like Siri, HomePod, and Apple Watch.

As well as filing a complaint with the European Commission, the EU body that handles antitrust issues, Spotify has launched a press campaign, including a website dedicated to Apple’s unfair behavior and a YouTube video explaining the company’s grievances.

https://youtu.be/l8SShgWqJvg

Interestingly, Spotify’s complaint echoes recent comments made by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Warren said last week that if elected president in 2020 she would break up big tech companies. She criticized these firms for the same reason that Spotify is now criticizing Apple: they operate marketplaces in which they also compete against rivals, allowing them to set the rules in a way that benefits them at the expense of others.

Warren singled out Amazon, Google, and Facebook — but not Apple — as targets to be broken up. “Companies would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform,” she said.

Spotify’s filing is the first time an antitrust complaint against the App Store has been publicly registered with the EU. However, companies have long criticized the so-called Apple tax since it was introduce not long after the App Store’s launch in 2011.

Although it’s not clear how far Spotify’s complaint against Apple will go, the EU has been on something of an antitrust tear in recent years. In 2017, Google was fined €2.4 billion complaints related to its shopping business, and in 2018, it was fine €4.3 billion for complaints about stifling competition in Android.

A spokesperson for the European Commission told The Wall Street Journal that it had received Spotify’s complaint and was “assessing [it] under our standard procedures.” At the time of publication Apple had not responded to a request for comment.

Source: The Verge

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Donald Trump Called Apple’s CEO ‘Tim Apple’ By Mistake.

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The president has to remember a lot of names! Some he remembers, some he forgets. But we will never forget today in the Year of Our Lord 2019 when President Trump called Apple CEO Tim Cook “Tim Apple.”

Maybe we’re just losing our minds waiting for a good meme, but there’s something relentlessly good and pure about calling the executive formerly known as Tim Cook “Tim Apple.” Tim Cook: Great guy, great phones. Tim Apple though? Man, where do we start!

In the video from Cook’s appearance with the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, Trump invents Tim Apple at 1:03 before launching into a tirade on unspecified murders in Mexico.

“You’ve really put a great investment in our country. We really appreciate it very much, Tim Apple,” Trump said.

As the Verge pointed out, Trump once called Lockheed Martin’s CEO “Marillyn Lockheed,” which is fine, but not good and pure like Tim Apple.

For evidence that Trump in fact knows the “true” identity of Tim Apple, you can rewind to 40:43 when he calls the Apple chief executive “Tim Cook” (his old name). Usually it’s cheap to give someone a hard time for forgetting a name or making a minor mistake in extemporaneous speech. But Tim Apple is so much more than a mistake.

If you’d prefer, watch the clip over and over again. We can’t recommend it enough.

Source: TechCrunch.com

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