Does Google’s Duplex violate two-party consent laws?

Google’s Duplex, which calls businesses on your behalf and imitates a real human, ums and ahs included, has sparked a bit of controversy among privacy advocates. Doesn’t Google recording a person’s voice and sending it to a data center for analysis violate two-party consent law, which requires everyone in a conversation to agree to being recorded? The answer isn’t immediately clear, and Google’s silence isn’t helping. Let’s take California’s law as the example, since that’s the state where Google is based and where it used the system. Penal Code section 632 forbids recording any “confidential communication” (defined more or less as any non-public conversation) without the consent of all parties. (The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press has a good state-by-state guide to these laws.) Google has provided very little in the way of details about how Duplex actually works, so attempting to answer this question
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zGlue launches a configurable system-on-a-chip to help developers implement customized chipsets

The complexity and cost of packing an array of sensors and power inside a small amount of space has opened the door to a wider and wider variety of use cases for internet-connected devices beyond just smart thermostats or cameras — and also exposed a hole for getting those ideas into an actual piece of hardware. So there are some startups that are looking to address this hole by providing developers a path to creating the customized chipsets they need to power those devices. zGlue is one of those, led by former Samsung engineering director Ming Zhang and former Misfit founder Sonny Vu.  The company’s chiplets are built around the kind of system-on-a-chip approach that you’ll see in most modern devices, where everything is in a single unit that reduces some of the complexity of moving processes around a larger piece of hardware — shrinking the space constraints and
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Fortnite is finally coming to Android this summer

Fortnite is finally coming to Android…in a matter of months. After dominating the iOS gaming charts since March, the wildly popular sandbox survival game will be hitting the world’s top mobile operating system at some point this summer.

Creator Epic Games buried the news in the middle of a larger blog post titled, “The State of Mobile,” noting, vaguely, “We know many of you are excited for this release, and we promise that when we have more information to share, you’ll hear it from us first.”

That news comes amid a flurry of other Fortnite-related announcements this week. Earlier this morning, Epic unveiled a Battle Royale competition with a large in-game cash prize. This morning, the company also laid out plans to bring voice chat and improved gameplay and controls to the mobile side of things. Stats are coming to mobile, as well, along with a reduced install

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LocationSmart didn’t just sell mobile phone locations, it leaked them

What’s worse than companies selling the real-time locations of cell phones wholesale? Failing to take security precautions that prevent people from abusing the service. LocationSmart did both, as numerous sources indicated this week. The company is adjacent to a hack of Securus, a company in the lucrative business of prison inmate communication; LocationSmart was the partner that allowed the former to provide mobile device locations in real time to law enforcement and others. There are perfectly good reasons and methods for establishing customer location, but this isn’t one of them. Police and FBI and the like are supposed to go directly to carriers for this kind of information. But paperwork is such a hassle! If carriers let LocationSmart, a separate company, access that data, and LocationSmart sells it to someone else (Securus), and that someone else sells it to law enforcement, much less paperwork required! That’s what Securus told
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House committee accepts amendment to uphold ZTE ban

The bizarre recent tale of ZTE is getting another wrinkle. Earlier today, a bipartisan House Appropriations Committee unanimously voted to accept an amendment to uphold sanctions against the company.

The amendment to the 2019 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill is, of course, being viewed as a rebuke of the president, whose tweets over the weekend appeared to suggest a softening on the seven-year ban imposed by the Department of Commerce last month.

In fact, the amendment’s author, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, called out Trump by name on social media, adding in a press release tied to the news, “This amendment, which passed with the unanimous support of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, shows that, when the United States enacts sanctions, we stand behind them.”

Facebook Stories reveals 150M daily viewers and here come ads

After 14 months of silence since launching, Facebook Stories has finally announced a 150 million daily active user count for its Snapchat Stories clone. And now it’s time to earn some money off it. Facebook Stories will start testing its first ads today in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. They’re 5- to 15-second video ads users can skip, and while there’s no click-through or call to action now, Facebook plans to add that in the coming months. Advertisers can easily extend their Instagram Stories ads to this new surface, or have Facebook automatically reformat their News Feed ads with color-matched borders and text at the bottom. Facebook also plans to give businesses more metrics on their Stories performance to convince them the feature is worth their ad dollars.

Advertisers can extend their Instagram Stories ads to Facebook Stories (left), or have Facebook reformat their News Feed ads

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Snapchat Spectacles tests non-circular landscape exports

The worst thing about Spectacles is how closely tied they are to Snapchat. The proprietary circular photo and video format looks great inside Snapchat where you can tip your phone around while always staying full screen, but it gets reduced to a small circle with a big white border when you export it to your phone for sharing elsewhere. Luckily, Snapchat has started beta testing new export formats for Spectacles through the beta version of its app. This lets you choose a black border instead of a white one, but importantly, also a horizontal 16:9 rectangular format that would fit well on YouTube and other traditional video players. The test was first spotted by Eric Johnson, and when asked, a Snapchat spokesperson told TechCrunch “I can confirm we’re testing it, yes.” Allowing Spectacles to be more compatible with other services could make the v2 of its $150 photo
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Instagram officially launches re-sharing of posts to Stories

No, it’s not a “regram” option. Sorry!  But today, Instagram is officially launching a new feature that will allow users to re-share someone’s Instagram post with their friends via Instagram Stories – something it confirmed was in testing earlier this year. The idea with the new re-sharing option is to give users a way to add their own commentary or react to a post, without repurposing it as their own – the way a regram (reposting to feed) feature would have permitted. For example, you can now re-share something you saw posted by a brand or influencer on Instagram that you like, or add your own comments on top of a funny meme, or even tag a friend on a post you want them to see. In fact, tagging friends through Instagram comments had become so common on the social network over the years, that it rolled out a
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AT&T and Verizon will carry RED’s crazy ‘holographic’ handset

RED’s Hydrogen One handset is one of those devices we’ll believe when we actually see. The company’s been promising up the $1,200 smartphone for a while now, only to be hit with delays and outright admit, “We have no idea whatsoever what we are doing.”

Consider this some small vote of confidence, however. AT&T announced today that it will be carrying the 5.7-inch “holographic display device.” That, of course, shouldn’t be taken as a tacit approval of the device, so much as a confirmation of the fact that it does, in fact, exist.

Though in a press release tied to the announcement, a market SVP says, “This revolutionary smartphone will provide you with significant advancements in the way you create and view content on the leading network for entertainment.” So, take that as you will. Personally, I’m holding off any sort of judgement until I

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Monzo, the U.K. challenger bank, finally rolls out Apple Pay

Monzo, the U.K. challenger bank, has finally added Apple Pay to its mobile-only current account. The just over three year-old fintech says it has been one of the most requested features for its banking app, with over 2,000 mentions of Apple Pay on Monzo’s forum, whilst its customer support team have been asked about the functionality more than 13,000 times. In other words, the rollout can’t come soon enough. Noteworthy, Monzo was able to add Google Pay all the way back in October 2017. Meanwhile, many of its passionate and vocal users will be wondering what took Monzo so long (as an aside, rival challenger Starling was able to add Apple Pay in July 2017). The upstart bank, which usually makes a virtue of its community-driven approach and transparency hasn’t been able to say (or even fully acknowledge that the feature was coming), likely because Apple imposes
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How ZTE became the focal point of US/China relations

Here in the States, ZTE has been content with a kind of quiet success. The Chinese smartphone maker has landed in the top five quarter after quarter (sometimes breaking the top three, according to some analysts), behind household names like Apple, Samsung and LG. Suddenly, however, the company is on everyone’s lips, from cable news to the president’s Twitter account.

It’s the kind of publicity money can’t buy — but it’s happening for one of the worst reasons imaginable. ZTE suddenly finds itself in the eye of a looming trade war between superpowers. Iranian sanctions were violated, fines levied and seven-year international bans were instated.

It’s like a story ripped from the pages of some Cold War thriller, though instead of Jason Bourne, it’s that one budget smartphone company that you’ve maybe heard of, who maybe makes that weird Android phone with two screens.

So, how did we get here?

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To make Stories global, Facebook adds Archive and audio posts

Facebook’s future rests on convincing the developing world to adopt Stories. But just because the slideshow format will soon surpass feed sharing doesn’t mean people use them the same way everywhere. So late last year, Facebook sent a team to India to learn what features they’d need to embrace Stories across a variety of local languages on phones without much storage. Today, Facebook will start rolling out three big Stories features in India, which will come to the rest of the world shortly after. First, to lure posts from users who don’t want to type or have a non-native language keyboard, as well as micropodcasters, Facebook Stories will allow audio posts combining a voice message with a colored background or photo. Facebook Stories will get an Archive similar to Instagram Stories that automatically saves your clips privately after they expire so you can go back to check them out or re-share
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Parsable secures $40M investment to bring digital to industrial workers

As we increasingly hear about automation, artificial intelligence and robots taking away industrial jobs, Parsable, a San Francisco-based startup sees a different reality, one with millions of workers who for the most part have been left behind when it comes to bringing digital transformation to their jobs. Parsable has developed a Connected Worker platform to help bring high tech solutions to deskless industrial workers who have been working mostly with paper-based processes. Today, it announced a $40 million Series C cash injection to keep building on that idea. The round was led by Future Fund with help from B37 and existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Airbus Ventures and Aramco Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total to nearly $70 million. The Parsable solution works on almost any smartphone or tablet and is designed to enter information while walking around in environments where a desktop PC or laptop simply wouldn’t be practical.
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Gfycat starts rolling out 360 degree GIF content

GIFs offer a way to compress a ton of information into a small amount of space, and while Gfycat has positioned itself as more of a short-form video centric platform, it’s going to take a step further to see what a step beyond a standard GIF looks like. The company today said it would be rolling out 360 degree GIF-like short form videos, which will allow users to plant themselves in the middle of what is effectively a looping video like a GIF. While that presents much more of a challenge to users for generating content, CEO Richard Rabbat said the proliferation of tools like 3D cameras and content from the actual producers like video studios would make it an increasingly popular way to interact with short-form content in a compact form factor. “We’ve always thought that GIFs are amazing from many perspectives,” Rabbat said. “That goes beyond whether you’re
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Index and Atomico back Teatime Games, a stealthy new startup from QuizUp founders

Teatime Games, a new Icelandic “social games” startup from the same team behind the hugely popular QuizUp (acquired in by Glu Mobile), is disclosing $9 million in funding, made up of seed and Series A rounds. Index Ventures led both, but have been joined by Atomico, the European VC fund founded by Skype’s Niklas Zennström, for the $7.5 million Series A round. I understand this is the first time the two VC firms have done a Series A deal together in over a decade. Both VCs have a decent track record in gaming. Index counts King, Roblox and Supercell as previous gaming investments, whilst Atomico also backed Supercell, along with Rovio, and most recently Bossa Studios. As part of the round, Guzman Diaz of Index Ventures, Mattias Ljungman of Atomico, and David Helgason, founder of Unity, have joined the Teatime Games board of directors. Meanwhile, Teatime Games
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Yes, HTC is working on a ‘blockchain phone’

A few weeks ahead of its latest flagship announcement, HTC just revealed another piece of hardware. While the Taiwanese company has consolidated much of its mobile offerings in recent years, it announced today at the Consensus 2018 blockchain conference in New York that its upcoming Exodus handset is embracing everyone’s favorite tech buzzword.

So, what makes a phone a blockchain phone, exactly? Security and cryptocurrency support, mostly. According to HTC’s Exodus landing page, “Our vision is to expand the blockchain ecosystem by creating the world’s first phone dedicated to decentralized applications and security. With the release of the HTC Exodus we can now make this a reality.”

The Exodus will support Bitcoin and Ethereum, among others, courtesy of a universal wallet, secure hardware and decentralized apps. According to The Next Web, HTC has also outlined plans to create a native blockchain network, whereby cryptocurrency can be traded

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WhatsApp revamps Groups to fight Telegram

Facebook just installed its VP of Internet.org as the new head of WhatsApp after its CEO Jan Koum left the company. And now Facebook is expanding its mission to get people into “meaningful” groups to WhatsApp. Today, WhatsApp launched a slew of new features for Groups on iOS and Android that let admins set a description for their community and decide who can change the Groups settings. Meanwhile, users will be able to get a Group catch up that shows messages they were mentioned in, and search for people in the group.

WhatsApp’s new Group descriptions

WhatsApp Group participant search

Group improvements will help WhatsApp better compete with Telegram, which has recently emerged as an insanely popular platform for chat groups, especially around cryptocurrency. Telegram has plenty of admin controls of its own, but the two apps will be competing over who can make it easiest to digest these
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Genoox raises $6M to help physicians better diagnose patients with genomic data

23andMe, Color, and other genomic sequencing startups have exposed demand from consumers for cheap ways to test for potential problems they may have — and Amir Trabelsi hopes to bring that mentality to medical institutions around the world. That’s the hope for Genoox, a genomic analysis startup that’s geared toward doctors, clinicians and researchers that hopes to lower the cost of getting data from gene sequencing, and speed that process up, in the same ways that 23andMe and Color have done for consumers. Genoox at its heart is a data science company, taking the raw data from a genome sequencing and figuring out how to convey actionable information to medical professionals — and, hopefully, on a more complete scale than just consumer startups targeting specific health problems. The company said it has raised a $6 million funding round led by Triventures, a healthcare-focused venture firm. “We want to bring [medical
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Tinder’s upcoming location-based feature seems a bit creepy

Do you want random Tinder users to see where you’ve been? Uh, no? Well, great news: an upcoming Tinder feature called Places will allow for just that. According to screenshots detailing Tinder Places uncovered by The Verge, the dating app is developing a feature that tracks your location via its app, then shows potential matches where you’ve been. The idea is to allow people to come across their real-life missed connections, similar to how the dating app Happn works today. There are some caveats about the new feature. For starters, this is something Tinder has in testing – the way it works at launch could be different. Also, the feature can be shut off, the documentation says – a toggle in the app’s settings let you turn it on or off at any time. And we’ve learned that, thankfully, this feature will be opt-in. However, that’s a decision you
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Apple’s App Store redesign improved app discovery, report finds

When Apple introduced its completely redesigned App Store last fall, one of its goals was to improve app discovery by placing a larger emphasis on editorial content – including things like “app of the day” picks, lists, how-to’s and even interviews with app developers, among other things. Now, a new study from Sensor Tower reveals those changes appear to have been working. According to Sensor Tower’s findings, more apps are being discovered by way of browsing the App Store following the redesign launched in September. Before, browse-driven downloads accounted for around 10 percent of all downloads. With the new App Store, they’ve grown to more than 15 percent. And that increase has held steady into 2018, even as the initial excitement around the App Store revamp has worn off. Despite the growth in app discovery by browsing, searching for app by typing keywords into the search box is still, by
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