U.S. news sites are ghosting European readers on GDPR deadline

A cluster of U.S. news websites has gone dark for readers in Europe as the EU’s new privacy laws went into effect on Friday. The ruleset, known as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), outlines a robust set of requirements that internet companies collecting any personal data on consumers must follow. The consequences are considerable enough that the American media company Tronc decided to block all European readers from its sites rather than risk the ramifications of its apparent noncompliance.

Tronc -owned sites affected by the EU blackout include the Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Daily News, The Orlando Sentinel and The Baltimore Sun. Some newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises also blocked European readers, including The St. Louis Post Dispatch and The Arizona Daily Star.

While Tronc deemed its European readership disposable, at least in the short-term, most major national U.S. outlets took a different approach, serving a cleaned-up version of their website or asking users for opt-in consent to use their data. NPR even pointed delighted users toward a plaintext version of their site.

While many of the regional papers that blinked offline for EU users predominantly serve U.S. markets, some are prominent enough to attract an international readership, prompting European users left out in the cold to openly criticize the approach.

Those criticisms are well-deserved. The privacy regulations that GDPR sets in place were first adopted in April 2016, meaning that companies had two years time to form a compliance plan before the regulations actually went live today.

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How Google is using machine learning to discover and address potentially harmful apps

Google is devoting more resources in 2018 to developing and maintaining the machine learning algorithms it uses to power its suite of mobile threat protection, Google Play Protect. Google Play Protect was initially announced at Google I/O 2017 and the suite is built into over two billion Android devices.

While Google Play Protect protects devices in real time, Google’s app protections start earlier, when apps are published.

Before apps can be published on the Google Play store, they are analyzed by security systems and Android security experts. As a result of this process, apps downloaded from Google Play are nine times less likely to be a potentially harmful app (PHA) than devices that download apps from other sources.

Once an app is installed on a device, Google Play Protect continuously scans the device to make sure that it is working as it should. If it finds an app that is misbehaving, it either notifies the user or removes the harmful app.

“Google Play Protect’s suite of mobile threat protections are built into more than 2 billion Android devices, automatically taking action in the background. We’re constantly updating these protections so you don’t have to think about security: it just happens,” Sai Deep Tatali, software engineer in the Google Play Protect team, wrote in a post.

To accomplish this task of scanning 50 billion apps everyday, Google uses machine learning. It has developed algorithms that can distinguish apps that are harmful from those that are safe.

The machine learning algorithm analyzes the entire catalog of applications, and then looks at signals combined with anonymized data in order to compare application behavior. It looks for behavior common to PHAs, such as apps that interact with other apps, access or share personal data, or download things without a user’s knowledge.

It groups apps that exhibit similar behavior into families, helping them uncover apps that share similarities to PHAs, but that have yet to be discovered.

Once a new PHA is discovered and confirmed, Google Play Protect takes action on that app and then feeds information back into the algorithm to help discover more PHAs.

According to the company, its machine learning systems have detected 60.3 percent of malware in 2017.

The post How Google is using machine learning to discover and address potentially harmful apps appeared first on SD Times.

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Riminder raises $2.3 million for its AI recruitment service

French startup Riminder recently raised a $2.3 million funding round from various business angels, such as Xavier Niel, Jean-Baptiste Rudelle, Romain Niccoli, Franck Le Ouay, Dominique Vidal, Thibaud Elzière and Fred Potter. The company has been building a deep learning-powered tool to sort applications and resumes so you don’t have to. Riminder participated in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield.

Riminder won’t replace your HR department altogether, but it can help you save a ton of time when you’re a popular company. Let’s say you are looking for a mobile designer and you usually get hundreds or thousands of applications.

You can then integrate Riminder with your various channels to collect resumes from various sources. The startup then uses optical character recognition to turn PDFs, images, Word documents and more into text. Riminder then tries to understand all your job positions and turn raw text into useful data.

Finally, the service will rank the applications based on public data and internal data. The company has scraped the web and LinkedIn to understand usual career paths.

Existing HR solutions can integrate with Riminder using an API. This way, you could potentially use the same HR platform, but with Riminder’s smart filtering features.

With this initial sorting, your HR team can more easily get straight to the point and interview the top candidates on the list.

While it’s hard to evaluate algorithm bias, Riminder thinks that leveraging artificial intelligence for recruitment can help surface unusual candidates. You could come from a different country and have a different profile, but maybe you have the perfect past experience for a particular job. Riminder isn’t going to overlook those applications.

With today’s funding round, the company is opening an office in San Francisco to get some clients in the U.S.

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Tesla settles class action suit over Autopilot claims for $5M

Tesla has paid out $5 million to settle a class action lawsuit against it alleging that the Autopilot feature in the company’s cars was “essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous.” Owners who paid $5,000 for Autopilot will be reimbursed to the tune of a couple hundred bucks, Reuters reported.

Although Tesla claimed that the semi-autonomous driving software would improve safety and reduce the possibility of collisions, it was in practice erratic and unreliable. “Contrary to what Tesla represented to them, buyers of affected vehicles have become beta testers of half-baked software that renders Tesla vehicles dangerous if engaged.”

A series of crashes that took place while Autopilot was active didn’t help dissuade anyone of that, though Tesla has maintained that the feature has improved safety overall. It also continued to update the system, bringing it closer to its original promise, but those improvements have taken a great deal more time than users were told to expect. Ultimately it was those delays in achieving the promised functionality that Tesla admitted were worth compensating the class members for.

The settlement proposal was sent several weeks ago (and intercepted by Electrek) and yesterday the plaintiffs filed documents saying they had agreed to it and as such would be dismissing the lawsuit as soon as the court permitted it.

Consumers who paid for Autopilot before January 24, 2017 will receive $280, and the number decreases steadily the later people bought their cars or paid for the upgrade. The smallest amount is $20, hardly worth cashing in, but that’s the nature of class action suits.

In a statement, Tesla emphasized its continual improvement of the Autopilot system, but acknowledged the need to pay back customers (including those outside the U.S., who technically aren’t part of the suit) for the inconvenience:

Since rolling out our second generation of Autopilot hardware in October 2016, we have continued to provide software updates that have led to a major improvement in Autopilot functionality.

That said, as time passed since we first unveiled Hardware 2, it eventually became clear that it was taking us longer to roll out these features than we would have liked or initially expected. We want to do right by those customers, so as part of a proposed settlement agreement for a class action lawsuit filed last year, we’ve agreed to compensate customers who purchased Autopilot on Hardware 2 vehicles who had to wait longer than we expected for these features.

Although the settlement is specific to customers in the US, if it is approved by the court, we’ve decided to compensate all customers globally in the same way. There’s no legal obligation to do so, but it’s the right thing to do

The settlement still has to be approved by the court, but there doesn’t appear to be any reason to think it won’t be.

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Gravy’s new mobile game show is ‘Price is Right’ mixed with QVC

Following the success of the live mobile game show HQ Trivia, a team of serial entrepreneurs have begun testing the market to see if another game show concept can work, too. Their new game show-inspired app, Gravy, is meant to be a riff on the “Price is Right” combined with a QVC-style shopping experience. That is, the “contestants” compete for discounts of 30 to 70 percent off the products advertised, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. In addition, through a side game, users can guess when the product – whose quantities are unknown – will sell out and at what price. Those who guess closest win a cash prize.

The startup was created by Mark McGuire, Brian Wiegand, and Craig Andler – the founding team behind Jellyfish.com, an older social shopping network that was acquired by Microsoft back in 2007, to help create Bing Shopping. They’ve also paired up on other projects, including NameProtect (before Jellyfish), printable coupons resource Hopster, social network Nextt, and e-commerce subscription retail site, Alice.com, among other things. These have either exited or shut down or both.

The team’s efforts imply a clear passion for working with brands, but getting consumers to connect with brands in new ways is far more difficult, as their track record shows.

That’s why they’re now trying Gravy.

The hope is that the excitement around seeing the product unveiled nightly – and knowing you’ll get a big discount if you buy – will become an entirely new ad unit of sorts, while keeping players engaged in a game-show like experience.

“One of the challenges with millennials is their short attention spans, and they don’t respond well to interruptive advertising,” explains Wiegand, of why the team wanted to build this startup. “I don’t think anyone’s really mastered how to monetize live video. So we came up with this opportunity to create this new ad unit where brands could tell their story, and – for seven or eight or nine minutes – create a live shopping event where millennials can tune in and hear that story but in a fun, gamified kind of manner,” he says.

Here’s how Gravy works. Every night, at 8:30 PM ET in the Gravy iOS app, a live host will unveil the product users can buy. Currently, there’s a rotating selection of hosts who work on a per-show contract basis, usually local comedians – not brand reps.

Players are not told how many items are available, but it’s usually anywhere from two to twenty.

Then the price starts to drop. If you buy early, you’ll have a chance to snag it at a slight discount. But the longer you wait, the higher the percentage off will become. However, you don’t know who else could snatch it up first and when. If you wait too long, the product will sell out.

Meanwhile, if you’re not interested in the product itself, you can guess when you expect it to sell out (meaning, at which price.) Those ten or so closest will receive a small cash prize – a split of maybe $200 or $300, with first place receiving the largest chunk.

At least 20 percent of sales are given away to charity – a nod, I suppose, to millennials’ interest in do-gooder style companies. But ultimately, that decision that has more to do with the fact that Gravy doesn’t aim to be a retailer – it’s not another deal-of-the-day destination like Woot!, despite the similarities around generating product excitement.

Instead, it expects brands to donate products and pay a fee for the “advertising opportunity” Gravy offers.

Brands will like Gravy because they get millennials’ attention for seven minutes or more, Wiegand says. “They love the engagement. It’s a highly engaged audience…I have a chance to buy the products, so I’m heavily engaged in thinking about that product. The recall, memorability, and all of the subsequent buzz – tweeting and all the social media that gets created because of that – is great,” he adds.

However, none of this is proven out yet – Gravy is just a couple of weeks old.

So far, around 50 percent of the products it has featured have actually been donated by brands, including 23andMe, 3D Doodler, Tapplock, and others. The rest have been subsidized by Gravy, including the bigger draws – like a DJI drone, for example.

It’s not yet charging for the ad opportunity, either, as it’s hoping to grow the audience first.

The company says that’s already underway. After alerting friends and family to the app’s launch, the games are seeing 600+ players nightly, Wiegand claims, and is growing its audience 15 percent week-over-week. Around half of those who signed up to play are returning to watch around three shows per week, he says.

While the early numbers are promising if true, and it’s clear the team likes to work in the general space of connecting brands with consumers, Gravy still feels – like much of what the founders have created before – designed primarily with the needs of brands in mind, before that of consumers.

A “Price is Right”-style app would be a lot of fun, but this isn’t it – it’s, at the end of the day, an invitation to watch an ad and shop at a discount. That’s not something consumers may want to do every day, long-term – even if you try to woo them with a small cash prize won through a guessing game.

And like Trivia HQ , which has dropped from a top 20 app to the 140’s (by App Store overall rank, the shine may eventually wear off for Gravy, too. Especially because it’s not primarily a game – and millennials, as fickle and short attention-spanned as they may be (really? the generation that binges entire TV seasons in a few days?), will know it.

Wiegand isn’t concerned, though.

He says he gets bored with trivia apps in a few weeks, but Gravy is different.

“I always shop and I always like a deal. The deal industry and the shopping industry are so much larger than the trivia space,” Wiegand insists. “And the thrill of seeing a product that you like going down into the sixties and seventies percent off is unbelievably thrilling,” he enthuses. “We are able to feature things that have the best price on the planet of first-run products…it creates this heart-pounding, exhilarating and experience like, ‘Should I buy? Oh my God, look at this price. I can’t turn it down,’” he says.

The company raised $2.1 million in seed funding from a range of investors, including the founders at the turn of the year. Around eighty percent was outside capital, led by New Capital. The under-20 person team is based in both Madison and Minneapolis.

Gravy is on the App Store here.

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Mobility startups: Apply to exhibit for free as a TC Top Pick at Disrupt SF ‘18

Mobility is one of the most rapidly advancing technologies going, and we’re searching for the rising stars of early-stage mobility startups to apply as a TC Top Pick for Disrupt San Francisco 2018 on September 5-7 at Moscone Center West. It’s a competitive application process, but if TechCrunch editors designate your company as a Top Pick, you get to exhibit for free in Startup Alley — the show floor and heartbeat of every Disrupt event. Besides, who doesn’t love free?

Mobile tech is on the cusp of a revolution, and we’re interested in startups focused on everything it entails — autonomous vehicles, sensors, drones, security — or something else altogether. Flying cars, anyone? Exhibiting in Startup Alley will expose your startup to more than 10,000 attendees, including potential investors, customers, partners and more than 400 media outlets.

Here’s how the TC Top Pick process works. First things first: apply now. Our expert team of editors will review each application and choose only five mobility startups as TC Top Picks. They also will select five startups for each of the following tech categories: AI, AR/VR, Blockchain, Biotech, Fintech, Gaming, Healthtech, Privacy/Security, Space, Retail or Robotics. A total 60 companies will exhibit in Startup Alley as a TC Top Pick.

If your mobility startup makes the cut, you receive a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package, which includes a one-day exhibit space in Startup Alley, three founder passes good for all three days of the show, use of CrunchMatch — our investor-to-startup matching platform — and access to the event press list.

In addition to all the other potential media opportunities, TC Top Picks also get a three-minute interview on the Showcase Stage with a writer — and we’ll share the heck out of that video across our social media platforms. That’s promotional gold right there, folks.

And who knows? As a Startup Alley exhibitor, your company might even get selected as the Startup Battlefield Wildcard — if they do, you get to compete in Startup Battlefield for a shot at the $100,000 prize.

Disrupt San Francisco 2018 takes place on September 5-7. Don’t miss your opportunity to exhibit in Startup Alley for free. The TC Top Pick deadline is June 29, and we have special offers for early applicants. Does your startup have what it takes to be one of the five mobility TC Top Picks? Apply today to find out.

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HTC adds some bells and whistles to the Vive Focus ahead of Western rollout

As HTC gears up for a stateside launch of their Vive Focus standalone headset, the company announced a number of changes that they’re bringing to the device currently available in China.

The company has long fancied itself the “premium” brand of VR, but at its annual developer conference it was tasked with showing off features that showed that the company had more to offer than middle-of-the-road products with premium prices.

Some of the most notable announcements were that the device would be gaining phone integration with HTC devices, beginning with the company’s new U12 Plus smartphone, which will basically allow users to check out text messages and notifications without removing the headset. The feature seems to be a junior version of functionality available on the company’s PC-based Vive headset which can deliver similar notifications but can do so from any Android or iOS device while also allowing users to send messages out as well on certain devices.

In addition to the phone stuff, HTC talked about a lot of new content partnerships, but also a hardware partnership with Seagate which will be making an odd little device add-on that doubles the Vive Focus battery life and adds additional memory as well. The company has spent a good deal of energy building out options for cash-laden VR fans to buy better experiences, whether his market is as ripe for a device powered by a smartphone chipset is a little dubious though.

While HTC’s first virtual reality product, the Vive, arrived first to market with a splash of enthusiasm that made them the VR company du jour. They have certainly had trouble maintaining that enthusiasm in Western markets as the field has gotten more crowded with competitors that are perhaps less sensitive to hardware margins than HTC is. This month Lenovo released the $399 Mirage Solo, a headset specced fairly comparably to the Vive Focus, but based on Google’s Daydream platform while Oculus released a more basic, but still very capable, headset called Oculus Go for just $199.

The blue Vive Focus headset has yet to crack into consumers markets in the West, but as the company begins shipping dev kits in the past several weeks to developers, it’s clear that an announcement is probably around the corner.

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Snips announces an ICO and its own voice assistant device

French startup Snips has been working on voice assistant technology that respects your privacy. And the company is going to use its own voice assistant for a set of consumer devices. As part of this consumer push, the company is also announcing an initial coin offering.

Yes, it sounds a bit like Snips is playing a game of buzzword bingo. Anyone can currently download the open source Snips SDK and play with it with a Raspberry Pi, a microphone and a speaker. It’s private by design, you can even make it work without any internet connection. Companies can partner with Snips to embed a voice assistant in their own devices too.

But Snips is adding a B2C element to its business. This time, the company is going to compete directly with Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers. You’ll be able to buy the Snips AIR Base and Snips AIR Satellites.

The base will be a good old smart speaker, while satellites will be tiny portable speakers that you can put in all your rooms. The company plans to launch those devices in 18 months.

By default, Snips devices will come with basic skills to control your smart home devices, get the weather, control music, timers, alarms, calendars and reminders. Unlike the Amazon Echo or Google Home, voice commands won’t be sent to Google’s or Amazon’s servers.

Developers will be able to create skills and publish them on a marketplace. That marketplace will run on a new blockchain — the AIR blockchain.

And that’s where the ICO comes along. The marketplace will accept AIR tokens to buy more skills. You’ll also be able to generate training data for voice commands using AIR tokens. To be honest, I’m not sure why good old credit card transactions weren’t enough. But I guess that’s a good way to raise money.

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Spotify is reportedly rethinking its ‘hateful conduct’ policy

Spotify caused a stir when it unveiled its “hateful conduct” policy earlier this month. Now, a few weeks later, it’s reportedly already rethinking the tact, after pushback from artists and inside the company itself.

According to a new report from Bloomberg, the streaming service has been in discussions to reinstate at least one of the artists it singled out when it announced a policy that would pull artists from editorial-curated playlists for actions outside of music.

“We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values,” the company wrote on May 10. “When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence), it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.”

In particular, Spotify seemingly went out of its way to single out R. Kelly and rapper XXXTentacion. The latter had been pulled from the service’s popular Rap Caviar playlists after video emerged of the rapper striking a woman — the latest in a line of assault claims.

But new reports claim that Spotify will eventually bring XXXTentacion back to its curated playlists as it works to negotiate new terms. R. Kelly, however, appears to still be on the outs.

We’ve reached out to Spotify for comment.

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Google’s Duo and Cisco’s Webex Teams among the VoIP apps pulled from the China App Store

Earlier this week, it came to light that Apple had removed a number of VoIP-based calling apps from the App Store, at the request of the Chinese government. The apps had been using CallKit, Apple’s new developer toolset that provides the calling interface for VoIP apps, freeing up developers to handle the backend communications. China’s government asked developers, by way of Apple, to remove CallKit from their apps sold on the China App Store, or they can remove their apps entirely.

Notices Apple sent out to the developers were first spotted by 9to5Mac, who shared a snippet from of one of the emails.

The email states that the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) “requested that CallKit be deactivated in app apps available on the China App Store,” and informed the developer they would need to comply with this regulation in order to have their app approved.

The regulation only impacts apps distributed in the China App Store.

We understand that the apps can still use CallKit and be sold in other markets outside the region.

Apple is not publicly commenting on the matter.

The pushback against CallKit is another means of discouraging people from developing or using VoIP services in China, without having to go so far as to ban the apps directly. It wouldn’t be the first time China has cracked down in this area. In November, Microsoft’s Skype was also pulled from the Apple and Android app stores.

The government also last year ordered VPN apps, which help users route around the Great Firewall, to be pulled from app stores – another order with which Apple complied.

Other social media apps, like WhatsApp and Facebook, are also disrupted at times, and newspapers’ apps like those from The NYT and WSJ are blocked, too.

According to data pulled by app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower, two dozen apps with CallKit had been removed during the week prior to the news reports.

That list, along with the date removed and publisher name, is below:

Sensor Tower notes it’s possible that there are other apps removed from additional stores, but doesn’t have that data.

In addition, this list only includes those apps that have been downloaded enough times to rank in the top 1,500 of an app category at some point – beyond that Sensor Tower wouldn’t pick it up. But an app that wasn’t ranked would have had so few downloads that the impact of its removal would be minimal.

Nevertheless, you can see list includes a few well-known names, including Cisco’s Webex Teams and Google’s Duo video calling app, among those from other operators and VoIP calling providers.

The full text of Apple’s email is below:

From Apple
5. Legal: Preamble
Guideline 5.0 – Legal

Recently, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) requested that CallKit functionality be deactivated in all apps available on the China App Store. During our review, we found that your app currently includes CallKit functionality and has China listed as an available territory in iTunes Connect.

Next Steps

This app cannot be approved with CallKit functionality active in China. Please make the appropriate changes and resubmit this app for review. If you have already ensured that CallKit functionality is not active in China, you may reply to this message in Resolution Center to confirm. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) call functionality continues to be allowed but can no longer take advantage of CallKit’s intuitive look and feel. CallKit can continue to be used in apps outside of China.

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