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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

MoviePass subscribers will now pay surcharges for popular showtimes

MoviePass subscribers were just greeted with a special Fourth of July surprise from the company, but it’s not good news. Surprise!

The company’s plan to introduce summer surge pricing goes into effect today. In an email to subscribers introducing “peak pricing,” MoviePass tried to spin this like a new feature introduction rather than a notification that its monthly service had again worsened.

In an FAQ on its site, MoviePass explains its new dynamic pricing plan and the accompanying surcharges in more detail, but not a lot of detail. The company fails to really explain what exactly will determine price fluctuations beyond stating that “movies that are high in demand for title, date, or time of day will be impacted.” It doesn’t provide guidelines for what those surcharges will look like, though a screenshot it provides suggests we might pay $3.43 more to see Avengers: Infinity War at 7:00 PM.

Now, movies in the app will display a red lightning icon when they are in peak pricing and a gray icon when they are approaching peak pricing status. Subscribers will be able to waive one peak pricing fee per month, which is some relief for the thing you paid for now providing less value and convenience but also just makes the whole system more complicated.

Peak pricing will gradually roll out across geographic areas starting on July 5. If it hasn’t hit your local screen yet, rest assured that no MoviePass subscribers will escape the company’s latest effort to bend its unsustainable business model toward realism.

Source: TechCrunch

Zebra Technologies is buying rugged tablet maker Xplore for around $90M in cash

Some more consolidation is afoot in the world of enterprise mobility. Today, Zebra Technologies — a company that makes handheld scanners, printers and other portable hardware, and develops the technology to tag things to be read by them — is acquiring Xplore Technologies, one of the older and bigger makers of ruggedised tablets and other hard-wearing hardware. Both companies are publicly listed and Zebra says it will be paying $6 per share in cash for Xplore, which works out to about $90 million — a premium on the company’s current market cap of about $65 million.

Zebra’s market cap is just under $8 billion.

The deal will give Zebra deeper inroads into the retail, manufacturing, transportation, logistics and healthcare verticals and also give the company avenues to sell into further markets where Xplore already has customers such as the energy sector, government and public safety, Zebra said. Xplore booked $87 million in revenue in the 12 months that ended March 31.

Xplore generated revenue of $87 million in the 12-month period ended March 31, 2018, but it’s never been massively profitable. In the fourth quarter, which the company reported earlier today, Xplore scraped out a net profit of $300,000 (compared to a loss of $2.6 million a year ago).

As with a lot of enterprise consolidation, which sees smaller companies coming together or bigger fish gobbling up smaller but promising fish, the idea will be to bring together its hardware business into a wider operation to create more manufacturing efficiencies and to sell more services to Xplore customers to improve margins on those deals, which Zebra says is in line with how businesses are looking to operate today anyway.

“In today’s on-demand economy, investments to digitize operations are central to our customers’ strategies. The acquisition of Xplore enhances our product lineup and gives Zebra a complete rugged tablet portfolio that enables our customers to gain a performance edge,” said Anders Gustafsson, chief executive officer of Zebra Technologies, in a statement. “We’d previously outlined potential areas of expansion that are a natural fit for Zebra and its Enterprise Asset Intelligence vision, and this acquisition is aligned with that strategy. The addition of Xplore provides access to a great team and great products in an attractive market and should enable us to grow the category double digits going forward.”

Zebra has carved out a place for itself as a buyer of operations that need more scale to see their potential realised, making around 14 since 1998. Perhaps most notably, it acquired the enterprise business of Motorola Solutions for $3.5 billion in a big Internet of Things play. Xplore’s emphasis on devices complements that with a set of hardware for when machine-to-machine communications may not be enough.

“We are excited to join Zebra, the worldwide leader in enterprise mobility and visibility. This acquisition validates the incredible work our team does every day to develop innovative solutions and serve our customers,” said Tom Wilkinson, chief executive officer of Xplore Technologies, in his statement. “Our products are a natural fit for Zebra, creating a comprehensive rugged mobility portfolio that stands against any competitor.”

The companies say the deal is expected to close in Q3 2018.

Source: TechCrunch

Singapore watchdog threatens to unwind Uber’s Southeast Asia exit deal

Uber’s exit from Southeast Asia may be done and dusted, but the deal — which saw Grab take over its local operations in exchange for a 27.5 percent stake — is coming pressure in Singapore where the country’s antitrust regulator has threatened to unwind the deal because it has reduced competition.

The Competition and Consumer Commission Singapore (CCCS) today announced the result of a three-month investigation into the deal and its provisional findings offer some fairly scathing conclusions.

Primarily, CCCS said that Uber and Grab “have not been able to show that the transaction gives rise to efficiencies that would outweigh the harm to competition.”

In more specific detail, it said that “taxi booking services pose an insufficient competitive constraint.” The organization voiced concern that new ride-hailing entrants are significantly disadvantaged because require a “significant amount of upfront capital” to compete and, even then, they must battle existing networks that favor larger organizations.

The commission claimed Grab has already taken advantage of its dominant position by raising prices, although that’s something that Grab denies doing. Furthermore, CCCS also expressed concern that Grab’s service will stagnate if it is not challenged by competitors in the ride-hailing space.

“Without sufficient competition post-transaction, Grab would be able to raise fares for riders and commission rates for drivers, lower the quality of its services and reduce innovating its product offerings,” CCCS wrote in its findings.

Grab criticized the report for taking “a very narrow approach in defining competition.”

“While we are one of the most visible players in transport, we are not the only player in the market. CCCS has not taken into account the dynamic developments and intense competition going on over the past few months, from both new and incumbent taxi and ride-hailing players,” the company addd in a statement.

As a next step, CCCS has asked Grab to restore its pre-deal pricing and commission rates, cut exclusivity agreements with taxi operators, and remove lock-in for drivers that use its rental partners or Uber’s Lion City Rentals business.

The deal is, of course, long-since closed but the organization has threatened that it could unwind the transaction in Singapore or hit both Uber and Grab with fines.

The initial Singapore investigation pushed the closure of Uber’s Southeast Asia service back by one month, while it was extended by a week in the Philippines. Uber’s service covered a total of seven markets, but this action from CCCS would only impact Singapore.

Here’s Grab statement in full:

We have considered the CCCS’ Proposed Infringement Decision and disagree with their analysis. The CCCS appears to have taken a very narrow approach in defining competition. While we are one of the most visible players in transport, we are not the only player in the market. CCCS has not taken into account the dynamic developments and intense competition going on over the past few months, from both new and incumbent taxi and ride-hailing players.

Even though not required by the law, we had informed the CCCS that we were making a voluntary notification, as well as proactively engaged with the CCCS before the transaction was signed. We conducted the acquisition legally and in full compliance with Singapore’s applicable competition laws.

We fully cooperated with the CCCS throughout the course of their review, and had proactively proposed voluntary commitments over and above the Interim Measures Directions (IMDs), to ensure consumers’ and drivers’ interests are taken care of, which the CCCS had rejected. Grab has complied with all areas of CCCS’ IMDs including maintaining base fare levels, surge factor and driver commission rates.

This provisional decision and proposed remedies are overreaching and go against Singapore’s pro-innovation and pro-business regulations in a free market economy. We note that the provisional decision is not final nor effective yet, and we will submit our written representations to the CCCS before the deadline. We will take all appropriate steps to appeal against this decision.

Source: TechCrunch

Tesla adds autonomous parking mode to Model 3

The Model 3 can now park itself. Called Summon, the feature is now available on the company’s new sedan.

It’s a clever feature that takes advantage of the vehicle’s connectivity and autonomous driving capabilities. With Summon owners can command their Model 3 to pull into a parking spot and power down. It can even control garage doors — all without a driver behind the wheel or controlling the vehicle remotely. Tesla added the feature to Model S and Model X vehicles last year.

This is the latest feature Tesla added to the Model 3 after its launch. The company is in a frenzy to keep up with production goals and the nature of the Model 3’s connected platform allows the company to added features to already-built vehicles.

Source: TechCrunch

Intel 9th-generation CPUs are refreshes with slight clock speed bumps

Intel’s next-generation CPUs have been detailed in a couple of leaked documents which show minor clock speed boosts across the range. What remains for us to learn though, is whether Core i7 chips will have eight cores or not.

The post Intel 9th-generation CPUs are refreshes with slight clock speed bumps appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

EU parliament calls for Privacy Shield to be pulled until US complies

The European Parliament has been making its presence felt today. As well as reopening democratic debate around a controversial digital copyright reform proposal by voting against it being fast-tracked, MEPs have adopted a resolution calling for the suspension of the EU-US Privacy Shield.

The parliamentarians’ view is that the data transfer mechanism does not provide the necessary ‘essentially equivalent’ data protection for EU citizens — and should therefore be suspended until US authorities come into compliance.

The resolution states that the parliament:

Takes the view that the current Privacy Shield arrangement does not provide the adequate level of protection required by Union data protection law and the EU Charter as interpreted by the European Court of Justice;

Considers that, unless the US is fully compliant by 1 September 2018, the Commission has failed to act in accordance with Article 45(5) GDPR; calls therefore on the Commission to suspend the Privacy Shield until the US authorities comply with its terms

The mechanism is currently used by more than 3,300 organizations to authorize transfers of personal data from the EU to the US, including the likes of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Twitter, to name just a few of the well-known tech names making use of the framework to authorize EU to US personal data transfers.

The EU-US Privacy Shield is not yet two years old but has always been controversial, given the mass surveillance/Snowden disclosure-related reasons for the demise of its predecessor (Safe Harbor).

Privacy Shield has looked especially precarious since the election of a US president with an openly privacy-hostile, anti-foreigner agenda. And reforms to US laws that EU lawmakers had hoped would be enacted have not come to pass.

On the contrary, US lawmakers dug in entirely on warrantless surveillance (aka Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), giving it six more years — and offering nothing in the way of the sought for reforms.

In today’s resolution the parliament writes that it “regrets that the US did not seize the opportunity of the recent reauthorisation of FISA Section 702 to include the safeguards provided in PPD 28” — referring to an Obama era Presidential Policy Directive that backed extending privacy protections to non-US nationals (when a very different US president wrote that US signals intelligence activities “must take into account that all persons should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their nationality or wherever they might reside, and that all persons have legitimate privacy interests in the handling of their personal information”).

EU lawmakers have always wanted a more formal, robust and lasting commitment than a PPD, though, and privacy provisions for foreigners’ data being included in FISA was their preferred outcome. Safe to say, Trump has not picked up that baton.

The parliament is also calling for “evidence and legally binding commitments” to ensure that data collection under FISA Section 702 is not “indiscriminate and access is not conducted on a generalised basis (bulk collection)” — which would be in contravention of the EU’s Charter on Fundamental Rights.

Specifically it’s backing calls by the EU’s influential WP29 group, which is comprised of Member State data protection chiefs (aka what’s now known as the European Data Protection Board; EDPB) for an updated report from its rather less influential US counterpart, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (which still only has one active board member listed on its website; yet another bone of contention for Privacy Shield compliance) to provide definition and detail on how US intelligence agencies are actually handling ‘bulk data’.

The parliament writes that it wants the PCLOB to report on “the definition of ‘targets’, on the ‘tasking of selectors’ and on the concrete process of applying the selectors in the context of the UPSTREAM [aka the NSA’s Internet and telephone data collection program] to clarify and assess whether bulk access to personal data occurs in that context”.

The parliament is also angry that EU individuals have been excluded from additional protection provided by the reauthorisation of FISA Section 702 — saying it contains “several amendments that are merely procedural and do not address the most problematic issues” — with MEPs amping up pressure on the Commission, urging the EU’s executive body to “take the forthcoming WP29 analysis on FISA Section 702 seriously and to act accordingly”.

Privacy Shield was only officially adopted in July 2016, but EU lawmakers have been getting increasingly unhappy because core components of the framework have been left hanging by US authorities. Such as the ongoing lack of a permanent appointment to an ombudsperson role that’s intended to act as a key arbiter for any data-related complaints from EU citizens, given the data controllers in question are in the US.

The parliament also raises concerns about the executive order signed by Trump in January 2017 — aka the ‘Enhancing Public Safety’ order, which stripped away privacy protections from non-U.S. citizens — saying that while Privacy Shield did not directly rest on the US Privacy Act related to this order, the substance of the order  indicates “the intention of the US executive to reverse the data protection guarantees previously granted to EU citizens and to override the commitments made towards the EU during the Obama Presidency”.

So, as we wrote at the time, the trajectory of Trump’s administration vis-a-vis privacy and foreigners did not — and does not — bode well for smooth data flows between the two regions; aka the lifeblood of business — not just tech business.

It’s also unhappy about the recent adoption of the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (aka the Cloud Act), writing that this “expands the abilities of American and foreign law enforcement to target and access people’s data across international borders without making use of the mutual legal assistance (MLAT) instruments, which provide for appropriate safeguards and respect the judicial competences of the countries where the information is located”.

“The Cloud Act could have serious implications for the EU as it is far-reaching and creates a potential conflict with the EU data protection laws,” it adds — saying a more balanced solution would have been to strengthen the existing international system of MLATs “with a view to encouraging international and judicial cooperation”.

And, well, you can’t imagine treaty-ripping Trump getting cosy with that idea.

Pressure has especially stepped up on Privacy Shield in recent months, ahead of the mechanism’s second annual review — which is due to take place in October — as the review process should, in theory, provide some leverage for the EU over its US counterparts, as the Commission can hold up the threat of suspension for compliance failures.

Although, once the EC declares the annual review has passed, the lever arguably flips the other way — and Privacy Shield seemingly gets another year’s grace, with critics fobbed off with talk of ‘improvements to be made’, as happened at the first annual review last year.

Hence why EU parliamentarians are amping up the pressure now, ahead of the review, much like  the WP29 did last year.

The Libe committee also called for a suspension last month, raising pointed concerns about the adequacies of protection around EU citizens’ data in light of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal. Europeans’ data was among the up to 87M compromised accounts related to that scandal. Though there have been many other recently emerging instances of Facebook failing to lock down user data.

The company remains an active participant in the EU-US Privacy Shield framework, although it is now under investigation by the FTC — as a consequence of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Several other federal agencies are also reportedly examining related statements Facebook has made. So it’s facing rising heat. Even as it remains listed as an active participant in Privacy Shield for now.

Any sanction or removal from the framework depends on US authorities judging an entity to have breached its obligations under the framework — and taking action.

Notably SCL Elections — a US subsidiary of the now defunct Cambridge Analytica — is now listed as inactive (it was still active just under a month ago).

The continued presence of any entity on the Privacy Shield list that has demonstrably failed to safeguard EU citizens’ personal data must raise serious questions over how much actual protection the framework affords.

In a statement on the parliament resolution today, Libe committee chair and rapporteur Claude Moraes said: “This resolution makes clear that 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. Progress has been made to improve on the Safe Harbor agreement but this is insufficient to ensure the legal certainty required for the transfer of personal data.

“In the wake of data breaches like the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, it is more important than ever to protect our fundamental right to data protection and to ensure consumer trust. The law is clear and, as set out in the GDPR, if the agreement is not adequate, and if the US authorities fail to comply with its terms, then it must be suspended until they do.”

Suspending the mechanism entirely would certainly concentrate minds in the US administration — given the thousands of US companies signed up to rely on it simplifying their business operations.

Were that to happen, many of these companies would be left scrambling to put in place alternative legal arrangements to authorize data transfers — or even have to suspend data flows altogether, depending on their threshold for legal risk. (Remember the EU also now has a tough new data protection framework.)

However only the European Commission can suspend the Privacy Shield mechanism itself.

And the Commission continues to stand behind the framework it worked with the US to shape and negotiate. Christian Wigand, a Commission spokesperson, told us it intends to continue to work with the US administration on improving the implementation of Privacy Shield.

In a statement he said:

The Commission takes note of the European Parliament resolution on the EU- U.S. Privacy Shield. 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.

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 October.

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. Around 4,000 companies are using it currently.

There’s a wild card here too though: Privacy Shield is now facing serious legal questions in Europe, having been looped into what began as a separate legal challenge to another data transfer mechanism — used by the likes of Facebook — to authorize transfers of EU users’ personal data to the US for processing.

That case recently resulted in a referral of various legal questions, including around Privacy Shield, to Europe’s top court — thereby posing what could be an existential threat to the whole arrangement. (Though Facebook is attempting to derail the referral, and has an appeal against set to be heard in Ireland’s Supreme Court later this month.)

While the Commission has a vested interest in defending and maintaining a framework it renegotiated so very recently, and which it can trumpet as as success given the number of businesses that have jumped on board, the CJEU will be looking at Privacy Shield’s adequacy protections purely from the legal perspective — and, as happened with Safe Harbor in 2015, the court could decide the mechanism is legally unsound and strike it down at the stroke of a pen.

At which point the scrambling and renegotiating would begin all over again.

In its second plenary meeting today, the EDPB notes that Privacy Shield was among the topics discussed. The group says it also met with the acting US ombudsperson responsible for handling national security complaints under the Privacy Shield, ambassador Judith Garber (who, nonetheless, is not a permanent appointee).

In a statement released after the plenary, it writes that the meeting with Garber was “interesting and collegial” but did not provide a conclusive answer to its ongoing concerns, including around the ombudsperson role; the lack of formal appointments to the PCLOB; the lack of additional information on the ombudsperson mechanism; and further declassification of the procedural rules, in particular on how the ombudsperson interacts with the intelligence services.

“These issues will remain on top of the agenda during the second annual review,” it writes. “In addition, it calls for supplementary evidence to be given by the US authorities in order to address these concerns. Finally, the EDPB notes that the same concerns will be addressed by the European Court of Justice in cases that are already pending, and to which the EDPB offers to contribute its view, if invited by the CJEU.”

Source: TechCrunch

One of Facebook’s most senior engineers just became Director of Engineering, Blockchain

It was already known that Facebook had set up a group within the company to “explore” blockchain tech, headed up by long time Messenger chief David Marcus. However, the latest executive reshuffle appears to point to the social networking behemoth getting more serious about developing on top of blockchain technology.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Evan Cheng, a director of engineering at Facebook, has moved to the position of Director of Engineering, Blockchain. A well-respected “low level” computer engineer, he was previously responsible for heading up Programming Languages & Runtimes at the company, a position he held for nearly three years.

Prior to that, Cheng spent nearly ten years working at Apple, most recently holding the position of Senior Manager, Low Level Tools. He also worked on compilation technology and other back end engineering.

He also tweets about blockchain and is reportedly an advisor to a number of blockchain startups/projects, including Zilliqa and ChainLink.

“It means it’s not just an exploratory project,” is how one source who tracks the blockchain space speculatively framed Cheng’s move to Facebook’s blockchain team. His reasoning was that in recruiting Cheng (who knows more than a thing or two about performance and scalability) to the blockchain group, it signals the importance of the project.

Meanwhile, Marcus and Cheng aren’t the only Facebook execs to be have been tasked with building out the social network’s burgeoning blockchain work. In a recent executive reshuffle, we reported that Instagram’s former VP of Product Kevin Weil has taken up the position of VP of Product, Blockchain at Facebook. See TechCrunch’s in-depth analysis of those moves and how Facebook could utilise blockchain.

Update: Facebook has confirmed Evan Cheng’s new position as Director of Engineering, Blockchain.

Source: TechCrunch

Sydney Airport launches face scan check-in trials

Australia is a step closer to replacing passport check-ins with more face scans. The plan, which was announced early last year, is being trialed by Qantas on passengers for select flights into the Sydney Airport starting this week. The move is an attempt to replace the “inconvenience” of relying on more traditional paper passports.

“We’ve worked with Qantas from the outset and are delighted to be partnering with them as we trial this technology,” Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said in a statement provided to the press. “In the future, there will be no more juggling passports and bags at check-in and digging through pockets or smartphones to show your boarding pass,” he added. “Your face will be your passport and your boarding pass at every step of the process.”

It’s still very early stages in a process that isn’t exactly being rolled out overnight. After all, implementing such technology for Sydney’s 43 million annual passengers is pretty large undertaking, even without myriad security and privacy concerns to contend with.

Some are understandably skeptical about such implementations on-behalf of the government and other large institutions with underlying security concerns.

“[I]f the security rationale is about preventing terrorism, why not extend it to other locations like shopping malls, public squares or stadiums like the MCG. It could be anywhere that people gather together,” University of Canberra assistant professor Bruce Baer Arnold said in a statement to The Financial Review. “The concern there is that this is ultimately disproportionate. Biometrics are very powerful and can produce real social benefits, or it can product real harm. Just because you have a hammer, doesn’t mean everything is a nail.”

To start with, the technology will be utilized for select international flights, to help automate check-in, boarding, lounge access and bag drop. Moving forward, the airport also hopes to implement it for mobile check-in and customs processing.

Source: TechCrunch

Apple will reportedly offer 2018 iPhone in 5 color options – CNET

But you’ll probably cover it with a case anyway.
Source: CNET

Article 13: Europe's hotly debated revamp of copyright law, explained – CNET

The EU’s proposed European Copyright Directive is being called a war on memes. Here’s why.
Source: CNET