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Oculus' Controversial ToS a Stark Reminder of Its Facebook Parentage
April 4, 2016
Oculus last week updated its terms of service to accompany the release of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, raising privacy and content ownership concerns. Software will be installed to monitor how the device is used, and the usage data will be sent back to Oculus and its parent company, Facebook, according to the terms of service. Collected data could be shared with third parties.
Facebook Plots Secret Chat for Messenger
April 1, 2016
Facebook has been working on mobile pay and secret chat features for its Messenger app, according to a report published this week, based on clues found in extracted software code on Messenger for iPhone. Commands embedded in the software hint at secret conversations, similar to what's found in WhatsApp, and commands to pay in person and pay in Messenger when picking up an item.
For Many Users, Instagram Algorithm Is Not a Pretty Picture
March 30, 2016
Instagram on Monday moved to calm concerns among some users about a proposed change in the way content appears in their feeds. Celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and Cindy Crawford fueled the anxiety by urging their followers to enable a feature on their mobile devices that would notify them whenever those celebrities post to Instagram. The company assured users that their feed weren't changing yet.
Microsoft Apologizes for Corrupted Chatbot's Nasty Comments
March 28, 2016
Microsoft last week apologized for its Tay chatbot's bad behavior. It took the machine learning system offline, only 24 hours into its short life, after Twitter trolls got it to deny the Holocaust and elicit pro-Nazi and anti-feminist remarks. "We are deeply sorry for the unintended offensive and hurtful tweets from Tay, which do not represent who we are or what we stand for," said Peter Lee, corporate vice president at Microsoft Research.
Scientists Track Sloshed Tweeters in Real Time
March 21, 2016
Applied machine learning techniques can identify tweeters' behaviors in real time and locate them to within 100 meters, according to a paper Rochester University computer scientists published earlier this month. The team focused on discovering patterns of alcohol use in urban and suburban settings to better understand where and how people drink.
Could Anonymous Get Trump Elected?
March 21, 2016
Much of the analysis that I've seen regarding the U.S. presidential election season concludes that it is progressing like the Goldwater vs. Johnson election in the 1960s, when the Republican Party torpedoed its own candidate, ensuring a Democratic Party win. This is happening despite statistics that suggest Hillary Clinton is an extremely weak candidate.
Instagram's New Algorithm Promises Most Favorable Sorting
March 17, 2016
Instagram on Tuesday announced plans to dump chronological posts in favor of algorithmic recommendations. Users miss about 70 percent of the content that flows through their feeds, which the company attributed to its growth and its system for ordering content. The new algorithm, which will begin rolling out in the coming months, will weigh the content by relevancy to the user.
Is Donald Trump Batman?
March 14, 2016
There's an old rather funny movie called The Mouse That Roared. Basically, it is about a little no-name country that decides to go to war with the U.S. and lose, so that the U.S. will pay it reparations. Only it somehow wins, to everyone's surprise. It isn't clear whether Donald Trump declared war on Silicon Valley or the other way around.
Oculus Opens Social Doors for Gear VR
March 12, 2016
Oculus VR on Wednesday launched Oculus Social for Samsung's Gear VR viewer. Gear VR users can create profiles on Oculus Social and search out friends via real names or handles. The company, which has yet to ship its own virtual reality headset, also released two social games to encourage more friending on Oculus Social: Herobound: Gladiators and Social Trivia.
Facebook Exec's Brazilian Misadventure Signals Bigger Problem
March 10, 2016
The jailing last week of Facebook Regional Vice President Diego Dzoda in Brazil may have been the tip of an iceberg. Frustrated police made the arrest after Facebook failed to produce WhatsApp messages connected to a drug trafficking case. The incident is one of a growing heap of examples that highlight the difficulties law enforcement agencies face when trying to collect digital evidence.
Reviled People-Rating App Slithers Into Action
March 8, 2016
With its reputation preceding it, Peeple on Monday launched on the iTunes App Store. The goal of the app is to help people better understand each other, according to the company. It was designed for people who need to display their reputation to others, including freelancers, business owners, employees, teachers and coaches. Users can leverage social media platforms to share their recommendations.
Apple Geniuses Flock to Twitter
March 4, 2016
Apple on Thursday launched a Twitter channel to field support questions from users of its products, as well as to offer them tricks and tips. By Friday, the @AppleSupport account had 134,000 followers and had sent more than 3,000 tweets. Some of the tweets came from customers whose tech issues had been resolved. "I'm 99% sure my #iphone6s was just fixed from the cloud," Kate Cleveland wrote.
German Authorities to Examine Facebook's Data Practices
March 3, 2016
The German Cartel Office on Wednesday announced the launch of an investigation into Facebook over allegations that it abused its market position by infringing data protection rules, specifically in connection with the terms of service on the use of user data. The office, or Bundeskartellamt, is looking into whether Facebook's terms of service violate data protection provisions.
Facebook Exec Sprung From Brazilian Jail
March 2, 2016
A Brazilian judge on Wednesday ordered the release of Facebook Regional Vice President Diego Dzodan, one day after Brazilian police placed him under arrest for WhatsApp's failure to produce messages the government believed relevant to a drug ring investigation. Judge Ruy Pinheiro concluded the exec's detainment amounted to coercion, according to press reports.
The Salesforce Health Cloud
March 2, 2016
Salesforce is opening a can of snakes with its new Health Cloud, which became generally available this week. Having worked in the healthcare software industry for many years in the last century, I have mixed feelings about the announcement. While I'm relieved that an innovative company is taking on healthcare software at last, part of me thinks it could be a long and expensive slog.
Facebook Gives Marketers a Blank Canvas
February 27, 2016
Facebook on Thursday yanked the drapery off its Canvas, inviting marketers to splash it with their best promotions. The new platform will provide brands with a new medium for storytelling, and it will return ad pages up to 10 times faster than mobile Web pages do, the company proclaimed. It's a big screen ad experience for the small screen, compatible with both Android and iOS devices.
Facebook Gives Us More Ways to Push Each Other's Buttons
February 24, 2016
Facebook on Wednesday rolled out a new set of options for its 1.5 billion monthly users to use when responding to posts in their News Feeds. The six "Reactions," as Facebook has termed them, allow users to make more nuanced responses to posts rather than simply clicking on Like. The additional options are Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry.
Facebook Uses AI to Map Population Density
February 23, 2016
Facebook has been using artificial intelligence to sharpen its focus on the roughly 10 percent of the world that has been overlooked by the Internet revolution, the company announced Sunday at the Mobile World Congress. The work has been led by the Connectivity Lab, Facebook's research and development wing, which is tasked with making the breakthroughs needed to connect the world to the Internet.
Twitter Puts Some Eggs in Customer Service Basket
February 22, 2016
Twitter last week announced two tools designed to help businesses improve their customer service capabilities. One product would allow users to move from sending companies tweets to using Direct Messages, according to product manager Ian Cairns. Companies will be able to embed on their sites a Direct Messages link that would allow customers to send information directly.
Facebook May Launch Risky Messenger Ad Program
February 22, 2016
Facebook has been preparing to push personalized ads through its Messenger app, according to a report last week. The company will allow brands to send their own marketing materials through the popular chat app, suggests a leaked document apparently intended for Facebook's advertising partners. The changes could go into effect during the second quarter of the year.
Glitches Mar Makulu's Appeal
February 17, 2016
Makulu 10 Xfce edition continues developer Jacque Raymer's track record of pushing the limits with useful and innovative features to keep his distro line a step ahead of the crowd. He released Makulu 10 Xfce this week after more than 12 months in the making. The focus is stability, speed and social integration. The Xfce edition can claim success with two of those three goals.
Time Scoops Up MySpace With Viant Buy
February 13, 2016
Time on Thursday announced an agreement to acquire the assets of Viant Technology. The deal will let Time combine its premium content, subscriber data and ad inventory with Viant's first-party data and targeting technology. "We're going to be able to deliver both data-driven capabilities and premier content in a single platform," Time spokesperson Jill Davison said.
Zuckerberg Aims to Set Things Right With India
February 12, 2016
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday went into damage-control mode following a tweet from board member Marc Andreessen about India and colonialism. Andreessen was reacting to the Indian telecom regulator's ban on Facebook's Free Basics service. "Another in a long line of economically suicidal decisions made by the Indian government against its own citizens," he reportedly tweeted.
Pew: More Americans Looking for Love Online
February 12, 2016
Online dating numbers are up in the United States, the Pew Research Center said Thursday, based on the results of a recent survey. Today, it's possible for singles from all walks of life to find a date who's compatible with them -- at least virtually -- the findings suggest. In its national survey of 2,001 adults, Pew found that 12 percent had used an online dating site.
Twitter's New Algorithm Raises De-Democratization Fears
February 10, 2016
Twitter on Wednesday gave users the option of using a new algorithmically organized feed that would deliver more relevant messages -- not necessarily the newest -- first. The new approach to disseminating tweets was spearheaded by Twitter's CEO Jack Dorsey, who is under pressure because of the company's lack of growth. Compared to other social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter is lagging behind.
Twitter Creates Advisory Panel on Tweet Speech
February 10, 2016
Twitter on Tuesday announced the formation of a panel to advise it on speech, abuse and safety issues. The Trust & Safety Council, which has more than 40 members, will be part of a strategy to help people feel safe when they express themselves, said Twitter's Patricia Cartes. The council "will help us tap into the expertise and input of organizations at the intersection of these issues."
India Trades Free Basics for Internet Freedom
February 9, 2016
India's Telecom Regulatory Authority on Monday ruled in favor of Net neutrality, effectively banning Facebook's Free Basics Internet access app. "This is a very important decision for the future of the Internet in India," said Barbara van Schewick, director of Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, whose paper the TRA cited in its ruling.
Twitter Clobbered Over Timeline Algorithm Plans
February 9, 2016
Twitter plans to introduce an algorithmic timeline, possibly this week, according to a report last week. The algorithm would organize tweets based on relevancy. Twitter users criticized the idea using the hashtag #RIPTwitter, prompting CEO Jack Dorsey to respond: "Regarding #RIPTwitter: I want you all to know we're always listening. We never planned to reorder timelines next week."
LinkedIn Stock Tanks Despite Company's Professed Confidence
February 8, 2016
LinkedIn last week lost about $11 billion in market valuation after it provided a 2016 revenue forecast that fell short of analysts' expectations. The company's stock fell by as much as 44 percent Friday afternoon, with shares hitting a three-year-low of $108. LinkedIn generated $862 million in revenue in its fourth quarter of 2015, a 34 percent gain year over year.
Smart Email and the Path to Digital Immortality
February 8, 2016
I attended IBM Connect last week, where I checked out one of the most interesting new products you've likely never heard of -- IBM Verse. While there was a lot of discussion about how it better integrated social networking, what really intrigued me was the idea of putting cognitive computing inside an email client. "Cognitive computing" is the new way of saying "artificial intelligence."
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