The Daily Download - latest tech news for 2019-11-19, fan podcast based on @launchticker

The download for 2019-11-19 →

SoftBank is in talks to acquire a private members club in London, according to sources for the Financial Times; the Number Twenty club in Mayfair is currently owned by KPMG who has reportedly been looking to get out of a long-term lease; SoftBank-controlled WeWork has previously shown interest in the business . link

Fintech firm BlueVine raises $102.5M Series F led by ION Crossover Partners with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners and others; the company offers online loans to SMEs; has raised more than $240M cash and $500M in debt financing . link

NY Attorney General (NYAG) Letitia James has launched a probe into The We Company, reports Reuters; NYAG is investigating whether former CEO Adam Neumann was involved in self-dealing; Neumann purchased properties that he then leased back to The We Company; he also trademarked the word “we,” only to then license it to the firm for $6M (the deal was later rolled back) . link

Japan-based Olympus says it’s considering layoffs in an effort to improve profit margins; it has not disclosed how many jobs may go; the firm, best known for its cameras and medical devices, has been instituting a restructuring plan since earlier this year; execs also suggest the company may also seek a buyer, despite previously rejecting the idea . link

Alibaba will close share orders early for its $13B Hong Kong IPO because it’s oversubscribed, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the firm was set to end orders at 1 pm PT today, but will instead close them at 9 am PT; Alibaba is expected to set its public share price on or around Nov 20 . link

Didi Chuxing says it will test a premium ride-hailing service in Japan that uses Tesla, Mercedes Benz, and Lexus vehicles; known as Didi Premium, it will launch in parts of Tokyo later this month . link

FCC Chair Ajit Pai says he will push for more wireless spectrum to be made available for 5G networks; Pai says he will advocate for a public auction of 280 Mhz C-band, which promises to be able to support large amounts of data over long distances; C-band is currently used by some satellite TV operators, which has led to questions about how best to manage the bandwidth . link

Amazon expands its ad-supported free music streaming service to iOS, Android, FireTV, and browsers (previously available on Echo devices only); similar to Spotify, Amazon Music also offers an ad-free option for $10 per month . link

Tech stocks are set to achieve their best year since 2009, reports The Wall Street Journal; the S&P 500’s tech sector is up 41 percent for the year (the index has gained 25 percent overall in 2019); the report notes semiconductor companies and ancillary firms have seen the most gains with businesses such as Applied Materials climbing 90 percent and ASML increasing by 81 percent . link

Ride-hailing firm Juno (which is owned by Gett) is shutting down in New York City; the firm says local regulations have made operations untenable; exact shutdown date unclear; going forward, Gett customers will be offered Lyft rides when visiting the city . link

Google opens a new office in Japan with the capacity for 2k staff; located in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, the facility also houses a Google for Startups Campus, which offers training and other resources to local startups; Sundar Pichai has also announced Google Japan will run an accelerator program for established startups who are focused on AI and ML . link

Airbnb signs a multi-year sponsorship deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC); terms undisclosed, but the Financial Times says the partnership is worth $500M, something that Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky later disputed; as part of the arrangement Airbnb will offer event attendees guaranteed accommodation in host cities; Airbnb is expected to IPO in 2020 . link

Uber Chief Product Officer Manik Gupta will leave the firm on Dec 13; reasons for the departure unclear, but Gupta says he’s “very bullish on Uber’s future”; Gupta joined Uber from Google in 2015; he has not disclosed what he will do next, but Gupta says he’s interested in emerging trends in the consumer space .Update: Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will directly oversee Gupta’s team for a period of time, reports The Information; Khosrowshahi has informed staff he may be immediately responsible for the team for up to six months as they seek to find a replacement for Gupta . link

Evan Spiegel says Snapchat reviews and fact-checks all political ads on the platform; Spiegel notes the company does not allow misinformation to remain active; follows criticism of a Facebook policy that lets political ads run, even if they contain misleading info . link

Facebook launches Whale, a meme creation app for iOS (currently available in Canada only); the app lets users add graphics and text to their own photos or use library images; memes can then be shared via Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and more; it was developed by the company’s New Product Experimentation (NPE) team; it’s unknown if or when Whale will be available in other markets . link

UK-based edtech startup Perlego raises $9M Series A from Dedicated VC and others; the company offers a textbook subscription service, providing access to more than 300k ebooks via iOS and Android; has raised $15M to date . link

The New York Times interviews EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager about her plans for further tech regulation; Vestager, who heads the European Commission’s antitrust body, is exploring the possibility of holding platforms responsible for the content users post; she is also developing new policies to force tech firms to pay more taxes in the EU; other plans include giving collective bargaining rights to gig economy workers and introducing AI regulations . link

The We Company will begin laying off staff this week, reports Bloomberg; chairman Marcelo Claure has emailed workers, saying the cuts will make the company stronger; Bloomberg sources suggest the losses could total 2k; Claure is expected to provide more details on Nov 22 when he will also outline a five-year plan for the firm . link

VC firm The House Fund closes its second fund at $44M; targets startups founded by University of California Berkeley alumni; previous investments include logistics company Flexport and email service Superhuman . link

Apple sends out press invites for an event in New York City on Dec 2; the company says it will honor its favorite apps and games of 2019; Apple is not expected to announce any new products . link

TikTok CEO Alex Zhu says the company does not share user data with Beijing-based parent ByteDance, nor with the Chinese government; speaking with The New York Times, Zhu said TikTok stores all user data in VA, and has a backup server in Singapore; the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States reportedly is investigating ByteDance's acquisition of, which became TikTok . link

Federal agencies have failed to prevent China from acquiring US IP to bolster its economy and military, according to a report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations; the report indicated the National Science Foundation, the Energy Department, and others had a slow and disjointed response to Chinese talent programs, which compensate researchers in exchange for IP . link

FTC Chairman Joseph Simons says the commission is conducting multiple antitrust investigations into major tech platforms; the FTC previously disclosed a Facebook probe; reports indicate the FTC has interviewed Amazon's competitors and investigated Amazon's direct-sales deal with Apple; Google faces state and federal investigations . link

Almost 400M of Facebook's 2.45B monthly active users are fake and duplicate accounts: the company claims its user base has grown 18 percent over the past two years, but when taking fraudulent accounts into consideration, the growth is closer to seven percent, Financial Times reports; fake accounts are available to purchase for as little as $0.50, and can be used to spread disinformation, boost follower counts, more . link

Brian Chen reviews Google's Stadia game streaming service for The New York Times; he says the service offers a glimpse into the potential future of gaming, which will require faster internet and more powerful data centers; the critical concerns for Stadia are how it will perform under heavy usage and how quickly its library will grow . link

Facebook investigates ~500k reports of revenge porn incidents per month, according to an NBC News source; a 25-person team (not including moderators) is working to catch sextortion- and revenge-related intimate content to prevent sharing; NBC News details the challenges of addressing the issue at scale, AI's role in the process, more . link

Google acquires CloudSimple, which helps clients run workloads in virtualized cloud environments; terms undisclosed; the Santa Clara-based VMWare-as-a-Service company previously raised funds from Microsoft’s M12 and supports Azure; founded in 2016 by former Microsoft GM Guru Pangal, who co-founded StorSimple and sold it to Microsoft in 2012 . link

Microsoft to update privacy policy for cloud contracts after the European Data Protection Supervisor found the company failed to properly protect data under existing deals with the European Commission and others; Microsoft will give clients greater visibility into how it processes data in the cloud . link

Sen Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduces a bill that would prohibit US companies from storing user data and encryption keys in China, and would prevent Chinese companies from collecting data on US users beyond what's necessary for a given service; the National Security and Personal Data Protection Act also names Russia as a data risk . link

Oculus launches Link feature in beta for PC, enabling users of the standalone Quest headset to link, via USB cable, to a computer-powered experience; doesn't yet work with AMD-powered systems; PC VR titles experience degradation in frame rates and resolution when played on Quest . link

Sean Hollister reviews Google's Stadia game streaming service for The Verge; the service, which launches on Nov 19, is the best Hollister has tried, but it still feels like a beta; 4K doesn't feel like 4K, the Chrome browser experience lacks fidelity, and many promised features are missing; many features will launch next year, including a free tier . link

News aggregation company SmartNews closes $92M Series E at a $1.2B valuation led by Japan Post Capital and ACA Investments; uses machine learning to deliver personalized feeds; currently live in Japan and the US; plans to use the funding to focus on US expansion; raised $182M to date . link

The Wall Street Journal examines the competitive market for original holiday programming; Hallmark's cable channel, which spends ~30 percent of its annual production budget on Christmas movies, is seeing increased competition from Lifetime; but Apple, Netflix, and Disney could pose a significant threat with their streaming services and big production budgets . link

Many startups are reducing burn and raising more than needed in preparation for a potential downturn, The New York Times reports; Icon Ventures' Joe Horowitz said the firm was urging companies to raise more and sooner to protect against headwinds; Founder Collective's Micah Rosenbloom said many people in the ecosystem should be more concerned than they are . link

T-Mobile CEO John Legere to step down when his contract expires at the end of April; the announcement follows a report that he was in talks to lead WeWork as soon as January (Legere denied); T-Mobile COO and President Mike Sievert will take over the CEO position; Legere will remain on the board . link

The download for 2019-12-13 →

Bonobos co-founder Andy Dunn announces his departure from parent firm Walmart; Dunn did not disclose his reasons for leaving; Dunn joined Walmart in 2017 when it acquired Bonobos; he subsequently led Walmart’s strategy for acquiring and building online brands . link

WeWork is looking to get out of leases on as many as 100 buildings around the world, according to sources for The Information; the firm is reviewing contracts and talking with landlords about its liabilities; WeWork is mostly focusing on locations that are yet to open; WeWork’s parent firm The We Company has previously said it would slow its expansion plans . link

Self-driving startup raises $3.5M seed led by Fusion Fund with participation from UMC and others; the company is developing driverless systems for mass transit fleets; CEO Joel Pazhayampallil previously co-founded autonomous driving firm, which was acquired by Apple earlier this year . link

The We Company closes restaurant co-working unit Spacious, which it acquired in August; Business Insider reports 50 jobs have also been cut as part of the shutdown; The We Company says it will give prorated refunds to Spacious customers; follows reports The We Company plans to sell off Managed by Q and Meetup . link

Waymo acquires UK-based autonomous driving firm Latent Logic; terms undisclosed; Latent Logic provides software that simulates human behavior; the tools can help self-driving systems better anticipate potential hazards; Waymo plans to use the firm's Oxford base to establish a UK office . link

Germany-based food delivery firm Delivery Hero acquires an 87 percent stake in South Korean counterpart Woowa Brothers for $4B cash and stock; the remaining 13 percent will be held by Woowa execs; as part of the deal, Delivery Hero and Woowa plan to establish a joint-venture in Singapore . link

Samsung Electronics VP Kang Kyung-hoon receives a 16-month prison term for obstructing the formation and activities of a trade union at one of the company’s affiliates; Kang and several others were convicted of union-busting activities at Everland, Samsung’s theme park unit . link

AT&T rolls out 5G services in 10 cities including San Francisco, Birmingham, AL, and Rochester, NY; 5G is available at no additional cost to those on Unlimited Extra ($75 per month) or Unlimited Elite ($85 per month) plans; comes as AT&T launches $1.3k Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G on its network . link

Liberty SiriusXM Group (part of Liberty Media) is seeking permission to acquire a controlling stake in iHeartMedia, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; Liberty has asked the Department of Justice to clear the deal; the DoJ has sought feedback from interested parties about the proposal; Liberty currently owns 4.8 percent of the firm; it also has a 33 percent stake in events firm Live Nation, and 71 percent in digital radio company Sirius XM . link

Samsung says it has sold 1M Galaxy Fold devices; Samsung president Young Sohn revealed the figure at TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin; the $2k foldable smartphone went on sale in September, several months later than initially planned . link

Samsung plans to invest an additional $8B in a Chinese semiconductor factory, according to local media reports; the company plans to boost production of NAND flash memory chips; Samsung announced a $7B investment for its plant in Xi’an in 2017 . link

State-controlled Norwegian telco Telenor signs a deal with Ericsson for 5G tech; Telenor also says it will gradually remove Huawei products from its infrastructure over a four to five year period; Norwegian national security service PST has previously said the country should only use networking equipment from nations it has a close relationship with . link

Salesforce promotes Bret Taylor to president and COO; Taylor will oversee global product vision, security, engineering, marketing, and communications; he will report directly to co-CEO Marc Benioff; Taylor previously held the positions of president and CPO . link

Microsoft announces its next games console, previously referred to as Project Scarlett, will be known as Xbox Series X; specs undisclosed but it promises four times the processing capability of Xbox One X; features an elongated design that allows it to be used in a vertical or horizontal position; Microsoft has also showcased a new Xbox Wireless Controller which features a new share button; the console and the controller are set to launch around next year's holiday season . link

Reliance Industries acquires an 85 percent stake in India-based online presence service NowFloats for ~$20M; NowFloats offers tools to SMEs that allow them to maintain a website, store inventory, and more without having to code; the firm had previously raised ~$12M . link

President Trump to sign a limited agreement canceling some existing tariffs against China and preventing scheduled tariffs from activating, according to a source for The Wall Street Journal; Trump announced two months ago that the US and China had established a framework for link

China's government provides semiconductor companies with funding and support disproportionate to that of competitors in other countries, according to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; the report indicates Chinese semiconductor companies began acquiring more international companies following the creation of a government-backed $23B fund in 2014 . link

Russian authorities raid the Moscow offices of F5 subsidiary NGINX, which develops internet infrastructure tech; Rambler Group, which owns search engine and internet portal, reported a copyright violation, claiming ownership of the NGINX code; Rambler claims Igor Sysoev developed the code while working as a systems administrator for the company; police seized NGINX equipment and detained employees . link

Machine learning platform DataRobot acquires data preparation platform Paxata; terms undisclosed; all of Paxata's ~100 employees will join DataRobot; DataRobot supports model development, testing, and deployment; Paxata will add data preparation to DataRobot's workflows; DataRobot has raised $431M to date, according to Crunchbase; Paxata previously raised $90M . link

Lyft launches car rental service in Los Angeles and San Francisco; accessible via the main Lyft app, the service features one sedan model and one SUV model per market; prices start as low as $35 per day; no mileage limits and Lyft refills gas at market rates (no exorbitant fees); customers must be at least 22 years old . link

Eugen Rochko, CEO of decentralized micro-blogging platform Mastadon, says Twitter's initiative to create an open and decentralized standard for social media feels like an attempt to evade responsibility for certain types of content; Free Expression Project Director Emma Llansó acknowledges the benefits of decentralized platforms, but questions how law enforcement would deal with illegal content on a decentralized version of Twitter .Investor Sriram Krishnan, who previously led product at Facebook, Snap, and Twitter, points out that bluesky could result in competing verification policies, moderation policies, and ranking models; the market, not closed platforms, would determine the winners; downsides include possible lack of priority for UX, limited interoperability with existing systems, and potential for data abuse (like Cambridge Analytica) . link

Google launches interpreter mode for iOS and Android, bringing real-time language translation to Assistant; previously available for smart displays and speakers, supporting 29 languages; the mobile version supports 44 languages; the user can trigger the feature by voice using key phrases such as link

ISPs manipulate FCC reports to misrepresent broadband performance scores, according to government officials and industry engineers and executives speaking with The Wall Street Journal; the FCC's Measuring Broadband America program is intended to ensure ISPs are meeting their promises to consumers, but AT&T, Comcast, and others use various tactics, including prioritization of service to tested addresses, to bolster scores . link

The FTC is considering an injunction against Facebook due to antitrust concerns regarding how the company integrates its apps and allows them to function with potential competitors, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the action reportedly would seek to prevent Facebook from enforcing policies deemed anticompetitive . link

Robinhood begins rollout of Cash Management: FDIC-protected accounts enabling customers to earn 1.8 percent interest on uninvested funds, which are accessible via debit card; comes a year after the company announced a planned Checking & Savings product, drawing regulatory scrutiny . link

Hackers breached home security cameras for a live Discord show called NulledCast; attackers used software dedicated to cracking camera security, then streamed victims' reactions as show hosts harassed them via camera speakers, more; the Nulled forums, where the show apparently originated, have taken action to prevent related discussions; many Discord participants canceled or changed accounts following mainstream attention . link

B2B payments company prices its IPO at $22 per share; the Palo Alto-based firm set an initial range of $16 to $18 per share last week and raised it to $19 to $21 per share on Wednesday; investors last valued at $1B (post) for an $88M round in 2018; the IPO price values the company at $1.6B; raised $347M to date . link

Facebook commits $130M to establish its Oversight Board, which will hear appeals regarding the company's content decisions; slated to launch in the first half of next year with staff and board members independent of Facebook; will have the power to make binding decisions without consent from Facebook executives . link

The Democratic National Committee announces Apple News and Twitter will co-host presidential debates in February; Apple News will co-host with ABC and WMUR-TV on Feb 7 at St Anselm College in Manchester, NH; Twitter will co-host with CBS and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute on Feb 25 at Gaillard Center in Charleston, SC . link

Google rolls out Verified SMS for Android Messages in nine countries; when a verified business communicates with a customer, the SMS thread features a shield/checkmark icon, the business name above the texting number, and the business' logo; a new Messages spam protection system enables users to flag content as spam and block offending numbers . link

The download for 2019-12-12 →

Google says it will change mobile search results for news; users will see a carousel of relevant stories at the top of results; Google says it will also include content from more outlets; the company notes it’s using new tech to better understand the elements of a news story, and how certain other reports might provide further context; the changes will roll out first in the US, then expand globally . link

Ferrari doesn’t expect to release its first EV until after 2025; the firm previously said it was aiming for 2022; CEO Louis Camilleri says battery tech is not as advanced as it needs to be . link

A CA judge issues an injunction against Netflix, telling the company it cannot hire Fox TV and film execs who are under contract; Twentieth Century Fox filed a lawsuit against Netflix in 2016, accusing it of trying to poach talent; Netflix had argued that Fox’s contracts were illegal and unenforceable . link

Hong Kong-based fintech firm WeLab raises $156M Series C from Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, China Construction Bank, and others; WeLab operates several challenger bank brands across China and Indonesia; has raised more than $580M to date . link

Xiaomi files a patent for a clamshell foldable smartphone; seemingly features a pop-up camera and a second display for use when the device is closed; Xiaomi previously showcased a different prototype device which folds twice . link

Samsung’s next foldable device will feature a display that’s 100 micrometers thin, according to multiple reports; the company has filed three trademarks for Ultra Thin Glass, which is said to be about as thick as a human hair; it’s also expected to be more scratch resistant than the screen on the Galaxy Fold . link

MDI Ventures partners with KB Investment to establish Centauri Fund, a $150M fund aimed at startups across Southeast Asia; MDI Ventures’ parent firm Telkom will also invest a maximum of $15M in the fund . link

UK-based fintech startup Portify raises £7M (~$9M) Series A led by Redalpine with participation from Kindred and Entrepreneur First; Portify offers a suite of financial products aimed at gig workers; has raised ~$11M to date . link

The Australian government says big tech firms must agree to new anti-monopoly guidelines or risk facing additional regulation; Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will establish a code of conduct designed to stop companies from abusing their market position . link

LCD manufacturer Japan Display discloses an ~$830M backing from investment firm Ichigo; follows financial support from Apple and Wistron; Japan Display has been losing money for the last five years as device makers transition to OLED .Update: Bloomberg says Japan Display will receive $736M from Ichigo; the investor will reportedly take a 40 percent to 50 percent equity stake in the firm; an additional company, previously reported as Apple, will invest $200M in exchange for part-ownership of a plant in Hakusan, Japan . link

Dutch bank ING is developing a blockchain-based system for storing client assets, according to Reuters sources; the scheme is still in its early stages and it’s unclear if or when it will launch; follows a similar project by HSBC which plans to transfer $20B worth of assets to digital tokens next year . link

Tencent is in talks to invest $2B in China-based short-video app Kuaishou, according to sources for The Information; if the deal goes through, the platform will be valued at $28B, up from $18B in 2018; Kuaishou is considered a rival to TikTok; it reportedly has 195M DAUs, and 410M MAUs . link

Twitter introduces a feature to let iOS users share Live Photos as GIFs; from the iOS app users can select the Live Photo they want to post, and then select the GIF upload option . link

French social media firm Yubo raises $12.3M led by Iris Capital and Idinvest Partners with participation from Alven, Sweet Capital and Village Global; the company operates a platform aimed at connecting people under 25; claims 25M users . link

Amazon SVP of HR Beth Galetti says the most consistent shift the company has seen regarding hiring is that all positions now require some technical skills; Amazon is currently retraining one-third of its workforce, and has committed $700M over six years to the initiative; Galetti said jobs that previously didn't require specialized knowledge now demand an understanding of advanced software or machines . link

The Wall Street Journal examines how social media political disputes, sometimes fueled by misinformation, create rifts between people; the article focuses on the experiences of one family to demonstrate how social platforms can inspire and magnify inflammatory content . link

Associated Press profiles Harvard scholar Shoshana Zuboff, who authored the book link

BMW to start integrating Android Auto into vehicles in July of next year, with full wireless support; will be available in all BMW models that feature the Live Cockpit Professional system and iDrive v7; phone support limited to Pixel, Nexus, and Samsung devices . link

The Wall Street Journal interviews Poshmark Founder and CEO Manish Chandra; the conversation covers why the social e-commerce company doesn't allow sellers to run ad campaigns, how rapid scaling can break things, his thoughts on an exit, the company's expansion to home goods, more . link

Cruise President Dan Ammann, who previously served as president of GM, argues that the status quo of transportation is broken; he cites the problems of emission, congestion, fatal accidents, and more as he advocates for autonomous, electric vehicles offering rideshare services; Ammann also argues that current alternative solutions, such as Uber, only entrench the status quo . link

Netflix is testing three-, six-, and 12-month commitments at discounted rates in India, Economic Times reports; the savings range from 20 percent to 50 percent; follows Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' announcement that the company had committed significant funding to producing original content for the Indian market through 2020 . link

Bloomberg examines the extent to which large tech companies rely on human workers to assess and improve the quality of digital voice assistant interactions; specifically, how unwitting consumers have revealed intimate details of their lives to contractors; also covers the privacy risks of on-the-ready connected microphones in people's homes . link

Tim Cook says Apple's greatest contribution to humankind will be in health care, noting the significance of ECG capabilities in the Apple Watch; speaking with Nikkei Asian Review, Cook responded to questions about outsourcing by citing Apple's creation of 2M jobs in the US; speaking about antitrust concerns, Cook said Apple didn't have a monopoly in any sector, and that a monopoly isn't bad if it's not abused . link

Brian Chen reviews Apple's new AirPods Pro for The New York Times, says the $250 wireless, noise-canceling earbuds are a strong contender in the high-end market; new transparency mode does the opposite of noise-canceling, ensuring the user remains aware of surrounding activity; noise canceling is not as good as competition in some scenarios; batteries are not replaceable, so the product could be useless in ~two years . link

US authorities arrest three people involved with BitClub Network, allegedly a Ponzi scheme that defrauded crypto investors of $722M-plus; the group allegedly promised massive returns for a shared crypto-mining pool; charges include conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to offer and sell unregistered securities . link

Francisco Partners and Elliott Management are in advanced talks to acquire LogMeIn ($3.9B market cap) for $4B, according to Bloomberg sources; the deal would take the remote connectivity and collaboration company private . link

A bug caused the crash of Facebook's Ads Library, which exists to provide transparency regarding political marketing campaigns, including who is paying for them, the amounts paid, and targeted audiences; Facebook successfully prioritized repairing the UK library ahead of the UK general election . link

Google hires former PayPal COO Bill Ready as President of Commerce, a new role; Ready will oversee commerce products but will work with advertising and payments operations; Ready joined the PayPal team in 2013, when that company acquired his startup Braintree for $800M . link

YouTube to ban videos that maliciously insult people based on gender, sexual orientation, or race; follows controversy regarding comedian Steven Crowder's ongoing targeting of gay Latino journalist Carlos Maza; YouTube previously declined to act regarding Crowder's videos but has now updated its policy on personal attacks and demeaning language . link

Jack Dorsey announces that Twitter is funding a team called bluesky to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media, with the goal of Twitter eventually using the standard; Dorsey noted that the value of social media is shifting to recommendation, and that recommendation algorithms should focus on healthy conversation; he noted that blockchain provides the fundamentals for hosting, governance, and monetization . link

The download for 2019-12-11 →

Self-driving sensor firm Velodyne Lidar lays off its entire sales team in China, according to local media; the company is reportedly doubtful it can grow its operations in the country; Velodyne has previously accused China-based rivals Hesai and RoboSense of stealing its trade secrets . link

Malaysia-based used car marketplace Carsome raises $50M Series C from MUFG Innovation Partners, Daiwa PI Partners, and others; the company operates across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand; has raised $77M to date . link

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says Amazon’s $575M investment in food delivery firm Deliveroo could restrict competition; the watchdog has announced its preliminary findings and says it’s moving forward with a fuller investigation into the deal; the CMA says an Amazon-Deliveroo tie-up would make it difficult for a challenger to enter the market; both Amazon and Deliveroo say the investment is good for consumers . link

Tesla will increase the price of some imported Model 3 vehicles in China, according to Reuters sources; it’s unknown how much they will go up, but the change is expected to happen next month; Tesla is building a plant in Shanghai which will produce the Model 3 for the Chinese market . link

Carmaker Audi begins testing a ride-sharing service in Southern Germany; known as BITS, the offering makes use of EVs and standard gasoline vehicles; BITS is overseen by Audi Business Innovation and is built on Fleetonomy tech; it’s unknown if or when BITS will expand further . link

Telefonica says it will use tech from Huawei and Nokia for its 5G network in Germany; the company says both firms will have equal involvement; Telefonica notes the plan is subject to approval by German authorities . link

Gojek is close to acquiring Indonesia-based point-of-sale startup Moka, according to Bloomberg sources; terms unknown; Moka offers Square-like payments tools for brick-and-mortar merchants; Gojek and Moka have been in discussions since earlier this year . link

The Pirate Bay is seemingly testing a streaming option for some video content, reports TorrentFreak; files are accompanied by links to a service called BayStream, which lets users watch content without having to first download the content; it’s unclear who runs BayStream . link

The new North American trade agreement is set to include expanded legal protections for internet firms who host user-generated content; follows a report House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposed the inclusion of Section 230-style language that would shield tech companies in Canada and Mexico from certain liabilities . link

The Department of Justice is reviewing Google’s $2.1B acquisition of Fitbit, reports The New York Post; the agency has concerns about Google’s access to users’ health data; the DOJ is already investigating other areas of Google’s business . link

DNA sequencing firm Verogen acquires genomics database GEDmatch; terms undisclosed; GEDmatch operates a website that lets users upload and cross-reference their DNA testing results; Verogen provides DNA analysis services to police; it says GEDmatch users can opt out of having their records accessed by law enforcement . link

Ireland-based cybersecurity firm Tines raises $11M Series A (second tranche) led by Accel with participation from Index Ventures and Blossom Capital; the company offers automated response tools for security teams; has raised $15.4M to date . link

Tesla aims to manufacture 500k vehicles a year at a recently announced plant, reports German-language outlet Bild; the company is expected to employ 10k workers at the facility which will be built on the outskirts of Berlin; construction is set to begin next year . link

German insurtech firm Wefox raises $110M Series B (second tranche) led by Omers Ventures with participation from Merian Chrysalis and others; the company had a pre-money valuation of $1.6B; Wefox offers a platform connecting insurance brokers, providers, and customers; has raised more than $260M to date . link

TikTok-owner ByteDance is testing a music streaming app in India and Indonesia; known as Resso, the service launched late last month on iOS and Android; features on-screen lyrics, GIF creation tools, and more; ByteDance has deals with labels T-Series and Times Music, but is yet to sign agreements with major music firms Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment . link

WeWork is in talks to sell office its services unit Managed by Q to co-founder and former chairman Dan Teran, reports Bloomberg; WeWork acquired the business in March this year; Teran has said publicly that he wants to buy back the firm . link

China-based EV firm Nio cuts ~140 jobs at its San Jose office; follows an announcement in September that the company plans to reduce its global workforce from 9.9k to 7.8k . link

Magic Leap shifts focus from consumers to business, rebrands its One Creator Edition headset as the Magic Leap 1; the 1 features minor updates compared to the One Creator Edition, but it is the same headset; the company plans to launch Magic Leap 2 in 2021; the company also plans a business-centric collaboration app called Jump . link

The Verge lists the 100 most important gadgets of the past decade, noting it was the era in which tools for creating and consuming content became omnipresent; the list covers hype-inducing AR products like Magic Leap and Google Glass, odd trends like the selfie stick, and expensive hardware hits (Peloton Bike) and misses (Juicero Press) . link

Online influencers sold $4B of goods in China last year, according to influencer company Ruhnn Holding; this year, 67 percent of advertisers said internet celebrities and influencers were their preferred advertising channel in China, according to a marketing firm survey; The Wall Street Journal examines how live-streamers gain and lose consumer trust . link

Facebook terminates a contractor who took bribes to reactivate banned ad accounts, BuzzFeed News reports; Facebook launched a probe after BuzzFeed contacted the social network as part of a journalistic investigation; San Diego-based Ads Inc, now defunct, paid the contractor thousands to facilitate an ad scam that tricked users into signing up for expensive subscriptions . link

Google reveals new Android TV developer device; a previously leaked roadmap indicated the company planned to launch a new Android TV device with smart home features next year; also plans Stadia integration; Google also rolled out Android 10 to Android TV devices on Tuesday . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Josh Browder, founder and CEO of link

Stratechery analyzes the differences between aggregators and platforms within the context of antitrust concerns; he argues platforms are powerful economic engines that fuel innovation but they have great potential for abuse due to the dependence of third parties; Thompson says aggregators pose less of threat in terms of internal policies, but should see increased scrutiny for acquisitions . link

Reuters details how former US Counterterrorism Czar Richard Clarke, working as a consultant, helped the United Arab Emirates to create an anti-terrorism cyber-surveillance unit that the UAE ultimately used to target activists, journalists, UN diplomats, and others; Clarke was the first of many Americans who worked on the project, which involved former White House and defense executives, ex-NSA spies, more . link

Yahoo extends the deadline for downloading Groups data to Jan 31; also delayed converting groups to restricted status until Jan 31; the company blocked new content on Oct 28 and will disable content viewing on Dec 14; Verizon hasn't disclosed how long Groups will remain active as email directories; the company recently blocked archivists using scripts to download data . link

Google launches Chrome browser v79 with security improvements, including built-in Password Checkup (previously available as an extension), automatic blacklisting of malicious sites via the Safe Browsing API, Predictive Phishing protection, more . link

Much of the disinformation surrounding Britain's general election is coming from the candidates themselves, The New York Times reports; the Conservative Party has faced criticism for disguising a Twitter account as belonging no a nonpartisan fact-checking group, more; the Labour Party's leader cited documents from a Russian disinformation campaign to support his claims about the effect of a Conservative victory on the NHS . link

Facebook rejects a request from the US, UK, and Australian governments for the company to weaken its planned end-to-end messaging encryption in WhatsApp and Messenger; the governments cited criminal investigations and crime prevention in the request; Facebook said it's not possible to create a backdoor for certain people without others trying to access it . link

Apple rolls out iOS 13.3 with support for USB-C, NFC, and Lightning physical security keys (FIDO2); the change opens functionality for all apps and sites; the update also includes bug fixes and minor feature enhancements . link

Apple opens sales for the new Mac Pro; the company expects to deliver the first orders between Dec 19 and 27; the base model is $6k, but with the maximum upgrade options, the system can run ~$50k; 1.5TB of DDR memory adds $25k . link

Microsoft launches group communications tool Teams for Linux in public preview; it is the first Office app available for Linux (.deb and .rpm); Teams is Microsoft's fastest-growing business app ever; last month it claimed 20M daily active users . link

Apple launches 24-month, interest-free iPhone installment plans for Apple Card customers; the company is also doubling its Apple Card cash-back reward from three percent to six percent until Dec 31; applicable to the Apple Store app,, and Apple's physical locations . link

The download for 2019-12-10 →

Alphabet names Nobel prize winner Frances Arnold to its board; Arnold, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, received the honor in 2018 for her work developing the first proteins capable of catalyzing chemical reactions; Arnold will serve on Alphabet’s corporate governance, and nominating committees . link

Amazon acquires some German soccer rights for the 2021/2022 season; terms undisclosed; the company will offer live games for European soccer Champions League; Amazon previously secured a multi-year deal for some English Premier League games . link

Omers Ventures adds Jambu Palaniappan as Managing Partner for Europe; Palaniappan previously served as Regional General Manager for Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and Africa; Palaniappan is the fourth VC named to Omers’ European fund, joining Harry Briggs, Tara Reeves, and Henry Gladwyn . link

Apple will have an official presence at CES in January, though the company is not expected to announce any new products; Apple’s senior director of privacy Jane Horvath will participate in a roundtable; the company’s last major appearance was in 1992 when then-CEO John Sculley introduced the Newton at a Chicago CES event . link

Several LGBT+ organizations say Facebook has allowed multiple ads that spread misinformation about HIV prevention drugs; the organizations, led by GLAAD, claim the ads typically make misleading statements about the side effects of HIV prophylactic drugs; Facebook says the ads have not been marked false by fact-checkers and do not violate its policies . link

Uber is close to acquiring self-driving simulation firm Foresight, according to a source for The Information; Foresight has roughly a dozen employees, three of which previously worked on Apple’s autonomous car efforts; Foresight has raised $3.4M to date . link

Intel-owned McAfee is considering a bid for rival cybersecurity company NortonLifeLock, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; full details unclear, but NortonLifeLock has also been approached by private equity firms TPG and Thoma Bravo; NortonLifeLock was known as Symantec until it sold its enterprise security unit to Broadcom for $10.7B . link

UK-based food delivery firm Just Eat rejects an increased £5.1B (~$6.7B) takeover bid from Prosus; Just Eat’s board says the new figure still undervalues the company; Naspers-owned Prosus previously offered £4.9B (~$6.4B); Just Eat’s board had approved a merger with Dutch counterpart when Prosus made its advance . link

GitHub COO Erica Brescia says the firm may open an office in China; speaking with the Financial Times, Brescia says Chinese officials have told the Microsoft-owned company that it prefers open source software because it’s not subject to US trade restrictions; Brescia says GitHub would likely establish a fully-owned Chinese subsidiary with the possibility of setting up a joint venture; she also says GitHub could host data in the country . link

Apple shipped an estimated 29.5M wearables (Apple Watch and AirPods) during Q3, according to IDC data; Apple has 35 percent of the market, followed by Xiaomi with 14.6 percent; Samsung was third with 9.8 percent; Apple shipped approximately 10M wearables during the same quarter in 2018 . link

Nigeria-based online marketplace Jiji raises $21M Series C and C-1 led by Knuru Capital; lets customers list and sell products and services locally; has raised $50M to date . link

Alphabet says it is close to settling litigation relating to a Google+ data leak; the company has told a CA federal court it will present the proposal on Jan 4; the presiding judge plans to review the settlement on Feb 20 . link

Apple says it has concerns that two former employees accused of theft will abscond to China; federal prosecutors in CA say Xiaolang Zhang and Jizhong Chen should be closely monitored because they pose a flight risk; Zhang allegedly took files pertaining to Apple’s self-driving car project; Chen is accused of taking sensitive docs relating to Apple’s secure databases . link

Romania-based SaaS firm FintechOS raises $14M Series A led by Digital East Fund and OTB Ventures with participation from Gapminder Ventures and Launchub; the startup offers cloud-based tools to financial institutions, allowing them to provide digital banking and insurance services; has raised more than $15M to date . link

Former Apple exec Gerard Williams III says the company reviewed his private messages before filing a lawsuit against him; Williams served as Apple’s senior director in platform architecture until he departed in February; he went on to launch Nuvia, which is developing chips for data centers; Apple claims Williams has breached an anti-compete clause in his contract; the firm also says Williams worked on Nuvia while still employed at Apple . link

SoftBank is selling its stake in dog-walking firm Wag back to the company; terms undisclosed, but the arrangement reportedly values Wag at below $650M, which is what it was worth when SoftBank’s Vision Fund invested in Jan 2018; Wag CEO Garrett Smallwood says the move is amicable and notes SoftBank will no longer hold any board seats; follows reports Wag has cut 80 percent of its staff .Update: Wag has cut staff, but exact numbers are undisclosed, reports Business Insider; Smallwood announced the job losses in the same internal memo that disclosed the SoftBank arrangement; SoftBank’s exit from Wag reportedly follows a disagreement among the board on how to make the company profitable . link

Away co-founder and CEO Steph Korey steps down; follows an investigation by The Verge into the company’s culture; former Lululemon exec Stuart Haselden will serve as CEO; Korey remains exec chair . link

Direct-to-consumer startups are shifting to brick-and-mortar retail sales and more traditional advertising channels in a bid to compete beyond their niche roots, The Wall Street Journal reports; large retailers that have acquired fast-growing direct-to-consumer startups are finding that consumers generally prefer to buy staples while shopping at physical locations . link

LedgerX, a bitcoin and derivatives exchange serving retail and institutional investors, places Co-Founders Paul and Juthica Chou (respective CEO and COO) on administrative leave; Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Christopher Giancarlo reportedly had a personal animus for Paul Chou and inhibited the company . link

National Labor Relations Board launches an investigation regarding Google's firing of four workers who say they faced retaliation for activism; the probe will also examine whether Google discouraged employees from unionizing; Google said the fired employees intentionally, repeatedly violated the company's data-security policies . link

Zeus Living, which offers furnished spaces for corporate housing and travel, raises $55M Series B at a $205M post-valuation from Airbnb, Comcast, others; Zeus will list its spaces on Airbnb; the company redecorates spaces and leases them for 30 days or more; claims a $100M run rate . link

Company exposes ~750k applications for US birth certificate copies in an unsecured AWS storage bucket; Fidus Information Security and TechCrunch notified the unnamed company before publication, with no meaningful response; the applications, dating from late-2017 to present, include names, addresses, dates of birth, more; the company helps people obtain copies of certificates of birth and death . link

Oculus updates the Quest VR headset with native hand-tracking as an experimental feature; will ultimately enable users to interact with virtual worlds without controllers; initially limited to the headset's root menu, which offers multimedia viewing; the company is launching an SDK for third-party app support . link

Rep David Cicilline (D-RI), chairman of the subcommittee that oversees antitrust law, is building evidence to spark antitrust reform, The New York Times reports; in June he launched a probe into potential anticompetitive practices by Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook; antitrust experts say it's the most significant congressional inquiry into the issue in decades . link

Researchers store data in synthetic DNA and embed the DNA in a 3D-printed plastic rabbit; the data includes instructions for reproducing the model bunny; they placed the DNA in microscopic glass beads to protect it from heat during the creation process; the scientists noted the same technique could store medical data within medical implants . link

Coolest, the company that raised $13M via Kickstarter in 2014 for a travel cooler with integrated Bluetooth speaker and blender, shuts down; the company faced numerous delays in delivering its core product, and scrutiny for selling through retail channels before delivering Kickstarter pre-orders; one-third of those orders will never be fulfilled; CEO Ryan Grepper blamed the shutdown on tariffs . link

Google updates Maps for iOS with Incognito Mode; previously launched for Android; the feature prevents Maps from saving search and navigation histories to Google accounts; also disables personalization features, such as recommended restaurants . link

San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Seattle, and Boston represented 90 percent of US high-tech job growth from 2005 to 2017, according to researchers from the Brookings Institution and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; The Wall Street Journal notes the increasing concentration of tech resources creates challenges for tech hubs and for cities left out of the loop . link

Amazon's complaint regarding the Pentagon's procurement process for the $10B JEDI cloud computing contract argues President Trump exerted improper pressure on the Department of Defense to ensure the deal would not go to Amazon; the complaint indicates Trump conducted public and private attacks; Microsoft ultimately won the contract . link

Google announces Pixel feature drops, updates that go beyond standard fixes to add significant new functions; the first drop, coming this month, adds automatic call screening, improved Duo calls, new photographing features, more . link

Intel announces the Horse Ridge cryogenic control chip for quantum computing; Intel Labs and research partner QuTech at TU-Delft are using the chip to control multiple qubits; could prove critical to systems integration, commercial practicality, and scaling . link

Microsoft to shut down to-do app Wunderlist on May 6; Microsoft gained the app through the acquisition of 6Wunderkinder in 2015 and has since integrated its features into the To-Do feature for Office 365; 6Wunderkinder Co-Founder Christian Reber has expressed interest in repurchasing Wunderlist from Microsoft . link

Verizon blocks archivists from preserving Yahoo Groups as the company prepares to delete all content on Dec 14; Verizon allows individuals to download content via privacy dashboard, but said The Archive Team violated terms of service by mass downloading content for preservation on the non-profit Internet Archive; Yahoo's directory lists ~5.6M groups . link

The download for 2019-12-09 →

The European Commission will review long-standing rules that determine how dominant firms can influence their respective markets; Commissioner Margrethe Vestager says globalization and digitization have changed how markets now operate; reugla . link

Lithuania’s central bank announces a plan for a collectible crypto coin; it will release 24k blockchain-based digital tokens dedicated to country’s 1918 declaration of independence; the bank says they will not be considered legal tender; the release will also serve as a pilot test as Lithuania plans to develop blockchain services . link

Three Samsung execs have been jailed in South Korea for participating in a scheme to hide company records while facing an accounting investigation; full details unclear, but the execs worked for Samsung Biologics, the company’s biotech unit; the coverup included hiding dozens of servers and computers under the floors of Biologics factories . link

Seagate plans to introduce an 18TB hard drive in the first half of 2020, followed soon after by a 20TB model; the company’s current offerings top out at 16TB; it’s unknown how much the drives will cost, but they will likely be aimed at enterprise customers . link

The EU approves a €3.2B ($3.5B) package for battery tech research in seven countries; the funding will support R&D projects in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Sweden; experts suggest the stimulus could encourage an additional $5B in private financing; the European Commission says the plan involves exploration of mining processes, new chemical creation methods, and more . link

Jow, a France-based online grocery app, raises $7M led by Stride.VC with participation from DST and others; the startup lets users quickly stock their online shopping carts; Jow has partnerships with several French supermarkets including Monoprix and Carrefour; has raised ~$8.5M to date . link

Apple is set to implement a thinner battery protection module in its next iPhone lineup which will allow for larger power cells, reports South Korean outlet The Elec; the smaller module will be supplied by ITM Semiconductor who already provides such parts to Samsung . link

China-based Xiaomi enters the Japanese market with ~$500 Mi Note 10; the 6.5-inch device features a 108MP camera and 5,260mAh battery that promises to last more than two days on a single charge; Xiaomi has also launched its Mi Smart Band 4, a rice cooker, and an all-metal suitcase . link

A deal for India-based Coffee Day Enterprises (CDE) to sell some of its tech assets to Blackstone has stalled, according to Bloomberg sources; CDE creditor Yes Bank is yet to approve the arrangement because it’s seeking assurances on outstanding loans; all of CDE’s other lenders have signed off on the sale; CDE opted to sell off its Global Village Tech Park in Bangalore for ~$370M after the sudden death of founder VG Siddhartha . link

The New York Times profiles the programming strategy for yet-to-launch short video service Quibi; the company has ordered shows from figures with significant followings on YouTube and Instagram, as well as media firms such as ESPN and NBC News; Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg suggests influencers such as Rachel Hollis and Shan Boodram could become household names; Quibi is set to launch in April 2020 . link

A lawsuit that seeks to block the $26B T-Mobile-Sprint merger is set to begin court hearings today; attorneys general for 13 states and DC are challenging the agreement; opponents of the deal say it could lead to higher prices for consumers; the case is being heard at a federal court in New York and is expected to last around three weeks . link

Japan’s coast guard says it will stop using Chinese-made drones from fiscal 2020 due to data security concerns; China-based DJI says the security of its drones has been independently verified; follows moves by the Japanese government to block Huawei tech from its agencies . link

TikTok plans to introduce a shoppable ads feature, reports the Financial Times; the company has signed deals with Walmart, Nike, and others, and plans to have ads link directly to products; the report notes users spend an average of 250 to 300 seconds per session in the app . link

Epic is set to add “Fortnite” to the Google Play Store, according to sources for 9to5Mac; the firm plans to use its own in-game payments system, therefore bypassing Google’s 30 percent commission on purchases; it’s unknown whether Google will approve the setup; players currently have to download “Fortnite” direct from Epic and then sideload it . link

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) issues a report stating large tech firms should be subject to “vigilant monitoring” when moving into the financial sector; the global advisory body notes traditional banks could face liquidity problems as reserves are moved elsewhere; the FSB says tech companies may have to share some user data or risk causing economic problems . link

Huawei intends to put its HarmonyOS (aka HongmengOS) in more products starting next year; full plans unclear, but Huawei says it has no immediate plans to HarmonyOS in smartphones or PCs; the company previously announced the software will be used in a smart-screen product . link

Chris Gray writes an op-ed for The Guardian discussing his experiences as a content moderator for Facebook; Gray says moderators are underpaid and face constant pressure; he also speaks about the effect of continuous exposure to extremist views and the impact such work has on sleep; Gray notes many former moderators are suing Facebook over working conditions . link

A UK antitrust watchdog will decide this week whether to continue to probe Amazon’s planned $575M investment in food delivery firm Deliveroo, reports Bloomberg; the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is expected to announce on Dec 11 whether it will launch a full investigation into the deal; analysts suggest the CMA is likely to look at Amazon’s potential interest in Deliveroo’s customer data . link

RaySecur, a Boston-based startup offering mailroom scanning tech, raises $3M seed led by One Way Ventures with participation from Junson Capital, Launchpad Venture Group, and Dreamit Ventures; the firm has developed millimeter-wave scanners that promise to detect suspicious content within letters and small packages . link

Snapchat begins publicly testing Cameos, a feature that lets a user put their face onto characters in GIF-like looping videos; some users in France have reported having access to the feature, but it’s unknown when it will roll out fully . link

China orders all government offices to remove computer products made by foreign companies within three years, according to multiple reports; the Financial Times estimates the move will see 20M to 30M items replaced; analysts expect 30 percent of products could be swapped out next year, 50 percent in 2021, and 20 percent in 2022 . link

The download for 2019-12-08 →

Federal judge summarizes Amazon's sealed case against the Pentagon over JEDI contract, confirms that Amazon believes President Trump's bias against the company hurt its chances during the procurement process; the Pentagon awarded the contract to Microsoft in October . link

Jeff Bezos, speaking at an annual defense forum, said Amazon would support the Department of Defense, indicating an interest in new contracts; the company recently filed a formal complaint regarding the Pentagon's process for selecting Microsoft over Amazon for a $10B cloud computing contract . link

Sports-centric video streaming service DAZN has dedicated its original programming budget to producing free content for other services; boxing documentary “One Night,” executive-produced and narrated by Sylvester Stallone, has garnered ~2.6M views on YouTube since debuting two weeks ago; the movie serves to create excitement for a DAZN rematch of its subjects . link

Apple's wearables business, the company's fastest growing, could soon approach the size of its services arm, The Wall Street Journal reports; for the fiscal year ending in September, wearables generated $24.5B in revenue, up 41 percent year-over-year; service revenue reached $46.3B, up 16 percent (compared to 22 percent growth for the previous year) . link

Montréal-based Breather, which provides short-term office rentals, conducts layoffs across multiple North American offices, according to reports; workers have confirmed some layoffs, but the number is unknown; the company only said it had made changes to achieve profitability by the end of next year . link

Of the 18M outstanding bitcoins, 9.1M haven't changed hands in the past six months and ~2M of those haven't changed hands over the past two years, according to Flipside; 8.5 percent of all bitcoin wallets hold 99 percent of the bitcoin in circulation; the number of daily bitcoin transactions has fallen from 370k in the spring to 307k . link

Most people in China prefer traditional identification methods over facial recognition tech and want more control over their data, according to a survey by Beijing's Nandu Personal Information Protection Research Centre; 60 to 70 percent said facial recognition increases safety and convenience in certain settings, including schools and transport hubs; 80 percent of respondents expressed concerns about data security . link

Legal experts say Elon Musk's successful defense in a defamation suit by British cave explorer Vernon Unsworth could change the landscape for libel cases, Reuters reports; Musk's defense argued his calling Unsworth link

Porsche is developing a four-motor electric powertrain for an SUV; the company noted that the four motors, eliminating the need for differentials and special braking systems, would improve handling in good weather and stability in bad weather . link

The Netherlands surpasses Norway as Tesla's top European market as Model 3 sales spike ahead of a reduction in tax incentives; Model 3 is the top-selling vehicle in the country; the car has dramatically improved Tesla's sales in Austria, Spain, Italy and other countries . link

Apple to open orders for the new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR on Dec 10; the Mac Pro base model starts at $6k, offering an octa-core Intel Xeon CPU, Radeon Pro 580X graphics, 32GB RAM, and a 256GB drive; the display starts at $5k, and the corresponding stand runs $1k . link

Senior members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, support the termination of an NSA surveillance program that collects data on phone calls and text messages; the Trump administration seeks to renew the program; Sen Richard Burr (R-NC) and others say it no longer provides value to national security . link

The Wall Street Journal examines how digitized national currencies, which China plans, could enable the circumvention of trade sanctions through untraceable payments, more; should China replace the traditional yuan with a cryptocurrency, the US could follow; unlike Bitcoin and other privacy-focused currencies, a national US cryptocurrency could enable vast surveillance . link

Unicorn, the Austin-based e-scooter startup founded by Tile Co-Founder Nick Evans, shuts down; the company said in an email to customers that it would not deliver any of its 350 pre-orders and could not issue refunds; Evans said the company was completely out of money . link

The Trump administration is considering adding some of Amazon's international sites to a link

Vice, in the final part of a series on Ring, details how the company's vast surveillance network is changing neighborhoods; Ring pursues city discounts, resulting in camera registries and police oversight of use; Ring's Neighbors app, which enables sharing of videos, fosters a culture of self-policing that often results in racial profiling; also see parts one and two of Vice's series on Ring . link

Vice examines the state of VR pornography that uses deepfake tech to integrate semi-realistic likenesses of celebrities and other non-consenting victims; Vice reported last month on communities developing avatars to look like celebrities; the addition of deepfake techniques is a new development . link

Facebook is in talks to lease 700k square feet of office space in Midtown Manhattan's Farley Building, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the company announced last month it would lease 1.5M square feet in Hudson Yards; the Farley deal would bring Facebook's total New York footprint to 3M square feet, making it one of the city's largest corporate tenants . link

Swedish company Ericsson to pay $1B-plus to settle US corruption investigations; the Department of Justice said Ericsson would pay a $520M criminal penalty for bribing officials in China, Vietnam, and Djibouti; Ericsson will pay $540M to the SEC . link

Reddit bans 61 accounts suspected of coordinating as part of a Russian campaign on the platform; while probing a Russian campaign on Facebook earlier this year, investigators discovered associated Reddit accounts and notified that company; Reddit linked the campaign to a leak of US-UK trade documents and to manipulated post voting . link

A federal jury finds Elon Musk did not defame British cave explorer Vernon Unsworth; Unsworth sued Musk after the pair had a public dispute over strategies for rescuing a youth soccer team from a Thai cave last year; Musk referred to Unsworth as link

Amazon leases 335k square feet of office space in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of Manhattan with no financial incentives from city or state; the announcement comes ~10 months after the company canceled plans for a Queens campus; lawmakers resisted a $3B incentive package for that HQ2 location, which would have brought ~25k jobs to the city; the new office will house 1.5k workers at 410 10th Avenue . link

The download for 2019-12-07 →

New York Magazine notes that Facebook's strategy of rolling out new features to limited groups has served the company's public image; for example, a tool that enables consumers to delete the data Facebook has collected about their activities outside of Facebook is not widely available, but addresses privacy concerns; a tool for exporting photos to Google will launch first in Ireland, possibly appeasing European antitrust regulators . link

A hacking group with suspected ties to the Vietnamese government breached the networks of BMW and Hyundai, according to German news reports; the group, known as Ocean Lotus and APT32, reportedly penetrated BMW's network in the spring and maintained access until the last week of November; neither automaker has commented on the reports . link

The New York Times' Cade Metz collects brief explanations of quantum computing from industry experts; Google researchers recently claimed to have achieved quantum supremacy, using a quantum computer to solve in 200 seconds a calculation that would have taken the world's top supercomputer 10k years to complete . link

Social platforms including Facebook and Twitter have failed to police inauthentic behavior intended to improve content visibility, according to the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence; researchers paid providers for likes, comments, and clicks; they notified platforms of offending accounts, but most remained active weeks later . link

Flipkart to manufacture, distribute, and sell Nokia-branded smart TVs with JBL sound in India; represents Nokia's first foray into TV products and JBL's first TV product for the Indian market . link

The number of surveillance cameras installed globally to climb from the current 770M to over 1B by the end of 2021, according to industry researcher IHS Markit; IHS expects China to represent half of new installations; US installations to increase from 70M to 85M over the same period; China is leading the use of surveillance cameras in conjunction with facial recognition and AI-powered crime prediction . link

The SEC rejects the New York Stock Exchange's proposal to allow companies to raise capital through direct listings via common equity securities; the exchange sought to amend the Listed Company Manual; following the rejection the exchange said it would remain committed to evolving direct listings and would continue to work with the SEC . link

Adobe acquires VR modeling and sculpting tool Oculus Medium from Facebook; terms undisclosed; Adobe plans to update the app with new features next year; it will remain free to Oculus VR users; Adobe said Medium would complement the company's 3D texturing app Substance . link

Lab-grown pork startup Meatable raises $10M: a $3M grant from the European Commission and $7M in equity investment from Union Square's Albert Wenger, TransferWise Co-Founder Taavet Hinrikus, and others; the Dutch company hopes to have an industrial-scale plant operational by 2025 . link

Wired details how hacking group Evil Corp used malware, money mules, and franchising to steal $100M from victims' bank accounts; the Department of Justice has filed hacking, fraud, and other charges against alleged Evil Corp leader Maksim Yakubets; the Treasury Department has accused him of assisting Russia's FSB intelligence agency; the US government is offering $5M for information leading to Yakubets' arrest . link

The FTC officially rules that Cambridge Analytica deceived consumers when collecting data through Facebook personality tests; the commission previously settled with CEO Alexander Nix and app developer Aleksandr Kogan; Cambridge Analytica filed for bankruptcy shortly after the scandal broke; the FTC's order requires the company delete collected data . link

Alphabet's appointment of Sundar Pichai to the CEO role signals the company's renewed focus on conventional corporate concerns, The Wall Street Journal reports; Google represents more than 99 percent of Alphabet's $155B in annual revenue; Alphabet's other entities currently represent significant financial losses; the report also argues that Alphabet's creation failed to provide transparency for investors . link

Magic Leap sold ~6k of its One AR headset in the first six months of availability, far short of the company's 100k goal, according to sources for The Information; the company reportedly is prototyping a Two headset with 5G support, but technical challenges could delay a launch for years; sources say the company has laid off dozens in recent weeks . link

The Wall Street Journal examines cases of hoverboards sold on Amazon that caught fire, noting the cases test the argument that platforms should not be responsible for the sales and other activities they host; Amazon halted sales and warned consumers about hoverboard dangers, but the virtual anonymity of platform merchants complicated investigations and enabled the sales of similar products . link

Sen Bernie Sanders (D-VT) reveals “High-Speed Internet for All” proposal, which calls for the government to treat internet service as a public utility; would create $150B in aid and grants for state and local governments to establish public broadband services; also seeks to break up large ISPs, provide free broadband for low-income families, more . link

The download for 2019-12-06 →

Chinese officials say locally produced Tesla Model 3 cars will qualify for state subsidies; the scale of the grants is unclear, but the Chinese Model 3 starts at ~$50k . link

Spanish telco Telefonica says it will purchase 5G network equipment from Huawei and a second supplier (yet to be selected); Telefonica previously used Huawei exclusively for its 4G network; follows claims by the US government that Huawei’s tech is vulnerable to Chinese spying . link

Singapore-based fashion rental service Style Theory raises $15M Series B led by SoftBank Ventures Asia with participation from Alpha JWC Ventures and the Paradise Group; the company operates across Southeast Asia, providing short-term access to designer clothes and accessories . link

New York-based online used car marketplace Vroom raises $254M Series H led by Durable Capital Partners with participation from L Catterton and others; Vroom connects buyers and sellers; also offers vehicle financing and delivery; has raised $721M to date . link

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says the company is aiming for 100M subscribers in India, which is almost 25 times its estimated current number; Hastings notes Netflix is spending ~$420M on local content over 2019/2020; the Indian streaming market is expected to be worth as much as $5B annually by 2023 . link

Cisco’s former CIO Guillermo Diaz Jr and Frank Palumbo, SVP of global data center sales, are both exiting the company; Diaz, a 20-year Cisco veteran, served as CIO from 2015 until earlier this year; Palumbo, who has worked for Cisco for 27 years, is leaving to join Pensando Systems . link

Multiple owners of the new 16-inch MacBook Pro say the device has audio issues; an Apple Support forum features comments from users complaining of a popping/clicking sound when audio playback is paused; the reason for the problem is unclear; Apple is yet to address the issue . link

TikTok head Alex Zhu is set to meet with lawmakers in Washington, DC next week, according to sources for The Washington Post; Shanghai-based Zhu has sought meetings with Sen Josh Hawley (R-MO), Sen Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL), all of whom have raised questions about China’s influence on the company; Cotton and others have suggested TikTok may have to completely separate itself from its Chinese owners . link

iDreamSky is in talks to acquire fellow Chinese games company Leyou for $1.4B, according to Bloomberg sources; iDreamSky is working with Credit Suisse and has met with several potential investors to discuss financing for the deal; Leyou produces free-to-play titles, and is also working with Amazon on an upcoming game based on “The Lord of the Rings” . link

Amazon adds six execs to its so-called S Team; the group oversees Amazon’s day-to-day operations and meet regularly with CEO Jeff Bezos; the new members include Neil Lindsey, VP of Worldwide Prime & Marketing, Rohit Prasad, VP and Head Scientist for Alexa, and Colleen Aubrey, VP of Performance Advertising; other S Team members include AWS CEO Andy Jassy . link

SoftBank partners with the University of Tokyo to establish an R&D facility focused on AI: known as Beyond AI Institute, the facility will support 150 researchers looking at AI applications for healthcare, infrastructure, manufacturing, and more; SoftBank has committed more than $180M over 10 years to the scheme . link

Challenger bank Chime raises $500M Series E led by DST Global; CNBC sources say the company is now worth $5.8B, up from $1.5B in March; Chime offers no-fee accounts and early direct deposits on paychecks; the firm claims 6.5M customers . link

Facebook is in talks to lease additional office space in New York City, reports The Wall Street Journal; the firm is looking at 700k square feet in the Farley Building, which is located near Madison Square Garden in Manhattan; if a deal is completed, Facebook will operate 3M square feet of office space across the city . link

TikTok’s parent firm ByteDance settles a lawsuit related to the gathering of children’s data just a day after it was filed; the details of the settlement are undisclosed; the company was accused of collecting info on users under 13 without their parents’ permission . link

Qualcomm announces ARM-based Snapdragon 8c and Snapdragon 7c processors which are designed to power Windows laptops; the 8c promises up to 30 percent better performance when compared with Snapdragon 850; it can also be paired with the X55 5G modem; 7c will offer a 25 percent improved performance when compared with competing products . link

The Communications Workers of America union files a complaint against Google claiming the company fired four workers to discourage others from unionizing; the filing will automatically trigger a National Labor Relations Board investigation (NLRB); depending on the outcome of the probe, the complaint could become a court appeal . link

Samsung will introduce a 108MP camera and a 5x telephoto lens with the Galaxy S11, according to Bloomberg sources; the device will also feature a time-of-flight sensor; Samsung is expected to launch the S11 in February; it's anticipated the company will also announce a clamshell foldable around the same time . link

Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep David Cicilline (D-RI) are drafting legislation that aims to block large-scale mergers and allow gig workers to unionize, according to a CNBC source; the bill would block merger deals that involve companies with more than $40B annual revenue, or two firms with more than $15B revenue each; there are also proposed changes to antitrust legislation . link

Uber issues its first safety report; for 2017 and 2018, the company recorded 6k sexual assaults, 19 violent assaults, and 107 vehicle-related deaths; Uber completed 2.3B rides over that same period . link

Facebook sues Hong Kong-based ILikeAd Media International, alleging ad fraud; Facebook claimed the company used cloaking, click-baiting, and other unethical practices to trick users into following malware links; ILikeAd allegedly hijacked advertising accounts to run unauthorized campaigns; Facebook said it had refunded $4M to affected ad accounts . link

The Verge's Dieter Bohn examines the state of Google's third era following news that Alphabet CEO Larry Page and President Sergey Brin stepped away from day-to-day operations, leaving Google CEO Sundar Pichai in charge of Alphabet; Bohn says Pichai's primarily responsibilities are company culture, dealing with regulations, and addressing privacy concerns . link

Airbnb officially bans all open-invite parties and events, will establish an enforcement framework for noise complaints, unauthorized guests, more; the company announced new safety policies last month following a fatal shooting at a Halloween party; the company now verifies all listings and manually reviews high-risk listings . link

Riot Games announces publishing label Riot Forge with the stated purpose of expanding the link

India's shutdown of internet in the disputed territory of Kashmir has resulted in many Kashmiris losing their WhatsApp accounts; the company generally removes accounts after 120 days of inactivity, with stated reasons being security and limiting data retention; WhatsApp serves 400M users in India, and its groups are central to online communications . link

Microsoft updates its Office apps for mobile with Fluent Design, a set of principles intended to simplify and speed up app interactions; the company has created toolkits for third-party developers: for apps that work with Office apps and those that don't . link

Qualcomm announces the Snapdragon XR2, a 5G-compatible chipset targeting standalone XR headsets and smart glasses; the company is developing a VR reference design and is separately working with Niantic Labs on a reference design for smart glasses; the chipset supports seven simultaneous camera streams for advanced tracking . link

Facebook is developing new apps for podcasts, travel, and more, according to sources for The New York Times; the company's New Product Experimentation Team is also reportedly working on newsletter tools and workplace services; the group previously created matchmaking app Bump and social music app Aux . link

Apple confirms iOS uses Location Services, even when disabled by the user, to determine if a device is in an area where regulations require ultra wideband tech be disabled; the company plans an iOS toggle for disabling ultra wideband and the associated Location Services checks; ultra wideband facilitates AirDrop sharing, and some expect it will support Apple's coming item-tracking service . link

DeepMind Co-Founder and Head of Applied AI Mustafa Suleyman moves to Google to work on AI policy; the details of his role are unclear, but he will work with AI head Jeff Dean and CLO Kent Walker; Suleyman spearheaded DeepMind's health team and led the initiative to bring the fruits of DeepMind research into Google products . link

The Department of Homeland Security cancels proposal for a regulation amendment that would require US citizens and permanent residents to submit to face recognition scans when leaving or arriving in the country; Customs and Border Protection reversed the initiative due to criticism and privacy concerns . link

GM and LG to invest $2.3B in a new EV battery joint venture and a cell factory near Lordstown, OH that will employ ~1.1k; the pair plans to develop and assemble cells for use in GM vehicles; GM recently shuttered an auto assembly plant in the area and sold it to an EV startup . link

Imgur launches Melee for iOS, enabling video game enthusiasts to follow feeds of posts relevant to specific games, pro players, more; the company plans an Android version for the first quarter of next year and eventually, a web version; plans improved profiles and streamer promotion features next year . link

Apple to launch a port-free, completely wireless iPhone in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo; Kuo said the company would further distinguish its highest-end iPhones, and that the wireless version will be the top-of-the-line model; Kuo also expects an iPhone SE2 Plus with full-body display and Touch ID in the power button . link

The Department of Justice files hacking and fraud charges against Russian Maksim Yakubets, alleging he led the criminal organization Evil Corp; the hacking collective oversaw the creation of banking malware Dridex, which steals banking credentials and delivers ransomware; he also allegedly used the Zeus malware to steal $70M from individuals' bank accounts . link

The download for 2019-12-05 →

Plexo Capital spins out of GV, raises $42.5M for its first fund; it is headed by former GV Partner Lo Toney; Plexo will invest in startups and other funds; backers include Alphabet, Intel Capital, and others . link

Brazil-based fintech firm Cora raises $10M led by Kaszek Ventures with participation from Ribbit Capital; the startup offers online loans to SMEs; it’s currently operating in a closed beta but plans to launch fully in 2020; Cora was established by Igor Senra and Leo Mendes, who previously founded payments company MOIP in 2005; Wirecard acquired MOIP in 2016 . link

EU finance officials agree privately managed digital currencies such as Libra should not be approved until their risks have been fully assessed; follows statements from European lawmakers suggesting regulatory action may be necessary to manage stablecoins . link

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration has advised foreign governments it must consider network security when transferring confidential data; Pompeo also said the US has warned other countries about the possible dangers of using tech from Huawei and other China-based firms; Pompeo made the comments after being asked by a journalist about Portugal’s use of Huawei tech in its national networks . link

The Indian government is considering a new rule that could force social networks to make user verification features available to all, according to Reuters sources; lawmakers are weighing the measure as they seek to tackle misinformation online; if implemented, a user could opt to show a verification badge on their profile; Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram already verify some users, but the process is not decided by users . link

Indonesia has introduced new rules requiring overseas tech firms pay local taxes; companies who provide services to Indonesian residents and meet certain thresholds will be subject to the levy, even if they don’t maintain a local office; Indonesia’s internet economy is worth an estimated $40B annually, making it the largest in Southeast Asia . link

Several advocacy groups write to the FTC calling for an investigation into online ad practices aimed at children; the letter has been signed by 31 groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood; the FTC is reportedly already considering changes to online data collection for children . link

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is working to remove legal protections for online content from a North American trade agreement, reports The Wall Street Journal; industry lobbyists pushed to include provisions that shield internet firms from user activities in Mexico and Canada; the companies already have similar protections in the US; some lawmakers have concerns the language could make it harder for Congress to roll back specific domestic laws, which could then be an impediment to industry reform . link

The New York Times profiles Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s exit from day-to-day operations at Alphabet and Google; the report highlights Page and Brin’s interests away from Google’s core operations; former colleagues note the pair were seemingly uninterested in corporate management; Page has invested in flying car company KittyHawk and asteroid mining firm Planetary Resources; Brin has backed space tourism business Space Adventures as well as synthetic meat research . link

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield claims Microsoft Teams has relatively weak user engagement; Butterfield made the comments during an earnings call where he suggested Microsoft is “force migrating” users over to teams from older software that has been shutdown; Butterfield says Slack expects the closure of Skype for Business will see Teams' numbers increase even further . link

New York City announces a cargo-bike pilot scheme aimed at reducing congestion in Manhattan; the city will let logistics firms park electric-assisted pedal vehicles in commercial loading spaces; officials expect ~100 cargo-bikes from Amazon, DHL, UPS and others will participate in the six-month program . link

India-based mobility services firm CarDekho raises $70M led by Ping An Global Voyager Fund with participation from Sequoia Capital and Hillhouse Capital; the company operates several driver-focused online companies including an insurance portal, vehicle reviews website, and more; has raised almost $250M to date . link

Food delivery firm DoorDash is set to lose $450M this year, reports The Information; the company anticipates revenues of $900M to $1B for 2019, more than twice the figure for 2018; compares with Uber Eats, which is forecast to lose ~$1.2B this year; DoorDash is thought to have between $500M and $1B cash-on-hand; it’s also expected to IPO in 2020 . link

20 women join a CA lawsuit against Lyft that claims the company has failed to take action against a link

TikTok’s parent firm ByteDance is facing a lawsuit for allegedly collecting data on users under 13 without their parent’s permission; the parents of two TikTok users have filed the lawsuit, claiming the platform has gathered such data in one form or another since 2014 when it was still known as; ByteDance acquired in 2017 and rolled it into TikTok; the FTC previously fined TikTok $5.7M for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act . link

The FTC is probing Amazon’s cloud business, according to Bloomberg sources; investigators have approached software companies about their interactions with AWS; it’s unclear what they are asking, but the report speculates the FTC could be looking at AWS’ practices toward firms that also use other cloud providers . link

Huawei files a lawsuit against the FCC for banning it from working with rural US networks; the agency says telcos who receive federal subsidies cannot purchase Huawei equipment; the company says the FCC order does not acknowledge its due process protections; Huawei also claims the order will have a negative impact on individuals in remote areas . link

India-based logistics firm Shadowfax raises $60M Series D led by Walmart-controlled Flipkart with participation from Eight Roads Ventures and others; the company operates a B2B delivery network across more than 300 cities; has raised $100M to date . link

Slack ($11.8B market cap) Q3 beats with $168.7M revenue ($156.1M expected), up 60 percent year-over-year; $89.2M net loss, compared to a $47.7M net less for the third quarter of 2018; operating costs rose 68 percent to $240.6M . link

Fair Tax Mark report finds Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Netflix have collectively avoided ~$100B in taxes over the past decade, mostly outside the US; Amazon appears the worst offender, having paid $3.4B in income taxes compared to Microsoft's $46.9B - despite Amazon's revenue over the period exceeding Microsoft's by ~$80B . link

Dataiku, a data platform for AI-powered enterprise analytics, achieves $1.4B valuation with a secondary round in which CapitalG acquired some of Serena Capital's shares; enables clients to use machine learning to analyze massive data sets for business insights; the company has raised $147M to date . link

Qualcomm announces the Snapdragon 865 and 765 chips; the flagship 865 promises improved performance for AI, gaming, more; pairs with the X55 5G modem, which claims a maximum download speed of 7Gbps; the 765 comes with a built-in 5G modem and will likely power lower-end devices; Qualcomm's 800-series targets high-end flagships, whereas the 700-series targets affordable phones . link

The Wall Street Journal examines Huawei's efforts to improve its public image through court battles; the company has campaigned through interviews, open letters, and more to defend itself from claims that its products represent security threats to international customers; Huawei has filed and threatened suits against those who make such claims . link

Salesforce ($137B market cap) generated a record $4.51B in revenue in the third quarter but reported a $109M net loss; compares to a $105M net profit in the third quarter of last year; the company closed its $15.7B acquisition of analytics and data visualization company Tableau in August . link

Reddit's 2019 Year in Review report reveals 430M monthly active users (up 30 percent year-over-year), 199M posts, 1.7B comments, and 32B upvotes; the most upvoted post, the 1989 image of Tiananmen Square's link

Ring has thrown private parties for police officers and given away free products in efforts to align itself with law enforcement and establish partnerships with departments, Vice reports; one such party featured an appearance by Shaquille O'Neal; Vice examines Ring's police partnerships in the second of a three-part series on the company; see part one here . link

Elon Musk takes the stand in Los Angeles to defend himself in a defamation suit by British citizen Vernon Unsworth, who helped to rescue a youth soccer team from a Thai cave last year; Unsworth said Musk's plan to rescue the boys with a submarine was a PR stunt; Musk then referred to Unsworth as link

Microsoft plans to release a lower-cost, disc-free version of its next-generation Xbox, according to Kotaku sources; the new report confirms earlier rumors about the console, known as Project Scarlett: that the company would launch a high-performance model (Anaconda), and a budget model (Lockhart); Microsoft said in June Scarlett was a single console . link

Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom and CFO Alan Pickerill step down due to strategy disagreements with the board; Chairman Barry Diller will manage daily operations while the board establishes a long-term plan; CSO Eric Hart will serve as acting CFO . link

Google is rolling out Digital Wellbeing feature Focus mode to Android 9 and 10; users can select distracting apps within the Digital Wellbeing settings, and those items will be inaccessible and silenced when the device is in Focus mode; the user can enable Focus mode with a quick settings shortcut or in the Digital Wellbeing settings . link

Language learning app Duolingo raises $30M Series F at a $1.5B valuation from CapitalG; investors last valued the company at $700M for a $25M Series E in July 2017; the freemium app claims 30M active users and $100M in annual bookings; raised $138M to date . link

Home media server company Plex launches its free, ad-supported video streaming service; features movies and shows from Lionsgate, MGM, Warner Bros, more; the company says most of its content is available in 220 countries at launch; Plex is considering adding direct movie sales next year . link

Instagram will require new users to provide dates of birth going forward; the change will inform new safety features for younger users and enable the company to expand its ad-targeting for alcohol and other age-restricted products; previously the platform only asked users to confirm they were 13 or older . link

The download for 2019-12-04 →

Samsung plans to launch a new foldable smartphone in Feb 2020, according to sources for the Korea Herald; priced at ~$840, it’s expected to be the first of two foldable devices the company releases next year; the design and specs of the product are unknown . link

Singapore announces new rules for riders of e-bikes and e-scooters; the Ministry of Transport says users will soon have to pass a theory test if they want to ride such vehicles in public; the regulator says it’s also considering whether riders should be required to have insurance . link

UK-based online recruitment startup Otta raises £850k (~$1.1M) from LocalGlobe and others; the company offers a matching service that quizzes job-seekers on the type of role they’re looking for; users are then shown positions one-by-one . link

A South Korean court upholds an ~$870M fine against Qualcomm; the country’s Fair Trade Commission imposed the penalty in 2016, citing anticompetitive behavior; the Seoul High Court says Qualcomm had abused its market position . link

Ford announces a plan to turn coffee waste from McDonalds into bioplastics; the company will collect coffee bean chaff - which naturally falls off during the roasting process - and turn it into a durable material for use in car parts such as headlamp housing; Ford is aiming to eventually use only renewable plastics in its manufacturing . link

Accel Partners has raised $550M for its latest India-centric fund; targets seed and early-stage startups; Accel first launched in the country in 2005 and has since backed more than 100 companies including food delivery firm Swiggy and online ticketing service BookMyShow . link

China-based short-video app Kuaishou raises $2B from Tencent, Yunfeng Capital, and others; the money is part of a larger $3B pre-IPO round; Tencent is set to own ~20 percent of the company on completion of the deal; Kuaishou is seen as a direct competitor to ByteDance’s Douyin (aka TikTok) . link

Nintendo will launch its Switch console in China next week; Nintendo has partnered with Tencent which is localizing titles and providing cloud services; Chinese consumers previously had to use gray-market channels to purchase the device . link

Hong Kong-based cloud collaboration platform Area28 raises $2.1M seed led by Vectr Ventures and Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund; the startup provides tools to let developers remotely work together on projects; has raised $3.4M to date . link

The Department of Defense is considering the possibility of sharing wireless spectrum with telcos and other businesses, according to Axios sources; Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Under Secretary Lisa Porter recently held a private dinner with reps from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and industry group CTIA; they discussed a number of issues relating to 5G, including the possibility of providing access to otherwise restricted frequencies . link

Activist investor Carl Icahn criticizes HP’s decision to reject a $33.5B HP takeover bid from Xerox; Icahn has sent a letter to HP’s board saying the company of a history of “underperformance and missteps”; he has encouraged other HP shareholders to put pressure on the firm; Icahn owns 4.2 percent of HP and almost 11 percent of Xerox . link

Scooter-sharing firms Lime and Bird are set to exit Washington, DC after local regulators opted to not renew their operating licenses; reasons for the move unknown; rival services from Skip, Lyft, HelBiz, and Jump have been approved; the changes go into effect next year . link

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he intends to move forward with a digital tax against large tech firms; Johnson made the remarks while campaigning ahead of the UK national elections on Dec 12; follows considerations from Trump administration to place tariffs on imports from France after it implemented its own tech levies . link

Sequoia Capital raises $3.4B for two funds; SEC paperwork shows the company has raised $1B for later-stage US firms and $2.4B for Chinese investments; it’s unknown when or in what format the funds will be deployed . link

Lyrics annotation website Genius files a lawsuit against Google and LyricFind for allegedly infringing its terms of use; Genius is seeking $50M; it also wants an injunction against LyricFind, which powers lyric results for Google Search; Genius doesn’t have a copyright claim because it doesn’t own the lyrics on its site . link

YouTube says it has seen viewership of so-called borderline videos drop by 70 percent since making changes to its algorithms; the company defines such content as that which brushes up against its policies but does not violate them; YouTube also says it’s working to raise authoritative voices on the platform . link

Amazon launches a battery-powered Echo device in India; known as Echo Input Portable Smart Speaker Edition, it represents Amazon’s first fully transportable Echo; promises up to 10 hours of continuous audio playback priced at ~$85, it’s unknown if or when it will roll out to other markets . link

Dubai-based courier app Fetchr raises $10M emergency funding from new and existing investors to avoid shutting down, reports Bloomberg; Fetchr had a valuation of ~$300M in 2017, but it has dropped significantly since that time due to weak performance; Fetchr previously informed backers it was considering a sale or bankruptcy; sources say the company is now raising an additional $25M in an effort to turn the business around . link

Postmates ends operations in Mexico City and cuts dozens of jobs, reports CNBC; the delivery company says it’s now focusing on US growth, though a source for the report says the firm is looking for a buyer; Postmates filed for an IPO earlier this year, but has since delayed those plans . link

Google Photos adds a chat feature; lets users share photos with others without having to create a shared album; the recipient must have a Google account to view the images; rolling out now to iOS, Android, and the web . link

The British populace's familiarity with CCTV cameras has enabled private companies to deploy live facial recognition tech, The Wall Street Journal reports; businesses compare footage to vendor databases to identify flagged individuals; the growth of the industry has made the UK a test case for the widespread private use of facial recognition systems . link

Vice launches a profile series on Amazon's Ring; the first installment details how the company, then convenience-oriented DoorBot, generated investor interest with an appearance on link

Song lyrics and annotations platform Genius sues Google, alleging anticompetitive practices; Genius accused Google in June of pulling lyrics from Genius and displaying them in search results; Genius mixes straight and curly apostrophes to watermark content; Google said it licensed lyrics from partners; Genius named one such partner, LyricFind, in the suit . link

Alphabet CEO Larry Page and President Sergey Brin step down; they will remain on the board; the Google co-founders said in an announcement that it was time to simplify management; Sundar Pichai, who joined Google in 2004 and took over as CEO in 2015, replaces Page as CEO of Alphabet, effective immediately . link

Amazon announces WaveLength, which brings AWS storage, database, and other services to the edge of 5G networks; promises reduced latency for 5G customers; Amazon is working with Verizon, Vodafone, and others on network integrations . link

Amazon announces Local Zone, a new AWS infrastructure deployment that places compute, storage, and more near population centers for reduced latency in gaming, machine learning, more; the company has launched the first Local Zone in Los Angeles as part of the US West (Oregon) Region in AWS; available now . link

Ring allowed police to access to a heat map tool for viewing the locations and concentrations of installed doorbell cameras for more than a year, according to documents obtained via FOIA request; Ring previously said it did not reveal owner addresses to police without permission, but the tool provided street-level accuracy; Ring disabled the feature in July . link

AWS launches web-based machine learning IDE SageMaker Studio; integrates with AWS’ machine learning service, SageMaker; supports collaborative projects; offers tools for organizing data, models, more; AWS also announced the new SageMaker Notebooks managed service . link

Senate Republicans will support strict consumer-data regulations to pass a new national privacy law; Sen Roger Wicker (R-MS) announced he would submit a draft bill addressing concerns Democrats have expressed over the past year of talks; on Dec 4, the Commerce Committee will consider Wicker's draft and a proposal from Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Republicans hope to pass a law before states establish conflicting regulations . link

Houston-based personal-injury lawyer Annie McAdams has filed suits in multiple states in a bid to fight child sex trafficking on Facebook and other platforms; Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects platforms from liability for user-submitted content; McAdams argues that prostitution and exploitation bring other laws into play and that platforms have responsibilities regarding known dangers . link

Sprint miscalculated subsidized users in 2013 and 2014, according to documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal; the carrier might settle with the FCC after the commission said in September that Sprint improperly collected tens of millions in federal subsidies for 885k customers who weren't using the Lifeline program; Sprint said then the miscalculation was the result of a 2017 coding error . link

AWS launches its 7nm, ARM-based Graviton2 processor with custom SOC; optimized for cloud-native apps; two times faster than the original Graviton for scientific and high-performance workloads; supports up to 64 virtual CPUs; will power AWS' next-generation EC2 instances . link

AWS launches its custom Inferentia inferencing chips for machine learning on the EC2 compute service; Amazon plans to make the new Inf1 instances available in AWS' SageMaker and container services . link

Google updates Photos with messaging features; enables users to share photos and videos within the app, and to chat; supports group messaging; requires Google accounts for all participants; rolling out now across iOS, Android, and web . link

The four workers Google terminated last week over alleged data-security violations announce they're filing unfair labor practice charges against the company with the National Labor Relations Board; the workers claim their firings were retaliatory and a warning for other employees who would protest company practices . link

The download for 2019-12-03 →

Twitter announces changes to its privacy policy; from Jan 1 the company will provide users with more info on the data it may pass along to marketers; the changes bring the company in line with CA’s Consumer Privacy Act; Twitter also says data for users based outside the US and Europe will now be directly handled by the firm, rather than its subsidiary Twitter International . link

UK-based insurtech firm Cuvva raises £15M (~$19.4M) Series A from RTP Global, Breega, and others; the startup offers short-term vehicle and travel insurance . link

Fintech firm Migo (formerly raises $20M Series B led by Valor Group Capital with participation from Africinvest and Cathay Innovation; the company offers cloud-based tools to enterprise customers, empowering them to offer credit to underbanked customers; the firm operates in several West African countries and Brazill; has raised $36M to date . link

Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a law banning smartphones, PCs, and smart TVs that do not contain Russia-made software; the new rules go into effect on July 1 2020; the government says it will produce a list of software that must be pre-installed on devices; the measure has raised concerns Russia could use the tools to spy on residents . link

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei says the company will move a research center from the US to Canada; the company has already reduced its US R&D team from 600 to 250; speaking with the Globe and Mail, Ren also notes the company will produce some mobile network equipment outside of China, though it’s unclear where it will be transferred to . link

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP of global affairs and communications, says regulators should not treat data like other commodities; speaking with journalists, Clegg says officials shouldn’t apply old ideas to the data economy; Clegg notes data is not the same as a finite resource, suggesting it can be used in a multitude of ways; Clegg also says Facebook is cooperating with regulators and posits the firm has helped smaller marketers compete with larger ones . link

On-demand manufacturing marketplace Xometry acquires Munich-based counterpart Shift; terms undisclosed; both companies offer a platform connecting clients with manufacturers; Shift founders Albert Belousov, Dmitry Kafidov, and Alexander Belskiy will reportedly oversee Xometry’s European operations; Shift raised ~$4.4M to date . link

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple will launch a new iPad and MacBook Pro featuring Mini-LED displays in late 2020; Kuo says Apple will release four to six Mini-LED products over the next two to three years; Mini-LED uses a dense array of LEDs, each smaller than 0.2mm . link

Canada-based VC firm Portag3 Ventures closes its second fund at ~$320M; targets startups in Canada, US, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region; it has already backed several companies including fintech firm KOHO and SaaS business . link

Chinese researchers are developing a method to construct digital images of individuals by analyzing their DNA, reports The New York Times; the tech, which is also being developed in the US and elsewhere, is currently good enough to build a rough representation of someone’s face; the report notes officials in the Chinese city of Tumxuk have collected blood samples from the local Muslim Uighur population, who are facing persecution; experts suggest the tech could eventually be paired with facial recognition systems, allowing for easier tracking of dissidents . link

Cyber Monday generated $9.2B in sales, up 16.9 percent on last year, according to Adobe Analytics; $3B worth of purchases were placed via a smartphone; an estimated $72.1B was spent online in the month finishing Dec 1 . link

TikTok faces a lawsuit in CA from a college student who claims the company has sent private user data to servers in China; Misty Hong, who is studying in Palo Alto, says she downloaded TikTok but never created an account; Hong alleges the firm then created a file on her which included biometric data from videos she created but never posted; Hong claims the TikTok sent the dossier to Chinese servers, despite claiming it keeps all such data in the US . link

TikTok confirms it did have a policy to limit the reach of content from those it deemed at risk of bullying; the company says it was not intended as a long-term solution and says it’s now focused on “more nuanced anti-bullying policies” . link

The FBI says it considers apps created in Russia a threat to US national security; in a letter to Sen Chuck Schumer (D-NY) the FBI cites digital aging app FaceApp as a potential problem because of the type of data it collects; the agency also notes Russian security services can access that data without having to request it from ISPs; FaceApp proved popular over the summer, leading Schumer and other lawmakers to raise questions .Update: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov says it’s not possible to stop free market competition; Peskov made the comments when questioned about the FBI’s stance on Russia-based software . link

The Trump Administration is considering placing tariffs on $2.4B worth of French imports after the country introduced a 3 percent tax on tech firms; the Trade Representative’s (USTR) office says France’s levy is “unusually burdensome” for US companies; USTR says it may also investigate digital services taxes in Austria, Turkey, and Italy . link

Facebook creates a chatbot to provide employees with advice on talking about the company with family and friends; known as Liam Bot, the system’s answers have been crafted by Facebook’s PR team; the tool was launched just before Thanksgiving . link

FinAccel, a Singapore-based fintech firm, raises $90M Series C led by Asia Growth Fund with participation from Singtel Innov8 and others; the company operates Kredivo, a credit-lending service focused on Indonesia; FinAccel has raised more than $140M to date .Update: FinAccel CEO Akshay Garg says the company has a post-money valuation of almost $500M . link

Tim Cook, Elon Musk, Satya Nadella, and others sign an open letter encouraging the Trump Administration to keep the US in the Paris Agreement; the international accord commits countries to work toward keeping the global temperature change below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit); the letter says tackling the climate crisis could be good for the US economy as it will create opportunities in tech . link

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bid $5B for tech distributor Tech Data Corp ($5.1B market cap) last month, but stepped back when outbid by Apollo Global Management; Tech Data can solicit offers until Dec 9; Berkshire has ~$128B cash on hand; it's last significant acquisition was the $32B purchase of aerospace manufacturer Precision Castparts in 2016 . link

The Department of Homeland Security proposes a regulation amendment that would require all travelers leaving or arriving in the US to undergo face recognition scans; currently, US citizens and permanent residents are exempt; the department has a 2021 deadline for activating facial scanners at the top 20 US airports . link

TikTok instructed moderators to tag certain types of users as at risk for bullying and limited the reach of their content, according to documents and a source at TikTok speaking with; the company reportedly targeted overweight, LGBT, and disabled users; TikTok limited some users to their home country audiences and removed others from recommendations . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Yousician Co-Founder and CEO Chris Thür about creating the platform for mastering musical instruments, insights on acquiring 1M-plus users, using gamification to increase retention, leveraging profitability to attract investors, more .Click here to listen to the full episode link

The Wall Street Journal explores options for shopping local for the holidays, listing apps that help users find independent, smaller stores in a given area; also covers restaurants and services; some apps include coupons . link

Wired lists 67 Cyber Monday deals, covering sale discounts, gift card offers, bundle savings, more; the list includes smartphones, TVs, audio equipment, e-readers, cameras, more . link

Amazon launches Braket, a quantum computing service for AWS, in preview; has partnered with D-Wave, IonQ, and Rigetti to make their quantum computers available via the cloud; provides a fully-managed and tool-equipped environment for developing and testing; Amazon also announced the AWS Center for Quantum Computing and AWS Quantum Solutions Lab . link

Amazon unveils DeepComposer, a musical keyboard that works with AI in the cloud to help developers generate songs; a creator can supply a basic initial melody or chord progression, and the keyboard will produce a song with four-part accompaniment within a selected genre; the primary purpose is to give developers hands-on experience with generative AI . link

The New York Times examines Amazon's physical presence in Baltimore, it's integration in the local culture and economy, and how the city might foreshadow Amazon's omnipresence in daily life across the country; the company is a significant employer in Baltimore, powers government purchasing, facilitates various tech and media operations, more . link

The Wall Street Journal's Sam Walker questions Elon Musk's disregard for market research, specifically concerning the conception and development of Tesla's Cybertruck; Walker concedes that there is incentive to create a distinctive product for a market known for brand loyalty and that visionaries can change the world, but argues in favor of data analysis . link

Amazon launches Transcribe Medical for AWS; a HIPAA-compliant AI-powered speech-to-text transcription service for physicians; does not require human intervention, such as punctuation notes; in April, the company introduced Healthcare Skills, enabling HIPAA-compliant Alexa apps . link

T-Mobile launches 600MHz 5G service covering 200M people; the low-band 5G will be faster than LTE in some areas, but not all; T-Mobile will begin selling compatible OnePlus and Samsung devices on Dec 6; those phones also support Sprint-owned mid-band that T-Mobile will incorporate into its 5G network should the merger between the companies close . link

China's Cyberspace Administration announces new rules intended to address the use of AI in generating misleading and false content; companies that use AI or VR tech to create photos or video must disclose such; the administration said deep fakes could harm national security and disrupt social order; the new rules go into effect Jan 1 . link

Dating app company Match Group screens users against sex offender registries, but the policy does not extend across the apps Match has acquired; Columbia Journalism Investigations analyzed 150 sexual assaults involving dating apps and found most of the victims connected with their attackers via Match-owned free apps; 10 percent of the attackers had previously been accused or convicted of a sex crime . link

Automotive trade groups argue that the costs of connected vehicles could be higher than necessary if an appeals court overturns an antitrust ruling against Qualcomm; the groups filed documents in preparation for January proceedings; Intel argued that it sold its modem chip business to Apple at a multi-billion-dollar loss because Qualcomm forced Intel out of the market with illegal practices . link

The download for 2019-12-02 →

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei says his daughter Meng Wanzhou should be proud to be a “bargaining chip” in the US-China trade war; Meng, who serves as Huawei’s CFO, has been detained in Canada since Dec 2018; she’s facing extradition proceedings to the US where she’s wanted for alleged bank fraud; Ren also says the situation is “good for Meng and her growth” . link

Apple says it will take a “deeper look” at its maps policies after it labeled the Crimean Peninsula a part of Russia; Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014; Apple says it made the change to comply with Russian laws; it will now reevaluate its approach to disputed territories . link

British online grocery firm Ocado launches a £500M (~$640M) convertible bond offering; Ocado says some of the money raised will go to its robotic warehouse partnership with Japanese retailer Aeon . link

ZTE, Dahu, and several other Chinese firms are lobbying the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) over proposed global facial recognition standards, reports the Financial Times; the ITU usually focuses on technical standards, but human rights advocates suggest the companies are pushing policy positions . link

Apple expands support for Apple Pay Express Transit to London; lets users tap-to-pay for bus, tram, and train journeys without having to first authenticate with Touch ID or Face ID; also works with Apple Watch . link

Facebook begins publicly testing a tool that lets users migrate their images and videos to Google Photos; currently available in Ireland only, the feature will be introduced to more markets next year; Facebook says it will add support for more third-party photo services over time; represents Facebook’s first Data Transfer Project product . link

India-based hotel-booking firm Oyo names Aditya Ghosh to the board; Ghosh previously oversaw Oyo’s operations in India and South Asia; Rohit Kapoor, the firm’s head of real estate business, is taking over Ghosh’s responsibilities; before joining Oyo, Ghosh served as president of Indian airline Indigo . link

Huawei is facing criticism in China after one of its former employees was detained for eight months, seemingly in relation to asking for severance pay from the company; Li Hongyuan says he had negotiated compensation of ~$33k but was then arrested on extortion charges; the case was later dropped; a number of Weibo users have started posting a code in reference to Li’s situation, with some also criticizing Huawei execs . link

San Francisco-based co-working firm RocketSpace is leaving the UK, reports Bloomberg; the subsidiary is set to close by April 2020; staff were informed of the decision last month, and many workers will be let go by Dec 20; RocketSpace first entered the British market in 2017; Bloomberg also says the company plans to refocus on startup financing . link

Xiaomi’s co-founder and chairman Lei Jun steps down as president for operations in China; Lu Weibing, head of Xiaomi’s Redmi brand, will take over Lei’s responsibilities; separately, former Xiaomi president Lin Bin becomes VP and CFO Zhou Capital becomes president of international business . link

European fintech firm Uncapped raises £10M (~$13M) from Global Founders Capital, White Star Capital, and others; the company offers revenue-based financing to startups; Uncapped offers loans of ~$13k to ~$1.3M for a flat 6 percent interest rate . link

India-based online pharmacy platform PharmEasy raises $220M Series D led by Temasek with participation from LGT and others; the company connects users with nearby pharmacies, offering in-home diagnostics, medicine deliveries, and more; has raised $328.5M to date . link

Twitter suspends the account of Danielle Stella, a Republican challenger to Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN); Stella’s campaign account made reference to false claims and tweeted about the potential of Omar being tried for treason and hanged . link

Cat Rock Capital tells fellow Just Eat shareholders Prosus should offer at least £9.25 (~$12) per share in its hostile takeover of the food delivery company; Prosus has bid £7.10 (~$9) per share; Just Eat previously agreed a merger with that would value the combined firm at ~$10B . link

Chinese telcos begin using facial recognition tech to verify SIM card purchases; the move follows a government order that mandates such transactions are validated using biometrics; the rules also state SIM cards cannot be resold or otherwise passed along to unauthorized users . link

US authorities detain cryptocurrency expert Virgil Griffith for allegedly conspiring to evade sanctions against North Korea; Griffith, a US citizen who lives in Singapore, visited Pyongyang earlier this year; prosecutors claim Griffith provided North Korean officials with technical info that could be used to develop digital tokens, thereby bypassing US trade restrictions; Griffith previously worked with Aaron Swartz to develop Tor2web, a tool for viewing dark web content on a standard browser . link

Fintech firm Figure is closing a ~$100M Series C, reports TechCrunch; established by SoFi co-founder Mike Cagney and his wife June Ou, Figure offers home equity loans and student debt refinancing; previously raised more than $1B . link

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki appears on “60 Minutes” where she discusses the company’s approach to dealing with hateful and violent videos; Wojcicki highlights a clip that contains white supremacist code, noting YouTube works with multiple organizations to better identify such content; Wojcicki says videos are allowed on the platform if they don’t cause harm . link

The European Commission (EC) is probing Google’s data collection practices, reports Reuters; the antitrust watchdog has sent out questionnaires to ascertain how and why Google collects the info it does; Reuters says the EC is looking at local search, online ads, and more . link

Facebook complies with an order from the Singaporean government to add a notice to a user’s post; the company has placed a so-called “correction notice” on the post which was initially created by Alex Tan Zhi Xiang; the addition states Facebook is legally obliged to say the government of Singapore considers the post to contain misleading info; Tan had refused to add the notice himself . link

Huawei has started producing smartphones without chips from US-based firms, reports The Wall Street Journal; Huawei’s Mate 30 features no US parts; follows a trade ban that prevents US companies from working with Huawei without government permission; before the ban Huawei used parts from ON Semiconductor, Broadcom, and other US firms . link

The download for 2019-12-01 →

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