Google Streaming Game Service, Stadia To Be Launched November 19

Photo: LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Google on Tuesday said it will launch its Stadia streaming game service on November 19, hoping to launch console-quality play into the cloud.

The announcement came at a Google event in New York where the tech giant was unveiling an array of new hardware products.

Stadia allows video gameplay on any internet-connected device, eliminating the need for games consoles.

It will be priced at $9.99 per month and compete against Apple Arcade, which is being offered at half that price.

Streaming real-time gameplay from the cloud promised to shake up a mushrooming market worth an estimated $135 billion globally last year, according to analysts — with mobile platforms accounting for about half.

Facebook Suspends ‘Tens Of Thousands’ Of Apps In Privacy Review

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook said Friday it suspended “tens of thousands” of apps on its platform as a result of its review on privacy practices launched following the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica.

The review was launched in 2018 after revelations that the political consultancy hijacked personal data on millions of Facebook users and included attorneys, external investigators, data scientists, engineers, policy specialists and others, according to a Facebook statement.

The suspensions are “not necessarily an indication that these apps were posing a threat to people,” said a statement from vice president of partnerships Ime Archibong, adding that some “did not respond to our request for information.”

Facebook Teams Up With London Police To Track Terror Live Streams

 

Facebook on Tuesday teamed up with the London police to help its artificial intelligence tools track live streams of terror attacks such as the New Zealand mosque massacre.

A self-professed white supremacist used a head-mounted camera in March to broadcast live footage on Facebook of him attacking two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

Facebook and platforms such as YouTube came under intense criticism for initially failing to detect the broadcast and then struggling to take down its uploads that proliferated online.

New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and other world leaders in May launched a “Christchurch Call to Action” against online extremism — a campaign major platforms joined later that month.

The California-based social media behemoth said Tuesday it was in the process of updating and refining its policies for dealing with extremism and online hate.

“Some of these changes predate the tragic terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, but that attack, and the global response to it in the form of the Christchurch Call to Action, has strongly influenced the recent updates to our policies and their enforcement.”

Machine Learning

London’s Metropolitan Police said the initiative will see it provide Facebook footage of training by its forearms command unit.

The videos will be captured on body cameras provided by Facebook that London’s Firearms Command officers wear during exercises.

This will help Facebook “capture the volume of images needed to train our machine learning tools,” the company said.

“This will mean our AI tools will be able to more accurately and rapidly identify real-life first-person shooter incidents and remove them from our platform.”

The London police said its footage will be combined with video Facebook is already using from law enforcement agencies in the United States.

The new technology will “also significantly help prevent the glorification of such acts and the promotion of the toxic ideologies that drive them,” Britain’s Special Operations assistant commissioner Neil Basu said.

The Metropolitan Police said Facebook decided to ask London for help because it has created the world’s first counter-terror internet response team focused on online hate.

The machine learning tools will also be applied to Facebook’s hugely successful Instagram platform as it captures more and more younger users worldwide.

The London police said it will further share its training footage with the UK interior ministry so that it can then offer it to other interested social media networks as the initiative grows.

“Firearms Command regularly train in how to respond to a wide variety of scenarios, from terrorist incidents to hostage situations, on land, public transport and water,” the London police said.

“The footage they provide will show a ‘shooter’ perspective in a broad range of situations.”

‘Crisis Intervention’

The speed with which the videos spread and Facebook’s initial inability to track them all down redoubled public and government scrutiny of the world’s biggest social media company.

The Christchurch images were broadcast live for 17 minutes — and remained online for a further 12 minutes — before Facebook was alerted by a user and took it down.

Yet millions of upload and shares continued to spread for days.

Facebook on Tuesday defended its track record but conceded that “bad actors will continue to try to get around our systems”.

It reported banning 200 white supremacist organisations and removing 26 million “pieces of content” or terrorist organisation such as the Islamic State.

Facebook said Tuesday that it was also expanding to Australia and Indonesia a US programme in which users who search for extremist content on the platform are directed to a special support group.

The US group was “founded by former violent extremists that provides crisis intervention, education, support groups and outreach,” Facebook said.

Facebook To Cut Off Huawei In Compliance With US Sanctions

 

Facebook said Friday it would stop allowing pre-installation of its social networking apps on Huawei devices to comply with US sanctions against the Chinese technology giant.

The social media giant said it took the step after US President Donald Trump’s order barring Huawei from US technology exports over concerns that it works with Chinese intelligence.

“We are reviewing the Commerce Department’s final rule and the more recently issued temporary general license and taking steps to ensure compliance,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP.

The California company said people with existing Huawei smartphones with Facebook apps will continue to be able to use and download app updates provided by Facebook.

The move by Facebook is the latest to isolate Huawei, which had become the world’s second largest smartphone vendor despite security concerns voiced in Washington.

Google last month said it would cut ties to Huawei, making it harder to obtain major apps from the US giant.

The Google decision would leave Huawei without the Play Store, the marketplace for most Android apps, and other elements of the mobile operating system.

Facebook – which is banned in China but has more than two billion users worldwide – said its decision would affect its core social network as well as applications such as Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, which each have at least one billion users.

Tech Giants Vow ‘Transparent’ Measures To Prevent Online Extremism

(File Photo) A file photo taken on November 20, 2017 shows logos of US multinational technology company Google displayed on computers’ screens.
LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Major technology firms pledged Wednesday to cooperate on “transparent, specific measures” to prevent the posting of violent extremist content online, part of a “Christchurch Call” launched in the wake of the massacre at two New Zealand mosques in March in which 51 people died.

“The dissemination of such content online has adverse impacts on the human rights of the victims, on our collective security and on people all over the world,” said the companies, including Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook, at a meeting with world leaders in Paris.

The call was initiated by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French leader Emmanuel Macron to avoid a repeat of the Christchurch killings, which were broadcast live by the gunman on Facebook for 17 minutes.

The horrific footage remained online for a further 12 minutes before Facebook was alerted by a user and took it down, but millions of uploads and shares of the video continued in the following days.

The statement was issued as Ardern and Macron hosted tech chiefs and some other world leaders at the Elysee Palace to crack down on extremism online.

Backers of the Christchurch Call, a voluntary series of commitments by firms and governments, have pledged new steps to prevent uploads of hateful and violent content, and quickly remove any that gets through their defences.

“Cooperative measures to achieve these outcomes may include technology development, the expansion and use of shared databases… and effective notice and takedown procedures,” they said.

In particular they promised “immediate, effective measures to mitigate the specific risk that terrorist and violent extremist contest is disseminated through livestreaming.”

The firms also agreed to invest in the development of artificial intelligence and other technical solutions for identifying and purging violent and extremist posts.

Algorithms used to determine what social media users see in their feeds may also be tweaked to direct people away from extremist or hateful content, “or the promotion of credible, positive alternatives.”

But the text did not outline any concrete steps that would be taken by individual firms, nor set any timeframe for putting any new measures in place.

ICYMI: Facebook Taps User Data To Defend Workers From Threat

Facebook Overhaul Favours Friends Over News, Adverts

 

Facebook gathers intelligence from its platform to identify people who threaten the firm or its workers, the social network said Thursday in response to media reports of the security tactic.

CNBC reported that it interviewed more than a dozen former Facebook security employees, some of whom questioned the ethics of what was portrayed as an unclearly defined practice at the leading social network.

Facebook spokesman Anthony Harrison told AFP that the company’s physical security team exists to keep workers safe and that strict processes are in place to protect people’s privacy.

“Any suggestion our on-site physical security team has overstepped is absolutely false,” Harrison said.

“They use industry-standard measures to assess and address credible threats of violence against our employees and our company, and refer these threats to law enforcement when necessary.”

Facebook keeps a routinely updated list of people that members of its security team should “be on lookout” for due to threatening statements, according to CNBC.

The so-called “BOLO” list purportedly includes former employees whose actions at the social network came under scrutiny.

Facebook mines the social network for threats against the company or its workers, and its watch list can even feature photos of people, CNBC reported.

For cases in which threats against Facebook or its workers seem credible, the security team was said to be capable of tracking those behind them using location data from the social network’s apps or websites.

Facebook is adamant that its security processes are designed to protect people’s privacy and adhere to data privacy laws, as well as the social network’s terms of service.

In cases of credible threats of violence against an employee, Facebook uses publicly available data and industry practices to determine how close someone behind a threat is to the worker or company offices, according to the social network.

Apple Reaches Agreement On French Back Taxes

 

Apple has reached an agreement with French authorities over 10 years of back taxes, the US firm told AFP on Tuesday, confirming information published by the French magazine L’Express.

The magazine reported that the firm paid nearly 500 million euros ($570 million) to resolve the case in a confidential settlement reached in December.

“The French tax administration recently concluded a multi-year audit on the company’s French accounts and an adjustment will be published in our public accounts,” Apple told AFP.

The company declined to disclose the amount paid, but a source familiar with the case confirmed to AFP the sum of nearly 500 million euros reported by L’Express.

“We know the important role taxes play in society and we pay our taxes in all the countries where we operate, in complete conformity with laws and practices in force at the local level,” added the company.

French authorities declined to comment citing the confidentiality of tax matters.

According to L’Express, the deal followed several months of talks between Apple and French tax authorities and concerned the small amount of revenue the firm booked in France while the sales it reported in Europe ballooned, thanks in particular to iPhone sales.

L’Express said Apple’s European revenues exploded seven-fold, from 6.6 billion euros in 2008 to 47.7 billion in 2017, and most of it was booked in Ireland where the US firm has its European headquarters.

Ireland has low corporate tax rates that have attracted many multinationals, but there are widespread concerns that firms manipulate accounting rules to escape paying revenues in European countries where taxes are higher.

The French deal with Apple follows one with Amazon, which agreed to pay $252 million (202 million euros) to cover back taxes for the years 2006 to 2010.

The French government is also pushing to impose a tax on digital firms and is expected to unveil legislation later this month that would raise 500 million euros this year.

Snapchat Parent Hands Over Data For US Inquiry

File Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP

 

Snapchat’s parent company Snap said Wednesday US officials are looking into how forthright the company was with aspiring investors prior to its stock market debut last year.

Snap Inc. has been responding to subpoenas and request for information from the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission, a spokesperson said in response to an AFP inquiry.

The inquiries apparently stemmed from a class-action lawsuit filed against Snap by investors who contend the company didn’t reveal how much of a competitive threat Snap faced from Facebook-owned Instagram.

“It is our understanding that these regulators are investigating issues related to the previously disclosed allegations asserted in the class action about our IPO disclosures,” the Snap spokesperson said.

“While we do not have complete visibility into these investigations, our understanding is that the DOJ is likely focused on IPO disclosures relating to competition from Instagram.”

Snap disputed the lawsuit’s claims, calling them “meritless,” and said it would continue to cooperate with regulators.

Snap shares were down 4.1 per cent to $6.44 in late afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares were priced at $17 for Snap’s initial public offering in March of last year.

Snap came under selling pressure late last month after a quarterly report showing a loss of one million users even as it grew revenues and narrowed losses.

Analysts say Snapchat has become the most popular social network among teens and young adults, but user growth has stalled as Facebook and its Instagram platform introduce services similar to those of Snapchat, known for its disappearing messages.

Although Snapchat is best known for its smartphone messaging, it has also developed partnerships with numerous media outlets eager to reach its audience with news, video and other content.

Snap recently announced it was launching a new slate of original video shows under its own brand in the latest move to spark growth.

130 Children, Youths Learn Digital Marketing Skills

 

About 130 children and youths on Friday concluded a training in digital marketing, Digitest, organised by Digital Peers International (DPI) in Osun State.

The two-week long programme, according to the Digitest Project Manager, Precious Jay, was aimed at helping the participants leverage on the trending digital marketing tools to sell anything and profit largely in the global market.

He said, “We put children together who have little or no idea about ICT and in the course of few days, they are taught about the tools that we have designed for that year and we don’t stop there.

“We have them design projects that will address the real time social problems”.

Jay further explained that the focus for this year’s edition was to teach the young ones how to generate value on social media by sharing valuable content which could also contribute to community development.

For the students, it was equally an opportunity to brainstorm which resulted in the invention of applications that can help boost sales of products and services online.

Some of them shared their experiences, highlighting the benefits of the programme on their individual lives.

A student of the Obafemi Awolowo University International School, Ile-Ife in Osun State, Abegunde Mary said, “It’s actually going to help me a lot because we learnt about digital marketing, how to sell your various businesses and how to use the social media to sell them so people can be aware and make you relevant in the society.

“I could be a digital marketer with this experience and I can also educate other students to be a part of the ICT knowledge I have gained during this camp,” she added.

The National Coordinator of the programme, Mrs Ibukun Odusote, also told Channels Television that she believes that the trainees have been well equipped to start businesses that are of great economic value.

She said, “I’m expecting that some of these children in fact right from here and the teachers and some volunteers will start marketing their businesses.

“People are already coming up with different ideas, our own desire is that it becomes of great economic value and this program that we have had with them would generate income for them in their various homes”.

“We’re Proud Of You”, Osinbajo Congratulates Teenage Girls Who Won Global Tech Competition

Yemi Osinbajo

 

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has congratulated a team of teenage Nigerian girls who represented the country and won the 2018 Technovation world pitch junior division in San Francisco, USA.

In a tweet on Friday, he said “These young ladies in Junior Secondary School, developed a mobile application called ‘FD Detector’ to tackle the problems of fake pharmaceutical products in Nigeria.

“Yesterday, they won the 2018 Technovation World Pitch in California. Congratulations! We are very proud of you”.

Read Also: Nigerian Teenage Girls Win Global Tech Competition In Silicon Valley

The girls, team Save-A-Soul, developed a mobile application called ‘FD Detector’ to tackle the problem of fake pharmaceutical products in the country.

The young Nigerian girls were selected from 2,000 mobile app developers to represent Africa at the world pitch.

This is the first time a Junior Nigerian team will emerge among the finalists to visit Silicon Valley and the Nigerian teenage girls will be pitching their app to investors in Silicon Valley, California.

Technovation is a program that invites girls to identify a problem in their communities and then challenge them to solve them by developing apps.

According to Team Save-A-Soul, Nigeria has one of the largest markets for fake drugs. The teenage girls from Anambra State plan to partner with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), using the app, to tackle this challenge.

Google Launches First African Impact Challenge

Photo: LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Tech Giant, Google has announced the launch of the Google Impact Challenge Nigeria, 2018.

The company made the announcement on Wednesday saying it will be offering $2m worth of grant funding to nonprofits in Nigeria through the challenge.

According to Google, four non-profits in Nigeria stand the chance of winning $250 000 each while eight runners-up will each get $125 000.

It says winners will be decided by a panel of local judges and a public vote.

Apart from the cash prizes, winners will have access to guidance, technical assistance and mentorship from Google, which they are free to take up should they so choose.

The Nigerian judging panel includes chairman CEO Channels media group John Momoh, chairman CEO, Zinox Technologies Leo Stan Ekeh, chief executive officer Parminder Vir, Rapper and CEO of Chocolate City Music Group MI Abaga, Philanthropist and Executive Director of Nigeria Network of NGOs Oluseyi Oyebisi.

Others are Philanthropist and Media entrepreneur Mo Abudu, Ex-footballer and founder of the Kanu Heart Foundation Kanu Nwankwo, Managing General Partner, EchoVC Partners Eghosa Omoigui and Google Country Director Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor.

The Challenge kicks off today (May 23) and will close on July 4, 2018, after which a final awards ceremony will be held during the week of November 26.

At Google for Nigeria in July last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the company’s commitment to providing $20m funding to African non-profits over five years.

Google CEO, Sundar Pichai at the Google for Nigeria event in 2017.

Read Also: Google CEO Announces Training For 10 Million Africans

This, however, is the first initiative aimed at realising that commitment.

Speaking on the announcement, Google Country Marketing Manager Affiong Osuchukwu said: “This is the first time we are running a Google Impact Challenge in Africa. Many African nonprofits are doing great work with real impact and we’re keen to shine a light on them, and give a financial boost to innovative projects and ideas.

“We believe technology can help local and national organisations to better reach their goals and solve some of the continent’s most pressing challenges, and we are eager to back people who are using technology in new ways to make a positive difference in their communities.

“We also want to highlight the healthy state of social enterprise in Nigeria today, and encourage non-profits to consider how technology can help them reach their goals,” Osuchukwu says.

Other Google Impact Challenges around the world have supported ideas ranging from smart cameras for wildlife conservation to solar lights for off-grid communities to a mobile application that helps to protect women from domestic violence.

Facebook Announces New Steps To Protect Users’ Privacy

 

Facebook said Wednesday it will overhaul its privacy settings tools to put users “more in control” of their information on the social media website.

The updates include improved access to Facebook’s user settings and tools to easily search for, download and delete personal data stored by Facebook.

Meanwhile, a new privacy shortcuts menu will allow users to quickly increase account security, manage who can see their information and activity on the site and control advertisements they see.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed,” chief privacy officer Erin Egan and deputy general counsel Ashlie Beringer said in a blog post.

“We’re taking additional steps in the coming weeks to put people more in control of their privacy,” they confirmed.

The new features follow fierce criticism after it was revealed millions of Facebook users’ personal data was harvested by a British firm linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign — although Facebook said they have been “in the works for some time.”

Earlier this month, whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed Cambridge Analytica created psychological profiles on 50 million Facebook users via a personality prediction app.

The app was downloaded by 270,000 people, but also scooped up their friends’ data without consent — as was possible under Facebook’s rules at the time.

Egan and Beringer also announced updates to Facebook’s terms of service and data policy to improve transparency about how the site collects and uses data.