What is QUANTech? An easy-to-digest selection of what’s hot in tech and the impact on society to help you keep ahead in this rapidly changing digital world.
This week kept polarising much attention around Facebook in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica data breach which I extensively reported about last week. CEO Mark Zuckerberg heard calls to come testify before congress and accepted to do so. This should take place on 10 April. Meanwhile, he has turned down a similar request from British lawmakers and will send two deputies instead. On his part, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it started investigating the company on its data management practices which is potentially a big deal for Facebook as this may turn into a whopping fine.
As the week unfolded, Facebook announced that they are « taking additional steps in the coming weeks to put people more in control of their privacy », starting with a makeover of the privacy settings. This follows last week’s Mark Zuckerberg statement about the steps that the social network is taking in response to the Cambridge Analytica matter.
More interesting is how the debate around that matter unfolded. Voices raised to put forward the advertising model of Facebook and other supposedly free online platforms. The Atlantic published an analysis of what the underlying causes of such breaches are with an article explicitly titled « This Is So Much Bigger Than Facebook ». Ian Bogost’s Cow Clicker app story published by the same site is an excellent illustration of the issue. Two articles worth reading. The « Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica problems are nothing compared to what’s coming for all of online publishing » article on Harvard Blogs is a good addition to dig deeper.
All in all, such analysis did not wait confirmation for long as another outrage took place with Facebook accused of collecting Android users’ text messages and calls data. The platform quickly reacted acknowledging the harvesting but explaining users may choose not to share them.
The Cambridge Analytica matter sparked a #DeleteFacebook campaign. Days have passed, and new stats have emerged, which show that user acquisition keeps climbing on the social network. User’s retention time is another story.
Another hot topic of this week were self-driving cars. Uber has lost its license to operate in Arizona following the accident with one of its driverless car which costed the life of a 49-year-old woman. We have learned that the company also decided not to re-apply for self-driving car permit in California. Difficult time for self-driving technology as Tesla is also facing an accident bad buzz with its autopilot feature.
Meanwhile —and timeline-wise perhaps not by chance— China’s equivalent of Google Baidu, which has been tasked by the Chinese government to lead the development of self-driving car technology in the country was granted a license to carry out autonomous driving road tests in Beijing. Interestlingly, they also completed the country’s first autonomous driving road test based on a 5G network environment. This is to be followed closely.
Noteworthy this week too, France announced its national artificial intelligence strategy following months a preparation led by French mathematician and deputy Cédric Villani. French president Emmanuel Macron announced a 1,5-billion-euro plan to support further developments.
• Private messaging app Telegram hit the 200 million users mark.
• Amazon went past Alphabet Inc. in market cap before plummeting to Trump’s roar.
• IBM unveiled its brand new Watson Assistant aiming at business purposes.
• Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey expects Bitcoin to be the world’s single currency within the next 10 years.
• NSA reportedly tracked down Bitcoin users.
• SpaceX just received a green light to launch a network of 4,425 satellites to beam Internet across the globe.
• Tesla is on the verge of bankruptcy according to chief investment officer of Vilas Capital Management John Thompson.
• Google just launched the Google News Initiative to help media outlet adapt to the digital society.
• LinkedIn is beefing up its video feature with filter and text options.
• The EU is to tax tech giants.
As the past two weeks have raised awareness around data protection and privacy with the Facebook data breach scandal, I would like to end this week’s review with interesting resources to better protect your digital presence.
The Next Web shared an interesting how-to guide to start using what is considered as one of the most secure messaging app out there: Signal. The Mozilla Foundation on its part released a new add-on which prevents Facebook from tracking you across the Web and finally, The Guardian released « 18 tips for surviving the surveillance age », a set of good practices to apply online. On a thinking note, the social cooling theory is worth knowing about.