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Showing posts from November, 2018

What’s in your bag, Claude VonStroke?

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Creative toys and a dash of silly funContinue reading…

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The best streaming video player to buy right now

There are few bad options in 2018, but these are the standoutsContinue reading…

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And the winner of Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2018 is… Legacy

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At the very beginning, there were 13 startups. After three days of incredibly fierce competition, we now have a winner.Startups participating in the Startup Battlefield have all been hand-picked to participate in our highly competitive startup competition. They all presented in front of multiple groups of VCs and tech leaders serving as judges for a chance to win $50,000 and the coveted Disrupt Cup.After hours of deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ notes and narrowed the list down to five finalists: Imago AI, Kalepso, Legacy, Polyteia and Spike.These startups made their way to the finale to demo in front of our final panel of judges, which included: Sophia Bendz (Atomico), Niko Bonatsos (General Catalyst), Luciana Luxiandru (Accel), Ida Tin (Clue), Matt Turck (FirstMark Capital) and Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch).And now, meet the Startup Battlefield winner of TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2018.Winner: Legacy Legacy is tackling an interesting problem: the reduction of …

U.S. mobile app stores had their biggest day ever on Black Friday 2018

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Black Friday wasn’t just a boon for e-commerce retailers, it helped the mobile app stores break new records, too. According to a new report from Sensor Tower, the combined consumer spending across the U.S. Apple App Store and Google Play on Black Friday 2018 reached $75.9 million – a record for the most ever spent in a single day on both stores.The App Store accounted for most of that figure, however, with U.S. consumers spending a record $52 million on Black Friday. That’s a 31.6 percent increase in spending over last year’s shopping event, when consumers then spent $39.5 million.It’s also notably higher than Christmas 2017, when spending reached $39.8 million – typically a strong day for app purchases and in-app sales, as consumers unwrap new iPhones.The App Store’s $52 million was more than double the $23.9 million spent on Google Play during the same time.Sensor Tower attributes the increased spending to a variety of factors, largely driven by mobile gaming. Game makers this year …

Niantic teases long-awaited Pokémon Go battles

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It looks like one of the most anticipated Pokémon Go features is finally on its way. In a series of tweets, developer Niantic teased what sure looks like player-versus-player battles. It’s a feature the developer has promised for some time, and it’s an integral part of the traditional Pokémon experience. In fact, battles were part of the initial pitch when Pokémon Go was first announced back in 2015. But, much like trading, battles took longer than anticipated to actually implement in the game. Unfortunately, right now, we don’t know anything about how the feature will work or when it will be available. But given the tease, it likely won’t be long before battles are officially unveiled.Continue reading…

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9 Charged With Selling Samsung’s Bendable Screen Technology

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South Korean prosecutors charged nine people with IP theft against Samsung, in a failed bid to steal OLED technology for a Chinese manufacturer.The post 9 Charged With Selling Samsung’s Bendable Screen Technology appeared first on ExtremeTech.

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Lawmakers say Amazon’s facial recognition software may be racially biased and harm free expression

Amazon has “failed to provide sufficient answers” about its controversial facial recognition software, Rekognition — and lawmakers won’t take the company’s usual silent treatment for an answer.The letter, signed by eight lawmakers — including Sen. Edward Markey and Reps. John Lewis and Judy Chu — called on Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos to explain how the company’s technology works — and where it will be used.It comes after the cloud and retail giant secured several high-profile contracts with the U.S. government and at least one major metropolitan city — including Orlando, Florida — for surveillance.The lawmakers said that they expressed a “heightened concern given recent reports that Amazon is actively marketing its biometric technology to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as other reports of pilot programs lacking any hands-on training from Amazon for participating law enforcement officers.”They also said that the system suffers from accuracy issues — which could…

DoJ charges Autonomy founder with fraud over $11BN sale to HP

UK entrepreneur turned billionaire investor, Mike Lynch, has been charged with fraud in US over the 2011 sale of his enterprise software company.Lynch sold Autonomy, the big data company he founded back in 1996, to computer giant HP for around $11BN some seven years ago.But within a year around three-quarters of the value of the business had been written off, with HP accusing Autonomy’s management of accounting misrepresentations and disclosure failures.Lynch has always rejected the allegations, and after HP sought to sue him in UK courts he countersued in 2015.Meanwhile the UK’s own Serious Fraud Office dropped an investigation into the Autonomy sale in 2015 — finding “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction”.But now the DoJ has filed charges in a San Francisco court, accusing Lynch and other senior Autonomy executives of making false statement that inflated the value of the company.They face 14 counts of conspiracy and fraud, according to Reuters — a charge whic…

China’s Infervision is helping 280 hospitals worldwide detect cancers from images

Tesla will live and die by the Gigafactory

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Inside the massive factory where Tesla will soon make 60 percent of the world’s lithium-ion batteriesContinue reading…

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There’s definitely reason to worry about Brexit, says Accel’s London team; “It’s not just startups; I’m not a U.K. citizen”

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Longtime Accel partners Philippe Botteri, Sonali De Rycker, Luciana Lixandru, and Harry Nelis took the stage at Disrupt Berlin earlier today, and unlike many London-based investors, who have downplayed how much Brexit could hurt their local economy, the team was frank about their sundry concerns over what happens if the U.K. leaves the European Union as is currently scheduled to happen, beginning March 29, 2019.Though they reiterated that no one can no for certain what Brexit’s impact might be, Botteri raised a handful of things that have the firm worried, beginning with “immigration and hiring talent and the movement of talent,” which could be meaningfully hampered by Brexit. “Even companies that don’t move their headquarters to London will often at some point begin to build a team,” he noted, questioning whether that will continue to happen.There’s also the nontrivial issue of what happens to fintech companies, which have been thriving in London as a gateway between the U.S. and Eur…

Microsoft Wins $480M Contract to Provide HoloLens to US Military

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Microsoft has signed a major deal with the US military to provide HoloLens devices for both training and, eventually, live combat.The post Microsoft Wins $480M Contract to Provide HoloLens to US Military appeared first on ExtremeTech.

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Asana raises $50M, Airbnb gets a new CFO, and a 2019 IPO preview

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.This week as TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin came to life, Kate Clark and I snagged some mics and dug through the biggest news of the week (a $50 million check), and talked through who may go public next year, and what those IPOs might look like.Our usual fare, if you will. (If you are missing Danny and Connie, fear not, they will be back next week.)This week we hit two news items and one roundup. Here’s the skinny:Asana raises $50 millionYep, Asana went back to the funding well this week for its Series E, despite having raised a $75 million Series D earlier this year. The company’s funding pace might seem aggressive, but we’re hearing that many startups are looking to tack on extra cash. Why? Because the market might change, and so the savvy are stacking chips in case the cashier closes. Oh, and the company dropped a number of relative growth metrics that were,…

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless review: sonic standout

Exceptional sound wrapped in a series of small annoyancesContinue reading…

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Fortnite star Ninja’s first EDM album includes an amazing new Tycho track

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Fortnite streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is branching out into other business ventures, partnering with some of the world’s biggest EDM artists for a standalone album called Ninjawerks, which is based on Epic’s popular game.Although the album was first announced a month ago at TwitchCon, Blevins premiered the first three tracks last night during a stream. Alesso, a popular European DJ, is contributing a song called “Tilted Towers,” which is based on the popular zone within the Battle Royale map. American DJ 3LAU collaborated with Blevins for his track “Game Time,” while Tycho, an artist known for his synth and downtempo work, contributed his own track, “Jetty.”All three tracks are available at the bottom of the page.Blevins’...Continue reading…

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Why so many people think Elon Musk is a hero — or a villain

Overwatch is still king of Tumblr, but self-generated fandom rules the rest

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On gaming Tumblr, Overwatch rules. Blizzard has built a deep and compelling backstory for its team-based multiplayer shooter through animated shorts, comics, and character bios; even if you’ve never played a single match, you can still immerse yourself in a world teeming with fan art and fan fiction.Every year, Tumblr analyzes tens of thousands of lines of data — posts, tags, searches, reblogs — to rank and reveal its top trends of the year. In 2018’s gaming category, that ranking looks slightly different than usual: in addition to the larger list for video games, this year’s roundup also includes one for mobile, to better account for fandoms around titles like Overwatch, Undertale, or Life Is Strange, vs. mobile hits like Harry Potter:...Continue reading…

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Shuttle business Via could add scooters to its lineup

Via, a shuttle-based carpooling service and platform that partners with cities in the U.S. and Europe, could soon add scooters to its business.Via CEO and co-founder Daniel Ramot said on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin that the company is experimenting with the idea of adding scooters as a complement to its shuttle business.“We’re also adding scooters mostly, again, for our partner cities, where they’re going to provide a holistic transportation solution as a public transit offering to the residents,” Ramot said.Via’s consumer-facing shuttles are in Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York. The company also partners with cities and transportation authorities, giving clients access to their platform to deploy their own shuttles. For instance, Austin’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority uses the Via platform to power the city’s Pickup service. Via’s platform is also used by Arriva Bus UK, a Deutsche Bahn Company for a first and last-mile service connecting commuters to a hig…

How Googlers organized against the company’s China plans

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This week, Google’s messy fight over Chinese censorship spilled out into the open. More than 600 Googlers have now publicly signed an open letter opposing Google’s Dragonfly project, a search engine that would make controversial concessions to China’s internet censorship regime. Other Googlers have signed a counter-letter defending the project, although that letter has not been made public. Nearly 1,000 employees have signed one of the two letters, including their name and job title with no gesture toward anonymity. Labor laws offer some level of protection for this kind of public stand, but there’s still a real risk of retaliation, which is one of the reasons why it’s so rare for employees to air their concerns publicly.But for those...Continue reading…

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Best Cars of the 2018 LA Auto Show

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Old models return. New cars get faster and safer. More SUVs, more pickups, a few more sedans. Even Tesla has a booth.The post Best Cars of the 2018 LA Auto Show appeared first on ExtremeTech.

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Microsoft’s Next Surface Might Tap AMD Hardware

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There are rumors that AMD, not Intel, might get the nod for the next version of Microsoft's Surface.The post Microsoft’s Next Surface Might Tap AMD Hardware appeared first on ExtremeTech.

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How the company behind TikTok became the world’s most valuable startup

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TikTok is inescapable right now, and it’s not just teens paying attention — it’s rocked the business world as well. Bytedance, the owner of the wildly popular short-form video app, is now valued at more than $75 billion following a new round of investment. This means Uber has unexpectedly lost its long-held title of the world’s most valuable tech startup to a low-profile challenger from China.You could be forgiven for not having heard the name Bytedance before the recent news. The founder, 35-year-old Zhang Yiming, rarely gives interviews, and the company’s Western-facing media presence is close to nonexistent. But the company’s global ambitions are real and so are its chances. Bytedance is the first Chinese internet company with a...Continue reading…

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Apple Music is coming to Echo devices next month

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Amazon’s Echo smart speakers already support a variety of music services, including Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. And from December 17th, Apple Music will join this little cohort.Apple Music users will be able to ask Alexa to play favorite songs, artists, and albums, as well as any of the streaming service’s curated playlists and radio stations. Echo owners will simply need to enable the Apple Music skill in the Alexa app, link their account, and they’ll be good to go.Making Apple Music available on Echo devices might seem to run counter to Apple’s usual strategy of using services as a lure for hardware (and vice versa). But the company can apparently see the sense of making its streaming service available on the most...Continue reading…

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Netgear’s Arlo Ultra is a 4K HDR wireless security camera with built-in spotlight

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Arlo, the security camera company launched by Netgear, has announced its debut 4K security camera — the Arlo Ultra. As well as upping the resolution alongside offering HDR recording, the wireless camera also builds in the spotlight that you previously had to buy separately, allowing it to record in color at night with an improved 180-degree field of view over last year’s Arlo 2 Pro.4K security cameras are still something of a rarity in 2018. The Nest Cam IQ, which is also available as an outdoor variant like the Arlo Ultra, features a 4K sensor, but its streams top out at 1080p. The higher resolution of the Arlo Ultra should make it easier to see finer details like the car number plates of unwanted visitors, although Arlo’s announcement...Continue reading…

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Sweetgreen is opening up order-ahead locations inside WeWork

Salad startup Sweetgreen is expanding on a pilot program with WeWork that provides free delivery to WeWork members. Though, it’s more accurate to describe it as an order-ahead service that lets you pick up your food from your WeWork of choice.Geared toward WeWork employees and members, Sweetgreen at WeWork outposts are live in seven cities in the country. Across those seven cities, which include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Boston, Sweetgreen at WeWork has plans to cover 50 WeWork locations.“WeWork and sweetgreen share a vision for creating community and being more conscious global citizens, fostering discussion and recognition of the way our actions impact ourselves, our communities, and the world around us,” WeWork President & Chief Financial Officer Artie Minson said in a press release. “Together, we are bringing sweetgreen’s offerings directly to thousands of WeWork members and employees while leveraging WeWork’s platform to…

Apple Music is coming to the Amazon Echo

Starting mid-December, Amazon Echo devices will be able to stream songs from Apple Music. A bit of a surprise, perhaps, given that Apple’s been a competitor in the space since launching the HomePod back in 2017.Amazon’s had its own music service for some time as well, but the company appears to have given up on the dream of being a series competitor in the space — for now, at least. Instead, Echo smart speakers offer native support for a decent cross section of streaming services, including Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.The new skill lets users play specifics songs, genres, playlists and the Beats 1 station through the smart speakers. Adding Apple Music will help the popular smart home products tap into a rapidly growing service.The company cracked 50 million subscribers earlier this year. That’s still well behind the 83 million paid subscribers Spotify announced back in July, but this addition should help give Amazon an added advantage against Google’s Home devices, parti…

Facebook quietly hired Republican strategy firm Targeted Victory

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Facebookis still reeling from the revelation that it hired an opposition research firm with close ties to the Republican party, but itsrelationship with Definers Public Affairsisn’t the company’s only recent contract work with deeply GOP-linked strategy firms.According to sources familiar with the project, Facebook also contracted with Targeted Victory, described as “the GOP’s go-to technology consultant firm.”Targeted Victory worked with Facebook on the company’sCommunity Boost roadshow,a tour of U.S. cities meant to stimulate small business interest in Facebook as a business and ad platform. The ongoing Community Boost initiative, announced in late 2017, kicked off earlier this year with stops in cities like and Topeka, Kansas and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Facebook also worked with Targeted Victory on the company’s ad transparency efforts. Over the last year, Facebook has attempted to ward off regulation from Congress over ad disclosure, even putting forth some self-regulatory efforts

UrbanClap, India’s largest home services startup, raises $50M

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UrbanClap, a four-year-old startup that offers home services across in India, has closed a $50 million Series D round for expansion.The round was led by Steadview Capital, a hedge fund with over $1 billion under management, and existing investor Vy Capital. It takes UrbanClap to $110 million raised to date, according to data from Crunchbase.UrbanClap matches service people, such as cleaners, repair staff or beauticians, with customers across 10 cities in India via its platform. Co-founder and CEO Abhiraj Bhal told TechCrunch that the business supports 15,000 “micro-franchisees” with around 450,000 transactions taking place each month.“Micro-franchisees” is an interesting term — I’ve not heard it used much, even in the buzzword-heavy world of tech startups — but Bhal explained his vision to enable service workers to earn more and enjoy greater control of their work and, consequently, overall life.For example, he said, the typical salary for an offline service worker might be in the reg…

Apple cases for the iPhone XS increases to twelve, iPhone XR still zero

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If you’re looking to add a dash more color to your iPhone or Apple Watch then you now have a few more options to choose from. Apple is now selling three additional colors of silicone cases and watch straps on the Apple Store in yellow, green and pink (via MacRumors). In addition to these new colors, the teal, olive and mauve Watch straps that were previously exclusively available through Nike’s iPhone app are now also available for purchase directly from Apple.Unfortunately, there’s still no sign of any official first-party cases for the iPhone XR. Previously we’ve speculated that the reason for the lack of cases has to do with the handset’s bright color schemes, which you wouldn’t want to cover up with an opaque shield. Mysteriously a...Continue reading…

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Marriott reveals massive database breach affecting up to 500 million hotel guests

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Marriott is revealing a massive database breach today, affecting up to 500 million guests of its Starwood hotels the company first acquired in 2016. A security investigation has concluded that there was “unauthorized access” to a database holding hotel guest records. “Marriott learned during the investigation that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network since 2014,” says a statement from the company. The breach includes 327 million records of “some combination” of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest (“SPG”) account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences.Marriott isn’t providing an...Continue reading…

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Jina Choi, the head of the SEC’s San Francisco office, is leaving the agency

Silicon Valley companies know to operate in the gray might be heaving a small sigh of relief this morning. Yesterday, afternoon, the Securities & Exchange Commission announced that Jina Choi, the head of its San Francisco office, is retiring after 16 years with the agency.The release about Choi’s move is glowing, though it doesn’t off an explanation of why Choi is leaving or what her next move may be, though many federal employees are eventually lured into higher paying jobs in the private sector. (We’ve reached out to learn more.)Choi was appointed to lead the SEC’s Bay Area office in 2013, and with a staff of 130 enforcement attorneys, accountants, investigators, and compliance examiners, it has brought enforcements against numerous high-fliers, including, most recently, Tesla’s Elon Musk, who was made to step down as chairman of the company for a period of at least three years after he was accused of fraud for tweeting that he had secured company for the car company when he had…

N26 says it now has more than 2M customers

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N26 announced today that it now has more than 2 million customers — up from 1.5 million in October.The German fintech startup’s CEO Valentin Stalf was interviewed onstage at Disrupt Berlin with Tandem CEO Ricky Knox, where they discussed the growth of what are sometimes called challenger banks or neobanks — new banks that are taking on the incumbents by focusing on digital tools.Stalf said N26 is seeing more than €1.5 billion in transactions each month, with €1 billion in deposits. He also discussed the company’s recent launch in the United Kingdom — he didn’t know the exact number of U.K. users, but estimated that the company has tens of thousands of U.K. accounts, with between 1,500 and 2,000 new signups on a single day three days ago.Meanwhile, Knox said Tandem now has nearly half a million users in the U.K. (“This year, we’re seeing everybody’s growing really quickly.”) He also noted that because Tandem allows users to aggregate different accounts, he’s noticed some of those users…

Marriott says 500 million Starwood guest records stolen in massive data breach

Starwood Hotels has confirmed its hotel guest database of about 500 million customers has been stolen in a data breach.The hotel and resorts giant said in a statement filed with U.S. regulators that the “unauthorized access” to its guest database was detected on or before September 10 — but may have dated back as far as 2014.“Marriott learned during the investigation that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network since 2014,” said the statement. “Marriott recently discovered that an unauthorized party had copied and encrypted information, and took steps towards removing it.”Specific details of the breach remain unknown. We’ve contacted Starwood for more and will update when we hear back.The company said hat it obtained and decrypted the database on November 19 and “determined that the contents were from the Starwood guest reservation database.”Some 327 million records contained a guest’s name, postal address, phone number, date of birth, gender, email address, passpor…

E Ink’s latest screen is designed to let you write with near-zero latency

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E Ink, the company that produces the Kindle’s low-power display, has announced the JustWrite — a new display that can be written on with almost no latency. It achieves this by having the new display be driven by its stylus itself rather than the TFT backplates that have been used for previous displays. The change potentially means that only the stylus itself needs to be powered, although the screen itself may still require a small amount of power to refresh itself to erase any writing or drawings.Although small E Ink notepads like the reMarkable tablet are the first things that come to mind when thinking about the potential uses for the JustWrite screen, screens that are up to 3-feet wide are also possible, theoretically allowing the...Continue reading…

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A looming strike over Project Dragonfly is putting new pressure on Google

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Officially, Google’s preferred description for Project Dragonfly is “exploratory.” “This is an exploratory project and no decision has been made about whether we could or would launch,” the company said today, in the wake of a significant new report on its plans for a censored search engine in China.”Exploratory” is a word that conjures the earliest stages of development — of the conquistador, standing at the shore of a new land, surveying rough its shape and character. But according to Thursday’s report by The Intercept’s ace Dragonfly chronicler Ryan Gallagher, Google’s explorations had already reached the final stages of development by the time word of the project leaked.And as Gallagher describes it, that was the result of a...Continue reading…

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GCHQ’s not-so-smart idea to spy on encrypted messaging apps is branded ‘absolute madness’

Nobody wants to be a third wheel. Unless you’re a British spy.Two of the most senior officials at British eavesdropping agency GCHQ say one way that law enforcement could access encrypted messages is to simply add themselves to your conversations.“It’s relatively easy for a service provider to silently add a law enforcement participant to a group chat or call,” said Ian Levy, technical director of the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Center, and Crispin Robinson, cryptanalysis director at GCHQ, in an op-ed for Lawfare.“The service provider usually controls the identity system and so really decides who’s who and which devices are involved — they’re usually involved in introducing the parties to a chat or call,” they said. “You end up with everything still being end-to-end encrypted, but there’s an extra ‘end’ on this particular communication.”Law enforcement and intelligence agencies have long wanted access to encrypted communications, but have faced strong opposition to breaking the enc…

Enterprise AR is an opportunity to “do well by doing good”, says General Catalyst

A founder-investor panel on augmented reality (AR) technology here at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin suggests growth hopes for the space have regrouped around enterprise use-cases, after the VR consumer hype cycle landed with yet another flop in the proverbial ‘trough of disillusionment’.Matt Miesnieks, CEO of mobile AR startup 6d.ai, conceded the space has generally been on another downer but argued it’s coming out of its third hype cycle now with fresh b2b opportunities on the horizon.6d.ai investor General Catalyst‘s Niko Bonatsos was also on stage, and both suggested the challenge for AR startups is figuring out how to build for enterprises so the b2b market can carry the mixed reality torch forward.“From my point of view the fact that Apple, Google, Microsoft, have made such big commitments to the space is very reassuring over the long term,” said Miesnieks. “Similar to the smartphone industry ten years ago we’re just gradually seeing all the different pieces come together. And as tho…