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Apple iOS 14.5 update includes ‘app tracking transparency’ feature | Apple

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Users of iPhones can now prevent advertisers tracking them across their apps, after the release of the latest software update from Apple introduced the controversial feature despite the protests of Facebook and the advertising industry.

The update, iOS 14.5, includes a setting called “app tracking transparency”, which for the first time requires applications to ask for users’ consent before they are able to track their activity across other apps and websites.

If users decline, then applications will not be able to access the unique user ID that they need to follow individuals as they live their digital lives. The prompt, which will say “Allow [app game] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?” will show up for apps that request access to the ID number. They may be able to use other methods, known as “fingerprinting”, to achieve the same goal, but Apple says that doing so could cause them to be expelled from the App Store.

First announced last summer, app tracking transparency led to immediate pushback from the wider advertising industry. Initially slated for release in the autumn, Apple delayed its implementation for six months in order to give the industry time to prepare.

But the delay wasn’t enough for some, and in December, Facebook launched an all-out assault on Apple, with the company’s head of ads and business products, Dan Levy, claiming that the setting was actually “about control of the entire internet”.

“This is about a long-term view that is anti-personalised advertising and we think is trying to take the world back 10 or 20 years,” he added.

Facebook launched a glossy advertising campaign arguing that the real victim of the changes are “your neighbourhood coffee brewery, your friend who owns their own retail business, your cousin who started an event planning service and the game developers who build the apps you use for free”. Those small businesses, the company said, would lose out if they were no longer able to target customers with personalised adverts.

The social network is not alone in its opposition: a group of Germany’s biggest media, tech and advertising companies, led by digital publishing house Axel Springer, have filed a complaint with the German competition regulator arguing that the new rules could lead to a 60% fall in advertising revenues for app developers.

In France, an almost opposite complaint was made with the country’s privacy regulator, after consumer group Noyb argued in November that not only should the company roll out the privacy tools as soon as possible, but it should also remove the ID for advertisers entirely. “With our complaints we want to enforce a simple principle: trackers are illegal, unless a user freely consents,” said Stefano Rossetti, a privacy lawyer at Noyb.

In a letter to a coalition of privacy groups, Apple’s director of global privacy, Jane Horvath, sought to reassure them – and took the opportunity to criticise Facebook. “We developed [app tracking transparency] for a single reason: because we share your concerns about users being tracked without their consent and the bundling and reselling of data by advertising networks and data brokers.

“Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting,” Horvath added. “Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads.

Alongside the privacy features, iOS 14.5 enables iPhone users to unlock their phone with their Apple Watch if they are wearing a face mask, and supports Apple’s lost-key-tracking device AirTag. It shipped alongside an update to macOS that fixes a “critical” security flaw.

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Power Capital takes majority interest in Terra Solar’s portfolio

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Terra Solar, a NovaUCD start-up founded in 2016, is giving up its sites in Wexford and Cork to Power Capital to develop solar farms.

Dublin-based company Power Capital Renewable Energy (PCRE) has announced plans to acquire majority interest in Terra Solar’s 400MW portfolio.

This will bring the company’s total solar assets to 840MW and boost its presence in the Irish solar power space.

A start-up that sprung out of NovaUCD, the University College Dublin accelerator, Terra Solar was founded by David Fewer and André Fernon in 2016. State-owned ESB was one of Terra Solar’s early investors, putting up €2.5m for a stake in the company.

Paris-based VC firm Omnes Capital will back the development of the solar sites over the next few years, which require around €200m to build out. Irish and international lenders will also back the development.

Power Capital director Peter Duff said that his company’s aim of becoming Ireland’s leading independent power producer has come a step closer with the deal.

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“Both Terra Solar and PCRE share common values and ambitions to help Ireland meet its 2030 targets and we are excited that Terra Solar chose us as a partner to bring these sites through construction,” he said.

The solar farm sites, located in Wexford and Cork, are a culmination of more than four years of engagement with local landowners, communities and planners, said Fewer.

“We will be retaining an equity stake in the developments and will be working intensively with all stakeholders over the coming few years to ensure that these sites are successfully constructed while equally continuing to grow our remaining development pipeline of 600MW.”

Justin Brown, co-founder of Power Capital, said that the company is currently in talks with other industry bodies about “increasing our foothold in the sector and we expect to see renewable energy being the dominant generator of electricity across Ireland within the next decade”.

Construction on the solar farms is set to begin in 2022 and the project is expected to be completed in the next five years.

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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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