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Nice iOS app of ours you have there, would be a shame if you had to pay for it • The Register

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The number of Facebook and Instagram users on iOS agreeing to be tracked by the social networking behemoth for targeted ads has fallen drastically in the week since Apple’s iOS 14.5 debuted – and Zuck & Co have hit back.

The App Tracking Transparency framework in iOS 14.5 requires companies to ask permission to observe the activities of iOS app users – that is to say, to link application usage and data with user or device information collected from other sources for targeted advertising or analytics.

This opt-in regime looks to be an extinction event for the current incarnation of targeted advertising, on iOS at least. According to analytics biz Flurry, only about 12 per cent of iOS users worldwide and only four per cent in the US have decided they want to be tracked.

That disinterest in data surveillance has been anticipated for months. Facebook began warning ad buyers about the impact of iOS 14.5 last August and in December launched a campaign claiming Apple’s unilateral privacy clampdown would hurt small businesses.

In April, with the launch of iOS 14.5 imminent, Facebook warned investors about potential “ad targeting headwinds.” And the social ad biz has reportedly been preparing for a possible antitrust case against Apple’s unilateral ad business limitations. Such cases have already been filed by media companies in France and Germany.

To gin up interest in being tracked, Facebook has been presenting users of its iOS Facebook app and its iOS Instagram app with a popover action sheet alerting users to Apple’s newly implemented tracking restrictions and advising them that if they enable tracking, they can “Help keep Facebook free of charge.”

Facebook iOS ad popover

The message Facebook shows to users … Click to enlarge

Don’t panic

The Register understands Facebook has no plan to begin charging for its services – a possibility teased in email scams that Facebook has repeatedly dismissed.

And if Facebook did decide to charge a subscription fee, it would probably receive an injunction from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for misrepresentation. As Ashkan Soltani, a privacy researcher and former technologist for the FTC, pointed out recently, up through August 2019, Facebook on its Sign Up webpage said, “It’s free and always will be.”

In a statement emailed to The Register, a Facebook spokesperson characterized its iOS interface copy as educational messaging, which Apple allows.

“At Facebook we use data to provide personalized ads, which support small businesses and help keep apps free of charge,” Facebook’s spokesperson said. “As Apple has said that providing additional context is allowed, we are showing an educational screen before presenting Apple’s prompt to help people make an informed decision about how their information is used.”

“It provides more details about how we use data for personalized ads, as well as the ways we limit the use of activity other apps and websites send us if people don’t turn on this device setting. Our screen also lets people know that they’re seeing Apple’s prompt due to Apple’s requirements for iOS 14.5.”

The Register asked Soltani whether privacy regulators might conceivably see Facebook’s hint about the possibility of future fees as a dark pattern, a topic of current concern at the FTC.

“I think Facebook’s language could be seen as coercive but I think it would be difficult for a regulator to be able to enforce it as deceptive or a dark pattern,” he said.”‘Help to keep Facebook free of charge’ isn’t a direct threat. Nor is it illegal to ask a user to pay for a service if they opt-out of the sharing of their personal information.”

The Register asked Facebook whether its educational campaign about the benefits of tracking had prompted more people to opt-in, but the company’s spokesperson didn’t have any data available to share. ®



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NUIG to spend €5m on research to help address global issues

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Several key research areas have been identified by NUI Galway to work towards for 2026.

NUI Galway’s recently launched research and innovation strategy includes a €5m investment on support for its multi-disciplinary research teams as they grapple with several global issues.

The strategy, which lays out plans for the university’s next five years of research, focuses on six areas: antimicrobial resistance, decarbonisation, democracy and its future, food security, human-centred data and ocean and coastal health.

“As a public university, we have a special responsibility to direct our research toward the most pressing questions and the most difficult issues,” said to Prof Jim Livesey, VP for research and innovation at NUI Galway.

“As we look into the future, we face uncertainty about the number and nature of challenges we will face, but we know that we will rely on our research capacity as we work together to overcome them,” Livesey added.

The plan focuses on creating the conditions to intensify the quality, scale and scope of research in the university into the future. This includes identifying areas with genuine potential to achieve international recognition for NUI Galway. It also aims to continue to cultivate a supportive and diverse environment within its research community.

NUI Galway has research collaborations with 3,267 international institutions in 114 different countries. The university also has five research institutes on its Galway city campus, including the Data Science Institute, the Whitaker Institute for social change and innovation and the Ryan Institute for marine research.

Its research centres in the medtech area include Science Foundation Ireland’s Cúram and the Corrib Research Centre for Advanced Imaging and Core Lab.

The university will also continue to involve the public with its research and innovation plans through various education and outreach initiatives. It is leading the Public Patient Involvement Ignite network, which it claims, will “bring the public into the heart of research initiatives”.

Another key area identified in the strategy report is the development of partnerships with industry stakeholders. NUI Galway has spun out many successful companies in recent years, including medtechs such as AuriGen Medical, Atrian, Vetex Medical and Neurent.

According to MedTech Europe, Ireland has the highest number of medtech employees per capita in Europe along with Switzerland.

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France hails victory as Facebook agrees to pay newspapers for content | France

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France has hailed a victory in its long-running quest for fairer action from tech companies after Facebook reached an agreement with a group of national and regional newspapers to pay for content shared by its users.

Facebook on Thursday announced a licensing agreement with the APIG alliance of French national and regional newspapers, which includes Le Parisien and Ouest-France as well as smaller titles. It said this meant “people on Facebook will be able to continue uploading and sharing news stories freely amongst their communities, whilst also ensuring that the copyright of our publishing partners is protected”.

France had been battling for two years to protect the publishing rights and revenue of its press and news agencies against what it termed the domination of powerful tech companies that share news content or show news stories in web searches.

In 2019 France became the first EU country to enact a directive on the publishing rights of media companies and news agencies, called “neighbouring rights”, which required large tech platforms to open talks with publishers seeking remuneration for use of news content. But it has taken long negotiations to reach agreements on paying publishers for content.

No detail was given of the exact amount agreed by Facebook and the APIG.

Pierre Louette, the head of the media group Les Echos-Le Parisien, led the alliance of newspapers who negotiated as a group with Facebook. He said the agreement was “the result of an outspoken and fruitful dialogue between publishers and a leading digital platform”. He said the terms agreed would allow Facebook to implement French law “while generating significant funding” for news publishers, notably the smallest ones.

Other newspapers, such as the national daily Le Monde, have negotiated their own deals in recent months. News agencies have also negotiated separately.

After the 2019 French directive to protect publishers’ rights, a copyright spat raged for more than a year in which French media groups sought to find common ground with international tech firms. Google initially refused to comply, saying media groups already benefited by receiving millions of visits to their websites. News outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions complained about not receiving a cut of the millions made from ads displayed alongside news stories, particularly on Google.

But this year Google announced it had reached a draft agreement with the APIG to pay publishers for a selection of content shown in its searches.

Facebook said that besides paying for French content, it would also launch a French news service, Facebook News, in January – a follow-up to similar services in the US and UK – to “give people a dedicated space to access content from trusted and reputable news sources”.

Facebook reached deals with most of Australia’s largest media companies earlier this year. Nine Entertainment, which includes the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, said in its annual report that it was expecting “strong growth in the short-term” from its deals with Facebook and Google.

British newspapers including the Guardian signed up last year to a programme in which Facebook pays to license articles that appear on a dedicated news section on the social media site. Separately, in July Guardian Australia struck a deal with Facebook to license news content.

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Flight Simulator says Windows 11 has been downloaded on Xbox • The Register

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Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, designed to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, will not fly until the first half of next year at the earliest, as the manufacturing giant continues to tackle an issue with the spacecraft’s valves.

Things have not gone smoothly for Boeing. Its Starliner program has suffered numerous setbacks and delays. Just in August, a second unmanned test flight was scrapped after 13 of 24 valves in the spacecraft’s propulsion system jammed. In a briefing this week, Michelle Parker, chief engineer of space and launch at Boeing, shed more light on the errant components.

Boeing believes the valves malfunctioned due to weather issues, we were told. Florida, home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where the Starliner is being assembled and tested, is known for hot, humid summers. Parker explained that the chemicals from the spacecraft’s oxidizer reacted with water condensation inside the valves to form nitric acid. The acidity corroded the valves, causing them to stick.

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