Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts

Apr 8, 2020

Tech News: Chinese video streaming giant iQiyi accused of fraud, company says report contains 'misleading conclusions'

Arjun Kharpal

GS: iQIYI On Nasdaq 190508
Yu Gong, founder and CEO of China-based iQiyi, rings the opening bell at Nasdaq MarketSite in Times Square.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Chinese video streaming site iQiyi has been accused of fraud and inflating its financial numbers by a research firm, just days after coffee chain Luckin Coffee found a senior executive fabricated 2019 sales.
Wolfpack Research, which describes itself as an “activist research and due-diligence firm”, released a report on Tuesday, alleging that iQiyi “was committing fraud well before its IPO (initial public offering) in 2018 and has continued to do so ever since.”
The company pushed back against the report and said it believes it contains “numerous errors, unsubstantiated statements and misleading conclusions and interpretations.”
In 2018, iQiyi was spun off from Chinese search giant Baidu in a U.S. IPO that raised over $2.2 billion. Baidu holds a more than 56% stake in iQiyi. Often dubbed the “Netflix of China”, iQiyi has become one of the major content streaming platforms in the country.
Shares of iQiyi briefly plunged 13% to session lows Tuesday after the report, though the stock ended the day up 3% during a volatile session for U.S. stocks, more broadly. Shares fell more than 3% in extended trading.

iQiyi allegedly ‘overstating’ numbers

Wolfpack Research alleged that iQiyi inflated its 2019 revenue by approximately 8 billion yuan ($1.13 billion) to 13 billion yuan ($1.98 billion), or 27% to 44%.
“IQ does this by overstating its user numbers by 42%-60%. Then, IQ inflates its expenses, the prices it pays for content, other assets and acquisitions in order to burn off fake cash to hide the fraud from its auditor and investors,” the research firm said in its report.
Wolfpack said it used a mixture of publicly available sources, data obtained from private sources like advertising companies as well as surveys the research firm conducted and a former employee of the streaming service.
Users have to pay for iQiyi’s VIP membership either directly or through partners like e-commerce site and Xiaomi. Wolfpack alleged that around half of iQiyi’s VIP users got the membership for free or through a cheap deal from these partners. The research firm claims iQiyi accounts for dual memberships on a “gross basis” meaning “it records the full amount of revenue and records its partners’ share as expenses.”
“This allows IQ to inflate its revenues and burn off fake cash at the same time,” Wolfpack Research claimed.
Wolfpack also takes issues with a part of iQiyi’s balance sheet known as “deferred revenues,” which typically refers to customers paying for a service in advance of its delivery.
“Because IQ’s subscription customers prepay, most of its revenues are a function of deferred revenue. These pre-IPO overstatements inherently cause IQ’s post-IPO revenues to continue to be overstated,” the report claims.
The Chinese firm also allegedly inflated its so-called barter transaction revenue. This is revenue that iQiyi earns through barter deals over content copyrights with other companies. Wolfpack alleges, citing an former employee, that prices for these barter transactions are determined internally. The firm asserted that this allows iQiyi’s management to “effectively assign any value they want to these transactions, providing an easy opportunity to inflate its revenues.”

‘Misleading conclusions’ 

In a statement on Tuesday, iQiyi said it “believes that the report contains numerous errors, unsubstantiated statements and misleading conclusions and interpretations regarding information relating to the Company.”
“The Company emphasizes that it has always been and will remain committed to maintaining high standards of corporate governance and internal control, as well as transparent and timely disclosure in compliance with the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Nasdaq Global Select Market.”
A Baidu spokesperson said it doesn’t have a separate statement when contacted by CNBC. 

Chinese firms under the spotlight

Wolfpack Research is backed by Muddy Waters Capital, a high-profile activist firm known for finding alleged fraud within companies and taking short positions against them.
Muddy Waters assisted Wolfpack in the research, and both firms said they took short positions against iQiyi, betting against the stock in light of their findings.
Earlier this year, Muddy Waters said it was shorting Luckin Coffee’s stock which is listed in the U.S. because it received an “unattributed 89-page report” which alleged the Chinese chain is a “fraud.”
Then just last week, Luckin Coffee disclosed that an internal investigation found that its chief operating officer fabricated 2019 sales by about 2.2 billion yuan ($310 million). Its stock tanked 80% after that statement. 

Mar 26, 2020

Tech News: Gig workers for companies like Uber, Lyft would get unemployment benefits under $2 trillion Senate stimulus bill

Lauren Feiner

GS: Uber Begins First Day Of Trading At New York Stock Exchange 190510
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi (center) joins other employees in ringing the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as the ride-hailing company Uber makes its highly anticipated initial public offering (IPO) on May 10, 2019 in New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Gig workers won a landmark protection in the $2 trillion stimulus bill that passed in a unanimous 96-0 vote in the Senate Wednesday. The bill now moves to the House, which is expected to vote Friday.
The bill would allow gig workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers, as well as freelancers and the self-employed to be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. It would also add $600 per week for up to four months compared to what beneficiaries normally receive.
“I am thankful that the U.S. Senate has ensured that drivers and delivery people—along with all independent workers—will qualify for expanded unemployment insurance under the bipartisan COVID-19 relief package,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on Thursday.
“The 1.3 million Americans who drive and deliver with Uber are facing extraordinary economic challenges. Many are on the front lines of this crisis, keeping their communities moving and getting food to people sheltering indoors,” he said. “Those who’ve lost the opportunity to earn need and deserve this support. I encourage the House to act on this legislation to address this emergency, and I am committed that Uber will do its part to advocate for new laws that permit companies like ours to provide additional benefits for independent workers going forward.”
The protection also marks a win for the companies that employ gig workers and rely on them for their businesses to function. Khosrowshahi appealed directly to President Donald Trump and members of Congress to include relief for gig workers whose income has been significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to Trump this week, Khosrowshahi advocated for a “third way” to classify workers outside of the binary of employee versus contractor to “to remove the forced choice between flexibility and protection for millions of American workers.”
Khosrowshahi’s appeal came after the company’s fierce opposition to efforts to encourage the firm to treat drivers as full employees. California recently enacted a law that aims to reclassify gig workers as employees, which Uber has challenged in a lawsuit with Postmates and two of its contractors. The reclassification would require companies relying on gig workers to take on costs of full-time employers, such as healthcare benefits.
Advocates for the California law say gig workers at Uber and other firms are clearly core to their businesses and therefore should not meet the requirements of a contractor. But Uber has said their model allows workers to form a schedule that meets their needs and gain supplemental income.
Uber will still have a lot of work ahead of it to convince lawmakers that they should create an entirely new classification for its workers. But in the meantime, the provision in the stimulus bill could set the groundwork for Uber to argue in the future for the government to protect workers where their contractor status leaves them exposed.
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WATCH: Here’s how Uber loses money

Feb 18, 2020

Tech: EU's top competition chief leaves door open for US stake in Nokia, Ericsson

Arjun Kharpal

The European Union’s competition chief left the door open to the possibility of the U.S. government taking a stake in two of the continent’s top 5G players — Nokia and Ericsson — as long as there is no risk to security.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said earlier this month that the government should consider taking a controlling stake in Nokia, Ericsson or both in order to “blunt” Chinese firm Huawei’s “drive to domination” in next-generation mobile networks known as 5G.
Nokia and Ericsson are two of the biggest networking equipment makers and direct competitors to Huawei.
Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, told CNBC Tuesday that it’s up to the “businesses to answer if they are for sale or not” but it’s up to European lawmakers “to make sure that every risk is assessed.”
“Here in Europe we are neutral on ownership, you can be state owned or privately owned, what is important for us is that you act as a market operator that you have a real business case for what you do,” Vestager told CNBC’s Silvia Amaro.
“So, you know, I have no specific point if the U.S. state would want to buy a stake, and I don’t know if there is a stake in Nokia, Ericsson that is for sale,” she added, essentially leaving the door open to a move.
EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.
Emmanuel Dunand | AFP | Getty Images
Washington maintains that Huawei is a national security risk, claiming its equipment could be used by the Chinese government to spy on citizens or shut down networks. Huawei has denied that this could happen.
President Donald Trump’s administration has been pressuring countries around the world, particularly in Europe, to ban Huawei from their 5G networks. The U.K. defied Washington’s calls and made a decision to partially allow Huawei to participate in the country’s 5G rollout. Germany is the next European nation set to make a decision on it.
The U.S. does not have its own competitor to Huawei and has been trying to figure out how it might compete. Controlling stakes in Nokia and Ericsson is one suggestion.
Members of Trump’s administration don’t appear to agree with Barr’s suggestion however. Vice President Mike Pence told CNBC earlier this month that he does not endorse Barr’s plan and instead backs the Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and his drive to free up more spectrum for 5G. Spectrum are radio frequencies requires for mobile networks to run.
Ericsson declined to comment when contacted by CNBC. Nokia has yet to respond to a request for comment.
At the time of Barr’s comments, Ericsson declined to comment while Nokia said “we always welcome investor interest” in the company.
Ericsson’s biggest shareholder Cevian Capital said U.S. interest in the technology firm is “clearly positive” for the company, Sweden and shareholders.
Christer Gardell, a managing partner at Cevian Capital, appeared to back an American deal.
“It is clearly better for Sweden, the company, the employees and the shareholders that an American deal is done with Ericsson and not with Nokia. The board and management need to drive and handle this question with the highest priority,” he told CNBC by email.

Feb 6, 2020

Tech: Tesla temporarily closes China stores amid coronavirus fears

Lora Kolodny, Evelyn Cheng

GP: Tesla Model 3 unveiled
The China-built Tesla Model 3 is unveiled at a Tesla store on November 22, 2019 in Shanghai, China.
Zhang Hengwei | China News Service | Visual China Group | Getty Images
Tesla has temporarily closed its stores in mainland China as of Sunday, Feb. 2, according to an online post from a company sales employee on that date.
The move comes as more than half of China has shut down in an effort to control the spread of a new coronavirus that has killed more than 500 people in the country. Citing public health concerns, Apple said over the weekend it has closed stores in the mainland, through Feb. 9. Many other foreign brands operating in China have also temporarily suspended or limited their local business operations.
The electric automaker’s China communications office did not respond to a CNBC request for comment during business hours on Thursday Beijing time.
According to a CNBC translation of the original Chinese text, the Tesla employee wrote in a post on messaging and social media app WeChat that:
“From today on, Tesla stores are all closed throughout China. But I will answer questions online, around the clock. Online orders are still welcome. We suggest all of you stay home, and take good care of your health.
It was not immediately clear whether the closures applied to Hong Kong.
Tesla shares dropped more than 17% on Wednesday after a Tesla VP in China, Tao Lin, announced in a Weibo post that cars initially scheduled for delivery to customers there in early February would be delayed due to the spread of the coronavirus.
In an effort to keep the virus under control, Shanghai has ordered local businesses not to resume work before Feb. 10, which means Tesla’s local factory is also temporarily shut down.
Tesla has 24 stores in mainland China, according to the company’s website. The automaker does not break out sales by country, but demand is strong enough that Tesla opened a dedicated factory in Shanghai last year.
The plant had only begun to deliver Model 3 cars made at its new Shanghai factory to Chinese customers in early January. The “Made in China” Model 3s debuted amid a cooling auto market, even for so-called “new energy vehicles,” in China.
Established automakers like Daimler — with its Mercedes EQC SUV — and Chinese start-ups Xpeng Motors and WM Motor, are also battling it out for their share of the country’s electric vehicle market. But Tesla’s brand and Autopilot technology are seen giving Elon Musk’s company an edge.
Closing stores is just one more indication of how the virus could affect Tesla’s operations this year.
When Tesla reported better-than-expected results for the fourth quarter in an earnings call on Jan. 29, the numbers and news of progress on manufacturing in China helped drive Tesla shares sharply higher.
By Wednesday, after news that the coronavirus was affecting major automakers including Hyundai and Tesla, more intensely than first expected, some analysts began to downgrade their ratings on Tesla from buy to hold or sell.
In a note reiterating a sell rating for Tesla, CFRA Research’s Garrett Nelson said Wednesday: “We view the China situation as critical in terms of TSLA’s ability to post a GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) profit for Q1 and Q2 and clear the last remaining hurdle needed for the stock’s addition to the S&P 500 (four consecutive quarters of GAAP profit).

Dec 18, 2019

Britain's competition watchdog is worried about Google and Facebook's online ad dominance

Ryan Browne

Subs: Facebook Google logos
Facebook and Google logos
Peter Foley/Bloomberg | Getty Images

Google and Facebook’s dominance of the online advertising market means there is a “lack of real competition” that could be limiting choice for consumers and raising prices for advertisers, Britain’s competition regulator said Wednesday.
The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) detailed a long list of concerns with the prevailing market position of the two tech giants. Among its chief complaints were that default search settings and the collection of personal data are negatively impacting on competition.
Britain’s antitrust watchdog found that Google earned more than 90% of the revenues in search-based advertising — totaling about £6 billion ($7.8 billion) — in the country, while Facebook accounted for nearly half of all online “display” ad revenues, raking in over £2 billion.
About 15% of Google questions “have never been searched for before,” the CMA said, and rival browsers like Microsoft’s Bing wouldn’t have the same access to such data. That means Google enjoys a “powerful position” as the Silicon Valley giant’s engorged trove of information strengthens its algorithms and makes search results more accurate.
Google’s practice of paying companies to make its search engine the default option on their products has also come into question. The CMA said it found Google was willing to pay roughly £1 billion, or 16% of its search-related revenues, to be the default provider on Apple’s iPhones. The regulator also questioned Facebook’s targeted advertising, saying consumers are forced to share their data “as a condition for using the service.”
The regulator further warned of Google and Facebook’s market power restraining the revenues of newspapers and other publishers, which have complained of unexpected drops in traffic due to changes to the platforms’ algorithms.
While it stopped short of making any concrete plans, the CMA said there was a “strong argument for the development of a new regulatory regime” governing digital advertising. Google said it would “continue to work constructively” with U.K. authorities. Facebook was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.


Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said that the way such internet platforms operate can often be a “mystery.”
“Digital advertising fuels big businesses like Google and Facebook and we have been building a picture of how this complex new market works,” she added. “We’ve looked especially at how these firms collect and use people’s data, how they monetise it and what this means for rival companies who want to compete, as well as the people and businesses using these services every day.”
The news arrives at a tense time for such online platforms, which have found themselves in the firing line of antitrust authorities looking to reign in their rising influence. In the U.S., the likes of Google and Amazon have drawn the ire of politicians from President Donald Trump to Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, the latter of whom has been calling for a breakup of such companies.
The CMA’s findings are the result of an initial market study into whether such firms are harming competition in the digital ad market. Former U.K. Finance Minister Philip Hammond had urged the regulator to investigate the digital advertising market earlier this year. The watchdog said it was likely to make recommendations to Boris Johnson’s newly-elected government, though it “stands ready to act” if its concerns aren’t addressed.
The regulator added that it is also considering proposals to curb the online ad dominance of Google and Facebook. It said it could implement measures that open up the search market by requiring Google to provide access to click and query data and limiting default search settings. Other suggestions from the CMA included forcing Facebook to “connect more seamlessly” with rivals and allowing users to switch off personalized ads.
On the issue of personalized advertising, Google’s vice president of the U.K. and Ireland, Ronan Harris, said that it already had “easy-to-use controls” that let users turn such targeting off and delete their search history.
Data privacy has been another big source of contention for regulators scrutinizing digital companies, especially in the wake of revelations that Facebook improperly allowed now-defunct political consultancy Cambridge Analytica access to the personal information of 87 million people. The EU last year introduced strict new rules looking to give consumers more control over how their data is handled, while California is set to implement similar legislation in January.

Mar 26, 2019

TECH | EU lawmakers approve copyright reforms that could have a big impact on Google, Facebook

Ryan Browne

GP: Social media apps 190326
Social media apps are seen in this photo illustration in front of a European Union flag.
Omar Marques | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
European lawmakers have approved sweeping copyright reforms that could have far-reaching consequences for the business models of tech giants like Google and Facebook.
The law is aimed at bringing the EU’s rules on copyright into the 21st century to help artists and publishers whose works have been widely dispersed on the internet.
A first reading of the new copyright directive was passed Tuesday in Strasbourg by lawmakers at the European Parliament. But it still needs to be ratified by ministers at the Council of Europe — this is the institution that brings together the different EU ministers according to their portfolios.
The planned reforms, which have been in the making since 2016, have led to a heated battle that pits large tech companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter against artists and media firms.
Google has been particularly critical of the law, which threatens to impact the business model of its video sharing service YouTube and news aggregation platform Google News.
Following the vote in the European Parliament, the tech giant said the new law has seen improvement from an original draft, but will still lead to legal uncertainty and hurt the creative industries.
“The details matter, and we look forward to working with policy makers, publishers, creators and rights holders as EU member states move to implement these new rules,” a spokesperson for the company told CNBC.
Facebook and Twitter declined to comment.
One section of the law could result in the implementation of pre-filtering systems that block internet users from sharing memes and other content containing copyright-protected material.
Another part of the copyright overhaul would require news aggregation services like Google’s to negotiate commercial licenses with publishers in order to post snippets or links to articles.
‘Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley’
On the tech side, Google and a number of high-profile figures including internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have railed against the new EU copyright directive. In the media corner, famous artists from ex-Beatle Paul McCartney to Blondie singer Debbie Harry have argued in favor.
According to the European Parliament, the new directive specifies that uploading works to online encyclopedias in a non-commercial way, such as Wikipedia, or open source software platforms, such as GitHub, will automatically be excluded. Start-up platforms will be subject to lighter obligations than more established ones.
“What we have approved is sensible, proportionate and sees the law finally catching up with the digital age,” Sajjad Karim, a member of the European Parliament representing Britain’s Conservative Party, told CNBC.
“The emergence of new business models and platforms has led to an uneven playing field and change is essential.”
Pro-internet freedom activists claim the new law will censor everything from memes to snippets of music and film. Supporters of the law, meanwhile, argue that people and companies in the creative industries are being starved of revenues lost to the sharing of their intellectual property on online platforms.
“The main problem I can see is it’s very unclear how tech companies are supposed to comply with those obligations,” Kathy Berry, an intellectual property lawyer at Linklaters, told CNBC ahead of the vote.
Berry, who characterized the episode as “Hollywood versus Silicon Valley” said questions remain unanswered over how tech companies should take a “proportionate response” against copyrighted material online.
—CNBC’s Silvia Amaro contributed to this article.

Source: CNBC

Mar 9, 2019

Tech on March 9, 2019 | Facebook is blocking ads that target women with menopause but allows ads from companies selling pills for erectile dysfunction

Salvador Rodriguez

Pulse 1
Pulse CEO Amy Buckalter said Facebook has prevented her company from advertising its lubricants for women going through menopause despite allowing equivalent products from brands that target men.
Amy Buckalter didn’t give it a second thought when she decided to use Facebook to advertise for her start-up, Pulse, in late 2017. Buckalter knew her male friends saw all sorts of raunchy ads addressing erectile dysfunction on Facebook constantly, so she figured her lubricant for women going through menopause would be just fine.
She was wrong.
For the past year and a half, Pulse has had most of its ads blocked by Facebook, and it is not alone. The Seattle start-up is one of several direct-to-consumer brands selling lubricants for women going through menopause that told CNBC they are prevented by Facebook from advertising on its service.
These companies claim their experiences show how Facebook is inconsistent with how it applies its policies to pick and choose which companies are allowed to advertise on the social network. Pulse, along with Genneve, Unbound and women’s health expert Dr. Anna Cabeca say Facebook has a double standard that allows brands that target men to run ads but block the equivalent for women.
While male-focused brands like Roman and Hims are able to run ads with mentions of “premature ejaculation” or “E.D.,” which stands for erectile dysfunction, Pulse and its peers have to be overly cautious about the terminology they pick. As expected, any mention of a reproductive organ is an automatic rejection, but many other terms often get vetoed.
“It has been a battle with Facebook. It has been basically gender bias with Facebook,” Buckalter told CNBC. “And it’s cost me money.”
Facebook says it tries to walk a fine line with ads that address adult products.
“All ads are equally subject to our advertising policies, which are stricter than our community standards,” a Facebook rep told CNBC, in a statement. “Facebook has long had a policy that limits ads with adult content and adult products in part because we take into account the wide array of people from varying cultures and countries who see them. We continue to review these specific ads.”
Some companies affected by the perceived gender bias are able to advertise, but only after numerous rounds of appeals and several edits to meet Facebook’s ever-shifting standards. Others, like Pulse and Unbound, say they are completely blocked from advertising on the social network no matter what they try.
“It’s so messed up. Facebook sends us emails asking us to advertise, so then we go and try to and we get rejected,” said Polly Rodriguez, CEO of New York-based Unbound. “Not being able to advertise is the most hindering, crippling component to running this business.”
Facebook has allowed numerous ads from the brand Hims, including this one.
Genneve has had ads rejected for mentioning the symptoms of menopause, such as “hot flashes,” “headaches,” “crazy moods” and “no sleep.” Cabeca, which sells a product called Julva, said she has had ads rejected for mentioning “sexual health,” “lubricant” or simply “menopause.”
“It seems like a double standard,” Cabeca said. “Many of the ads that get by for men — if we did that in the same context for a female product, it doesn’t seem like they get by.”
In one instance in October 2017, Pulse had an ad that said simply “Doctor, what’s happening to me?” along with a link to a Q&A article about a doctor explaining perimenopause, the period before a woman begins menopause.
“You see these other ads for male labido enhancing products, lots of ads for condoms, we saw grotesque ads for K-Y Jelly, and yet, our Q&A post with a doctor was rejected,” said Julia Christman, strategist with Lazar Marketing, which works with Pulse.
Facebook ad moderators cite the company’s advertising policies as the reason for their rejections, screenshots of messages between Facebook and the companies show. Most often, moderators cite the company’s ban on ads for adult products or service, specifically ads that “promote the sale or use of adult products or services, except for ads for family planning and contraception.”
Genneve is among several companies that sell lubricants for women going through menopause that have struggled to advertise their products on Facebook.
Yet, Facebook does not seem to block ads on a consistent basis. In at least one instance, the brand Revaree has been able to advertise using the words “vaginal dryness,” a term that typically gets rejected. K-Y, meanwhile, has been able to advertise using the term “lubrication” and “extra lube K-Y Condoms.” And although the term “menopause” is typically rejected, there have been instances in which Genneve has been able to use it in its ads, said Genneve CEO Jill Angelo, adding that Facebook’s processes are “somewhat arbitrary and inconsistent.”
“The responses we continue to receive are completely unacceptable and feel so discriminatory,” Angelo said.
Although these companies’ lubricants can be used for sex, the products are also intended to help women for other reasons. Angelo said that these products are used by women for exercise or daily comfort as a way to moisturize. Angelo added that vaginal dryness is experienced by women going through menopause as well as women who are breastfeeding and those who have gone through cancer treatment.
“That’s so far from anything adult or pornographic,” Angelo said. “That’s so far from anything I thought would ever be censored on such a large social platform like Facebook.”
Zachariah Reitano, CEO of Roman told CNBC in a statement that there’s still a stigma attached to sexual health companies.
“Unfortunately, as far as we’ve come, there are still deep rooted stigmas attached to certain aspects of health that prevent important and groundbreaking companies from telling their story, particularly for women’s health,” he said. “Unbound and Dame are two powerful examples of this and another strong reminder that there is still a tremendous amount of work to do.”
A major difference between these companies and their male equivalents lays in how much funding they’ve raised, Rodriguez of Unbound said.
Pulse, Genneve and Unbound have raised $8.7 million, $1.3 million and $3.5 million respectively. Roman and Hims, by comparison, have raised $91.1 million and $197 million respectively, according to Crunchbase.
“When you have that kind of money, Facebook is going to work with you,” Rodriguez said.
WATCH: Here’s how to see which apps have access to your Facebook data — and cut them off

Source: CNBC

Mar 6, 2019

Tech | Samsung Working on Two More Foldable Smartphones

By Sam Kim

Samsung unveils the Galaxy Fold smartphone during the Samsung Unpacked launch event on Feb. 20.
Samsung unveils the Galaxy Fold smartphone during the Samsung Unpacked launch event on Feb. 20.
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Samsung Electronics Co. is working on a pair of new foldable smartphones to follow its Galaxy Fold, seeking to seize an early lead in new market segment.
The South Korean manufacturer is said to be developing a clamshell-like device, and another that folds away from the user similar to Huawei Technologies Co.’s Mate X, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing internal plans. The $1,980 Galaxy Fold that Samsung plans to release in April folds inward like a notebook.
While it’s still too early to gauge how much demand there will be for smartphones with flexible screens, Samsung and other rivals are eager to gain an edge over Apple Inc. in the $495 billion industry, especially amid cooling sales. Xiaomi Corp. is working on a dual-folding phone, according to a video released in January. The iPhone maker hasn’t announced any plans for a similar gadget.
“No one knows what the ideal design is yet,” said Bryan Ma, vice president of devices research at IDC. “The time is ripe for experimentation. Many of these designs won’t be successful, but industry players will learn valuable lessons along the way.”
A spokeswoman for Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung declined to comment on plans for new foldable phones.
Samsung plans to unveil the vertically folding phone late this year or early next year, and is using mock-ups to fine-tune the design, the people said. The gadget is designed with an extra screen on the outside, but the manufacturer may remove it depending on how customers respond to a similar display on the Galaxy Fold, they said.
The outfolding device, which already exists as a prototype after being considered as Samsung’s first foldable gadget, will roll out afterward, the people said. It will be thinner because it has no extra screen, they said.
Samsung may also incorporate an in-display fingerprint sensor for its foldable lineup, as it did for the Galaxy S10 model announced last month, they said.
While Samsung works on new models, it’s also trying to improve the durability of the Galaxy Fold’s display. They’re trying to eliminate a crease that appears on the panel after it’s been folded about 10,000 times, and Samsung is considering offering free screen replacements after releasing the product, one of the people said.
The Galaxy Fold’s screen imperfection develops on a protective film covering the touch sensor bonded with the display underneath, the person said. That’s one reason why Samsung kept the phone inside a glass case at MWC in Barcelona last month, the person said. Samsung’s spokeswoman said the Galaxy Fold was displayed that way because it wanted more attention on the soon-to-be-launched Galaxy S10, not because there was a problem with the quality of the foldable device.
Samsung forecasts production of at least 1 million foldable phones this year. The launch of the device comes as the world’s biggest phone maker tries to lure back consumers who have become used to incremental upgrades and are being wooed by Chinese manufacturers’ lower-priced smartphones.
Samsung, which also produces memory chips and televisions, makes the foldable displays itself and supplies technology to rivals such as Apple. The South Korean company shipped 291.3 million phones last year while Huawei sold 205.8 million, according to Strategy Analytics. Samsung will probably sell more than 40 million units of its flagship Galaxy S10 in the first year of release, according to Counterpoint.
Samsung spent eight years developing the Galaxy Fold and has worked with Google to adapt the Android operating system for a foldable screen. The company also envisions smartphones with rollable and stretchable displays in the future, Samsung Executive Vice President Chung Eui-suk said on the corporate website last month.

Source: Bloomberg

Oct 25, 2018

Twitter stock soars after strong earnings beat CNBC: Tech I CNBC

Michelle Castillo

CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on September 5, 2018. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on September 5, 2018. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Twitter shares was up as high as 13 percent in pre-market trading after reporting higher than expected earnings and revenue for the third quarter.
Twitter reported its latest quarterly earnings before the bell on Thursday:
  • Earnings per share: 21 cents (adjusted) vs. 14 cents, according to Refinitiv
  • Revenue: $758 million vs $702.6 million, according to Refinitiv
  • Monthly active users (MAUs): 326 million vs. 330.1 million, according to FactSet and StreetAccount
"We're achieving meaningful progress in our efforts to make Twitter a healthier and valuable everyday service," CEO Jack Dorsey said in an earnings release. "We're doing a better job detecting and removing spammy and suspicious accounts at sign-up. We're also continuing to introduce improvements that make it easier for people to follow events, topics and interests on Twitter, like adding support for U.S. TV shows in our new event infrastructure. This quarter's strong results prove we can prioritize the long-term health of Twitter while growing the number of people who participate in public conversation."
Twitter revenue went up 29 percent year-over-year. Advertising revenue in particular reached $650 million, also an increase of 29 percent year-over-year.
This is the second quarter in a row that Twitter missed monthly active user estimates.The company purged "locked-accounts" in an effort to get rid of bots and fake accounts on the platform in July. It had warned in last quarter's earnings report that these actions could have a negative effect on MAUs. It also said the decline could be "impacted by a number of factors including: GDPR, decisions we have made to prioritize the health of the platform and not move to paid SMS carrier relationships in certain markets, as well as a product change that reduced automated usage and a technical issue that temporarily reduced the number of notifications sent."
Monthly active users were down about 1 percent from the year-ago quarter, but average daily users went up 9 percent year-over-year, but Twitter does not break out specific numbers. However, the decline in monthly active user numbers did not seem to affect share prices.
In September, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified alongside Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding foreign meddling during the 2016 U.S. election. The company has also faced claims it participates in "shadow banning," or making sure certain accounts don't show up in search results. Twitter had strongly denied those reports. Dorsey did admit the company contributes to "filter bubbles," where people only see opinions from one perspective, and vowed to fix that issue.
The company has recently purged a network of bots and other abusive accounts on its platform, including a suspected bot pro-Saudi government network and more accounts affiliated with Infowars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Twitter also said it found more than 10 million posts that may have been backed by the Iranian and Russian governments, which it had previously said were sources of spreading misinformation.

Jul 10, 2018

Apple has 5,000 people working on autonomous cars I Tech I CNBC

Apple has 5,000 people working on autonomous cars

Jillian D'Onfro

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, June 4, 2018. Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developer conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, June 4, 2018.
Buried in a criminal complaint against a former Apple engineer who's being charged with stealing trade secrets is a remarkable revelation about the size of Apple's autonomous car project: 5,000 employees are working on it.
Xiaolang Zhang, who Apple hired to work on software and hardware for self-driving cars in December 2015, is accused of downloading files with proprietary information during paternity leave, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Santa Clara, California, on Monday.
Zhang told Apple he was leaving the company to join X-Motors, based in Guangzhou, China, after returning from his paternity leave. During his break, security footage showed Zhang returning to campus past 9 p.m. on a Saturday, against corporate policy, and leaving with a computer keyboard, some cables and a large box, according to the suit.
According to the complaint, about 5,000 of Apple's 135,000 employees (3.7 percent) are "disclosed on the Project," which Apple has never openly discussed.
"Although Apple has made general statements to the press about being interested in autonomous vehicle development, the details of Apple's research and development for the Project is a closely guarded secret that has never been publicly revealed," the complaint says.
Zhang's role at Apple was designing and testing circuit boards to analyze sensor data, and he admitted to both Apple and the FBI that he took the company's data and airdropped it to a personal computer, according to the complaint.
Reports of Apple's self-driving car efforts started surfacing several years ago. Apple has obtained permits to test self-driving cars in California and recently hired an executive from Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car unit.
Zhang faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, according to the complaint.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bloomberg first reported on the case. You can read the full complaint here.

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