TikTok to partner with TalkShopLive for US live shopping

The reported partnership comes at a time when TikTok is facing scrutiny from US lawmakers questioning the Chinese-owned app’s safeguards of user data. (Shutterstock/File)
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Updated 03 October 2022

TikTok to partner with TalkShopLive for US live shopping

  • TalkShopLive's “live streaming, social buying and selling platform” will allow users to buy products through links on the app during live broadcasts

LONDON: TikTok is due to enter a partnership with Los Angeles-based TalkShopLive to launch its live shopping platform in North America by outsourcing its operation, the Financial Times reported on Saturday citing two people familiar with the operations.
The companies are still finalizing the arrangements, the FT report said, adding that no contracts have been signed so far.
TikTok did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment while a representative for TalkShopLive declined to comment.
Bytedance-owned TikTok’s live shopping platform TikTok Shop is available in Asian markets including Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. It was launched in the UK last year, according to the report.
TikTok Shop allows users to buy products through links on the app during live broadcasts, and the Los Angeles based TalkShopLive app works on a similar concept. TalkShopLive describes itself as a “live streaming, social buying and selling platform,” on its website.
TalkShopLive signed an agreement with US retailer Walmart last year to provide shoppable content through embeddable videos across Walmart.com.
The reported partnership comes at a time when TikTok, which counts the United States as its largest market, is facing scrutiny from US lawmakers questioning the Chinese-owned app’s safeguards of user data.

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Disney+ streaming service launches with major advertisers

Updated 08 December 2022

Disney+ streaming service launches with major advertisers

  • The $7.99-a-month with ads version launches amid video streaming industry slowdown

LONDON: The ad-supported version of the Disney+ service launched Thursday, attracting major advertisers from different sectors, bringing in new revenue as Walt Disney Co. strives to push its streaming business into profitability.
Disney Advertising President Rita Ferro said more than 100 brands, from Mattel Inc. to Marriott Hotels & Resorts, are participating in the launch, which Disney has been promoting to marketers and ad buyers since its May.
The company is under pressure to turn a profit on its streaming business, which posted a $1.5 billon loss in the company’s most recent quarter. Investor unhappiness about deepening losses hammered the company’s stock and helped set the stage for the ouster last month of Chief Executive Bob Chapek, and return of longtime Disney leader, Bob Iger.
Advertising introduces a second source of revenue for Disney+, to supplement subscription fees. The company’s other streaming services, Hulu and ESPN+, already have commercials.
A $3-a-month price increase also took effect Dec. 8, bringing the price for the ad-free version of Disney+ to $10.99. Disney+ with ads costs $7.99. Researcher Kantar projects that one out of four Disney+ subscribers could switch to the less-expensive version of the service with advertising.
Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy told investors the company does not expect the advertising-supported tier to have a “meaningful impact” until later in its 2023 fiscal year.
As subscriber growth slows in North America, Netflix similarly introduced commercials to bolster revenue and support its estimated $17 billion annual content spend. Other streaming services, such as HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock, also offer ad-supported versions of their streaming services, emulating the business model that has long supported the television business.
Ferro told Reuters that Disney+ will carry four minutes of advertising time per hour, in 15 and 30 second spots, and limit the number of times the same ad will appear over the course of a day or week.
“A brand like Starbucks will have no more than one commercial an hour, no more than two a day,” she said. “We’ve asked advertisers for multiple versions of creative. Even if they air two a day, you won’t see the same ad.”
Disney plans to introduce features that will allow advertisers to target consumers by region, gender and age.


Biden admin tells Supreme Court law protecting social media companies has limits

Updated 08 December 2022

Biden admin tells Supreme Court law protecting social media companies has limits

  • Social media companies should be held responsible for user content, President argues

LONDON: The Biden administration argued to the US Supreme Court on Wednesday that social media giants like Google could in some instances have responsibility for user content, adopting a stance that could potentially undermine a federal law shielding companies from liability.
Lawyers for the US Department of Justice made their argument in the high profile lawsuit filed by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old American citizen killed in 2015 when Islamist militants opened fire on the Paris bistro where she was eating.
The family argued that Google was in part liable for Gonzalez’ death because YouTube, which is owned by the tech giant, essentially recommended videos by the Daesh group to some users through its algorithms. Google and YouTube are part of Alphabet Inc.
The case reached the Supreme Court after the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Google, saying they were protected from such claims because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Section 230 holds that social media companies cannot be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by other users.
The law has been sharply criticized across the political spectrum. Democrats claim it gives social media companies a pass for spreading hate speech and misinformation.
Republicans say it allows censorship of voices on the right and other politically unpopular opinions, pointing to decisions by Facebook and Twitter to ban dissemination of a New York Post article about the son of then-Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s adult son, Hunter, in October 2020.
The Biden administration, in its filing to the Supreme Court, did not argue that Google should be held liable in the Gonzalez case and voiced strong support for most of Section 230’s protections of social media companies.
But the DOJ lawyers said that algorithms used by YouTube and other providers should be subject to a different kind of scrutiny. They called for the Supreme Court to return the case to the 9th Circuit for further review.
Attorneys for Google could not be reached for comment on Wednesday night.


Twitter to hike Blue pricing to $11 for iPhone app users

Updated 08 December 2022

Twitter to hike Blue pricing to $11 for iPhone app users

  • Move believed to be a pushback against the 30 percent commission that Apple takes on any payments made through its operating system

LONDON: Twitter Inc. plans to change the pricing of its Twitter Blue subscription product to $11, from $7.99, if paid for through its iPhone app and to $7 if paid for on the website, the Information reported on Wednesday, citing a person briefed on the plans.
The move was likely a pushback against Apple Inc’s 30 percent cut on any payments made by users via apps on the iOS operating system, the report said.
The lower pricing on the website was also likely to drive more users to that platform as opposed to signing up on their iPhones, the report said. It did not mention whether pricing would change for the Android platform as well.
Musk, who took ownership of Twitter in October, is planning to roll out the micro blogging site’s verified service with different colored checks for individuals, companies and governments, after a botched initial launch led to a surge in users impersonating celebrities and brands on the platform.
Twitter, Apple and Google, which owns the Android operating system, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk, in a series of tweets last week listed various grievances with Apple, including the 30 percent fee the iphone maker charges software developers for in-app purchases.
He also posted a meme suggesting he was willing to “go to war” with Apple rather than paying the commission.
Musk later met Apple chief executive Tim Cook at the company’s headquarters and later tweeted that the misunderstanding about Twitter being removed from Apple’s app store was resolved.


Google to merge mapping service Waze with maps products teams

Updated 08 December 2022

Google to merge mapping service Waze with maps products teams

  • Company said Waze integration into Google Geo will consolidate processes

LONDON: Google said on Thursday it will merge teams working on mapping service Waze and products like Google Maps, effective Dec. 9, in a bid to consolidate processes.
The Alphabet Inc-owned company will integrate Waze, which it acquired in 2013 for $1 billion, into Google Geo, its portfolio of real-world mapping products that include Google Maps, Google Earth, and Street View, a Google spokesperson said.
Waze CEO Neha Parikh will exit the company following a transition period, Google said, adding that Waze will continue to be a standalone app, with about 151 million monthly active users worldwide.
“By bringing the Waze team into Geo’s portfolio of real-world mapping products, the teams will benefit from further increased technical collaboration,” the spokesperson said.
In a letter dated July 12, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said the company would streamline processes and consolidate investments where they overlap.
In February 2021, Waze’s former top executive Noam Bardin said it struggled to grow within Google and that Waze could have “probably grown faster and much more efficiently had we stayed independent.”

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Apple: Most iCloud data can now be end-to-end encrypted

Updated 08 December 2022

Apple: Most iCloud data can now be end-to-end encrypted

  • The world’s most valuable company has long placed customer security and privacy at a premium

BOSTON: As part of an ongoing privacy push, Apple said Wednesday it will now offer full end-to-encryption for nearly all the data its users store in its global cloud-based storage system. That will make it more difficult for hackers, spies and law enforcement agencies to access sensitive user information.
The world’s most valuable company has long placed customer security and privacy at a premium. Its iMessage and Facetime communications services are fully encrypted end-to-end and it has sometimes locked horns with law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, over its refusal to unlock devices.
But nearly everything that customers backed up remotely using Apple’s iCloud service — including photos, videos and chats — has not been protected by encryption. That made it far easier for crooks, spies — and criminal investigators with court orders — to get at it.
No longer. The loophole that law enforcement had for getting at iPhone data will now be considerably narrowed.
Apple, which is based in Cupertino, California, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the timing of the announcement and other issues. Nor did the FBI immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Cybersecurity experts have long argued that attempts by law enforcement to weaken encryption with backdoors are ill-advised because they would inherently make the Internet less reliable and more dangerous.
Last year, Apple announced, then withdrew after a flood of objections, a plan to scan iPhones for photos of child sexual abuse.
“Where Apple was hesitant about deploying encryption features last year ... it now feels like they’ve decided to put the gas pedal down,” noted Johns Hopkins cryptography professor Matthew Green on Twitter.
Apple’s encryption announcement offers what the company calls Advanced Data Protection, to which users of its devices must opt in. It adds iCloud Backup, Notes and Photos to data categories that are already protected by end-to-end encryption in the cloud, including health data and passwords. Not included in the iCloud encryption scheme are email, contacts and calendar items because they must interoperate with products from other vendors, Apple said.
It said Advanced Data Protection for iCloud would be available to US users by the end of the year and start rolling out to the rest of the world in early 2023.
In a blog post, Apple said “enhanced security for users’ data in the cloud is more urgently needed than ever,” citing research that says data breaches have more than tripled over the past eight years.
Other tech products that already offer end-to-end encryption include the world’s most popular messaging app, WhatsApp, and Signal, a communications app prized by journalists, dissidents, human rights activists and other dealers in sensitive data.
Apple announced a few other advanced security features on Wednesday, including one geared toward journalists, human rights activists and government officials who “face extraordinary digital threats” — such as from no-click spyware. Called iMessage Contact Key Verification, it will automatically alert users to eavesdroppers who succeed in inserting a new device into their iCloud via a breach.
In July, Apple announced a new optional feature called Lockdown Mode that is designed to protect iPhones and its other products against intrusions from state-backed hackers and commercial spyware.
Apple said at the time that it believed the extra layer of protection would be valuable to targets of hacking attacks launched by well-funded groups.
Users are able to activate and deactivate lockdown mode at will.