Tag: google

How Smart TVs in Millions of U.S. Homes Track More Than What’s On Tonight

The growing concern over online data and user privacy has been focused on tech giants like Facebook and devices like smartphones. But people’s data is also increasingly being vacuumed right out of their living rooms via their televisions, sometimes without their knowledge.

In recent years, data companies have harnessed new technology to immediately identify what people are watching on internet-connected TVs, then using that information to send targeted advertisements to other devices in their homes. Marketers, forever hungry to get their products in front of the people most likely to buy them, have eagerly embraced such practices. But the companies watching what people watch have also faced scrutiny from regulators and privacy advocates over how transparent they are being with users.

Samba TV is one of the bigger companies that track viewer information to make personalized show recommendations. The company said it collected viewing data from 13.5 million smart TVs in the United States, and it has raised $40 million in venture funding from investors including Time Warner , the cable operator Liberty Global and the billionaire Mark Cuban.

Samba TV has struck deals with roughly a dozen TV brands — including Sony, Sharp, TCL and Philips — to place its software on certain sets. When people set up their TVs, a screen urges them to enable a service called Samba Interactive TV, saying it recommends shows and provides special offers “by cleverly recognizing onscreen content.” But the screen, which contains the enable button, does not detail how much information Samba TV collects to make those recommendations.

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Sweeping Plan Would Overturn Equal Access to the Internet

lightbulbThe Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday that it planned to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites. The proposal, put forward by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration. The rules prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery of websites, or charging extra fees for the best quality of streaming and other internet services for their subscribers. Those limits are central to the concept called net neutrality.

The action immediately reignited a loud and furious fight over free speech and the control of the internet, pitting telecom giants like AT&T against internet giants like Google and Amazon, who warn against powerful telecom gatekeepers. Both sides are expected to lobby hard in Washington to push their agendas, as they did when the existing rules were adopted. “Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Mr. Pai said in a statement. “Instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

The proposal from Mr. Pai, a Republican, is widely expected to be approved during a Dec. 14 meeting in a 3-to-2 party line vote from the agency’s five commissioners. But some companies will probably put up a legal fight, or actions by lawmakers, to prevent it from taking hold.

The clear winners from the move would be the giant companies that provide internet access to phones and computers, which have fought for years against broadband regulations. A repeal of the rules would allow the companies to exert more control over the online experiences of American consumers.

Big online companies like Amazon say that the telecom companies would be able to show favoritism to certain web services, by charging for accessing some sites but not others, or by slowing the connection speed to some sites. Small online companies say the proposal would hurt innovation. Only the largest companies, they say, would be able to afford the expense of making sure their sites received preferred treatment.

And consumers, the online companies say, may see their costs go up to get quality access to popular websites like Netflix. The action “represents the end of net neutrality as we know it and defies the will of millions of Americans,” said Michael Beckerman, chief executive of the Internet Association, a lobbying group that represent Google, Facebook, Amazon and other tech firms.

But Mr. Pai said the internet rules were adopted to stop only theoretical harms. He said the old rules limited consumer choice and stifled investment in network expansion and upgrades. He has also argued that the existing internet rules stop internet service companies from experimenting with new business models that could help them compete with online businesses like Netflix, Google and Facebook.

The plan to repeal the existing rules, passed in 2015, also reverses a hallmark decision by the agency to declare broadband as a service as essential as phones and electricity. That move created the legal foundation for the current rules and underscored the importance of high-speed internet service to the nation. It was put in place by Tom Wheeler, an F.C.C. chairman under President Obama. Mr. Pai signaled his intention to dismantle the existing rules in April. The action on Tuesday by Mr. Pai, who was appointed chairman by President Trump, is the centerpiece of a deregulatory agenda that has also stripped television broadcasters, newspapers and telecom companies of a broad range of regulations meant to protect the public interest.

The telecom companies on Tuesday cheered Mr. Pai’s proposal. “The removal of antiquated, restrictive regulations will pave the way for broadband network investment, expansion and upgrades,” said Jonathan Spalter, the chief executive of USTelecom, an industry lobbying group. But consumer advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers said the move would harm consumers and internet businesses that have relied on the rules to ensure all content is equally available, and to make sure that speech is not stifled by broadband companies putting up barriers to certain internet sites.

Consumer groups say broadband companies have been incredibly profitable under the net neutrality rules and have expanded their networks into new communities and with faster speeds, despite complaints the rules hamper their businesses. “Your internet service provider will be free to make online fast lanes and favor the content of its choice,” said Gigi Sohn, a former senior adviser to Mr. Wheeler at the F.C.C. “That it will take away your control of your internet experience and give it to Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.”

Despite Gains by Amazon, Samsung and Google, Vast Majority of Tablet Web Visits Still Coming From iPads

ipad_boxesWhile Kindle Fire, Galaxy Tab and Nexus tablet sales continue to rise, most tablet Web surfing is still coming from Apple devices. Roughly 87 percent of tablet Web surfing comes from an iPad, according to the latest numbers from mobile ad company Chitika. That’s down just 1 percent from the ad network’s November survey. A few rivals did show some impressive gains, however. Kindle Fire models accounted for 4.25 percent of all tablet Web traffic, up 20 percent from the prior survey. The Samsung Galaxy family posted a slight gain, to 2.65 percent, while Google Nexus tablets increased from 0.91 percent to 1.06 percent in December. It will be interesting to see if the numbers change at all once all those holiday presents are unwrapped and activated.

Here’s a look at how many ad impressions were delivered by non-Apple tablets per 100 iPad impressions.
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Instagram Won’t Sell Your Photos — Yet

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Earlier this week, users of the social photo network Instagram were up in arms and then soothed, all in the span of days. The mobile-application company, which allows participants to share photos and recently launched an online interface, informed users that their photos may be used for advertising, but quickly changed their tune. However, despite backpedaling on their proposed service-terms changes, many users aren’t convinced that something similar won’t arise later, reports the New York Times, especially since Facebook purchased Instagram earlier this year.

Companies like Google, Twitter, Yelp and Facebook offer themselves as free services for users to store and share their most intimate pictures, secrets, messages and memories. But to flourish over the long term, they need to seek new ways to market the personal data they accumulate. They must constantly push the envelope, hoping users either do not notice or do not care.

So they sell ads against the content of an e-mail, as Google does, or transform a user’s likes into commercial endorsements, as Facebook does, or sell photographs of your adorable 3-year-old, which is what Instagram was accused of planning this week.

“The reality is that companies have always had to make money,” said Miriam H. Wugmeister, chair of Morrison Foerster’s privacy and data security group.

Even as Instagram was pulling back on its changed terms of service on Thursday night, it made clear it was only regrouping. After all, Facebook, as a publicly held corporation, must answer to Wall Street’s quarterly expectations.

Read more at the New York Times.

TRENDING NOW: The 50 Best Apps of 2012

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We’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again: Apps are big business. Last year this time, it was reported that 1.2 billion apps were downloaded from Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store in a single week. 509 million of those downloads came from the U.S. Apps are as big a part of the mobile fabric as the phones and tablets on which they run. This year, more apps than ever were released to the various mobile markets. We saw some big players snatch up smaller players; big networks retool their efforts to better compete with small networks; and apps we thought may be illegal. We even saw a dope app come from a site we’re not too fond of. As we close in on 2013, let’s look back at the best apps that dropped over the past 365 days. REVIEW THE LIST