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We take a weekly look at mobile and tech stories from around the world. Headlines include… Google to cut hundreds of jobs across multiple teams, Meta faces another EU privacy challenge over ‘pay for privacy’ consent choice, At Senate AI hearing, news executives fight against “fair use” claims for AI training data and much more…

Google to cut hundreds of jobs across multiple teams

Verdict

Google has announced hundreds of employee cuts across multiple teams including massive cuts within its augmented reality (AR) team. As well as most of the AR team, hundreds of employees will be laid off across its Voice Assistant unit and Pixel, Nest and Fitbit hardware teams, the company said in a statement.

“Throughout second-half of 2023, a number of our teams made changes to become more efficient and work better and to align their resources to their biggest product priorities,” Google said in a statement received by Reuters.

Some teams are continuing to make these kinds of organizational changes, which include some role eliminations globally,” according to the statement.

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Meta faces another EU privacy challenge over ‘pay for privacy’ consent choice

Tech Crunch

Meta, the adtech giant, is encountering a second challenge to its attempt to continue tracking and profiling users on Facebook and Instagram in Europe despite the region’s stringent data protection laws. Privacy rights advocacy group noyb is backing a new complaint filed with the Austrian data protection authority, asserting that Meta is violating EU law by structuring a choice that disproportionately favors users agreeing to tracking ads over those opting out. The complaint focuses on the difficulty users face when attempting to withdraw consent compared to the ease of agreeing to the tracking.

“Once users have consented to being tracked, there’s no easy way to withdraw it at a later date,” noyb writes in a press release. “This is illegal. Despite Article 7 of the GDPR clearly stating that ‘it shall be as easy to withdraw as to give consent’, the only option to ‘withdraw’ the (one-click) consent, is to buy a €251.88 subscription. In addition, the complainant had to navigate through several windows and banners to find the page where he could actually revoke consent.”

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At Senate AI hearing, news executives fight against “fair use” claims for AI training data

Ars Technica

In a hearing titled “Oversight of A.I.: The Future of Journalism” before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, news industry executives called on Congress for legal clarification regarding the use of journalism for training AI assistants like ChatGPT. They contested the claim of fair use by companies such as OpenAI and advocated for a licensing system for AI training content. This proposed regime would require Big Tech companies to pay for content, similar to the model used by rights clearinghouses in the music industry. The hearing, chaired by Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, with Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri playing a significant role, addressed the need for legislative action and follows the senators’ introduction of a bipartisan framework for AI legislation and previous hearings on AI’s impact.

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CES 2024: The most interesting new tech at the trade show

Independent

While CES (Consumer Electronics Show) showcases thousands of gadgets, including mainstream items like laptops and connected cars, it also features a range of unconventional and less mainstream devices. Many of these come from smaller start-up firms, aiming to leverage technology to address specific needs, whether assisting people with disabilities or solving niche problems in homes, workplaces, or with pets. The event highlights innovation in various areas, offering a glimpse into the diverse applications of technology.

Checkout some of the highlights reported by the Independent.

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CES 2024: Punkt. Partners With Apostrophy for Privacy-First Phone

PC Mag

Punkt., a Swiss company, has introduced the MC02, the first smartphone to run Apostrophy OS, a new platform based on the open-source foundation of Android. The Apostrophy OS aims to prioritize privacy, giving users “complete control over their personal data.” Unlike some other privacy-focused alternatives, Apostrophy OS doesn’t require users to give up existing apps. According to Steve Cistulli, co-founder and CEO, the OS offers a full Android experience that can include Google services if desired, making it suitable for everyday use. The announcement was made at CES, where Punkt. emphasized its commitment to user privacy.

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Portable mobile AI device Rabbit R1 was presented at CES. What can it do?

Android Authority

Artificial intelligence startup Rabbit Inc. has unveiled a pocket-sized mobile device named Rabbit R1 at CES 2024, as reported by Android Authority. The R1 is an autonomous portable device that can be controlled using voice commands. It features a touchscreen display, a push-to-talk button, a microphone for voice commands, speakers, a scroll wheel, and a rotating camera with computer vision support known as Rabbit Eye.

Under the hood, the R1 is equipped with a MediaTek Helio P35 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, a USB-C port, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a SIM card slot with 4G support. This device showcases the integration of AI and compact design to provide a versatile and voice-controlled mobile experience.

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Ericsson aims to enable 50% of Africa’s mobile money services

Mobile Europe

MTN and Ericsson have ambitious plans to expand the scope of MTN’s existing mobile financial services. Ericsson’s Michael Wallis-Brown envisions the firm supporting 50% of the African mobile money market. Currently, Ericsson reaches 10% of the market in Africa, and Wallis-Brown believes they can achieve substantial growth.

Ericsson operates one of the largest white-label platforms for mobile financial services globally, managing over 400 million mobile wallet accounts in 24 countries. The recent announcement of an extension of their 10-year partnership with MTN Group aims to move the platform to the public cloud, enabling services to scale exponentially. MTN Group already has 63 million active subscribers on the Ericsson platform.

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Why eSIM is set to transform the IoT

IoT Business News

Bertrand Moussel, Chair of the Trusted Connectivity Alliance Board, emphasizes the significance of the release of GSMA’s eSIM for IoT Specifications (SGP.31 and SGP.32) as a game-changing development. Moussel believes that these specifications have the potential to accelerate the adoption of eSIM technology, unlocking the full transformative power of the Internet of Things (IoT).

He highlights the deployment of low-cost, low-power IoT devices, such as smart meters, sensors, asset trackers, and smart labels, at a massive scale. This deployment is driving transformation across industries by enabling new use-cases, providing valuable insights, and realizing operational efficiencies. McKinsey estimates the global economic value of this transformation to be up to $12.6 trillion. The release of GSMA’s eSIM specifications is seen as a key enabler in realizing the vast potential of the IoT.

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