Snapchat Cameo edits your face into videos

Snapchat is preparing to launch a big new feature that uses your selfies to replace the faces of people in videos you can then share. It’s essentially a simplified way to Deepfake you into GIFs. Cameos are an alternative to Bitmoji for quickly conveying an emotion, reaction, or silly situation in Snapchat messages.

Some French users received a test version of the feature today, as spotted by Snap enthusiast @Mtatsis.

Snapchat Cameo makes you the star of videos

TechCrunch reached out to Snap, which confirmed Cameo’s existence, and that it’s currently testing in limited availability in some international markets. The company provided this statement: “Cameos aren’t ready to take the stage yet, but stay tuned for their global debut soon!”

With Cameo, you’ll take a selfie to teach Snapchat what you look like. Then you choose if you want a vaguely male or female body type (no purposefully androgenous option).

Cameo then lives inside the Bitmoji button in the Snapchat messaging keyboard. Snapchat has made a bunch of short looping video clips with sound that you can choose from. Snapchat will then stretch and move your selfie to create different facial reactions that Cameo can apply to actors’ heads in the videos. You just pick one of these videos that now star you and send it to the chat.

Cameo could help Snapchat keep messaging interesting, which is critical since that remains its most popular and differentiated feature. With Instagram and WhatsApp having copied its Stories to great success, it must stay ahead in chat. Though in this case, Snap could be accused of copying Chinese social app Zao which let users more realistically Deepfake their faces into videos. Then again, JibJab popularized this kind of effect many years ago to stick your face on dancing Christmas elves.

Snap is only starting to monetize the messaging wing of its app with ads inside social games. Snap might potentially sell sponsored, branded Cameo clips to advertisers similar to how the company offers sponsored augmented reality lenses.

Cameo could put a more fun spin on technology for grafting faces into videos. Deepfakes can be used as powerful weapons of misinformation or abuse. But by offering only innocuous clips rather than statements from politicians or pornography, Snapchat could turn the tech into a comedic medium.

[Image Credit: Jeff Higgins]


Source: Tech Crunch

The new Mac Pro goes up for order December 10

After more than a year of teasing, Apple finally unveiled the new Mac Pro at WWDC in June. The long wait was finally over — though Apple left out one key detail: when, precisely the high end desktop would arrive, beyond a purposefully vague fall timeframe

Earlier this, however, the company began sending out pre-pre-order notifications to potential consumers (spotted by Marques Brownlee), noting the orders will open December 10. When, precisely, they’ll start shipping is another question entirely, of course, but at the very least, you can get a raincheck for the extremely exepsnive Christmas present.

The system starts at $5,999, plus the $4,999 Pro Display XDR monitor. You should probably also factor in the much ballyhooed stand, which adds another $999 to the price tag. Of course, price has never been Apple’s main selling point — something that goes double for the Mac Pro line. And the company’s clearly not holding anything back with this system, as it recommits itself to creative professionals.

Contrary to earlier rumors, Apple noted back in September that the new Pro will be built in the U.S., like its predecessor.


Source: Tech Crunch

In wake of Shutterstock’s Chinese censorship, American companies need to relearn American values

It’s among the most iconic images of the last few decades — a picture of an unknown man standing before a line of tanks during the protests in 1989 in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. In just one shot, the photographer, Jeff Widener, managed to convey a society struggling between the freedoms of individual citizens and the heavy hand of the Chinese militarized state.

It’s also an image that few within China’s “great firewall” have access to, let alone see. For those who have read 1984, it can almost seem as if “Tank Man” was dropped into a memory hole, erased from the collective memory of more than a billion people.

By now, it’s well-known that China’s search engines like Baidu censor such political photography. Regardless of the individual morality of their decisions, it’s at least understandable that Chinese companies with mostly Chinese revenues would carefully hew to the law as set forth by the Chinese Communist Party. It’s a closed system after all.

What we are learning though is that it isn’t just Chinese companies that are aiding and abetting this censorship. It’s Western companies too. And Western workers aren’t pleased that they are working to enforce the anti-freedom policies in the Middle Kingdom.

Take Shutterstock, which has come under great fire for complying with China’s great firewall. As Sam Biddle described in The Intercept last month, the company has been riven internally between workers looking to protect democratic values, and a business desperate to expand further in one of the world’s most dynamic countries. From Biddle:

Shutterstock’s censorship feature appears to have been immediately controversial within the company, prompting more than 180 Shutterstock workers to sign a petition against the search blacklist and accuse the company of trading its values for access to the lucrative Chinese market.

Those petitions have allegedly gone nowhere internally, and that has led employees like Stefan Hayden, who describes nearly ten years of experience at the company as a frontend developer on his LinkedIn profile, to resign:

The challenge of these political risks is hardly unknown to Shutterstock. The company’s most recent annual financial filing with the SEC lists market access and censorship as a key risk for the company (emphasis mine):

For example, domestic internet service providers have blocked and continue to block access to Shutterstock in China and other countries, such as Turkey, have intermittently restricted access to Shutterstock. There are substantial uncertainties regarding interpretation of foreign laws and regulations that censor content available through our products and services and we may be forced to significantly change or discontinue our operations in such markets if we were to be found in violation of any new or existing law or regulation. If access to our products and services is restricted, in whole or in part, in one or more countries or our competitors can successfully penetrate geographic markets that we cannot access, our ability to retain or increase our contributor and customer base may be adversely affected, we may not be able to maintain or grow our revenue as anticipated, and our financial results could be adversely affected.

Thus the rub: market access means compromising the very values that a content purveyor like Shutterstock relies on to operate as a business. The stock image company is hardly unique to find itself in this position; it’s a situation that the NBA has certainly had to confront in the last few weeks:

It’s great to see Shutterstock’s employees standing up for freedom and democracy, and if not finding purchase internally with their values, at least walking with their feet to other companies who value freedom more reliably.

Unfortunately, far too many companies — and far too many tech companies — blindly chase the dollars and yuans, without considering the erosion in the values at the heart of their own business. That erosion ultimately adds up — without guiding principles to handle business challenges, decisions get made ad hoc with an eye to revenues, intensifying the risk of crises like the one facing Shutterstock.

The complexity of the Chinese market has only expanded with the country’s prodigious growth. The sharpness, intensity, and self-reflection of values required for Western companies to operate on the mainland has reached new highs. And yet, executives have vastly under-communicated the values and constraints they face, both to their own employees but also to their shareholders as well.

As I wrote earlier this year when the Google China search controversy broke out, it’s not enough to just be militant about values. Values have to be cultivated, and everyone from software engineers to CEOs need to understand a company’s objectives and the values that constrain them.

As I wrote at the time:

The internet as independence movement is 100% dead.

That makes the ethical terrain for Silicon Valley workers much more challenging to navigate. Everything is a compromise, in one way or another. Even the very act of creating value — arguably the most important feature of Silicon Valley’s startup ecosystem — has driven mass inequality, as we explored on Extra Crunch this weekend in an in-depth interview.

I ultimately was in favor of Google’s engagement with China, if only because I felt that the company does understand its values better than most (after all, it abandoned the China market in the first place, and one would hope the company would make the same choice again if it needed to). Google has certainly not been perfect on a whole host of fronts, but it seems to have had far more self-reflection about the values it intends to purvey than most tech companies.

It’s well past time for all American companies though to double down on the American values that underly their business. Ultimately, if you compromise on everything, you stand for nothing — and what sort of business would anyone want to join or back like that?

China can’t be ignored, but neither should companies ignore their own duties to commit to open, democratic values. If Tank Man can stand in front of a line of tanks, American execs can stand before a line of their colleagues and find an ethical framework and a set of values that can work.


Source: Tech Crunch

RaySecur, a mailroom security startup, raises $3M in seed funding

Raysecur says at least ten times a day someone sends a suspicious package containing powder, liquid, or some other kind of hazard.

The Boston, Mass.-based startup says its desktop-sized 3D real-time scanning technology, dubbed MailSecur, can intercept and detect threats in the mailroom before they ever make it onto the office floor.

Mailroom security may not seem fancy or interesting, but they’re a common gateway into a corporate environment. They’re a huge attack vector for attackers — both physical and cyber. Earlier this year we wrote about warshipping, a “Trojan horse”-type attack that can be used as a way for hackers to ship hardware exploits into a business, break the Wi-Fi, and pivot onto the corporate network to steal data.

Now, the company has raised $3 million in seed-round funding led by One Way Ventures, with participation from Junson Capital, Launchpad Venture Group, and also Dreamit Ventures, a Philadelphia-based early stage investor and accelerator, which last year announced it would move into the early-stage security space.

Raysecur’s proprietary millimeter-wave scanner, MailSecur. (Image: supplied)

Raysecur uses millimeter-wave technology — similar to the scanners you find at airport security — to examine suspicious letters, flat envelopes, and small parcels. Its technology can detect powders as small as 2% of a teaspoon or a single drop of liquid, the company claims.

The startup said the funding will help expand its customer base. Although still in its infancy, the company has about ten Fortune 500 customers using its MailSecur scanner.

Since it was founded in 2018, the company has scanned more than 9.2 million packages.

Semyon Dukach, managing partner at One Way Ventures, said the funding will help “bring this compelling technology to an even broader market.”


Source: Tech Crunch

Original Content podcast: ‘The Crown’ embraces middle age

“The Crown” has returned to Netflix with a new cast — Olivia Colman as a middle-aged Queen Elizabeth, Tobias Menzies as her husband Prince Philip and Helena Bonham Carter as her sister Princess Margaret.

Loyal listeners of the Original Content podcast may recall that we reviewed the show’s first two seasons last year. We didn’t have particularly high hopes, but “The Crown” quickly won us over with its stunning sets and costumes, talented actors, and serious exploration of the role that the monarchy plays in an evolving England.

As we explain in our latest episode, “The Crown” is both changed and unchanged in its third season.

Anyone who’s watched past episodes will recognize the new season’s tone and preoccupations, but the characters have evolved — not just thanks to new actors, but also as the real-life monarchs they’re portraying become more settled in their roles. Plus, a new generation of royals (including Prince Charles) is entering adulthood.

Our reactions to these changes were mixed. While Jordan enjoyed seeing a more recognizable period of history — one that foreshadows the dramas of the ’80s and ’90s — Anthony felt the show became a tiny bit less compelling. He had no complaints about Colman (who recently won an Oscar for playing a different English monarch in “The Favourite”), but he found the older Elizabeth less memorable than the young queen who was still struggling to define her role.

As for Darrell, he only watched a couple episodes before giving up. But he still had plenty of thoughts about why he has no interest in continuing.

In addition to reviewing “The Crown,” we also discuss Plex’s new ad-supported streaming service.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:35 Plex discussion
8:40 “The Crown” season 3 spoiler-free review
38:33 “The Crown” spoiler discussion


Source: Tech Crunch

This Week in Apps: Black Friday’s boost, security news and the year’s biggest apps

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all. What are developers talking about? What do app publishers and marketers need to know? How are politics impacting the App Store and app businesses? And which apps are everyone using?

This week we look at how the Black Friday weekend played out on mobile (including which non-shopping category that saw a boost in revenue!), as well as a few security-related stories, TikTok’s latest bad press, plus Apple and Google’s best and most downloaded apps of 2019, and more.

Headlines

80% of Android apps are encrypting traffic by default

Google gave an update on Android security this week, noting that 80% of Android applications were encrypting traffic by default, and that percentage was higher for apps targeting Android 9 or higher, with 90% of them encrypting traffic by default. Android protects the traffic entering or leaving the devices with TLS (Transport Layer Security). Its new statistics are related to Android 7’s introduction of the Network Security Configuration in 2016, which allows app developers to configure the network security policy for their app through a declarative configuration file. Apps targeting Android 9 (API level 28) or higher automatically have a policy set by default that prevents unencrypted traffic for every domain. And since Nov. 1, 2019, all apps (including app updates) must target at least Android 9, Google says. That means the percentages will improve as more apps roll out their next updates.

Black Friday boosted mobile game revenue to a record $70M

U.S. sales holiday Black Friday wasn’t just good for online shoppers, who spent a record $7.4 billion in sales, $2.9 billion from smartphones. It also boosted iOS and Android mobile game revenue to a single-day record of $69.7 million in the U.S., according to Sensor Tower. This was the most revenue ever generated in a single day for the category, and it represents a 25% increase over 2018. Marvel Contest of Champions from Kabam led the day with approximately $2.7 million in player spending. Two titles from Playrix — Gardenscapes and Homescapes — also won big, with $1 million and $969,000 in revenue, respectively.

These increases indicate that consumers are looking for all kinds of deals on Black Friday, not just those related to holiday gift-giving. They’re also happy to spend on themselves in games. Mobile publishers caught on to this trend and offered special in-game deals on Black Friday which really paid off.

Did Walmart beat Amazon’s app on Black Friday?

Sensor Tower and Apptopia said it did. App Annie also said it did, but then later took it back (see update). In any event, it must have been a close race. According to Sensor Tower, Walmart’s app reached No.1 on the U.S. App Store on Black Friday with 113,000 new downloads, a year-over-year increase of 23%. Amazon had 102,000 downloads, making it No. 2.

Arguably, many Amazon shoppers already have the app installed, so this is more about Walmart’s e-commerce growth more so than some ding on Amazon.

In fact, Apptopia said that Amazon still had 162% more mobile sessions over the full holiday weekend — meaning Amazon was more shopped than Walmart.

More broadly, mobile shopping is still huge on Black Friday. The top 10 shopping apps grew their new installs by 11% over last year on Black Friday, to reach a combined 527,000 installs.

Report: Android Advanced Protection Program could prevent sideloading

Google’s Advanced Protection Program protects the accounts of those at risks of targeted attacks — like journalists, activists, business leaders, and political campaign teams. This week, 9to5Google found the program may get a new protection feature with the ability to block sideloading of apps, according to an APK breakdown. What’s not yet clear is if program members will have the option to disable the protection, but there are some indications that may be the case. Another feature the report uncovered appears to show that Play Protect will automatically scan all apps, including those from outside the Play Store. This won’t affect the majority of Android users, of course, but it is an indication of where Google believes security risks may be found: sideloaded apps.

Bug hunter suggests Security.plist standard for apps


Source: Tech Crunch

Real X-Wings took flight at Disney’s new Star Wars ride grand opening thanks to Boeing

Boeing might be taking the last crucial steps to prepare for its first crewed Starliner capsule spaceflight, but it’s also busy turning sci-fi into reality right here on Earth – by helping Disney build X-Wing large-scale starfighters to celebrate the opening of the ‘Rise of the Resistance’ ride at Disney World in Florida.

Earlier this week when the ride opened during an evening ceremony, X-Wings “roughly the size of a family van” flew over the event, as described by The Drive, which first identified earlier spy shots of the vehicles as potentially being based on Boeing’s aerial cargo drone. Boeing has since confirmed its involvement, but they aren’t providing more info than that the X-Wings were indeed their aircraft.

In the clip below, you can see the X-Wings ascend vertically into the night sky, then hover and rotate before heading out. Don’t go squinting to see if you can spot Poe Dameron at the controls, however – these are unpiloted drones based mostly likely on the Cargo Air Vehicle design Boeing has recently shown off, which sports six rotors (you can see them in close-ups of the X-Wing included in the gallery at the end of this post).

Astute observers and Star Wars fans will note that the X-Wings feature the split-engine design introduced in the T-70 variant that are flown by the Resistance in the current trilogy, as opposed to the full cylinder engine design on the T-65 from the original trilogy. That makes perfect sense, since the Rise of the Resistance ride takes place during an encounter between the Resistance and the First Order during the current trilogy timeline.

As for Boeing’s CAV, it recently completed a three-minute test flight during which it demonstrated forward movement, after flying outdoors during a hover test for the first time earlier this year. The cargo drone is designed for industrial applications, and can carry up to 500 lbs of cargo, but it’s still in the testing phase, which makes this Star Wars demonstration even more interesting.


Source: Tech Crunch

Startups Weekly: U.S. VCs eye European startups

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about Chinese investor activity in Africa. Before that, I noted Airbnb’s issues.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you’re new, you can subscribe to Startups Weekly here.


Europe’s appeal

This week I want to talk about Europe and not just because I’m in Europe prepping for TechCrunch’s annual conference, TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. But because of a new trend we’re seeing in which U.S. venture capital funds strike deals overseasmore than ever.

Forbes wrote a piece on this trend this week alongside the release of their annual European Midas List, which ranks the top VCs on the continent. More and more, top funds, including the likes of Sequoia and Benchmark, are writing checks to companies in London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Stockholm and more. 

Sequoia, for example, funded a teenager in Dublin, Ireland this year. Evervault is building a data protection solution aimed at developers, by way of an API, which aims to bake data protection into the app from the start. We hear a number of other top firms are sending partners over seas, too, or considering making such moves. Why? To search for companies to add to their global portfolios (in a region where they may also see a nice discount). As we prep for a new year, this is one of several trends in VC I’ll be keeping an eye on.


Workplace toxicity

If you didn’t log on to Twitter this week, you may have missed The Verge’s investigation into workplace toxicity at Away, a ‘unicorn’ travel company known for its lightweight, compact suitcases (full disclosure: I have an Away bag). Read that story first, then check out Winnie co-founder and chief executive officer Sara Mauskopf’s piece from this week, “The inevitable takedown of the female CEO,” in which she questions why we celebrate female-founded companies, until they rise too far. Here’s a passage:

AggressiveBlunt. Furious. These are words that have been used to criticize the behavior of female CEOs of prominent companies like Thinx, Cleo, Rent the Runway and ThirdLove, to name a few. Away is the latest female-led company to come under fire, in an article in The Verge on Thursday.

First, let me be clear: A toxic work culture is never acceptable. Regardless of who started a company or what kind of stress the company is under, it’s never okay to mistreat employees. Some of the things that came to light in these pieces are particularly abhorrent: sexual harassment, lying about one’s credentials, creating an unsafe space for underrepresented groups, overworking employees. These are dynamics that need to be called out and eliminated at all companies, whether female or male-led. The Away example is no exception.


The top VC deals of the week:

Plus, read my profile of VSCO, the photo-sharing and editing app you may have never heard of. That is, until the “VSCO girl” meme craze of 2019.


Disrupt Berlin

It’s hard to believe it’s already that time of the year again, but Disrupt Berlin is this week! I’m in Berlin this week to meet with Europe’s top VCs and some of the most promising founders in the region. If you’re here too, make sure to say hi. Here are a few things you can expect to hear about at the event:


#Equity

If you like this newsletter, you will definitely enjoy Equity, which brings the content of this newsletter to life — in podcast form! Join myself and Equity co-host Alex Wilhelm every Friday for a quick breakdown of the week’s biggest news in venture capital and startups.

This week, we discussed Harlem Capital’s debut fund, a $40 million effort that will back minority entrepreneurs. On top of that, we shared thoughts on Figure’s latest funding, European venture capital activity and more.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.


Source: Tech Crunch

Reddit links UK-US trade talk leak to Russian influence campaign

Reddit has linked account activity involving the leak and amplification of sensitive UK-US trade talks on its platform during the ongoing UK election campaign to a suspected Russian political influence operation.

Or, to put it more plainly, the social network suspects that Russian operatives are behind the leak of sensitive trade data — likely with the intention of impacting the UK’s General Election campaign.

The country goes to the polls next week, on December 12.

The UK has been politically deadlocked since mid 2016 over how to implement the result of the referendum to leave the European Union . The minority Conservative government has struggled to negotiate a brexit deal that parliament backs. Another hung parliament or minority government would likely result in continued uncertainty.

In a post discussing the “Suspected campaign from Russia”, Reddit writes:

We were recently made aware of a post on Reddit that included leaked documents from the UK. We investigated this account and the accounts connected to it, and today we believe this was part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia.

Earlier this year Facebook discovered a Russian campaign on its platform, which was further analyzed by the Atlantic Council and dubbed “Secondary Infektion.” Suspect accounts on Reddit were recently reported to us, along with indicators from law enforcement, and we were able to confirm that they did indeed show a pattern of coordination. We were then able to use these accounts to identify additional suspect accounts that were part of the campaign on Reddit. This group provides us with important attribution for the recent posting of the leaked UK documents, as well as insights into how adversaries are adapting their tactics.

Reddit says that an account, called gregoratior, originally posted the leaked trade talks document. Later a second account, ostermaxnn, reposted it. The platform also found a “pocket of accounts” that worked together to manipulate votes on the original post in an attempt to amplify it. Though fairly fruitlessly, as it turned out; the leak gained little attention on Reddit, per the company.

As a result of the investigation Reddit says it has banned 1 subreddit and 61 accounts — under policies against vote manipulation and misuse of its platform.

The story doesn’t end there, though, because whoever was behind the trade talk leak appears to have resorted to additional tactics to draw attention to it — including emailing campaign groups and political activists directly.

This activity did bear fruit this month when the opposition Labour party got hold of the leak and made it into a major campaign issue, claiming the 451-page document shows the Conservative party, led by Boris Johnson, is plotting to sell off the country’s free-at-the-point-of-use National Health Service (NHS) to US private health insurance firms and drug companies.

Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, showed a heavily redacted version of the document during a TV leaders debate earlier this month, later calling a press conference to reveal a fully un-redacted version of the data — arguing the document proves the NHS is in grave danger if the Conservatives are re-elected.

Johnson has denied Labour’s accusation that the NHS will be carved up as the price of a Trump trade deal. But the leaked document itself is genuine.

It details preliminary meetings between UK and US trade negotiators, which took place between July 2017 and July 2019, in which discussion of the NHS does take place, in addition to other issues such as food standards.

Although the document does not confirm what position the UK might seek to adopt in any future trade talks with the US.

The source of the heavily redacted version of the document appears to be a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by campaigning organisation, Global Justice Now — which told Vice it made an FOI request to the UK’s Department for International Trade around 18 months ago.

The group said it was subsequently emailed a fully unredacted version of the document by an unknown source which also appears to have sent the data directly to the Labour party. So while the influence operation looks to have originated on Reddit, the agents behind it seem to have resorted to more direct means of data dissemination in order for the leak to gain the required attention to become an election-influencing issue.

Experts in online influence operations had already suggested similarities between the trade talks leak and an earlier Russian operation, dubbed Secondary Infektion, which involved the leak of fake documents on multiple online platforms. Facebook identified and took down that operation in May.

In a report analysing the most recent leak, social network mapping and analysis firm Graphika says the key question is how the trade document came to be disseminated online a few weeks before the election.

“The mysterious [Reddit] user seemingly originated the leak of a diplomatic document by posting it around online, just six weeks before the UK elections. This raises the question of how the user got hold of the document in the first place,” it writes. “This is the single most pressing question that arises from this report.”

Graphika’s analysis concludes that the manner of leaking and amplifying the trade talks data “closely resembles” the known Russian information operation, Secondary Infektion.

“The similarities to Secondary Infektion are not enough to provide conclusive attribution but are too close to be simply a coincidence. They could indicate a return of the actors behind Secondary Infektion or a sophisticated attempt by unknown actors to mimic it,” it adds.

Internet-enabled Russian influence operations that feature hacking and strategically timed data dumps of confidential/sensitive information, as well as the seeding and amplification of political disinformation which is intended to polarize, confuse and/or disengage voters, have become a regular feature of Western elections in recent years.

The most high profile example of Russian election interference remains the 2016 hack of documents and emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Democratic National Committee — which went on to be confirmed by US investigators as an operation by Russia’s GRU intelligence agency.

In 2017 emails were also leaked from French president Emmanuel Macron’s campaign shortly before his election — although with apparently minimal impact in that case. (Attribution is also less clear-cut.)

Russian activity targeting UK elections and referendums remains a matter of intense interest and investigation — and had been raised publicly as a concern by former prime minister, Theresa May, in 2017.

Although her government failed to act on recommendations to strengthen UK election and data laws to respond to the risks posed by Internet-enabled interference. She also did nothing to investigate questions over the extent of foreign interference in the 2016 brexit referendum.

May was finally unseated by the ongoing political turmoil around brexit this summer, when Johnson took over as prime minister. But he has also turned a wilfully blind eye to the risks around foreign election interference — while fully availing himself of data-fuelled digital campaign methods whose ethics have been questioned by multiple UK oversight bodies.

A report into Russian interference in UK politics which was compiled by the UK’s intelligence and security parliamentary committee — and had been due to be published ahead of the general election — was also personally blocked from publication by the prime minister.

Voters won’t now get to see that information until after the election. Or, well, barring another strategic leak…

Update: Corbyn has now responded to Reddit linking the trade talks leak with Russia — but has declined to specify how Labour obtained the document, per the Guardian.

Asked to respond to whether the Labour party had benefited from Russian election interference he said: “This is such nonsense. This is such an advanced state of rather belated conspiracy theories by the prime minister. When we released the documents, at no stage did the prime minister or anybody deny that those documents were real, deny the arguments that we put forward.

“And if there has been no discussion with the US about access to our health markets, if all of that is wrong, how come after a week they still haven’t said that? The issues are that those documents show exactly what the British government is doing in discussions with Donald Trump’s administration in the US and also why the prime minister has refused to release the report on Russian interference in British politics, which he’s been sitting on for a very long time.”


Source: Tech Crunch

Facebook sells off Oculus Medium to Adobe

Facebook is selling Oculus Medium — a 3D virtual reality sculpting tool for creatives — to Adobe. The team was an expensive effort for Oculus and its sale signifies a broader rethinking within Facebook in what virtual reality projects they tackle in-house.

It’s clear that Oculus pumped an awful lot of money into Medium over the years and the sale probably isn’t great for the Oculus Medium team, if only because there is now a proper price tag attached to the effort that will be looming for the fairly niche software. Terms of the deal weren’t shared so who knows what kind of deal Adobe got.

What is nice is that Facebook went to the trouble of properly spinning out Medium. When Facebook shut down Oculus Story Studio, the company quietly laid off its employees. Medium is well-liked by a small community and it makes plenty of sense at Adobe where first-party integration with other products will undoubtedly make it better software. It’s nice to see it live on.

The sale of Medium after the purchase of Beat Saber-maker Beat Games really encapsulates the VR content strategy of Oculus at the moment. Non-gaming creative tools aren’t getting new investment, cinematic VR content isn’t being prioritized, and Facebook is preparing to buy more game studios with the goal of scaling their titles. For a division that has been talking only about the distant future for years, it’s a pragmatic strategy that probably signifies broader contentment with how things are looking on the hardware front.


Source: Tech Crunch