Carriers ‘violated federal law’ by selling your location data, FCC tells Congress

More than a year and a half after wireless carriers were caught red-handed selling the real-time location data of their customers to anyone willing to pay for it, the FCC has determined that they committed a crime. An official documentation of exactly how these companies violated the law is forthcoming.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai shared his finding in a letter to Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee that oversees the agency. Rep. Pallone has been active on this and prodded the FCC for updates late last year, prompting today’s letter. (I expect a comment from his office shortly and will add it when they respond.)

“I wish to inform you that the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has completed its extensive investigation and that it has concluded that one or more wireless carriers apparently violated federal law,” Pai wrote.

Extensive it must have been, since we first heard of this egregious breach of privacy in May of 2018, when multiple reports showed that every major carrier (including TechCrunch’s parent company Verizon) was selling precise location data wholesale to resellers who then either resold it or gave it away. It took nearly a year for the carriers to follow through on their promises to stop the practice. And now, 18 months later, we get the first real indication that regulators took notice.

“It’s a shame that it took so long for the FCC to reach a conclusion that was so obvious,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement issued alongside the Chairman’s letter. She has repeatedly brought up the issue in the interim, seemingly baffled that such a large-scale and obvious violation was going almost completely unacknowledged by the agency.

Commissioner Brendan Starks echoed her sentiment in his own statement: “These pay-to-track schemes violated consumers’ privacy rights and endangered to their safety. I’m glad we may finally act on these egregious allegations. My question is: what took so long?”

Chairman Pai’s letter explains that “in the coming days” he will be proposing a “Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture,” or several of them. This complicated-sounding document is basically the official declaration, with evidence and legal standing, that someone has violated FCC rules and may be subject to a “forfeiture,” essentially a fine.

Right now that is all the information anyone has, including the other Commissioners, but the arrival of the notice will no doubt make things much clearer — and may help show exactly how seriously the agency took this problem and when it began to take action.

Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Verizon Media, a subsidiary of Verizon Wireless, but this has no effect on our coverage.

Source: Tech Crunch

Tech companies, we see through your flimsy privacy promises

There’s a reason why Data Privacy Day pisses me off.

January 28 was the annual “Hallmark holiday” for cybersecurity, ostensibly a day devoted to promoting data privacy awareness and staying safe online. This year, as in recent years, it has become a launching pad for marketing fluff and promoting privacy practices that don’t hold up.

Privacy has become a major component of our wider views on security, and it’s in sharper focus than ever as we see multiple examples of companies that harvest too much of our data, share it with others, sell it to advertisers and third parties and use it to track our every move so they can squeeze out a few more dollars.

But as we become more aware of these issues, companies large and small clamor for attention about how their privacy practices are good for users. All too often, companies make hollow promises and empty claims that look fancy and meaningful.

Source: Tech Crunch

Unicorn fever as One Medical’s IPO pops 40% after conservative pricing

Shares of One Medical are worth $19.50 this morning after the venture-backed unicorn priced its IPO at $14 per share last night. The company opened at $18 before rising further, according to Yahoo Finance data. At its current price, One Medical is worth about 40% more than its IPO price, a strong debut for the company.

The result is a boon for One Medical, which raised $532.1 million during its time as a private company. At $14 per share, the company was worth $1.71 billion. At 19.50, One Medical is worth $2.38 billion, a winning result for a company said to be worth around $1.5 billion as a private company.

For investors The Carlyle Group, J.P. Morgan, Redmile Group, GV and Benchmark (among others), the debut is a success, pricing their stakes in the company higher once again. For other unicorns, the news is even better. One Medical, a company with gross margins under the 50% mark, deeply minority recurring revenue and 30% revenue growth in 2019 at best is now worth about 8.5x its trailing revenues.

That is about as good a signal as one could imagine for venture-backed companies that aren’t in as good shape as Slack or Zoom were letting them know that now is the time to go public.

Unicorn directions

It’s possible to read One Medical’s new revenue multiple in a few ways. You can be positive, saying that its valuation and resulting metrics are signs of investor optimism for the medical service company. Or you could go negative and assume that its pricing looks like a case of the market being more excited about a brand than a set of accounting results.

Source: Tech Crunch

Daily Crunch: IBM names new CEO

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Arvind Krishna will replace Ginni Rometty as IBM CEO in April

Krishna, IBM’s senior vice president for cloud and cognitive software, will take over on April 6 after a couple months of transition. Rometty will remain with the company as chairman of the board.

Krishna reportedly drove the massive $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat at the end of 2018, and there was some speculation at the time that Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst was the heir apparent. Instead, the board went with a more seasoned IBM insider for the job, while naming Whitehurst as president.

2. Apple’s redesigned Maps app is available across the US, adds real-time transit for Miami

The redesigned app will include more accurate information overall as well as comprehensive views of roads, buildings, parks, airports, malls and other public places. It will also bring Look Around to more cities and real-time transit to Miami.

3. Social media boosting service exposed thousands of Instagram passwords

The company, Social Captain, says it helps thousands of users to grow their Instagram follower counts by connecting their accounts to its platform. But TechCrunch learned this week Social Captain was storing the passwords of linked Instagram accounts in unencrypted plaintext.

4. Elon Musk just dropped an EDM track on SoundCloud

That is a real headline and I probably don’t need to say much else. Listen to the track, or don’t.

5. Being a child actress prepared me for a career in venture capital

Crystal McKellar played Becky Slater on “The Wonder Years,” and she writes about how that experience prepared her to be a managing partner at Anathem Ventures. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Moda Operandi, an online marketplace for high-end fashion, raises $100M led by NEA and Apax

High-end fashion might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about online shopping, but it has actually been a ripe market for the e-commerce industry.

7. Why Sony’s PlayStation Vue failed

Vue launched in March 2015, offering live and on-demand content from more than 85 channels, including many local broadcast stations. But it failed to catch on with a broader audience, despite — or perhaps, because of — its integration with Sony’s PS3 and PS4 devices, and it shut down this week. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Source: Tech Crunch

Last day for early-bird tickets to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020

Today’s your last day to score early-bird pricing on tickets to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020, which takes place on March 3. If you want to keep $150 in your wallet, beat the deadline and buy your ticket here before the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. (PT) tonight!

Our one-day conference dedicated to robotics and AI — the good, the bad and the challenging — features interviews, panel discussions, Q&As, workshops and demos. Join roughly 1,500 experts, visionaries, creators, founders, investors, researchers and engineers. Rub elbows, network and engage with current and aspiring leaders, as well as students poised to drive future innovation.

We have a stellar line up, and just because we’re biased doesn’t mean we’re wrong. I mean come on — assistive robots, ethics and AI, the state of VC investment and robot demos. And that’s just for starters. Here are a couple of specific examples (peruse the full agenda right here):

  • Cultivating Intelligence in Agricultural Robots: The benefits of robotics in agriculture are undeniable, yet at the same time only getting started. Lewis Anderson (Traptic) and Sebastien Boyer (FarmWise) will compare notes on the rigors of developing industrial-grade robots that both pick crops and weed fields, respectively. Pyka’s Michael Norcia will discuss taking flight over those fields with an autonomous crop-spraying drone.
  • Building the Robots that Build: Join Daniel Blank (Toggle), Tessa Lau (Dusty Robotics) and Noah Ready-Campbell (Built Robotics) as they discuss whether robots can help us build structures faster, smarter and cheaper. Built Robotics makes a self-driving excavator. Toggle is developing a new fabrication of rebar for reinforced concrete and Dusty Robotics builds robot-powered tools. We’ll talk with the founders to learn how and when robots will become a part of the construction crew.

And in case you haven’t heard, we’ve added Pitch Night, a mini pitch-off, into the mix this year. We’re accepting applications until tomorrow, February 1. This is no time for fence-sitting! Apply to compete in Pitch Night now. TechCrunch editors will review the applications and choose 10 startups to pitch at a private event the night before the conference. A panel of VC judges will select five teams as finalists. Those founders will pitch again the next day — live from the Main Stage. It’s awesome exposure that could take your startup to the next level.

If you love robots, you need to be at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 on March 3. And there’s no point paying more than necessary. Today’s the last day to buy an early-bird ticket. Buy yours before the deadline expires at 11:59 p.m. (PT) and save $150.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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Source: Tech Crunch

Rocket Lab points out that not all rideshare rocket launches are created equal

The commercial rideshare model for spacefaring cargo is increasingly popular, and for good reason: It lowers the cost of launching something to space even further than companies like SpaceX have managed by splitting the available space on a rocket among multiple customers. Last August, SpaceX announced that it would be offering dedicated ‘rideshare’ missions for customers using its Falcon 9 launch vehicle, but at FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation conference this year, Rocket Lab VP of Global Commercial Launch Services Shane Fleming wanted to remind people that his company still believes their offering is likely the better option for most smallsat operators.

“SpaceX has been around for some time now obviously, but rideshare has not,” explained Fleming during a panel on space startups and VC. “There have been heavy launch vehicles around for quite some time, and small CubeSat customers and microsat customers have always had a challenge getting to orbit because they’re not the top priority. The top priority is a big geosat [geostationary satellite] mission, or national security mission, and those CubeSat customers, or rideshare customers are just hitching a ride essentially, to space, using a bus analog. So today, customers with those specific smallsat needs haven’t really had the luxury of really tailored, dedicated small launch services like we provide at Rocket Lab.”

SpaceX has said that its smallsat customers taking part in rideshare missions can send payloads of either up to 330 lbs for as little as $2.25 million, or 660 lbs for just $4.5 million, which is a big discount when compared to the cost of a full Falcon 9 launch. Rocket Lab’s base price for a dedicated launch begins at just $5.7 million, and splitting the cost would obviously drop that further still. But Fleming says that price isn’t actually the central issue when comparing the services.

“Whether SpaceX is dropping its prices or not, that service is still relatively the same and SpaceX has a number of priorities – they’re doing human missions, and doing national security missions, and they’re doing Starlink,” Fleming said. “Yes, they are offering rideshare services, but it’s not their business. At Rocket Lab smallsat customers are are our number one business, and that’s what we do. We offer very dedicated, tailored service exactly where you want to go, when you want to go, and for a lot of customers that’s really good important. And we also offer a lot more orbital inclinations; not everyone wants to go to SSO, there are orbits that are more unique than that where customers need to go in and we fulfill that. So whether they drop their price or not, it’s really a service-backed industry and that’s what we’re supporting.”

Rocket Lab has a lot more activity coming up this year that could help it further differentiate its offerings, including its first Photon mission, which is a new in-house spacecraft the company is developing to offer essentially satellite-as-a-service capabilities to its customers, so that they can focus on just working out the sensor payload or specific mission they want to accomplish, and leave the satellite building to Rocket Lab. It’s also continuing to work on its plan for recovering and reusing its Electron booster stage, and aims to recover its first stage for re-use later this year.

Source: Tech Crunch

GM is bringing back the Hummer as an electric ‘super truck’ with 1,000 horsepower

GM is bringing back the Hummer in a new electric form. The automaker confirmed Thursday plans to produce an all-electric Hummer with 1,000 horsepower and the ability to accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3 seconds.

This “super truck,” which GM teased in several videos, will be under its GMC brand. The teasers, one of which is posted below, were released ahead of a 30-second Super Bowl ad for the Hummer called “Quiet Revolution” that will star NBA phenom LeBron James.

All of these videos and the ad will lead into a big reveal scheduled for May 20.

GM isn’t releasing information on the base price of the Hummer. The automaker did share some eye-popping specs, including it will produce the equivalent of 1,000 horsepower, have a 0 to 60 mph acceleration of 3 seconds and 11,500 feet of torque.

“GMC builds premium and capable trucks and SUVs and the GMC HUMMER EV takes this to new heights,” Duncan Aldred, vice president of global Buick and GMC, said in a statement.

The company said the Hummer EV will be produced at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan. On Monday, GM announced plans to invest $2.2 billion into its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant to produce all-electric trucks and SUVs, as well as a self-driving vehicle unveiled by its subsidiary Cruise. The automaker said it will invest an additional $800 million in supplier tooling and other projects related to the launch of the new electric trucks.

GM will kick off this new program with an all-electric pickup truck that will go into production in late 2021. The Cruise Origin, the electric self-driving shuttle designed for ridesharing, will be the second vehicle to go into production at the Detroit area plant.

Detroit-Hamtramck will be GM’s first fully dedicated electric vehicle assembly plant. When fully operational, the plant will create more than 2,200 jobs, according to GM.


Source: Tech Crunch

AWS partners with sports leagues to change how we watch games

Since the inception of professional sports, fans have sought statistics about how their favorite teams and players are performing. Until recently, these stats were generated from basic counting, like batting averages, home runs or touchdowns.

Today, sports leagues are looking to learn more about players and find a competitive edge through more advanced stats. Beyond that, they want to engage fans more with tools like AWS NFL’s Next Gen Stats and MLB’s Statcast, software that uses compelling visuals to illustrate statistics like the probability of receiving a catch in the end zone or a runner’s speed between home and first base.

AWS counts Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the German Bundesliga soccer league, NASCAR, Formula 1 racing and Six Countries Rugby among its customers. How, exactly, are advanced cloud technology and machine learning helping change how we watch live sports?

Building on Moneyball

Source: Tech Crunch

Apple’s redesigned Maps app is available across the US, adds real-time transit for Miami

Apple’s updated and more detailed Maps experience has now rolled out across the U.S., the company announced this morning. The redesigned app will include more accurate information overall as well as comprehensive views of roads, buildings, parks, airports, malls and other public places. It will also bring Look Around to more cities and real-time transit to Miami.

The company has now spent years upgrading its Maps experience to better compete with Google Maps, which Apple replaced with its own Maps app in 2012. That launch didn’t go well, to say the least. Apple CEO Tim Cook even had to apologize for how Maps fell short of customers’ expectations and promised Apple would do better going forward.

Over time, Apple has been making good on those promises, by updating Maps with better data and notably, by announcing a ground-up rebuild of the Maps platform back in 2018. Last year, Apple also introduced the new “Look Around” feature in iOS 13 — essentially Apple’s version of Google Street View, but one that uses high-resolution 3D views that offer more detail and smoother transitions. 

iOS 13 also brought more Maps features, like real-time transit schedules, a list-making feature called Collections, Favorites and more.

However, some of these Maps updates have been slow to roll out. Look Around, for example, has only been live in major cities, including New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, LA, Las Vegas, Houston and Oahu. With the nationwide launch, it’s safe to assume you’re about to see it pop up in more major metros, though Apple hasn’t provided names of which ones will get it first. Real-time transit information is offered only in select major cities, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington, D.C., New York and LA.

Today, Apple is adding Miami to that list of supported cities offering real-time transit, just in time for Super Bowl weekend.

Over the course of 2019, Apple’s improved, more detailed Maps experience has steadily expanded across the U.S., finally arriving in the North East as of last fall.

Today, the new Maps experience it’s starting to go live across all of the U.S. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see it right away when you launch the Maps app — the rollout is phased.

“We set out to create the best and most private maps app on the planet that is reflective of how people explore the world today,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, in a statement about the launch. “It is an effort we are deeply invested in and required that we rebuild the map from the ground up to reimagine how Maps enhances people’s lives — from navigating to work or school or planning an important vacation — all with privacy at its core. The completion of the new map in the United States and delivering new features like Look Around and Collections are important steps in bringing that vision to life. We look forward to bringing this new map to the rest of the world starting with Europe later this year,” he added.

The updated Apple Maps includes Look Around and real-time transit in some markets, Collections, Favorites, a Share ETA feature, flight status information for upcoming travel, indoor maps for malls and airports, Siri natural language guidance and Flyover — a feature offering immersive, 3D views of major metros, as seen from above. The latter is available across more than 350 cities.

Going forward, Apple will use the imagery it collects to deliver Look Around to more U.S. markets and begin to upgrade the Maps platform in Europe.

Maps’ biggest selling point today, however, may not be the sum of its feature sets. Instead, Maps’ standout feature is its focus on privacy.

While Google does use the data collected from Google Maps for many handy features — like reporting on a business’s busiest times, for example — it’s not a private app. In fact, it’s so not private that Google had to add an “incognito mode” as an option for users who didn’t want their Maps app collecting data on them.

Apple, meanwhile, notes that its app requires no-sign in, isn’t connected to your Apple ID and its personalized features are implemented using on-device intelligence, not by sending data to cloud servers. In addition, any data collected when using Maps, like search terms, navigation routing and traffic information, is only associated with random identifiers that continually reset to protect user privacy.

Apple also uses a process called “fuzzing” that converts a precise location where a Maps search originated to a less precise one after 24 hours. And it doesn’t retain a history of what a user has searched for or where they’ve been.

In an era where people assume, usually correctly, that the mere act of launching an app is an agreement to have their data collected, Apple’s increased emphasis on user privacy is welcome and a good reason to try Apple Maps again, if you never came back to it after the shaky launch.

Apple Maps, now used in over 200 countries, is available on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and in cars via CarPlay.

Source: Tech Crunch

IPO pricing for One Medical and Casper will set the tone for 2020’s unicorn debuts

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

As One Medical looks to become the first venture-backed company to price its IPO in 2020 this afternoon and Casper aims to price its own shares next Wednesday, the market is gearing up for a pair of tests.

If you listen to the Nasdaq and the NYSE, IPO volume in 2020 will prove vibrant. A surprise, perhaps, in the wake of the WeWork meltdown that many had expected might reduce IPO cadence. One Medical and Casper, though, are charging ahead, meaning that their debuts will help set the tone for the 2020 IPO market.

If they struggle with weak pricing and slow initial trading, their disappointing offerings could slow the IPO market. If they price well and are welcomed by the street, however, the opposite.

Let’s take a look at how many IPOs are coming, what One Medical and Casper are hoping for and what their results might mean for unicorn liquidity. Don’t forget that we’re still living in the midst of a unicorn liquidity crisis — there are hundreds of private companies worth $1 billion or more around the world that need an exist, and the market is creating them faster than it can get them out the door. If IPOs stumble in 2020, lots just won’t make it out before the market turns.

An IPO crowd

Yesterday, CNBC reported notes from Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman and NYSE President Stacey Cunningham, each speaking about their expected IPO cadence in 2020. Friedman said there are “lot of companies looking to tap the public markets in the first half,” implying a strong flow of potential debuts.

Source: Tech Crunch