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There was an important, close, widely watched Supreme Court decision last week that could have big implications for parts of the tech industry for decades to come. No, not the 5-4 ruling allowing states to require sales tax collection from e-commerce sites in the South Dakota v. Wayfair case. (Though if that’s your bag, The Economisthad a good analysis.)
Instead, it’s the 5-4 decision in Carpenter v. United States that’s also worth examining deeply.
Carpenter in this case is “Little Tim” Carpenter, who was convicted as the alleged organizer of a crime spree where a gang of crooks stole bags of brand new smartphones at gunpoint from more than half a dozen Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in and around Detroit. In 2011, Carpenter was nabbed, in part, because the police had subpoenaed records from his cellphone provider that included somewhat crude but voluminous realtime location data covering 127 days. And Carpenter was around the robbed stores at the times of the robberies, the records showed.
Typically, the Supreme Court has allowed police to collect almost any kind of information generated by third parties, such as bank records or a list of phone numbers called, with just a subpoena. It’s known as the third party doctrine. You knew the bank or the phone company was collecting that data, so you had no “reasonable expectation” of privacy. Something more like papers you kept in a locked drawer in your desk required a full search warrant, with a showing of probable cause that evidence of a crime might be found.
Maybe you can see where Chief Justice John Roberts took this analysis in Carpenter’s case. The level and amount of detail that companies are collecting about us has exploded. Where once the phone could simply tell the police who you called and for how long, now they have a precise and comprehensive map of everyplace you’ve been, not to mention every web site you visited. “This case is not about ‘using a phone’ or a person’s movement at a particular time,” Roberts wrote. “It is about a detailed chronicle of a person’s physical presence compiled every day, every moment, over several years.”
A bevy of tech companies, ranging from big players like Apple(aapl), Google(googl), and Microsoft(msft), to smaller cloud-related outfits such as Dropbox (dbx), Evernote, and Airbnb, had written a brief for the court arguing that the rules of the third party doctrine “make little sense” when applied to the new kinds of digital online data now being collected. Urging the court to rethink its view of when people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, they noted digital devices and apps unavoidably generate deeply personal data:
That made sense to Roberts and a majority of the court. New Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented, but only because he thought the majority should go even further and practically dump the whole third party doctrine. Expect more knotty conflicts over digital data privacy, not just among Supreme Court justices, but with lawmakers, regulators and law enforcers across the country.
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Safaricom, Kenya’s biggest telecoms company, is piloting a social messaging app that will link to its mobile money platform in an attempt to move the company into the application business, the company said on Tuesday.
Pedestrians walk past a mobile phone care centre operated by Kenyan’s telecom operator Safaricom in the central business district of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
Bonga, meaning ‘chat’ in Kiswahili, will be integrated with the company’s popular financial services platform M-Pesa to enable the almost 28 million of its users to communicate beyond sending money to one another, transforming the platform into a type of social network.
The idea stems from the “hypothesis that there’s an intricate connection between conversations and transactions, payments especially,” Kamal Bhattacharya, chief innovation officer at Safaricom, said in a telephone interview.
“It’s one thing to share information with somebody it’s another thing to make a payment, to send money to somebody,” he said.
Bhattacharya said that M-Pesa users will be able to message each other on Bonga in three ways: user-to-user, user-to-business and fundraising through “social groups” much like the group function on WhatsApp.
The concept has similarities with China’s top social messaging app WeChat, where users can perform a variety of tasks, from payments to ride-hailing, without leaving the platform.
Bonga is the first product launched by Safaricom’s innovation incubator Alpha. Bhattacharya previously set up IBM’s research lab in Africa and joined the company in 2017.
Safaricom is piloting Bonga internally before planning to launch later this year.
Bhattacharya said the platform will be end-to-end encrypted. “We cannot read the messages, we cannot keep the messages,” he said.
Kenya does not have data privacy laws.
Safaricom is 35 percent owned by South African group Vodacom and 5 percent by Vodacom’s major shareholder Vodafone.
With nearly 30 million users, the company has 70 percent of Kenya’s total mobile phone subscribers.
The introduction of Bonga is part of Safaricom’s strategy to boost revenue and diversify from offerings of voice calls, mobile money and text messages. Last year it launched Masoko, an e-commerce platform.
Its first-half 2017 results showed revenue from mobile money rose 16 percent, while revenue from phone calls rose by far less – only 4 percent.
“Our future is to become a platform that enables business in Kenya as well as our consumers to do their work in a different way,” Bhattacharya said. “Messenger platforms are the most popular apps, the most popular approach on the internet today to bring people together.”
($ 1 = 100.3000 Kenyan shillings)
Reporting by Maggie Fick; Writing by Omar Mohammed, editing by David Evans and Sunil Nair
HELSINKI (Reuters) – Hatch Entertainment, a spin-off from the game maker behind the Angry Birds franchise, is testing streaming access to mobile games the way Netflix does for movies or Spotify for music.
Hatch CEO Juhani Honkala presents the company’s mobile game streaming service at his office in Espoo, Finland March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Jussi Rosendahl
The Finnish company that grew out of Rovio believes the gaming industry is ready for flat-fee monthly offers to give players a greater choice of titles and replace the irritating free-at-first, pay-later model that has dominated this decade.
“This is a new way to play mobile games, and at the moment we don’t see any direct competition,” Hatch Chief Executive and Rovio veteran Juhani Honkala told Reuters.
The streaming model faces scepticism from an industry that currently makes its money per game, charging fees for props or upgrades within games.
“High-quality content is more likely to attract new players than positioning around innovative streaming technology,” said Jack Kent, an analyst at IHS Technology.
Spotify makes its debut on the New York stock market next week in a listing that could value the business at $ 20 billion, but it took the company years to persuade music publishers of the attraction of streaming services over single music purchases.
More than 100 game developers and publishers are ready to give the new business model a try, including SEGA, Square Enix and Bandai Namco, Honkala said, though the beta version has only 10,000 user downloads so far in the Google Play store.
Hatch’s platform, which runs on Android phones and is being tested in 18 European countries, has also racked up support from U.S. wireless chip giant Qualcomm and China’s Huawei, the world’s third-largest smartphone maker.
Hatch CEO Juhani Honkala presents the company’s mobile game streaming service at his office in Espoo, Finland March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Jussi Rosendahl
“We have very strong industry backing,” Honkala said.
Rovio is stepping up its investment in Hatch, looking to secure a new revenue stream after a dramatic profit warning sent its share price tumbling by 50 percent last month.
Rovio owns 80 percent of Hatch, which operates as an independent subsidiary.
Hatch CEO Juhani Honkala poses for a photo at his office in Espoo, Finland March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Jussi Rosendahl
Smartphone-based games are currently dominated by a free-to-play model that makes money through in-app purchases that help players to progress.
The model rewards games that have become mass-market success stories but makes life challenging for lower-ranked titles and smaller publishers who have trouble getting discovered as players stick to games they know and have invested in.
Rovio itself has struggled in recent years to repeat the success of Angry Birds and has had trouble forecasting future revenue because of heavy marketing costs and increased competition.
Hatch now offers 100 games on its platform and it has signed up about 200 more, including SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog games, Crazy Taxi and Virtua Tennis. Honkala said the service will pay 70 percent of its revenues to the publishers of its games.
The model would also allow more room for educational or strategy games that have longer narratives, he said, adding that running the service from the cloud rather than locally on the phone should also improve the experience for multiplayer games.
The company does not have a target schedule for formal launch but Honkala said it could happen this year. He declined to say how much the subscription price would be.
Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Eric Auchard and David Goodman
(Reuters) – Japan’s Fujitsu Ltd said on Friday it was in talks about selling its mobile phone business to investment fund Polaris Capital Group, becoming the latest Japanese electronics maker to withdraw from the sector.
The sale, if realized, would leave just three Japanese electronics makers – Sony Corp, Sharp Corp and Kyocera Corp – in a global market dominated by Apple Inc, Samsung Electronic Co Ltd and cheaper Chinese rivals.
The potential deal calls for Tokyo-based Polaris Capital to take a majority stake in Fujitsu’s mobile phone unit, which is valued at around 40 billion yen to 50 billion yen ($ 365 million to $ 456 million), a source familiar with the situation said.
The size of the stake is still under negotiation, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the discussions were confidential.
An official agreement is expected by the end of the month, the Nikkei newspaper said.
Polaris will aim to list the business in several years, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.
Fujitsu said in a statement that no decision has been made and a representative declined to comment on how large a stake is being negotiated.
Around the year 2000, there were more than 10 major Japanese handset firms producing traditional flip phones, including NEC Corp and Toshiba Corp.
But most have since withdrawn from the business, caught out by the meteoric rise of Apple and Samsung.
Domestic makers failed to gain a global presence by being overly reliant on the lucrative domestic market, which gave them little incentive to change their Japan-specific mobile phone formats and expand overseas.
The rise of low-cost component producers such as Taiwan’s MediaTek Inc also have made it easier for price-competitive Chinese rivals to enter the market.
Fujitsu, whose shares were up 1.0 percent in a flat broader market, has been unloading other non-core businesses as well.
Last year, Lenovo Group agreed to buy a majority stake in Fujitsu’s personal computer unit for up to $ 269 million in a bid to capture a larger share of a market that is battling weak sales as more people switch to mobile devices.
The Nikkei added that retaining the mobile division’s staff and factories will likely be a condition of the deal. Fujitsu, which wants to focus on its core information technology services business, is also expected to continue operating its Arrows brand under Polaris, the source said.
Fujitsu, which spun off its mobile phone operations into a separate company in 2016, had drawn interest from other investment funds such as Britain’s CVC Capital Partners Ltd and Chinese personal computer maker Lenovo Group Ltd, the Nikkei reported last year.
Reporting by Minami Funakoshi and Junko Fujita in Tokyo, writing by Makiko Yamazaki in Tokyo, with additional reporting by Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Malcolm Foster
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese online retailer Rakuten Inc plans to join a government auction for wireless spectrum to be held in January, potentially becoming the country’s fourth major wireless carrier, a source briefed on the matter said on Thursday.
A woman pushing a pram walks in front of a Rakuten Cafe store at a shopping district in Tokyo August 4, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino
The source declined to be identified because the talks are private.
Japan’s mobile carrier market is currently dominated by NTT Docomo Inc, KDDI Corp and SoftBank Group.
The Nikkei business daily, which reported on the plan on Thursday, said Rakuten would raise 600 billion yen ($ 5.3 billion) by 2025 to invest in base stations and other infrastructure.
Rakuten said in a statement that while it was true it is weighing entry into the mobile carrier market, media reports on the matter were not something announced by the company.
Rakuten shares were down 1.7 percent in early trade. The benchmark Nikkei average was flat.
($ 1 = 112.6300 yen)
Reporting by Yoshiyasu Shida and Thomas Wilson; Writing by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Stephen Coates
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It’s another step in the evolution of a company that was started more than a decade ago by New Yorker Dennis Crowley (@dens), who wanted to build a mobile app to connect his friends, understanding where they were so they could potentially meet up IRL. Read more…
Fast-growing Indian mobile operator Reliance Jio may offer a glimpse of where all mobile networks are going eventually, to packet-based Internet Protocol infrastructure.
At Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest gathering of the mobile industry, Reliance Jio stands out by having none of the specialized 2G and 3G infrastructure that long distinguished cellular carriers.
Almost all mobile operators still have circuit-switched network gear in addition to IP systems. It came along with the 2G and 3G networks the carriers used before adopting LTE. Most are likely to keep older networks running for years, though some are moving faster than others to clear the decks.
McDonald’s has always boasted about the billions of customers it has served. But now it has a big problem: the 500 million potential visitors it estimates it’s lost in the past five years. It hopes mobile ordering and curbside delivery will lure them back.