Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
They hope, though, that you don’t notice when those promises become, well, a little diluted over time.
It’s the thought that counts, after all.
One thought offered by Google when it committed itself to your health was that Deep Mind, its profound subsidiary that uses AI to help solve health problems, was that its “data will never be connected to Google accounts or services.”
Cut to not very long at all and Deep Mind was last week rolled into, oh, Google.
In an odd coincidence, this move also necessitated that an independent review board, there to check on Deep Mind’s work with healthcare professionals, was disappeared.
This caused those who keep a careful eye on Google — such as NYU research fellow Julia Powles — to gently point out the company’s sleight of mouth.
This is TOTALLY unacceptable. DeepMind repeatedly, unconditionally promised to *never* connect people’s intimate, identifiable health data to Google. Now it’s announced…exactly that. This isn’t transparency, it’s trust demolition.
This is, though, the problem with tech companies.
We looked at them as if they were run by wizards doing things we could never understand.
Any time we became even slightly suspicious, the tech companies murmured that we should trust them. Because, well, we really didn’t understand what sort of world they were building.
Now, we’re living in it. A world where everything is tradable and hackable and nothing is sacred.
A world where the most common headlines about the company seem to begin: Google fined..
I asked Google whether it understood the reaction to its latest Oh, you caught us, yes, we’re going to do things differently now move.
The company referred me to a blog post it wrote explaining its actions.
In it, Google uses phrases like major milestone and words like excited.
It also offered me these words from Dr. Dominic King a former UK National Health Service surgeon and researcher who will be leading the Deep Mind Streams team:
The public is rightly concerned about what happens with patient data. I want to be totally clear. This data is not DeepMind’s or Google’s – it belongs to our partners, whether the NHS or internationally. We process it according to their instructions – nothing more.
At this stage our contracts have not moved across to Google and will not without our partners’ consent. The same applies to the data that we process under these contracts.
At this stage.
Oh, but you know how creepily the online world works.
You know, for example, that advertising keeps popping up at the strangest times and for the strangest things.
Within minutes, certain apps on my phone were full of ads for Google’s new Pixel 3 phone. Which I could buy most easily, said the ads, at a Verizon store.
Who would be surprised, then, if personal health data began to be linked with other Google services, such as advertising?
Too many tech companies know only one way to do business — to grow and wrap their tentacles around every last aspect of human life.
The likes of Google operate on a basis of a FOMO paranoia that even teens and millennials might envy.
They need to know everything about you, in case they miss out on an advertising opportunity.
You are not a number. You are a lot of numbers.
And your numbers help Google make even bigger numbers.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Digital mapmaking company TomTom (TOM2.AS) will consider whether to go it alone or pursue partnerships if it sells a fleet management business which may account for more than half its current value, its chief executive told Reuters.
FILE PHOTO: TomTom navigation are seen in front of TomTom displayed logo in this illustration taken July 28, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo
Dutch-based TomTom, which has a market capitalization of 1.75 billion euros ($ 2 billion), with no debt and 179 million euros in cash, hired Barclays in September to conduct a review of its “Telematics” division with an eye to possible sale.
Working out a fair price for the division, which helps businesses to save money by using software to monitor and improve the performance of their car and truck fleets, might not be straightforward, Chief Executive Harold Goddijn said.
Telematics, which had 43 million euros in sales in the third quarter, up 6 percent from a year ago, is “a bit of a mystery” for analysts, added Goddijn, one of the company founders.
The division has grown quietly but quickly in the shadow of a company better known to consumers for making satnav devices — a business in decline — and to analysts for serving up the digital maps built into iPhone’s Apple Maps app.
With Telematics expected to post core earnings of 60-70 million euros this year, valuations of the business range hugely, from 700 million euros to 1.4 billion euros. Sell-side analysts disagree about what multiple of earnings the business, which seems likely to extend its steady but not spectacular growth, will fetch.
Getting a good deal for Telematics would help to underpin the TomTom share price after recent volatility.
“If you look at the sum of the parts and the valuation and market cap, there is something not quite right and that needs to be better explained,” Goddijn said in an interview this week in San Francisco.
TomTom, set up in 1991, helped to pioneer navigation devices mounted on dashboards but now competes with German-owned HERE and with Google to sell digital maps integrated into the cars’ own software and control panels.
FILE PHOTO: Harold Goddijn, Chief Executive Officer of navigation systems maker TomTom, addresses the TMT 2006 Global Tech Media and Telecom Summit in Paris February 28, 2006. REUTERS/Mal Langsdon/File Photo
Goddijn declined to say what TomTom will do with proceeds if Telematics is sold, despite the dramatic change a disposal would have on the company’s profile.
TomTom shares are down 7 percent year to date after Google Maps entered its key market, supplying navigation and traffic software to carmakers. Google has so far poached several TomTom clients including Renault and Volvo.
That’s part of a broader pattern of carmakers and tech firms teaming up as they prepare for a long, expensive transition toward self-driving vehicles.
This week alone it emerged that Ford and Volkswagen, and Volvo and Baidu (BIDU.O) are in talks on partnerships to develop and commercialize self-driving car technology, in which maps will play an important role.
“It’s not clear what the right economic model is going to be going forward for delivering the next generation of mapping content to the vehicle: is it best to be independent? Is it best to team up? It will take time to figure that out,” Goddijn said.
He said he was confident TomTom’s automotive software sales will continue to grow in the coming three years, but did not rule out a takeover or far-reaching partnership with a carmaker or larger technology firm.
Goddijn and TomTom’s three other founders hold a 44 percent stake in the Dutch company, which some investors fear means the company would never enter a deal that meant surrendering effective control.
“There’s always a big thing about founders and emotional attachments and what have you. I want to set the record straight,” Goddijn said.
“We will do whatever is right for the business and the people and the stakeholders and the customers like any other business, and we’ll look at how it will evolve. We’ll see.”
($ 1 = 0.8780 euros)
Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Writing by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Editing by Keith Weir
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian home entertainment installer Paul Boon has relied for years on Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) U.S. website for cheap wall racks and other parts to keep his costs down.
FILE PHOTO: A web page featuring Amazon’s Australian URL is pictured in this photo illustration April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Reed/Illustration/File Photo
But Amazon’s recent move to stop Australians from shopping on its foreign websites, due to a new law that requires it to collect taxes, is turning away once-loyal customers like Boon.
He’s considering a switch to eBay Inc (EBAY.O), adding that prices for wall mounts were 40 percent higher on Amazon’s Australia site if they appeared there at all.
“I’ll be going somewhere else to get that regular stuff,” said Boon by telephone from the northern city of Brisbane, where he runs his business.
Amazon’s launch of an Australian site in December, followed by last month’s introduction of its Prime service for faster delivery, has been heralded as a game changer for the country’s retail industry. But it has gotten off to a choppy start.
For customers like Boon, the retail giant has lost years of goodwill by forcing shoppers onto a local site with a product range roughly one ninth of the U.S. site and which sells some goods at higher prices.
It has also given online marketplace eBay, Amazon’s bigger and more established rival in Australia, the opportunity to swoop in and capture that goodwill, building its first automatic tax collection and payment system and wooing local customers with discounts.
Australia is the first market where Amazon, the world’s second-most valuable company worth $ 890 billion, has responded to a sales tax on internet purchases by shutting out customers based on where they live.
An Amazon spokesman said in an email the company would continue to build its range of goods and services through its Australian site, and that it was “thrilled with the reception it has received from Australian customers” since introducing Amazon Prime.
The Australian government extended its 10 percent goods and services tax (GST) to all goods bought online from overseas, effective July 1, requiring online retailers to collect the tax. It was previously applicable only to overseas purchases over A$ 1,000 ($ 745).
Amazon also gave Australians just one month’s notice that they would be shut out of its global network – sales are cut off when an Australian delivery address is entered – even though the government’s plans were announced a year ago.
Critics say the decision was an excuse to drive traffic to its new local site and promote its Amazon Prime service.
“I’ve no doubt that Amazon will be successful here in time, but I don’t believe that this strategy is what’s going to catapult them to success,” said Ryan Murtagh, CEO of Neto, a provider of data and logistics support for about 3,000 online retailers in Australia.
“I think actually it potentially could damage them in the long term.”
Amazon has some 550 million products on its U.S. site including those sold by Amazon and third-party sellers, according to Boomerang Commerce, an artificial intelligence technology firm in California. That compares with the 500-600 million offers from third-party sellers on eBay, which includes duplicate products.
Ebay said the decision to build the new tax collection and payment system had paid off with early figures suggesting Australian shoppers were not swayed by the new tax.
“It was a big change and it was a global change that needed to be done,” said eBay’s local managing director, Tim MacKinnon, adding that the effort was led by its California headquarters.
“A lot of people worked on it, a lot of different teams. We’re really proud that we hit the July 1 deadline.”
He added its decision to offer Australian shoppers a 10 percent discount on its local, British and U.S. websites for the first week of July had helped generate business.
“All of our sites have accelerated,” said MacKinnon.
While neither Amazon nor eBay provide data on visitors to their sites and estimating their share of Australia’s A$ 26 billion-a-year online retail market is difficult, customer dissatisfaction with Amazon Australia is not hard to find. Its Facebook page is overrun with negative comments.
Amazon’s move has also prompted non-Amazon freight forwarders who buy items from the U.S. store domestically and mail them to Australia to seize new opportunities. One such firm, New York’s Big Apple Buddy, this week set up a new site for Australian shoppers.
Securities analysts argue, however, that Amazon plays a long game and that given its track record in dominating online retail in many countries, whatever missteps it makes can be fixed over time.
“It is highly likely they will get it right in Australia over the longer term, and prices will be competitive, service will be outstanding, and they will eat eBay’s lunch,” Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Los Angeles-based Wedbush Securities, said by email.
Reporting by Byron Kaye and Tom Westbrook; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Nicholas Ford in Sydney; Editing by Edwina Gibbs
Frank Abagnale, the once-notorious confidence trickster portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Catch Me If You Can, said blockchain is the future of secure information processing and data settlement.
A video has surfaced from Abagnale’s speech at a blockchain conference in April in which he shares his thoughts on the burgeoning technology.
“I think you have to be pretty ignorant not to realize that blockchain is the way of the future,” he said at the Blockchain Nation Miami conference. “It is the best way to secure information, to secure it 100%.”
For more than 40 years, Abagnale has worked with and advised hundreds of financial institutions, corporations, and government agencies. In his opinion, these institutions will begin embracing the technology. Blockchain is often defined as “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.” Communication occurs between peers instead of through a central authority, and every transaction is visible to anyone with access to the system.
“I think you’ll see banks—especially accounting practices and accounting firms—all move to blockchain,” he said about keeping records on the decentralized network technology. “You cannot break the blockchain. You cannot hack into the blockchain. You can’t change anything on the blockchain.”
He outlines some privacy issues that need to be worked out when using the technology, but Abagnale said it is a technology that will “eventually be adopted by all types of governments, businesses, and corporations.”
Abagnale is alluding to a trend that is already in motion.
HSBC recently said it performed the world’s first trade finance transaction using blockchain technology. Santander last month launched a foreign exchange service that uses the distributed ledger tech to make same-day international money transfers. J.P. Morganrecently applied for a patent to facilitate payments between banks using the blockchain.
Apple has moved some of its iCloud and services data from Amazon Web Services to Google’s cloud platform, in what is seen as a bid by the iPhone maker to diversify its cloud service providers, according to reports.
The move comes even as the company is building its own new data centers, leading to speculation whether the shift is only temporary.
Google is a rival of Apple in smartphones and other devices, but such deals are common among tech companies in areas where they don’t compete.
After signing the deal with Google late last year, Apple has significantly reduced its reliance on AWS, whose infrastructure it has been using to run parts of iCloud and other services, reported CRN, quoting sources with knowledge of the matter. The publication put Apple’s spending with Google at between $ 400 million and $ 600 million, though it added it wasn’t clear whether the figures referred to an annual spending rate or a set amount of capacity.
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