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Google rolls out Messages on the web for Android users

Posted by | Android, Apple, Apps, computing, emoji, gif, Google, Google Allo, Google Hangouts, imessage, iOS 10, messages, messaging, Software, WhatsApp | No Comments

Messages, Google’s more recent focus for its scattered messaging efforts following its decision to “pause” work on Allo, is now available for web users. The company announced that it would begin rolling out Messages for web starting today, with the full rollout completing over the next week. The feature, along with others including GIF search, smart replies, and more, is part of an updated messaging experience for Android users that aims to be Google’s response to iMessage.

The company earlier this year moved its Allo team to work on Android Messages, Google’s app that utilizes the RCS messaging standard. The standard, adopted by numerous mobile operators worldwide, offers more feature parity with iMessage, thanks to its support for things like read receipts, typing indicators, high-res photo sharing, better group chat, and other features.

Now, Messages is gaining another feature to better compete with iMessage: web support.

Today, Apple users can access iMessage conversations on their Mac using a dedicated app. Google’s Messages for web is similar in the sense that it also offers cross-platform access to messages – that is, it lets Android users view and respond to chats when they’re not on their phone.

However, the implementation of Messages for web is more like WhatsApp for the desktop, right down to how you scan a code on the Message website to sync things up with your phone.

Google says Messages for web will support sending stickers, emoji and image attachments, as well as text, at launch.

The company also announced a few other features that will come to the Messages app over the next week, including built-in GIF search; Smart Replies, which suggest English language text responses and emoji for now; preview web links in conversations; and the ability to copy one-time passwords with a tap.

This last feature is also similar to a new addition coming to iMessage in iOS 12. When you’re logging into a site or app that requires a one-time password sent over text message, iOS 12 will let you paste that into the necessary field with one tap. Google’s system looks like it requires two taps – both the copy and the paste functions – but it’s still a lot easier than before.

To try out the new features, Android users will need to be on the latest version of the Messages app from Google Play.

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Gmail proves that some people hate smart suggestions

Posted by | Apps, gmail, Google, Mobile, rant, smart, Social | No Comments

Gmail has recently introduced a brand new redesign. While you can disable or ignore most of the new features, Gmail has started resurfacing old unanswered emails with a suggestion that you should reply. And this is what it looks like:

The orange text immediately grabs your attention. By bumping the email thread to the top of your inbox, Gmails also breaks the chronological order of your inbox.

Gmail is also making a judgement by telling you that maybe you should have replied and you’ve been procrastinating. Social networks already bombard us constantly with awful content that makes us sad or angry. Your email inbox shouldn’t make you feel guilty or stressed.

Even if the suggestions can be accurate, it’s a bit creepy, it’s poorly implemented and it makes you feel like you’re no longer in control of your inbox.

There’s a reason why Gmail lets you disable all the smart features. Some users don’t want smart categories, important emails first and smart reply suggestions. Arguably, the only smart feature everyone needs is the spam filter.

A pure chronological feed of your email messages is incredibly valuable as well. That’s why many Instagram users are still asking for a chronological feed. Sure, algorithmic feeds can lead to more engagement and improved productivity. Maybe Google conducted some tests and concluded that you end up answering more emails if you let Gmail do its thing.

But you may want to judge the value of each email without an algorithmic ranking.

VCs could spot the next big thing without any bias. Journalists could pay attention to young and scrappy startups as much as the new electric scooter startup in San Francisco. Universities could give a grant to students with unconventional applications. The HR department of your company could look at all applications without following Google’s order.

When the Gmail redesign started leaking, a colleague of mine said “I look forward to digging through settings to figure out how to turn this off.” And the good news is that you can turn it off.

There are now two options to disable nudges in the settings on the web version of Gmail. You can tick off the boxes “Suggest emails to reply to” and “Suggest emails to follow up on” if you don’t want to see this orange text ever again. But those features should have never been enabled by default in the first place.

The new look of gmail has this new little reminder and I keep reading it as “Received 4 days ago. Really?” And this is stress I just don’t need. pic.twitter.com/IHp9wATORl

— Mary Kate McDevitt (@MaryKateMcD) June 11, 2018

Ooh, new Gmail has an incredibly annoying feature where it bumps a message ending in a question to the top of your inbox with a banner saying “Received 2 days ago. Reply?”

— Seb Patrick (@sebpatrick) June 8, 2018

Switching back to classic @gmail. I REALLY don’t need these “Received 6 days ago. Reply?” notes. I have four jobs connected to six email accounts. I’ll manage my own productivity, thanks. #oldmanyellingatthesky #leavemealone

— mitchell bloom (@bloomin_onions) June 13, 2018

Wtf Gmail on mobile now resurfacing emails I haven’t replied to with a “received two days ago. Reply?” Label. Insane. Can’t seem to turn it off. Breaks my entire inbox.

— Tom Critchlow (@tomcritchlow) May 18, 2018

I’m not really a fan of gmail’s new feature that hounds you if you don’t reply to emails. ‘Received 2 days ago. Reply?’ I don’t need to technologically enhance anxiety.

— Thomas Lynch (@thomasjlynch) January 11, 2018

Hey @gmail,

One message in my inbox suddenly has a garish red message.

“Received 2 days ago. Reply?”

Never seen this happen and never want this suggestion. pic.twitter.com/HkEgkcKS3E

— Brendan Falkowski (@Falkowski) June 8, 2018

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Google brings offline neural machine translations for 59 languages to its Translate app

Posted by | Android, Apps, artificial intelligence, deep learning, Google, Google Translate, iOS, Languages, Mobile, mobile app, Translation | No Comments

Currently, when the Google Translate apps for iOS and Android has access to the internet, its translations are far superior to those it produces when it’s offline. That’s because the offline translations are phrase-based, meaning they use an older machine translation technique than the machine learning-powered systems in the cloud that the app has access to when it’s online. But that’s changing today. Google is now rolling out offline Neural Machine Translation (NMT) support for 59 languages in the Translate apps.

Today, only a small number of users will see the updated offline translations, but it will roll out to all users within the next few weeks.

The list of supported languages consists of a wide range of languages. Because I don’t want to play favorites, here is the full list: Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Belarusian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian, Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jannada, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Marathi, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese and Welsh.

In the past, running these deep learning models on a mobile device wasn’t really an option since mobile phones didn’t have the right hardware to efficiently run them. Now, thanks to both advances in hardware and software, that’s less of an issue and Google, Microsoft and others have also found ways to compress these models to a manageable size. In Google’s case, that’s about 30 to 40 megabytes per language.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft also announced a similar feature for its Translator app earlier this year. It uses a very similar technique, but for the time being, it only supports about a dozen languages.

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Android P Beta 2 brings updated system images and 157 new emojis

Posted by | Android, Android P, beta, emoji, Google, Mobile | No Comments

A month after releasing the first beta version of Android P at I/O (and right in the middle of Apple’s own developers conference), Google has just released Beta 2 of its upcoming mobile operating system. The update is available to users enrolled in Google’s developer program, who have access to a Pixel device. Those who’ve already downloaded Beta 1 will get the new version automatically.

The latest build features new system images and tools designed to help developers create apps for the upcoming version of the mobile operating system. Adaptive Battery is on-board here, leveraging DeepMind to decide which apps should get the most system resources. App Actions helps developers make their apps more prominent in places like Search, the Google Assistant and the Google Launcher, while Slices provides a way to offer elements of an app without having to open it up. 

Also of note is the addition of 157 new emojis. The list includes two gender neutral emojis, offering additional options for the Family and Couple With Heart emojis, joining last year’s addition of a gender-neutral Adult emoji.

There’s a Red Hair and Superhero emoji, both of which are available in two genders and five skin tones, a bagel with cream cheese, a llama and a lobster. Sounds like a fun crew.

A handful of existing emojis have also gotten a facelift here, including Bacon, Turtle, Cricket and Salad, which drops the egg to go full-on vegan. Google notes that the new emojis may be further updated prior to Android P’s final release.

More information on the updates for devs can be found here. 

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This DIY smart mirror is small, stunning and full of features

Posted by | Android, engineer, Gadgets, Google, mirror, voice assistant | No Comments

Several years ago Google X engineer Max Braun published a medium post on a smart mirror he made and now he’s back with a new version that’s smaller and smarter. This is a smart mirror I can get behind though I still find smart mirrors completely frivolous.

He published his project on Medium where he explains the process and the parts a person would need to build their own. This isn’t a project for everyone, but Max gives enough instructions that most enterprising builders should be able to hack something similar together.

I recently reviewed a smart mirror and found it a bit silly but still useful. Ideally, like in Max’s smart mirrors, the software is passive and always available. Users shouldn’t have to think about interacting with the devices; the right information should be displayed automatically. It’s a balancing act.

At this point, smart mirrors are little more than Android tablets placed behind a two-way mirror. Retail models are expensive to buy and hardly worth it since a person’s phone or voice assistant can probably provide the same information. After all, how many devices does a person really need to tell them the weather forecast?

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Google’s Area 120 incubator aims to improve your NYC subway commute with Pigeon

Posted by | Apps, Area 120, Google, Mobile, pigeon | No Comments

There’s a new app coming out of Google’s Area 120 incubator that could help New York City subway commuters navigate the ever-growing number of delays.

While the Pigeon app is already live on the Apple App store, it currently requires an invite code to access, so I wasn’t able to try it out myself.

However, the Pigeon website describes it as a way for users save their favorite routes, then get recommendations on which route to take on a given day based on delays and crowds reported by other users. It’s almost like a transit-oriented version of Google-owned navigation app Waze.

“After years of living in New York City and commuting on the subway, the Pigeon team knows first-hand that public transit can be frustratingly unpredictable,” the website says. “So when we started this project, we decided to create a product that lets subway riders help each other avoid delays, crowds, and incidents that make can make commuting so stressful.”

Pigeon

As a New Yorker myself, I mostly rely on Google Maps for subway navigation — it does a reasonably good job of including arrival times and information about delays provided by the MTA, but there’s definitely room for more up-to-date and accurate data. Plus, I usually don’t check the app on my normal commute, which can mean I end up late to important meetings, or missing them entirely, due to an unexpected delay.

Startups like Transit (backed by Accel Partners) and Moovit (backed by Sequoia and Intel Capital) are also trying to offer better navigation for public transit commuters.

When asked about the app, a Google spokesperson sent us the following statement:

One of the many projects that we’re working on within Area 120 is Pigeon, an iOS app that helps New York City subway goers find the best route with live alerts from other riders. Like other projects within Area 120, it’s a very early experiment so there aren’t many details to share right now.

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Google is quietly formulating a new strategy for China

Posted by | Android, Apple, Apps, artificial intelligence, Asia, Baidu, Beijing, China, computing, Getty-Images, Google, Google Play, Google Play Store, google search, HTC, huawei, mobvoi, photographer, premier, Search, shenzhen, smartphone, smartphones, TC, Tencent, United States, Virtual reality, xi jinping, Xiaomi | No Comments

Google is slowing piecing together a strategy for China to ensure that it doesn’t miss out on the growth of technology in the world’s largest country. It’s been months in the making through a series of gradual plays, but further evidence of those plans comes today via a product launch.

Files Go — a file manager for Android devices released last yearhas made its way to China today. Not a huge launch, for sure, but the mechanisms behind it provide insight into how Google may be thinking about the country, where it has been absent since 2010 after redirecting its Chinese search service to Hong Kong in the face of government pressure.

For Files Go, Google is taking a partner-led approach to distribution because the Google Play Store does not operate in China. The company is working with Tencent, Huawei, Xiaomi and Baidu, each of which will stock the app in their independent app stores, which are among the country’s most prominent third-party stores.

Let that sink in a little: the creator of Android is using third-party Android app stores to distribute one of its products.

On the outside that’s quite the scenario, but in China it makes perfect of sense.

There’s been regular media speculation in recent about Google’s desire to return to China which, during its absence, has become the largest single market for smartphone users, and the country with the most app downloads and highest app revenue per year. Mostly the rumors have centered around audacious strategies such as the return of the Google Play Store or the restoration of Google’s Chinese search business, both of which would mean complying with demands from the Chinese government.

Then there’s the politics. The U.S. and China are currently in an ongoing trade standoff that has spilled into tech, impacting deals, while Chinese premier Xi Jinping has taken a protectionist approach to promoting local business and industries, in particular AI. XI’s more controversial policies, including the banning of VPNs, have put heat on Apple, which stands accused of colluding with authorities and preventing free speech in China.

Political tension between the U.S. and China is affecting tech companies. [Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

Even when you remove the political issues, a full return is a tough challenge. Google would be starting businesses almost from scratch in a highly competitive market where it has little brand recognition.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that it hasn’t made big moves… yet at least.

Instead, it appears that the company is exploring more nimble approaches. There have been opportunistic product launches using established platforms, and generally Google seems intent at building relationships and growing a local presence that allows its global business to tap into the talent and technology that China offers.

Files Go is the latest example, but already we’ve seen Google relaunch its Translate app in 2017 and more recently it brought its ARCore technology for augmented and virtual reality to China using partners, which include Xiaomi and Huawei.

Bouquets of flowers lie on the Google logo outside the company’s China head office in Beijing on March 23, 2010 after the US web giant said it would no longer filter results and was redirecting mainland Chinese users to an uncensored site in Hong Kong — effectively closing down the mainland site. Google’s decision to effectively shut down its Chinese-language search engine is likely to stunt the development of the Internet in China and isolate local web users, analysts say. (Photo credit: xin/AFP/Getty Images)

Beyond products, Google is cultivating relationships, too.

It inked a wide-ranging patent deal with Tencent, China’s $500 billion tech giant which operates WeChat and more, and has made strategic investments to back AI startup XtalPi (alongside Tencent), live-streaming platform Chushou, and AI and hardware company Mobvoi. There have been events, too, including AlphaGo’s three-game battle with Chinese grandmaster Ke Jie in Wuzhen, developer events in China and the forthcoming first Google Asia Demo Day, which takes places in Shanghai in September.

In addition to making friends in the right places, Google is also increasing its own presence on Chinese soil. The company opened an AI lab in Beijing to help access China-based talent, while it also unveiled a more modest presence in Shenzhen, China’s hardware capital, where it has a serviced office for staff. That hardware move ties into Google’s acquisition of a chunk of HTC’s smartphone division for $1.1 billion.

The strategy is no doubt in its early days, so now is a good time to keep a keen eye on Google’s moves in this part of the world.

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Google’s Project Fi adds support for the Moto G6, LG’s G7 and V35 phones

Posted by | carriers, cell service, Gadgets, Google, hardware, Mobile, project fi | No Comments

Project Fi, Google’s wireless service, is getting support for a number of new phones today. Until now, if you wanted to switch to Fi, the only officially supported phones were Google’s own Pixel and Pixel 2 phones, the Nexus 5X and 6P, as well as the Moto X4 and its Android One variant. Today, Google is adding to this list the Moto G6, as well as LG’s G7 ThinQ and V35 ThinQ phones.

Since Google’s network is a bit different from its competitors, thanks to Fi’s ability to switch between the networks of T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular to provide users access to the strongest signal in a given area, the company has always taken a very strict approach as to which phones it officially supported.

If you want to make the switch to Fi, which also recently introduced its own take on its competitors’ flat-rate plans, then the 32GB version of the 5.7-inch Moto G6 is now available for $199 (discounted from $249). The two LG phones will be coming to Fi next month for their standard retail prices of $899 for the V35 and $749 for the G7. While Google isn’t offering any major outright discount for the LG phones, those who pre-order one will get a $50 Fi credit.

It’s worth noting that the V35, LG’s new six-inch flagship phone, only launched today and is essentially a G7 with more RAM, a different display and larger battery. The phone was originally rumored to be an AT&T exclusive, but I guess we can put that idea to rest now.

Both the G7 and Moto G6 have generally received favorable reviews. Google also currently offers the Moto X4 for a heavily discounted $249, but that still makes the G6 the most affordable option for Fi. This may create a bit of confusion for potential users, though, as those are quite similar and it’s hard to figure out which one to pick (just like choosing between the G7 and V35). At the same time, though, it’s nice to see Google add more options for its Project Fi customers.

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Google brings its ARCore technology to China in partnership with Xiaomi

Posted by | Android, Apps, ARCore, Asia, Beijing, China, Google, Google Play Store, HTC, huawei, miui, Tencent, Xiaomi | No Comments

Google is ramping up its efforts to return to China. Earlier this year, the search giant detailed plans to bring its ARCore technology — which enables augmented reality and virtual reality — to phones in China and this week that effort went live with its first partner, Xiaomi.

Initially the technology will be available for Xiaomi’s Mix 2S devices via an app in the Xiaomi App Store, but Google has plans to add more partners in Mainland China over time. Huawei and Samsung are two confirmed names that have signed up to distribute ARCore apps on Chinese soil, Google said previously.

Starting today, #ARCore apps are available on Mix 2S devices from the Xiaomi App Store in China. More partners coming soon → https://t.co/16QoOTgqve pic.twitter.com/lT4TYXrzwF

— Google AR & VR (@GoogleARVR) May 28, 2018

Google’s core services remain blocked in China but ARCore apps are able to work there because the technology itself works on device without the cloud, which means that once apps are downloaded to a phone there’s nothing that China’s internet censors can do to disrupt them.

Rather than software, the main challenge is distribution. The Google Play Store is restricted in China, and in its place China has a fragmented landscape that consists of more than a dozen major third-party Android app stores. That explains why Google has struck deals with the likes of Xiaomi and Huawei, which operate their own app stores which — pre-loaded on their devices — can help Google reach consumers.

ARCore in action

The ARCore strategy for China, while subtle, is part of a sustained push to grow Google’s presence in China. While that hasn’t meant reviving the Google Play Store — despite plenty of speculation in the media — Google has ramped up in other areas.

In recent months, the company has struck a partnership with Tencent, agreed to invest in a number of China-based startups — including biotech-focused XtalPi and live-streaming service Chushou — and announced an AI lab in Beijing. Added to that, Google gained a large tech presence in Taiwan via the completion of its acquisition of a chunk of HTC, and it opened a presence in Shenzhen, the Chinese city known as ‘the Silicon Valley of hardware.’

Finally, it is also hosting its first ‘Demo Day’ program for startups in Asia with an event planned for Shanghai, China, this coming September. Applications to take part in the initiative opened last week.

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Facebook, Google face first GDPR complaints over ‘forced consent’

Posted by | Advertising Tech, Android, data protection, Europe, european union, Facebook, General Data Protection Regulation, Google, instagram, lawsuit, Mark Zuckerberg, Max Schrems, privacy, Social, social network, social networking, terms of service, WhatsApp | No Comments

After two years coming down the pipe at tech giants, Europe’s new privacy framework, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is now being applied — and long time Facebook privacy critic, Max Schrems, has wasted no time in filing four complaints relating to (certain) companies’ ‘take it or leave it’ stance when it comes to consent.

The complaints have been filed on behalf of (unnamed) individual users — with one filed against Facebook; one against Facebook-owned Instagram; one against Facebook-owned WhatsApp; and one against Google’s Android.

Schrems argues that the companies are using a strategy of “forced consent” to continue processing the individuals’ personal data — when in fact the law requires that users be given a free choice unless a consent is strictly necessary for provision of the service. (And, well, Facebook claims its core product is social networking — rather than farming people’s personal data for ad targeting.)

“It’s simple: Anything strictly necessary for a service does not need consent boxes anymore. For everything else users must have a real choice to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” Schrems writes in a statement.

“Facebook has even blocked accounts of users who have not given consent,” he adds. “In the end users only had the choice to delete the account or hit the “agree”-button — that’s not a free choice, it more reminds of a North Korean election process.”

We’ve reached out to all the companies involved for comment and will update this story with any response. Update: Facebook has now sent the following statement, attributed to its chief privacy officer, Erin Egan: “We have prepared for the past 18 months to ensure we meet the requirements of the GDPR. We have made our policies clearer, our privacy settings easier to find and introduced better tools for people to access, download, and delete their information. Our work to improve people’s privacy doesn’t stop on May 25th. For example, we’re building Clear History: a way for everyone to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, clear this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward.”

Schrems most recently founded a not-for-profit digital rights organization to focus on strategic litigation around the bloc’s updated privacy framework, and the complaints have been filed via this crowdfunded NGO — which is called noyb (aka ‘none of your business’).

As we pointed out in our GDPR explainer, the provision in the regulation allowing for collective enforcement of individuals’ data rights is an important one, with the potential to strengthen the implementation of the law by enabling non-profit organizations such as noyb to file complaints on behalf of individuals — thereby helping to redress the power imbalance between corporate giants and consumer rights.

That said, the GDPR’s collective redress provision is a component that Member States can choose to derogate from, which helps explain why the first four complaints have been filed with data protection agencies in Austria, Belgium, France and Hamburg in Germany — regions that also have data protection agencies with a strong record of defending privacy rights.

Given that the Facebook companies involved in these complaints have their European headquarters in Ireland it’s likely the Irish data protection agency will get involved too. And it’s fair to say that, within Europe, Ireland does not have a strong reputation as a data protection rights champion.

But the GDPR allows for DPAs in different jurisdictions to work together in instances where they have joint concerns and where a service crosses borders — so noyb’s action looks intended to test this element of the new framework too.

Under the penalty structure of GDPR, major violations of the law can attract fines as large as 4% of a company’s global revenue which, in the case of Facebook or Google, implies they could be on the hook for more than a billion euros apiece — if they are deemed to have violated the law, as the complaints argue.

That said, given how freshly fixed in place the rules are, some EU regulators may well tread softly on the enforcement front — at least in the first instances, to give companies some benefit of the doubt and/or a chance to make amends to come into compliance if they are deemed to be falling short of the new standards.

However, in instances where companies themselves appear to be attempting to deform the law with a willfully self-serving interpretation of the rules, regulators may feel they need to act swiftly to nip any disingenuousness in the bud.

“We probably will not immediately have billions of penalty payments, but the corporations have intentionally violated the GDPR, so we expect a corresponding penalty under GDPR,” writes Schrems.

Only yesterday, for example, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — speaking in an on stage interview at the VivaTech conference in Paris — claimed his company hasn’t had to make any radical changes to comply with GDPR, and further claimed that a “vast majority” of Facebook users are willingly opting in to targeted advertising via its new consent flow.

“We’ve been rolling out the GDPR flows for a number of weeks now in order to make sure that we were doing this in a good way and that we could take into account everyone’s feedback before the May 25 deadline. And one of the things that I’ve found interesting is that the vast majority of people choose to opt in to make it so that we can use the data from other apps and websites that they’re using to make ads better. Because the reality is if you’re willing to see ads in a service you want them to be relevant and good ads,” said Zuckerberg.

He did not mention that the dominant social network does not offer people a free choice on accepting or declining targeted advertising. The new consent flow Facebook revealed ahead of GDPR only offers the ‘choice’ of quitting Facebook entirely if a person does not want to accept targeting advertising. Which, well, isn’t much of a choice given how powerful the network is. (Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that Facebook continues tracking non-users — so even deleting a Facebook account does not guarantee that Facebook will stop processing your personal data.)

Asked about how Facebook’s business model will be affected by the new rules, Zuckerberg essentially claimed nothing significant will change — “because giving people control of how their data is used has been a core principle of Facebook since the beginning”.

“The GDPR adds some new controls and then there’s some areas that we need to comply with but overall it isn’t such a massive departure from how we’ve approached this in the past,” he claimed. “I mean I don’t want to downplay it — there are strong new rules that we’ve needed to put a bunch of work into making sure that we complied with — but as a whole the philosophy behind this is not completely different from how we’ve approached things.

“In order to be able to give people the tools to connect in all the ways they want and build community a lot of philosophy that is encoded in a regulation like GDPR is really how we’ve thought about all this stuff for a long time. So I don’t want to understate the areas where there are new rules that we’ve had to go and implement but I also don’t want to make it seem like this is a massive departure in how we’ve thought about this stuff.”

Zuckerberg faced a range of tough questions on these points from the EU parliament earlier this week. But he avoided answering them in any meaningful detail.

So EU regulators are essentially facing a first test of their mettle — i.e. whether they are willing to step up and defend the line of the law against big tech’s attempts to reshape it in their business model’s image.

Privacy laws are nothing new in Europe but robust enforcement of them would certainly be a breath of fresh air. And now at least, thanks to GDPR, there’s a penalties structure in place to provide incentives as well as teeth, and spin up a market around strategic litigation — with Schrems and noyb in the vanguard.

Schrems also makes the point that small startups and local companies are less likely to be able to use the kind of strong-arm ‘take it or leave it’ tactics on users that big tech is able to unilaterally apply and extract ‘consent’ as a consequence of the reach and power of their platforms — arguing there’s an underlying competition concern that GDPR could also help to redress.

“The fight against forced consent ensures that the corporations cannot force users to consent,” he writes. “This is especially important so that monopolies have no advantage over small businesses.”

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