Apple Reportedly Planning to Launch Own Search Engine at WWDC 2022
By ANI | Updated: 6 June 2022
Apple is planning to launch its own search engine as it prepares for its annual WWDC event. A tweet from writer Robert Scoble, which appears after a thread summarising the Apple surprises he expects in the coming year, is the source of the speculation.
Scoble stated that the information is based partly on interactions with informants and partly on deduction. “This is the most costly product launch of all time”, he continued.
Many have speculated that the Cupertino behemoth would eventually dip its toes in the water due to a lack of competition in the search business and a long-standing rivalry between Google and Apple.
Although the value of Google Search is difficult to estimate due to the way Alphabet’s profits are reported, we do know that it accounts for the majority of the company’s ad revenue, which was $210 billion (16,30,840 crore) in 2021.
If Scoble’s information is correct, Apple has decided it wants a piece of the action. But why now, specifically? According to a theory, Apple believes that the iOS and Safari install bases have reached critical mass, allowing it to mount a credible challenge to Google’s dominance.
Apple has benefited for years from a partnership with Google that ensures Google’s status as the default Safari search engine (worth an estimated $20 billion per year).
Apple is also prohibited from releasing a standalone search tool under the terms of this agreement, according to court documents filed as part of a recent class-action lawsuit.
Elon Musk Reclaims Position as World’s Richest Person After Bernard Arnault’s Louis Vuitton Shares Drop
By ANI | Updated: 1 June 2023
Elon Musk has yet again claimed his position as the world’s richest person after beating the CEO of the French luxury brand Louis Vuitton Bernard Arnault, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as of Thursday, Musk’s net worth was about $192 billion (roughly Rs. 15,82,483 crore), with Arnault’s $187 billion (roughly Rs. 15,41,272 crore).
Index data showed behind Musk and Arnault are Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates at $144 billion (roughly Rs. 11,86,862 crore) and $125 billion (roughly Rs. 10,30,262 crore), respectively.
The index is a daily ranking of the world’s wealthiest people. Details about the calculations are provided in the net worth analysis on each billionaire’s profile page. The figures are updated at the close of every trading day in New York.
Tesla chief Musk is back on top of the list of wealthiest persons after shares of Arnault’s firm fell over 2 percent in the latest trade.
The rise in Musk’s wealth can also be partly attributed to the latest surge in Tesla stock prices. They rose about 89 percent so far in 2023, data showed.
Musk and Arnault have been neck-and-neck on the list of the richest people.
In December 2022, Bernard Arnault reportedly overtook the Tesla head when he was in the second spot for more than two months. Musk reclaimed again in late February.
Google Leads $36 Million Funding Round for Bengaluru-Based Satellite-Image Startup Pixxel
By Reuters | Updated: 1 June 2023
Alphabet’s Google is leading a $36 million (roughly Rs. 297 crore) funding round for Bengaluru-based Pixxel, a satellite-image startup, in the first major investment in the Indian space sector since the government launched its privatisation policy in April.
Pixxel, founded in 2019, is building a constellation of satellites that have the ability to identify mineral deposits or the productivity of crops by analysing the spectral signature of an image.
Miner Rio Tinto and Australian agritech company DataFarming are clients, Pixxel said.
The startup has raised more $71 million (roughly Rs. 585 crore) from investors including Accenture PLC. Pixxel did not specify how much Google had invested or the valuation it reflected.
Google in India did not immediately respond to questions about the investment.
Founder and Chief Executive Awais Ahmed said Pixxel would be “the most valued space tech company in India after this investment”.
That had been rocket and launch provider Skyroot Aerospace, valued at an estimated $163 million (roughly Rs. 1,343 crore), according to Tracxn, which tracks startups.
“We work with satellite data and Google does a lot of work around that with agriculture and environment,” Ahmed told Reuters. “They also have Google Earth … so a combination of that led to them seeing a benefit.”
Pixxel is among the many private companies looking for a fillip since India opened the space sector, encouraging startups to deliver broadband services like Starlink and to power applications like tracking supply chains.
The government announced its private-sector space policy framework in April.
The funding comes at a time when startups globally have struggled to raise funds. Space startups, in particular, have come under pressure after the bankruptcy of Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit launch company.
Ahmed said the funding would be used to build out its satellite network. Pixxel is readying six satellites for launch next year to add to the three it has now and looking to hire more engineers for its analytics.
Ahmed has said he was inspired to launch a space startup from a visit Elon Musk’s SpaceX as part of a student competition to build a demonstration “hyperloop” transport pod.
He and co-founder Kshitij Khandelwal set out to build an AI model that could use satellite data to predict crop yields, detect illegal mining and track natural disasters.
They launched Pixxel when they concluded existing commercial satellite images did not provide enough detail. Pixxel’s satellites take in and analyse a wide spectrum of light instead of just assigning primary colours to each pixel, a technology known as hyperspectral imaging.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
European Union, US Working Towards Common Code of Conduct for AI Amid Growing Privacy, Civil Liberties Concerns
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 1 June 2023
The European Union and the United States said Wednesday that they would soon release a voluntary code of conduct on artificial intelligence, hoping to develop common standards among democracies as China makes rapid gains.
Both political and technology industry leaders have been warning of the growing risks as AI takes off, with potentially wide-ranging effects on privacy and other civil liberties.
After talks with EU officials in Sweden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that Western partners felt the “fierce urgency” to act and would ask “like-minded countries” to join the voluntary code of conduct.
“There’s almost always a gap when new technologies emerge,” Blinken said, with “the time it takes for governments and institutions to figure out how to legislate or regulate”.
European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager added that a draft would be put forward “within weeks”.
“We think it’s really important that citizens can see that democracies can deliver,” she said.
She voiced hope “to do that in the broadest possible circle — with our friends in Canada, in the UK, in Japan, in India, bringing as many onboard as possible”.
Sam Altman, whose firm OpenAI created the popular ChatGPT bot, took part in the talks of the Trade and Technology Council between the EU and the United States, hosted this year in the northern Swedish city of Lulea.
The forum was set up in 2021 to try to ease trade frictions after the turbulent US presidency of Donald Trump but has since set its sights largely on artificial intelligence.
In a joint statement released by the White House and the European Commission, the two sides called AI a “transformative technology with great promise for our people, offering opportunities to increase prosperity and equity”.
“But in order to seize the opportunities it presents, we must mitigate its risks,” it said.
It added that experts from the two sides would work on “cooperation on AI standards and tools for trustworthy AI and risk management”.
They also discussed how to work together on sixth-generation mobile technology, an area in which Europeans have taken an early lead.
The EU has been moving forward on the world’s first regulations on AI, which would ban biometric surveillance and ensure human control of the technologies, though the rules would not enter into force before 2025 at the earliest.
China has also discussed regulations but Western powers fear that Beijing, with its growing prowess in the field and willingness to export to fellow authoritarian countries, could effectively set global standards.
While concerns have risen about China in the European Union, the bloc as a whole has yet to take as assertive a stance as the US has, with French President Emmanuel Macron recently leading a major business delegation to the world’s second-largest economy.
But Blinken played down differences between the US and European positions on China, saying that “None of us are looking for a Cold War”.
“On the contrary, we all benefit from trade and investment with China, but as opposed to de-coupling, we are focused on de-risking,” he said.
Rising wonder of AI
The United States has made no serious effort to rein in AI despite rising calls for regulation, including by some in the tech industry.
Technology leaders, including Altman, warned in a joint statement Tuesday that AI could put the world at risk without regulation.
“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” they wrote.
ChatGPT burst into the spotlight late last year as it demonstrated an ability to generate essays, poems and conversations through minimal input.
Hoping to demonstrate both the strengths and risks of AI, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Wednesday delivered a speech to parliament partly written by ChatGPT.
“Even if it didn’t always hit the nail on the head, both in terms of the details of the government’s work programme and punctuation… it is both fascinating and terrifying what it is capable of,” she said.
The Computer and Communications Industry Association, which represents major technology firms, in a statement welcomed the “heightened, pointed transatlantic engagement” on AI at the meeting in Sweden.
But it reiterated its opposition to any EU fees or actions against foreign tech companies.
US FTC Says Amazon Ring Violated Customer Privacy, Announces $5.8-Million Settlement
By Reuters | Updated: 1 June 2023
A former employee of Amazon’s Ring doorbell camera unit spied for months on female customers in 2017 with cameras placed in bedrooms and bathrooms, the Federal Trade Commission said in a court filing on Wednesday when it announced a $5.8 million (roughly Rs. 47 crore) settlement with the company over privacy violations.
Amazon also agreed to pay $25 million (roughly Rs. 200 crore) to settle allegations it violated children’s privacy rights when it failed to delete Alexa recordings at the request of parents and kept them longer than necessary, according to a court filing in federal court in Seattle that outlined a separate settlement.
The FTC settlements are the agency’s latest effort to hold Big Tech accountable for policies critics say place profits from data collection ahead of privacy.
The FTC is also probing Amazon’s $1.7 billion (roughly Rs. 14,000 crore) deal to buy iRobot, which was announced in August 2022 in Amazon’s latest push into smart home devices, and has a separate antitrust probe underway into Amazon.
Amazon, which purchased Ring in April 2018, pledged to make some changes in its practices.
“While we disagree with the FTC’s claims regarding both Alexa and Ring, and deny violating the law, these settlements put these matters behind us,” Amazon said in a statement.
The FTC said Ring gave employees unrestricted access to customers’ sensitive video data: “As a result of this dangerously overbroad access and lax attitude toward privacy and security, employees and third-party contractors were able to view, download, and transfer customers’ sensitive video data.”
In one instance in 2017, an employee of Ring viewed videos made by at least 81 female customers and Ring employees using Ring products. “Undetected by Ring, the employee continued spying for months,” the FTC said.
A colleague noticed the misconduct and the employee was eventually terminated, the FTC complaint said.
In May 2018, an employee gave information about a customer’s recordings to the person’s ex-husband without consent, the complaint said. In another instance, an employee was found to have given Ring devices to people and then watched their videos without their knowledge, the FTC said.
As part of the FTC agreement with Ring, which expires after 20 years, Ring is required to disclose to customers how much access to their data the company and its contractors have.
In February 2019, Ring changed its policies so that most Ring employees or contractors could only access a customer’s private video with that person’s consent.
FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya told Reuters the settlements should send a message to tech companies that their need to collect data was not an excuse to break the law. “This is a very clear signal to them,” he said.
The fines, totaling $30.8 million (roughly Rs. 250 crore), represent a fraction of Amazon’s $3.2 billion (roughly Rs. 26,400 crore) first-quarter profit.
In its complaint against Amazon filed in Washington state, the FTC said that it violated rules protecting children’s privacy and rules against deceiving consumers who used Alexa. For example, the FTC complaint says that Amazon told users it would delete voice transcripts and location information upon request, but then failed to do so.
“The unlawfully retained voice recordings provided Amazon with a valuable database for training the Alexa algorithm to understand children, benefiting its bottom line at the expense of children’s privacy,” the FTC said.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
ISMC $3-Billion India Semiconductor Plant Plans Stall as Intel Acquires Tech Partner Tower
By Reuters | Updated: 1 June 2023
A planned $3 billion (roughly Rs. 24,700 crore) semiconductor facility in India by chip consortium ISMC that counted Israeli chipmaker Tower as a tech partner has been stalled due to the company’s ongoing takeover by Intel, three sources said, dashing India’s chip making plans.
A second mega $19.5 billion (roughly Rs. 1,60,800 crore) plan to build chips locally by a joint venture between India’s Vedanta and Taiwan’s Foxconn is also proceeding slowly as their talks to rope in European chipmaker STMicroelectronics as a partner are deadlocked, a fourth source with direct knowledge said.
The challenges faced by the companies deal a major setback to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has made chipmaking a top priority as he wants to “usher in a new era in electronics manufacturing” by luring global companies.
India, which expects its semiconductor market to be worth $63 billion (roughly Rs. 5,19,600 crore) by 2026, last year received three applications to set up plants under a $10 billion (roughly Rs. 82,500 crore) incentive scheme. They were from the Vedanta-Foxconn JV; a global consortium ISMC which counts Tower Semiconductor as a tech partner; and from Singapore-based IGSS Ventures.
The Vedanta JV plant is to come up in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, while ISMC and IGSS each committed $3 billion (roughly Rs. 24,700 crore) for plants in two separate southern states.
Three sources with direct knowledge of the strategy said ISMC’s $3 billion (roughly Rs. 24,700 crore) chipmaking facility plans are currently on hold as Tower could not proceed to sign binding agreements as things remain under review after Intel acquired it for $5.4 billion (roughly Rs. 44,500 crore) last year. The deal is pending regulatory approvals.
Talking about India’s semiconductor ambitions, India’s deputy IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar told Reuters in a May 19 interview ISMC “could not proceed” due to Intel acquiring Tower, and IGSS “wanted to re-submit (the application)” for incentives. The “two of them had to drop out,” he said, without elaborating.
Tower is likely to reevaluate taking part in the venture based on how its deal talks with Intel pan out, two of the sources said.
ISMC consortium partners Next Orbit Ventures did not respond to a request for comment and Tower declined to comment. Intel also declined comment.
Singapore-based IGSS did not respond, and neither did India’s federal IT ministry.
Setback for Vedanta
Most of the world’s chip output is limited to a few countries like Taiwan, and India is a late entrant. Amid much fanfare, in September, the Vedanta-Foxconn JV announced its chipmaking plans in Gujarat. Modi called the $19.5 billion (roughly Rs. 1,60,800 crore) plan “an important step” in boosting India’s chipmaking ambitions.
But things haven’t gone smoothly as the JV tries to hunt for a tech partner. The fourth source said Vedanta-Foxconn had got on board STMicroelectronics for licensing technology, but India’s government had conveyed it wants STMicro to have “more skin in the game” – like a stake in the partnership.
STMicro is not keen on that and the talks remain in limbo, the source added. “From STM’s perspective, that proposal doesn’t make sense because they want India market to first be more mature,” said the person.
Deputy IT minister Chandrasekhar told Reuters during the May 19 interview the Vedanta-Foxconn JV was “struggling currently to tie up with a technology partner.”
STMicro declined to comment.
In a statement, Vedanta-Foxconn JV CEO, David Reed, said they have an agreement with a technology partner to transfer technology with licenses, but declined to comment further.
In a move seen to revive investor interest, India’s IT ministry on Wednesday said the country will start re-inviting applications for chipmaking incentives. This time the companies can apply until December next year, as opposed to the initial phase where there was only a 45 day window.
“It is expected that some of the current applicants will reapply and new fresh investors will also apply,” minister Chandrasekhar said on Twitter.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Australia Says Tougher Laws Needed to Regulate AI, Considers Banning Deepfakes
By Reuters | Updated: 1 June 2023 12:50 IST
Australia said on Thursday it planned to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) including a potential ban on deepfakes and realistic-looking but false content, amid concerns the technology could be misused.
The move comes on the heels of a meeting of top AI executives earlier this week when they raised the “risk of extinction from AI” and urged policymakers to equate it to risks posed by pandemics and nuclear war.
“There is clearly, in the community, a concern about whether or not the technology is getting ahead of itself,” Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic told ABC television.
A report by Australia’s National Science and Technology Council released on Thursday showed AI-generated content could be misused in parliamentary consultations by creating a flood of submissions to mislead public opinion.
“Governments have got a clear role to play in recognising the risk and … putting curbs in place,” Husic said.
Australia was among the first countries to regulate AI, unveiling a voluntary ethics framework in 2018.
Husic acknowledged gaps remained in laws covering copyright, privacy and consumer protection, and said the government wanted to ensure its legal frameworks were “fit for purpose” given the rapid development of the AI sector.
European lawmakers last month inched closer to pass a law to regulate AI, potentially the world’s first comprehensive AI law that could form a precedent among advanced economies.
Husic said Australia would also consider banning high-risk elements of AI if there was strong demand for it during public consultations to frame the new laws.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
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