Longtime LG Group chairman Koo Bon-Moo dies at 73

Longtime LG Group chairman Koo Bon-Moo dies at 73

South Korean electronics conglomerate LG Group announced this morning that the company’s longtime chairman Koo Bon-Moo has passed away at 73. Koo’s death follows a year-long battle with brain disease, for which he had undergone surgery, according to Reuters.

The executive stepped into the role in 1995 and served as a driving force in establishing LG as an electronics powerhouse. His tenure focused on electronics, chemicals and telecom, and Koo also oversaw the company’s transition from Lucky Goldstar to the more streamlined LG, a name change that occurred the year he took power.

Bloomberg notes that the company more than quintupled sales under Koo’s near quarter-century tenure atop LG.

Koo Kwang-mo, the late-executive’s adopted son, is expect to take over the reins of the company, marking the fourth generation of family control for the electronics company. The younger Koo has been with the company since 2006, starting in its finance division and now running its information display unit.

Koo Kwang-mo was nominated to the company’s board on Thursday. His approval is pending a shareholder vote late next month,.


Source: Tech Crunch

Shared housing startups are taking off

Shared housing startups are taking off

When young adults leave the parental nest, they often follow a predictable pattern. First, move in with roommates. Then graduate to a single or couple’s pad. After that comes the big purchase of a single-family home. A lawnmower might be next.

Looking at the new home construction industry, one would have good reason to presume those norms were holding steady. About two-thirds of new homes being built in the U.S. this year are single-family dwellings, complete with tidy yards and plentiful parking.

In startup-land, however, the presumptions about where housing demand is going looks a bit different. Home sharing is on the rise, along with more temporary lease options, high-touch service and smaller spaces in sought-after urban locations.

Seeking roommates and venture capital

Crunchbase News analysis of residential-focused real estate startups uncovered a raft of companies with a shared and temporary housing focus that have raised funding in the past year or so.

This isn’t a U.S.-specific phenomenon. Funded shared and short-term housing startups are cropping up across the globe, from China to Europe to Southeast Asia. For this article, however, we’ll focus on U.S. startups. In the chart below, we feature several that have raised recent rounds.

Notice any commonalities? Yes, the startups listed are all based in either New York or the San Francisco Bay Area, two metropolises associated with scarce, pricey housing. But while these two metro areas offer the bulk of startups’ living spaces, they’re also operating in other cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle and Pittsburgh.

From white picket fences to high-rise partitions

The early developers of the U.S. suburban planned communities of the 1950s and 60s weren’t just selling houses. They were selling a vision of the American Dream, complete with quarter-acre lawns, dishwashers and spacious garages.

By the same token, today’s shared housing startups are selling another vision. It’s not just about renting a room; it’s also about being part of a community, making friends and exploring a new city.

One of the slogans for HubHaus is “rent one of our rooms and find your tribe.” Founded less than three years ago, the company now manages about 80 houses in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, matching up roommates and planning group events.

Starcity pitches itself as an antidote to loneliness. “Social isolation is a growing epidemic—we solve this problem by bringing people together to create meaningful connections,” the company homepage states.

The San Francisco company also positions its model as a partial solution to housing shortages as it promotes high-density living. It claims to increase living capacity by three times the normal apartment building.

Costs and benefits

Shared housing startups are generally operating in the most expensive U.S. housing markets, so it’s difficult to categorize their offerings as cheap. That said, the cost is typically lower than a private apartment.

Mostly, the aim seems to be providing something affordable for working professionals willing to accept a smaller private living space in exchange for a choice location, easy move-in and a ready-made social network.

At Starcity, residents pay $2,000 to $2,300 a month, all expenses included, depending on length of stay. At HomeShare, which converts two-bedroom luxury flats to three-bedrooms with partitions, monthly rents start at about $1,000 and go up for larger spaces.

Shared and temporary housing startups also purport to offer some savings through flexible-term leases, typically with minimum stays of one to three months. Plus, they’re typically furnished, with no need to set up Wi-Fi or pay power bills.

Looking ahead

While it’s too soon to pick winners in the latest crop of shared and temporary housing startups, it’s not far-fetched to envision the broad market as one that could eventually attract much larger investment and valuations. After all, Airbnb has ascended to a $30 billion private market value for its marketplace of vacation and short-term rentals. And housing shortages in major cities indicate there’s plenty of demand for non-Airbnb options.

While we’re focusing here on residential-focused startups, it’s also worth noting that the trend toward temporary, flexible, high-service models has already gained a lot of traction for commercial spaces. Highly funded startups in this niche include Industrious, a provider of flexible-term, high-end office spaces, Knotel, a provider of customized workplaces, and Breather, which provides meeting and work rooms on demand. Collectively, those three companies have raised about $300 million to date.

At first glance, it may seem shared housing startups are scaling up at an off time. The millennial generation (born roughly 1980 to 1994) can no longer be stereotyped as a massive band of young folks new to “adulting.” The average member of the generation is 28, and older millennials are mid-to-late thirties. Many even own lawnmowers.

No worries. Gen Z, the group born after 1995, is another huge generation. So even if millennials age out of shared housing, demographic forecasts indicate there will plenty of twenty-somethings to rent those partitioned-off rooms.


Source: Tech Crunch

‘My Data Request’ lists guides to get data about you

‘My Data Request’ lists guides to get data about you

GDPR is right around the corner, so it’s time to prepare your personal data requests. If you live in the European Union, tech companies have to comply with personal data requests after May 25th. And there’s a handy website that helps you do just that.

My Data Request lists dozens of tech companies and tells you how you can contact them. The website also links to the privacy policy of each service and tells you what to do even if you don’t live in the EU.

Some companies, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, Tinder and Snapchat have made that easy as they have created a page on their website to download a zip archive with all your personal data.

But it’s worth nothing that your archive doesn’t necessarily include all data about you. For instance, Facebook tracks your web and location history as much as possible. But you won’t find any of that in the archive. The download tool is mostly about getting a copy of your posts, Messenger conversations, photos and more.

For most companies (including Amazon), you’ll have to email them yourself. My Data Request has created handy email templates. You just have to copy the message, put your name and contact information and send the email. The email addresses are listed on My Data Request’s site too.

Some companies make it even harder than that. I haven’t checked all guides, but you have to send a letter to Uber to get your data for instance. For HSBC clients, you have to call the company.

It’s unfortunate that there’s no about page on My Data Request — it’s unclear who’s behind this website. Nevertheless, the website’s privacy policy says that it doesn’t collect any personal data when you interact with the site (but it uses Google Analytics).

You don’t have to connect with third-party APIs or give access to your personal account to request your data. It’s just links and text, and an interactive way to learn about data requests.


Source: Tech Crunch

Siempo’s new app will break your smartphone addiction

Siempo’s new app will break your smartphone addiction

A new app called Siempo wants to un-addict you from your smartphone and its numerous attention-stealing apps. To do so, Siempo replaces an Android device’s homescreen, while also taking advantage of a number of design principles to push distractions further away, and give you more control over your notifications.

The startup, which launched a few weeks ago on Google Play, actually began as a hardware company. 

A hardware startup shifts to software

In 2015, the original co-founders Andreas Gala and Jorge Selva began developing a minimalist feature phone device called Minium, in response to their concerns with today’s always-on culture. But designing hardware from scratch is hard, so they pivoted to making a mindful smartphone called Siempo using an existing handset from China.

The following year, Siempo brought on Mayank Saxena (CTO), who previously ran data storage engineering teams at NetApp, and Andrew Dunn (now CEO), who was previously the number six employee at Flexport. 

“I struggled with smartphone and social media addiction as a teenager and had been working on a wearable to help people balance their relationship with tech,” explains Dunn. And Mayank, he says, “had become increasingly concerned about raising balanced children in the digital age,” prior to joining Siempo.

Unfortunately, when the company tried raising funds on Kickstarter in 2017, it didn’t meet its goal.

What the team had underestimated was how difficult it is to convince people to switch smartphones. And in this case, it wasn’t just asking them to buy new hardware – it was a request to try a whole new type of mobile experience, too.

Although the Kickstarter failed, it had provided the team with valuable feedback.

 

“When we launched our Kickstarter campaign, we heard from dozens of potential backers that they loved our concept but would much prefer to try and pay for a software version on their existing devices,” says Dunn. “We knew we could still build ninety-five percent of what we wanted to, so it was a clear path to explore.”

At this point, the original co-founders moved on to other projects, leaving Dunn to take the helm.

The new project, he says, appealed to him because of the negative nature of today’s technology.

“The attention economy is making people more distracted, stressed, lonely and depressed,” Dunn says. “Big Tech is unlikely to take meaningful leadership in humane design, and individuals are at a loss for what to do because developing healthier digital habits is a long-term, manual, iterative process,” he adds.

Siempo, currently in beta, aims to address this problem with a set of features that should appeal to anyone questioning if they’ve become too addicted to their phone.

After downloading the launcher from the Play Store, you can set Siempo as your default home app – meaning, you’ll now interact with its humanely designed interface instead of the stock version from your smartphone’s maker.

To lessen your attachment to your device, Siempo reverses some of the persuasive, psychologically addicting techniques that have been built into our phone software and mobile apps by developers who specifically engineered their apps to increase user engagement, without fully understanding the ethics of that decision.

Entire OS platforms and massive social media companies like Facebook have, over the years, created systems to reward users who continually check in with their phones. These dopamine-driven feedback loops create a cycle of smartphone addiction, with users having no tools to fight back beyond their own willpower.

The world is just now starting to wake up to these mistakes, including some people who built the systems in the first place.

For instance, former Facebook president Sean Parker has said Facebook’s design exploited weakness in the human psyche to addict users, while former head of user growth turned VC Chamath Palihapitiya admitted to having “tremendous guilt” over what Facebook had become. Meanwhile, former Google exec Tristan Harris created a coalition called the Center for Humane Technology, in an effort to “realign technology with humanity’s best interests.”

And digital wellness is now a movement raking in millions.

Siempo fits in within this broader category of self-care apps focused on a more balanced use of technology.

How Siempo works

Once installed, Siempo makes your homescreen a calmer interface, without things like badged icons or colorful corporate logos. Here, you can personalize a message that appears when you unlock your phone – like a daily mantra – and in an update rolling out Wednesday, you’ll be able to set a custom background or turn on a dark mode.

One of the launcher’s key features is how it lets you batch your notifications.

Instead of allowing apps to alert you at any time they choose, you can configure your phone to send your alerts on a schedule you prefer – like every half hour, the top of the hour, or – if you want to go all in – just once per day. (You can choose which apps, if any, are allowed to break through.)

Siempo also leverages a number of design techniques to distance you from your distractions, including by unbranding app icons and turning them to greyscale.

Plus, the launcher organizes apps into a tiered menu system where distracting apps are further away on a third page, and the location of those apps is randomized upon each visit to prevent unconscious opens and usage.

“Users have reported that merely the act of identifying which apps they want to use less creates a huge shift in their relationship with that app,” notes Dunn.

The app has now been endorsed by the Center for Humane Technology as an example of humane design.

Siempo has raised funds from Backstage Capital for its project. To date, Siempo raised $555,000 for its hardware project and $400,000 for its software.

The app is free during its beta, but plans to implement a pay-as-you-want subscription starting at $1 per month – this will make the app accessible to everyone, no matter how much they can spend. The company says it’s also talking to several startup smartphone brands to become their default interface.

Longer-term, Dunn believes the Siempo experience can span platforms.

“Siempo will be a unified layer across all your tools – smartphone, desktop, tablet, wearables, etc. – protecting your attention, preventing unconscious usage and improving mental health,” he says. “We are excited to build out an A.I. interface that can learn the user’s behavior and adjust their digital world to support their goals and intentions,” Dunn adds, speaking of what he envisions Siempo can become.

“We aim to be a good, trusted, impactful tech company that is on the user’s side, respecting their wellbeing and privacy,” he says.

The app is available on Google Play, as that platform allows for this level of change and customization. A modified version may arrive on iOS in the future.

 


Source: Tech Crunch

La Belle Vie wants to compete with Amazon Prime Now in Paris

La Belle Vie wants to compete with Amazon Prime Now in Paris

French startup La Belle Vie announced a new funding round of $6.5 million earlier this week (€5.5 million). Julien Mangeard, Thibaut Faurès Fustel de Coulanges, Louis Duclert, Kima Ventures and Shake-Up Factory participated in the founding round.

Online grocery shopping is becoming quite competitive in Paris. You can order groceries from Amazon using Amazon Prime Now. And all the traditional supermarkets are launching or relaunching services to order and receive groceries within a couple of hours — Carrefour Livraison Express, Franprix’s mobile app, etc.

But all those services aren’t necessarily designed for this kind of offering. With Franprix’s app for instance, a rider is going to pick up your groceries in the nearest store and bring them to you. With Amazon Prime Now, Amazon has a big warehouse in the North of Paris filled with Kindles, books and tomatoes.

La Belle Vie wants to focus exclusively on your groceries and optimize all the steps. It starts with a big inventory. La Belle Vie sells you basic groceries, organic stuff, meat, fish and vegetables. Last year, the company acqui-hired 62degrés to sell fresh prepared meals too.

La Belle Vie has developed all its tools from scratch, including its ERP, a warehouse management service and a delivery management service. In 2017, the startup generated $3.5 million in sales (€3 million) in sales.

With this funding round, the company plans to launch a second warehouse in Paris and new cities, starting with Lyon. But the best part is that you can order croissants without going to the boulangerie — finally a croissants-as-a-service startup.


Source: Tech Crunch

Apple started paying $15 billion European tax fine

Apple started paying billion European tax fine

It took a couple of years, but Apple has started to pay back illegal tax benefits to the Irish government. The company has paid $1.77 billion (€1.5 billion) into an escrow account designed to hold the fine. Apple has to pay $15 billion in total (€13 billion).

In August 2016, the European Commission said that Apple benefited from illegal tax benefits in Ireland from 2003 to 2014. According to Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Apple managed to lower its effective corporate tax rate thanks to a Double Irish structure.

By creating two different Irish subsidiaries and allocating profit to the right subsidiary, you can end up paying corporate tax on a fraction of your actual profit. Of course, Apple wasn’t the only tech company that optimized its tax structure. And the company also claimed that everything was legal.

The Irish government tried to appeal the decision but the decision remained intact. Ireland had to recover €13 billion starting on January 2017.

But nothing happened.

At some point Vestager got mad again and referred the case to the European Court of Justice. This time, Vestager wasn’t attacking Apple, but Ireland.

It looks like the case is closed now and Apple will slowly pay back the fine over time. Unfortunately, the fine is now more expensive than before because the U.S. dollar has been going down for a couple of years. Apple has hundreds of billions in cash, and a significant portion is overseas.

European governments lobbied to put an end to the Double Irish back in 2014. Apple moved some of its international cash to the tiny island of Jersey around the same time.

European governments are currently discussing a tax reform to tax big tech companies based on actual revenue in each European country. This way, tech companies wouldn’t be able to report profit in just one country with a lower corporate tax rate. But it’s taking longer than expected as some member countries are still dragging their feet.


Source: Tech Crunch

Original Content podcast: ‘Dear White People’ returns to ask more uncomfortable questions

Original Content podcast: ‘Dear White People’ returns to ask more uncomfortable questions

Dear White People has a pretty provocative title — and the show, for the most part, lives up to that promise, with a sharply drawn portrait of racial tension at Winchester University, a fictional Ivy League school.

It was originally a film written and directed by Justin Simien, who then reinvented the story as a Netflix series with each episode focusing on a different character; the spotlight shifts from Samantha White (played by Logan Browning), the host of the titular radio show, to many of the other students — white and black — around her.

The show just returned for season two, and on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we’re joined by our colleague Megan Rose Dickey (who also co-hosts Ctrl-T) to talk about our impressions of the new episodes, the show’s politics and how it resonates with our own lives and experiences.

We also cover Netflix’s goal of hitting 1,000 originals by the end of the year and the Jordan Peel-produced series about Nazi hunters that was just picked up by Amazon. Most importantly, we try to understand why Megan has never seen The Godfather.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You also can send us feedback directly.


Source: Tech Crunch

Meet the judges for the TC Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech

Meet the judges for the TC Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech

VivaTech is right around the corner, and I’m excited to introduce you to the third batch of judges that will come to Paris for TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Europe.

If you haven’t been to TechCrunch Disrupt, the Startup Battlefield is arguably the most interesting part of the show. Before everybody started doing a startup competition, there was the Startup Battlefield. Companies like Dropbox, Fitbit, N26 and Yammer all launched on the TechCrunch stage.

And we’re bringing talented investors and founders to judge the startups. Here’s the third round of judges (see part 1 and part 2).

Rob Moffat, Partner, Balderton Capital

Rob joined Balderton Capital in 2009 and was promoted to partner in 2015. He is currently a board director or observer with five portfolio companies: Carwow, Wooga, Nutmeg, Prodigy Finance, and Patients Know Best.
Other investments he has worked with at Balderton include Qubit, Citymapper, Housetrip, Scoot and Archify. Rob’s focus sector is fintech, in particular insurance and retail financial services. Marketing is a particular area of interest, and Rob is responsible for best practice sharing in marketing across the portfolio. Prior to joining Balderton, Rob worked for Google in London, as a Manager in the European Strategy and Operations team.
He started his career with five years in strategy consulting with Bain, and holds an MBA from INSEAD and a Masters in Statistics from Cambridge.

Marie Ekland, Co-Founder, daphni

Marie Ekeland is co-founder of daphni, a venture capital firm which invests in European tech startups and is supported by an online platform and an international community of experts. She began her career in 1997 at J.P. Morgan in New York as a computer scientist. Since 2000, Marie has been acting as a VC, first at CPR Private Equity, then, from 2005 to 2014 at Elaia Partners, leading investments in Criteo, Edoki Academy, Pandacraft, Teads, Wyplay, and Ykone. In 2012 she co-founded France Digitale, bringing together French VCs & entrepreneurs to make the French digital ecosystem thrive. She serves as a board member for Parrot, Showroomprive. Marie holds an engineering degree in mathematics and computer science from Paris Dauphine University as well as a master’s degree in Economics from the Paris School of Economics.

Antoine Nussbaum, Partner, Felix Capital

Antoine is a Partner and member of the founding team of Felix Capital. He currently sits on the boards of Heetch, Frichti, Papier, TravelPerk and Urban Massage. He previously was a Partner at Atlas Global, a private equity fund originally part of GLG Partners. Prior to Felix Capital he has worked closely with various early-stage digital startups including Mirakl, Reedsy, 31Dover and actively helped them launch their businesses. He has also been involved since inception with Huckletree, a fast growing coworking operator dedicated to the European digital community which was started by his wife. Antoine moved to London in 2006 when he joined ABN AMRO as an M&A investment banker. Prior to this he was based in Paris and was part of the founding team of NT Valley, a software business dedícated to retail and hospitality industries. A graduate of ESCP European Business School and University Paris Dauphine, Antoine is fluent in English, French and Spanish.

Eileen Burbidge, Partner, Passion Capital

Eileen Burbidge is a Partner at Passion Capital, the pre-eminent early-stage VC fund based in London. She brings extensive operational experience to her investment activities gleaned from business and product roles at Yahoo!, Skype, Apple and elsewhere.
In addition to Passion Capital, Eileen is also the Chair of TechCity UK, which is the British government-backed organisation supporting digital business across the UK. She is also HM Treasury’s Special Envoy for FinTech appointed by then Chancellor George Osborne; Tech Ambassador for the Mayor of London’s office and served on former Prime Minister David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group.
Eileen was made an MBE for services to Business in June 2015 and holds a BSc Engineering degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Liron Azrielant, General Partner, Meron Capital

Liron is a General Partner at Meron Capital and has over 10 years of experience in the investment and tech industries. Liron also manages the Young Venture Capital Forum in Israel – a professional organization connecting over 150 young partners, principals and associates from all VC firms in Israel.

Prior to joining Meron Capital, Liron was a Principal at Blumberg Capital and led Cyber, SaaS, Marketing-tech and Infrastructure IT deals. Prior to that, she was a Strategy and M&A consultant at Bain Capital and PwC’s PE group in New York, where she lead commercial and operational due-diligence projects for the largest private equity firms in the US. Before moving to the US, Liron was a technical Applications Engineer at Agilent Technologies, where she worked with blue-chip clients in Europe, Asia and the US.

Liron has an MBA from MIT-Sloan, an M.Sc. in Computer Science from MIT and a B.Sc. in Math and Physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At 25, she was the youngest student ever to graduate MIT’s dual MBA / M.Sc. degree program. She started her bachelor’s degree at Talpiot, the elite Israeli Defense Forces program, and completed it while serving full-time as a technology analyst and researcher at the Israeli intelligence unit 8200.


Source: Tech Crunch

NASA’s newest planet-hunting satellite takes a stellar first test image

NASA’s newest planet-hunting satellite takes a stellar first test image

TESS, the satellite launched by NASA last month that will search thousands of stars for Earth-like exoplanets, has just sent back its first test image. It’s just a quick one, not “science-quality,” but it does give you an idea of the scale of the mission: the area TESS will eventually document is 400 times the area covered by this shot.

What you see above is the star field around the constellation Centaurus; this 2-second exposure captured more than 200,000 stars. That’s just in one image from one of the four cameras on board; the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will employ all four during its mission, watching individual regions of space for 27 days straight over the course of two orbits.

Here’s a crop from the center:

Repeated high-resolution imagery of these star fields will let the team on the ground watch for any that dim briefly, indicating that a planet may be passing in between the star and our solar system. This will let it watch far, far more stars than the otherwise similar Kepler mission, which even by looking at only dim stars with a relatively narrow field of view, found evidence of thousands of exoplanets for scientists to pore over.

TESS just yesterday received a gravity assist from the moon, putting it near its final orbit. A last engine burn on May 30 will complete that maneuver and the satellite will enter into the highly eccentric, as yet untried orbit designed by its creators.

Once that orbit is attained and all systems are go, new imagery will come in about every two weeks when TESS is at its closest point to Earth. “First light,” or the first actual fully calibrated, usable image from the satellite, is expected some time in June.


Source: Tech Crunch

Does Google’s Duplex violate two-party consent laws?

Does Google’s Duplex violate two-party consent laws?

Google’s Duplex, which calls businesses on your behalf and imitates a real human, ums and ahs included, has sparked a bit of controversy among privacy advocates. Doesn’t Google recording a person’s voice and sending it to a datacenter for analysis violate two-party consent law, which requires everyone in a conversation to agree to being recorded? The answer isn’t immediately clear, and Google’s silence isn’t helping.

Let’s take California’s law as the example, since that’s the state where Google is based and where it used the system. Penal Code section 632 forbids recording any “confidential communication” (defined more or less as any non-public conversation) without the consent of all parties. (The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press has a good state-by-state guide to these laws.)

Google has provided very little in the way of details about how Duplex actually works, so attempting to answer this question involves a certain amount of informed speculation.

As a first assumption, it seems clear that, like most Google services, Duplex’s work takes place in a datacenter somewhere, not locally on your device. So fundamentally there is a requirement in the system that the other party’s audio will be in recorded and sent in some form to that datacenter for processing, at which point a response is formulated and spoken.

On its face it sounds bad for Google. There’s no way the system is getting consent from whoever picks up the phone. That would spoil the whole interaction — “This call is being conducted by a Google system using speech recognition and synthesis; your voice will be analyzed at Google datacenters. Press 1 or say ‘I consent’ to consent.” I would have hung up after about two words. The whole idea is to mask the fact that it’s an AI system at all, so getting consent that way won’t work.

But there’s wiggle room as far as the consent requirement in how the audio is recorded, transmitted, and stored. After all, there are systems out there that may have to temporarily store a recording of a person’s voice without their consent — think of a VoIP call that caches audio for a fraction of a second in case of packet loss. There’s even a specific cutout in the law for hearing aids, which if you think about it do in fact do “record” private conversations. Temporary copies produced as part of a legal, beneficial service aren’t the target of this law.

This is partly because the law is about preventing eavesdropping and wiretapping, not preventing any recorded representation of conversation whatsoever that isn’t explicitly authorized. Legislative intent is important.

“There’s a little legal uncertainty there, in the sense of what degree of permanence is required to constitute eavesdropping,” said Mason Kortz, of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. “The big question is what is being sent to the datacenter and how is it being retained. If it’s retained in the condition that the original conversation is understandable, that’s a violation.”

For instance, Google could conceivably keep a recording of the call, perhaps for AI training purposes, perhaps for quality assurance, perhaps for users’ own records (in case of time slot dispute at the salon, for example). They do retain other data along these lines.

But it would be foolish. Google has an army of lawyers and consent would have been one of the first things they tackled in the deployment of Duplex. For the on-stage demos it would be simple enough to collect proactive consent from the businesses they were going to contact. But for actual use by consumers the system needs to engineered with the law in mind.

What would a functioning but legal Duplex look like? The conversation would likely have to be deconstructed and permanently discarded immediately after intake, the way audio is cached in a device like a hearing aid or a service like digital voice transmission.

A closer example of this is Amazon, which might have found itself in violation of COPPA, a law protecting children’s data, whenever a kid asked an Echo to play a Raffi song or do long division. The FTC decided that as long as Amazon and companies in that position immediately turn the data into text and then delete it afterwards, no harm and therefore no violation. That’s not an exact analogue to Google’s system, but it is nonetheless instructive.

“It may be possible with careful design to extract the features you need without keeping the original, in a way where it’s mathematically impossible to recreate the recording,” Kortz said.

If that process is verifiable and there’s no possibility of eavesdropping — no chance any Google employee, law enforcement officer, or hacker could get into the system and intercept or collect that data — then potentially Duplex could be deemed benign, transitory recording in the eye of the law.

That assumes a lot, though. Frustratingly, Google could clear this up with a sentence or two. It’s suspicious that the company didn’t address this obvious question with even a single phrase, like Sundar Pichai adding during the presentation that “yes, we are compliant with recording consent laws.” Instead of people wondering if, they’d be wondering how. And of course we’d all still be wondering why.

We’ve reached out to Google multiple times on various aspects of this story, but for a company with such talkative products, they sure clammed up fast.


Source: Tech Crunch