This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.
Congress clears way for internet providers to sell web browsing history
Internet providers are now just one President Trump signature away from being able to take, share, and sell your web browsing history without your permission.
A resolution passed in the House of Representatives that overturned an Obama-era FCC rule that required internet providers to get customers’ permission before sharing their browsing history with other companies. The rules also required internet providers to protect that data from hackers and inform customers of breaches.
“The consequences of passing this resolution are clear: broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, and others will be able to sell your personal information to the highest bidder without your permission. And no one will be able to protect you, not even the Federal Trade Commission that our friends on the other side of the aisle keep talking about.”
-Anna Eshoo, House Rep. (D-Ca) on the floor
“Consumer policy will continue to be protected and will actually be enhanced by removing the uncertainty and confusion these [Obama] rules will create.”
-Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), House subcommittee on communications & technology chair
The FCC will now be left without firm regulations for internet providers on the books.
In an added blow, the resolution prevents the FCC from passing privacy restrictions protecting all web browsing history again. The commission will still be able to block internet providers from sharing info related to children, banking, or medical history, which the FTC considered sensitive in the first place.
Facebook copies Snapchat… again
Facebook has launched Stories, the exact same 24-hour photo and video montage feature that Snapchat pioneered and Facebook iterated on for Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.
The update rolling out globally now on iOS and Android has three parts: a redesigned in-app camera, the new Stories feature, and a private messaging feature called Direct.
“The way people create content is changing to be from text to photos and videos. This is in turn changing the way they’re sharing with one another and interacting online. This is something that Snapchat has really pioneered.”
-Connor Hayes, Facebook stories product manager
In case you’ve been living under a Snapchat ghost-sized rock, Facebook stories are made up with photos and videos that disappear 24 hours after they’re posted. You can decorate your posts with text, drawings, stickers, and animated filters.
To create a story, you can either swipe right on the News Feed or tap the camera in the top-left corner of the mobile app. Once you’ve satisfied with your creation, you can either share it with all your friends or a subset of selected friends. In the former case, your post will appear in a horizontally scrolling feed of stories atop the Facebook app. In the latter, the post will appear in Direct.
Uber releases first diversity report
Uber has released its first diversity report detailing the demographics of its employees as of this month. Basically, the company (like most tech companies) is predominantly white and male.
Worldwide, Uber is 36.1 percent female and 63.9 percent male. In tech roles, women make up just 15.4 percent of the employee pool.
“It’s no secret that we’re late to release these numbers. And I’d like to thank our employees for their tenacity in arguing the case for greater transparency – because what you don’t measure, you can’t improve.”
-Liane Hornsey, Uber chief human resources officer
For comparison, female representation at Facebook and Apple is 32 percent, Airbnb stands at 43 percent, and Pinterest is 44 percent female.
Uber also shines in its representation of African-Americans and Latinx.
Overall, Uber is 8.8 percent black, 5.6 percent Latinx, and 4.3 percent mixed. In technical roles, those percentages drop to 1 percent, 2.1 percent, and 2.4 percent respectively.
That compares to 2 percent black, 4 percent Latinx, and 3 percent mixed at Facebook; 9 percent black, 12 percent Latinx, and 2 percent mixed at Apple; 2.9 percent black and 6.5 percent Latinx; and 2 percent black, 4 percent Latinx, and 4 percent mixed at Pinterest.
In terms of leadership, 22 percent of Uber’s population is female, 2.3 percent is black, 0.8 percent is Latinx, and 76.7 percent is white.
The company also disclosed that 15 percent of its U.S. employees have a work visa, and come from 71 different countries.
“This report is a first step in showing that diversity and inclusion is a priority at Uber. I know that we have been too slow in publishing our numbers – and that the best way to demonstrate our commitment to change is through transparency. And to make progress, it’s important we measure what matters.”
-Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO
Uber didn’t lay out any specific goals that it wants to achieve.
“While there are many things we need to change about our culture, I believe that making Uber a more diverse and inclusive workspace is key.”
The company has committed $3 million over the next three years to support organizations focused on underrepresented minorities and women in tech. Uber hasn’t announced where the money is going, but Hornsey said that “employees will be critical” in that decision-making process.
Tinder jumps to the web
Tinder users can now access the platform from their desktops.
Tinder Online still requires that you sign in to your account through Facebook, and it doesn’t include revenue features like Tinder Boost or Super Like for now.
According to Tinder head of product Brian Norgard, Online is meant to serve users in emerging markets who don’t have enough storage on their phone or a big enough data plan for Tinder’s image-heavy fed. It’s also meant to offer Tinder power users the option to do their swiping and messaging on desktop, which is far easier than a mobile app.
“Mobile phones not allowed in class? Just fire up your laptop and swipe incognito. Cubicle life got you down? Now you can toggle between spreadsheets and Super Likes in a flash. ‘Not Enough Storage?’ Not a problem. Don’t let life get in the way of your Tinder game.”
-Tinder, in a blog post
Tinder says that it’s only collecting location via the browser from users that log in to Tinder Online.
“Our DNA is mobile so there was a learning curve involved in building something for a bigger screen. It was a challenge because when you start your birth as a mobile company, building for the web feels like you’re going backwards. There is a different skill set from a design perspective and a user behavior perspective. What makes Tinder great on your phone might not make it great on the desktop, and vice versa.
Tinder is currently testing Tinder Online in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Philippines, and Sweden, with plans to launch everywhere “soon.”
Amazon debuts AmazonFresh Pickup, drive-up groceries delivered to your trunk
AmazonFresh Pickup, a new drive-in grocery delivery service for Amazon Prime customers, has launched in beta. Shoppers can order online from AmazonFresh’s selection, pick a time slot (as early as 15 minutes after you place your order), and then drive to an AmazonFresh Pickup location and pull into a parking space, where your groceries will be loaded directly into your car by a service agent within a few minutes.
The service is a free addition for Prime subscribers, and there’s no minimum order.
Available products include fresh produce, meats, dairy, and a range of household items. As of now, the program is only limited to Amazon employees geographically close to Seattle’s SODO and Ballard neighborhoods, where the company’s two current AmazonFresh Pickup locations reside.
Google Home, WiFi coming to UK in April
According to Google, its Home and Wifi devices will be available soon in the U.K., the first international markets for the gadgets.
The products will go on sale at the Google Store on Apr. 6. Google Home will set you back £129, while Wifi will set you back £129 for one and £229 in a two-pack. They’ll also be on sale at British retailers Argos, Dixons, John Lewis, and Maplin.
Tencent buys five percent stake in Tesla
Chinese social media giant Tencent has paid $1.78 billion for a five percent stake in Tesla, according to a filing. This makes Tencent Tesla’s fifth-largest shareholder, behind founder Elon Musk and several investment firms.
The investment will help Tesla ramp up Model 3 production before it launches in 2018.
Twitch to start selling video games this week
Twitch has begun selling Windows games and other in-game content on the site, according to the company.
Game buyers will receive a free Twitch Crate, which will include a selection of items that can be used on its site while watching streams and interacting with others. For example, there might be exclusive emotes (emojis), chat badges, and Bits for Cheering – items that typically cost Twitch users money to purchase.
Those Twitch Crates will be doled to any purchases that set you back at least $4.99.
At launch, around 50 titles and related in-game content will be available for purchase, according to Twitch, up from the couple dozen announced earlier.
The debut lineup includes:
- Ubisoft: For Honor, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands
- Telltale Games: The Walking Dead, Minecraft: Story Mode
- Hi-Rez Studios: SMITE, Paladins
- Paradox Interactive: Tyranny
- Trion Worlds: Atlas Reactor
- Double Fine Productions: Broken Age, Psychonauts
- Campo Santos: Firewatch
- Jackbox Games: Jackbox Party Pack 3
- Digital Extremes: Warframe
The games will roll out over the next week.
Partnered streamers who have opted into this new commerce program will earn five percent of sales from their channel, according to Twitch, with game publishers earning 70 percent of revenue from game sales.
The games and the in-game items will be made available for sale on Twitch channel and game detail pages, with Twitch streamers becoming the site’s salesforce and marketing team in a way.
The games are available for download through the newly minted Twitch Desktop app.
Twitch is kicking things off with the Twitch Crates Gear Giveaway, offering a chance of winning games and streaming gear, with a grand prize of over $500 in professional streaming equipment through April.