Enterprise

Congressional big tech hearing: Facebook and Google’s involvement

Why are Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google in trouble?

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This is a two-part series explaining the “Big Tech” debate in detail. With the recent congressional hearing, we’ve taken a look at Apple and Amazon in Part 1.

The new synonym of social — Facebook

Facebook has been at the center of all discussions about online privacy and security. The social networking company has grown exponentially in the last decade, and it almost seems like nothing can stop it.

Starting as a simple social networking alternative to the likes of Friendster and MySpace, Facebook has improved radically as a product as well as a company. It proved that a free-to-use social network is possible with ads and went onto grow an empire out of it. While competition soon fizzled out, Facebook constantly innovated. Remember the time everyone was hooked to Farmville?

When the original product, Facebook, started reaching a saturation level, and younger users were looking for something new, it acquired Instagram. The fledgling app became a huge success, thanks to Facebook’s already available user base. Within a decade, Facebook acquired multiple strategic investments like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus.

For a brief moment, Snapchat was considered to be a danger to Instagram. And, Facebook had no qualms in blatantly copying its features. Today, Stories are an integral part of the Instagram experience. Thanks to its investment in augmented reality as well as virtual reality, the filter library on Instagram is filled to the brim with creative options.

Even though Facebook had an in-built instant messaging service called Messenger, Facebook acquired WhatsApp. The acquisition gave it an unimaginable reach in developing markets. Today, the company has billions of active users across the globe.

But, did you notice one trend? Facebook pretty much controls all of social networking online. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp in one basket dominate the industry. Facebook has almost 2.5 billion active users.

The fact that it could practically mimic Snapchat without any liability proves how strong one company is. Now, the company is trying to bridge the TikTok vacuum with Reels and YouTube with IGTV.

A company mired with reckless management

Not only does its dominance stifle competition, but it also makes it responsible for a lot of user data. And, we all know Facebook’s reputation with privacy is quite muddy. It was revealed that data of more than 50 million users was used by foreign powers to manipulate the 2016 US Presidential election. Cambridge Analytica closely analyzed the preferences and opinions of these users and targeted them with political ads in a bid to change the voter’s decision and sway them towards a particular candidate.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed this psychological tactic was also used during Brexit. Political parties from around the world were clients, leveraging this as service. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has attended a congressional hearing in the past, and the internet is filled with memes about it. But, the primary concern continues to exist — is user data safe?

This question gets tougher to answer when we consider the scale at which the company operates. From the Upper Eastside to a warzone, Facebook has users everywhere. The company has always maintained that it follows industry-leading security standards, and users, as well as authorities, can trust it. However, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has introduced the common to the dangers of cyber warfare.

If ad targeting wasn’t enough, the story doesn’t end for Facebook. Experts widely criticize the platform for its lack of moderation and flow of misinformation. While rivals like Twitter have taken a wiser approach amid the looming presidential elections, Facebook chooses to stay away from intensive reduction.

Not just Facebook, even WhatsApp has long been in news for its misuse. The free flow of messages has led to mob justice instances that were actually instigated by misinformation. The app has introduced a wide range of measures to fight this, but it has brought negligible change on-ground.

Coming back to the “Big Tech” debate, should a company with a consistent history of shortcoming, be responsible for sensitive user data? We’ve already seen how data can be weaponized. What’s even more intriguing is, Facebook is technically an advertising company.

It quite literally acts as a middle-man between a vast pool of users and advertisers. While there’s nothing illegal about the business model, the company does need a wake-up call immediately and has to get its act together.

Google, the gateway to the internet

Google.com is often called the homepage of the internet. The search engine is everyone’s go-to website for two decades now. Anything you need is just a second away. The site lets you find something as general as a company’s website to an in-depth analysis from a white-paper PDF hosted on a university’s website.

Starting as a search engine, Google quickly expanded to new projects like Gmail, Maps, and YouTube. Its suite of applications is practically infinite and covers pretty much everything we need in the digital age. Google has more than 85 percent of the search engine market, and the nearest competitor is Microsoft’s Bing.

With the onset of the smartphone age, it acquired Android and changed history forever. Thanks to close partnerships with companies like HTC, Android got a much-needed boost to take on Apple’s iOS. Today, it also controls more than 85 percent of the market. Except for Apple, practically all other phone makers rely on it.

Over the years, Google has diversified massively. With a recent restructuring, Google has a parent called Alphabet. The parent company has interests in many more ventures like research and development-oriented X, self-driving car maker Waymo, DeepMind, and many more. It has a market cap of more than US$ 1 trillion.

Google rules the software world with its apps, operating systems, and enterprise packages. The most important point is, all of these services are free-to-use on a personal level. You have access to free email, maps, videos, music, and even news. It sells some add-ons like Drive storage or YouTube Premium, but these subscriptions aren’t its primary source of income.

Google, ruler of the free internet

Just like Facebook, Google also relies on advertising. In fact, Google is the world’s largest advertising company. It not only lets you deliver ads on its own products but also acts as a marketplace for advertisers and publishers. It single-handedly has a 37 percent share in America’s advertising industry (including offline). AdSense is widely used by other websites to monetize digital traffic.

Just like Apple, the problem with Google is its massive size and reach. It practically dominates multiple verticals like search engines, browsers, operating systems, and video streaming. Even a mammoth-like Microsoft has failed to challenge it with Bing. Regulators have fined the company multiple times for using its dominance to push its own products.

A majority of phones that ship with Android come bundled with Google apps. Without Google Play Services, one can’t leverage the Play Store. Indirectly, making it mandatory to partner with Google. Android is an open-source system, but it’s clear Google is the party that benefits the most.

When we combine all of these services and its associated analytical tracking, we realize Google knows everything about us. Google’s algorithms are constantly monitoring our preferences to deliver us more and more relevant content. A young venture like Google Pay in India came to a leading position within a short time, despite competition from fin-tech stalwarts like Paytm, PhonePe, and more.

When we consider the speed at which Alphabet is expanding, it’s clear it wants to play a fundamental role in our life.

Internet — man’s new best friend

“Big Tech” has another thing in common. They all play a critical role in our lives today and want to be as closer to us as possible. Apple wants to be your trustworthy hardware partner, Amazon wants you to buy everything from them, Facebook wants your entire social life, and Google makes it all possible, silently in the background.

On a regular day, I end up using their product at least a hundred times. Actually, my phone’s digital well-being feature says I unlocked my Android phone at least 100 times today, got 150 WhatsApp notifications, opened Instagram more than 15 times, spent 25 minutes window shopping on Amazon, and heard 3 hours of music on Apple Music. And, typed all of this on a MacBook Air.

This is the crux of the story. Big tech is all about wanting to be your best friend. Don’t get me wrong, these companies are also responsible for rapid innovation and unprecedented progress in computer science. The internet started as a top-secret government project. But gained lightning speed only when it was made public, and companies realized its business potential.

If you’re looking for a right and a wrong here, you’ve come to the wrong place. Standard Oil was a conventional entity that dealt in physical products like oil.

Data is equivalent to oil only in terms of valuation. With a fast-paced innovation cycle, these companies are constantly evolving. We can’t just break them into pieces based on geographical location. This is the reason why the big tech debate is extremely interesting. It’s an unprecedented situation and it’s clear that the big four have joined hands to fight the oncoming antitrust regulatory hurdles. The fact that all four companies agreed to appear for the hearing is a symbol of unity. Their survival is at stake and there’s no textbook answer to follow.


This is Part 2 of the series. We’ve covered Apple and Amazon’s involvement in Part 1.

Enterprise

Samsung will launch three Exynos processors this year

Exynos 800, Exynos 1200, Exynos 2200

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Late last year, Samsung pushed heavily for an increased market presence for its Exynos series of chipsets. Instead of keeping the processors for itself, the company started selling the chipsets to other tech makers. Already, a few smartphones brands, like Vivo, have already launched Exynos-powered smartphones. According to a new rumor, Samsung will launch three Exynos processors this year.

Leaked by renowned Samsung leaker Ice Universe, Samsung will launch chipsets in three different series: Exynos 800, Exynos 1200, and Exynos 2200. Additionally, the latter two chipsets will come with AMD GPUs.

According to a previous leak, Samsung will launch the GPUs themselves later this year. Unfortunately, there is no indication when Samsung will launch the actual chipsets. Based solely on the chipsets’ naming scheme, they will likely fill out budget-friendly, midrange, and flagship smartphones.

However, it’s too early to tell which devices will carry them. If this year mimics last year, the company might announce the chipsets late this year and then released early next year. Either way, Samsung is really heating up for an explosive year with all the releases.

Recently, the company already launched the brilliant Galaxy S21 series back in January.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review: For Pro Users!

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Sophos and Qualcomm are teaming up to secure 5G PCs

AI-enabled protection against cyberattacks

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Sophos, a British cybersecurity company, has announced that it will provide its Intercept X software for 5G PCs powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon compute platforms. Called the Intercept X, it’s an endpoint protection suite that helps prevent malicious code deployment such as ransomware.

“The combination of Sophos Intercept X with Snapdragon compute platforms will provide users next-generation security through an always-on, always-connected PC environment,” the companies said in a statement.

The sophisticated software is capable of protecting advanced systems and endpoints via deep learning AI capabilities. The system can inspect and scrutinize files from hundreds of millions of samples to identify and neutralize threats that haven’t been seen before.

In case of a ransomware attack, Intercept X can detect and block foreign encryption processes to protect the device and data. It’ll also use Connected Standby technology to constantly communicate with other Snapdragon-powered devices so that unknown processes are limited and data won’t be compromised when the PC goes offline.

Since Qualcomm’s platform is designed for portable computing, Intercept X shall use AI acceleration through the Qualcomm AI Engine to optimize the device’s performance and ensure minimal battery loss.

Lastly, it’ll be able to harness hardware-level root of trust to ascertain device and cryptographic integrity. According to the firm, the Snapdragon processor series — used to power light, 5G PCs — will come in useful in combating security blackspots as the software will leverage connected standby functions.

“Now, in addition to enabling always on, always connected PC experiences, our 5G-enabled Snapdragon compute platforms bring next-generation security innovation rooted in our advanced AI and 5G connectivity capabilities,” said Miguel Nunes, senior director Product Management, Qualcomm.

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Xiaomi announces three new manufacturing plants in India

Two for smartphones and one for smart TVs

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Xiaomi announced it’ll be opening three new manufacturing facilities in India to boost its local presence and supply chain. Two of them shall be dedicated to smartphones while the third ones for smart TVs.

Xiaomi’s India Head and Global Vice President, Manu Kumar Jain, said that 99 percent of its smartphones sold in India and 100 percent of its televisions will now be manufactured within the country.

In a briefing to GadgetMatch, he said that Xiaomi has been assembling phones and TVs in India for a while now. But many components are still imported, and the company is trying to reduce this as much as possible. Xiaomi has partnered with DBG India, and its plant in Haryana is already functional.

The second facility will be set up in Tamil Nadu by Chinese electronics maker BYD. The two plants are strategically located to ensure the supply chain runs smoothly across the country. For the smart TVs, Xiaomi has tied up with Hyderabad-based television manufacturer Radiant.

The Chinese phone maker has already tied up with Foxconn and Flex for smartphones and Dixon Technologies for televisions. Jain even went on to say that a vast majority of the phone components that include printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) and sub-boards, chargers and battery, back panels are domestically manufactured in the country.

Jain also proudly said in the briefing that Xiaomi now employs 60,000 people in India via its many facilities, retail units, and back-end operations. Xiaomi’s investment in India isn’t surprising because it has been serious about the market for years and has solidified its standing as an indisputable leader.

The Indian government recently kicked-off a billion-dollar scheme to encourage local sourcing. Also dubbed Production Linked Incentive (PLI), the government is ready to offer subsidies and tariff reliefs for companies that are open to localization. The program has worked wonders for companies on the electronics front, and thousands of jobs are being generated.

Despite competition from Samsung, realme, OPPO, and vivo, the company has largely remained unscathed. However, the brand is still in warm waters due to geopolitical instability between India and China. The anti-China sentiment has affected many Chinese players like Huawei, TikTok, Alibaba, and more. But Xiaomi and other mobile phone markers have avoided controversy by amalgamating with the local market and the workforce.

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