This is The Download, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.
WhatsApp cofounder and CEO Jan Koum leaving Facebook
WhatsApp co-founder, CEO, and Facebook board member Jan Koum is leaving Facebook, according to a Facebook post he wrote. The announcement comes shortly after the Washington Post reported that Koum would leave because of disagreements with Facebook management over WhatsApp user data privacy and weakened encryption.
In a comment on Koum’s Facebook post, Zuckerburg responded to the departure news:
“Jan: I will miss working so closely with you. I’m grateful for everything you’ve done to help connect the world, and for everything you’ve taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralized systems and put it back in people’s hands. Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp.”
Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook CEO
Samsung announces 128/256GB Galaxy S9/S9+ variants, preorders starting May 1
Samsung will be releasing 128GB and 256GB variants of the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus in the US, with preorders opening tomorrow on Samsung’s website with the devices launching on May 18. The new storage options will be available in the phones’ three colors: purple, blue, and black.
Here’s a look at pricing:
- 128GB: Galaxy S9: $769.99, Galaxy S9 Plus: $889.99
- 256GB: Galaxy S9: $819.99, Galaxy S9 Plus: $939.99
All preorders will include a free Gear IconX or the chance to buy a Gear S3 Frontier for $99. These models have also already been available in some international locations.
Danish citizen convicted under Malaysia’s fake news law after posting YouTube video, sentenced to a month in jail
Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman has become the first person to be charged and found guilty under Malaysia’s Anti-Fake News Act, less than a month after being passed into law.
Sulaiman posted a YouTube video claiming Malaysian police took 50 minutes to respond to emergency calls in Kuala Lumpur after the shooting of Palestinian lecturer and Hamas member Fadi al-Batsh on April 21. According to Malaysia inspector general of police Mohamad Fuzi Harun, the response time was eight minutes.
According to the charge, Sulaiman published fake news “with ill intent.” He apologized and pleaded guilty at a hearing, saying that the video was posted in a “moment of anger.”
“I agreed I made a mistake. I seriously apologize to everybody in Malaysia, not just in the Malaysian police.”
Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman
Under the Anti-Fake News Act, offenders can be punished with up to six years in jail and a fine of up to 500,000 ringgit (roughly $123,000). Sulaiman was fined 10,000 ringgit ($2,500), but was unable to pay and opted for a month of jailtime instead.
Twitter announces 30 new/renewed video content deals, including live programing from ESPN, NBCUniversal, Live Nation, Vice News, MLB, others
At Twitter’s Digital Content NewFronts, the company unveiled 30 renewals and new content deals – nearly twice as many as it announced last year.
These include partnerships with some of media’s biggest names, including NBCUniversal, ESPN, and more. NBCUniversal will be sharing live video and clips from properties like NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC, and Telemundo.
ESPN will be airing SportsCenter Live (a Twitter version of the ubiquitous highlights show), and Fantasy Focus Live (a livestream of the fantasy sports podcast).
In addition, the company is expanding its existing partnership with Viacom with shows like Comedy Central’s Creator’s Room, BET Breaks, and MTV News.
According to Twitter head of video Kayvon Beykpour, daily video views on the platform have nearly doubled in the last year. Meanwhile, Twitter head of content partnerships Kay Madati described the company as “the ultimate mobile platform where video and conversation share the same screen.”
“Twitter is the only place where conversation is tied to video and the biggest live moments, giving brands the unique ability to connect with leaned in consumers who are shaping culture. That’s our superpower.”
Matthew Derella; Twitter global VP of revenue and content partnerships, in a statement
On top of all the new content, Twitter is also announcing new ad programs. There are Creator Originals, a set of scripted shows from influencers that are paired up with sponsored brands, along with a new Live Brand Studio that works with marketers to create live video.
Here are some other content highlights:
- Ellen Digital Studios: CELEBrate, a show where people get heartwarming messages from their idols
- Hearst Magazines Digital Media: Delish Food Day and IRL
- Will Packer Media: Power Star Live, a show inspired by the “cultural phenomenon of Black Twitter” that’s live streamed from the Atlanta University Center.
- BuzzFeed News: Weekday news show AM to DM is renewed until the end of 2018
- Vice News: The New Space Race
- Pattern: A brand focused on weather and science-related news
- Huffington Post, History, Vox, BuzzFeed News: #HereWeAre programming that highlights women around the world
- Call of Duty World League: Highlights and Championship Sunday for the rest of the season
Fitbit uses Google’s Cloud Healthcare API to make data available to doctors
Fitbit has announced plans to utilize Google’s new Cloud Healthcare API to continue its push into the world of serious healthcare devices.
Google is leveraging existing cloud offerings with Cloud for Healthcare to create an information sharing infrastructure for the healthcare world. In its earliest stages, Google partnered with medical facilities like the Stanford School of Medicine.
The plan is to offer a centralized place for doctors to monitor both electronic medical records and regular monitoring from Fitbit’s devices. The company’s recently acquired Twine Health will help the company get more insight into issues like diabetes and hypertension.
Facebook investigating report that security engineers used privileged access to stalk women online
Facebook is investigating accusations made by Spyglass Security founder Jackie Stokes that an engineer for the social media giant used company data to stalk women online.
According to Facebook, the company is aware of the matter and is investigating.
“We maintain strict technical controls and policies to restrict employee access to user data. Access is scoped by job function, and designated employees are only allowed to access the amount of information that’s necessary to carry out their job responsibilities, such as responding to bug reports, account support inquiries, or valid legal requests. We have a zero-tolerance approach to abuse, and improper behavior results in termination.”
Facebook, in a statement
Oculus developing VR theater experience where live actors perform around users
Oculus executive producer of experiences Yelena Rachitsky revealed in an interview with CNET that the company is working on an immersive theater format where VR lets you interact with live actors. The concept isn’t new, but Oculus wants to maintain that interactivity without being limited to performances that happen in one place.
It’s currently slated to debut in 2019.
US jury convicts former Autonomy CFO Sushovan Hussain of wire fraud, other crimes related to inflating firm’s value before HP sale
A US jury convicted former Autonomy chief financial officer of wire fraud and other crimes related to claims by the government that he inflated the firm’s value before its sale to Hewlett Packard, according to a Justice Department spokesperson.
Federal prosecutors brought criminal conspiracy and wire fraud charges against Sushovan Hussain in 2016, alleging that he and others sought to deceive Autonomy’s investors and HP beginning in 2009 about the company’s financial condition and prospects for growth.
The scheme had several objectives, according to an indictment, including to artificially increase and maintain Autonomy’s share price to make the company attractive to potential buyers like HP, which agreed to buy it in 2011 for $11 billion.
In a statement, Hussain’s attorney John Keker said that defense evidence was excluded from the trial that would have shown HP was not misled at all and that they will appeal the verdict.
“Mr. Hussain defrauded no one and acted at all times with the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and competence. It is a shame that the United States Department of Justice lent its support to HP’s campaign to blame others for its own catastrophic failings.”
John Keker, Sushovan Hussain’s attorney
The Autonomy deal was supposed to form the central part of HP’s move into software but instead led the US company to write off three quarters of Autonomy’s value a year later.
HP Enterprise said in a statement that it was pleased with the verdict.
“That Mr. Hussain attempted to depict the fraud as nothing more than a misunderstanding of international accounting rules was, and still remains, patently ridiculous.”
HP Enterprise, in a statement
Mike Cagney raises $50M for Figure
Mike Cagney, who built SoFi into America’s biggest student loan refinancer before quitting amid allegations of sexual harassment at the fintech firm, has raised $50 million for his new startup offering home-equity loans.
Figure plans to use the blockchain to help expedite loan approvals in minutes rather than days.
Cagney confirmed to Bloomberg that the round was led by DCM Ventures and Ribbit Capital and included participation from Mithril Capital Management.
Pew survey: 70 percent of US adults say internet has been good for society; 25 percent of those opposed cite time spent with devices
According to a Pew Research Center survey, the majority of US adults surveyed in January said that the internet is mostly a good thing for them personally and for society as a whole. However, the number has declined since early 2014.
88 percent of US adults say that the internet is good for them, dropping from 90 percent in 2014. When asked if it has been mostly good for society, however, the percentage point has dropped from 76 to 70 percent. Older Americans experienced the steepest decline, sliding from 78 to 64 percent.
The decrease is balanced by the number of adults who said the internet is a mix of good and bad for society, growing from eight percent in 2014 to 14 percent in 2018.
Those who said it was a good thing cited faster and easier access to information and the ability to keep in touch with friends and family. There wasn’t a standout issue for why people said the internet is bad for society, but reasons spread from fake news and disinformation to encouraging illegal activity and people to spend too much time on devices.
According to the survey, one in five Americans use only their phone to access the internet at home instead of using a traditional broadband service. This is up seven percent from 2015, when 13 percent of Americans were smartphone-only users.
Facebook’s F8 conference will be more “muted” this year after Cambridge Analytica scandal
Facebook’s F8 developer conference, which starts May 1 in San Jose, will be a bit more muted after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. However, the company still says that the conference will be the biggest ever with over 50 sessions available to a record crowd of 5,000 attendees.
However, the company acknowledges that the conference comes at a time when Facebook is rethinking its relationship with developers.
“We’ll always make the important platform changes, trying to strike the right balance between creating compelling social experiences, protecting people’s data, and supporting an innovative developer ecosystem. These changes can be disruptive. But Facebook developers are incredible partners and help us ensure the platform enables experiences that are both social and safe.”
Ime Archibong, Facebook vice president for product partnerships
The company appears ready to address at least some of the scandals over the past year. There’s a session on “Authenticity and Quality in the News Feed,” for example, and on “Helping High Quality News Thrive on Facebook.” The sessions also demonstrate Facebook’s embrace of emerging markets, with sessions devoted to building technology products in India and other countries.
Amazon Alexa Smart Home division founder Charlie Kindel leaving company to take a break
Amazon’s Alexa Smart Home division head Charlie Kindel is ready for a break after five years at Amazon.
“The pace of the past five years has finally gotten to me and I simply need to catch my breath. I was originally just going to take a temporary leave, but I like the idea of having total freedom of thought to decide what’s next in my life. By making a clean break from Amazon, all options (including coming back to Amazon) are still on the table.
“The Alexa Smart Home team is an incredible team that I was blessed to have built from the ground up. I’ve had so much fun watching so many people grow in their careers and it’s going to suck not being able to be around them day-to-day as they continue to flourish.”
Charlie Kindel, Amazon Alexa Smart Home division founder
Kindel plans to “relax and goof off” and spend time with family. He isn’t ruling out a return to Amazon, where he appreciated the company’s leadership principles and high standards.
“I’m skeptical I’ll find another environment where the drive for ‘raising the bar’ is so consistent and strong.”
Iran court orders telecoms to block Telegram
Iranian authorities have ordered internet service providers in Iran to block access to Telegram, a secure messaging service linked to organizers of anti-government protests, according to the Associated Press.
State TV reported that a Tehran prosecutor ordered both the mobile and desktop versions to be blocked so restrictions couldn’t be bypassed using a virtual private network. The app was still operational as of Monday evening.
In other news…
- T-Mobile announced plans to merge with Sprint in a $26.5 billion all stock deal. I covered the story for our sister site Grasswire.
- The US’ Federal Trade Commission has announced that it will host a workshop to examine the recent wave of cryptocurrency scams.
- Microsoft has unveiled a number of new features for the Outlook desktop app, Outlook for iOS and Android, and Outlook.com.
- Facebook is testing arrows to let users up vote or down vote individual comments in New Zealand and Australia.
- The LG V30S ThinQ is now available for preorder in the US without a listed shipping date.