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This Week in Apps: WWDC 21 highlights, Instagram Creator Week recap, Android 12 beta 2 arrives

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy. The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices […]

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Facebook buys game studio BigBox VR

Facebook has bought several virtual reality game studios over the past couple years, and they added one more to their portfolio Friday with the acquisition of Seattle-based BigBox VR. The studio’s major title, Population: One, was one of the big post-launch releases for Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 headset and is a pretty direct Fortnite clone, […]

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Messenger adds Venmo-like QR codes for person-to-person payments in the US

This spring, Facebook confirmed it was testing Venmo-like QR codes for person-to-person payments inside its app in the U.S. Today, the company announced those codes are now launching publicly to all U.S. users, allowing anyone to send or request money through Facebook Pay — even if they’re not Facebook friends. The QR codes work similarly […]

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Decades-old ASCII adventure NetHack may hint at the future of AI

Machine learning models have already mastered Chess, Go, Atari games and more, but in order for it to ascend to the next level, researchers at Facebook intend for AI to take on a different kind of game: the notoriously difficult and infinitely complex NetHack. “We wanted to construct what we think is the most accessible ‘grand […]

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Trump congratulates Nigeria for Twitter ban, says more countries should do the same

Today, former President Donald Trump issued a statement supporting the Nigerian government’s decision to suspend Twitter activities in the West African country. “Congratulations to the country of Nigeria, who just banned Twitter because they banned their President,” he said in the statement. The ex-President also encouraged other countries to follow in Nigeria’s footsteps and ban […]

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Ring won’t say how many users had footage obtained by police

Ring gets a lot of criticism, not just for its massive surveillance network of home video doorbells and its problematic privacy and security practices, but also for giving that doorbell footage to law enforcement. While Ring is making moves towards transparency, the company refuses to disclose how many users had their data given to police. […]

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Twitter restricts accounts in India to comply with government legal request

Twitter disclosed on Monday that it blocked four accounts in India to comply with a new legal request from the Indian government. The American social network disclosed on Lumen Database, a Harvard University project, that it took action on four accounts — including those of hip-hop artist L-Fresh the Lion and singer and song-writer Jazzy […]

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In search of a new crypto deity

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review! Last week, I wrote about tech taking on Disney. This week, I’m talking about the search for a new crypto messiah. If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny. The […]

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This Week in Apps: WWDC Prep, F8 recap, TikTok goes after biometric data

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy. The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices […]

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Facebook buys studio behind Roblox-like Crayta gaming platform

Facebook has been making plenty of one-off virtual reality studio acquisitions lately, but today the company announced that they’re buying something with wider ambitions — a Roblox-like game creation platform. Facebook shared that they’re buying Unit 2 Games, which builds a platform called Crayta. Like some other platforms out there, it builds on top of […]

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Facebook will reconsider Trump’s ban in two years

The clock is ticking on former President Donald Trump’s ban from Facebook, formerly indefinite and now for a period of two years, the maximum penalty under a newly revealed set of rules for suspending public figures. But when the time comes, the company will reevaluate the ban and make a decision then whether to end […]

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TezLab CEO Ben Schippers to discuss the Tesla effect and the next wave of EV startups at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

As Tesla sales have risen, interest in the company has exploded, prompting investment and interest in the automotive industry, as well as the startup world. TezLab, a free app that’s like a Fitbit for a Tesla vehicle, is just one example of the numerous startups that have sprung up in the past few years as […]

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Facebook’s use of ad data triggers antitrust probes in UK and EU

Facebook is facing a fresh pair of antitrust probes in Europe. The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the EU’s Competition Commission both announced formal investigations into the social media giant’s operations today — with what’s likely to have been coordinated timing. The competition regulators will scrutinize how Facebook uses data from advertising customers […]

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In latest Big Tech antitrust push, Germany’s FCO eyes Google News Showcase fine print

The Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s very active competition authority, isn’t letting the grass grow under new powers it gained this year to tackle Big Tech: The Federal Cartel Office (FCO) has just announced a third proceeding against Google. The FCO’s latest competition probe looks very interesting, as it’s targeting Google News Showcase — Google’s relatively recently launched […]

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Europe wants to go its own way on digital identity

In its latest ambitious digital policy announcement, the European Union has proposed creating a framework for a “trusted and secure European e-ID” (aka digital identity) — which it said today it wants to be available to all citizens, residents and businesses to make it easer to use a national digital identity to prove who they […]

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Not on Nextdoor? You can still grab your neighbors’ stuff on Free Finds

Nextdoor, the app that helps neighbors connect, launched a new feature called Free Finds today, which will help people browse the free items available in their neighborhoods. Since the start of 2020, monthly listings to buy, sell and give away items on Nextdoor have increased by 80%, but 25% of these listings advertised free stuff. […]

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Tech giants still aren’t coming clean about COVID-19 disinformation, says EU

European Union lawmakers have asked tech giants to continue reporting on efforts to combat the spread of vaccine disinformation on their platforms for a further six months. “The continuation of the monitoring programme is necessary as the vaccination campaigns throughout the EU is proceeding with a steady and increasing pace, and the upcoming months will […]

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WhatsApp will add multi-device support, introduce ‘view once’ disappearing feature

WhatsApp will soon let you use the popular instant messaging app simultaneously on multiple devices, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said. The instant messaging app, used by more than 2 billion users, also plans to add more options to its disappearing messages feature, top executives said. Zuckerberg confirmed to news outlet WaBetaInfo that multi-device support […]

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Google hires former SiriusXM CPO/CTO to lead its Maps team

Almost exactly a year ago, Google announced a couple of leadership changes that saw Prabhakar Raghavan, who joined the company back in 2012, take over the lead of Search, Assistant and Maps. Now, sources familiar with the hiring tell us, the company has hired Christopher Phillips, who was previously the chief product and technology officer […]

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Facebook’s Spark AR platform expands to video calling with Multipeer API

At today’s F8 developer conference, Facebook announced new capabilities for Spark AR, its flagship AR creation software. Since Spark AR was announced at F8 2017, more than 600,000 creators from 190 countries have published over 2 million AR effects on Facebook and Instagram, making it the largest mobile AR platform, according to Facebook. If you’ve […]

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Facebook doubles down on business tools with WhatsApp API updates, Login Connect for Messenger and more

WhatsApp now has more than 2 billion users globally, and by comparison its efforts to cultivate more business usage have been quite modest: just over 175 million people message with WhatsApp Business accounts daily for things like customer support or to discuss products. Today, as part of its F8 event, Facebook is unveiling some updates […]

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Facebook to launch a ‘Researcher API’ for the academic community

Facebook said it’s preparing to launch a new application programming interface (API) designed specifically for access by the research community. The API was announced during Facebook’s F8 developer conference today, and is meant to address issues that arose from changes made to Facebook’s platform in 2018 following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. That event forced […]

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Facebook opens its Messenger API for Instagram to all

F8 Refresh, Facebook’s annual developer conference with a new twist — it’s more pared down than in years past, and virtual — is going to be kicking off later today, and ahead of that Facebook is unveiling some news: all businesses can now use the Messenger API to interact with users on Instagram. The feature […]

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Huawei officially launches Android alternative HarmonyOS for smartphones

Think you’re living in a hyper-connected world? Huawei’s proprietary HarmonyOS wants to eliminate delays and gaps in user experience when you move from one device onto another by adding interoperability to all devices, regardless of the system that powers them. Two years after Huawei was added to the U.S. entity list that banned the Chinese […]

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Facebook changes misinfo rules to allow posts claiming COVID-19 is man-made

Facebook made a few noteworthy changes to its misinformation policies this week, including the news that the company will now allow claims that COVID was created by humans — a theory that contradicts the previously prevailing assumption that humans picked up the virus naturally from animals. “In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of […]

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Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and other internet giants comply with India’s IT rules

Google, Facebook, Telegram, LinkedIn and Tiger Global-backed Indian startups ShareChat and Koo have either fully or partially complied with the South Asian nation’s new IT rules, according to two people familiar with the matter and a government note obtained by TechCrunch. India’s new IT rules, unveiled in February this year, require firms to appoint and […]

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Augmented reality NFT platform Anima gets backing from Coinbase

Augmented reality and non-fungible tokens, need I say more? Yes? Oh, well NFTs have certainly had their moment in 2021, but the question of what they do or what can be done with them has certainly been getting voiced more frequently as the speculative gold rush begins to cool off and people start to think […]

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EU bodies’ use of US cloud services from AWS, Microsoft being probed by bloc’s privacy chief

Europe’s lead data protection regulator has opened two investigations into EU institutions’ use of cloud services from U.S. cloud giants, Amazon and Microsoft, under so called Cloud II contracts inked earlier between European bodies, institutions and agencies and AWS and Microsoft. A separate investigation has also been opened into the European Commission’s use of Microsoft […]

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Twitter says its concerned with India intimidation, requests 3 more months to comply with new IT rules

Twitter called the recent visit by police to its Indian offices a form of intimidation and said it was concerned by some of the requirements in New Delhi’s new IT rules. Speaking for the first time since a special squad of Delhi police made a surprise visit to two of its offices on Monday, Twitter […]

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Poparazzi hypes itself to the top of the App Store

If Instagram’s photo tagging feature was spun out into its own app, you’d have the viral sensation Poparazzi, now the No. 1 app on the App Store. The new social networking app, from the same folks behind TTYL and others, lets you create a social profile that only your friends can post photos to — […]