Archive for April, 2018

Apple faces battery pledge complaints

iPhone Apple faces battery pledge complaints Apple faces battery pledge complaints 85d32be557Image copyrightBBC Watchdog
Image caption The dent on Josh’s iPhone which prevented Apple replacing the battery

Apple has been accused of finding unnecessary faults with iPhones and thereby profiting from a battery replacement initiative.

When the US firm announced it had been slowing down iPhones in order to “preserve battery life” in December last year, it apologised for not telling people sooner.

Facing a consumer backlash, it promised owners of the iPhone 6 and more modern models a discounted or free battery replacement.

It said: “We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support – and we will never forget that or take it for granted.”

But since then, some Watchdog viewers have told the programme that their faith in the company has been seriously shaken after trying to take Apple up on its offer.

Apple demanded that some customers pay 10 times the sum it referred to in its apology.

The company told customers this was because of existing damage to their phones that would impair the replacement of the batteries.

But Watchdog’s investigation found that this is not always the case.

Josh Landsburgh sent his phone off to have the battery replaced in February.

Two days later, he received an email from Apple pointing out a small dent to the edge of the phone, and quoting a cost of over £200 before it would make good on its battery promise.

A furious Josh had the phone returned from Apple. He had the battery replaced without an issue at a local repair shop – which meant he voided his Apple warranty.

“They’re trying to regain trust and they come back to you with, ‘Give us more money than you were planning to initially.’ I think it’s just shocking, they’ve got enough money, they’re Apple,” he told the BBC.

David Bowler also contacted Watchdog.

Image copyrightBBC Watchdog
Image caption Watchdog’s Nikki Fox meets David Bowler, whose phone Apple also claimed had “extra damage”

His phone was in perfect condition, but needed the battery replacing. This time, with no apparent damage outside, Apple told David there was damage inside the phone.

The firm said the front microphone and speaker were faulty, quoting over £250 to resolve the issue.

But David is adamant these components were working perfectly. He asked for his phone back, and Watchdog took his device to a mobile repair specialist.

It told the programme: “Obviously these things are working; they shouldn’t say that they are faulty.”

The specialist also replaced the battery with no issues, something Apple had refused to do without fixing the microphone and speaker first.

So, is Apple profiting from saying sorry?

Image copyrightBBC Watchdog
Image caption Watchdog took David’s phone to a specialist to have the battery replaced

Apple’s repair website does state that “if your iPhone has any damage that impairs the replacement of the battery, such as a cracked screen, that issue will need to be resolved prior to the battery replacement”.

It also offers a fresh 90-day warranty on any device it has serviced, even if the original guarantee had long expired.

Furthermore, some Apple customer service representatives – contacted via webchat – said the firm made clear in its warranty that “any and all damage” must be repaired first before battery replacement.

But neither Watchdog nor dispute resolution lawyer Matthew Purcell, of Sanders Law, could find any mention of this requirement.

Mr Purcell told the programme: “I think consumers are getting annoyed because at a time when Apple should be rebuilding trust, it seems like they’re putting barriers in the way of people getting their phones repaired.”

Apple sent the BBC the following response:

“When it comes to iPhone battery replacement, if your iPhone has any damage that impairs the replacement of the battery, such as a cracked screen, that issue will need to be resolved prior to the battery replacement. In some cases, there may be a cost associated with the repair.”

It has referred customers to its website for more information.

The full report can be seen on Watchdog Live, Wednesday 2 May, 20:00, on BBC1.

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Apple in $100bn share buyback as more money returned to US

Apple chief executive Tim Cook and iPhone X buyer David Casarez in Palo Alto last November Apple in $100bn share buyback as more money returned to US Apple in $100bn share buyback as more money returned to US 1c0a311d84Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Apple chief executive Tim Cook and iPhone X buyer David Casarez in Palo Alto last November

Apple is returning another $100bn (£73bn) to shareholders from its huge cash pile as solid iPhone sales helped revenues rise 16% to just over $61bn.

The company sold 52.2 million iPhones in the three months to March – only a touch below expectations, despite waning global demand for smart phones.

Revenues at Apple’s services business that includes Apple Music and the App Store jumped almost a third to $9.1bn.

Apple has about $145bn in the bank, but plans to return the cash to investors.

After the announcement, Apple shares rose 3% in after-hours trading on Wall Street.

Although the share buyback helped push the shares higher, overall the quarter was “impressive”, said Ben Stanton, an analyst at Canalys.

“It looks like on pretty much every front Apple has had a win,” he said.

The company, flush with a huge cash pile on strong earnings boosted by the US tax cut plan of 2017, also announced a 16% boost to its quarterly dividend.

That came on top of $22.8bn in buybacks executed in the prior quarter,

Apple faces battery pledge complaints

Overall Apple reported a 3% rise in the number of phones sold, while revenue from phones jumped 14%, reflecting more expensive models.

Some analysts had questioned whether demand for the most expensive iPhone would hold up after the initial rush.

But Apple said the iPhone X was the best-selling model in every week of the quarter – despite costing almost $1,000 or £1,000.

The average selling prices came in at $728, below analyst expectations of $742, which finance chief Luca Maestri blamed on clearing stocks of older models.

On a call with financial analysts, chief executive Tim Cook dismissed concerns about soft demand for smart phones, pointing to the millions of people who still do not own one.

“We still believe that over time every phone sold will be a smart phone, so it seems to us… that’s a pretty big opportunity,” he said on a call with investors.

Image copyrightGetty Images

The iPhone continues to account for the bulk of Apple’s revenues at just over 62% of the total. Sales of iPads rose 2% to 9.1 million units compared with the same period last year, while Mac sales slipped 3% to 4.07 million.

Apple’s services unit added 30 million subscriptions in the past 90 days alone, bringing the total to 270 million.

Mr Stanton said that growth underlined a shift in strategy to develop businesses outside its core products: “This is the future of Apple.”

‘Very optimistic’

Overall profits in the quarter were $13.8bn, up a quarter from the same period in 2017.

The firm’s revenue hit a record for the March quarter, which follows the Christmas rush and is traditionally one of the company’s weaker periods.

Sales growth of more than 20% in Japan and the greater China market – a critical area for the company – helped to lift the numbers.

Mr Cook said Apple had the three top-selling phones in China and brushed aside concerns about how a brewing tariff fight between the US and China, where many of its phones are made, could hurt the company.

“I think there’s a lot of things that bind the countries together and I’m actually very optimistic,” he said.

Apple bought shares worth $23.5bn in the three months to March. It has purchased about $200bn of stock since 2012.

The new plan to buy back even more stock comes after the US changed its tax laws last year, lowering its corporate rate to encourage companies to return cash piles to America.

Apple also said it would increase the quarterly dividend by 16%.

The next generation of software for the iPhone, iPad and other product lines will be shown off at its annual developer conference, WWDC, next month.

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Braille saviour?

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Tesla trouble

Elon Musk Tesla trouble Tesla trouble 59a204a934Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Tesla chief executive Elon Musk also runs the SpaceX rocket venture

Tesla is facing more questions about its financial viability ahead of its latest results on Wednesday.

The electric car-maker is facing a cash crunch, caused by a combination of a major debt load and heavy spending.

Tesla boss Elon Musk says the firm could be profitable this year and dismissed concerns with an April Fool’s Day joke about bankruptcy.

However, analysts are less jovial and say Tesla’s problems are serious.

Since September, the firm’s shares have fallen by about a quarter to $296 – and many investors think they will continue to drop.

As of April 25, Tesla was the most shorted company in the US, according to S3 Partners, a financial data and analytics firm.

John Thompson, chief executive of Vilas Capital Management, is one of the people who has put money on the idea that the share price will collapse, placing pressure on the company and eventually leading to bankruptcy.

“Over the next three to six months, I’ve said I think the stock will fall significantly, at which time the capital markets will close to Tesla entirely,” he said. “Then it’s just a matter of time given their losses and their capital expenditure needs.”

Tesla, which has not made an annual profit in its 15-year history, had more than $10bn in debt at the end of 2017 and $3.4bn in cash.

Image caption Tesla shares started trading at $17 and now are worth roughly $325

The firm has been spending heavily to increase production of its newest car, the Model 3, but continues to fall short of manufacturing forecasts despite robust customer demand.

It made just 9,800 Model 3s in the first three months of the year, compared to an earlier goal of 5,000 vehicles a week.

Last summer, Mr Musk said Tesla was spending about $100m a week to ramp up production. Bloomberg recently calculated that it continues to spend more than $6,500 per minute.

“I don’t see how Tesla’s going to survive, given their capital structure, meaning they have a ton of debt and continued massive losses,” Mr Thompson said.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Tesla is facing a cash crunch

Tesla has previously tapped investors for more money, as well as collecting deposits from customers lining up for its cars.

It raised more than $3bn on Wall Street last year, largely by issuing debt, cashing in on the enthusiasm for the firm and Mr Musk, 46, also known for his SpaceX rocket venture, punchy Twitter personality and tortured personal life.

This year, Tesla has maintained that it does not need to raise money apart from its “standard credit lines”, citing improving production.

But in March Moody’s said it expects the firm will need to raise about $2bn in the near-term. At the same time, the credit rating agency downgraded Tesla debt, citing the production struggles.

Skip Twitter post by @kanyewest

I really love my Tesla. I’m in the future. Thank you Elon.

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) April 23, 2018

End of Twitter post by @kanyewest

Tesla fans, who include celebrities such as Kanye West, remain legion, and demand for both its debt and shares was strong last year.

Mr Thompson, for one, thinks sentiment is shifting: “I think the story of, ‘the next car is profitable, the next great thing is going to save the company’, is sort of getting old and … people are starting to realise that.”

In addition to the manufacturing issues, Tesla has faced negative publicity for conflicts of interest on its board, as well as working conditions.

Its autopilot feature is under scrutiny after fatal accidents and the company recently recalled more than 100,000 Model S cars for an issue with the power steering.

Tesla has said its high public profile makes it a target for critics and Mr Musk, who has dubbed short-sellers “jerks”, recently told CBS he is optimistic about the firm’s “path out of hell”.

Tesla’s challenges did not stop shareholders from awarding Mr Musk a record pay package earlier this year.

“It should be pretty obvious, I think, that I’m not gonna joke about bankruptcy if I think it’s remotely real,” Mr Musk said.

“I’m feeling pretty optimistic about where Tesla is at this point. At this point I can have a clear understanding of the path out of hell, and I did not, until recently, have a clear understanding.”

Skip Twitter post by @elonmusk

Tesla Goes Bankrupt

Palo Alto, California, April 1, 2018 — Despite intense efforts to raise money, including a last-ditch mass sale of Easter Eggs, we are sad to report that Tesla has gone completely and totally bankrupt. So bankrupt, you can’t believe it.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 1, 2018

End of Twitter post by @elonmusk

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The new nomads

Jemma at work The new nomads The new nomads b130a51ca4
Image caption Jemma Porter is part of the digital nomad movement

Why work in an office when you can sit by the beach? Armed with a laptop and an internet connection, a new generation of ‘digital nomads’ is taking their work on their travels around the world. But they are not always welcome.

Jemma Porter and her boyfriend James Cave’s journey began like many others when they became disillusioned with their desk-bound jobs.

“I really didn’t like my job,” Jemma told me.

“I used to work in online marketing in an office in Edinburgh and then I started doing some freelance copywriting on the side just to make a bit of extra money.”

A second development – the discovery of house sitting – spurred a new lifestyle.

After a dodgy start in a French gite with terrible wi-fi connections, Jemma and James haven’t looked back.

“We have lived in Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and South Africa – when I say ‘lived’, I’m talking say more than two or three months,” James said.

“We’ve also travelled around South East Asia and other parts of Europe as digital nomads.”

They regularly move between flats in different areas of the city, sometimes working at home and sometimes in bars and cafes. James prefers to work at home, Jemma in cafes or in rented office space – frankly anywhere with cheap coffee.

After five years on the move they are veterans and for now Lisbon is their home.

James’s main income comes from the growing industry of search engine optimization.

“Basically, companies pay because they want to rank higher on Google for a certain search term and they’ll have key words that are important for their business, maybe, car hire in Madeira, and they’ll want to appear number one for that, so I’ll work with them to see how – how that’s possible.”

Image copyrightJames Cave
Image caption James Cave’s internet-based work lends itself to travel

Jemma and James are paid well, earning about £40,000 a year each and are living a city with one of the lowest costs of living in Europe.

It’s easy to see why they chose to become digital nomads, but it is not one long holiday.

They have found themselves working nine-to-five most of the time to fit in with their clients and sometimes they realise they have been working so hard they haven’t left the flat in days.

They also feel guilty about the effect they and thousands of other digital nomads are having on the local economy.

Agustin Cocola-Gant from the University of Lisbon has been studying the changes among the local Portuguese population of having thousands of digital nomads turning up on their doorsteps.

“They see people coming from the north of Europe, that don’t speak Portuguese, who are taking their places. The shops, the stores are changing, they’re losing the places where they meet with their friends and neighbours.”

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Portugal’s weather and good value attracts workers from northern Europe

All of a sudden trendy coffee shops are replacing local family run cafes. As Mr Cocola-Gant points out, all those people like Jemma and James are earning far more than the locals.

“People in the north of Europe earn quite a lot of money, and obviously it’s more convenient for them to live here, because it is much cheaper. And also they can have a better quality of life because of the weather, the beach, etc,” he says.

He argues that the digital nomads, earning North European wages and living in the cheap south, is forcing up house prices, turning family homes into holiday lets and driving out the locals who can no longer afford to live in the centre of Lisbon.

And their kind of lifestyle raises a different, but related challenge. How do you tax people if you don’t know where they are, or what they are doing?

A digital nomad might be working from Bali on a tourist visa, creating a website for an American company, to be used in France, but based on a server in Switzerland.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption It’s not just the weather that makes Lisbon an attractive destination

Just how do you tax such people and where should they pay it?

“I honestly don’t know the answer to that question,” said Anne-Marie Malley of consultants Deloitte.

“It’s one that we asked, and I have no idea. We asked the tax experts and basically what they said is that it’s very much on an individual basis. If and when this grows, then that becomes much more of a challenge for pretty much every country,” she said.

By their very nature, it is impossible to know how many digital nomads there are. They move too quickly to count, but there are certainly hundreds of thousands of them, and as more work becomes possible to do online, the number can only grow.

For the countries they travel to, they bring not just money but problems. They can easily outspend the locals and can distort the local economy.

But the bigger issue affects us all. For thousands of years, ever since the rise of agriculture and urban living, the nomad lifestyle has been in decline. As a result governments have become very used to registering and taxing people who live and work in one place for long periods of time.

All that is changing, and governments will have to learn to adapt to the new age of the digital nomads.

For more on this story, you can listen to Radio 4’s In Business programme, broadcast on Thursday 3 May at 20:30 BST.

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How Facebook plans to disrupt internet dating

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Solid iPhone sales boost Apple revenues

Apple chief executive Tim Cook and iPhone X buyer David Casarez in Palo Alto last November Solid iPhone sales boost Apple revenues Solid iPhone sales boost Apple revenues 1c0a311d84Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Apple chief executive Tim Cook and iPhone X buyer David Casarez in Palo Alto last November

Apple is returning another $100bn (£73bn) to shareholders from its huge cash pile as solid iPhone sales helped revenues rise 16% to just over $61bn.

The company sold 52.2 million iPhones in the three months to March – only a touch below expectations, despite waning global demand for smart phones.

Revenues at Apple’s services business that includes Apple Music and the App Store jumped almost a third to $9.1bn.

Apple has about $145bn in the bank, but plans to return the cash to investors.

After the announcement, Apple shares rose 3% in after-hours trading on Wall Street.

Although the share buyback helped push the shares higher, overall the quarter was “impressive”, said Ben Stanton, an analyst at Canalys.

“It looks like on pretty much every front Apple has had a win,” he said.

The company, flush with a huge cash pile on strong earnings boosted by the US tax cut plan of 2017, also announced a 16% boost to its quarterly dividend.

That came on top of $22.8bn in buybacks executed in the prior quarter,

Apple faces battery pledge complaints

Overall Apple reported a 3% rise in the number of phones sold, while revenue from phones jumped 14%, reflecting more expensive models.

Some analysts had questioned whether demand for the most expensive iPhone would hold up after the initial rush.

But Apple said the iPhone X was the best-selling model in every week of the quarter – despite costing almost $1,000 or £1,000.

The average selling prices came in at $728, below analyst expectations of $742, which finance chief Luca Maestri blamed on clearing stocks of older models.

On a call with financial analysts, chief executive Tim Cook dismissed concerns about soft demand for smart phones, pointing to the millions of people who still do not own one.

“We still believe that over time every phone sold will be a smart phone, so it seems to us… that’s a pretty big opportunity,” he said on a call with investors.

Image copyrightGetty Images

The iPhone continues to account for the bulk of Apple’s revenues at just over 62% of the total. Sales of iPads rose 2% to 9.1 million units compared with the same period last year, while Mac sales slipped 3% to 4.07 million.

Apple’s services unit added 30 million subscriptions in the past 90 days alone, bringing the total to 270 million.

Mr Stanton said that growth underlined a shift in strategy to develop businesses outside its core products: “This is the future of Apple.”

‘Very optimistic’

Overall profits in the quarter were $13.8bn, up a quarter from the same period in 2017.

The firm’s revenue hit a record for the March quarter, which follows the Christmas rush and is traditionally one of the company’s weaker periods.

Sales growth of more than 20% in Japan and the greater China market – a critical area for the company – helped to lift the numbers.

Mr Cook said Apple had the three top-selling phones in China and brushed aside concerns about how a brewing tariff fight between the US and China, where many of its phones are made, could hurt the company.

“I think there’s a lot of things that bind the countries together and I’m actually very optimistic,” he said.

Apple bought shares worth $23.5bn in the three months to March. It has purchased about $200bn of stock since 2012.

The new plan to buy back even more stock comes after the US changed its tax laws last year, lowering its corporate rate to encourage companies to return cash piles to America.

Apple also said it would increase the quarterly dividend by 16%.

The next generation of software for the iPhone, iPad and other product lines will be shown off at its annual developer conference, WWDC, next month.

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Facial recognition to be used at Singapore airport

Changi aiport Facial recognition to be used at Singapore airport Facial recognition to be used at Singapore airport a0c242817fImage copyrightReuters
Image caption The trial means there are fewer visible airport staff

Singapore’s Changi airport is testing a facial recognition system it hopes will speed passengers through the facility.

It is expanding existing uses of the smart ID system and is looking into ways it can replace passport checks.

Reuters reports however, that proposals to use cameras mounted on lamp posts that scan faces to ID passengers has raised privacy concerns.

Airport officials have dismissed “big brother” worries.

Last call

One potentially welcome use of facial recognition could be to spot passengers who have missed the last boarding call for their flight.

“We have lots of reports of lost passengers, so one possible use we can think of is, we need to detect and find people who are on the flight. Of course, with permission from the airlines,” Steve Lee, Changi Airport Group’s chief information officer, told Reuters.

Mr Lee says that the airport is working with a number of companies and plans to have facial recognition in place in a year’s time.

The newest terminal at Changi, T4, is already using facial recognition for self-service check-in options as well as bag drop, immigration and boarding.

This means there are fewer queues as well as fewer visible airport or security staff.

Image copyrightReuters
Image caption Facial recognition is also used for check-in and boarding at Changi airport

When passengers drop luggage at unstaffed booths, a photo of their face is taken and then matched against the picture in their passport.

At automated security gates in immigration, another snap is taken and is used to verify a passenger’s identity at the boarding gate.

Changi airport is looking at how it can implement the facial recognition technology in its three other terminals at bag drop and immigration as well as potentially in terminal five which is expected to be up and running in the next 10 years.

Mr Lee said: “Today you take passport, you show your face and you show your boarding pass.

“Then actually in future, you just take your face. You don’t need your passport,”

Missing Persons

Facial recognition technology is also being used in Australia in a new campaign to identify missing persons.

The Missing Persons Action Network (MPAN) has launched an Invisible Friends campaign encouraging Facebook users to add profiles of missing people as friends so that, once they’re tagged in an image MPAN can be notified.

New GDPR regulations coming into effect later this month mean that Facebook must seek permissions to build 3D profiles of people using the social networking site in Europe.

However as MPAN is in Australia these rules will not apply.

“The growth of real time facial recognition in public places is alarming,” said Silkie Carlo, director of digital rights activists Big Brother Watch.

She added: “It could be the final nail in the coffin for individual privacy and the right to be anonymous in public.

“Even if some uses are socially well-intended, it is a technology that lends itself to authoritarianism as we have already seen in the UK where it has been used to monitor protests and collect biometric photos of innocent people.

“It is highly questionable whether authorities’ use of automated facial recognition in public is lawful in the context of international and regional rights frameworks.”

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Facebook: ‘Hate speech button’ causes confusion

A red thumbs down icon in the middle of many white thumbs up icons Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion d2e812c535Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Facebook says it is trialling new ways for users to interact with content

“Does this post contain hate speech?”

That is the message that thousands of Facebook users have reported seeing on their news feeds.

It seems to be only US-based users that can see the question, which is appearing under every post on their Facebook page.

While some have criticised the social media giant for the move, others are calling it a bug and pointing out the more unusual places where they have seen it appear.

A Facebook spokesperson said they were unable to comment at this time.

Image Copyright @kansasalps@kansasalps
Twitter post by @kansasalps: So, just to check, is everyone else's Facebook asking them if LITERALLY EVERY POST IN THEIR TIMELINE IS HATE SPEECH?  Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion 9220e79c80Image Copyright @kansasalps@kansasalps

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If users click “yes” to respond that the post does contain hate speech, they are presented with four options for feedback.

These options are “hate speech”, “test p1”, “test p2” and “test p3”, prompting some people to suggest that the form “clearly wasn’t supposed” to appear on Facebook in its current form.

Image Copyright @LonestarTallBoi@LonestarTallBoi
Twitter post by @LonestarTallBoi: when you click the "yes" button on the "Does this post contain hate speech?" prompt on facebook you're presented with a form that clearly wasn't supposed to be pushed to live.What a terrible website.  Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion 8878b63109Image Copyright @LonestarTallBoi@LonestarTallBoi

Yet the hate speech button was criticised as suppression by some, with American writer Matt Walsh calling it an intentional move by Facebook to remove “conservative content”.

This is in light of accusations from Republican congressman Steve Scalise that Facebook’s algorithm was discriminating against conservative news and content in favour of liberal posts.

And Lebanese-American journalist Brigitte Gabriel labelled it an attempt by Facebook to “censor” her account.

Image Copyright @ACTBrigitte@ACTBrigitte
Twitter post by @ACTBrigitte: Facebook is censoring my account. Asking if my post contains "Hate Speech"Give me a break. Opposing Radical Islam is NOT Hate Speech.  Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion 6579724c53Image Copyright @ACTBrigitte@ACTBrigitte

But as others noticed the button appearing on all of the posts in their timeline, people began to share the funniest place they had seen the button appear.

Such places include posts about local churches, articles about Donald Trump, and even pictures which show the weather forecast.

And Washington Post journalist Gene Park shared this suggestion that a photo of a puppy might be somehow hateful.

Image Copyright @GenePark@GenePark
Twitter post by @GenePark: i mean this is hilarious  Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion 99b974b48aImage Copyright @GenePark@GenePark

This comes as Facebook hosts its biggest event ever, with 5,000 developers flying in from around the world for the F8 developer conference on May 1-2.

This prompted social media journalist Matt Navarra to joke that even Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg was not exempt from the hate speech button.

Image Copyright @MattNavarra@MattNavarra
Twitter post by @MattNavarra: Oh dear, Zuck#F8  Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion Facebook: 'Hate speech button' causes confusion 1d5d6e13b6Image Copyright @MattNavarra@MattNavarra

By Tom Gerken, UGC & Social News

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Facebook F8: Zuckerberg’s dating service takes on Tinder

Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder 034626200e
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWATCH: How Facebook plans to disrupt internet dating

Facebook’s chief has said that 2018 has been an “intense year” for his firm.

But Mark Zuckerberg also took the opportunity to unveil a dating service among other new products at his firm’s annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California.

He told his audience that the match-making feature would take privacy issues in mind and would launch “soon”.

The company can ill afford another data scandal as it continues to be embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica affair.

“There are 200 million people on Facebook who list themselves as single,” said Mr Zuckerberg.

“And if we are committed to building meaningful relationships, then this is perhaps the most meaningful of all.”

Shares in the dating business Match Group fell after the announcement and closed more than 22% below their opening price.

The firm owns Tinder, a dating app that sources its profile information from Facebook.

Privacy row

Facebook has faced fierce criticism ever since it emerged that it had failed to check whether political consultancy Cambridge Analytica had deleted data harvested about millions of its users.

Mr Zuckerberg said that this was a “major breach of trust” that must never happen again.

As part of efforts to restore confidence, he said the firm was building a new Clear History tool to provide members with more control over how their information is used.

The feature will:

  • let members see which third-party sites and apps Facebook collects data from
  • provide the ability to delete the information
  • prevent Facebook from being able to add such details to their profile in the future

However, in a related blog, Facebook has acknowledged that the tool will take several months to develop, and that it would still need to retain related information in “rare cases” for security reasons.

Online dating

Mr Zuckerberg also addressed his company’s efforts to tackle fake news and detect operations designed to disrupt elections.

But while he opted not to unveil a smart speaker – which the BBC understands had once been destined to launch at F8 – he did introduce other novelties.

Image copyrightFacebook
Image caption Users will be able to send each other text-only messages via a new chat tool

The headline feature is a new service to help singletons on the platform meet potential dates.

He said the opt-in feature would focus on “real long-term relationships, not just hook-ups”, and would exclude existing friends from potential matches.

“We have designed this with privacy and safety in mind from the beginning,” he added.

Image Copyright @BlackandPaper1@BlackandPaper1
Twitter post by @BlackandPaper1: Given the privacy scandal swirling around #facebook, does anyone else think announcing the platform is getting into the dating game a bit strange? In denial? Creepy? Just a Question! #FacebookF8 Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder 3513578575Image Copyright @BlackandPaper1@BlackandPaper1

Image Copyright @Kantrowitz@Kantrowitz
Twitter post by @Kantrowitz: Facebook is going to do dating. RIP Tinder. Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder 3bfa34918cImage Copyright @Kantrowitz@Kantrowitz

Image Copyright @JuiceboxCA@JuiceboxCA
Twitter post by @JuiceboxCA: First look at Facebook Dating.Notice the sample profile is 36 yrs old.Notice that "this is gonna be for building real, long-term relationships" quote.Zuck isn't chasing Tinder or Bumble (yet) - he's after the older demo on Match & OKCupid. Remember, 54% of FB users are 35+.  Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder 6a2b3a2fa3Image Copyright @JuiceboxCA@JuiceboxCA

Image Copyright @nkl@nkl
Twitter post by @nkl: Facebook We don't use your data to do anything creepy or invasive.Also Facebook We are launching a dating site where you will be algorithmically matched with your statistically perfect partner using our model of your interests and psychological type. Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder 00ab20bbe8Image Copyright @nkl@nkl

Mr Zuckerberg also announced that video chat and new augmented reality filters were coming to its photo-sharing Instagram app.

In addition, he said that group video calling would soon launch on its WhatsApp messaging service.

Big businesses will also benefit from new WhatsApp tools to help them communicate with their customers, he declared.

The chief executive also paid tribute to WhatsApp’s co-founder Jan Koum, who announced he was quitting the company yesterday.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is we’ve built the largest, fully encrypted network in the world,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

According to an earlier report by the Washington Post, Mr Koum had decided to leave because he was unhappy that the forthcoming business tools would involve a weakening of WhatsApp’s encryption.

Virtual reality

Mr Zuckerberg rounded off his list of unveils by revealing that his company’s Oculus virtual reality division had begun shipping its first standalone headset, meaning the device does not need to be plugged into a PC or smartphone to work.

Image copyrightFacebook
Image caption Oculus Go provides its own computing power rather than requiring a PC or smartphone

He said the $199 kit – which costs £199 in the UK – was the “easiest way to get into VR” and had the “highest quality lenses and optics that we have ever built”.

The firm’s larger Oculus Rift headsets have proved less popular than many industry insiders had predicted, and appear to have been outsold by Sony’s less powerful PlayStation VR gear.

Experts are split about the new device’s prospects.

“The new device makes VR much more accessible to everyone,” commented Adrian Willings from the gadget review site Pocket-lint.

“It’s a brilliant middle ground, but it’s a mobile experience so not as good as a PC one.”

But the head of games at the IHS consultancy was less positive.

“I see the Oculus Go headset as quite awkwardly positioned versus existing technology in the market,” said Piers Harding-Rolls.

“The major thing it has going for it is its price point, but the fact it has a similar user-experience to a premium smartphone adapter headset limits its appeal.”

Analysis:

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Mr Zuckerberg had a defiant message for F8’s attendees

By Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent

For Mark Zuckerberg there were two audiences for his speech – the 5,000 developers in the hall, many of them anxious about their businesses, and the two billion Facebook users who don’t know whether they should trust the social network.

For developers, who have seen much of their access to data frozen as the privacy crisis deepens, he announced the reopening of app reviews. That means an end to a logjam for new apps.

There was a mild cheer for this quite limited move and a huge one when he told attendees they would all walk away with a free Oculus Go VR headset – some people are easily pleased.

Image copyrightReuters
Image caption Facebook developers had complained that some of their apps had stopped working as a consequence of its emergency measures

For the wider audience, Zuckerberg kept hammering away at what has become his new mantra – that Facebook needs to take a broader view of its responsibilities.

He admitted mistakes – the Cambridge Analytica breach of trust, failing to spot Russian interference in elections – and outlined the various steps being taken to combat fakery, to investigate dodgy apps and to give users more control.

Apart from a new feature allowing users to clear their history – with the warning that it might make the Facebook experience worse – there was little that was new.

But there was a clear defiant message – yes, Facebook was acting to make users safer, but it would continue to launch new services like dating that expanded its reach.

Mark Zuckerberg thinks Facebook’s huge global audience still believes in his vision – no real signs here that he has been chastened by recent events.

Hate button

In a separate development, some US-based users have reported that a new prompt has appeared beneath posts on their News Feed asking them if the messages contain hate speech.

The service apparently extends to updates written by Mr Zuckerberg himself.

Image Copyright @MattNavarra@MattNavarra
Twitter post by @MattNavarra: Oh dear, Zuck#F8  Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder Facebook F8: Zuckerberg's dating service takes on Tinder 6a7900c084Image Copyright @MattNavarra@MattNavarra

A spokeswoman for Facebook said the matter had been dealt with.

“This was an internal test we were working on to understand different types of speech, including speech we thought would not be hate,” she explained.

“A bug caused it to launch publicly. It’s been disabled.”

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