In Ireland, a Grocery Chain Addresses ‘Period Poverty’ With Free Products

The move by Lidl comes as Ireland’s Parliament considers a legal measure to make period products free in the country. It’s among a growing number of such initiatives that aim to ease an inequality.

#ireland, #law-and-legislation, #lidl, #menstruation, #women-and-girls

0

How Democracy Faces a Rising Threat Splitting Republicans and Democrats

The country is increasingly split into camps that don’t just disagree on policy and politics — they see the other as alien, immoral, a threat. Such political sectarianism is now on the march.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #conservatism-us-politics, #geisel-theodor-seuss, #iraq, #ireland, #presidential-election-of-2020, #race-and-ethnicity, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #trump-donald-j

0

Irish Leader Apologizes for Killing of Prince Philip’s Uncle

Mary Lou McDonald, leader of the party that was once the political wing of the paramilitary Irish Republican Army, said she was sorry for its assassination of Louis Mountbatten.

#apologies, #assassinations-and-attempted-assassinations, #great-britain, #ireland, #irish-republican-army, #mcdonald-mary-lou, #mountbatten-louis, #philip-duke-of-edinburgh, #royal-families, #sinn-fein, #terrorism

0

Sinn Fein Leader Apologizes for 1979 Killing of Prince Philip’s Uncle

Mary Lou McDonald, leader of the party that was once the political wing of the paramilitary Irish Republican Army, said she was sorry for its assassination of Louis Mountbatten.

#apologies, #assassinations-and-attempted-assassinations, #great-britain, #ireland, #irish-republican-army, #mcdonald-mary-lou, #mountbatten-louis, #philip-duke-of-edinburgh, #royal-families, #sinn-fein, #terrorism

0

Facebook faces ‘mass action’ lawsuit in Europe over 2019 breach

Facebook is to be sued in Europe over the major leak of user data that dates back to 2019 but which only came to light recently after information on 533M+ accounts was found posted for free download on a hacker forum.

Today Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) announced it’s commencing a “mass action” to sue Facebook, citing the right to monetary compensation for breaches of personal data that’s set out in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Article 82 of the GDPR provides for a ‘right to compensation and liability’ for those affected by violations of the law. Since the regulation came into force, in May 2018, related civil litigation has been on the rise in the region.

The Ireland-based digital rights group is urging Facebook users who live in the European Union or European Economic Area to check whether their data was breach — via the haveibeenpwned website (which lets you check by email address or mobile number) — and sign up to join the case if so.

Information leaked via the breach includes Facebook IDs, location, mobile phone numbers, email address, relationship status and employer.

Facebook has been contacted for comment on the litigation.

The tech giant’s European headquarters is located in Ireland — and earlier this week the national data watchdog opened an investigation, under EU and Irish data protection laws.

A mechanism in the GDPR for simplifying investigation of cross-border cases means Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) is Facebook’s lead data regulator in the EU. However it has been criticized over its handling of and approach to GDPR complaints and investigations — including the length of time it’s taking to issue decisions on major cross-border cases. And this is particularly true for Facebook.

With the three-year anniversary of the GDPR fast approaching, the DPC has multiple open investigations into various aspects of Facebook’s business but has yet to issue a single decision against the company.

(The closest it’s come is a preliminary suspension order issued last year, in relation to Facebook’s EU to US data transfers. However that complaint long predates GDPR; and Facebook immediately filed to block the order via the courts. A resolution is expected later this year after the litigant filed his own judicial review of the DPC’s processes).

Since May 2018 the EU’s data protection regime has — at least on paper — baked in fines of up to 4% of a company’s global annual turnover for the most serious violations.

Again, though, the sole GDPR fine issued to date by the DPC against a tech giant (Twitter) is very far off that theoretical maximum. Last December the regulator announced a €450k (~$547k) sanction against Twitter — which works out to around just 0.1% of the company’s full-year revenue.

That penalty was also for a data breach — but one which, unlike the Facebook leak, had been publicly disclosed when Twitter found it in 2019. So Facebook’s failure to disclose the vulnerability it discovered and claims it fixed by September 2019, which led to the leak of 533M accounts now, suggests it should face a higher sanction from the DPC than Twitter received.

However even if Facebook ends up with a more substantial GDPR penalty for this breach the watchdog’s caseload backlog and plodding procedural pace makes it hard to envisage a swift resolution to an investigation that’s only a few days old.

Judging by past performance it’ll be years before the DPC decides on this 2019 Facebook leak — which likely explains why the DRI sees value in instigating class-action style litigation in parallel to the regulatory investigation.

“Compensation is not the only thing that makes this mass action worth joining. It is important to send a message to large data controllers that they must comply with the law and that there is a cost to them if they do not,” DRI writes on its website.

It also submitted a complaint about the Facebook breach to the DPC earlier this month, writing then that it was “also consulting with its legal advisors on other options including a mass action for damages in the Irish Courts”.

It’s clear that the GDPR enforcement gap is creating a growing opportunity for litigation funders to step in in Europe and take a punt on suing for data-related compensation damages — with a number of other mass actions announced last year.

In the case of DRI its focus is evidently on seeking to ensure that digital rights are upheld. But it told RTE that it believes compensation claims which force tech giants to pay money to users whose privacy rights have been violated is the best way to make them legally compliant.

Facebook, meanwhile, has sought to play down the breach it failed to disclose in 2019 — claiming it’s ‘old data’ — a deflection that ignores the fact that people’s dates of birth don’t change (nor do most people routinely change their mobile number or email address).

Plenty of the ‘old’ data exposed in this latest massive Facebook leak will be very handy for spammers and fraudsters to target Facebook users — and also now for litigators to target Facebook for data-related damages.

#data-protection, #data-protection-commission, #data-security, #digital-rights, #digital-rights-ireland, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #gdpr, #general-data-protection-regulation, #ireland, #lawsuit, #litigation, #personal-data, #privacy, #social, #social-media, #tc, #twitter

0

Ireland opens GDPR investigation into Facebook leak

Facebook’s lead data supervisor in the European Union has opened an investigation into whether the tech giant violated data protection rules vis-a-vis the leak of data reported earlier this month.

Here’s the Irish Data Protection Commission’s statement:

“The Data Protection Commission (DPC) today launched an own-volition inquiry pursuant to section 110 of the Data Protection Act 2018 in relation to multiple international media reports, which highlighted that a collated dataset of Facebook user personal data had been made available on the internet. This dataset was reported to contain personal data relating to approximately 533 million Facebook users worldwide. The DPC engaged with Facebook Ireland in relation to this reported issue, raising queries in relation to GDPR compliance to which Facebook Ireland furnished a number of responses.

The DPC, having considered the information provided by Facebook Ireland regarding this matter to date, is of the opinion that one or more provisions of the GDPR and/or the Data Protection Act 2018 may have been, and/or are being, infringed in relation to Facebook Users’ personal data.

Accordingly, the Commission considers it appropriate to determine whether Facebook Ireland has complied with its obligations, as data controller, in connection with the processing of personal data of its users by means of the Facebook Search, Facebook Messenger Contact Importer and Instagram Contact Importer features of its service, or whether any provision(s) of the GDPR and/or the Data Protection Act 2018 have been, and/or are being, infringed by Facebook in this respect.”

Facebook has been contacted for comment.

The move comes after the European Commission intervened to apply pressure on Ireland’s data protection commissioner. Justice commissioner, Didier Reynders, tweeted Monday that he had spoken with Helen Dixon about the Facebook data leak.

“The Commission continues to follow this case closely and is committed to supporting national authorities,” he added, going on to urge Facebook to “cooperate actively and swiftly to shed light on the identified issues”.

A spokeswoman for the Commission confirmed the virtual meeting between Reynders and Dixon, saying: “Dixon informed the Commissioner about the issues at stake and the different tracks of work to clarify the situation.

“They both urge Facebook to cooperate swiftly and to share the necessary information. It is crucial to shed light on this leak that has affected millions of European citizens.”

“It is up to the Irish data protection authority to assess this case. The Commission remains available if support is needed. The situation will also have to be further analyzed for the future. Lessons should be learned,” she added.

The revelation that a vulnerability in Facebook’s platform enabled unidentified ‘malicious actors’ to extract the personal data (including email addresses, mobile phone numbers and more) of more than 500 million Facebook accounts up until September 2019 — when Facebook claims it fixed the issue — only emerged in the wake of the data being found for free download on a hacker forum earlier this month.

Despite the European Union’s data protection framework (the GDPR) baking in a regime of data breach notifications — with the risk of hefty fines for compliance failure — Facebook did not inform its lead EU data supervisory when it found and fixed the issue. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) was left to find out in the press, like everyone else.

Nor has Facebook individually informed the 533M+ users that their information was taken without their knowledge or consent, saying last week it has no plans to do so — despite the heightened risk for affected users of spam and phishing attacks.

Privacy experts have, meanwhile, been swift to point out that the company has still not faced any regulatory sanction under the GDPR — with a number of investigations ongoing into various Facebook businesses and practices and no decisions yet issued in those cases by Ireland’s DPC.

Last month the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the implementation of the GDPR which expressed “great concern” over the functioning of the mechanism — raising particular concern over the Irish data protection authority by writing that it “generally closes most cases with a settlement instead of a sanction and that cases referred to Ireland in 2018 have not even reached the stage of a draft decision pursuant to Article 60(3) of the GDPR”.

The latest Facebook data scandal further amps up the pressure on the DPC — providing further succour to critics of the GDPR who argue the regulation is unworkable under the current foot-dragging enforcement structure, given the major bottlenecks in Ireland (and Luxembourg) where many tech giants choose to locate regional HQ.

On Thursday Reynders made his concern over Ireland’s response to the Facebook data leak public, tweeting to say the Commission had been in contact with the DPC.

He does have reason to be personally concerned. Earlier last week Politico reported that Reynders’ own digits had been among the cache of leaked data, along with those of the Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel — and “dozens of EU officials”. However the problem of weak GDPR enforcement affects everyone across the bloc — some 446M people whose rights are not being uniformly and vigorously upheld.

“A strong enforcement of GDPR is of key importance,” Reynders also remarked on Twitter, urging Facebook to “fully cooperate with Irish authorities”.

Last week Italy’s data protection commission also called on Facebook to immediately offer a service for Italian users to check whether they had been affected by the breach. But Facebook made no public acknowledgment or response to the call. Under the GDPR’s one-stop-shop mechanism the tech giant can limit its regulatory exposure by direct dealing only with its lead EU data supervisor in Ireland.

A two-year Commission review of how the data protection regime is functioning, which reported last summer, already drew attention to problems with patchy enforcement. A lack of progress on unblocking GDPR bottlenecks is thus a growing problem for the Commission — which is in the midst of proposing a package of additional digital regulations. That makes the enforcement point a very pressing one as EU lawmakers are being asked how new digital rules will be upheld if existing ones keep being trampled on?

It’s certainly notable that the EU’s executive has proposed a different, centralized enforcement structure for incoming pan-EU legislation targeted at digital services and tech giants. Albeit, getting agreement from all the EU’s institutions and elected representatives on how to reshape platform oversight looks challenging.

And in the meanwhile the data leaks continue: Motherboard reported Friday on another alarming leak of Facebook data it found being made accessible via a bot on the Telegram messaging platform that gives out the names and phone numbers of users who have liked a Facebook page (in exchange for a fee unless the page has had less than 100 likes).

The publication said this data appears to be separate to the 533M+ scraped dataset — after it ran checks against the larger dataset via the breach advice site, haveibeenpwned. It also asked Alon Gal, the person who discovered the aforementioned leaked Facebook dataset being offered for free download online, to compare data obtained via the bot and he did not find any matches.

We contacted Facebook about the source of this leaked data and will update this report with any response.

In his tweet about the 500M+ Facebook data leak last week, Reynders made reference to the Europe Data Protection Board (EDPB), a steering body comprised of representatives from Member State data protection agencies which works to ensure a consistent application of the GDPR.

However the body does not lead on GDPR enforcement — so it’s not clear why he would invoke it. Optics is one possibility, if he was trying to encourage a perception that the EU has vigorous and uniform enforcement structures where people’s data is concerned.

“Under the GDPR, enforcement and the investigation of potential violations lies with the national supervisory authorities. The EDPB does not have investigative powers per se and is not involved in investigations at the national level. As such, the EDPB cannot comment on the processing activities of specific companies,” an EDPB spokeswoman told us when we enquired about Reynders’ remarks.

But she also noted the Commission attends plenary meetings of the EDPB — adding it’s possible there will be an exchange of views among members about the Facebook leak case in the future, as attending supervisory authorities “regularly exchange information on cases at the national level”.

 

#data-breach, #dpc, #eu, #europe, #facebook, #gdpr, #ireland, #privacy, #social, #tc

0

The Ghosts of Northern Ireland’s Troubles Are Back. What’s Going On?

A peace agreement nearly a quarter-century ago helped transform Northern Ireland after decades of bitter conflict. But new issues are reawakening old feuds.

#belfast-northern-ireland, #great-britain-withdrawal-from-eu-brexit, #ireland, #irish-republican-army, #northern-ireland, #sinn-fein

0

Tines raises $26M Series B for its no-code security automation platform

Tines, a no-code automation platform co-founded by two senior cybersecurity operators, today announced that it has raised a $26 million Series B funding round led by Addition. Existing investors Accel and Blossom Capital participated in this round, which also includes strategic investments from CrowdStrike and Silicon Valley CISO Investments. After this round, which brings the total funding in the company to $41.1 million, Tines is now valued at $300 million.

Given that Tines co-founders Eoin Hinchy and Thomas Kinsella were both in senior security roles at DocuSign before they left to start their own company in 2018, it’s maybe no surprise that the company’s platform launched with a strong focus on security operations. As such, it combines security orchestration and robotic process automation with a low-code/no-code user interface.

“Tines is on a mission to allow frontline employees to focus on more business-critical tasks and improve their wellbeing by reducing the burden of ‘busy work’ by helping automate any manual workflow and making existing teams more efficient, effective, and engaged,” the company notes in today’s announcement.

The idea here is to free analysts from spending time on routine repetitive tasks and allow them to focus on those areas where they can have the most impact. The tools features pre-configured integrations with a variety of business and security tools, but for more sophisticated users, it also features the ability to hook into virtually any API.

Image Credits: Tines

The company argues that even non-technical employees should be able to learn the ins and outs of its platform within about three hours (sidenote: it’s nice to see a no-code platform acknowledge that users will actually need to spend some time with it before they can become productive).

“If software is eating the world, automation is eating the enterprise,” Hinchy said. “Yet, the majority of progress in this space still requires non-technical teams to depend on software engineers to implement their automation. Other platforms are generally either too hard to use, not flexible enough or not sufficiently robust for mission-critical workflows like cybersecurity. Tines empowers enterprise teams to automate any of their own manual workloads independently, making their jobs more rewarding while simultaneously delivering enormous value for their organizations.”

Current Tines customers include the likes of Box, Canva, OpenTable and Sophos.

The company, which was founded in Dublin, Ireland and recently opened an office in Boston, plans to use the new funding to double its 18-person team in order to support its product growth.

“Tines has quickly established itself as a market leader in enterprise automation,” said Lee Fixel, founder of Addition. “We look forward to supporting Eoin and the Tines team as they continue to scale the business and enhance their product — which is beloved by their unmatched customer base.”

Image Credits: Tines

#addition, #api, #automation, #boston, #box, #business, #business-process-automation, #canva, #crowdstrike, #docusign, #dublin, #ireland, #lee-fixel, #low-code, #market-leader, #no-code, #opentable, #recent-funding, #security, #security-tools, #silicon-valley-ciso-investments, #sophos, #startups, #tc, #tines, #tools

0

Britain at the Turn of the 20th Century Was Dealing With a Lot, Badly

Simon Heffer’s “The Age of Decadence” describes a society in ferment and a complacent ruling class.

#books-and-literature, #edward-vii-king-of-england, #edwardian-era, #great-britain, #heffer-simon, #ireland, #the-age-of-decadence-britain-1880-to-1914-book, #victoria-queen-of-england, #victorian-era

0

Apple adds two brand new Siri voices and will no longer default to a female or male voice in iOS

Apple is adding two new voices to Siri’s English offerings, and eliminating the default ‘female voice’ selection in the latest beta version of iOS. This means that every person setting up Siri will choose a voice for themselves and it will no longer default to the voice assistant being female, a topic that has come up quite a bit with regards to bias in voice interfaces over the past few years.

The beta version should be live now and available to program participants.

I believe that this is the first of these assistants to make the choice completely agnostic with no default selection made. This is a positive step forward as it allows people to choose the voice that they prefer without the defaults bias coming into play. The two new voices also bring some much needed variety to the voices of Siri, offering more diversity in speech sound and pattern to a user picking a voice that speaks to them.

in some countries and languages Siri already defaults to a male voice. But this change makes the choice the users’ for the first time.

“We’re excited to introduce two new Siri voices for English speakers and the option for Siri users to select the voice they want when they set up their device,” a statement from Apple reads. “This is a continuation of Apple’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in.”

The two new voices use source talent recordings that are then run through Apple’s Neural text to speech engine, making the voices flow more organically through phrases that are actually being generated on the fly.

I’ve heard the new voices and they sound pretty fantastic, with natural inflection and smooth transitions. They’ll be a welcome addition of choice to iOS users. I’ll embed some samples here after the beta drops.

This latest beta also upgrades the Siri voices in Ireland, Russia and Italy to Neural TTS, bringing the total voices using the new tech to 38. Siri now handles 25 billion requests per month on over 500M devices and supports 21 languages in 36 countries.

The new voices are available to English speaking users around the world and Siri users can select a personal preference of voice in 16 languages.

It seems very likely that these two new voices are just the first expansion in Siri’s voice selections. More diversity in voice, tone and regional dialect can only be a positive development for how inclusive smart devices feel. Over the past few years we have finally begun to see some movement from Amazon, Google and Apple to aggressively correct situations where the assistants have revealed bias in their responses to queries that use negative or abusive language. Improvements there, as well as in queries on social justice topics and overall accessibility improvements are incredibly key as we continue to see an explosion of voice-first or voice-native interfaces. These kinds of choices matter, especially at a scale of hundreds of millions of people.

 

Article updated to note that in some countries and languages Siri currently defaults to a male voice. 

#amazon, #apple, #apple-inc, #artificial-intelligence, #computing, #google, #google-now, #ios, #ireland, #italy, #mach, #russia, #siri, #software, #speech-synthesis, #voice-assistant

0

I Brought My Mother Home to Ireland

Near the lichen-mottled bottom of the family headstone, a single new line appears in the slate gray.

#cemeteries, #families-and-family-life, #galway-ireland, #ireland, #long-island-ny

0

Jean Kennedy Smith’s Duplex Is Up for Sale

Ms. Smith, who died last June, was the last surviving sibling of President John F. Kennedy. She moved into the apartment at 4 Sutton Place after serving as ambassador to Ireland.

#ireland, #kennedy-smith-jean, #kennedy-john-fitzgerald, #manhattan-nyc, #real-estate-and-housing-residential, #sutton-place-manhattan-ny

0

EU’s lead data supervisor for most of big tech is still using Lotus Notes

The lead data supervisor for a slew of tech giants in the European Union, including Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter, is still relying on Lotus Notes to manage complaints and investigations lodged under the bloc’s flagship General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), per freedom of information requests made by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).

Back in its 2016 annual report Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) stated that one of its main goals for GDPR (and ePrivacy) readiness included “implementation of a new website and case-management system” in time for the regulation coming into force in May 2018. However some five years later this ITC upgrade project is still a work in progress, responses to the ICCL’s FOIs show.

Project deadlines were repeatedly missed, per internal documents now in the public domain, while by October 2020 the cost of the DPC’s ICT upgrade had more than doubled vs an initial projection — ballooning to at least €615,121 (a figure that excludes staff time spent on the project since 2016; and also does not include the cost of maintaining the antiquated Lotus Notes system which is borne by the Irish government’s Department of Justice).

The revelation that the lead data supervisor for much of big tech in Europe is handling complaints using such ‘last-gen’ software not only looks highly embarrassing for the DPC but raises questions over the effectiveness of its senior management.

The DPC continues to face criticism over the slow pace of regulatory enforcement vis-a-vis big tech which, combined with the GDPR’s one-stop-shop mechanism, has led to a huge backlog of cases that the European Commission has conceded is a weakness of the regulation. So the revelation that it’s taking so long to get its own ITC in order will only fuel criticism that the regulator is not fit for purpose.

The wider issue here is the vast gulf in resources and technical expertise between tech giants, many of which are racking up vast profits off of people’s data that they can use to put toward paying armies of in-house lawyers to shield them from the risk of regulatory intervention, vs the tiny, under-resourced public sector agencies tasked with defending users’ rights — without appropriately modern tools to help them do the job.

In Ireland’s case, though, the length of time involved in overhauling its internal ICT does throw the spotlight on management of resources. Not least because the DPC’s budget and headcount has been growing since around 2015, as more resource have been allocated to it to reflect GDPR coming into application.

The ICCL is calling for the Irish government to consider hiring two additional commissioners — to supplement the current (sole) commissioner, Helen Dixon, who was appointed to the role back in 2014.

It notes that Irish law allows for the possibility of having three commissioners.

“The people who are supposed to make sure that Facebook and Google do not misuse the information that they have about each of us, are using a system so antiquated that one former staff member told me it is ‘like attempting to use an abacus to do payroll’,” Dr Johnny Ryan, an ICCL senior fellow, told TechCrunch.

The DPC is not configured for its digital mission,” he added in a statement. “What we have discovered indicates that it cannot run critically important internal technology projects. How can it be expected to monitor what the world’s biggest tech firms do with our data? This raises serious questions not only for the DPC, but for the Irish Government. We have alerted the Irish Government of the strategic economic risk from failing to enforce the GDPR.”

Reached for comment, the DPC told us it has a “functional and fit-for-purpose” Case Management System which it said has been “optimised with new features over the last number of years (including with capability for the generation of statistics and management reports)”.

But it conceded the system is “dated” and “limited” in terms of how much it can be adapted for integration with a new DPC website and web forms and the IMI [information systems management] shared platform used between EU data protection authorities — given that it’s based on Lotus Notes technology. 

“Significant work in specifying the system and building its core modules has been completed,” deputy commission Graham Doyle said. “Some delays in delivery have occurred because of updates to specification of security and infrastructure elements. Some other elements have on demand from the DPC been slowed in order to allow for the resolution between EU DPAs of final intended processes such as those involved in the Article 60 cooperation and consistency mechanism under the GDPR.

“The EDPB [European Data Protection Board] is only now preparing internal guidance on the operationalisation of Article 60 and further on the dispute resolution mechanism under Article 65. These are key features of work between EU DPAs that require hand-offs between systems. In addition, the EU almost 3 years after it intended to has not yet adopted its new e-Privacy legislation. Further, the DPC alongside all other EU DPAs is learning how the procedural and operational aspects of the GDPR are to operate in fine detail and some of them remain to be settled.”

Doyle added that “progress continues” on the new Case Management System investment — saying it’s the DPC’s intention that “initial core modules” of the new system will be rolled out in Q2 2021.

To date, Ireland’s regulator has only issued one decision pertaining to a cross-border GDPR complaint: In December when it fined Twitter $550k over a security breach the company had publicly disclosed in January 2019.

Disagreement between Ireland and other EU DPAs over its initial enforcement proposal added months more to the decision process — and the DPC was finally forced to increase its suggested penalty by up to a few thousand euros following a majority vote.

The Twitter case was hardly smooth sailing but it actually represents a relatively rapid turnaround compared to the seven+ years involved in a separate (2013) complaint (aka Schrems II) — related to Facebook’s international data transfers which predates the GDPR.

With that complaint the DPC chose to go to court to raise concerns about the legality of the data transfer mechanism itself rather than acting on a specific complaint over Facebook’s use of Standard Contractual Clauses. A referral to the European Court of Justice followed and the EU’s highest court ended up torpedoing a flagship data transfer arrangement between the EU and the US.

Despite its legal challenge resulting in the EU-US Privacy Shield being struck down, the DPC still hasn’t pulled the plug on Facebook’s EU transfers. Although last September it did issue a preliminary suspension order — which Facebook immediately challenged (and blocked, temporarily) via judicial review.

Last year the DPC settled a counter judicial review of its processes, brought by the original complainant, agreeing to swiftly finalize the complaint — although a decision is still likely months out. But should finally come this year.

The DPC defends itself against accusations of enforcement foot-dragging by saying it must follow due process to ensure its decisions stand up to legal challenge.

But as criticism of the unit continues to mount revelations that its own flagship internal ICT upgrade is dragging on some five years after it was stated as a DPC priority will do nothing to silence critics.

Last week the EU parliament’s civil liberties committee issued a draft motion calling on the Commission to begin infringement proceedings against against Ireland “for not properly enforcing the GDPR”.

In the statement it wrote of “deep concern” that several complaints against breaches of the GDPR have not yet been decided by the Irish DPC despite GDPR coming into application in May 2018.

The LIBE committee also flagged the Schrems II Facebook transfers case — writing that it is concerned this case “was started by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, instead taking a decision within its powers pursuant to Article 58 GDPR”.

It’s also notable that the Commission’s latest plans for updating pan-EU platform regulations — the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act — propose to side-step the risk of enforcement bottlenecks by suggesting that key enforcement against the largest platforms should be brought in-house to avoid the risk of any single Member State agency standing in the way of cross-border enforcement of European citizens’ data rights, as continues to happen with the GDPR.

Another quirk in relation to the Irish DPC is that the unit is not subject to the full range of freedom of information law. Instead the law only applies in respect of records concerning “the general administration of the Commission”. This means that its “supervisory, regulatory, consultation, complaint-handling or investigatory functions (including case files) are not releasable under the Act”, as it notes on its website.

Freedom of information requests filed by TechCrunch last year — asking the DPC how many times it has used GDPR powers to impose a temporary or absolute ban on data processing — were refused by the regulator on these grounds.

Its refusal to disclose whether or not it has ever asked an infringing entity to stop processing personal data cited the partial coverage of FOI law, saying that ‘general administration’ only refers to “records which have to do with the management of an FOI body such as records referring to personnel, pay matters, recruitment, accounts, information technology, accommodation, internal organization, office procedures and the like”.

While Ireland’s FOI law prevents closer scrutiny of the DPC’s activities the agency’s enforcement record speaks for itself.

 

#data-protection, #dpc, #gdpr, #ireland, #platform-regulation, #tc

0

Despite Brexit and COVID-19, Irish investors remain bullish

Ireland’s technology scene has come in leaps and bounds in the last decade, with a growing VC scene, plenty of startups and tech giants attracted by the nation’s favorable tax incentives and talent pool.

Google, Facebook, Slack, Microsoft and Dropbox each have a European headquarters sited in Dublin. As the EU’s only remaining English-language speaking hub, Ireland is attracting more diversity in its founders than ever before, plus the tech diaspora is returning to its roots as the ecosystem matures.

We surveyed five local VCs to find out if they had any wisdom to share with TechCrunch readers who are considering hiring, investing or founding a company in Ireland this year.

VCs in Ireland don’t stray far from home, but there are plenty of great deals to be had there anyway. A small domestic market means Irish startups think internationally from launch, and there are high-quality seed opportunities. Top-tier American VCs like Sequoia are placing bets on Irish companies, sometimes even at a pre-seed stage.

The coronavirus pandemic has not really impacted many investment strategies — aside from the switch to Zoom calls instead of meet-and-greets — but it has made hiring more challenging, given the competitiveness of the local labor market. Still, top engineering talent is cheaper there than in the U.S., which means entrepreneurs can create great companies with less overhead.


We just launched Extra Crunch in Ireland. Subscribe for access to all of our investor surveys, company profiles and other insider coverage for startups everywhere. Save 25% off the cost of a one-year Extra Crunch membership by entering discount code IRISHCRUNCH.


We spoke with the following investors:


Andrew O’Neill, principal, Act Venture Capital

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
We are seeing high-quality seed opportunities that are leading with exciting developer-first/bottoms-up go-to-market strategies in both security and enterprise software. The shift left in security is very well-publicized, but we feel the cultural element of developers truly caring about security and implementing it at design phase is still only beginning … and it’s hugely exciting.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
It’s a B2B SaaS design tool, in the world of Figma, Sketch and Invision App … and has some very interesting angels. It is only just complete and not announced yet … and we have not talked to any PR agencies yet, but would be happy to pitch an exclusive to you 😉

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
As a domestic market, Ireland is very small … so by its very nature, we do not see the same level of great B2C as the U.K. The expertise … and second, third-time consumer-tech founders are not as common, but there are still of course huge opportunities in the consumer space and companies like Buymie are proving it can be done in Ireland.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Like every investment: The people that truly understand the pain point, have passion around the product, have the patience and grit to keep going, and finally the potential for this company to become a category creator.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
No competition means no market … however there are high volumes of startups empowering remote working, productivity tools and HR tech focused around company culture metrics etc. … but that said, there is a wave of change happening around the future of work that no one has a crystal ball on, and new category winners will still emerge.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
Very focused on Ireland and more than 50% … we can invest in Series A and B across Europe, but we invest at seed exclusively in Ireland.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Enterprise software startups have always been well-positioned for success within Ireland, and that has only increased with the secondary effects now appearing from the result of great talent coming out of large MNCs driven by 20+ years of FDI. Act has invested in over 120 companies and over half is in enterprise software. We are excited about seeing a new emerging amount of repeat founders in our portfolio (and Ireland) like Barry Lunn in Provizio, and Cathal McGloin in ServisBOT.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
When we looked at all the data in Ireland recently, there has been a 115% increase from €401 million to €860 million invested per annum over the last four years. So the market size has doubled and we are seeing some very exciting seed companies, which bides very well for the future.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Personally, I do expect to see even more great startups coming out of the south like Cork and Limerick and the west in Galway, but I don’t foresee startup hubs significantly losing people due to the pandemic and remote work.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? 
It’s obvious that there are now serious questions around the level of future of business travel, given how people have been forced to rethink and adapt how they do business. This industry shift alone will create both big winners and losers long term.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Not hugely, given the long-term timeframe we consider when investing. The bigger question around changing consumer behaviors, the acceleration of e-commerce adoption and digital transformation is something we are of course taking into account. Our advice is always bespoke and contextual to the individual startup, and only given when asked.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, our portfolio has proven itself to be quite robust through COVID and companies like SilverCloud Health, Toothpic and Buymie are experiencing great tailwinds due to the current pandemic environment.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Personally, seeing some incredibly talented founders with deep expertise at seed stage that are repeat founders. They know exactly what they want and need to do to go bigger this time around, and we believe they can get there much quicker than before.

 

Isabelle O’Keeffe, principal, Sure Valley Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
AI/ML, cybersecurity, immersive technologies and gaming infrastructure.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Getvisbility and Volograms.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Companies that are really creating defensibility using the technology. Companies creating new markets.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Ride-sharing, on-demand delivery, payments and challenger banks.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We invest more than 50% in our local ecosystem versus other startup hubs.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
The industries that will continue to thrive include: financial services, property and construction, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and Big Tech. We’re very excited about some of our portfolio companies including VividQ, Admix, Buymie, Nova Leah and WarDucks.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Dublin and Ireland have a growing and prosperous tech ecosystem and there are plenty of great investment opportunities there.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Yes I would agree that we will see some of this happening. However, I do think that once there is a vaccine that we will see the return of cities and people will naturally be attracted back there.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
We have seen limited impact of COVID on some of segments that we invest into. The opportunities exist for companies operating in the future or work including remote working, e-commerce, on-demand grocery delivery, cybersecurity, gaming and immersive technologies.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID has not really impacted our investment strategy bar the fact that we have had to get comfortable with a lot of the process being conducted via Zoom. We have not shifted away from certain sectors or industries as we have tended to invest into areas that are relatively unaffected. The biggest worries for founders in our portfolio are around raising their next round of funding, hitting key milestones, achieving a repeatable go-to-market strategy and hiring great talent.

My advice to startups in my portfolio now is to keep a very close eye on burn, ensure that if they are going out to fundraise that they realize it can take at least two months longer than they originally anticipated and to continue to be working on the product and technology at times when sales have slowed down as when they emerge from this period they will be in a much stronger position with their products and technology and the sales will follow.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes we have “green shoots’ regarding momentum in Buymie, which is an “on-demand grocery delivery” company who have seen a surge in demand for the service due to the pandemic. Getvisibility, which is a cybersecurity company, has also seen a surge in interest from companies in the financial services, and pharmaceutical and defense industries as they adapt to their employees working from home and where there are greater risks of cyberattacks.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
I think the moment for everyone recently has been the announcement that we could be closer to a vaccine than we originally thought and that we may be able to resume normal life next year.

 

Nicola McClafferty, partner, Draper Esprit

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Future of work/consumerization of enterprise, machine-learning applications.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Sweepr — automation of customer care for connected homes.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
True AI, digital health.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Global ambition.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
E-scooters.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
~20%.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Software application, AI, machine learning, life sciences. key companies, WorkVivo, Manna Aero, Open, Sweepr, Roomex and Evervault.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Unfortunately seed stage is dramatically underserved by local players. Hiring can be challenging given competitiveness of labor market with large tech MNCs. However deep entrepreneurship culture, global thinking from day one, incredibly strong pool of technical talent from Irish universities. It’s also a key destination of other European founders. Brexit opens even more opportunity for this.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
Startup economy will likely become a bit more distributed around the country but this will be a positive. Cities like Dublin, Cork and Galway will however remain strong hubs.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
Travel tech extremely challenged but the best companies will survive and huge winners will emerge in the COVID recovery when travel returns. Big opportunity to accelerate enterprise SaaS adoption and automation as budgets have shifted dramatically to digital infrastructure and cost-cutting and productivity becomes key focus.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Strategy remains largely intact with some further reserves used to support companies. For those businesses very directly impacted (e.g., travel) — concern is visibility and timing of recovery that is largely out of founder control. Other concerns include cash runway in times of uncertainty — how will the market view performance for future fundraise; in big enterprise how to adapt your sales model for a remote world.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Most definitely. As tech businesses most have been very adaptable and are responding to customer needs as they change. After a slow Q2 many businesses rebounded very well in Q3 and have returned to strong growth. Early churn has been flushed out already.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Announcement of the vaccine! Path to recovery is nearing.

 

Michelle Dervan, partner, Rethink Education Management, LLC

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
I am deeply specialized in education technology investing. Interested in seeing tailored Zoom alternatives for the classroom, tech-enabled vocational training programs, corporate learning solutions for the distributed workforce.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
Crehana, an online skills training platform serving Latin America.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
Upskilling and reskilling programs for displaced workers.
Shorter, cheaper training programs and credentialing for middle-skills jobs.
Software to help high school students prep for college and career.
Effective remediation programs that can help students catch up on lost learning during COVID.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
Outliers in terms of evidence of product market fit, proof of efficacy, impact baked into the business model, team with unique understanding of the problem and ability to execute against it.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
K-12 supplemental apps, games, content.
Tech bootcamps.
Corporate LMS.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
80% U.S.-focused, 20% outside of the U.S.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Ireland has traditionally had a very strong e-learning/edtech startup sector. Exciting growth companies include LearnIpon, Learnosity, Alison, Touch Press. Early-stage companies include Avail Support, Zhrum, Robotify.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Dublin is a really vibrant startup ecosystem. Young population. Lots of government supports to encourage entrepreneurship. Excellent experienced talent pool coming out of multinationals and existing startups. English speaking. Great connectivity to rest of Europe/U.S.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
I recently relocated to Dublin after 10 years in NYC. There has been a mass exodus from cities like NYC and SF during the pandemic as the economics of living there plus the space constraints, etc. no longer make sense in a prolonged period of WFH and while most amenities are closed. Dublin is also a high-cost location so will likely also see some exodus although I think to a lesser extent.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
The COVID environment has caused a mass acceleration in the adoption of education technology across all age groups from K-12, higher education to corporate and workforce learning. This was already a secular trend albeit at a much slower pace of adoption. I believe that the prolonged period of reliance on a tech-enabled learning experience and the potential need to revert to this in the future will have a lasting effect on how we teach and learn.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
Our investment strategy has not been impacted by COVID. We are seeing a greater degree of opportunity and interest in our sector. The biggest concerns for founders are unpredictability in the sales funnel, potential delays to purchasing decisions and resultant cashflow implications. Even for companies that have been net beneficiaries of the COVID environment, it has injected a very high degree of unpredictability and that is very stressful for founders.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Yes, as mentioned above.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Biden’s election and the list of people that he is evaluating for Education Secretary and for his cabinet.

 

Will Prendergast, partner, Frontline Ventures

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
We take an opportunistic approach to investing at Frontline and are open to any number of different trends within the B2B space. Generally, we are excited to back founders working on:

  • Complexity in the software/product development stack: As more and more businesses become software businesses and software products become more complex there will be a layer of tools that abstract away that complexity and provide connections between them. Software using other software will be an exciting space in the decade to come, facilitated by many API-first companies.
  • Embedded finance: We are excited by fintechs that are helping non-financial institutions leverage their customer base to provide financial products. Open banking is an enormous enabler of embedded finance.
  • Process augmentation rather than process automation: There are a number of key skill gaps emerging in many different sectors right now and software is emerging as the bridge for companies to handle the shortfall. These are products that help highly skilled workers maximize their productivity.

In the current environment, we are also highly interested in startups that are broadly targeting the key trends below brought on by COVID-19:

  • Hospitals and clinics seek to increase efficiency and reach patients remotely.
  • Banks cautious as financial crime grows.
  • Remote employee management tools for HR and finance teams.
  • Debt collection automation due to SME liquidations.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
We recently invested in a German business that aims to become the Moody’s of financial crime.
Since 2008, large banks have become less willing to transact with regional retail banks. They were unfairly deemed “too risky” in their portfolio. This company aims to create a fundamental shift in the industry — from old school box ticking compliance to data-driven ways of determining the risk. We are very excited to increase fairness and transparency between banks, which will inevitably create more value to the end consumer.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
B2B payments are undergoing a renaissance at the moment with companies like Bill.com dominating in the public markets. As fintech creeps into more aspects of the product stack, payments is just the first part to produce huge winners. Solving the nuts and bolts of business finance is still a hugely overlooked opportunity for both large and small companies.
We’d also love to see more companies dedicated to reducing the CFO burden at SME and enterprise level. From real-time payroll to treasury and employee pension management, so much of a CFO’s work is manual and time consuming.
We have supported companies that make a significant dent in the specific parts of the funnel (for example, Payslip — a global payroll automation platform), but we feel like there is more room for end-to-end automation in this realm.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
We’re looking for challengers who seek out other strong minds; whether you’re a first-time founder building something that matters, or a seasoned entrepreneur that knows how hard it is to “make it.” In all of our investments, we prize self-awareness above all else in our founders; key to building great teams and scaling a global business. Ambition does not require experience. We’re looking to invest in pioneers across Europe from the world of tech, computer science and engineering, due to our own deep knowledge of technology. In return, we use our personal experience in building and scaling business across both sides of the Atlantic to help founders get off the ground — and go global.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
Products that are being built specifically with the conditions created by COVID-19 today may find themselves in a wildly different environment in 18 months. We’re looking to speak to founders who see how things are now and have a strong opinion on how they’re going to affect things in the years to come.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We support founders with global ambition across both sides of the Atlantic. Frontline Seed is a pan-European early-stage fund investing all across Europe. Frontline X is a growth-stage fund, for fast and frictionless U.S.-Europe expansion.
When we first started Frontline, the vast majority of our investments came out of Ireland. Since 2012 we have expanded our scope, and for the last few years have been very much pan-European and now invest across Ireland, the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands and Southern Europe.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
U.S. tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Zendesk Hubspot (among many others) have a “pied-à-terre” in Ireland.
In most cases, top-class engineering talent is sourced more cheaply there than in the U.S., creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. They upskill great engineers, who then go on to create great companies.
We’ve seen startup developer tools thrive in Ireland as a result; an example of which is Tines.io. This Accel-and-Index-backed company was built by the world-renowned security team in Dublin.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Ireland is a hidden gem — we’ve had the privilege of reaping the rewards. However, I suspect that the likes of Tines.io, Intercom and Stripe are stirring investor curiosity.
We’re already seeing top-tier U.S. VCs like Sequoia placing bets in Irish companies at a pre-seed stage, for example Evervault, one of our portfolio companies.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
As a global fund, part of our core belief is that great companies and exceptional founders can come from anywhere in the world. COVID-19 has had a significant and eroding effect on traditional “tech hub” models and we have seen founders of all walks of life realize that companies can not only run, but thrive in a remote world.
That said, we also believe that geography will continue to matter. Where you set up your HQ in Europe as a growth-stage B2B SaaS business expanding from the U.S. (for example) will continue to matter in a post-COVID world — because legal entities will continue to matter.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?

  1. The closure of retail stores = tremendous growth in e-commerce. Companies big and small are vamping up their back and front ends, and attempting to get more visibility on their supply chain for better customer service.
  2. Payments transition online = more financial crime. Banks need tools that help them detect fraud.
  3. Consumers are tight on cash = HR departments want to provide more salary liquidity and help employees save for their pensions to create better financial wellness.

These are just to name a few.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
COVID-19 has not changed our investment strategy but it will have lasting impact on the way businesses are run and built. That said, the pandemic has given us a new filter: “How successful can this product/business model be in a post-COVID world?”
At the moment, our founders are most worried by engagement (maintaining company culture) and talent (team expansion, senior leadership recruitment).
Every company is different and we shy away from blanket statements, but what we do advise is that founders spend time to identify what working format works best for their company and that they listen carefully to their employees. How can you continue to grow your business, whilst maintaining and nurturing an inclusive and engaged company culture?
Also — while you can, shore up your balance sheet. Believe it or not, VC funding was at an all-time high in Europe last quarter. Go fundraise to extend your runway as much as possible. No one really knows what the next 12 months is really going to hold.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
Three companies in our portfolio stand out as pandemic green shoots:

  • Workvivo is designed to promote team culture and communication digitally. They have successfully raised a Series A midpandemic with U.S. investor Tiger Global to cope with demand from large customers.
  • Qualio is another portfolio company selling quality management software into life sciences and pharmaceutical companies. They blew out their Q2 targets and raised an $11 million Series A.
  • Signal AI: Media monitoring is an attractive proposition to PR and comms teams in turbulent times. Signal AI has recently partnered with Deloitte to produce COVID-19 curated reports on how the pandemic has and is continuing to affect supply chains, business, society and travel.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
Seeing how well the many teams in our portfolio focused on employee health, well-being and safety and how hard they have all worked to keep their companies going strong.

#draper-esprit, #ec-europe, #ec-investor-survey, #europe, #frontline-ventures, #ireland, #tc

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Joe Biden, the Irishman

The president’s heritage is important to him. But how deep does it go?

#asylum-right-of, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #immigration-and-emigration, #ireland, #politics-and-government, #united-states, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Truckers Shun U.K. Ports to Avoid Brexit Red Tape

British ports expected gridlock after post-Brexit trade rules began on Jan. 1. Instead, some are nearly empty as truckers stay away, reluctant to spend hours waiting for newly required export documents.

#europe, #european-union, #ferries, #great-britain, #great-britain-withdrawal-from-eu-brexit, #ireland, #trucks-and-trucking

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Wingcopter raises $22 million to expand to the U.S. and launch a next-generation drone

German drone technology startup Wingcopter has raised a $22 million Series A – its first significant venture capital raise after mostly bootstrapping. The company, which focuses on drone delivery, has come a long way since its founding in 2017, having developed, built and flown its Wingcopter 178 heavy-lift cargo delivery drone using its proprietary and patented tilt-rotor propellant mechanism, which combines all the benefits of vertical take-off and landing with the advantages of fixed-wing aircraft for longer distance horizontal flight.

This new Series A round was led by Silicon Valley VC Xplorer Capital, as well as German growth fund Futury Regio Growth. Wingcopter CEO and founder Tom Plümmer explained to the in an interview that the addition of an SV-based investor is particularly important to the startup, since it’s in the process of preparing its entry into the U.S., with plans for an American facility, both for flight testing to satisfy FAA requirements for operational certification, as well as eventually for U.S.-based drone production.

Wingcopter has already been operating commercially in a few different markets globally, including in Vanuatu in partnership with Unicef for vaccine delivery to remote areas, in Tanzania for two-way medical supply delivery working with Tanzania, and in Ireland where it completed the world’s first delivery of insulin by drone beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS, the industry’s technical term for when a drone flies beyond the visual range of a human operator who has the ability to take control in case of emergencies).

Wingcopter CEO and co-founder Tom Plümmer

While Wingcopter has so far pursued a business as an OEM manufacturer of drones, and has had paying customers eager to purchase its hardware effectively since day one (Plümmer told me that they had at least one customer wiring them money before they even had a bank account set up for the business), but it’s also now getting into the business of offering drone delivery-as-a-service. After doing the hard work of building its technology from the ground up, and seeking out the necessary regulatory approvals to operate in multiple markets around the world, Plümmer says that he and his co-founders realized that operating a service business not only meant a new source of revenue, but also better-served the needs of many of its potential customers.

“We learned during this process, through applying for permission, receiving these permissions and working now in five continents in multiple countries, flying BVLOS, that actually operating drones is something we are now very good at,” he said. This was actually becoming a really good source of income, and ended up actually making up more than half of our revenue at some point. Also looking at scalability of the business model of being an OEM, it’s kind of […] linear.”

Linear growth with solid revenue and steady demand was fine for Wingcopter as a bootstrapped startup founded by university students supported by a small initial investment from family and friends. But Plümmer says the company say so much potential in the technology it had developed, and the emerging drone delivery market, that the exponential growth curve of its drone delivery-as-a-service model helped make traditional VC backing make sense. In the early days, Plümmer says Wingcopter had been approached by VCs, but at the time it didn’t make sense for what they were trying to do; that’s changed.

“We were really lucky to bootstrap over the last four years,” Plümmer said. “Basically, just by selling drones and creating revenue, we could employ our first 30 employees. But at some point, you realize you want to really plan with that revenue, so you want to have monthly revenues, which generally repeat like a software business – like software as a service.”

Wingcopter 178 cargo drone performing a delivery for Merck.

Wingcopter has also established a useful hedge regarding its service business, not only by being its own hardware supplier, but also by having worked closely with many global flight regulators on their regulatory process through the early days of commercial drone flights. They’re working with the FAA on its certification process now, for instance, with Plümmer saying that they participate in weekly calls with the regulator on its upcoming certification process for BVLOS drone operators. Understanding the regulatory environment, and even helping architect it, is a major selling point for partners who don’t want to have to build out that kind of expertise and regulatory team in-house.

Meanwhile, the company will continue to act as an OEM as well, selling not only its Wingcopter 178 heavy-lift model, which can fly up to 75 miles, at speeds of up to 100 mph, and that can carry payloads up to around 13 lbs. Because of its unique tilt-rotor mechanism, it’s not only more efficient in flight, but it can also fly in much windier conditions – and take-off and land in harsher conditions than most drones, too.

Plümmer tells me that Wingcopter doesn’t intend to rest on its laurels in the hardware department, either; it’s going to be introducing a new model of drone soon, with different capabilities that expand the company’s addressable market, both as an OEM and in its drones-as-a-service business.

With its U.S. expansion, Wingcopter will still look to focus specifically on the delivery market, but Plümmer points out that there’s no reason its unique technology couldn’t also work well to serve markets including observation and inspection, or to address needs in the communication space as well. The one market that Wingcopter doesn’t intend to pursue, however, is military and defense. While these are popular customers in the aerospace and drone industries, Plümmer says that Wingcopter has a mission “to create sustainable and efficient drone solutions for improving and saving lives,” and says the startup looks at every potential customer and ensures that it aligns with its vision – which defense customers do not.

While the company has just announced the close of its Series A round, Plümmer says they’re already in talks with some potential investors to join a Series B. It’s also going to be looking for U.S. based talent in embedded systems software and flight operations testing, to help with the testing process required its certification by the FAA.

Plümmer sees a long tail of value to be built from Wingcopter’s patented tilt-rotor design, with potential applications in a range of industries, and he says that Wingcopter won’t be looking around for any potential via M&A until it has fully realized that value. Meanwhile, the company is also starting to sow the seeds of its own potential future customers, with training programs in drone flights and operations it’s putting on in partnership with UNICEF’s African Drone and Data Academy. Wingcopter clearly envisions a bright future for drone delivery, and its work in focusing its efforts on building differentiating hardware, plus the role it’s playing in setting the regulatory agenda globally, could help position it at the center of that future.

#aerospace, #ceo, #darmstadt, #delivery-drone, #emerging-technologies, #federal-aviation-administration, #ireland, #recent-funding, #robotics, #science-and-technology, #series-a, #software, #startups, #tanzania, #tc, #technology, #unicef, #united-states, #unmanned-aerial-vehicles, #wing, #wingcopter

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This Week in Apps: TikTok viral hit breaks Spotify records, inauguration boosts news app installs, judge rules against Parler

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 is as hot as ever, 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 alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This week, we’re looking into how President Biden’s inauguration impacted news apps, the latest in the Parler lawsuit, and how TikTok’s app continues to shape culture, among other things.

Top Stories

Judge says Amazon doesn’t have to host Parler on AWS

logos for AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Parler

Logos for AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Parler. Image Credits: TechCrunch

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein in Seattle this week ruled that Amazon won’t be required to restore access to web services to Parler. As you may recall, Parler sued Amazon for booting it from AWS’ infrastructure, effectively forcing it offline. Like Apple and Google before it, Amazon had decided that the calls for violence that were being spread on Parler violated its terms of service. It also said that Parler showed an “unwillingness and inability” to remove dangerous posts that called for the rape, torture and assassination of politicians, tech executives and many others, the AP reported.

Amazon’s decision shouldn’t have been a surprise for Parler. Amazon had reported 98 examples of Parler posts that incited violence over the past several weeks before its decision. It told Parler these were clear violations of the terms of service.

Parler’s lawsuit against Amazon, however, went on to claim breach of contract and even made antitrust allegations.

The judge shot down Parler’s claims that Amazon and Twitter were colluding over the decision to kick the app off AWS. Parler’s claims over breach of contract were denied, too, as the contract had never said Amazon had to give Parler 30 days to fix things. (Not to mention the fact that Parler breached the contract on its side, too.) It also said Parler had fallen short in demonstrating the need for an injunction to restore access to Amazon’s web services.

The ruling only blocks Parler from forcing Amazon to again host it as the lawsuit proceeds, but is not the final ruling in the overall case, which is continuing.

TikTok drives another pop song to No. 1 on Billboard charts, breaks Spotify’s record

@livbedumb♬ drivers license – Olivia Rodrigo

We already knew TikTok was playing a large role in influencing music charts and listening behavior. For example, Billboard last year noted how TikTok drove hits from Sony artists like Doja Cat (“Say So”) and 24kGoldn (“Mood”), and helped Sony discover new talent. Columbia also signed viral TikTok artists like Lil Nas X, Powfu, StaySolidRocky, Jawsh 685, Arizona Zervas and 24kGoldn. Meanwhile, Nielsen has said that no other app had helped break more songs in 2020 than TikTok.

This month, we’ve witnessed yet another example of this phenomenon. Olivia Rodrigo, the 17-year-old star of Disney+’s “High School Musical: The Musical: the Series” released her latest song, “Drivers License” on January 8. The pop ballad and breakup anthem is believed to be referencing the actress’ relationship with co-star Joshua Bassett, which gave the song even more appeal to fans.

Upon its release the song was heavily streamed by TikTok users, which helped make it an overnight sensation of sorts. According to a report by The WSJ, Billboard counted 76.1 million streams and 38,000 downloads in the U.S. during the week of its release. It also made a historic debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100, becoming the first smash hit of 2021.

On January 11, “Drivers License” broke Spotify’s record for most streams per day (for a non-holiday song) with 15.17 million global streams. On TikTok, meanwhile, the number of videos featuring the song and the views they received doubled every day, The WSJ said.

Charli D’Amelio’s dance to it on the app has now generated 5 million “Likes” across nearly 33 million views, as of the time of writing.

@charlidamelio♬ drivers license – Olivia Rodrigo

Of course, other TikTok hits have broken out in the past, too — even reaching No. 1 like “Blinding Lights” (The Weeknd) and “Mood” (24kGoldn). But the success of “Drivers License” may be in part due to the way it focuses on a subject that’s more relevant to TikTok’s young, teenage user base. It talks about first loves and being dumped for the other girl. And its title and opening refer to a time many adults have forgotten: the momentous day when you get your driver’s license. It’s highly relatable to the TikTok crowd who fully embraced it and made it a hit.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

  • Apple stops signing iOS 12.5, making iOS 12.5.1 the only versions of iOS available to older devices.
  • A report claims Apple’s iOS 15 update will cut support for devices with an A9 chip, like the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s Plus and the original iPhone SE.
  • New analysis estimates Apple’s upcoming iOS privacy changes will cause a roughly 7% revenue hit for Facebook in Q2. The revenue hit will continue in following quarters and will be “material.”

Platforms: Google

  • Google adds “trending” icons to the Play Store. New arrow icons appeared in the Top Charts tab, which indicate whether an app’s downloads are trending up or down, in terms of popularity. This could provide an early signal about those that may still be rising in the charts or beginning to fall out of favor, despite their current high position.
  • Google appears to be working on a Restricted Networking mode for Android 12. The mode, discovered by XDA Developers digging in the Android Open Source Project, would disable network access for all third-party apps.

Gaming

  • Goama (or Go Games) introduced a way for developers to integrate social games into their apps, which was showcased at CES. The company focuses on Asia and Latin America and has more than 15 partners, including GCash and Rappi, for digital payments and communications.
  • Fortnite maker Epic Games is getting into movies. The animated feature film Gilgamesh will use Epic’s Unreal Engine technology to tell the story of the king-turned-deity. The movie is not an in-house project, but rather is financed through Epic’s $100M MegaGrants fund.

Augmented Reality

  • Patents around Apple’s AR and VR efforts describe how a system could be identified in a way that’s similar to FaceID, then either permitted or denied the ability to change their appearance in the game.
  • Pinterest launches AR try-on for eyeshadow in its mobile app using Lens technology and ModiFace data. The app already offered AR try-on for lipsticks.

Entertainment

  • The CW app became the No. 1 app on the App Store this week, topping TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, thanks to CW’s season premieres of Batwoman, All American, Riverdale and Nancy Drew.
  • Users of podcasting app Anchor, owned by Spotify, say the app isn’t bringing them any sponsorship opportunities, as promised, beyond those from Spotify and Anchor itself.
  • YouTube launches hashtag landing pages on the web and in its mobile app. The pages are accessible when you click hashtags on YouTube, not via search, and weirdly rank the “best” videos through some inscrutable algorithm.
  • Apple’s Podcasts app adds a new editorial feature, Apple Podcasts Spotlight, meant to increase podcast listening by showcasing the best podcasts as selected by Apple editors.

E-commerce

  • WeChat facilitated 1.6 trillion yuan (close to $250 billion) in annual transactions through its “mini programs” in 2020. The figure is more than double that of 2019.

Fintech

  • Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, launched an e-wallet, Douyin Pay. The wallet will supplement the existing payment options, Alipay and WeChat Pay, and will help to support the Douyin app’s growing e-commerce business.
  • Neobank Monzo founder Tom Blomfield left the startup, saying he struggled during the pandemic. “I think [for] a lot of people in the world…going through a pandemic, going through lockdown and the isolation involved in that has an impact on people’s mental health,” he told TechCrunch.
  • New estimates indicate about 50% of the iPhone user base (or 507 million users) now use Apple Pay. 
  • Samsung’s newest phones drop support for MST, which emulates a mag stripe at terminals that don’t support NFC.

Social

  • Indian messaging app, StickerChat, owned by Hike, is shutting down. Founder Kavin Bharti Mittal said India will never have a homegrown messenger unless it bars Western companies from its market. Hike pivoted this month to virtual social apps, Vibe and Rush, which it believes have more potential.
  • Instagram head Adam Mosseri, in a Verge podcast, said he’s not happy with Reels so far, and how he feels most people probably don’t understand the difference between Instagram video and IGTV. He says the social network needs to simplify and consolidate ideas.
  • Facebook and Instagram improve their accessibility features. The apps’ AI-generated image captions now offer far more details about who or what is in the photos, thanks to improvements in image recognition systems.
  • TikTok launches a Q&A feature that lets creators respond to fan questions using text or videos. The feature, rolled out to select creators with more than 10,000 followers, makes it easier to see all the questions in one place.

Health & Fitness

  • Health and fitness app spending jumped 70% last year in Europe to record $544 million, a Sensor Tower report says. The year-over-year increase is far larger than 2019, when growth was just 37.2%. COVID-19 played a large role in this shift as people turned to fitness apps instead of gyms to stay in shape.

Government & Policy

  • Biden’s inauguration boosted installs of U.S. news apps up to 170%, Sensor Tower reported. CNN was the biggest mover, climbing 530 positions to reach No. 41 on the App Store, and up 170% in terms of downloads. News Break was the second highest, climbing 13 positions to No. 65. Right-wing outlet Newsmax climbed 43 spots to reach No. 108. In 2020, the top news apps were: News Break (23.7 million installs); SmartNews (9 million); CNN (5 million); and Fox News (4 million). This month, however, News Break saw 1.2 million installs, followed by Newsmax with about 863,000 installs, the report said.
  • Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) sent a draft decision to fellow EU Data Protection Authorities over the WhatsApp-Facebook data sharing policy. This means a decision on the matter is coming closer to a resolution in terms of what standards of transparency is required by WhatsApp.
  • German app developer Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents filed a complaint with the EU, U.S. DOJ and other antitrust watchdogs around the world over Apple and Google’s rejection of his COVID-related mobile game. Both stores had policies to only approve official COVID-19 apps from health authorities. Mueller renamed the game Viral Days and removed references to the novel coronavirus to get the app approved. However, he still feels the stores’ rules are holding back innovation.

Productivity

  • Basecamp’s Hey, which famously fought back against Apple’s App Store rules over IAP last year, has launched a business-focused platform, Hey for Work, expected to be public in Q1. The app has more App Store ratings than rival Superhuman, a report found. Currently, Hey has a 4.7-star rating across 3.3K reviews; Superhuman has 3.9 rating across only 274 reviews.

Trends

  • Baby boomers are increasingly using apps. Baby boomers/Gen Xers in the U.S. spent 30% more time year-over-year in their most used apps, App Annie reports. That’s a larger increase than either Millennials or Gen Z, at 18% and 16%, respectively.

Funding and M&A

  • Curtsy, a clothing resale app for Gen Z women, raised an $11 million Series A led by Index Ventures. The app tackles some of the problems with online resale by sending shipping supplies and labels to sellers, and by making the marketplace accessible to new and casual sellers.
  • Storytelling platform Wattpad acquired by South Korea’s Naver for $600 million. The reading apps whose stories have turned into book and Netflix hits will be incorporated into Naver’s publishing platform Webtoon.
  • On-demand delivery app Glovo partnered with Swiss-based real estate firm, Stoneweg, which is investing €100 million in building and refurbishing real estate in key markets to build out Glovo’s network of “dark stores.”
  • Pocket Casts app is up for sale. The podcast app was acquired nearly three years ago by a public radio consortium of top podcast producers (NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago and This American Life). The owners have now agreed to sell the app, which posted a net loss in 2020. (NPR’s share of the loss was over $800,000.)
  • Travel app Maps.me raised $50 million in a round led by Alameda Research. The funding will go toward the launch of a multi-currency wallet. Cryptocurrency lender Genesis Capital and institutional cryptocurrency firm CMS Holdings also participated in the round, Coindesk reported.
  • Bangalore-based hyperlocal delivery app Dunzo raised $40 million in a round that included investment from Google, Lightbox, Evolvence, Hana Financial Investment, LGT Lightstone Aspada and Alteria.
  • London-based food delivery app Deliveroo raised $180 million in new funding from existing investors, led by Durable Capital Partners and Fidelity Management, valuing the business at more than $7 billion.
  • Dating Group acquired Swiss startup Once, a dating app that sends one match per day, for $18 million.

Downloads

Bodyguard

Image Credits: Bodyguard

A French content moderation app called Bodyguard, detailed here by TechCrunch, has brought its service to the English-speaking market. The app allows you to choose the level of content moderation you want to see on top social networks, like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Twitch. You can choose to hide toxic content across a range of categories, like insults, body shaming, moral harassment, sexual harassment, racism and homophobia and indicate whether the content is a low or high priority to block.

Beeper

Image Credits: Beeper

Pebble’s founder and current YC Partner Eric Migicovsky has launched a new app, Beeper, that aims to centralize in one interface 15 different chat apps, including iMessage. The app relies on an open-source federated, encrypted messaging protocol called Matrix that uses “bridges” to connect to the various networks to move the messages. However, iMessage support is more wonky, as the company actually ships you an old iPhone to make the connection to the network. But this system allows you to access Beeper on non-Apple devices, the company says. The app is slowly onboarding new users due to initial demand. The app works across MacOS, Windows, Linux‍, iOS and Android and charges $10/mo for the service.

 

#actress, #adam-mosseri, #alipay, #alteria, #amazon, #amazon-web-services, #android, #app-developer, #app-store, #apple, #apps, #arkansas, #asia, #bangalore, #biden, #bodyguard, #columbia, #computing, #data-protection-commission, #dating-group, #disney, #doj, #driver, #durable-capital-partners, #e-commerce, #epic-games, #eric-migicovsky, #europe, #european-union, #fidelity-management, #food, #fox-news, #glovo, #google, #hana-financial-investment, #india, #instagram, #iphone, #ireland, #itunes, #judge, #latin-america, #linux, #london, #macos, #microsoft-windows, #mobile, #mobile-app, #mobile-applications, #mobile-devices, #netflix, #operating-systems, #parler, #pinterest, #play-store, #president, #real-estate, #seattle, #sensor-tower, #social-network, #social-networks, #software, #sony, #south-korea, #spotify, #stoneweg, #superhuman, #this-american-life, #tiktok, #tom-blomfield, #twitch, #twitter, #united-states, #wattpad, #web-services, #wnyc

0

McGregor’s Legal Troubles Hang Over U.F.C. and His Career

McGregor has called a new lawsuit accusing him of rape “old news.” But the case and its wide-ranging implications remain far from resolved.

#ireland, #mcgregor-conor-1988, #mixed-martial-arts, #poirier-dustin, #sex-crimes, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #ultimate-fighting-championship

0

True-Crime Podcast Puts Spotlight on Irish Coach Accused of Abuse

The Irish police are investigating accusations that George Gibney, a former swim coach for Ireland now living in the United States, sexually abused two swimmers who came forward after hearing the podcast about him.

#british-broadcasting-corp, #child-abuse-and-neglect, #coaches-and-managers, #extradition, #gibney-george-1948, #immigration-and-emigration, #ireland, #orlando-fla, #podcasts, #politics-and-government, #second-captains-ltd, #sex-crimes, #swimming, #where-is-george-gibney-radio-program

0

In Ireland, Lifting a Veil of Prejudice Against Mixed-Race Children

The singer Jess Kavanagh is working to raise awareness about the experiences of mixed-race Irish people, particularly those born in the country’s infamous mother and baby homes.

#adoptions, #black-people, #content-type-personal-profile, #discrimination, #ireland, #kavanagh-jess-singer, #music, #orphans-and-orphanages, #race-and-ethnicity

0

Facebook’s EU-US data transfers face their final countdown

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) has agreed to swiftly finalize a long-standing complaint against Facebook’s international data transfers which could force the tech giant to suspend data flows from the European Union to the US within in a matter of months.

The complaint, which was filed in 2013 by privacy campaigner Max Schrems, relates to the clash between EU privacy rights and US government intelligent agencies’ access to Facebook users’ data under surveillance programs that were revealed in high resolution detail by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The DPC has made the commitment to a swift resolution of Schrems’ complaint now in order to settle a judicial review of its processes which noyb, his privacy campaign group, filed last year in response to its decision to pause his complaint and opt to open a new case procedure.

Under the terms of the settlement Schrems will also be heard in the DPC’s “own volition” procedure, as well as getting access to all submissions made by Facebook — assuming the Irish courts allow that investigation to go ahead, noyb said today.

And while noyb acknowledged there may (yet) be a further pause, as/if the DPC waits on a High Court judgement of Facebook’s own Judicial Review of its processes before revisiting the original complaint, Schrems suggests his 7.5 year old complaint could at long last be headed for a final decision within a matter of months…

“The courts in Ireland would be reluctant to give a deadline and the DPC played that card and said they can’t provide a timeline… So we got the maximum that’s possible under Irish law. Which is ‘swift’,” he told TechCrunch, describing this as “frustrating but the maximum possible”.

Asked for his estimate of when a final decision will at last close out the complaint, he suggested it could be as soon as this summer — but said that more “realistically” it would be fall.

Schrems has been a vocal critic of how the DPC has handled his complaint — and more widely of the slow pace of enforcement of the bloc’s data protection rules vs fast-moving tech giants — with Ireland’s regulator choosing to raise wider concerns about the legality of mechanisms for transferring data from the EU to the US, rather than ordering Facebook to suspend data flows as Schrems had asked in the complaint.

The saga has already had major ramifications — leading to a landmark ruling by Europe’s top court last summer when the CJEU struck down a flagship EU-US data transfer arrangement after it found the US does not provide the same high standards of protection for personal data as the EU does.

The CJEU also made it clear that EU data protection regulators have a duty to step in and suspend transfers to third countries when data is at risk — putting the ball squarely back in Ireland’s court.

Reached for comment on the latest development the DPC told us it would have a response later today. So we’ll update this report when we have it.

The DPC, which is Facebook’s lead data regulator in the EU under the bloc’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), sent the tech giant a preliminary order to suspend data transfers back in September — following the landmark ruling by the CJEU.

However Facebook immediately filed a legal challenge — couching the DPC’s order as premature, despite the complaint itself being more than seven years old.

noyb said today that it’s expecting Facebook to continue to try to use the Irish courts to delay enforcement of EU law. And the tech giant admitted last year that it’s using the courts to ‘send a signal’ to lawmakers to come up with a political resolution for an issue that affects scores of businesses which also transfer data between the EU and the US, as well as to buy time for a new US administration to be in a position to grapple with the issue.

But the clock is now ticking on how much longer Zuckerberg can play this game of regulatory whack-a-mole. And a final reckoning for Facebook’s EU data flows could come within half a year.

This sets a fairly tight deadline for any negotiations between EU and US lawmakers over a replacement for the defunct EU-US Privacy Shield.

European commissioners said last fall that no replacement would be possible without reform of US surveillance law. And whether such radical retooling of US law could come as soon as the summer, or even fall, seems doubtful — unless there’s a major effort among US companies to lobby their own lawmakers to make the necessary changes.

In court documents Facebook filed last year, linked to its challenge of the DPC’s preliminary order, the tech giant suggested it might have to close service in Europe if EU law is enforced against its data transfers.

However its PR chief, Nick Clegg, swiftly denied Facebook would ever pull service — instead urging EU lawmakers to look favorably on its data-dependent business model by claiming that “personalized advertising” is vital to the EU’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

The consensus among the bloc’s digital lawmakers, however, is that tech giants need more regulation, not less.

Separately today, an opinion by an influential advisor to the CJEU could have implications for how swiftly GDPR is enforced in Europe in the future if the court aligns with Advocate General Bobek’s opinion — as he appears to be taking aim at bottlenecks that have formed in key jurisdictions like Ireland as a result of the GDPR’s one-stop-shop mechanism for handling cross-border cases.

So while Bobek confirms the general competence of a lead regulator to investigate in cross-border cases, he also writes that “the lead data protection authority cannot be deemed as the sole enforcer of the GDPR in cross-border situations and must, in compliance with the relevant rules and time limits provided for by the GDPR, closely cooperate with the other data protection authorities concerned, the input of which is crucial in this area”.

He also sets out specific conditions where national DPAs could bring their own proceedings, in his view, including for the purpose of adopting “urgent measures” or to intervene “following the lead data protection authority having decided not to handle a case”, among other delineated reasons.

Responding to the AG’s opinion, the DPC’s deputy commissioner, Graham Doyle, told us: “We, along with our colleague EU DPAs, note the opinion of the Advocate General and await the final judgment of the Court in terms of its interpretation of any relevant One Stop Shop rules.”

Asked for a view on the AG’s remarks, Jef Ausloos, a postdoc researcher in data privacy at the University of Amsterdam, said the opinion conveys “a clear recognition that ACTUAL protection and enforcement might be crippled by the [one-stop-shop] mechanism”.

However he suggested any new openings for DPAs to bypass a lead regulator that could flow from the opinion aren’t likely to shake things up in the short term. “I think the door is open for some changes/bypassing DPC. BUT, only in the long run,” he said. 

#eu-data-protection-law, #facebook, #ireland, #mass-surveillance, #max-schrems, #privacy-shield, #tc

0

Ireland Report on Mother and Baby Homes Reveals Abuse and Thousands of Deaths

A government commission found high death rates, unethical vaccine trials and traumatic living conditions at 18 homes that were used to house unwed mothers up until the 1990s.

#adoptions, #bon-secours-sisters, #ireland, #roman-catholic-church, #tuam-ireland

0

Sally Rooney to Publish ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’

The novel, which follows four young people in Ireland, is part of a two-book deal for the best-selling author of “Normal People” and “Conversations With Friends.”

#angel-mitzi, #beautiful-world-where-are-you-book, #book-trade-and-publishing, #books-and-literature, #content-type-personal-profile, #conversations-with-friends-book, #farrar-strausgiroux, #ireland, #normal-people-book, #rooney-sally-author, #writing-and-writers

0

This Time, He Stars In His Own Story

Gabriel Byrne, known for his contemplative performances in “The Usual Suspects” and “In Treatment,” contends with his unlikely path to acting in his memoir, “Walking With Ghosts.”

#books-and-literature, #byrne-gabriel, #content-type-personal-profile, #ireland, #rockport-me, #walking-with-ghosts-book, #writing-and-writers

0

The Small Irish Animation Studio That Keeps Getting Oscars’ Attention

With “Wolfwalkers,” Cartoon Saloon completes a hand-drawn trilogy based on Celtic mythology. The film epitomizes everything the studio stands for.

#animated-films, #art, #cartoon-saloon-animation-studio, #ireland, #kilkenny-ireland, #moore-tomm, #myths-and-mythical-creatures, #song-of-the-sea-movie, #the-secret-of-kells-movie, #twomey-nora, #wolfwalkers-movie

0

OpenSensors secures $4M for air-monitoring platform which allows offices to be more Covid-safe

Today, the acute asthma attack of primary school-aged girl in February 2013 was ruled by a UK court to be due to air pollution. It is thought to be the first ruling of its kind in the world. Only a year after Ella Kissi-Debrah died, another mother also became concerned about the effects of air quality on her daughter’s asthma and decided to do something about it.

Today, Yodit Stanton has secured $4m in seed funding for her air monitoring startup OpenSensors, in a Seed round led by Crane Venture Partners and other unnamed investors. The startup previously bootstrapped the company prior to the round, supported by customer revenues.

OpenSensors, uses sensors to monitor air quality and light intensity, but it’s the data platform that is the real ‘special source’. The startup’s technology works to reveal workplace and workforce conditions and patterns. It competes with companies like Condecco and Workplace Fabric, but takes a more ‘360 degree’ approach.

It now has more than 30 customers with complex real estate operations across North America, Ireland, UK and Europe, in industries such as Insurance, Finance, Tech and more.

OpenSensors

OpenSensors

Building costs are the 2nd highest expense for organizations, with office costs over £20bn per year in the UK, but even in normal, pre-pandemic times, half of that office space is unused at any point during the day and only reaches 55% peak utilization. Buildings also represent 36% of global energy usage & 39% of CO2 emissions. OpenSensors tracks humidity, CO2 levels, and more to guide on the optimal capacity to reduce viral transmission, thus enabling companies to return their workforces to offices safely.

Stanton commented: “How we work and live are changing faster than we could have ever anticipated. There is a real opportunity for humanity to rethink how we use the physical world with sustainability in mind as well as making the design of workplaces better for people using them.”

Scott Sage, Partner at Crane Venture Partners said: “With data insights, real-world usage and known customer references, OpenSensors has all the ingredients to become a trusted advisor and solutions provider throughout COVID-19 and the immediate recovery, as well as supporting the shift towards more flexible working that COVID-19 has accelerated.”

Speaking exclusively to TechCrunch, Stanton, who also founded and runs the UK’s Women In Data event, said: “Initially it just started as a fun hobby project. I was playing around with IoT as in my daughter has asthma, so I was monitoring air quality up in our neighborhood to try to see if I can correlate the particulates spikes and so forth with her asthma attacks. I released it as a project for my community to monitor air quality. But it became, I guess a real thing when people asked if I could manage their buildings.”

She said that low humidity encourages virus transmission: “So you really have to aim for around 40% humidity within an indoor environment and dry air also affects your immune system as an individual.”

This means that monitoring air quality has become a huge issue for companies. So it unsurprising that VCs are now backing air-quality startups like OpenSensors.

#advisor, #air-pollution, #articles, #asthma, #crane-venture-partners, #europe, #internet-of-things, #ireland, #north-america, #partner, #pollution, #stanton, #tc, #united-kingdom

0

Mystery Couple Found in a Roll of Film From Nearly 70 Years Ago

Internet sleuths have been captivated by the photos, which were recently developed and document a couple’s trip to the Swiss-Italian border with a dachshund.

#cameras, #film, #ireland, #italy, #photography, #switzerland, #william-fagan

0

AWS brings the Mac mini to its cloud

AWS today opened its re:Invent conference with a surprise announcement: the company is bringing the Mac mini to its cloud. These new EC2 Mac instances, as AWS calls them, are now available in preview. They won’t come cheap, though.

The target audience here — and the only one AWS is targeting for now — is developers who want cloud-based build and testing environments for their Mac and iOS apps. But it’s worth noting that with remote access, you get a fully-featured Mac mini in the cloud, and I’m sure developers will find all kinds of other use cases for this as well.

Given the recent launch of the M1 Mac minis, it’s worth pointing out that the hardware AWS is using — at least for the time being — are i7 machines with six physical and 12 logical cores and 32 GB of memory. Using the Mac’s built-in networking options, AWS connects them to its Nitro System for fast network and storage access. This means you’ll also be able to attach AWS block storage to these instances, for example.

Unsurprisingly, the AWS team is also working on bringing Apple’s new M1 Mac minis into its data centers. The current plan is to roll this out “early next year,” AWS tells me, and definitely within the first half of 2021. Both AWS and Apple believe that the need for Intel-powered machines won’t go away anytime soon, though, especially given that a lot of developers will want to continue to run their tests on Intel machines for the foreseeable future.

David Brown, AWS’s vice president of EC2, tells me that these are completely unmodified Mac minis. AWS only turned off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It helps, Brown said, that the minis fit nicely into a 1U rack.

“You can’t really stack them on shelves — you want to put them in some sort of service sled [and] it fits very well into a service sled and then our cards and all the various things we have to worry about, from an integration point of view, fit around it and just plug into the Mac mini through the ports that it provides,” Brown explained. He admitted that this was obviously a new challenge for AWS. The only way to offer this kind of service is to use Apple’s hardware, after all.

Image Credits: AWS

It’s also worth noting that AWS is not virtualizing the hardware. What you’re getting here is full access to your own device that you’re not sharing with anybody else. “We wanted to make sure that we support the Mac Mini that you would get if you went to the Apple store and you bought a Mac mini,” Brown said.

Unlike with other EC2 instances, whenever you spin up a new Mac instance, you have to pre-pay for the first 24 hours to get started. After those first 24 hours, prices are by the second, just like with any other instance type AWS offers today.

AWS will charge $1.083 per hour, billed by the second. That’s just under $26 to spin up a machine and run it for 24 hours. That’s quite a lot more than what some of the small Mac mini cloud providers are charging (we’re generally talking about $60 or less per month for their entry-level offerings and around two to three times as much for a comparable i7 machine with 32GB of RAM).

Image Credits: Ron Miller/TechCrunch

Until now, Mac mini hosting was a small niche in the hosting market, though it has its fair number of players, with the likes of MacStadium, MacinCloud, MacWeb and Mac Mini Vault vying for their share of the market.

With this new offering from AWS, they are now facing a formidable competitor, though they can still compete on price. AWS, however, argues that it can give developers access to all of the additional cloud services in its portfolio, which sets it apart from all of the smaller players.

“The speed that things happen at [other Mac mini cloud providers] and the granularity that you can use those services at is not as fine as you get with a large cloud provider like AWS,” Brown said. “So if you want to launch a machine, it takes a few days to provision and somebody puts a machine in a rack for you and gives you an IP address to get to it and you manage the OS. And normally, you’re paying for at least a month — or a longer period of time to get a discount. What we’ve done is you can literally launch these machines in minutes and have a working machine available to you. If you decide you want 100 of them, 500 of them, you just ask us for that and we’ll make them available. The other thing is the ecosystem. All those other 200-plus AWS services that you’re now able to utilize together with the Mac mini is the other big difference.”

Brown also stressed that Amazon makes it easy for developers to use different machine images, with the company currently offering images for macOS Mojave and Catalina, with Big Sure support coming “at some point in the future.” And developers can obviously create their own images with all of the software they need so they can reuse them whenever they spin up a new machine.

“Pretty much every one of our customers today has some need to support an Apple product and the Apple ecosystem, whether it’s iPhone, iPad or  Apple TV, whatever it might be. They’re looking for that bold use case,” Brown said. “And so the problem we’ve really been focused on solving is customers that say, ‘hey, I’ve moved all my server-side workloads to AWS, I’d love to be able to move some of these build workflows, because I still have some Mac minis in a data center or in my office that I have to maintain. I’d love that just to be on AWS.’ ”

AWS’s marquee launch customers for the new service are Intuit, Ring and mobile camera app FiLMiC.

“EC2 Mac instances, with their familiar EC2 interfaces and APIs, have enabled us to seamlessly migrate our existing iOS and macOS build-and-test pipelines to AWS, further improving developer productivity,” said Pratik Wadher, vice president of Product Development at Intuit. “We‘re experiencing up to 30% better performance over our data center infrastructure, thanks to elastic capacity expansion, and a high availability setup leveraging multiple zones. We’re now running around 80% of our production builds on EC2 Mac instances, and are excited to see what the future holds for AWS innovation in this space.”

The new Mac instances are now available in a number of AWS regions. These include US East (N. Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), Europe (Ireland) and Asia Pacific (Singapore), with other regions to follow soon.

#amazon-web-services, #apple, #apple-inc, #asia-pacific, #aws-reinvent, #bluetooth, #cloud, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #david-brown, #developer, #europe, #ipad, #iphone, #ireland, #mac-mini, #macintosh, #ohio, #oregon, #singapore, #steve-jobs, #tc, #web-hosting

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Brexit Hard-Liners Lose Battle as Aide to U.K’s Johnson Quits

A Downing Street feud could indicate the prime minister is ready to make the compromises needed to strike a deal with the European Union.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #conservative-party-great-britain, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #cummings-dominic-1971, #great-britain, #great-britain-withdrawal-from-eu-brexit, #ireland, #johnson-boris, #northern-ireland, #symonds-carrie

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Calling Dublin VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

TechCrunch is embarking on a major new project to survey the venture capital investors of Europe, and their cities.

Our <a href=”https://forms.gle/k4Ji2Ch7zdrn7o2p6”>survey of VCs in Dublin will capture how the city is faring, and what changes are being wrought amongst investors by the coronavirus pandemic. (Please note, if you have filled the survey out already, there is no need to do it again).

We’d like to know how Ireland’s startup scene is evolving, how the tech sector is being impacted by COVID-19, and, generally, how your thinking will evolve from here. Obviously, most VCs are in Dublin, but we don’t want to miss out on those based elsewhere.

Our survey will only be about investors, and only the contributions of VC investors will be included. More than one partner is welcome to fill out the survey.

The shortlist of questions will require only brief responses, but the more you can add, the better.

You can fill out the survey here.

Obviously, investors who contribute will be featured in the final surveys, with links to their companies and profiles.

What kinds of things do we want to know? Questions include: Which trends are you most excited by? What startup do you wish someone would create? Where are the overlooked opportunities? What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? How is your local ecosystem going? And how has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy?

This survey is part of a broader series of surveys we’re doing to help founders find the right investors.

https://techcrunch.com/extra-crunch/investor-surveys/

For example, here is the recent survey of London.

You are not in Dublin, but would like to take part? That’s fine! Any European VC investor can STILL fill out the survey, as we probably will be putting a call out to your city next anyway! And we will use the data for future surveys on vertical topics.

The survey is covering almost every European country on the continent of Europe (not just EU members, btw), so just look for your country and city on the survey and please participate (if you’re a venture capital investor).

Thank you for participating. If you have questions you can email mike@techcrunch.com

#corporate-finance, #dublin, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #european-union, #finance, #ireland, #london, #money, #private-equity, #startup-company, #survey, #tc, #venture-capital

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Irish Home of Biden’s Great-Great-Great Grandfather Cheers His Victory

He may be five generations removed, but the president-elect is a hometown boy in Ballina, Ireland.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #county-mayo-ireland, #ireland, #pennsylvania, #presidential-election-of-2020, #presidential-medal-of-freedom, #united-states-politics-and-government

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