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Author: Alex Hern

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Most GDPR emails unnecessary and some illegal, say experts



Many firms have the required consent already; others don’t have consent to send a request

The vast majority of emails flooding inboxes across Europe from companies asking for consent to keep recipients on their mailing list are unnecessary and some may be illegal, privacy experts have said, as new rules over data privacy come into force at the end of this week.

Many companies, acting based on poor legal advice, a fear of fines of up to €20m (£17.5m) and a lack of good examples to follow, have taken what they see as the safest option for hewing to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): asking customers to renew their consent for marketing communications and data processing.

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What is GDPR and how will it affect you?



The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation comes into force this week – here’s what it means

You could be forgiven for thinking that Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a law created to fill your inbox with identikit warnings from every company you have ever interacted with online that “the privacy policy has changed” and pleas to “just click here so we can stay in touch”.

But GDPR is far more than just an inbox-clogger. The regulation, seven years in the making, finally comes into effect on 25 May, and is set to force sweeping changes in everything from technology to advertising, and medicine to banking.

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Facebook lets advertisers target users based on sensitive interests



Social network categorises users based on inferred interests such as Islam or homosexuality

Facebook allows advertisers to target users it thinks are interested in subjects such as homosexuality, Islam or liberalism, despite religion, sexuality and political beliefs explicitly being marked out as sensitive information under new data protection laws.

The social network gathers information about users based on their actions on Facebook and on the wider web, and uses that data to predict on their interests. These can be mundane – football, Manhattan or dogs, for instance – or more esoteric.

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The rise of Patreon – the website that makes Jordan Peterson $80k a month



In five years, online membership service Patreon has attracted two million patrons supporting 100,000 ‘creators’ to the tune of $350m – including nearly $1m a year for rightwing psychologist Jordan Peterson. So what’s the secret of its success?

The internet has transformed creative industries. Words, music, video, images and games can be distributed worldwide, instantly and for free, delivering a cornucopia of delights to your screens and mine. The problem is that, historically, it’s not been quite so good at ensuring those same creative industries get paid. Ad-supported media did the job quite well, until a couple of years ago, when it suddenly didn’t. Streaming services seem to be making a lot of money for someone, but that someone is rarely the creators who exist on those platforms.

All of which goes some way to explaining the surprise (and jealousy?) that accompanied the news that Jordan B Peterson, the alt-right’s favourite psychologist and dispenser of such advice as “stand up straight”, is making just under $1m a year online, thanks to the support of some 9,500 fans on the membership service Patreon.

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Google’s ‘deceitful’ AI assistant to identify itself as a robot during calls



Google Duplex, which simulates human speech with lifelike inflections, criticised as unethical

Google’s AI assistant will identify itself as a robot when calling up businesses on behalf of human users, the company has confirmed, following accusations that the technology was deceitful and unethical.

The feature, called Google Duplex, was demonstrated at the company’s I/O developers’ conference on Tuesday. It is not yet a finished product, but in the two demos played for the assembled crowd, it still managed to be eerily lifelike as it made bookings at a hair salon and a restaurant.

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Santa Clarita Principles could help tech firms with self-regulation



California conference agrees to guide to help tech companies moderate online content

Social networks should publish the number of posts they remove, provide detailed information for users whose content is deleted about why, and offer the chance to appeal against enforcement efforts, according to a groundbreaking effort to provide a set of principles for large-scale moderation of online content.

The “Santa Clarita Principles”, agreed at a conference in the California town this week, were proposed by a group of academics and non-profit organisations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ACLU, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

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Facebook to block foreign spending on Irish abortion vote ads



Company accused of being late with move to help curb outside attempts to sway referendum

Facebook is blocking all foreign spending on advertising around Ireland’s upcoming referendum on abortion in an effort to adhere to the “principles” of the country’s election spending laws.

With just over two weeks to go until the 25 May vote on liberalising Ireland’s strict abortion laws, Facebook announced it would restrict advertising to organisations and people based in the Republic. The move follows accusations that attempts have been made to swing votes across the world through foreign-funded campaigns and so-called astroturfing.

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First robot delivery drivers start work at Silicon Valley campus



Six-wheeled robots will deliver food and coffee across a Silicon Valley office park in first commercial use of the technology – and whole cities could be next

If you work in an office park, or study at a campus university, robotic delivery drivers could be coming your way, following the first-ever commercial deployment of the technology.

Starship Technologies, an autonomous delivery startup created in 2014 by two Skype co-founders, has been in public testing mode in 20 countries around the world since 2015. Now the company says it is ready for its first “major commercial rollout”.

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Amazon site awash with counterfeit goods despite crackdown



Guardian investigation finds knockoff items and used goods sold as new on Marketplace

Amazon is rife with potentially dangerous counterfeits and other knockoff goods despite years of attempts to crackdown on mis-selling on its platform, a Guardian investigation can reveal.

The global internet giant, which this week revealed that its daily revenues had hit a record $550m (£400m) a day, now spans a huge range of businesses from TV production to web hosting but faces an ongoing challenge to police its own online retail platform.

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Snapchat hopes for second time lucky with new Spectacles launch



Only 220,000 units of wearable gadget were sold first time around, with the tech firm writing off $40m in the process

Snap is doubling down on its hardware business, launching a new version of its Spectacles camera-glasses today with a better camera, the ability to take still images and water resistance.

The new model comes as Snapchat attempts to recover from the disappointing long-term fate of the first generation, which gathered attention – and long queues – when they were launched in extremely limited quantities in November 2016, but failed to sell in large numbers when they were eventually released on general sale.

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