Tech Headlines of the Week: Lawsuits Put a Price on Privacy

KEY TAKEAWAYS

A turbulent holiday season in a tech-filled world filled with legal challenges and ethical dilemmas. Will we find the crucial balance between innovation and consumer rights in the digital world in 2024?

The tech world appears to have missed the memo that the holiday season is all about festive cheer. This week’s latest news roundup is full of lawsuits, ads ruining the viewing experience for streamers, and questions about what digital ownership looks like. 

Join us again as we highlight the big news stories you might have missed during your annual digital detox.

Google Settles $5 Billion Consumer Privacy Lawsuit

Alphabet’s Google reportedly agreed to settle a $5 billion privacy lawsuit that accused Google of gathering data even when users employed “Incognito” mode in Chrome and other private browsing modes. And once again, we are left with more questions about digital privacy and user consent. 

Elsewhere, The New York Times also hit the headlines for initiating a lawsuit against OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, and Microsoft. At the heart of this dispute is the allegation that millions of the newspaper’s articles were used without authorization to enhance ChatGPT’s capabilities. 

This raises fundamental questions about the ethics of AI training methods and the potential impact on traditional media’s revenue streams. The lawsuit contends that ChatGPT, by reproducing content verbatim, is infringing on copyright and directly competing with the Times as a reliable information source.

New York Times sues Microsoft and OpenAI for ‘billions’ (BBC)

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Ads Are Coming to Amazon Prime Video on January 29

Amazon Prime Video received a backlash from its subscribers this week with the news that starting in January, it would be introducing “limited advertisements” within its streaming content. To maintain an ad-free experience, Amazon is cheekily asking for an additional $2.99 per month, further fueling the debate around streamflation and the myth of cord-cutting.

This latest news comes when Disney, Warner Bros Discovery, Comcast, and Paramount reported combined losses exceeding $5 billion. Grab your popcorn and get ready to watch the big “shakeout,” which could redefine the entire streaming landscape in 2024. 

Amazon Prime Video will start showing ads on January 29 (The Verge)

CES 2024: The Ultimate Tech Showcase Returns with Record Attendance

CES 2024 is returning to Las Vegas with an expected crowd of over 130,000 attendees. From January 7 to January 12, this year’s event has more than 3,500 exhibitors occupying 2.4 million square feet of space. From the latest in artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and AR/VR to smart homes and 5G advancements, CES 2024 will feature groundbreaking innovations. Personally, I suspect many solutions will be desperately looking for a problem to solve. But this guide provides a few tips and tricks to get the most from the biggest tech event in the world.

CES 2024 tips and tricks: A guide to tech’s biggest trade show (VentureBeat)

BYD Set to Overtake Tesla as Market Leader

It was another bad week for Elon Musk after BYD, backed by Warren Buffett and renowned for offering a more affordable strategy, is poised to surpass Tesla as the leading EV maker. This anticipated development follows a period where BYD closely trailed Tesla in sales. 

READ MORE: The Largest Tesla Shareholders

China’s dominance in the EV sector is further reinforced by its control over battery supply chains and its commitment to expanding charging networks.

These strategic advantages have fueled BYD’s rise and positioned China as a central player in the global EV narrative, challenging competitors worldwide. This shift signifies a significant turning point in the automotive industry, highlighting China’s escalating influence and the evolving dynamics of the global EV market.

Tesla About to Lose Crown to China’s BYD Startup (Business Insider)

Google’s Battle Against Fake VPN Extensions

Google has recently acted against a significant cybersecurity threat by removing three fake VPN extensions from the Chrome Web Store after a discovery by ReasonLabs. These malicious extensions, disguised as legitimate VPN services, were distributed through torrents of popular games like Grand Theft Auto and The Sims 4. 

The most widely used of these, netPlus, had over 1 million users, while netSave and netWin accounted for another 500,000 installs. These extensions offered some VPN functionality and involved data theft and browser hijacking, affecting approximately 1.5 million devices. This incident underscores the ongoing challenges in digital security and the importance of vigilance in safeguarding against such deceptive and harmful software.

Three malicious VPN extensions on the Chrome Web Store infected 1.5 million devices (TechSpot)

Ownership or Rental? The Shifting Sands of Digital Content

The digital ownership landscape is undergoing a seismic shift, as highlighted by tech giants like Amazon, Sony, and Broadcom. Amazon’s removal of eBooks from Kindle devices set a precedent that consumers don’t truly own digital purchases. Similarly, Sony announced discontinuing Discovery video content on PlayStations, and Broadcom ended perpetual VMware software licenses. 

These moves signal a growing trend towards subscription-based models and limited consumer control over purchased digital content. As companies increasingly retain ownership rights, consumers seek alternative ways, like open-source software and DRM removal tools, to maintain access to their digital purchases, navigating a complex legal and ethical landscape. This shift raises critical questions about the nature of ownership and consumer rights in the digital age.

Bricking it: Do you actually own anything digital? (The Register)

The Rise of TV-Integrated Retail Platforms

TV manufacturers increasingly integrate advanced technologies to turn television into a primary shopping platform in an evolving advertising landscape. The latest innovation comes from startup Displace, planning to launch TVs with built-in webcams and NFC payment readers, enabling viewers to purchase items seen on TV easily.

These televisions, which include the Displace Flex and Displace Mini, aim to revolutionize the viewing experience by incorporating gesture technology for seamless shopping. This development reflects a broader industry trend towards leveraging TV hardware for advertising and recurring revenue generation, raising questions about the balance between consumer convenience and privacy in the digital age. As TV manufacturers delve deeper into advertising, the impact on user experience and privacy remains critical.

Wireless TVs use built-in cameras and NFC readers to sell you stuff you see on TV (Ars Technica)

Nvidia’s Bold Prediction: AI to Rival Human Intelligence by 2028

A few weeks ago, Jensen Huang, Nvidia’s CEO, predicted that AI could match human intelligence within the next five years. This vision, particularly significant for artificial general intelligence, comes as Nvidia celebrates a financial triumph, tripling its revenue to $9.24 billion.

The tech giant’s advancement, including providing OpenAI with the world’s first AI supercomputer, positions Nvidia at the forefront of AI innovation. Amidst a dynamic tech landscape, Nvidia’s success story underscores its pivotal role in the rapidly evolving AI sector.

Nvidia CEO Foresees AI Competing with Human Intelligence in Five Years (BNN Breaking)

AI Moves From Hype to Reality: Challenges Ahead

After a year filled with extraordinary expectations for AI, TNW takes a more cautious approach and predicts 2024 is the year when AI is confronted by reality.

The hype surrounding generative AI, particularly following the explosive growth of ChatGPT, will now be tempered by practical applications and limitations. Experts predict a cautious approach towards AI adoption as businesses seek tangible benefits and grapple with challenges like AI inaccuracies. 

While generative AI is poised to penetrate various industries, its real-world impact and revenue generation remains to be seen. Moreover, concerns about nefarious uses of AI, such as deepfakes influencing political landscapes, are growing.

The legal and regulatory environment is also expected to evolve, with different regions adopting distinct approaches to AI governance. AI’s journey from hype to reality will likely unveil new, practical applications and innovations amid these developments.

After a year of breathless hype, AI will face reality in 2024 (TNW)

The Bottom Line

These recent news stories collectively depict a world where technology is rapidly evolving and deeply intertwined with legal, ethical, and economic challenges. The landscape is marked by groundbreaking advancements and shifting paradigms, from the surge in AI capabilities to the evolving dynamics of digital ownership and streaming services. 

These developments reflect a broader narrative of innovation clashing with traditional structures, forcing industries and individuals to navigate a complex and ever-changing digital terrain. As we witness these transformations, the need for thoughtful regulation, ethical considerations, and a balance between progress and consumer rights becomes increasingly evident.

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Neil C. Hughes

Neil is a freelance tech journalist with over two decades of IT experience. Celebrated as one of LinkedIn's Top Voices in technology and recognized by CIO Magazine and ZDNet for his influential insights, Neil has contributed to publications like INC, TNW, TechHQ, and Cybernews while also hosting the popular Tech Talks Daily Podcast.