Phew. Thank goodness you opened me. I got a lot of out-of-office auto-replies.
Q&A: Microsoft AI chief Harry Shum talks about the real challenge
Harry Shum, EVP of Microsoft's artificial intelligence and research group, says AI is improving tech products — the real challenge is making sure it does so in a way that people trust."All the tech is great. All the products are great," Shum said, speaking to Axios after a San Francisco event last week. "But people worry about them."The bottom line: Shum says the key is a strong code of ethics and a large measure of transparency, two areas of focus for the company. He says Microsoft has established an internal advisory committee on AI ethics and wants to be a leader in an industrywide discussion on the subject.
Scoop: Virgin Hyperloop One raises $50 million and names Branson chair
Futuristic transportation startup Virgin Hyperloop One has agreed to raise $50 million in new private funding, Axios' Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva report. It also plans to name Richard Branson as chairman.
Why it matters: The Los Angeles-based company was running very low on cash, threatening the employment of around 300 people.
The details: Branson's new agreement to become chairman was key to obtaining the financing, per a source. One of the co-chairs he replaces is Shervin Pishevar, who resigned from the board following sexual harassment allegations unrelated to the company. The new money comes from two existing investors: Russia's Caspian Venture Capital and Dubai's DP World.
Facebook and Twitter get tougher on suspect content
Twitter and Facebook are announcing separate moves today aimed at addressing problematic content on their respective sites.
Facebook: Beginning this week, it will begin demoting individual posts from people and pages that use questionable tactics to get people to engage with their content. Examples of such conduct, Axios' Sara Fischer reports, would be using language, such as "Like this if you were born in August" or "Share this if you are a millennial."
Twitter: Starting today, it will enforce the stricter and more comprehensive rules it unveiled just a month ago. The new rules were added to cover areas Twitter has historically struggled to manage, such as accounts affiliated with organizations that promote hate and violence, or those glorifying a violent act or figure. This has been a growing issue this year and Twitter's real test will be in how it enforces these, Kia reports.
Hackers help Air Force find its security holes
Earlier this month, the Air Force invited two dozen top hackers in to do their worst. The idea — a common one in security circles — is to have "white hat" hackers find the holes before those with malicious intent can do so.
The agency paid out more than $26,000 in bounties to hackers for finding various holes, including a record $10,650 to a pair that used a vulnerability in an Air Force website to access the Department of Defense's unclassified computer network, a public relations firm for the challenge told Axios.
What's next: The Air Force plans to keep going. The Hack the Air Force 2.0 challenge will continue through Jan .1 and is open to residents of 31 countries, including all NATO members and Sweden.
Amazon in talks to buy cybersecurity startup Sqrrl
Amazon is in advanced talks to acquire Sqrrl, a Massachusetts-based cybersecurity software company whose founders used to work for the NSA, according to another scoop gotten by Dan and Kia on Sunday.
Why it matters: Sqrrl analyzes big data to hunt cyber threats, helping companies identify and address them faster.
The details: Word is that the purchase price would be a bit north of $40 million, although there are still some final details to iron out.
- Sqrrl had raised nearly $30 million in venture capital funding from firms like Accomplice, Matrix Partners, Rally Ventures and Spring Lake Equity Partners.
- Neither the startup nor Amazon have yet responded to requests for comment.
Adidas is latest fitness giant to pull back on tech efforts
Adidas is closing the unit that produced its fitness bands and sensor-equipped shoes and other high-tech products.
Why it matters: Sports companies have struggled to compete with Fitbit and others in the wearables space.
- Similar action was taken by Under Armour in recent weeks, as it decided to give up on its HealthBox collection of gear manufactured in conjunction with HTC.
- Earlier player Nike had some early success with its FuelBand though it, too, decided to halt that in favor of working more closely with Apple.
- Airbnb is having a conference call with reporters to talk about recent growth efforts.
- Erik Huggers is stepping down as CEO of music video site Vevo, with CFO Alan Price named interim CEO.
- Augmented reality firm 8i, maker of the Holo app, is laying off half its staff, Variety reports.
- Google is shutting down Project Tango, its original augmented reality effort, in order to focus all its energy on ARCore.
- Apple said it won't release a Windows Store version of iTunes this year, as originally pledged.
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Rachel Abrams has spent the last week trying to convince Google she's not dead.