News You Can Use: Apple in the crosshairs, Encryption debate resurfaces
Hello everyone, and welcome back to the latest edition of News You Can Use. Join us for some marketing and technology news analysis, where we review the latest headlines and happenings, and break down what it all means for your business.
Because being an informed reader of the news isn’t just good civics — it’s good for business.
1) Under pressure from Beijing, Apple yanks 25,000 gambling apps from China App Store (CNBC)
In a surprise move, Apple has de-listed 25,000 applications from the Chinese version of the App Store over criticisms that the programs were being used for illegal gambling. The removed applications amounted to 1.4 percent of all apps available on the Chinese App Store.
“Gambling apps are illegal and not allowed on the App Store in China,” Apple told CNBC in a statement. “We have already removed many apps and developers for trying to distribute illegal gambling apps on our App Store, and we are vigilant in our efforts to find these and stop them from being on the App Store.”
Apple recently came under fire from Chinese state media, which accused the company of allowing illegal content on its platforms. This includes gambling apps, as well as VPN services that allowed users to circumvent China’s strict censorship of the internet.
While this specific move was likely made to head off concerns that Apple might get caught up in the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing, internationally minded businesses shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. As we saw with the earlier news around Google’s plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, Apple likewise shows how operating in China involves playing by Beijing’s rules.
2) Amazon weighing launch of UK insurance comparison-shopping site (Reuters)
Amazon is reportedly testing the waters with some of Europe’s top investment and insurance firms to see whether they would contribute their services to a planned UK insurance comparison-shopping service. The move represents Amazon’s first foray into the European finance industry, and comes as the company is ramping up its US offerings for non-banking financial services.
While it was not immediately clear what type of insurance would be sold on the Amazon comparison-shopping site, analysts expect that home and motor policies will be among the first to be offered by the company’s UK service.
Attempting to break into the ultra-low-margin world of insurance is a high-risk, high-reward move for Amazon — Google launched a similar service in the UK and US in 2016, but shuttered the site after less than a year.
But cracking into the lucrative world of comparison-shopping services could yield big rewards for Amazon and its partners: UK insurers told Reuters that up to 90 percent of new insurance policies are sold through comparison-shopping services like the one Amazon plan’s to launch.
3) Adidas partners with Twitter to livestream high school football (Adidas PR)
As we’ve noted in previous editions of News You Can Use, livestreaming is a hot field right now, and marketers should give serious thought to running campaigns along livestreams of video game and sporting events.
The Germany-based sportswear company Adidas is poised to get in on the streaming action with the announcement they’ll be partnering with Twitter to livestream US high school football games — an initiative they’ve dubbed ‘Friday Night Stripes.’ (Get it?)
“Featuring nationally ranked teams from across the country, including teams from California, Nevada, Indiana, Georgia and Florida, the 8-game series will start on September 7 and continue throughout the regular high school football season with the final game on November 9,” Adidas announced in their press release. Live coverage for each football game will be available on Adidas’ Twitter account on both mobile and desktop.
This first-of-its-kind livestream is yet another reminder that streaming content is a powerful and growing channel for marketers, and one that’s here to stay.
4) Walmart poised for India expansion after completing $16bn Flipkart acquisition (Walmart PR)
Walmart has announced the completion of its $16 billion acquisition of Flipkart, making it the single biggest shareholder for the Indian e-commerce retailer. Walmart now owns 77 percent of Flipkart, giving it a sizable retail foothold in one of world’s biggest and fastest-growing markets.
The big-box giant is now well-positioned to capitalize on India’s status as one of the world’s strongest emerging markets — a country of 1.3 billion people with a growing middle class and strong GDP figures, as well as the technological infrastructure needed for widespread adoption of mobile- and web-based retail services.
So for retailers or e-commerce firms with an eye towards international expansion, this Walmart deal is another sign that India is a potential safe haven for investors amid talk of a global trade war.
5) US govt re-opens encryption debate with push for FB Messenger access (Reuters)
The US Department of Justice is attempting to force Facebook to provide it with a way to break the encryption on the company’s Messenger app, resurrecting the debate about whether tech firms can be forced to comply with demands to assist with government surveillance.
The move re-opens a hotly contested debate over tech platforms’ use of encryption. Previously, the DOJ demanded that Apple and other platforms provide it with a way to break the security encryption on their messaging services, as part of the government’s counterterrorism investigation into the 2015 San Bernadino attack. The FBI and DOJ shelved the case after it was revealed they had cracked Apple’s encryption without the company’s assistance.
But unlike the Apple case, where the FBI wanted access to a single iPhone, prosecutors are now seeking a wiretap for all of a suspect’s previous voice conversations on Facebook Messenger as part of an investigation into the activities of the MS-13 gang.
No public filings are available yet, since the case is still sealed, but Reuters says that it has independently verified the specifics of the case. Facebook is also reportedly contesting the DOJ’s demand, and plans to fight the case in court.
If the court rules in the DOJ’s favor, it could establish precedent for forcing other tech companies to allow the US government ‘backdoor’ access to their services. But as we’ve seen with the recent wave of ransomware hacking attacks targeting local and municipal computer systems, these same backdoors are often a key vulnerability exploited by hackers and bad actors.