Snaptrends founders denies company has shuttered
We reported Monday that social media monitoring company, Snaptrends had laid off their entire staff and ceased operations on the heels of their Twitter and Facebook feeds being cut, according to several sources close to the layoffs.
After publication, Snaptrends Founder, Eric Klasson told The American Genius, “Snap Trends remains actively in business at this time. The Company has made lay-offs recently given developments in the social media monitoring industry. Today, our focus is on the corporate marketplace.” The statement was added to the story as an update.
Did Snaptrends sever ties with governments?
We have since been pressing Klasson for answers and clarifications. His statement to Austin Inno was simply, “Last month, Snaptrends ceased all sales and marketing to all state and local government agencies.”
When we asked if Snaptrends had severed all ties with law enforcement agencies and foreign governments, Klasson simply said, “Our focus is on the corporate marketplace,” which isn’t exactly confirmation that any agencies have even been notified. The statement to Austin Inno asserts there is no new marketing efforts to that type of client, but no denial of existing contracts.
What’s the headcount?
We inquired as to the current employee count to which Klasson said, “We have a number of employees today in the following areas: sales, marketing, customer support, people operations, accounting / finance, engineering, etc.” That conflicts with what sources tell us, and the truth is that one person can embody all of those roles, so without an exact number, the question remains open.
“With no access to Facebook or Twitter, how do operations function at this time? Or have restrictions been rescinded and your full feed is back?” we asked Klasson. He noted, “we continue to work with the social networks regarding a path forward.”
Again, an evasive answer that doesn’t indicate any intention on Twitter or Facebook’s end to reinstate their access. Perhaps they requested access, but if Snaptrends made any changes to the software that would make them eligible, we have no answer to support that.
Was any code sold off?
We reported Monday that the company was forced into a fire sale of their code and that all of their social media accounts went silent in mid October. Klasson was asked if any of the code was sold (and to whom), which he denied. The social media accounts remain silent.
Klasson says they do not intend on rebranding but will continue to operate under the current name and focus their social media listening software on corporate brands.
Several questions remain unanswered
As a final effort to get some answers, the following are the outstanding questions in full that we posed to Klasson over email yesterday, noting that we are “just trying to offer the most accurate depiction possible.”
- What is the employee count? You could do all of those areas yourself and be the only employee…
- Has Snaptrends severed ties with *any* law enforcement agencies or foreign governments?
- Has Twitter or Facebook indicated a willingness to restore the feeds? On what conditions? (you wouldn’t be the first to get restored)
- Was the code for sale?
At this time, we don’t know if or how Snaptrends handled severing ties with foreign governments and law enforcement agencies, whether their Twitter and Facebook access will be restored (or how they can operate without that), and if anyone besides Klasson works at Snaptrends. If Snaptrends chooses to update us, we will offer all answers here as an update.
Google set to release new AI-operated meeting room kit… and it’s pretty baller
(TECH NEWS) Google’s newest toy is designed to “put people first” by alleviating video and audio issues for conference room meetings.
Remote meetings can be the worst sometimes. The awful video and audio quality are frustrating when you’re trying to hear important details for an upcoming project. Even with the fastest internet connection, this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to clearly hear or see anyone who’s in the office. But Google is re-imagining conference rooms with their new video conferencing hardware.
Yesterday, the company introduced Google Meet Series One. In partnership with Lenovo, this meeting room kit is made exclusively for Google Meet and is poised to be the hardware that “puts people first.”
The Series One has several components that make it stand out. First is the “Smart Audio Bar,” powered by eight beam-forming microphones. Using Google Edge TPUs, the soundbar can deliver TrueVoice®, the company’s “proprietary, multi-channel noise cancellation technology.” It removes distracting sounds, like annoying finger and foot-tapping noises, so everyone’s voices are crystal clear from anywhere in the room.
The hardware also has 4K smart cameras that allow for high-resolution video and digital PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) effects. Processed with Google AI, the device knows to automatically zoom in and out so all of the meetings’ participants are framed in the camera. With an i7 processor and Google Edge TPUs, the system is built to “handle the taxing demands of video conferencing along with running the latest in Google AI as efficiently and reliably as possible.”
The meeting kit has Google grade security built-in, so the system automatically updates over-the-air. The system also works seamlessly with Google services and apps we already use. Its touch control display is powered by a single ethernet cable. From the admin controls, you can manage meeting lists and control room settings. Powered by assistant voice commands, their touch controller provides a “touchless touchability”; if you want to, you can join a meeting just by saying, “Hey Google, join the meeting.”
These new meeting kits are easy to install and are versatile. They can be configured to fit small, medium, and large-sized rooms. “Expanding kits for larger rooms can be done with just an ethernet cable and the tappable Mic Pod, which expands microphone reach and allows for mute/unmute control.”
According to the Google Meet Series One introductory video, the meeting room kits are “beautifully and thoughtfully designed to make video meetings approachable and immersive so everyone gets a seat at the table.”
Currently, there is no release date set for Google Meet Series One. However, pre-orders will soon be available in the US, Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium.
One creepy way law enforcement might have your private data
(TECH NEWS) Wait, geofences do what? Law enforcement can pull your private data if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
By now, it’s pretty common knowledge that our smartphones are tracking us, but what you might not be aware of is just how much law enforcement is taking advantage of our private data. Now, the good news is that some places have gotten wise to this breach of privacy and are banning certain tactics. The bad news is: If you were ever in the vicinity of a recent crime scene, it’s quite possible your privacy has already been invaded.
How are law enforcement doing this? Well, it starts with a geofence.
At its core, a geofence is a virtual border around a real geographic location. This can serve many purposes, from creating marketing opportunities for targeted ads to tracking shipping packages. In the case of law enforcement, though, geofences are often used in something called a geofence warrant.
Traditionally, warrants identify a subject first, then retrieve their electronic records. A geofence warrant, on the other hand, identifies a time and place and pulls electronic data from that area. If you’re thinking “hey, that sounds sketchy,” you are–forgive the pun–completely warranted.
With a geofence, law enforcement can dig through your private data, not because they have proof you were involved in a crime, but because you happened to be nearby.
This practice, though relatively new, is on the rise: Google reported a 15-fold increase in geofence warrant requests between 2017 and 2018. As well as invading privacy, these warrants have led to false arrests and can be used against peaceful protesters. Not to mention, in many cases, geofence warrants can be extremely easy to acquire. One report in Minnesota found judges signed off on these cases in under 4 minutes.
Thankfully, there have been signs of people pushing back against the use of geofence warrants. In fact, there have been multiple federal court rulings that find the practice in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” including your electronic data.
If you’re still worried about your privacy, there are ways to keep your electronic data on lock. For example, turn off your location services when you’re traveling, and avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks. You can also work to limit location sharing with apps and websites.
Incoming! Amazon drones will be dropping off packages soon (we hope)
(TECH NEWS) The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Amazon for drone delivery service, but when will the drones actually take flight?
Amazon has finally received the stamp of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to deliver packages by drones. This pivotal step brings the online retailer closer to their promise of delivering packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.
In 2013, during CBS’s “60 Minutes” interview, Amazon CEO and Founder, Jeff Bezos, said drones would be delivering customers’ packages within five years. Although the estimate is a couple of years off, it seems like that day might be right around the corner.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when little floating presents are sailing through the sky (Animal Crossing balloons, anyone?). Despite our excitement to see our latest Amazon impulse purchase land on our doorstep, it isn’t going to happen overnight.
The Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate Amazon obtained for its fleet of Prime Air drones will allow the company to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) “to carry the property of another for compensation beyond visual line of sight.” Although the FAA certification is allowing Amazon to begin test trials, Bloomberg reports that the retail giant still has “regulatory and technical hurdles” to overcome.
In addition, the FAA has yet to set regulations that will “serve as a framework to expand drone flights over crowds, a building block necessary for deliveries.” Amazon hasn’t said when and where it will start testing the delivery service either.
David Carbon, Amazon Vice President who oversees Prime Air, made this statement: “This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world.”
This approval is definitely a step forward, but Amazon has been working on the drone delivery service for years. Early last year, the giant retailer revealed they would start offering one-day shipping. They have followed through on this, at least. And during a Las Vegas Conference in June 2019, they revealed their “fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes.” But it still doesn’t answer when we can expect to see whizzing drones overhead.
I’m not sure when Amazon will fulfill their last promise. But it is getting closer. What I do know is that I look forward to the Amazon drones taking flight. I can’t wait to place my orders knowing that I will get that last-minute present I ordered just in time.
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