Uber privacy concerns and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

Uber is in the forefront in this week’s tech news with great focus on privacy fears. Uber is no stranger to scandals and its CEO, Travis Kalanick is no shrinking violet when it comes to them either. According to one venture capitalist who worked with Kalanick:

It’s hard to be a disrupter and not be an asshole.” (Vanity Fair)

This time though, the controversy started with Uber’s SVP Emil Michael who suggested that Uber should hire a team to dig up dirt on journalists critical of the company. Twitter erupted with calls for deleting the Uber app and boycotting the company. Kalanick responded with a Twitter storm denouncing Michael’s remarks and vows to regain the trust of users. This happens in the midst of another massive funding round that could reach $1B on a $30B valuation. As of this writing, Uber is reported to be hiring lawyers to scrutinize its current privacy policy. Read here for an expanded view on Uber and other companies regarding personal data.

Once again, we are confronted with the question. In this age of apps, social networks and geolocations, just how much personal data should you entrust a tech platform? Or maybe you shouldn’t, at all? Unless you completely go off the grid, privacy concerns and convenience is a constant balancing act on the part of the user and the company. However, it is scandals such as Uber’s that must be brought to light to encourage consumer awareness and for regulators to push for greater transparency on how companies handle your data. My take is, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

Here are this week’s most relevant news in tech and retail:

In tech:

  1. Facebook is testing a product called Facebook for Work, an enterprise collaboration tool separate from company’s consumer product; launches separate Facebook Groups app
  2. News in security: Ciphercloud, a security software company specializing in encrypting corporate data, lands a $50M series B funding; Mozilla, EFF, Cisco and Akamai launch Let’s Encrypt as a new free certificate authority, service to start in Summer 2015
  3. Mozilla Firefox replaces Google with Yahoo (powered by Microsoft’s Bing) as new default search provider on firefox;
  4. Apple: reportedly will include recently-acquired Beats streaming music for next year’s iOS update; in the midst of settlement with Google, hinting and end to patent feud
  5. News around Google: Google Chairman Eric Schmidt launched Farm 2050 inviting startups to pitch ideas around agriculture technology; while Google can now caption photos through machine learning

In retail:

  1. Financial reports: The Gap Inc. reports Q3 earnings 80 cents/share, beating expectations but revenues disappoint, cuts full-year earnings forecast; Urban Outfitters miss Q3 earnings expectations while revenues met estimates, propelled by growth of Free People and Anthropologie; Target Q3 profits rise 3.1% beating expectations; Swedish retailer H&M reports 14% rise in October sales beating forecasts
  2. Amazon leases 470,000 square feet of space in Manhattan while subsidiary Zappos.com opens 20,000-foot brick-and-mortar store in downtown Las Vegas
  3. World’s largest jewelry maker Richemont reported to consider IPO for luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter
  4. E-commerce software company Bigcommerce raised $40M, total funding at $75M
  5. Michael Kors launches #InstaKors, a roundabout way of making Instagram shoppable
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