Welcome to your Friday Tech Fix for the first day of May, 2020. From a news perspective, there were the usual landslide of stories about virtual meetings, Zoom, working from home, and the like. You can catch up on some of the other stories I found interesting at my “extra” newsletter, The Extra Mighell. Here are the top three tech stories lawyers need to pay attention to this week.
“Contact Tracing” is now “Exposure Notification” – as I mentioned here two weeks ago, Apple and Google have been at work developing software that will help to track individuals infected with COVID-19 and notify those who might have come in contact with an infected person. Two weeks ago, they called the technology “contact tracing,” to track the manual process that public health officials undertake to track the course of any virus. Now called “Exposure Notification,” the Apple/Google alliance have begun testing the exposure notification API; a full release is expected in just a few weeks. Note I said API and not app; Apple and Google are only developing the software by which other app developers, primarily public health agencies will develop the actual apps that will be used. Apple and Google answer a lot of questions about the technology in this FAQ, and this Medium article describes what such an app might look like.
The critical question now is: will you, or anyone else, download such an app? A survey conducted this week indicates that more than 60% of Americans are either unable (no phones) or unwilling to use such an app. It’s not clear whether 40% adoption of an exposure notification app would be sufficient to stop a viral spread; I guess we’ll have to see what happens. But apps developed using the Apple/Google API are not the only game in town – other apps have already rolled out in various places, both here and abroad. Naturally, there are privacy and security concerns around these apps, although most privacy experts seem satisfied that the Apple/Google-based apps will keep a user’s identity reasonable secure.
As the Economy Suffers, Big Tech is Thriving – For Now. We are now in the midst of earnings season, and this week the big tech companies reported Q1 results. Although most tech companies are cautious about Q2, the global crisis did not have much of an effect on Q1 earnings. Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Qualcomm, Spotify and eBay all reported positive quarters. But all of them likewise admitted that the rest of the year will be a question mark.
Your Next Business Meeting on Facebook? Not to be left out of the video meetings craze, this week Facebook announced the arrival of Messenger Rooms, in what is clearly a response to Zoom’s exploding popularity – and subsequent near-downfall due to privacy and security issues. Messenger Rooms will eventually hold up to 50 people with no time limit on the meetings; you can create a room directly from Messenger or from Facebook itself. Eventually you’ll be able to create a Messenger Room from Instagram Direct (remember, FB owns Instagram), WhatsApp and the Facebook Portal frame. To be clear, Messenger Rooms is not a competitor for the business meeting space – the hope is to cut into Zoom’s share of the virtual happy hour, exercise class, and book club circuit. Given that Facebook is experiencing a huge surge in traffic with everyone at home, it’s a ready-made group of people who can easily click a button and start a meeting or party with all of their Facebook friends. We’ll see how it catches on over the next few months.