Tech Roundup: U.K.-U.S. AI Pact, Google Find My Device & More

[A recurring feature on the latest in Science & Technology.]
  • The U.K. and the U.S. ink new pact to formally cooperate on research, safety evaluations and guidance for AI safety; to "develop tests for the most advanced AI models" and "accelerate and rapidly iterate robust suites of evaluations for AI models, systems and agents."
  • Israeli defence forces have relied on an artificial intelligence (AI) system called Lavender to identify 37,000 potential human targets based on their apparent links to Hamas as part of the ongoing war in Gaza, according to The Guardian; IDF says its "operations were carried out in accordance with the rules of proportionality under international law."
  • OpenAI opens ChatGPT to all users without having to sign up; enforces slightly more restrictive content policies by "blocking prompts and generations in a wider range of categories." (It's also worth noting that users will have to explicitly opt out of their chats being used for training the company's AI models.)
  • ByteDance-owned TikTok tests a dedicated STEM feed across Europe, after launching it in the U.S. in March 2023 and expands TikTok Lite, which gives people financial incentives to watch its videos, to Spain and France, amid growth struggles in Europe; comes as Axios reported that China's government can use TikTok to spy on American users and push propaganda at scale.
  • Telegram officially lets Premium users turn their account into a business account, letting users add a custom start page, create quick replies, set greeting messages and connect Telegram bots.
  • Apple researchers detail an AI system called ReALM (Reference Resolution As Language Modeling) that can resolve references to elements displayed on a screen, in some cases better than OpenAI GPT-4 can when given screenshots.
  • Google agrees to destroy billions of data points it allegedly improperly collected in order to settle a 2020 class action lawsuit that alleged that the company misled users by tracking their internet activity in incognito mode on the Chrome web browser.
  • Social-media startup Discord announces plans to start showing advertisements on its free platform, becoming the latest tech company to turn to ads to try to boost revenue; to show paid promotions from video game makers and offer users gifts for completing in-game tasks while their friends watch on Discord via an offering called Sponsored Quests.
  • Microsoft plans to unbundle Teams from Microsoft 365 and Office 365 globally amid antitrust scrutiny, after a similar unbundling in the E.U. in August 2023; tests new Edge browser feature that allows users limit the amount of RAM it uses anywhere between 1GB and 16GB.
  • India's supreme court halts a plan to activate a government-run fact-checking unit that would assess information posted about the nation's government on social media platforms following concerns that the outfit "could vastly affect the nature of free speech on the internet as it holds the potential to be (mis)used for proactive censorship, most importantly in the context of dissent."
Facebook's logo gets a small design tweak
  • Yahoo announces plans to acquire AI-powered news app Artifact founded by Instagram co-founders, shuts down its standalone app, and plans to use its technology on Yahoo News and other services in the coming months.
  • Amazon announces plans to phase out its checkout-less grocery stores with Just Walk Out technology that allows shoppers to skip checkout altogether by scanning a QR code as they entered the store and tracking the items they carried through a network of cameras and sensors as well as an army of over 1,000 workers in India; comes as the company has struggled to control costs and pitch the offering to other retailers.
  • OpenAI begins allowing paying users to edit DALL-E images in ChatGPT across web, iOS and Android using a selection tool and additional text prompts; says that ChatGPT Enterprise has more than 600,000 paying customers, up from about 150,000 in January 2024.
  • Meta updates Facebook's mobile video player with a TikTok-like vertical look and new controls for Reels, Live and longform videos.
  • Patreon rolls out a Reddit-like community moderation feature that lets podcasters, artists, writers and other creators assign community members as moderators.
  • Stability AI releases Stable Audio 2.0, which lets users create three-minute sound clips from copyright-free audio samples for free via a dedicated website called Stable Audio.
  • Web browser company Opera debuts new AI feature that allows Opera One users to download and run 150 large language models (LLMs) from nearly 50 families locally, including Meta's Llama and Google's Gemma, via the Ollama open-source framework.
  • Microsoft and Quantinuum detail a breakthrough in quantum error correction, helping run over 14,000 experiments with no errors, in what's seen as a major achievement for the quantum computing ecosystem.
  • X adds blue checks to some large accounts as part of its plan to give free Premium memberships to those with at least 2,500 "verified subscriber followers"; rolls out support for posting Community Notes in India ahead of the 2024 general elections.
  • Meta-owned Instagram had revenues of US$ 22 billion in 2020, US$ 32.4 billion in 2021 and US$ 16.5 billion in H1 2022, accounting for nearly 30% of Meta's revenues.
  • Snapchat turns off Solar System, a feature that lets users see their position in their friends' orbits by default, following a report from The Wall Street Journal that it was adding to teens' anxiety; argues it's "used by less than 0.25% of our community each day, on average."
  • Apple updates App Store guidelines, allowing game emulators for the first time globally, and letting music streaming apps in the E.U. link to external websites.
  • E-commerce giant Amazon adds a store called Bazaar to its storefront in India, offering a dedicated destination for fashion and home products at affordable prices, to compete with Flipkart and Reliance's Ajio.
  • Meta announces plans to label a wider range of video, audio and image content as "Made with AI" starting in May 2024 to combat manipulated content.
  • Google debuts its Find My Device network in the U.S. and Canada, allowing users to locate Android phones and tablets; to add support for Bluetooth tags to track items like keys, wallets and luggage starting May 2024.
    • Google has emphasised that the location data is end-to-end encrypted and does not allow the company to "identify the owners of the nearby Android devices that provided the location data." It also comes with safety protections that make it difficult to track private locations like homes difficult by leveraging the aggregated location contributed by nearby Android devices to locate the lost items.
  • Music streamer Spotify launches personalised AI playlists that Premium subscribers can build using text prompts in order to "fuel discovery and music curation."
  • Tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Meta and OpenAI are striking licensing agreements with other companies to train thei AI models, as the growing demand for AI training data has them turning to a variety of sources to acquire content locked behind paywalls.