Amazon slammed with $887 million fine by EU privacy regulators

Luxembourg’s privacy regulator has found Amazon in violation of laws related to privacy and advertising, issued a record $887 million fine.

The specific reasons for the fine were not disclosed, however Amazon says the decision was made without merit and it would appeal in court. The CNPD, Luxembourg’s privacy regulator, ordered Amazon to revise its business practices and pay the fine.

Cross-boarder privacy cases require other EU privacy regulators to weigh in on the fine and adjust it accordingly. At least one complaint has already been issued suggesting that the fine isn’t high enough.

Amazon responded to the fine, stating it was out of proportion with the law. “The decision relating to how we show customers relevant advertising relies on subjective and untested interpretations of European privacy law, and the proposed fine is entirely out of proportion with even that interpretation,” the company said in a statement.

The fine comes after the EU announced new legislation in December that would incur even larger fees if tech companies couldn’t comply with antitrust and privacy regulations. Apple’s own advertising segment may be next on the chopping block as French regulators have already begun a probe into the business.

'M1X' iMac delayed, iOS 15 Safari design struggles, and Apple's Q3 earnings on the AppleInsider podcast

On the AppleInsider podcast this week, your hosts discuss leaks surrounding the “M1X” iMac and a 2022 release, Apple’s struggles to finalize Safari’s design in iOS 15, incredible Q3 earnings, and more!

Apple exceeded all analyst expectations during its Q3 earnings call touting $81.3 billion in total revenue. That’s a 36% increase over last year. CEO Tim Cook touted that iPad had its highest June quarter in nearly a decade. Compounding that, 75% of Apple Watch buyers globally were new to the product.

Multiple rumors covering the Mac lineup came out this week, including a claim that Apple’s high-end Apple Silicon iMac may not arrive until 2022. In addition, leaker YuuKi_AnS tweeted that the 2022 Mac Pro would sport an Intel chip, missing Apple’s deadline to transition all Macs to Apple Silicon.

Our hosts briefly review their real-world experience with the MagSafe Battery Pack. Its trickle-charge speeds may disappoint some, but Apple’s battery pack will certainly help users get through a full day with medium to light use.

The fourth betas of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey are out and Safari’s design continues to be a point of contention. On iPad, Apple now gives users the option to place tabs below the address bar, or alongside as initially released. While the iPhone version of Safari still struggles with usability and a multitude of touch targets in a small area.

If you have questions or comments on the show, tweet at @stephenrobles and @Hillitech. Find us in your favorite podcast player by searching for “AppleInsider” and support the show by leaving a 5-Star rating and comment in Apple Podcasts.

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AppleInsider is also bringing you the best Apple-related deals for Amazon Prime Day 2021. There are bargains before, during, and even after Prime Day on June 21 and 22 — with every deal at your fingertips throughout the event.

Siri accused of anti-China bias after inaccurate Olympic medal tally

To the vocal annoyance of iPhone users in China, Siri was reportedly unable to read aloud the number of gold medals won by the country.

Sports fans actually watching the Olympics, could see this week when China won its 10th gold medal. ButiPhone users asking Siri what the results were, reportedly could not find out.

According to the South China Morning Post, users on the Weibo social media service complained about what they saw as nationalist bias. At the time, Japan had won 11 gold medals, China and the US were both on 10, while Russia had 7.

Social media was apparently quick to assume this was another example of Apple’s alleged anti-China bias. That’s despite the company seeing strong sales in its most recent earnings report, bringing its Search Ads service to China, and from the US Congress“>”>makes compromises to placate the Chinese government.

Nonetheless, users are in China are aware of the pressures on Apple from the US Congress. And the trade tensions between the US and China have affected both its reputation, and its suppliers.

In this case, however, the real reason for Siri’s failure was to do with China and America having the same tally. It’s claimed that Siri had a bug which meant it would only read out the name of one country if two had the same number of medals.

Apple has not commented on the accusation of bias, but Siri has now been corrected.

'Watch the Sound' host Mark Ronson tells Zane Lowe the origins of the series

As “Watch the Sound with Mark Ronson” debuts on Apple TV+, the titular host talks with Zane Lowe about how the show started, what its aims are — and whether there’ll be more.

In the build up to the release of “Watch the Sound,” Apple released a trailer, and host Mark Ronson spoke about the pleasures and problems in making the show. Now, Ronson has told Apple Music star Zane Lowe just why he got involved.

“It is my dream TV show,” said Ronson. “I think when we started out, Kim Rozenfeld came to me as executive producer, [saying he wants] to do a TV show that is informative about music, it’s fun. It’s like the people that know [the subject] will still watch and enjoy and then people who don’t know anything, will be engrossed.”

“So that’s that that was just where we started,” continued Ronson, “and then he hooked me up with Morgan Neville, this incredible director who had done a lot of stuff I love like ’20 Feet from Stardom.’

Each of the six episodes in the series concentrates on one aspect of music technology, and how that influenced artists, how artists developed it. “Let’s talk about they revolutionized music, and talk to the people who did your favorite stuff on [the technology].”

Ronson has previously said that he was conscious that it was impossible to get everything he wanted into six episodes. He’s said that he even panicked over it, but reassured himself that perhaps there could be a second series — but now he’s told Lowe that’s unlikely.

“I think there’s probably so much of what I don’t know about music that could fill an anthology of TV series,” he said, “but these were the things that I could not necessarily talk… with the most passion about.”

“But I there was nothing, really, that we were like crap, I wish we could have got this one,” continued Ronson. “So I guess there’s no Season Two.”

The full interview touches on Ronson’s own progress, both as a music producer, and as a presenter. It’s an iluminating 22-minute backstage view of a series that itself is meant to give the backstage perspective on music we know so well, yet rarely know much about how it came to be.

“Watch the Sound with Mark Ronson,” launched on Apple TV+ on Friday, July 30. New episodes premiere weekly.

Apple TV+ review: 'Ted Lasso' stays charming in season 2

The new season of Apple’s signature series keeps up its positive ethos — and is also much funnier.

When Ted Lasso debuted on Apple TV+ in August of 2020, I admit that I was skeptical. In fact, I gave the show a negative review at the time, stating that the show’s fish-out-of-water premise wasn’t enough to sustain an entire series.

I certainly didn’t anticipate the life that Ted Lasso would have over the course of the next year: Yes, it’s a popular series, which has collected Golden Globe and Emmy nominations and put Apple TV+ on the map like no other show in its existence to date.

But it’s also become a bonafide phenomenon, praised by everyone from politicians to Tim Cook himself, with the show’s positivity and optimism providing a much-needed salve for so many people during the pandemic. Not bad, for a series that originated nearly a decade earlier as a series of promos for NBC’s soccer coverage.

And now, Ted Lasso is back with another season, and I admit it: That mustached lug and his soccer-playing pals have started to grow on me. Not only is the second season notably funnier than the first, but it makes much better use of its large supporting cast.

Apple reportedly ordered 12 episodes for the second season, with each beginning streaming weekly from July 23, although only eight have been made available in advance to the press; I’ve seen those eight.

Back to Richmond

Brendan Hunt, Jason Sudeikis and Nick Mohammed in

Brendan Hunt, Jason Sudeikis and Nick Mohammed in “Ted Lasso” season two, premiering Friday, July 23 on Apple TV+.

The premise of Ted Lasso, if you’re not familiar, is that the titular character (Jason Sudeikis) is a bumpkin American football coach who’s been brought to England to coach a Premier League soccer club called AFC Richmond despite knowing little about the game.

The original conceit was a riff on Major League, in which the team’s female owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) is trying to tank the team on purpose, in order to get back at her ex-husband. But eventually, the show humanized that character, while also showing Ted’s embrace of his new surroundings, and introducing a colorful crew of players and team employees.

The new season of Ted Lasso picks up the following soccer season after AFC Richmond was relegated to a lower league. The team begins the year with a long streak of ties, including one caused by a very unfortunate collision between a penalty kick and a dog.

What’s perhaps most surprising about the second season is that the Lasso character, while present in most scenes, takes a backseat plot-wise for most of the season’s first half, with the other characters getting their own prominent subplots.

Jason Sudeikis in

Jason Sudeikis in “Ted Lasso,” premiering July 23, 2021 on Apple TV+.

Not all of them are great — one about assistant coach Nathan (Nick Mohammed) suddenly becoming a jerk is something of a non-starter — but other subplots are much better, especially the continuing adventures of newly retired player Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein.) Whether he’s attempting a monosyllabic, profane turn as a television broadcaster or trying his hand at coaching, Roy delivers big laughs almost every time he appears.

Not far behind is team owner Rebecca’s foray into the use of an online dating app, which leads up to a surprisingly satisfying romantic subplot. The app ends up as much more than just an excuse to put iPhones on the screen repeatedly.

The jokes are very strong as well. The presence of a team in the English second division called Sheffield Wednesday occasions a fantastic, “Who’s on First”-like run of jokes about “we’re playing Sheffield Wednesday Saturday?” And yes, you get to hear the punchline to the “what does the British owl say?” joke from the first season.

Getting serious

Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt in

Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt in “Ted Lasso,” premiering July 23, 2021 on Apple TV+.

But the Ted character moves back to the forefront in a big way around the sixth episode when something surprising happens, and we learn that even the guy spreading positivity everywhere could perhaps use some help himself. Sudeikis has been collecting acting awards and nominations for the first season, and this plot would appear to ensure that similar accolades will continue rolling his way.

Meanwhile, the third episode represents probably the best fictional treatment to date of the recent trend of athlete activism, Nigerian player Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) refuses to wear an airline’s logo, knowing that the corporation that owns it had decimated his country.

The show, in that plot and others, really establishes the multicultural state of English soccer, a topic that’s especially in the news of late following the recent threats directed at Black players on the English national team who missed penalty kicks in the Euro Cup final. And beyond that, the new season even begins with a character taking a penalty kick. Sudeikis himself was recently photographed in a shirt expressing solidarity with those English players.

Back on the pitch

Juno Temple in

Juno Temple in “Ted Lasso,” premiering July 23, 2021 on Apple TV+.

As in the first season, enjoyment of Ted Lasso doesn’t require one to be a fan of soccer or even to have a passing familiarity with the history or culture of the English football system. After all, the hero of the show is a soccer neophyte himself, who often explains things like the FA Cup through expository dialogue.

As someone who wasn’t wild about the first season, I can say that Ted Lasso has formed more fully into the show that I was hoping it would be. However, there’s not really anything in the second season that will turn off those who fell in love with season 1.

TSMC iPhone, Mac production lines hit by gas contamination

Gases used in TSMC’s production of processors for the Mac, and the iPhone, have reportedly been contaminated.

As TSMC expands its operations in Taiwan, and also in Arizona, its existing “Fab 18” plant in southern Taiwan has been delayed by the incident. The company reported gas contamination, and said that it does not expect a significant impact from the problem.

“To ensure that there will be no issues with production quality, TSMC is currently carrying out stringent follow-up operations,” a spokesperson told Reuters.

Apple reportedly asking employees for COVID-19 vaccination status

Following comments from Apple CEO Tim Cook regarding potential mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, the company is now said to be asking staffers to disclose their vaccination status at certain locations.

According The Verge reporter Zoe Schiffer, Apple has handed out guidance on vaccinations as the company prepares to bring more employees into the office. Specifically, the tech giant wants to know whether returning staff are vaccinated in order to keep possible viral transmission at a minimum.

“Apple is asking our team members in certain locations to share their current vaccination status. You can confidentially share whether you’re fully vaccinated, have had a partial dose, are not vaccinated, or do not wish to share,” Apple’s guidance reads, according to Schiffer.

It is important to note that Apple is not barring workers who have not received a vaccine dose from entering its facilities. Additional precautions will be implemented at sites hosting unvaccinated employees or those unwilling to divulge their vaccination status.

“If you don’t provide your vaccination status, your vaccination status is assumed to be unvaccinated [ ] If you’re not fully vaccinated and working onsite in an Apple building, additional health and safety protocols may apply,” according to Apple’s internal human resources website, as cited by Schiffer in a tweet.

It is unknown when Apple put the vaccination guidelines into effect, but the revelation comes a day after Cook said the tech giant is mulling a vaccine requirement for its workforce. In a brief statement to CNBC regarding Google’s recent decision to mandate vaccines, Cook said Apple is “monitoring things daily to really conclude whether that is the right answer or not.”

On Wednesday it was reported that Apple resumed mask requirements at about half of its U.S. Apple Store locations.

Latest Apple Pay promo nabs Sonic, ParkWhiz and HotelTonight specials

With summer in full swing, Apple on Thursday issued its latest Apple Pay promotion featuring freebies and discounts from Sonic Drive-In, ParkWhiz and HotelTonight.

Announced in an email, the new round of deals invite Apple Pay users to “hit the road and save” with the payments service.

Headlining the promotion is a free cheeseburger from Sonic, available to MySonic account holders when they place their next order while logged in online or through the Sonic app.

Parking service ParkWhiz is offering 10% off on users’ next three reservations when applying promo code “APPLEPAY10” in the company’s app.

HotelTonight is also providing a 10% discount when booking hotel reservations through its app with promo code “APPLEPAYHT.”

Finally, Apple includes an advertisement for Apple Pay integration in the Exxon Mobil, ChargePoint and Taco Bell apps.

All deals are valid through Aug. 4, Apple says.

Apple routinely partners with retailers, brands, service providers and app makers to increase Apple Pay engagement and boost adoption. The most recent Apple Pay promotion ran in June and brought discounts on summer clothing and scooter rentals.

App Store, iTunes Store unavailable to some as outage hits Apple services

Apple is experiencing an outage of two major digital services, with the company offering no explanation or timeline on an expected fix.

According to the company’s system status webpage, an undisclosed problem with the App Store and iTunes Store have left some users without access to the storefronts.

The issue began at 3:29 p.m. Pacific and impacts a subset of App Store and iTunes Store users, Apple said. Some are reporting slowdowns, while other are unable to access either store.

Unlike most Apple online service difficulties, which are usually deemed “issues,” today’s downtime is considered an outage. The root of the problem was not immediately disclosed and the company has not offered an estimated time to resolve the complication.

Apple . In 2015, the company issued an apology for a more than 7-hour outage blamed on DNS error.

Beatles producer says Spatial Audio album doesn't sound right, plans new mix

Legendary Beatles producer Giles Martin in an interview this week discussed the advent of Dolby Atmos, the technology on which Apple’s Spatial Audio format is built, revealing that he intends to create a new mix of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” because the current version “doesn’t sound quite right.”

Speaking with Rolling Stone, Martin explained that “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was among the first albums — perhaps the first — to receive a Dolby Atmos mix. While the result sounds “good,” it doesn’t sound “right” in part because the mix was meant to be a theatrical presentation.

“Sgt. Pepper’s,’ how it’s being presented right now, I’m actually going to change it. It doesn’t sound quite right to me. It’s out in Apple Music right now. But I’m gonna replace it. It’s good. But it’s not right,” Martin said. “Sgt. Pepper’s was, I think, the first album ever mixed in Dolby Atmos. And we did that as a theatrical presentation. I liked the idea of the Beatles being the first to do something. It’s cool that they can still be the first to do something. So Sgt. Pepper’s is a theatrical mix that’s then being converted into a smaller medium. Therefore, it’s not quite right.”

The mix lacks bass and “a little bit of weight,” he added, noting that the Dolby Atmos version of “Abbey Road” is “much better-functioning” because it is sonically closer to the stereo version.

“It’s a bit like someone you love for years having a slightly different haircut. And you realize you still love them,” Martin said of the new mixes.

Martin also shared insight on Dolby Atmos for headphones, a technology that is incredibly difficult to get right. There has been “exponential growth” in the sector over the past two years, he said, but the technology is still in its infancy. While products like Apple’s Spatial Audio is a good experience, it will get better as companies learn how to tweak their products to suit user needs.

“You can hear the difference with spatial audio. It may not always be better, but there’s a difference,” Martin said. “I think we’re learning the tools to provide that difference for people. What’s great is that it creates more of a lean-in listening environment where you’re paying attention to it, as opposed to just having audio being played into your head to stop you from thinking.”

Interestingly, Martin believes that advanced biometric tech like facial recognition, body measurements and in-ear pressure testing will one day be used to customize the listening experience. Perception of Dolby Atmos mixes in headphones is dependent on multiple variables, from head size to bone structure, and new technologies are needed to present recorded music as intended, he explains.

Apple introduced a form of hardware adaptation with the AirPods Pro ear tip fit test, which analyzes an earbud’s seal by capturing speaker output with onboard microphones. AirPods Max goes a step further with Dynamic EQ, a system that measures sound signals within the headphone’s ear cushions and adjusts sound output in real time.

Martin offers details on producing Dolby Atmos tracks and more in the full interview.