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.

Platform-as-a-service startup Porter aims to become go-to platform for deploying, managing cloud-based apps

By the time Porter co-founders Trevor Shim and Justin Rhee decided to build a company around DevOps, the pair were well versed in doing remote development on Kubernetes. And like other users, were consistently getting burnt by the technology.

They realized that for all of the benefits, Rhee told TechCrunch that the technology was there, but users were having to manage the complexity of hosting solutions as well as incur the costs associated with a big DevOps team.

They decided to build out a solution externally and went through Y Combinator’s Summer 2020 batch, where they found other startup companies trying to do the same.

Today, Porter announced $1.5 million in seed funding from Venrock, Translink Capital, Soma Capital and several angel investors. It’s goal is to build a Platform-as-a-Service that any team can use to manage applications in its own cloud, essentially delivering the full flexibility of Kubernetes through a Heroku-like experience.

Why Heroku? It is the hosting platform that developers are used to, and not just small companies, but also later stage companies. When they want to move to Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud or DigitalOcean, Porter will be that bridge, Shim added.

However, while Heroku is still popular, the pair say companies are thinking the platform is getting outdated because it is standing still technology-wise. Each year, companies move on from the platform due to technical limitations and cost, Rhee said.

A big part of the bet Porter is taking is not charging users for hosting, and its cost is a pure SaaS product,he said. They aren’t looking to be resellers, so companies can use their own cloud, but Porter will provide the automation and users can pay with their AWS and GCP credits, which gives them flexibility.

A common pattern is a move into Kubernetes, but “the zinger we talk about,” is if Heroku was built in 2021, it would have been built on Kubernetes, Shim added.

“So we see ourselves as a successor’s successor,” he said.

To be that bridge, the company will use the new funding to increase its engineering bandwidth with the goal of “becoming the de facto standard for all startups.” Shim said.

Porter’s platform went live in February, and in six months became the sixth-fastest growing open source platform download on GitHub, said Ethan Batraski, partner at Venrock. He met the company through YC and was “super impressed with Rhee’s and Shim’s vision.

“Heroku has 100,000 developers, but I believe it has stagnated,” Batraski added. “Porter already has 100 startups on its platform. The growth they’ve seen — four or five times — is what you want to see at this stage.”

His firm has long focused on data infrastructure and is seeing the stack get more complex, saying “at the same time, more developers are wanting to build out an app over a week, and scale it to millions of users, but that takes people resources. With Kubernetes it can turn everyone into an expert developer without them knowing it,” he added.

“Heroku has 100,000 developers, but I believe it has stagnated,” Batraski added. “Porter already has 100 startups on its platform. The growth they’ve seen — four or five times — is what you want to see at this stage.”

Gopuff confirms new $1B cash injection at a $15B valuation to expand its instant grocery delivery service

Gopuff, the startup that’s helped kickstart a new category of food delivery in the U.S. — “instant” delivery of essential groceries and other home goods for a flat fee of $1.95, 24 hours a day — has closed a huge tranche of funding to help it scale its service further across the country and globe. It’s raised $1 billion in a Series H round that values the Philadelphia-based company at $15 billion.

New backers Blackstone’s Horizons platform, Guggenheim Investments, Hedosophia, and Adage Capital, and previous backers Fidelity Management and Research Company, Softbank Vision Fund 1, Atreides Management, and Eldridge Capital all participated in the round.

This news confirms our scoop of last week, when reported on this Series H as it was still being closed.

Gopuff said it plans to use the funding to continue expanding in North America, the UK (where it has already acquired one company, Fancy, and, sources tell us, is acquiring another, Dija), and Europe; on more hiring; and to continue building out the tech platform that bridges an ecosystem that includes customers, drivers, suppliers and distribution centers.

It currently operates 450 sites across North America and the UK, with includes more than 285 dark stores (or “micro-fulfillment centers” in Gopuff’s words), plus more than 185 retailers by way of its acquisition of BevMo earlier this year.

One of the reasons that Gopuff has raised such a large sum is that building out food-based, logistics-fueled, transportation business along all of those parameters is capital-intensive.

But also, that effort to grow is coming amidst a strong surge of competition. Getir out of Turkey, backed by Sequoia and others and most recently valued at $7.5 billion, is also aggressively expanding. And just looking at Europe, there are a wave of others such as FlinkGorillasGlovoZappCajoo, and Weezy also bulking up their bank accounts to throw their delivery bags into the ring. (In the U.S., established delivery giants like DoorDash will also be moving deeper into Gopuff’s territory.)

Gopuff believes it can give all of these and others a run for their money. Founded back in 2013 by Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola — now co-CEOs — while they were still in university to fill a gap they saw in the market for students like themselves, Gopuff has expanded well beyond that by catering to anyone looking for a quick and relatively low-cost way of getting essential goods without physically going out to get those items themselves.

In a stretch of time where many of us were either being ordered by our municipal governments, or acting on our own decisions, to stay in place to curtail the spread of Covid-19, Gopuff’s star rose quickly as an easy way of complying without compromising our consumerist tendencies.

But Companies like Getir out of Turkey — which has been around for years also building out a model of “instant” delivery of essential goods — have demonstrated that there is staying power to the concept, and that is what Gopuff is betting on, too.

Gopuff has quietly built a very strong business and solidified itself as the leading player, continuing to define this evolving category,” said Scott Minerd, Global Chief Investment Officer of Guggenheim Investments, in a statement. “Rafael and Yakir are focused on maintaining fiscal responsibility while having the ability to successfully execute on strategic growth opportunities. This measured approach along with Gopuff’s impressive offering has only just scratched the surface. We are thrilled to support this incredibly strong company and look forward to being part of Gopuff’s journey and continued expansion.”

Part of Gopuff’s strategy has been to augment the basic instant delivery of essentials model with more efficient distribution along with a wider vision of what constitutes essentials.

So in addition to building out more localized “dark” stores to more easily distribute goods to customers who buy them, that has included starting “Gopuff kitchens” to make and deliver ready-made food; buying alcohol retailer BevMo for $350 million in November 2020; and acquiring more logistics technology, in the form of buying rideOS for $115 million.

Gopuff itself has been on a fundraising tear to finance all of this. It was only in March that it raised $1.15 billion at an $8.9 billion valuation, which came just months after a $380 million round at a $3.8 billion valuation. Together the three most recent rounds total around $2.5 billion in funding in the space of 10 months, and the idea here seems to be that there may be more of where that came from.

“As Gopuff continues to define the Instant Needs economy, we are thrilled to have new leading global partners onboard, along with the support of our longtime investors. This funding round is further validation of the success of our model and will enable us to continue to do what we do best: deliver an unmatched customer experience,” said Ilishayev in a statement.

“We have truly doubled down on our key business priorities, accelerating our geographic expansion by entering new markets in the US and abroad, innovating for our customers, and continuing to invest heavily in our technology, our people, and our partners. We look forward to continuing to enhance the customer experience and to bring the magic of Gopuff to new customers around the world,” added Yakir Gola.

Catch takes hold of $12M to provide benefits that aren’t tied to employers

Catch is working to make sure that every gig worker has the health and retirement benefits they need.

The company, which is in the midst of moving its headquarters to New York, sells health insurance, retirement savings plans and tax withholding directly to freelancers, contractors or anyone uncovered.

It is now armed with a fresh round of $12 million in Series A funding, led by Crosslink, with participation from earlier investors Khosla Ventures, NYCA Partners, Kindred Ventures and Urban Innovation Fund, to support more distribution partnerships and its relocation from Boston.

Co-founders Kristen Anderson and Andrew Ambrosino started Catch in 2019 and raised $6.1 million previously, giving it a total of $18.1 million in funding.

It took the Catch team of 15 nearly two years to get approvals to sell its platform in 38 states on the federal marketplace. Anderson boasts that only eight companies have been able to do this, and three of them — Catch included — are approved to sell benefits to consumers. The other side of the business is payroll, and the company has gathered thousands of sources based on biller.

“More companies are not offering healthcare, while more people are joining the creator and gig economies, which means more people are not following an employer-led model,” Anderson told TechCrunch.

The age of an average Catch customer is 32 years old, and in addition to current offerings, were asking the company to help them set up income sources, like setting aside money for taxes, retirement, as well as medical leave without having to actively save.

When the global pandemic hit, many of Catch’s customers saw their income collapse, 40% overall across industries, as workers like hairstylists and cooks had income go down to zero in some cases.

It was then that Anderson and Ambrosino began looking at partnership distribution and developed a network of platforms, business facilitation tools, gig marketplaces and payroll companies that were interested in offering Catch. The company intends to use some of the funding to increase its headcount to service those partnerships and go after more, Anderson said.

Catch is one startup providing insurance products, and many of the competitors either do a single offering and do it well, like Starship does with health savings accounts, Anderson said. Catch is taking a different approach by offering a platform experience, but going deep on the process, she added. She likens it to Gusto, which provides cloud-based payroll, benefits and human resource management for businesses, in that Catch is an end-to-end experience, but with a focus on an individual person.

Over the past year, the company’s user base tripled, driven by people taking on second jobs and through a partnership with DoorDash. Platform users are also holding onto 5 times their usual balances, a result of setting more goals and needing to save more, Anderson said. Retirement investments and health insurance have grown similarly.

Going forward, Anderson is already thinking about a Series B, but that won’t come for another couple of years, she said. The company is looking into its own HSA product as well as disability insurance and other products to further differentiate itself from other startups, for example, Spot, Super.mx and Even that all raised venture capital this month to provide benefits.

Catch would also like to serve a broader audience than just those on the federal marketplace. The co-founders are working on how to do this — Anderson mentioned there are some “nefarious companies out there” offering medical benefits at rates that can seem too good to be true, but when the customer reads the fine print, finds out that certain medical conditions are not covered.

“We are looking at how to put the right thing in there because it does get confusing,” Anderson added. “Young people have cheaper options, which means they need to make sure they know what they are getting.”

'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.

Support the show on Patreon or Apple Podcasts to get ad-free episodes every week and early access to the show!

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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“>https://appleinsider.com/articles/21/05/17/report-details-security-compromises-apple-has-made-to-placate-china”>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.

Airtel Africa gets an extra $200M for its mobile money business from QIA

Three months ago, Mastercard invested $100 million in Airtel Mobile Commerce BV (AMC BV) — the mobile money business of telecom Airtel Africa. This was two weeks after it also received $200 million from TPG’s Rise Fund.

Today, the African telecoms operator has announced that it has secured another investment for its mobile money arm: Qatar Holding LLC, an affiliate of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). The Middle Eastern corporation is the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar with over $300 billion assets. It is set to invest $200 million into AMC BV through a secondary purchase of shares from Airtel Africa.

AMC BV is an Airtel Africa subsidiary and the holding company for several of Airtel Africa’s mobile money operations across 14 African countries, including Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. The mobile money arm operates one of the largest financial services on the continent. It provides users access to mobile wallets, support for international money transfers, loans and virtual credit cards.

According to a statement released by the telecoms operator, the proceeds of the investment will be used to reduce debt and invest in network and sales infrastructure in the respective operating countries. The deal will close in two tranches — $150 million invested at the first close, most likely in August. The remaining $50 million will be invested at second close.

Airtel Africa claims QIA will hold a minority stake while it continues to hold the majority stake. This transaction still values Airtel Africa at $2.65 billion on a cash and debt-free basis like other deals. However, what’s different this time is that QIA is entitled to appoint a director to AMC BV’s board and “to certain customary information and minority protection rights.”

Airtel Africa’s most recent report for Q1 2021 shows signs of growth. The telecoms operator saw a year on year revenue growth of 53.7%, pushed by a 24.6% growth in customer base to 23.1 million. Transaction value went up 64.4% to $14.7 billion ($59 billion annualised); and EBITDA stood at $60 million ($240 million annualised) at a margin of 48.8%. The company also generated $124 million in revenue ($496 million annualised), while its profits before tax year-on-year for Q1 2021 stood at $185 million.

Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud, CEO of QIA, said the sovereign fund’s investment in Airtel Africa would help promote financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Airtel Money plays a critical role in facilitating economic activity, including for customers without access to traditional financial services. We firmly believe in its mission to expand these efforts over the coming years,” he added.

In February, Airtel Africa first made it known that it wanted to sell a minority stake in AMC BV to raise cash and sell off some assets. The subsequent month, it has sold off telecommunication towers in Madagascar and Malawi to Helios Towers for $119 million and has raised $500 million from outside investors since then.