April Tech News & Trends
As usual, the past few weeks have seen a lot of big tech news hit the press, some of which suggests some real changes to come in the tech and business worlds. For busy business people who have a hard time staying on top of new tech stories on their own, we have our monthly roundup of tech news to be aware of this month.
1. Facebook Faces Scandal
Facebook has faced scandals and criticism before, but the recent news that Facebook data on 50 million user profiles had been harvested and exploited by the marketing firm Cambridge Analytica may be the biggest scandal yet. The firm used the company’s data to create targeted political advertising campaigns that may have helped sway the last U.S. presidential election and the UK’s Brexit vote. And internal documents suggest that Facebook was aware of the breadth of the data breach and did little at the time it was discovered.
This scandal combines people’s worries about fake news with their cyber security fears. The outrage has inspired #deletefacebook to trend on Twitter (although with minimal follow through) and Zuckerberg is set to testify in front of Congress about the scandal. This probably isn’t the end of Facebook, but it’s definitely got a lot of users thinking twice about how they interact with the platform.
2. Snap Has an Even Worse Month
Last month we reported that Snap was having a rocky month between a new design that customers hated and a negative tweet from Kylie Jenner. Well soon after that things went from bad to worse when the platform approved an offensive ad that made a callous joke about Chris Brown’s famous domestic abuse offense against Rihanna.
Is it just me, or is this ad that popped up on my Snapchat extremely tone deaf? Like what were they thinking with this? pic.twitter.com/7kP9RHcgNG
— Royce Mann (@TheRoyceMann) March 12, 2018
Rihanna was not having it. Even after Snap pulled the ad and attempted an apology, she publicly took them to task on Instagram, saying:
“I’d love to call it ignorance, but I know you ain’t that dumb! You spent money to animate something that would intentionally bring shame to DV victims and made a joke of it!!!! This isn’t about my personal feelings, cause I don’t have much of them…but all the women, children, and men that have been victims of DV in the past and especially the ones who haven’t made it out yet….you let us down! Shame on you. Throw the whole app-oligy away.”
The company’s stock value plummeted in response, losing more than $800 million. Hopefully other brands will learn from Snap to avoid making light of domestic violence or crossing Rihanna.
3. Hackers Disrupt Atlanta’s City Government
The city of Atlanta had to halt a number of city services and operations last month due to a ransomware attack made by hackers. The hackers demanded a ransom of $51,000 in bitcoin to remove the threat to the city’s digital systems.
Atlanta has managed to regain some of its systems, but the attack is a reminder of how much power someone with hacking skills can have over the functions of government.
4. Zscaler, Dropbox, Spotify, and DocuSign Go Public
It’s a big month for tech IPOs.
- To start, Zscaler, the cloud security company had a strong start when it went public last month, making $192 million and watching stocks go up 75% on the first day of trading.
- Dropbox followed suit with a similarly strong offering, going up 49% in its first two days on the market.
- Just a couple of days ago , Spotify launched their IPO, which put their initial valuation at $29.5 billion.
- And sorry, you won’t get time to catch your breath, because DocuSign has also just filed for IPO with the goal of going public later this month.
There’s just something about the stock market in the spring, it seems.
5. Self-Driving Vehicles Forced to Slow Down
Usually the talk around self-driving cars is excited and often brings a feeling of rushing – the companies behind them, the people working on them, and the consumers that want them all seem to be in a hurry for the tech to be ready and available.
But last month, a woman was hit and killed by a self-driving Uber, forcing the company to take a step back and slow things down for a bit. The company pulled all its self-driving vehicles from public roads for the time being while they investigate the cause of the crash.
6. Cryptocurrency Controversies
The city of Plattsburgh, NY made news last month by banning cryptomining. The practice, a way of gaining bitcoin, uses up a considerable amount of electricity and was taxing the city’s electric system. Because the city was using more than it was able to produce and had to buy electricity from outside sources, residents were stuck with much higher electric bills than usual. In response, the city government went ahead and banned the practice altogether.
On top of that, Twitter joins a number of other social media networks in banning all ads for cryptocurrency. The move is a way to try to reduce fraud on the site, especially as “crypto twitter” is known for being generally shady. Even with these minor setbacks, bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies remain a notable part of our modern economy.
7. MyFitnessPal App Hacked
The data breach of the month (at least so far) is MyFitnessPal. The app, owned by Under Armour, was hacked, compromising 150 million profiles. They’ve alerted their members and are requiring everyone that uses the app to change their password.
It seems like every month brings at least one new data breach. It’s a good reminder to keep your passwords secure and change them periodically for better protection.
8. U.S. Considers Requiring Social Media Info for All Visa Applicants
The U.S. state department has announced a desire to begin requiring all visa applicants to the country to provide details of their social media accounts. If the department moves forward with this plan, nearly 15 million people will be required to provide this information as part of their application – a requirement many feel is a serious invasion of their privacy.
While the administration claims this requirement is a way to combat terrorism, many are skeptical that it would make a meaningful difference while also concerned that it oversteps reasonable boundaries of privacy. Before a final decision is made, the public has a couple of months to provide comments on the proposal.
9. Collision Conference
Meeting from April 30-May 3 in New Orleans, the Collision Conference brings together over 25,000 attendees to network, view tech exhibits, and discuss and learn about topics ranging from AI to cryptocurrency to brand activism.
For anyone looking for a good opportunity to learn more and meet like minds, it’s the best tech conference this month to consider.
Like most months, April is a busy one for the tech world. Check back next month to see what tech trends to look forward to in May.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.