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Apple launches its new app privacy labels across all its App Stores

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At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, the company announced it would soon require developers to disclose their app’s privacy practices to customers via new, glanceable summaries that appear on their apps’ product pages on the App Store. Today, these new app privacy labels are going live across all of Apple’s App Stores, including iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS.

On the developers’ side, Apple began requiring developers to submit their privacy practices with the submission of new apps and app updates. However, it hadn’t begun to publish this information on the App Stores until today.

The new labels aim to give Apple customers an easier way to understand what sort of information an app collects across three categories: data used to track you, data linked to you and data not linked to you. Tracking, Apple explains, refers to the act of linking either user or device data collected from an app with user or device data collected from other apps, websites or even offline properties (like data aggregated from retail receipts) that’s used for targeted advertising or advertisement measurement. It can also include sharing user or device data with data brokers.

This aspect alone will expose the industry of third-party adtech and analytics SDKs (software development kits) — basically code from external vendors that developers add to their apps to boost their revenues.

Meanwhile, “data linked to you” is the personal information tied to your identity, through your user account on the app, your device or other details.

Image Credits: Apple

Broken down, there are a number of data types apps may collect on their users, including things like personal contact information (e.g. address, email, phone, etc.); health and fitness information (eg. from the Clinical Health Records API, HealthKit API, MovementDisorderAPIs or health-related human subject research); financial information (e.g. payment and credit info); location (either precise or coarse); contacts; user content (e.g. emails, audio, texts, gameplay, customer support, etc.); browsing and search histories; purchases; identifiers like user or device IDs; usage and diagnostic info; and more.

Developers are expected to understand not only what data their app may collect, but also how it’s ultimately used.

For example, if an app shares user data with a third-party partner, the developer will need to know what data that partner uses and for what purposes — like displaying targeted ads in the app, sharing location data or email lists with a data broker, using data for retargeting users in other apps or measuring ad efficiencies. And while the developer will need to disclose when they’re collecting data from Apple frameworks or services, they aren’t responsible for disclosing data collected by Apple itself.

There are a few exceptions to the new disclosure requirements, including data collected in optional feedback forms or customer service requests. But, in general, almost any data an app collects has to be disclosed. Even Apple’s own apps that aren’t offered on the App Store will have their privacy labels published on the web.

Apps will also be required to include a link to their publicly accessible privacy policy and can optionally now include a link to a page explaining their privacy choices in more detail. For example, they could link to a page where users can manage their data for the app or request deletion.

The privacy information itself is presented on a screen in the app’s product listing page in easy-to-read tabs that explain what data is collected across the different categories, starting with “data used to track you.”

Apple says it will not remove apps from the App Store if they don’t include this privacy information, but it’s no longer allowing apps to update until their privacy information is listed. That means, eventually, all apps that haven’t been abandoned will include these details.

Apple’s decision to implement privacy labels is a big win for consumer privacy and could establish a new baseline for how app stores disclose data.

However, they also arrive at a time when Apple is pushing its own adtech agenda under the banner of being a privacy-forward company. The company is forcing the adtech industry to shift from the identifier IDFA to its own SKAdNetwork — a shakeup that’s been controversial enough for Apple to delay the transition from 2020 to 2021. The decision to delay may have been, as Apple stated, to give marketers panicked about the sizable revenue hit, time to adapt. But Apple is, of course, keenly aware that regulators were weighing whether the App Store was behaving in anticompetitive ways toward third-parties.

Facebook, for example, had warned businesses they would see a 50% drop in Audience Network revenue on iOS as a result of the changes that would remove personalization from mobile app ad install campaigns.

Apple, in the meantime, took some of the regulatory heat off itself by reducing its App Store commissions to 15% for developers making less than $1 million.

As all these consumer privacy changes are underway, Apple itself continues to use its customer data to personalize ads in its own apps, including the App Store and Apple News. These settings, which are enabled by default, can be toggled off in the iPhone’s Settings. App publishers, on the other hand, will soon have to ask permission from users to track them. And Apple now runs plenty of other services it could expand ads to in the future, if it chose.

It will be interesting to see how consumers react to these new privacy labels as they go live. Apps that collect too much data may find their downloads are impacted, as wary users pass them over. Or, consumers may end up ignoring the labels — much as they do the other policies and terms they “agree” to when installing new software.

Details about Apple’s privacy practices were also published today on a new website, Apple.com/privacy, which includes not only the changes to the App Store, but lists all other areas where Apple protects consumer privacy.

The updates to the App Stores rolled out today alongside the new releases of iOS 14.3 / iPadOS 14.3 and macOS Big Sur 11.1, which also deliver updates to support Apple Fitness+, AirPods Max, the new ProRAW format, and more, in addition to the privacy labels.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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UK challenger bank Starling raises $376M, now valued at $1.9B

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Challenger banks continue to see huge infusions of cash from investors bullish on the opportunity for smaller and faster-moving tech-based banking startups to woo customers from their larger rivals. In the latest development, UK-based Starling announced that is has closed £272 million ($376 million at current rates), at a pre-money valuation of £1.1 billion.

This means that the round, a Series D, values the company at £1.372 billion ($1.9 billion) post-money.

Starling — which competes against incumbent banks, as well as other challengers like Monzo and Revolut — said it will be using the money to continue its growth. The bank is already profitable. In updated financials posted today, Starling said it generated revenue of £12 million ($16.6 million) in January of this year, up 400% compared to a year ago, with an annualized revenue run rate of £145 million. It posted operating profits for a fourth consecutive month, and net income currently exceeds £1.5 million per month.

Starling, founded in 2017, has now pased 2 million accounts, with 300,000 business accounts among them. It’s not clear how many of those accounts are active: the figures are for opened accounts, Starling said. Gross lending has passed £2 billion, with deposits at £5.4 billion.

Starling said it plans to use the funding both to expand its lending operations in the UK, to expand into other parts of Europe, and make some strategic acquisitions.

“Digital banking has reached a tipping point,” said Anne Boden, founder and CEO of Starling Bank, in a statement. “Customers now expect a fairer, smarter and more human alternative to the banks of the past and that is what we are giving them at Starling as we continue to grow and add new products and services. Our new investors will bring a wealth of experience as we enter the next stage of growth, while the continued support of our existing backers represents a huge vote of confidence.”

The round is being led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, with Qatar Investment Authority (QIA); RPMI Railpen (Railpen), the investment manager for the £31 billion Railways Pension Scheme; and global investment firm Millennium Management also participating, and it comes on the heels of us reporting in November that it was raising at least £200 million.

The funding comes at a critical time in consumer banking. The trend in the UK — the market where Starling is active — for the last several year has been a gradual shift to online and mobile banking, with those trends rapidly accelerating in the last year of lock-downs and enforced social distancing to slow down the spread of Covid-19.

Challenger (neo) banks have been some of the biggest winners of evolving consumer habits. Using rails provided as white-label services by way of APIs from banking infrastructure providers (another startup category in itself with companies like Rapyd, Plaid, Mambu, CurrencyCloud and others all involved) they will offer the same basic services such as checking and deposit, but they will typically do so with considerably  more flexibility, and additional savings and financial tips, and savings services to customers — all carried out over digital platforms.

Big, incumbent banks have scrambled to keep up with innovation, but newer generations of users are less beholden to their brands and incumbency, not least a result of the banking crisis last decade that revealed many of them to be cosiderably less competent and solid than many might have assumed.

That bigger market picture has also meant a surge of many neobanks, and so Starling competes with more than just the incumbents. Others include Monese, Revolut, Tide, Atom and Monzo — the latter a particularly acute competitor, founded by the ex-CTO of Starling.

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Deliveroo posted narrowed loss of $309M, with gross transactions surging to $5.7B in 2020, EITF shows

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The clock has officially started ticking on Deliveroo’s plans to go public in April. After announcing last week that it planned to list on the London Stock Exchange, today the on-demand food delivery company backed by Amazon and others published selected updated financials for the previous fiscal year, along with its Expected Intention to Float (EITF) — a more formal document that marks the two-week period until the company publishes its prospectus and, at the start of April, embarks on its subsequent IPO.

The bottom line is that Deliveroo is still unprofitable. It posted a 2020 underlying loss of £223.7 million ($309 million), but that figure was down by nearly £100 million from 2019, when it chalked up a loss of £317 million ($438 million). It did not disclose revenues (sometimes called turnover) in today’s statement.

The company said that it now serves some 6 million customers, with its three-sided marketplace also including more than 115,000 restaurants, takeaways and grocery stores, and 100,000 riders in 800 locations among 12 markets.

At the same time, Deliveroo showed some clear momentum in a year where many restaurants had to close their doors and shift operations to take-away models because of Covid-19.

It notes that it has been profitable on an “Adjusted EBITDA basis” over two quarters, with underlying gross profit up by 89.5% to £358 million ($495 million) compared to £189 million in 2019.

Its gross transaction volume (total amount spent by consumers ordering food) grew by 64% to £4.1 billion ($5.67 billion) with the run-rate in Q4 surging to £5 billion. This figure is unsurprising when you consider that Q4 represented the holiday period, and additionally the UK market (Deliveroo’s primary market and its home) went through not one but two different periods of being locked down in that quarter (the second of these is still in place).

It also notes that gross profit margin as a percentage of GTV has grown from 5.8% in 2018 to 8.8% in 2020, with some markets getting to 12%.

“The company remains focused on investing in driving growth in a nascent online food market,” it noted in the EITF, although I’m not sure nascent is exactly the word I’d use. Its drivers are easily the most visible of the many delivery services that exist in London. Deliveroo estimates that the restaurant and grocery sectors represent an addressable market of £1.2 trillion ($1.66 trillion) across the 12 regions where it offers services. In that figure, it says that just 3% of sales are estimated to be online, “equivalent to less than 1 out of the 21 weekly meal occasions being online.”

The company was valued at over $7 billion in it last fundraising, a $180 million round from Durable, Fidelity and others, as recently as January of this year.

It’s a huge leap that is the stuff that tech myths are made of (with untold hours of blood, sweat and tears, and a lot of luck too). I met Will Shu, the CEO and founder, when he was just really getting started at Deliveroo, and he seemed somewhat bewildered by how fast the startup was growing and where it was leading him. It’s interesting that he himself hasn’t forgotten those early days, either, which surely help keep the company focused at a time when there are a lot of opportunities, and therefore a lot of potential for focus unravelling.

“I never set out to be a founder or a CEO. I was never into start-ups, I didn’t read TechCrunch. I’m not one of those Silicon Valley types with a million ideas,” he noted in his letter published in the EITF. “I had one idea. One idea born out of personal frustration. An idea that I was fanatically obsessed with: I wanted to get great food delivered from amazing London restaurants.”

The prospectus will tell us how much the company intends to raise in its IPO so we’ll know those numbers soon. In the meantime, Deliveroo said that it plans to “invest in its long-term proposition by developing its core marketplace, enhancing its superior consumer experience, providing restaurant and grocery partners with unique tools to help them grow their businesses, and providing riders with the flexible work they value alongside security.”

It’s also going to continue building out “dark kitchens” (which it brands Editions); Signature, a white-label service for restaurants to offer delivery via their own online channels; Plus, a Prime-style loyalty subscription service; and on-demand grocery — which is also shaping up to be a huge market in Europe and the rest of the world.

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Porsche raises stake in electric car and components maker Rimac Automobili

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Rimac Automobili, the Croatian company known for its electric hypercars and battery and powertrain development, has gained yet another investment from Porsche AG.

Porsche said Monday it has invested 70 million euros ($83.3 miilion) into Rimac, a move that increases its stake from 15% to 24%.

This is the third time Porsche has invested into Rimac. The German automaker made its first investment into Rimac in 2018. Porsche increased its equity stake into Rimac in September 2019. A few months earlier, Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors jointly invested €80 million ($90 million at the time) into Rimac.

Rimac was founded by Mate Rimac in 2009 and is perhaps best known for its electric hypercars, such as the two-seater C Two that it debuted in 2018 at the Geneva International Motor Show. The vehicle produces an eye-popping 1,914 horsepower, has a top speed of 256 miles per hour and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 1.85 seconds. Rimac plans to unveil C Two in its final form in 2021.

However, Rimac does more than produce hypercars. The company, which employs 1,000 people, also focuses on battery technology within the high-voltage segment, engineers and manufactures electric powertrains and develops digital interfaces between humans and machines.

Porsche is most interested in Rimac’s development of components, according to comments made by Lutz Meschke, the deputy chairman of Porsche AG’s executive board. Meschke noted that Rimac is “excellently positioned in prototype solutions and small series” and “is well on its way to becoming a Tier 1 supplier for Porsche and other manufacturers in the high-tech segment.”

Porsche has already placed its first orders with Rimac for the development of highly innovative series components, according to Meschke.

Despite its continued investments, Porsche said it doesn’t have a controlling stake in Rimac.

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