Apple tipped to unveil record $100bn quarter – live updates

Apple is set to reveal it earned more than $100bn (£71.86bn) in the last quarter as strong Christmas sales helped it to the highest-ever quarterly profit for a private corporation.

The Cupertino giant is expected to show sales of $102.6bn in the fourth quarter as part of its results on Wednesday, according to figures from Visible Alpha that were reported by the FT.

The massive sales figure has been driven by the launch of Apple’s iPhone 12 series, which was unveiled in October. Sales of iPhone handsets are tipped to grow 6pc year on year.

Elsewhere, Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner told the  Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation that she never uses Facebook or WhatsApp, only Signal. She’s also hit out at WhatsApp’s new privacy changes which have been described as a “personal data grab”.  

In other news, Sir Nick Clegg has insisted that Facebook is neither a publisher nor a utility and should be regulated as “something entirely new”. Meanwhile, Google is facing legal action over its hosting of messaging app Telegram while the microchip industry is urging Joe Biden to review the sanctions placed on China by his predecessor.

Coming up today

Microsoft is expected to announce its quarterly results.

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GameStop short-sellers lose $1.6bn in just one day 

GameStop is up more than 400pc this year with the help of retail traders working together on Reddit. My colleague Matthew Field reports on the pain they’ve caused short-sellers.

Short-sellers betting against US video games retailer GameStop lost $1.6bn (£1.2bn) in a single day last week after meme-fuelled, day-trading investors on Reddit piled into the stock. 

Investors on forum WallStreetBets, where amateur traders share tips, went on a buying spree in direct opposition to a group of wealthy investors who are counting on the stock price to plunge. 

The bidding frenzy pushed GameStop to record highs on Friday, up more than 300pc so far this year.

Read more here.


Apple to unveil first-ever $100bn quarter as Christmas sales boom for iPhone-maker

Apple is set to reveal it earned more than $100bn (£71.86bn) in the last quarter as strong Christmas sales helped it to the highest-ever quarterly profit for a private corporation.

The Cupertino giant is expected to show sales of $102.6bn in the fourth quarter as part of its results on Wednesday, according to figures from Visible Alpha that were reported by the FT.

The massive sales figure has been driven by the launch of Apple’s iPhone 12 series, which was unveiled in October. Sales of iPhone handsets are tipped to grow 6pc year on year.

The figures  follow on from estimates from Wedbush, which has tipped Apple to be worth more than $3 trillion in the next 12 months.


British Airways GPDR fine a “tragedy”

The information commissioner has lamented the massive reduction in the fine that was levied against British Airways over a data breach in 2018.

The ICO had originally signalled its intention to fine the airline £183m for the breach that affected the personal details of over 400,000 customers. That fine was significantly written down to £20m in October with regulators taking the pandemic into account.

“The tragedy and the disappointment is that BA didn’t take good care of customer data and so there were large gaps in the security of data and therefore the breach,” Ms Denham said of the fines today.

“The fines that we issued both to the Marriott and to BA were reduced partly because of pandemic pragmatism and the hit the pandemic has had on the hospitality industry and airlines.”

She also warned that bigger fines can be expected again once the pandemic has passed.


Conservatives collection of ethnicity data was  illegal, ICO’s Denham says

The collection of ethnicity data by the Conservative Party in the run up to the 2019 election was illegal, Ms Denham has confirmed. 

Under questioning from John Nicholson, an MP for the Scottish National Party, the commissioner said it was unacceptable that the party had amassed racial data on voters.

“In our audit work where we look at the practices of all political parties our recommendation was for any kind of ethnicity data to be deleted,” she said.

“The Conservative party, we have evidence that the Conservative Party have destroyed that information.”

Ms Denham said the ICO had recommended the data be eliminated and the party did so. However, she said she would have ordered the party to do so had it not agreed to do so.


Vaccine passports face the same questions as the contact tracing app, says Denham

When asked about the potential use of vaccine passports to help speed up an exit from lockdowns, Ms Denham said it would face the same questions as any other  initiative by Government.

She said the ICO would enquire about their necessity, if they were proportionate, and if their introduction was transparent.

“At the outset we would ask the Government the same questions we asked about the contact tracing app,” she said. “The same principles. I think with immunity passports, some of the issues go beyond data protection. They touch on human rights , the touch on whether or not we’re going to create a two-tier society, based on whether you have a jab in the arm. And the concerns over whether or not this is identity by the back door. Those are the concerns that I would have.”

Do you think vaccine passports are a good idea?


The pros and cons of messaging apps

ICYMI here’s Morgan Meaker’s run down of the best pros and cons of different messaging apps, and an explanation of why WhatsApp’s privacy changes are so controversial. 

The January privacy row started when WhatsApp users around the world began to report receiving a pop-up notice in the app, requiring them to agree to an updated policy covering what data can be shared between WhatsApp and Facebook.

The policy did not apply to users in Europe and the UK.Affected WhatsApp users were told they had to accept the policy or delete their accounts. Many decided to delete it and use Telegram and Signal instead.

Although WhatsApp said the changes would only affect users who were communicating with businesses in the app, there was widespread panic about excessive amounts of personal data being handed over to Facebook.


GDPR is setting the standard for data privacy internationally, Denham says

Ms Denham says the data relationship with the EU after Brexit will be a technical and political process.

“With the trading cooperation agreement there’s a six month period where data can continue to flow,” she told the committee.

“What’s important about that is that it gives the EU enough time to come to a decision about whether the UK regime is essentially the equivalent to that of the EU.”

The Information Commissioner also praised GDPR and said it was being used by other countries to draft their own data privacy rules.

“The advantage of the GDPR approach is that other countries are using GDPR to reform their law,” she said.

“The direction of travel is to give people stronger rights and I think the GDPR gets bad rap from people who say it’s just about the paperwork of privacy.”


Information Commissioner does not use WhatsApp

Ms Denham also revealed that she is not a user of WhatsApp and instead uses alternative Signal.

“I’m not on WhatsApp, I do use end-to-end encryption messaging, and I’m not on Facebook,” she said.


Users rejected changes to WhatsApp privacy policy “with their virtual feet”

When asked about WhatsApp updated privacy policy, which was announced earlier in the month, Ms Denham said that millions of people had switched from the Facebook app.

“What’s really interesting about the WhatsApp announcement is how many users voted with their virtual feet and left the platform to start using Telegram or Signal, which are  end to end encryption services,” she said.

Ms Denham also said that WhatsApp push to force users to accept new terms was an example of users being “concerned about the sustainability of promises made to users”.


Denham defends ICO’s investigation into Cambridge Analytica

Speaking at the hearing today, the ICO’s Ms Denham also defended its investigation into Cambridge Analytica, the defunct UK consulting company accused of using secretly-mined Facebook data for targeted political ads.

In October, Ms Denham said that Cambridge Analytica was not involved in the 2016 Brexit referendum beyond some initial inquiries.

“The difficulty of this investigation there were so many commentators in the public sphere and we’re a regulator we have to be driven by the evidence that we find and I believe we have done that to the extent of our ability and our powers,” she told the committee today.

“If there are commentators that feel differently they have the opportunity to come forward and provide us with the information.”


Data protection was once a “conversation stopper” – now its mainstream, says ICO’s Denham

Elizabeth Denham, the outgoing Information Commissioner, says her office has “been on a journey” over the past four years.

“There was the challenge of bringing in a new law in UK data protection act 2018, the challenge of Brexit, and also the challenge of the pandemic,” she told the sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation today.

“It has not been a smooth ride for the ICO but I am most proud of ability to build capacity to respond to issues that are larger than life.”

Ms Denham also said that where talk of data protection would have been a “conversation stopper at a party three or four years ago”, it was now “mainstream”.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham

Paul Cooper


Apple’s hardware engineering chief to step down to oversee new project

Dan Riccio, Apple’s head of hardware engineering, is to step down to oversee a new project at the iPhone maker.

Apple did not reveal what project Mr Riccio will be working on but the tech giant currently has at least two major hardware initiatives in the works. One being a self-driving car and another based on virtual and augmented reality headsets.

Mr Riccio, who will report directly to Tim Cook, will be replaced  by John Ternus, one of his top lieutenants.

“Working at Apple has been the opportunity of a lifetime, spent making the world’s best products with the most talented people you could imagine,” Mr Riccio said.

“Next up, I’m looking forward to doing what I love most — focusing all my time and energy at Apple on creating something new and wonderful that I couldn’t be more excited about.”

Apple's Dan Riccio

Apple’s Dan Riccio



WhatsApp rival Signal making itself increasingly vulnerable to abuse, say employees

Employees at Signal, the end-to-end encrypted messaging app, fear the company may not be building sufficient policies to prevent the app from being misused by bad actors.

The app, which has soared to prominence since Facebook-owned WhatsApp infuriated users with changes to its privacy policy, is funded by a nonprofit organisation. The company prides itself on helping activists protect their identity while also ensuring that it does not monetise any user data.

In a long-ranging piece on The Verge, Signal employees feared the company was wilfully dismissing concerns around potential misuses of the service. Staff also said the company was developing multiple tools that could be ripe for abuse, including the prospect of adding crypto-based payments through the app.

The employees also raised fears that the app’s appetite for growth matched with an inattention to potential misuses could threaten its long-term future.

Moxie Marlinspike, the creator of Signal, told The Verge that he wanted the app to be “really careful” about doing things that make Signal less effective for bad actors “if it would also make it less effective for the types of actors that we want to support and encourage”.


Facebook shouldn’t apologise for “being reticent” over banning Trump, Sir Clegg says

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Sir Nick Clegg addressed concerns around the banning of former US President Donald Trump from the social media site.

“I don’t think Facebook should make any apology for being reticent about how it seeks to vet political speech in an open democracy,” he said.

Mr Trump was banned indefinitely from Facebook following the riots at the Capitol building earlier in the month. At the time, Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, said that Mr Trump “clearly demonstrated” that he would use his remaining time in office to “undermine the peaceful and lawful” transition of power.

Mr Clegg also hit out at a media code the Australian government is set to introduce that will force tech firms to pay for content from publishers. The code will require the likes of Facebook and Google to negotiate payments with news companies for their content.

“Even Tim Berners Lee has said that the Australian code would make the web unworkable around the world,” the former deputy prime minister said on radio this morning.

“The problem with the Australian model is, instead of allowing the kind of negotiations between Facebook and publishers, they want to impose an uncapped arbitrary set of arrangements completely unrelated to the commercial interaction between publishers and Facebook.”

He went on to say that no company should be “strong-armed” into giving a subsidy to another industry.


Facebook is “something entirely new”, insists Sir Nick Clegg

Sir Nick Clegg has insisted that Facebook is neither a publisher nor a utility and should be regulated as “something entirely new.”

His comments, made in today’s Telegraph, come as the social media giant launches a new tab dedicated to personalised news content for its 51 million UK users.

The feature means Facebook will begin to pay British publishers to show their articles in a standalone feed.  Users can personalise the stories they see, as well as choose topics and publishers they want to follow.

Read more with James Cook and Hannah Boland’s piece on Sir Clegg’s views here or read the Facebook VP’s comments in full.


Five things to start your day 

1) Sir Nick Clegg has insisted Facebook is not a publisher It came as the company announced the launch of Facebook News in the UK

2) Twitter will ask volunteers to fact check tweets The company is testing a Wikipedia-like approach to viral claims

3) Apple’s hardware chief is moving to a special project Dan Riccio’s move comes amid rumours the company is working on a VR headset 

4) Google is being sued over hosting the messaging app Telegram A former US ambassador to Morocco wants the company to kick the app off its Play Store

5) The microchip industry wants Joe Biden to review China sanctions Industry group SEMI wrote to the new administration seeking the unwinding of Trump era rules

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