School’s back in session and we’re gearing up for our last Summer Friday*, so fall must be fast approaching. Here are a few of the stories that caught our attention this week while we wait to bust out our Patagonia vests:

Startup takes on Alexa & Siri

This week, Engadget profiled Mycroft, a startup taking an open source approach to artificial intelligence and voice-activated smart speakers that it hopes will prove a strong competitor to Google’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. Central to Mycroft’s value proposition when compared with its bigger rivals – a strong focus on preserving users’ privacy.

Targeted toward the hobbyist and maker communities, Mycroft’s Mark I and upcoming Mark II speakers are typically paired with one of the company’s 34,000 users’ own device, anything from a desktop/laptop to a Raspberry Pi development board. The platform also has been tested in Jaguar Land Rover’s F-Type sports car.

Mycroft’s founder, Joshua Montgomery, stressed to Engadget that the privacy aspect of smart speakers is only going to grow as a concern. “The path we’re setting ourselves on, in terms of being willing to give up all privacy to these companies in exchange for, you know, being able to get the weather on-demand or set a timer is really alarming.”

EU targets AI

Meanwhile, the European Commission is debating regulations that would give European citizens strong control over the use of their facial recognition data at it looks to update how Europe regulates AI. According to a write up in the Financial Times, the governing body is attempting “to stamp out creeping public surveillance of European citizens” and to create ethical laws controlling AI.

The EU’s general data protection regulation – well known to we PR types as GDPR – prohibits the collection of biometric data that can uniquely identify an individual, and the changes under consideration would go many steps further, and aim to “set a world-standard for AI regulation.”

Industry rallies for confidential computing

Big tech aligned this week behind a new organization that pledges to protect data when it’s the most vulnerable. The Confidential Computing Consortium, as detailed by the Linux Foundation, will establish standards, frameworks and tools to encrypt data when it is being used by applications, devices and cloud services, according to a write up in GeekWire. The group – which includes Alibaba, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Red Hat, among others” calls the encryption of data as it’s being used as “the third and possibly most challenging step to providing a fully encrypted “lifecycle for sensitive data.”

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation told GeekWire that this issue “affects the privacy and security of almost every single person on Earth who interacts with these systems every single day. The urgency here is not lost on anyone,” he said, when asked what brought these competing entities together.

Each company is donating SDKs and other open source technologies to the consortium, with a goal of enabling the deployment of applications in a more secure manner.

Related pro tip

Need a refresher on GDPR and how it affects marketing and PR? SHIFT has a blog for that. Click here for our GDPR primer for marketing and public relations.

*Summer Fridays – one of the many great perks we SHIFTers get. Between Memorial and Labor days, we leave the office at 3 p.m. on Friday to get a jump start on the weekend. Sound good to you? We’re hiring in San Francisco and Boston!

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