Technology media highlights - December 2023

Technology media highlights - December 2023

The Briefing

15 December 2023
9 minute read
  Key highlights
  • New generative AI models are in development, but tech companies have faced roadblocks getting them to market. 
  • Around the world, government regulatory bodies are taking steps to regulate the AI industry. This could have long-term impacts on the development of future AI products. 
  • Apple is facing criticism for blocking the use of Beeper, an iMessage device for Android. Apple has already faced multiple antitrust lawsuits in the past several years. 
  • Both external data breaches and internal security risks have tech users concerned. 23andMe is the latest company to experience a major breach, affecting nearly 7 million customers. 
  • 2023 has been a challenging year for many tech startups as funding has slowed down. This has resulted in widespread layoffs across the industry. However, some experts are predicting a rebound in 2024.

The generative AI race continues to heat up, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. 

Since the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, the tech industry has been laser-focused on the development of generative AI. Generative AI spending is poised to reach $143 billion by 2027, with a compound growth rate of 73.3%. However, the last month has resulted in a major shakeup at OpenAI, the organization that owns and runs ChatGPT. 

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Former CEO and co-founder Sam Altman was fired by the organization’s board on November 17th. Co-founder and president Greg Bockman left the company after the announcement, and hundreds of OpenAI employees threatened to quit if Altman wasn’t reinstated. This resulted in the board reinstating Altman and Bockman after just one day. 

Now, the company is back on track, with reports of a new generative AI breakthrough. Called the Q* model, this new AI technology can reportedly solve math problems that were very challenging for previous AI models. However, these reports have yet to be officially confirmed by OpenAI, and details remain vague.

OpenAI isn’t the only company pushing the boundaries of what generative AI can do. On December 6th, Google announced Gemini, a new AI model designed to outperform GPT-4. This model will be available in three “sizes” upon its full release, and the mid-level model is currently available in many countries via Google Bard. Google also recently launched NotebookLM, an AI-assisted note-taking app, in the United States. NotebookLM generates summaries and follow-up questions based on documents provided. 

However, these new AI releases haven’t been without controversy themselves. When Gemini premiered, Google released impressive demo videos highlighting the new AI model’s interactions with text, voice, and visual input. However, reports quickly surfaced that these videos had exaggerated Gemini’s capabilities, casting a shadow on this new AI innovation.

Regulatory bodies are grappling with the ethics of AI and implementing new regulations.

As tech organizations around the world race to implement AI technology, concerns about the ethics and safety of this technology are growing. In particular, many people are focused on potential bias in AI outputs, as well as cybersecurity and privacy concerns. There are also serious concerns about AI affecting the job market, particularly as tech companies continue to lay off employees in large volumes. 

On December 9th, the European Union passed landmark legislation to regulate AI. The AI Act prohibits the use of AI in certain situations to prevent discrimination or exploitation of certain groups. The law also includes strict regulations for the use of biometric data in AI applications, as well as regulations for the development of “high risk” AI models. More detail about the real-world impact of this legislation will be released in the coming months as the AI Act is finalized and published. 

Stateside, the US Department of Energy is launching a new office to oversee the development of AI and other emerging technologies. This office is intended to accelerate progress in the development of this technology, as well as monitoring and managing ongoing risk factors. This announcement comes on the heels of President Biden’s executive order on AI technology in October. This executive order has faced criticism over potential security and privacy loopholes.

Messaging startup Beeper goes head-to-head with Apple in a fight to change the way we communicate. 

For years, there’s been a divide between iPhone users and, well, everyone else when it comes to digital messaging. iMessages, or coveted “blue texts”, only work for communication between Apple devices, and they’re often considered a status symbol in certain circles. 

However, communication between Apple and Android devices happens via SMS message, which is less secure due to its lack of encryption. Many people rely on Whatsapp instead for encrypted international messaging, but many find this approach inconvenient. 

Communication startup Beeper is working to change this with their new app, Beeper Mini, which allows Android users to send encrypted iMessages. The startup is also developing a larger, multi-platform messaging aggregator. However, Apple has restricted Beeper’s compatibility with iPhones, limiting its functionality. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren expressed concerns about this decision, citing both security and anti-trust concerns. Apple has recently faced anti-trust legislation in both the US and the EU over Apple Pay digital wallets and near-field communication technology. Apple and Google both faced antitrust legal challenges from Epic Games, with Apple winning its case in 2021 and Google losing theirs in early December.



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Privacy concerns reach new heights as large companies experience data breaches.

Several high-profile data breaches and privacy incidents have come to light in recent months, prompting organizations and consumers alike to rethink the ways we collect data. Data compromise rates increased 17% year-over-year between 2022 and 2023. 

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Genetic testing company 23andMe reported a data breach in October, with new details coming to light this month. The organization initially reported that 14,000 users’ personal data was affected, but a recent announcement confirmed that 6.9 million users were affected. 23andMe also made last-minute changes to its terms of service to prevent affected customers from taking legal action. 

Another notable data breach involving password management tools was brought to light by the International Institute of Information Technology Hyderabad in early December. Six Android password management apps have a vulnerability that could leave login information accessible to hackers, particularly when using apps that haven’t been properly updated. Identity management platform Okta has also experienced a data breach that affected its entire customer base. In these cases, the tools that consumers use to protect their online identities were the ones targeted by 

In addition to data breaches, several large tech companies have recently admitted to ethically questionable data management practices. For example, Apple has confirmed that they have shared push notification metadata with international government agencies to comply with legal demands made. 

Many new AI technologies have also been trained on publicly-available data. Meta recently released a new AI image generator, which uses photos from public Facebook and Instagram accounts for training. While not technically illegal, these actions have prompted concerns from users about how their data is managed and shared. 

2023 has seen a slowdown in startup funding, prompting concerns for the new year. 

Startup funding has been trending downwards for the entirety of 2023 as a result of changes in the economy. For the first three quarters of 2023, global startup funding was down 42% year-over-year, with particularly steep funding declines for early-stage and seed funding. 

The COVID-era tech bubble has burst, resulting in layoffs throughout the industry over the course of the year. More than 240,000 tech jobs have been lost in 2023, Approximately 3,200 startups have gone under in 2023, with more closures likely on the way as we move into 2024. 

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Some are predicting a rebound for the tech market in 2024, which could lead to better funding opportunities. For now, things remain uncertain as layoffs continue and the economy remains in flux.

Opportunities for deeper insight

The technology landscape is changing at a breakneck pace. Over the past year, we’ve seen incredible innovations as well as economic challenges for many in the industry. Understanding how these changes affect the general population is key for technology companies moving forward. 

Areas of particular interest include: 
  • Artificial intelligence: Will new regulations increase consumer trust in AI tools? How are consumers and businesses planning to use the latest AI models (if at all)?
  • Big tech: Will consumers continue to trust big tech companies with their personal information? Do users want more diversity in the tech market?
  • Funding and layoffs: How will 2023’s tech layoffs affect the economy moving into 2024? How are startups adapting to the lack of funding currently available? 
If you’re interested in launching a study on these topics, or others, Potloc would be happy to partner with you. 
Contact us

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