Another Friday the 13th, Data Sheet readers! A New York debate about Europe’s “right to be forgotten” approach to Internet searches underscores the cross-Atlantic divide over data privacy issues. IBM is working on a mysterious bitcoin project, and Microsoft wants you to replace Siri. Read on and
TOP OF MIND
Forget about it. Once upon a time, you could be relatively anonymous on the World Wide Web. An old New Yorker cartoon encapsulated that early truth: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”
Of course, that was before “Google” became a verb.
The ability of search technology to dig up embarrassing information about people, places and things has been condemned in Europe for some time—where the general population tends to take data privacy more seriously than here in the United States. It was at the heart of the “right to be forgotten” case decided by Europe’s high court last year. The crux of the ruling: if you don’t want certain information showing up prominently in search results, Google is supposed to honor that request.
Will that policy ever apply in the United States? It’s not likely, according to a panel of experts who debated the topic in New York this week. It smacks of censorship, plus it would ridiculously difficult to enforce. “It’s like saying the book can stay in the library, we just have to set fire to the catalog,” said Harvard Law School Professor Jonathan Zittrain.
As for the audience? Fortune’s correspondent at the event, Jeff John Roberts, reports that 56% of the attendees voted against a U.S. law, while 35% supported the idea.
Bitcoin at the Fed? IBM is researching ways to turn the virtual currency’s transaction technology (called “blockchain”) into a system that can be used for “real” money within banks, reports Reuters. First, there's the not-so-small matter of convincing central banks like the Federal Reserve to use the technology. The news organization cites a source close to the project, but no one is commenting officially.
Net neutrality will unfold on a case-by-case basis. The lengthy document describing the “Open Internet” rules aren’t very specific about the agency will enforce them. Here’s the clincher: “We find the best approach is to watch, learn, and act as required, but not intervene now, especially not prescriptive rules,” the commission notes. It clearly will take a dispute before there is more clarity.
Intel slashes $1 billion from Q1 forecast. The culprit? Slower-than-anticipated upgrades away from aged personal computers running Windows XP. The company’s challenges were echoed in a market forecast issued Thursday by IDC calling for a 4.9% decline in personal computer sales this year—far slower than expected. The trend looks more positive in 2016 and 2017. The researcher also scaled back growth projections for tablet computers.
This wearables startup wants to cut employer healthcare costs
As if their day jobs advising companies like Facebook and PayPal weren’t big enough. Entrepreneurs Stan Chudnovsky and James Currier are behind Jiff, a wearables startup that has raised just shy of $26 million to disrupt employer benefits programs.
The plan is simple: encourage employees to adopt healthier behavior by giving them incentives to do so. An example: credits toward the health savings accounts used to pay deductibles.
Who should be rewarded? That’s determined by data generated from fitness trackers, watches and other gadgets, and analyzed against corporate goals.
“Our engagement is usually with the head of benefits. … We work with them to determine what behaviors they want to incent or what challenges they want to design into the system,” said Jiff CEO Derek Newell.
Incentives can be customized depending on the health of the employee. Someone managing diabetes, for example, might receive different rewards than someone who isn’t dealing with any sort of chronic condition.
Jiff is selling its approach to self-insured companies that have an interest in controlling healthcare costs—about 30% of all U.S. companies (approximately 100 million workers) are covered by plans of this nature. Jiff’s platform is already available to more than 300,000 employees of companies including interactive entertainment company Activision Blizzard, healthcare distributor Henry Schien, beverage maker Red Bull, and semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm. The workforce adoption rates at Jiff customers range from 50% to 80%, Newell said.
While employers subsidize access to the platform, Jiff’s software integrates with apps and gadgets that people already use, such as Fitbit or Jawbone. Right now, the startup has more than 55 partners with at least that many new relationships in the works, he said.
Newell has plenty of insight into healthcare technology: he previously led the company behind the first FDA-approved, Internet-connected medical device. Last September, Jiff closed an $18 million Series B round led by Venrock. (The other investors in that round were Aberdare Ventures and Aeris Capital.) “All employees are different, so incentives should be, too, and Jiff is the only platform that allows employee-level personalization,” said Venrock partner Bryan Roberts.
Co-founders Chudnovsky (Facebook’s vice president of messaging) and Currier (an advisor to PayPay) are partners in Ooga Labs, founded back in 2000. Their experience with consumer technology will be instrumental for Jiff’s product design. “People see our products and think that’s how something like this should look,” Newell said.
ALSO WORTH SHARING
Amazon buys Internet of things expert. Four-year-old 2lemetry has built a platform for managing and analyzing activity related to networks of devices—such as wireless beacons installed throughout a retail store. The company’s most prominent backer was Salesforce Ventures; customers include Honeywell.
Mobile development specialist Xamarin hires CFO. That’s because CEO Nat Friedman no longer has enough time to handle these duties. Of course, the move is raising speculation about a potential IPO or sale. The company is one of the best-funded startups in this space, with about $82 million behind it. Among the big businesses building mobile and testing and mobile apps with Xamarin’s technology are 3M, Kimberly-Clark, ING, and Honeywell.
MY FORTUNE BOOKMARKS
Ellen Pao’s finances will not be considered in Kleiner Perkins sexism trial by Kia Kokalitcheva
How Robinhood, an investing app, is luring stock-market newbies by Daniel Roberts
Kleiner trial suggests cleantech wasn’t the real problem by Katie Fehrenbacher
ONE MORE THING
Step aside Siri. Microsoft’s Cortana is getting a makeover. Not only does this virtual personal assistant sound smarter, iPhone and Android owners can use it.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Microsoft Convergence: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19; Atlanta)
IDC Directions 2015: Innovation in the 3rd Platform era. (March 18; Boston)
Cisco Leadership Council: CIO-CEO thought leadership. (March 18 - 20; Kiawah Island, South Carolina)
Technomy Bio: The big picture on transformation. (March 25; Mountain View, California)
Gartner Business Intelligence & Analytics Summit: Crossing the divide. (March 30 – April 1; Las Vegas)
AWS Summit. First in a series of cloud strategy briefings. (April 9; San Francisco)
Knowledge15: Automate IT services. (April 19 – 24; Las Vegas)
RSA Conference: The world talks security. (April 20 – 24; San Francisco)
Forrester’s Forum for Technology Leaders: Win in the age of the customer. (April 27 - 28; Orlando, Fla.)
MicrosoftIgnite: Business tech extravaganza. (May 4 – 8; Chicago)
NetSuite SuiteWorld: Cloud ERP strategy. (May 4 – 7; San Jose, California)
EMC World: Data strategy. (May 4 - 7; Las Vegas)
SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7; Orlando, Florida)
Gartner Digital Marketing Conference: Reach your destination faster. (May 5 – 7; San Diego)
Cornerstone Convergence: Connect, collaborate. (May 11 - 13; Los Angeles)
Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 - 20; Boston)
MongoDB World: Scale the universe. (June 1 - 2; New York)
HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 - 4; Las Vegas)
Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 - 15; Aspen, Colorado)
VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)
Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 - 18; San Francisco)
BoxWorks 2015: Cloud collaboration solutions. (Sept. 28 - 30; San Francisco)
Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 - 8; Orlando, Florida)
Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 - 29; San Francisco)