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1. Facebook launches Portal TV, a $149 video chat set-top box
The Portal TV lets you hang out with friends using your home’s biggest screen. It’s part of a new line of Portal devices that bring the platform’s auto-zooming AI camera, in-house voice assistant speaker, Messenger video chat and end-to-end encrypted WhatsApp video calls to smaller form factors.
Facebook says it also will provide a lot more clarity around privacy — although human review of voice recordings is still turned on by default.
2. Apple Watch Series 5 review
The Apple Watch Series 5 doesn’t include any hardware additions quite as flashy as the LTE functionality and ECG monitor it introduced with previous updates. But taken as a whole, the new features maintain the device’s spot at the top of the smartwatch heap.
3. Google Fi gets an unlimited plan
For the longest time, Google Fi didn’t play the unlimited calls, text and data game. That’s changing this week.
4. Roboticist and YouTube star Simone Giertz is coming to Disrupt SF
With 1.92 million YouTube subscribers, Giertz is best known for her “shitty” robotic creations, including arms that serve soup and breakfast, draw holiday cards and apply lipstick — to hilariously uneven results.
5. Documents reveal how Russia taps phone companies for surveillance
Documents reviewed by TechCrunch offer new insight into the scope and scale of the Russian surveillance system known as SORM, and how Russian authorities gain access to the calls, messages and data of customers of the country’s largest phone provider.
6. Podcast app Pocket Casts is now available for free, with an optional $0.99 subscription
Previously, you had to pay a one-time fee of $3.99 to access the Android or iOS apps, but CEO Owen Grover said this approach seemed increasingly at odds with Pocket Casts’ goals, and with the vision of the public radio organizations that acquired it last year.
7. In a social media world, here’s what you need to know about UGC and privacy
For a brand, is it worth the effort to incorporate UGC into their marketing strategy? And if so, how can they do it within the rules — and more importantly, in adherence with the expectations of consumers? (Extra Crunch membership required.)