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France’s Health Data Hub to move to European cloud infrastructure to avoid EU-US data transfers

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France’s data regulator CNIL has issued some recommendations for French services that handle health data, as Mediapart first reported. Those services should avoid using American cloud hosting companies altogether, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.

Those recommandations follow a landmark ruling by Europe’s top court in July. The ruling, dubbed Schrems II, struck down the EU-US Data Privacy Shield. Under the Privacy Shield, companies could outsource data processing from the EU to the US in bulk. Due to concerns over US surveillance laws, that mechanism is no longer allowed.

The CNIL is going one step further by saying that services and companies that handle health data should also avoid doing business with American companies — it’s not just about processing European data in Europe. Once again, this is all about avoiding falling under U.S. regulation and rulings.

The regulator sent those recommendations to one of France’s top courts (Conseil d’État). SantéNathon, a group of organizations and unions, originally notified the CNIL over concerns about France’s Health Data Hub.

France is currently building a platform to store health data at the national level. The idea is to build a hub that makes it easier to study rare diseases and use artificial intelligence to improve diagnoses. It is supposed to aggregate data from different sources and make it possible to share some data with public and private institutions for those specific cases.

The technical choices have been controversial as the French government originally chose to partner with Microsoft and its cloud platform Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft, like many other companies, relies on Standard Contractual Clauses for EU-US data transfers. But the Court of Justice of the EU has made it clear that EU regulators have to intervene if data is being transferred to an unsafe country when it comes to privacy and surveillance.

The CNIL believes that an American company could process data in Europe but it would still fall under FISA702 and other surveillance laws. Data would still end up in the hands of American authorities. In other words, it is being extra careful with health data for now, while Schrems II is still unfolding.

“We’re working with health minister Olivier Véran on transferring the Health Data Hub to French or European platforms following the Privacy Shield bombshell,” France’s digital minister Cédric O told Public Sénat.

The French government is now looking at other solutions for the Health Data Hub. In the near future, if France’s top court confirms the CNIL’s recommendations, it could also have some effects for French companies that handle health data, such as Doctolib and Alan.

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Boston Dynamics’ Spot is getting an arm and self-charging dock next year

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Boston Dynamics’ new CEO Rob Playter told TechCrunch that the company has now sold around 260 of its sophisticated Spot robot as of his appearance at Disrupt last month. While the company faced some questions about the commercial appeal of the $75,000 robot, it’s clear that a number of verticals are interested in finding ways to deploy the tech.

Among Spot’s many appeals is its positioning as a kind of platform for developers and third-parties who can build their own accessories for a range of different applications, from construction to telemedicine. But Boston Dynamics is also actively developing its own accessories to help diversify Spot’s applications.

The company recently announced that it would be offering an arm add-on capable of performing a wide variety of tasks, including opening doors and picking up objects. The addition is a no-brainer, given that the arm was featured in the first Spot/Spot Mini videos from years back. In fact, I was honestly a little disappointed when the accessory was left out of the initial launch of the company’s first commercial product.

Image Credits: Boston Dynamics

The arm is set to arrive at some point early next near. It has six degrees of freedom and is designed to move along with the robot. “Like the base robot,” the company writes, “there’s much more to the arm than just hardware. It will ship with an intuitive UI, and be equipped to operate through both telemanipulation and supervised autonomous behaviors via the tablet.”

The arm/gripper will also be accessible to developers via an API. Applications like opening doors, and grasping and dragging objects, will be automated and offered as beta features when the arm ships.

Image Credits: Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics is also announcing an Enterprise-focused version of the robot that features a self-charging dock. Like a big, sophisticated Roomba, Spot will be able to return unguided to the dock for a recharge. The setup is designed for environments like oil rigs and radiation danger zones where the robot can ideally operate without humans present.

That’s also set to arrive early next year. Pricing for the above is still TBD.

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Founders don’t need to be full-time to start raising venture capital

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“More than 50% of our founders still are in their current jobs,” said John Vrionis, co-founder of seed-stage fund Unusual Ventures.

The fund, which closed a $400 million investment vehicle in November 2019, has noticed that more and more startup employees are thinking about entrepreneurship as the pandemic has shown how much room there is for new innovation. To gain a competitive advantage, Unusual is investing small checks into founders before they’re full-time.

Unusual, which cuts an average of eight checks per year into seed-stage companies, isn’t doling out millions to every employee who decides to leave Stripe. The firm is conservative with its spending and takes a more focused approach, often embedding a member from the firm into a portfolio company. It’s not meant to scale to dozens of portfolio companies a year, but instead requires a methodical approach.

One with a healthy pipeline of companies to choose from.

In an Extra Crunch Live chat, Vrionis and Sarah Leary, co-founder of Nextdoor and the firm’s newest partner, said lightweight investing matters in the early days of a company.

“There were a lot of teams that needed capital to start the journey, but frankly, it would have been over burdensome if they took on $2 or $3 million,” Leary said. “[New founders] want to be in a place where they have enough money to get going but not too much money that they get locked into a ladder in terms of expectations that they’re not ready to take advantage of.” The checks that Unusual cuts in pre-seed often range between $100,000 to half a million dollars.

Leary chalks up the boom to the disruption in consumer behavior, which opens up the opportunity for new companies to win.

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Prop 22 opponents say Yes on 22 should not be able to mail flyers as nonprofit

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Opponents of California’s Proposition 22, the measure that seeks to continue classifying rideshare drivers and delivery workers as independent contractors, filed a complaint this morning with the United States Postal Service. The No on 22 campaign alleges the Yes side is not eligible for a nonprofit postal status and is asking USPS to revoke its permit.

It’s much cheaper to send campaign mailers as a nonprofit organization. For example, sending between 1 – 200.000 small mailers to every door normally costs $0.302 per piece. As a non-profit, that costs $0.226 per piece, according to USPS. To be clear, the Yes on 22 campaign confirmed it was formed as a nonprofit organization under IRS section 501(c)(4), which pertains to social welfare organizations. But the No on 22 side says USPS erred in approving the Yes on 22 campaign.

“The Yes on 22 nonprofit permit was unlawfully issued,” a lawyer for No on 22 wrote to USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. “[…] This misuse of the nonprofit permit coming from a corporate backed $200 million campaign is unprecedented and should be remedied by the Postal Service immediately.”

According to USPS, any organization that wants to send mail as a non-profit must first be authorized by the postal service as being eligible. Those that are eligible for nonprofit privileges, according to USPS, include “some political committees” but not “certain political organizations.” The political committees that may qualify for nonprofit prices regardless of nonprofit status, according to USPS, are the national or state committees of a political party, and the Democratic or Republican congressional or senatorial campaign committees.

“Campaign committees participating in ballot measure advocacy routinely form themselves as non-profits under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, as the No on 22 lawyers know well,” Yes on 22 campaign spokesperson Geoff Vetter told TechCrunch. “Furthermore, the IRS granted Yes on 22’s non-profit status. As a 501(c)(4) organization, Yes on 22 is eligible for the appropriate non-profit postage rates with the USPS, which we applied for and were granted by the U.S. Postmaster. Moreover, pursuant to USPS Customer Support Ruling 128 – the USPS has a long-term policy in place of allowing the ballot measure committee of a duly authorized nonprofit to mail under the non-profit’s authorization. The above is true for many ballot measure campaigns, and as stated, like all entities, our applications were reviewed and approved by both the IRS and the USPS.”

To date, the Yes on 22 campaign has contributed $185,096,892 to its cause. The Yes on 22 committee consists of companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart and DoorDash, as well as drivers, small businesses, and public safety and community organizations. The bulk of its funding has come from Uber, Lyft and DoorDash. In comparison, No on 22 has contributed $12,166,063.

“It’s outrageous but not surprising that the app companies that are going to the mat to keep shortchanging workers would shamelessly rip off the postal service,” No on Prop 22 spokesperson Mike Roth said in a statement. “This is just more evidence of the kind of greed we are dealing with from these companies who are spending $186 million in their selfish quest to buy themselves a new law but refused to buy their workers PPE in a pandemic.”

TechCrunch has reached out to USPS and will update this story if we hear back.

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