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Zuckerberg under pressure over data scandal

Monitoring Desk

STRASBOURG: Facebook Inc’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg came under pressure from EU lawmakers on Wednesday to come to Europe and shed light on the data breach involving Cambridge Analytica that affected nearly three million Europeans.

The world’s largest social network is under fire worldwide after information about nearly 87 million users wrongly ended up in the hands of the British political consultancy, a firm hired by Donald Trump for his 2016 US presidential election campaign.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani last week repeated his request to Zuckerberg to appear before the assembly, saying that sending a junior executive would not suffice.

In his letter to the Facebook CEO, Tajani said the company should bear in mind that lawmakers play a key role in crafting tough rules governing online tech giants.

“Let me also stress that one of the Parliament’s future priorities will be to reinforce the regulatory framework to ensure a well-functioning digital market with high level protection for our citizens,” he wrote.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, who recently spoke to Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, said Zuckerberg should heed the lawmakers’ call.

“This case is too important to treat as business as usual,” Jourova told an assembly of lawmakers.

“I advised Sheryl Sandberg that Zuckerberg should accept the invitation from the European Parliament. (EU digital chief Andrius) Ansip refers to the invitation as a measure of rebuilding trust,” she said.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. Zuckerberg fielded 10 hours of questions over two days from nearly 100 US lawmakers last week and emerged largely unscathed. He will meet Ansip in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Another European lawmaker Sophia in’t Veld echoed the call from her colleagues, saying that the Facebook CEO should do them the same courtesy.

“I think Zuckerberg would be well advised to appear at the Parliament out of respect for Europeans,” she said.

Lawmaker Viviane Reding, the architect of the EU’s landmark privacy law which will come into effect on May 25, giving Europeans more control over their online data, said the right laws would bring back trust among users.

 

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Chinese smartphone maker ZTE likely to lose Android license

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON: Chinese smartphone maker ZTE’s US woes deepened on Tuesday, as regulators proposed new rules that could cut into its sales, while a supply ban means it may not be able to use Android software in its devices, according to a source.

The US Commerce Department banned American firms on Monday from selling parts and software to ZTE for seven years. The move was sparked by ZTE’s violation of an agreement that was reached after it was caught illegally shipping US goods to Iran.

Then on Tuesday, a US telecoms regulator proposed new rules that would bar government programs from buying from companies that it says pose a security threat to US telecoms networks, which will likely hurt both ZTE and rival Chinese smartphone maker Huawei Technologies.

  The moves threaten to further complicate relations between the United States and China. The two countries have already proposed tens of billions of dollars in tariffs in recent weeks, fanning worries of a full-blown trade war that could hurt global supply chains as well as business investment plans.

The Commerce Department decision means ZTE may not be able to use Google’s Android operating system on its mobile devices, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

ZTE and the Alphabet unit have been discussing the impact of the ban, the source added, but the two companies were still unclear about the use of Android by ZTE as of Tuesday morning.

ZTE shipped 46.4 million smartphones last year, placing it seventh among Android-based manufacturers, according to research firm IHS Markit.

Google declined to comment and ZTE has not responded to requests to comment.

The proposed new rules from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), meanwhile, which are expected to be finalized this year, appear to be another prong in a US effort to prevent ZTE and Huawei from gaining significant market share in the United States.

They would prevent money from the $8.5 billion FCC Universal Service Fund, which includes subsidies for telephone service to poor and rural areas, from being spent on goods or services from companies or countries which pose a “national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or their supply chains,” the FCC said.

“Hidden ‘backdoors’ to our networks in routers, switches, and other network equipment can allow hostile foreign powers to inject viruses and other malware, steal Americans’ private data, spy on US businesses, and more,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who introduced the proposal.

Pai did not specify China or specific companies.

But in a letter to Congress last month, Pai said he shared the concerns of US lawmakers about espionage threats from Huawei, the world’s third-largest smartphone maker.

USTelecom, an industry trade group, praised the FCC’s “proposal to confront nation-state actions that threaten the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of our nation’s network infrastructure.”

Republican US senators have also introduced legislation that would block the US government from buying or leasing telecoms equipment from Huawei or ZTE.

Huawei’s planned deal with US carrier AT&T to sell its smartphones in the United States collapsed in January after US lawmakers sent a letter to Pai citing concerns about Huawei’s plans to launch US consumer products.

Amid a steady drip of bad news, Huawei has laid off its vice president of external affairs, Bill Plummer, and four other employees at its Washington office, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The company slashed lobbying expenditures to $60,000 in 2017 from $348,500 in 2016, according to Huawei filings.

ZTE has similarly cut its lobbying expenditures, from $860,000 in 2016 to $510,000 last year, according to ZTE filings. Reuters

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Users must accept targeted ads, says Facebook

MENLO PARK:  Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Tuesday it would continue requiring people to accept targeted ads as a condition of using its service, a stance that may help keep its business model largely intact despite a new European Union privacy law.

The EU law, which takes effect next month, promises the biggest shakeup in online privacy since the birth of the internet. Companies face fines if they collect or use personal information without permission.

Facebook Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Rob Sherman said the social network would begin seeking Europeans’ permission this week for a variety of ways Facebook uses their data, but he said that opting out of targeted marketing altogether would not be possible.

“Facebook is an advertising-supported service,” Sherman said in a briefing with reporters at Facebook’s headquarters.

Facebook users will be able to limit the kinds of data that advertisers use to target their pitches, he added, but “all ads on Facebook are targeted to some extent, and that’s true for offline advertising, as well.”

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, will use what are known as “permission screens” – pages filled with text that require pressing a button to advance – to notify and obtain approval.

The screens will show up on the Facebook website and smartphone app in Europe this week and globally in the coming months, Sherman said.

The screens will not give Facebook users the option to hit “decline.” Instead, they will guide users to either “accept and continue” or “manage data setting,” according to copies the company showed reporters on Tuesday.

“People can choose to not be on Facebook if they want,” Sherman said.

Regulators, investors and privacy advocates are closely watching how Facebook plans to comply with the EU law, not only because Facebook has been embroiled in a privacy scandal but also because other companies may follow its lead in trying to limit the impact of opt-outs.

Last month, Facebook disclosed that the personal information of millions of users, mostly in the United States, had wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, leading to U.S. congressional hearings and worldwide scrutiny of Facebook’s commitment to privacy.

Facebook Chief Financial Officer David Wehner warned in February the company could see a drop-off in usage due to the EU law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Reuters

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Western allies blame Russia for global cyber attack

Monitoring Desk

The United States and Britain on Monday warned of a global cyber attack targeting routers and other networking equipment, blaming Russian government-backed hackers for the campaign on government agencies, businesses and critical infrastructure operators.

Washington and London issued a joint alert, saying the widespread, global campaign began in 2015 and could be escalated to launch offensive attacks.

The alert comes two months after the United States and Britain accused Russia of carrying out the damaging “NotPetya” cyber attack in 2017 that unleashed a virus that crippled parts of Ukraine’s infrastructure and damaged computers across the globe.

American and British officials said the attacks affected a wide range of organizations including internet service providers, private businesses and critical infrastructure providers. They did not identify any victims or provide details on the impact of the attacks.

“When we see malicious cyber activity, whether it be from the Kremlin or other malicious nation-state actors, we are going to push back,” said Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment late on Monday. Moscow has denied previous accusations that it carried out cyberattacks on the United States and other countries.

US intelligence agencies last year accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 election with a hacking and propaganda campaign supporting Donald Trump’s campaign for president. Last month the Trump administration blamed Russia for a campaign of cyber attacks stretching back at least two years that targeted the US power grid.

Britain and the United States said they issued the alert to help targets protect themselves and persuade victims to share information with government investigators so they can better understand the threat.

“We don’t have full insight into the scope of the compromise,” said Jeanette Manfra, a cybersecurity official for the US Department of Homeland Security.

The alert is unrelated to the suspected chemical weapons attack in a town in Syria that prompted a US-led military strike over the weekend targeting facilities of the Russian-backed Syrian government, Joyce said.

US and British officials warned that infected routers could be used to launch future offensive cyber operations.

“They could be pre-positioning for use in times of tension,” said Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the British government’s National Cyber Security Centre cyber defence agency, who added that “millions of machines” were targeted.

Some private-sector cybersecurity experts have criticized the US government for being too slow to release information about cyber attacks. Monday’s announcement appears to reflect a desire to publicize a threat quickly and widely even before officials completely understand its breadth.

A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been a steady increase in Russian cyber attacks in recent years.

“It’s harder to track, attribute and respond immediately to a cyber attack … than it is to know who fired a missile,” the official said. REUTERS

 

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Facebook fuels broad privacy debate by tracking non-users

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters): Concern about Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) respect for data privacy is widening to include the information it collects about non-users, after Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the world’s largest social network tracks people whether they have accounts or not.

Privacy concerns have swamped Facebook since it acknowledged last month that information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, a firm that has counted US President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign among its clients.

Zuckerberg said on Wednesday under questioning by US Representative Ben Luján that, for security reasons, Facebook also collects “data of people who have not signed up for Facebook.”

Lawmakers and privacy advocates immediately protested the practice, with many saying Facebook needed to develop a way for non-users to find out what the company knows about them.

“We’ve got to fix that,” Representative Luján, a Democrat, told Zuckerberg, calling for such disclosure, a move that would have unclear effects on the company’s ability to target ads. Zuckerberg did not respond. On Friday Facebook said it had no plans to build such a tool.

Critics said that Zuckerberg has not said enough about the extent and use of the data. “It’s not clear what Facebook is doing with that information,” said Chris Calabrese, vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington advocacy group.

COOKIES EVERYWHERE

Facebook gets some data on non-users from people on its network, such as when a user uploads email addresses of friends. Other information comes from “cookies,” small files stored via a browser and used by Facebook and others to track people on the internet, sometimes to target them with ads.

“This kind of data collection is fundamental to how the internet works,” Facebook said in a statement to Reuters.

Asked if people could opt out, Facebook added, “There are basic things you can do to limit the use of this information for advertising, like using browser or device settings to delete cookies. This would apply to other services beyond Facebook because, as mentioned, it is standard to how the internet works.”

Facebook often installs cookies on non-users’ browsers if they visit sites with Facebook “like” and “share” buttons, whether or not a person pushes a button. Facebook said it uses browsing data to create analytics reports, including about traffic to a site.

The company said it does not use the data to target ads, except those inviting people to join Facebook.

TARGETING FACEBOOK

Advocates and lawmakers say they are singling out Facebook because of its size, rivaled outside China only by Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, and because they allege Zuckerberg was not forthcoming about the extent and reasons for the tracking.

“He’s either deliberately misunderstanding some of the questions, or he’s not clear about what’s actually happening inside Facebook’s operation,” said Daniel Kahn Gillmor, a senior staff technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Zuckerberg, for instance, said the collection was done for security purposes, without explaining further or saying whether it was also used for measurement or analytics, Gillmor said, adding that Facebook had a business incentive to use the non-user data to target ads.

Facebook declined to comment on why Zuckerberg referred to security only.

Gillmor said Facebook could build databases on non-users by combining web browsing history with uploaded contacts. Facebook said on Friday that it does not do so.

The ACLU is pushing US lawmakers to enact broad privacy legislation including a requirement for consent prior to data collection.

The first regulatory challenge to Facebook’s practices for non-users may come next month when a new European Union law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), takes effect and requires notice and consent prior to data collection.

At a minimum, “Facebook is going to have to think about ways to structure their technology to give that proper notice,” said Woodrow Hartzog, a Northeastern University professor of law and computer science.

Facebook said in its statement on Friday, “Our products and services comply with applicable law and will comply with GDPR.”

The social network would be wise to recognize at least a right to know, said Michael Froomkin, a University of Miami law professor.

“If I’m not a Facebook user, I ought to have a right to know what data Facebook has about me,” Froomkin said.

 

 

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Britain mulls over to launch retaliatory cyber attack on Russia

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: Britain would consider launching a cyber attack against Russia in retaliation if Russia targeted British national infrastructure, the Sunday Times reported, citing unnamed security sources.

Britain’s relations with Russia are at a historic low, after it blamed Russia for a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England, prompting mass expulsions of diplomats.

Russia has denied involvement, and on Saturday also condemned strikes against Syria by Western powers, which Britain took part in.

Cybersecurity has become a focal point of the strained relations. On Thursday, a British spy chief said that his GCHQ agency would “continue to expose Russia’s unacceptable cyber behaviour”, adding there would be increasing demand for its cyber expertise.

The Sunday Times also said that British spy officials had been preparing for Russia-backed hackers to release embarrassing information on politicians and other high-profile people since the attack on the Skripals. REUTERS

 

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Android Auto is finally ready to go wireless

Monitoring Desk

NEW YORK: It’s safe to say that the advent of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay has been a huge boon to consumers. Both systems offer unparalleled ease of use when compared with an auto manufacturer-designed system.

While Apple has offered wireless connectivity for CarPlay in certain vehicles for months now, Android Auto required that in order to use it, your phone had to be physically connected to the vehicle via USB. Not anymore… mostly. Google is finally ready to offer Android Auto over Wi-Fi despite working with JVC and Kenwood, each of which released head units at CES in January that were compatible with the feature.

According to Google, for Android Auto wireless to work, you need to have either a Nexus or a Pixel phone running Android 8.0 (Oreo), a vehicle capable of running Android Auto v3.1 and a cable to set the system up.

 

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SMRC S1 mini pocket drone with camera

Over the last year, we introduced many pocked drones with different shapes and features. SMRC S1 comes with a square shape like the Eachine E55.

Flying cameras are often advertised as “Selfie drones”, but this is a bit exaggerated. The truth is that you can’t buy anything under $500 in compliance with the term.

In addition to the HD video recording, the SMRC S1’s on-board camera can transmit live-video stream to your phone.

Thanks to the barometric air-pressure sensor, the drone is capable to autonomously maintain its flight altitude at the desired level. This feature is very helpful for beginner pilots.

SMRC S1 drone features and specs

  • Compact size with foldable arms;
  • 6-axis gyro-stabilization;
    • 2MP camera with WiFi real-time image transmission (FPV);
    • Headless flight mode;
    • Altitude hold (auto-hover);
    • Dual control mode (RC and phone APP);
    • 3D flips and rolls;
    • Up to 8 minutes flight time;
    • Black, Red, Silver and Green color options.

    Folded, it measures only 70 x 70 x 27 mm, so you can take it with you everywhere.

    According to the manufacturer’s specs, the built-in 300mAh LiPo battery allows up to 8 minutes of play time.

    As you can see in the image bellow, the remote controller has 8 buttons and 2 control sticks. While the left shoulder button allows to toggle between speed rates, the right one allows to enable 3D flip mode.

  • Included with the SMRC S1 mini foldable quadcopter

    • Remote controller;
    • Phone holder;
    • 3.7Vm 300mAh LiPo battery (built-in);
    • USB charging cable for drone;
    • 1 pair of spare propellers;
    • Screwdriver;
    • English user manual.

    Using this “L9331RM” coupon code you can get one from here for only $30.99 (including free shipping). There are 4 color options (red, green, silver and black).

Courtesy First Quad Copter

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Broadcom board approves to buyback $12 billion of shares

Monitoring Desk

Chipmaker Broadcom said on Thursday it would buy back up to $12 billion of its common stock, sending its shares up 4.5 per cent to $250 in extended trading.

The company, which last month ended its efforts to acquire rival Qualcomm, said the repurchase program is effective immediately until the end of Broadcom’s fiscal year 2019.

Broadcom moved back to the United States from Singapore earlier this month, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to block its $117 billion offer to buy Qualcomm on national security concerns.

The San Jose, California based company has about 411 million outstanding shares and a market value of about $98.71 billion as of Thursday’s close.

 

 

 

 

 

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Destiny-2s second expansion ‘Warmind’ to launch on May 8th  

Monitoring Desk

Bungie today announced the name and release date of its second Destiny 2 expansion. The expansion, which will likely cost $19.99 like December’s Curse of Osiris, is called Warmind, and it’s expected to revolve around the game’s mystical artificial intelligences that

have long been a core part of the franchise’s backstory. It launches on May 8th. The warmind in

question is rumored to be a character named Charlemagne or possibly Rasputin, a prominent AI

from the original Destiny. Bungie is planning an official live stream on Twitch to reveal more info on April 24th.

A fair chunk of Destiny 2 players likely already paid for Warmind, as part of the game’s collector’s edition sold last year. Everyone else will have to make a determination whether they want to stick with the Destiny universe, which has been plagued by constant controversy since the game’s September 2017 launch. Bungie has made a series of minor and major changes to the game to address criticism — mainly that the game is not as fun, deep, or rewarding as the first — and restore health to its player base, which appears to have dwindled significantly over the past six months.

But the issues facing the game feel more systemic, and Bungie will likely have to make even more drastic changes with the larger, more substantial expansion planned for September. The company acknowledges this, writing in the announcement post, “For now it’s all hands on deck to make sure we deliver on our promise to restore Destiny 2 to the hobby we all love.”

That said, Bungie did reveal more of its developer roadmap today and revealed some positive changes its making with Warmind and future expansions. Most notably, the developer will no longer restrict competitive multiplayer maps to only those who buy the new expansion, a move it made with Curse of Osiris that gated content behind a paywall and resulted in painfully long queue times for certain playlists.

The Warmind launch, which also coincides with the launch of the game’s third season, will also bring private Crucible matches, a vault space increase, seasonal multiplayer rankings, and much-needed boosts in power to the game’s coveted and rare exotic weapon class. All of those are welcome changes and go a long way in repairing some of the game’s biggest issues.

Down the line, Bungie is planning this summer to bring back the daily bounty system, which diehard fans had been calling for to give players tasks to complete if they login every day. In September, with season four and the presumed launch of the still-unannounced third expansion, Bungie is planning to make changes to “weapon slot systems.” We don’t know exactly what that means, but one of the biggest issues the game faces today is how weak and unexciting players feel in the competitive multiplayer modes, primarily because flashy, one-hit-kill weapons like sniper rifles and shotguns were shuffled into a special restricted “power weapon” slot.

How Bungie addresses this with those weapon slot changes, and how those changes impact the speed and fun factor of multiplayer combat, will have a big effect on whether Destiny 2 can reclaim the popularity and longevity of its predecessor.