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Facebook refutes NYT charges over data access

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: Facebook has rejected claims by the New York Times that it had allowed Apple and other major device makers “deep” access to users’ personal data saying any such links were tightly controlled and largely subject to users’ consent.

Facebook shares fell 1.3 percent to $191.50 before the bell on Monday, in what was otherwise an upbeat start for Wall Street.

The software referred to by the newspaper was launched 10 years ago and was used by about 60 companies, including Amazon, Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships Ime Archibong wrote in a blog post.

The Times said that Facebook allowed companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders.

Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing, the newspaper said.

“Contrary to claims by the New York Times, friends’ information, like photos, was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends,” said Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships.

Facebook has been under scrutiny from regulators and shareholders after it failed to protect the data of some 87 million users that was shared with now-defunct political data firm Cambridge Analytica.

The data scandal was first reported in March by the New York Times and London’s Observer.

Archibong also said that these cases were “very different” from the use of data by third party developers in the Cambridge row.



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Samsung introduces Galaxy J6 in Pakistan

Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: Samsung has recently introduced its some amazing smartphones Galaxy J6, J4, A6 andA6+. Now Samsung Galaxy J6 Launched in Pakistan Along with these three Smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy J6

The phone has an Infinity Display with 18:9 aspect ratio and HD+ (720×1480) resolution. Moreover, it has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. There’s a microSD card slot for further expansion.

Samsung Galaxy J6 (2018) has a single 13MP F/1.9 camera sits on the back alongside an LED flash. Furthermore, the front-facing snapper has an 8MP sensor and fixed-focus F/1.9 lens. The Samsung Galaxy J6 (2018) runs the Android 8.0 Oreo with the company’s Samsung Experience launcher on top. It offers face unlock support as well as a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner.

Samsung Galaxy J4

The Galaxy J4 has a 5.5″ Super AMOLED screen with a familiar 16:9 ratio and 720 x 1280 pixel resolution. The memory configuration is 2GB RAM + 16GB storage with microSD card slot present. The primary camera is the same as on the Galaxy J6 while the front-facing camera uses a 5MP sensor and keeps the adjustable LED flash.

Samsung Galaxy A6:

The Galaxy A6 has a 16MP f/1.7 rear camera, as well as a 16MP f/1.9 ‘selfie’ camera. It also has a 5.6-inch 1,480 x 720 Super AMOLED screen and a 3,000 mAh battery. It comes with a front-facing LED flash for those ‘selfie’ enthusiasts


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Google ‘to end’ Pentagon Artificial Intelligence project

NEW YORK (BBC): Google will not renew a contract to do artificial intelligence work for the US Pentagon, company sources say. The decision follows strong opposition in the technology giant’s workforce.
A number of Google employees resigned and thousands of others signed a protest petition against taking part in the Pentagon project, known as Maven. They feared it was the first step towards using artificial intelligence for lethal purposes. There has been no official statement from Google. According to company sources, top executive Diane Greene told staff there would be no follow-up after the current contract expired next March. But Kate Conger, a journalist for the technology news website Gizmodo, told the BBC that Google had not cancelled Project Maven and did not appear to have ruled out future work with the military.
The contract is reported to be worth less than $10m (£7.5m) to Google but could potentially lead to more extensive cooperation with the Pentagon. Project Maven involves using machine learning and engineering talent to distinguish people and objects in drone videos.
In April up to 4,000 Google employees signed an open letter saying that by its involvement in the project the internet giant was putting users’ trust at risk, as well as ignoring its “moral and ethical responsibility”.
A report by Gizmodo said that senior leadership at the company was deeply conflicted about the effects of the partnership with the Pentagon. Internal emails suggested that executives saw the contract as a huge opportunity while being concerned about how the company’s involvement would be perceived, Gizmodo said.

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U.S. soon to impose $1.7 billion penalty on Chinese’s ZTE

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON (Agencies): The Trump administration may soon claim as much as $1.7 billion penalty from ZTE Corp, as it looks to punish and tighten control over the Chinese telecommunications company before allowing it back into the business, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Commerce Department is also seeking unfettered site visits to verify U.S. components are being used as claimed by ZTE and wants it to post calculations of the U.S. components in its products on a website, the people said.

China’s No.2 telecommunications equipment maker has been crippled by a ban imposed in April on buying U.S. technology components for seven years for breaking an agreement reached after it was caught illegally shipping goods to Iran and North Korea.

The negotiations with ZTE come as U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross heads to Beijing this weekend for trade talks.

One source said Washington also wants ZTE to replace its board and executive team as soon as 30 days, but a deal still has not been finalized and the sources cautioned that the penalties were fluid and the terms could change.

Representatives from the Commerce Department and ZTE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

American companies provide an estimated 25 percent to 30 percent of components in ZTE’s equipment, which includes smartphones and gear to build telecommunications networks.

The company’s status has become an important bargaining chip in high-level trade talks between China and Washington amid reports that if the United States eases up on ZTE, China will buy more American agricultural goods.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted last month that he told Commerce officials to find a way for ZTE to get back into business, later mentioning a $1.3 billion fine and changes to its board and top management as a way to penalize the company before allowing it back into business.

But ZTE’s possible resuscitation has met strong resistance in Congress, where both Democrats and Trump’s fellow Republicans have accused him of bowing to pressure from Beijing to help a company that has been labelled a threat to U.S. national security.

The company, which suspended major operations in May, desperately needs a deal to get back in business, with estimates it has lost over $3 billion since the April 15 ban on doing business with U.S. suppliers, a source familiar with the matter said last week.

The April ban came after the Shenzhen-based company admitted that while it dismissed four senior employees who had been involved in the original wrongdoing, it had not disciplined 35 others by either reducing their bonuses or reprimanding them, despite statements to the contrary, senior Commerce Department officials told at the time.

While it is expected the administration will claim a $1.7 billion penalty for ZTE, sources said that after breaking the figure down, ZTE will likely actually pay about $1 billion.

In addition, it will be asked to put $400 million in escrow, one of the people said.

In 2017, ZTE paid $892 million in civil and criminal penalties, with an additional $300 million suspended unless there were future violations. As part of a new deal, the $300 million would go into escrow in a U.S. bank, along with an extra $100 million, the person said.

Furthermore, the person said, the U.S. is expected to count $361 million in civil penalties that ZTE paid the Commerce Department last year in its $1.7 billion figure, even though that penalty was already collected as part of the $892 million.

As part of any new agreement, the sources said, the U.S. wants ZTE to hire a new person to police its compliance. The compliance contractor would provide oversight along with an outside monitor who was retained as part of the March 2017 guilty plea.

The U.S. also wants its representatives to make site visits to check ZTE’s claims about components without coordinating with Chinese government officials, as required by a non-public agreement between the countries, sources said.

Last year, ZTE paid over $2.3 billion to U.S. suppliers, a senior ZTE official told last month. Qualcomm, Broadcom Inc, and Intel Corp, as well as smaller optical component makers Acacia Communications and Oclaro Inc supply ZTE.

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Facebook to remove ‘Trending’ topics feature

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: Facebook said on Friday it will remove the ‘Trending’ topics feature that compiles popular news from its social network, as it seeks to ensure users see news from trustworthy and quality sources.

The move, effective next week, comes at a time when the world’s largest social network is combating the spread of fake news on its platform, which has in some places become central to the distribution of news.

Trending accounted for less than 1.5 per cent of clicks to news publishers on average, Facebook said here in a blog post, adding the company was testing ways to display news including a ‘breaking news label’ and ‘today in’, a dedicated section for local news.

The quality of news on Facebook has been called into question after alleged Russian operatives, for-profit spammers and others spread false reports on the site, including during the 2016 US election campaign.

Facebook had in the past few years made changes to the ‘Trending’ topics feature to avoid ideological or political bias.


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Punjab Cabinet approves first ever “Punjab IT Policy 2018”

F.P. Report

LAHORE: The Province of the Punjab’s first ever IT Policy 2018 premised upon five pillars include support to the industry, bridging the digital divide, e-governance, citizen centric services and entrepreneurship was approved by the Provincial Cabinet in its last meeting yesterday, which is focused to bridge the digital divide across gender, region and economic classes and achieve accessible and affordable access for all and to position Punjab as the IT R&D and innovation hub of Pakistan. With this approval the Punjab has now become the first province to launch its IT Policy.
Elucidating the salient features of the policy document Dr. Umar Saif founder Vice Chancellor of ITU, the Punjab and the Chairman Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) informed a group of media persons who called on him here today and said that it proved government’s commitment to use ICT as an enabling tools for improving governance, efficiency, transparency and accountability. The policy document consolidates all initiatives taken in the sector and also sets a future roadmap that will take the province to its ultimate destination which is making Punjab the Hub of Information Technology.
He said that it would establish Punjab as the preferred destination for local and international investment in the IT/ITES/EHM industries, enable the entrepreneurial ecosystem to flourish in the field of IT/ITES/EHM, increase financial inclusion and incentives investment in innovative ICT technologies to promote e-commerce in the province, create an enabling environment for IT Technologies and their safe usage through policy reform and improvements in legal framework, use ICTs for enhancing the capabilities of citizens and setting forward a more inclusive and broader human development agenda, to endeavor for rapid expansion and growth of the knowledge based economy in the province, strengthen and build human resource and increase employment opportunities through the use of ICTs and to utilize ICT for a more efficient transparent and green governance model in Punjab.
The Punjab’s I T Policy 2018 would attract long-term investments, improve export remittances and increase new IT parks through technology SEZs throughout the country, he stated. Being one of the main pillars of this policy, Government of Punjab has laid great emphasis on it and has extensively used technology in improving efficiency and governance across several sectors.
While presenting the policy document before the cabinet, Dr. Umar Saif, Chairman Punjab IT Board informed the cabinet that the process of the policy formulation started one and half year back and during its formulation stage it was ensured that the process was inclusive, outward looking, joined-up and evidence based so that a well-rounded effective policy document could be produced. To maintain highest standards of input, several focus group discussions and individual consultation sessions were conducted along with rigorous in-house research. More than 150 individuals from across all key sectors have provided input in this document. The policy was also opened for public comments for two months, he informed.
The specific policy commitments in this regard are: establishment of common resource and service centers and public Wi-fi hotspots in remote areas and promotion of ease of access for women at these service centers. Moreover, the policy also talks about the promotion of private sector investment in e-learning initiatives through tax-breaks and engagement with global online learning platforms for provision of quality content in regional languages. The policy document aims to address all aspects of the IT sector, including industry, entrepreneurship, academia etc. IT sector in Pakistan is growing rapidly, which is evident from the IT exports figures of reliable sources. Providing support and creating a conducive environment for the IT & other related businesses has been among the top priorities of the Government of Punjab.
Various steps have been taken in this regard which include payment of government taxes such as stamp duty through e-stamping; collection of other government receipts through online mediums; getting permission to start a new business under ease of doing business initiatives; acquiring hassle-free warehouse construction permits from e-Khidmat Markaz; tax exemptions for Telecoms sector & IT businesses; construction of technology parks and knowledge parks; and facilitation in setting up a new industry in any of the industrial zones in Punjab through One Window Service Centers (OWSC).

Some of the proposed initiatives are the establishment of the dedicated Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Industrial Cities for Information Technology through which the industry will greatly benefit from tax breaks and exemptions in export duties, among other things; construction of technology parks in Lahore and other cities of the province; and reduction in taxes on IT & IT enabled businesses which will not only facilitate these businesses, but will also bring more businesses into the tax net. The government also plans to take extensive measures for the formation of the hardware manufacturing industry through ODMs along with proposing an e-commerce regime by means of technical and legal considerations.

Bridging the digital divide across different groups and segments of the society has been one of the key focus areas of the government and will continue to be. Some of the most significant schemes, in this regard, are merit based distribution of laptops among students; establishment of Chief Minister’s e-Rozgaar Centers across Punjab which enables the recent graduates to polish and monetize their skillset; formation of e-libraries in Punjab where citizen from all walks of life and age groups are utilizing online knowledge base comprising of millions of resources; installation of Wi-Fi hotspots in big cities and availability of online textbooks under the E-Learn program as well as provision of tablets in schools.

Empowering citizens through online petitions platform which shall deal with social and other relevant issues; setting up of regional offices of PITB across Punjab; providing trainings on emerging ideas such as Internet of Things (IoT); and serving the vulnerable groups of the society by providing them free and easily accessible ICT resources in an inclusive manner, included the policy.

During the last five years, computerization of all police stations in Punjab; creation of Police Khidmat centres in all 36 districts of Punjab; automation of Criminal Record office; introduction of Hospital Management Information System (HMIS) in DHQs/ THQs; verification of attendance of doctors and paramedics through biometric attendance system; supervision of the health, education, agriculture, livestock and irrigation field staff through SIM enabled phones and tablets; improvement of the vaccination coverage from 22% to 92% across Punjab under eVaccs; compilation of real time feedback from monitoring staff for 52,394 schools in Punjab; collection of government receipts in a transparent and accountable manner; implementation of e-filing & office automation systems in different public sector entities; upgradation of the development budget making and monitoring through Smart Monitoring of Development Projects (SMDP); establishment of a state of the art tier-III data center for Government of Punjab; initiation of video conference facility for better, economical and efficient communication across public sector offices in Punjab; establishment of Government of Punjab’s citizen contact center in order to run multiple helplines for several government departments; and computerization of land records of over 55.5 million agricultural land owners under land record management information system. NNI

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Samsung showcases its latest OLED displays

Monitoring Desk

Samsung is showcasing its OLED technological dominance at the SID DisplayWeek by showing off its latest flexible and rollable OLED displays. A big part of the company’s booth at the trade event is dedicated to its automotive OLED technologies which feature a variety of flexible and rollable OLED displays. The products on display include flexible, transparent, rollable and a lightfield display.

Perhaps the most impressive installation at Samsung’s booth was its 14-inch 960×540 rollable OLED panel that has a bending radius of 10R. The impression Samsung seems to be giving off here is that it’s mulling commercializing rollable OLED displays in the not too distant future.

The company also demonstrated its 4.94-inch 360×112 transparent AMOLED panel with a transparency of 44 percent and a 7-inch 1280×800 lightfield display with support for 18 view points through Samsung Display’s binocular disparity vergence motion parallax technology.

For potential automotive customers, Samsung is showcasing its “unbreakable” 6.22-inch 1440×2960 display with an all-plastic design that promises additional durability for an automotive environment.

Samsung also revealed an OLED display that doubles as a speaker for the first time. The technology is similar to LG’s crystal-sound OLEDs. Samsung calls the 6.22-inch 1440×2960 panel its “Sound on display” prototype which was configured as a telephony receiver. That wasn’t the only unorthodox product Samsung Display has at its booth. There’s also one with a force sensor that can work underwater and Samsung is calling it the “Aqua-force” OLED panel. The prototype was a 5.77-inch 1440×2960 panel that can work underwater.

We’ve already reported that Samsung showcased a new 1200 ppi AMOLED display for virtual reality yesterday. It lines up with recent reports that Samsung may be working on a standalone Gear VR headset.


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At Beijing security fair, an arms race for surveillance tech

Monitoring Desk

BEIJING: It can crack your smartphone password in seconds, rip personal data from call and messaging apps, and peruse your contact book.

The Chinese-made XDH-CF-5600 scanner – or “mobile phone sleuth”, as sales staff described it when touting its claimed features – was one of hundreds of surveillance gadgets on display at a recent police equipment fair in Beijing.

The China International Exhibition on Police Equipment is something of a one-stop shop for China’s police forces looking to arm up with the latest in “black tech” – a term widely used to refer to cutting-edge surveillance gadgets.

The fair underscores the extent to which China’s security forces are using technology to monitor and punish behavior that runs counter to the ruling Communist Party.

That sort of monitoring – both offline and online – is stoking concerns from human rights groups about the development of a nationwide surveillance system to quell dissent.

The Ministry of Public Security, which hosted the Beijing fair, did not respond to a request for comment.

At the fair, Reuters also saw stalls offering cute-looking robots, equipped with artificial intelligence systems to detect criminals, as well as an array of drones, smart glasses, DNA database software and facial-recognition cameras.

At the fair, which is held annually, most buyers appeared to be local Chinese police, though some global firms attended, selling mainly vehicles and aircraft. Ford Motor Co, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Airbus SE had cars and model helicopters on display.

The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It is not unusual for western companies to sell vehicles to overseas police forces.

It was not possible to verify all the claims made about the products at the fair, including the XDH-CF-5600 scanner, which is made by Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Co Ltd, a Chinese provider of security products and services.

Scanners like the XDH-CF-5600 exist in other markets around the world, including the United States, but their use is contentious, especially regarding the forcible extraction of data from mobile phone devices.

Chinese firms are rushing to meet the growing demand from the country’s security services, fuelling a surveillance tech arms race as companies look to outdo each others’ tracking and monitoring capabilities. Western firms have played little overt role so far in China’s surveillance boom.

Beijing-based Hisign Technology said its desktop and portable phone scanners can retrieve even deleted data from over 90 mobile applications on smart phones, including overseas platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

A big selling point of the technology, according to one policeman from the restive far western region of Xinjiang who was eyeing a Hisign scanner, was its claimed ability to get data from Apple Inc’s iOS operating system, used in products like the widely popular iPhone.

“We are actually using these kinds of scanners in Xinjiang already, but I am interested in this one as it claims to be more successful with iOS phones than other brands,” said the policeman, surnamed Gu, who traveled 3,000 kilometers to attend the fair. He declined to provide his given name.

The iPhone’s iOS system is seen by many analysts as the most secure operating system. A handful of firms in Israel and the United States have been able to crack into the iOS system, according to media reports. That ability is often shrouded in secrecy, however.

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Apple to use OLED in new iPhones models for next year

TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters): Apple Inc has decided to use OLED screens in all three new iPhone models planned for next year, according to South Korea’s Electronic Times – a report that sent shares in Japan Display tumbling 10 percent.

Japan Display, one of the main suppliers of iPhone liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, has lagged its South Korean rivals in OLED production. By contrast, shares in LG Display Co Ltd surged.

Apple recently started planning new iPhone models and decided all three models would have organic light-emitting diode panels, the report said on Monday, citing multiple unnamed industry sources.

A representative at Apple’s South Korea office was not available for comment. A Japan Display spokesman declined to comment.

The stock was down 10 percent at the end of Tuesday’s morning session, giving it a market value of about 105 billion yen ($965 million). At one stage it fell as much as 21 percent.

Cash-strapped Japan Display plans to start mass-producing OLED panels for smartphones only from 2019, and is looking for new investors who can finance investment to launch a production line.

“The Japanese government will continue to provide a lifeline to Japan Display, but the company has been just so slow in catching up with South Korean rivals in OLED,” said Masayuki Otani, chief market analyst at Securities Japan.

It was formed in 2012 by combining the display businesses of Hitachi Ltd, Toshiba Corp and Sony Corp in a deal brokered by the state-backed Innovation Network Corp of Japan (INCJ).

“If Apple uses OLED for all models for next year, that could raise hopes for LG Display to take a slice, as Apple may want to diversify its sources for OLED supply,” said Lee Won-sik, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities in Seoul.


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Facebook to introduce its own microchips for video monitoring

Monitoring Desk

NEW YORK: Facebook has announced to form its own electronic chips and processor through which will make it possible to identify terrorism, suicide, murder and other crimes from real time videos while filtering them in an effective manner.

The company is looking to hire a manager tasked with assembling an “end-to-end SoC / ASIC, firmware, and driver development organization.”

In 2010, Apple Inc. started shipping its own chips and now uses them across many of its major product lines. Alphabet Inc.’s Google has developed its own artificial intelligence chip as well. Amazon is said to be developing chips to improve Alexa’s AI smarts.

Facebook could use such chips to power hardware devices, artificial intelligence software and servers in its data centers.

Next month, the company will launch the Oculus Go, a $200 standalone virtual-reality headset that runs on a Qualcomm processor. Facebook is also working on a slew of smart speakers.

Mark Zuckerberg has said that AI will eventually play an even bigger role in flagging inappropriate content across the social network than it does currently, though it’s really not a viable solution for the company’s deeper issues.