Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tech. Show all posts

Nov 17, 2020

News | Business | Tech: Zuckerberg and Dorsey to be quizzed by Senate following Biden vote victory

 

James Clayton


Joe Bidenimage copyrightGetty Images

If you follow US tech, you're probably getting a sense of deja vu.

Senators are about to grill Twitter's Jack Dorsey and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

It's only three weeks since both chief executives testified. But since then the political landscape has wildly altered.

It is Democrat voices now, not Republicans, that arguably pose the greatest threat and will be listened to more closely.

In particular that of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee - though it's not confirmed whether she'll participate.

Labelling Trump

After the election, there were fears that social media might fan the flames of chaos, and lead to riots on the streets.

Although there were scuffles in Washington on Saturday night, mass unrest has not materialised. Collective sighs of relief have been heard around Silicon Valley. The world - so far - hasn't imploded.

But fake news and misinformation around the vote have been rife on both platforms.

Trump blocked tweetsimage copyrightTwitter

image captionTwitter has hidden some of Mr Trump's posts and users can only see the contents if they click "view"

Twitter and Facebook have labelled misleading content with varying degrees of success.

That has put them once again on a collision course with President Trump.

Howls of discontent from Republican voices greeted Twitter's repeated labelling of his tweets.

Many Republicans are now pushing for people to dump Twitter in exchange for Parler - a "free speech" version of the app.

But there's only so much you can do if Twitter decides to suppress, take down and/or label a tweet.

You can complain to Twitter or leave the platform, but ultimately Twitter decides what action to take. Twitter owns the platform. If you don't like the rules, too bad.

The same goes for Facebook.

That's why Republican senators see this as an opportunity to grill Zuckerberg and Dorsey - their first chance since the election - and to blow off some steam.

But the two CEOs will be aware it's Joe Biden they must now please.

Facebook, in particular, has already been the focus of anger from the President-elect's aides.

Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorseyimage copyrightEPA

image captionMark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey previously testified on 28 October, when they spoke via video link

Last week, one of Mr Biden's senior advisers attacked Facebook over its handling of conspiracy theories and calls to violence in the days following the US election.

Joe Biden has said previously that he would repeal Section 230 - the law that protects social media companies from being sued for the things people post.

Tech monopolies

In October, Democratic legislators penned a highly critical report into Big Tech. They called companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook "monopolies", and suggested they could be broken up.

So, this will be the first chance to gauge how the Democrats feel post-victory.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has a long history with Big Tech.

As state Attorney General in California, she was seen in Silicon Valley as a straight shooter.

It will be interesting to see whether she decides to take this opportunity to put Zuckerberg under pressure.

Kamala Harrisimage copyrightGetty Images

image captionVice President-elect Kamala Harris may question the two tech chief executives

Other Democratic senators may also see this as a chance to wave their credentials, and audition for cabinet.

For example, Senator Amy Klobuchar has been tipped by some as Biden's pick for attorney general. She's already suggested that Google should be split up.

And Senator Chris Coons - also in the running for a top job - is one of several senators to put their name to a letter on Monday criticising the social network for its response to anti-Muslim content on the platform.

Get ready to hear a lot about how these two companies aren't doing enough to take down hate speech or fake news - with a special focus on Facebook.

It's likely too that Republican Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz will ask fiery questions.

But with two months left of a Republican administration, their words carry less of a threat than they did last month.

As power has shifted, so will Zuckerberg's and Dorsey's attention - this is their chance to convince the new rulers that light-touch regulation is best. 

News | Business | Tech: Huawei sells youth brand over tech restrictions

 

3-4 minutes


Chinese smartphone-maker Huawei is selling its youth-focused budget brand Honor.image copyrightGetty Images

Chinese smartphone maker Huawei is selling its youth-focused budget brand Honor.

Huawei said Honor had been under "tremendous pressure" due to "a persistent unavailability of technical elements".

US government sanctions have restricted supplies to Huawei on the grounds that the firm is a national security threat.

Huawei said it would not hold any shares or be involved in managing the new Honor company.

"This sale will help Honor's channel sellers and suppliers make it through this difficult time," the Chinese telecommunications giant said in a statement.

Huawei said it will sell Honor to Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology, a new company set up for the acquisition.

The company is a consortium of more than 30 agents and dealers of the Honor brand, and according to Chinese media, also includes the State-backed Shenzhen Smart City Technology Development Group.

Huawei gave no indication of the sale price.

Presentational white space

Bravado dented

By Karishma Vaswani, Asia Business Correspondent

When the US first targeted Huawei, as part of the broader US China trade war, founder Ren Zhengfei told me the 'US cannot crush us'

Since then though, that defiance has been deflated.

Honor's phones rely heavily on Huawei technology, so selling the unit off is a sensible and strategic business decision.

But that doesn't mean it wouldn't have hurt both Huawei's bottomline, and its sense of bravado.

US restrictions placed on US firms selling equipment to Huawei has made it next to impossible for the Chinese firm to get access to much needed US tech - in particular chips that go into its smartphones.

Some analysts say the reason why Huawei is selling its Honor business is to raise enough cash so that it can invest further in its own chip-making technology, which would in theory help it to become more self reliant, and depend less on US tech.

But getting to that stage takes time, and in the interim there are competitors lining up to take Huawei's place on the global smartphone stage.

Presentational white space

Equipment restrictions

The Trump administration has increased pressure on Huawei over the past few years, claiming the company is a threat to national security - a claim which Huawei consistently denies.

The US department of commerce now requires foreign semiconductor companies to first get a permit before selling chips to Huawei if they are developed or produced using US technology.

Although Huawei has stockpiled microchips in an effort to survive the restrictions, it said this latest move was an attempt to salvage a brand that has struggled as a result of US policies.

"This move has been made by Honor's industry chain to ensure its own survival," Huawei said.

Huawei established the youth-focused brand in 2013, offering phones in the lower and middle price ranges.

Honor ships 70 million units annually, according to Huawei.

It sells smartphones through its own websites and third-party retailers in China. It also sells its phones in Southeast Asia and Europe

Sep 8, 2020

News | Business | Tech | China | Companies: China takes aim at US 'bullying' of its tech firms

4 minutes - Source: BBC




China has launched a new set of global rules for tech companies to follow. Image copyright Getty Images
China has taken aim at the US saying its tech firms are victims of "naked bullying".
The accusations come as the Chinese government launches a new set of global guidelines for technology companies.
Its new initiative outlaws illegally obtaining people's data and large-scale surveillance.
Last month a similar data privacy effort was announced by the US called The Clean Network.
It is the latest clash between Washington and Beijing over data security issues which has already embroiled TikTok, Huawei and WeChat.
In recent months, the Trump administration has taken steps to block Chinese tech firms like Huawei and Chinese apps including TikTok and WeChat saying they pose threats to national security.
"Some individual countries are aggressively pursuing unilateralism, throwing dirty water on other countries under the pretext of 'cleanliness', and conducting global hunts on leading companies of other countries under the pretext of security," China's State Councillor Wang Yi said.
"This is naked bullying and should be opposed and rejected."
On Tuesday, Mr Wang said the new initiative also calls for tech firms to not create backdoors - secret access to a company's data and network - into their services.
The US has frequently accused Chinese telecoms provider Huawei of having backdoors in its equipment.
"Global data security rules that reflect the wishes of all countries and respect the interests of all parties should be reached on the basis of universal participation by all parties," Mr Wang added.

Cleaning up

China's global data security plan states that tech firms should not engage in large-scale surveillance of other countries or illegally acquire information of foreign citizens by using technology.
In August US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched the Clean Network, a global blueprint to exclude Chinese telecoms firms, apps, cloud providers from internet infrastructure used by the US and other countries.
"We call on all freedom-loving nations and companies to join the Clean Network," Mr Pompeo said. More than 30 countries and territories have signed up according to the State Department.
China's own initiative to set global standards on data security has been praised by one legal expert.
"China has a really robust data security network and the US is nowhere near at this level as it doesn't have any national level laws. This announcement by China looks like a pragmatic approach to protect consumers and stop data abuse," Carolyn Bigg, a technology and communications lawyer at law firm DLA Piper told the BBC.

Growing tension

This week, China's largest chip manufacturer's Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) was targeted for a US government blacklist.
This would restrict suppliers from providing it with American-based tech without special permission.
On Tuesday, US president Donald Trump stressed his desire to "decouple" from China.
"Whether it's decoupling, or putting in massive tariffs like I've been doing already, we will end our reliance on China, because we can't rely on China," Mr Trump said.
India's government has also banned TikTok and dozens more Chinese-made apps it says are a danger to the country.

Sep 1, 2020

News | Business | Tech | Companies: Start-up factory Rocket Internet to delist, six years after going public

Ryan Browne




Oliver Samwer, CEO and founder Rocket Internet, on the floor of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in October 2014.
Oliver Samwer, CEO and founder Rocket Internet, on the floor of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in October 2014.
Arne Dedert | picture alliance via Getty Images

German tech investment firm Rocket Internet is set to delist, the company announced Tuesday, around six years after it went public on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
The Berlin-based firm — which is often referred to as a start-up factory — said in a statement that it was offering investors 18.57 euros ($22.23) for each of their shares, lower than Monday’s closing price of 18.95 euros. Rocket Internet shares initially rose on the news Tuesday morning, before falling around 1.3%.
Founded in 2007, Rocket Internet became controversial for building start-ups that cloned the business models of U.S. internet giants such as Amazon, Uber and Airbnb. For its part, Rocket Internet says it merely adapts proven models for untapped local markets. Some of its most notable bets include German e-commerce firm Zalando, food delivery service Delivery Hero and meal-kit provider HelloFresh.
Rocket Internet has seen its share price steadily decline in the years since it went public, falling from a market value of 6.7 billion euros ($8 billion) on the day of its IPO to just 2.6 billion euros as of Tuesday. The stock is down almost 15% year-to-date.
Explaining the reason behind its decision to delist, Rocket Internet said it was “better positioned as a company not listed on a stock exchange” as this would allow it to focus on long-term bets.
“The use of public capital markets as a financing source as essential parameter for maintaining a stock exchange listing is no longer required and adequate access to capital is secured outside the stock exchange,” the company said in a statement.
“Outside a capital markets environment, the Company will be able to focus on a long-term development irrespective of temporary circumstances capital markets tend to put emphasis on.”
Rocket Internet said that its investment division, Global Founders Capital, and CEO Oliver Samwer, would retain their stakes of 45.11% and 4.53% respectively. The group’s bets have made billionaires out of Samwer and his brothers and co-founders Alexander and Marc. Each has a net worth of $1.2 billion, according to Forbes.
Rocket Internet will hold a virtual shareholder meeting on Sept. 24 with the aim of getting approval for its plan to delist. The company said it had also launched a separate buyback program to secure 8.84% of its shares from the stock market. It aims to complete this buyback by the end of Sept. 15.

News | Business | Companies | Tech | Smartphones Industry: Samsung heir faces fresh charges over 2015 merger

2-3 minutes - Source: BBC




Samsung heir Lee Jae-yon. Image copyright Getty Images
Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong is facing fresh charges of over his role in a 2015 merger deal at the tech giant.
South Korean prosecutors accused Lee, 52, of using stock and accounting fraud to try to gain control of the Samsung Group - claims Mr Lee denies.
In 2017, Lee, was found guilty of separate charges in relation to the deal, including bribery, but his five-year prison sentence was suspended.
He is unlikely to be held in custody as he awaits trial on the new charges.
The prosecution, however, disregarded a recommendation from a citizen's panel that Lee should not be charged.
In June, state prosecutors sought to arrest Lee for the second time over the controversial merger in 2015 of two Samsung businesses, Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries.
It follows his 2017 conviction over the merger, which sparked a political and business scandal in South Korea - including the resignation and conviction of former President Park Geun-hye.
Back then, Lee was found guilty of using Samsung to pay 43bn won ($35.7m; £28.1m) to two non-profit foundations operated by Choi Soon-sil, a friend of Ms Park, in exchange for political support.
The deal needed support from South Korea's state-run national pension fund and the former president's help was allegedly sought.
The deal was said to have paved the way for Lee to become the head of the Samsung conglomerate.
Lee was convicted of charges including bribery, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and perjury and a court sent him to prison for five years.
But six months later that sentence was halved, and the Seoul High Court decided to suspend the jail term, meaning he was free to go.
At the time, Lee denied the charges. He admitted making donations but said Samsung did not want anything in return.
Also known as Jay Y Lee, he is the son of Lee Kun-hee, chairman of Samsung Group, South Korea's largest conglomerate. He is also the grandson of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul.

Aug 18, 2020

News | Tech | TikTok US Operations: Oracle enters race to buy TikTok’s US operations

James Fontanella-Khan and Miles Kruppa 



Oracle has entered the race to acquire TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned short video app that President Donald Trump has vowed to shut down unless it is taken over by a US company by mid-November, people briefed about the matter have said.
The tech company co-founded by Larry Ellison had held preliminary talks with TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, and was seriously considering purchasing the app’s operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the people said.
Oracle was working with a group of US investors that already own a stake in ByteDance, including General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital, the people added.
Microsoft has been the lead contender to buy TikTok since it publicly said in early August that it had held discussions to explore a purchase of the app’s US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand businesses.
Microsoft has also seriously considered a bid to take over TikTok’s global operations beyond the countries it outlined this month, people briefed on the company’s thinking have said. The Redmond, Washington-based company is particularly interested in buying TikTok in Europe and India, where the video app has been banned by Narendra Modi, Indian prime minister.
ByteDance is opposed to selling any assets beyond those in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, said a person close to the company.
The entry of Oracle into the race provided ByteDance with a credible alternative to Microsoft’s offer, said one person with direct knowledge of the matter.
Twitter had also held early stage talks with TikTok, but there were serious concerns about the US social media group’s ability to finance the deal, said people briefed about the matter.
Oracle’s approach comes after Mr Trump last week ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok’s US operations within 90 days, following a recommendation from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, a government panel that vets foreign transactions.
Mr Trump’s order said the US had “credible evidence” that ByteDance was using TikTok, which reached 2bn downloads worldwide in 2020, to breach US security. ByteDance has repeatedly denied any allegations of improper data sharing. The US has been engaged in a trade war with China since Mr Trump took office.
Mr Ellison, one of the world’s richest people, is one of the few people in Silicon Valley who has openly supported Mr Trump. In February, the 76-year-old billionaire entrepreneur held a fundraiser for the US president at his estate in Coachella Valley, California.
It is unclear whether the White House is more supportive of Oracle’s approach than that of Microsoft.
Any deal would face a long list of challenges, including separating the back-end technology of TikTok from ByteDance. It is also unclear how much TikTok’s US or global operations would fetch in a sale.
Oracle could not immediately be reached for comment. ByteDance, General Atlantic and Sequoia declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Richard Waters in San Francisco

Aug 17, 2020

News | Tech | Google's Australia Warning: Google says Australian news rule threatens free search services

Jamie Smyth 



Google has warned that a landmark Australian proposal to make it pay for news content could threaten its free search services in the country, as it vowed to fight the regulation.
The US company has also suspended a news licensing scheme it agreed with some Australian publishers this year, as it seeks to blunt what the government has described as “world leading” and necessary legislation aimed at creating a sustainable news media.
“We need to let you know about new government regulation that will hurt how Australians use Google Search and YouTube,” Google wrote in an open letter signed by its Australia managing director, Mel Silva, posted online on Monday.
Ms Silva added that the proposed regulation “would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia”.
Last month Australia’s competition regulator published a draft law intended to force Google and Facebook to pay media groups in exchange for carrying their content. It comes as digital platforms face increasing scrutiny globally over their market dominance and potential to impact elections.
The Financial Times has learnt that Google is also “pausing” a news licensing programme as a result of the law. The scheme, which was introduced to much fanfare in June, involves Google paying Australian publishers, including InQueensland and InDaily, for news content. Similar schemes in Brazil and Germany will not be affected.
Google’s decision to appeal to the Australian public over the law could set the scene for a massive lobbying campaign, analysts said. That would be likely to pit the Silicon Valley groups against Australia’s mainstream media and the country’s regulator as MPs consider the draft law in the coming months.
“There is a lot more concern about the power of News Corp, and how it is used, than about the power of Google,” said Terry Flew, professor of communications at Queensland University of Technology. He added that many young Australians view mainstream publishers as out of touch.
With its open letter, Mr Flew said Google appeared to be testing the waters to determine the strength of opinion on the issue.
Google has not ruled out withdrawing its news service from Australia entirely, echoing its 2014 move in Spain when the government similarly sought to make the company pay for news content.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission criticised Google’s open letter, saying it “contains misinformation” about the draft law.
“Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so,” said Rod Sims, ACCC chair. “Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.”
Mr Sims added that it would “address a significant bargaining power imbalance” between Australian news media and internet groups. “A healthy news media sector is essential to a well-functioning democracy,” he said.

Aug 13, 2020

News | Business | Tech | Giants Operations: WeChat-owner shrugs-off Trump's proposed US ban

Faisal Islam 



Tencent has played down Donald Trump's ban on WeChat Image copyright Getty Images
Tencent has played down Donald Trump's ban on its WeChat app, believing it will only affect its US operations.
The tech giant runs an equivalent messaging platform in China called Weixin which it hopes will be unaffected.
The bigger fallout may be Apple's sales in China if its iPhones aren't allowed to download Chinese messaging apps.
WeChat has more than one billion users worldwide but says the US only accounts for 2% of its revenue.
Last Friday, US President Donald Trump ordered US firms to stop doing business with both WeChat and TikTok within 45 days citing national security concerns.
The TikTok ban was expected but still "shocked" the company's owners ByteDance. WeChat, and its parent company Tencent, also found itself caught in the crossfire of the escalating tensions between the US and China.
However, Tencent, the world's largest gaming firm, downplayed Mr Trump's executive order when it reported its second quarter results on Wednesday. It saw a 37% rise in profits.
"If you look at the executive orders from May 2019 and then obviously the executive order a couple of days ago, they specify very clearly they cover US jurisdiction, and consequently we don't see any impact on companies advertising on our platform in China," said James Mitchell, Tencent's chief strategy officer.

Bigger bite

Business analysts are unclear about the full implications of the US bans on Tencent and ByteDance, and are waiting for more details.
There are fears that Apple could suffer if the ban stretches to its operations in China. Experts say sales of its iPhone will be hit hard if Chinese consumers are not allowed to download messaging apps like Weixin onto them.
The executive order said it would ban "any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings Ltd. (a.k.a. Téngxùn Kònggǔ Yǒuxiàn Gōngsī), Shenzhen, China, or any subsidiary of that entity."
Mr Trump said that the spread in the US of mobile apps developed and owned by Chinese firms "threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States".
According to calculations made by Bloomberg the Chinese market is worth around $44bn (£33.7bn) a year to Apple.

Jul 30, 2020

News | Business | Tech | Giants Conference: Big Tech’s leaders squirm as documents reveal their power

Hannah Murphy, Dave Lee, Richard Waters, and Kadhim Shubber 



A six-hour video conference with four of the world’s biggest tech bosses was never going to match the drama of a real-life hearing before Congress, and that was before the technical glitches and delays on the line.
But there were plenty of uncomfortable moments for the heads of Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Facebook, who were often unable to answer questions on a trove of newly unearthed internal documents that showed how the companies chased dominance and then sought to protect it.
Among the most damning revelations was a 2012 email in which Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that he planned to acquire photo app Instagram in order to “neutralise” it. Additional records released by the House judiciary committee showed that Instagram’s founder feared at the time that Mr Zuckerberg would go into “destroy mode” if he declined the offer.
Committee members also landed blows on the other three executives, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook and Google’s Sundar Pichai, for a litany of bad behaviours, including trying to clone rivals or deny them services.
The hearing cast the leaders of 21st century corporate America as modern robber barons, and served as a one-shot opportunity for liberals to make their case that US antitrust law needs urgent change.
“This was a watershed moment. We’re not going back,” said Barry Lynn, director of the Open Markets Institute and a leading proponent of radical reform. One of his former staffers, Lina Khan, was a pivotal figure in the antitrust subcommittee’s investigation, and sat behind chairman David Cicilline during the hearing.
Jeff Bezos, the Amazon chief, was quizzed over the company’s acquisition of Quidsi
Jeff Bezos, the Amazon chief, was quizzed over the company’s acquisition of Quidsi © REUTERS
“A huge amount of information came out,” Mr Lynn added. “They put new information in the hands of the agencies. They laid a few traps.”
The committee has been investigating the market power of big tech for more than a year and is set to publish a final report that may inform new antitrust legislation.
In the nearer term, the hearing also provided glimpses into the sort of evidence and arguments that other investigations, by the Justice department, Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys-general, could pursue against Facebook and Google.
The hearing, delayed for an hour by the need to disinfect the room, saw the four executives appear virtually because of Covid-19. The lag in the connection created the awkward exchanges that are familiar to those working from home in 2020. At one point, as the founder of Amazon began speaking, the committee had to nudge him: “Mr Bezos, I believe you’re on mute.”
But such moments only briefly leavened a series of probing and precise questions from lawmakers, as Democrats sought to show how Big Tech intimidated smaller rivals.
Mr Zuckerberg was cast as an aggressive dealmaker who gave companies he viewed as a threat a simple offer: join us, or we will destroy you.
“Facebook is a case study, in my mind, of a monopoly power, because your company harvests and monetises our data, and then your company uses that data to spy on competitors and to copy, acquire and kill rivals,” Representative Pramila Jayapal told Mr Zuckerberg.
“You’ve used Facebook’s power to threaten smaller competitors and to ensure that you always get your way these tactics reinforce Facebook’s dominance”, she added.
A slide from the congressional hearing with an excerpt from Mark Zuckerberg’s comments about Instagram
A slide from the congressional hearing with an excerpt from Mark Zuckerberg’s comments about Instagram © House Judiciary Committee
The Facebook chief executive rejected the characterisations. And he argued that it was “far from obvious” that the company’s acquisitions, Instagram and WhatsApp, would later grow at the speed they did, citing similarly sized companies at the time that went on to fail.
To build its case against Amazon, the committee used previously unseen emails between Amazon executives detailing, in 2010, what appeared to be efforts to aggressively price out, and then buy up, a competitor — in this case, Quidsi, the owner of Diapers.com, which Amazon duly acquired.
“We need to match pricing on these guys no matter what the cost,” wrote executive Doug Herrington, according to the documents, which spelt out Amazon’s “plan to win” by putting huge price pressures on the smaller company.
Asked about the strategy, Mr Bezos said he didn’t remember. “This is going back in time I think maybe 10 or 11 years or so,” he said.
A slide with excerpts from an exchange between Amazon executives regarding Diapers.com
A slide with excerpts from an exchange between Amazon executives regarding Diapers.com © House Judiciary Committee
The hearing was the first time Mr Bezos had ever appeared before Congress. And the committee took the opportunity to confront the world’s richest man with what they described as the real-life effects of the business strategies that made his wealth.
Questioning how Amazon treats its more than 2m third-party sellers, congresswoman Lisa McBath, a Democrat from Georgia, played Mr Bezos an evocative clip of a bookseller who said they were suspended from the platform without explanation, shattering their livelihood.
“It does not at all to me seem like the right way to treat her,” Mr Bezos conceded after hearing the clip.
Addressing Google, Mr Cicilline, said documents unearthed in the investigation showed its executives warning that rivals with specialised search engines were becoming a “proliferating threat”, and also warning that some of these were getting “too much traffic”.
The company had responded by directing search traffic to its own services and turning itself into a “walled garden that keeps users on Google sites, even if Google doesn’t have the most relevant information”.
Mr Pichai, who was frequently cut off as he sought to parry the attacks, said the company had developed its services only with an eye to improving the customer experience.
In another set of internal emails published by the committee, Google executives were seen discussing a potential acquisition of YouTube starting in 2005, with one speculating it could cost $10-15m and another three months later saying it had made an informal approach to pay $200m. It ended up paying $1.65bn only months later — a price that Democratic committee members suggested showed the importance to Google of taking over a potential rival.
Another slide regarding how Google treats threats
Another slide regarding how Google treats threats © House Judiciary Committee
Despite Apple being the world’s largest company by market value, a notably relaxed Mr Cook was questioned the fewest times, and left the hearing less wounded than his peers.
Still, the committee released swaths of internal emails calling into question that all app developers are treated equally, as the company has long claimed. In 2017, Apple agreed to take only a 15 per cent cut — half its usual rate — for the Amazon Prime Video app while the company was accused of “fast tracking” other apps.
Republican members of the committee took the opportunity to strike blows on a range of issues beyond antitrust, including whether Beijing steals intellectual property from US companies. Messrs Cook, Pichai and Bezos all said they had no immediate first-hand knowledge of such theft, whereas Mr Zuckerberg called it “well documented”.
Other lines of questioning, such as whether the platforms stifle rightwing voices, prompted groans from Democrats — although Mr Cicilline did home in on Facebook for failing to remove toxic posts from its platform. “Facebook gets away with [not taking down harmful content] because you're the only game in town”, Mr Cicilline said.
At the close of the day, Mr Cicilline ended with a statement of intent that sought to mark the hearing as a pivot point. “These companies as exist today have monopoly power,” he declared. “Some need to be broken up, all need to be properly regulated and held accountable.”

Additional reporting by Patrick McGee in San Francisco

Jul 29, 2020

News | Business | Tech Companies: Apple's China iPhone sales jump 225% in the second quarter as recovery continues, research shows

Arjun Kharpal



Apple was the fastest-growing smartphone maker in China in the second quarter, according to research data, which showed that the iPhone maker bucked the overall decline in the world’s second-largest economy.
The cheaper iPhone SE and the popularity of the iPhone 11 series, along with deep discounts, helped Apple get a boost in one of its most critical markets.
The sell-through volume for iPhones in China was 7.4 million units in the April to June quarter, a 32% growth year-on-year, according to Counterpoint Research. Sell-through refers to iPhones that go to Apple’s retail partners and is a close gauge to actual sales to consumers.
In comparison, Chinese phone maker Huawei saw sell-through volumes of 36.6 million units, or up 14% compared to a year ago. Apple sells significantly fewer phones than Huawei in China.
Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi, the brands that make up the rest of the top five biggest players in China, all saw significant declines, while the overall market fell 17% year-on-year.
Separately, figures from Shanghai-based CINNO Research showed iPhone sales jumped 62% year-on-year to 13 million in the second quarter. CINNO Research tracks sales rather than sell-through. On a quarter-on-quarter basis, iPhone sales jumped 225%, coming off a low base but also highlighting a recovery for the Cupertino giant after the coronavirus outbreak forced closures of its stores in China and dented sales in the three months that ended in March. 
Since a low in February, when Apple sold fewer than 500,000 phones, the company has seen a steady rebound, thanks in part to the iPhone 11 series released last year.
“iPhone 11 remains the best-selling model in China. iPhone 11 has consecutively led as the best-selling model in China since last September, which indicates the strong brand power of Apple amongst Chinese consumers,” Flora Tang, research analyst at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC by email.
The latest third-party figures come ahead of the release of Apple’s official fiscal third quarter earnings on Thursday.
Apple also offered big discounts on iPhones during a major online Chinese shopping festival in June which helped keep the momentum going. The cheaper second-generation iPhone SE was also among the top 3 best-selling iPhones in China in the second quarter, Counterpoint Research said in a note.
On the services front, Apple also appeared fairly resilient. The App Store generated $4.4 billion in gross revenue in the second quarter, down 4% from $4.6 billion in the first quarter, according to data from Sensor Tower. However, that was a 13% year-on-year rise.
“Spending on China’s App Store typically increases between Q1 and Q2 each year, but the Q/Q decline this year could be attributed to the ecosystem there normalizing following the height of COVID-19 in the country,” Stephanie Chan, mobile insights strategist, told CNBC by email. 

All eyes on iPhone 12

China turned on its 5G networks last November and its domestic smartphone makers have launched 5G-capable devices. 5G refers to next-generation mobile networks that promise super-fast data speeds.
A third of smartphones sold in China in the second quarter were 5G handsets, the highest adoption in the world, according to Counterpoint Research.
However, Apple does not yet have a 5G iPhone. But several analysts expect the next iPhone model, potentially named the iPhone 12, to support 5G
Chinese customers look at iphones at the official opening of the new Apple Store in the Sanlitun shopping area on July 17, 2020 in Beijing, China.
Kevin Frayer | Getty Images
“We expect 5G iPhones to gain immediate traction in China, if Apple goes for a juicy pricing strategy. Chinese consumers have been well educated about the benefits of 5G, and Chinese telecom operators are promoting competitively priced 5G plans,” Counterpoint Research’s Tang said.
Daniel Ives, analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in a note published Monday that Apple has seen “a continued demand snapback in China during the month of June and first half of July despite some speed bumps and the stage is setting up for a massive pent up iPhone 12 cycle heading into the Fall in this key region as well as globally.”
He anticipates that 60 million to 70 million iPhones in China are in the “window of an upgrade opportunity over the next year with Apple going aggressively at all price points (SE, iPhone 12) to cement its installed base despite competitive pressures from domestic players.”

Jul 28, 2020

News | Tech | Google: Google data cable to link US, UK and Spain

4-6 minutes - Source: BBC



A Google-branded signed yellow buoy sits on the sand in as the first line is dropped Image copyright Google
Image caption One end of Google's "Curie" cable, finished last year - a similar project will land in Cornwall in 2022
Google has announced plans to build a new undersea network cable connecting the US, UK and Spain.
The tech giant says it is incorporating new technology into the cable, which it claims is a significant upgrade to older existing lines.
The project is expected to be completed by 2022.
Underwater data cables are vital to global communications infrastructure, carrying some 98% of the world's data, according to Google's estimate.
The cables are usually built by communications firms - typically a group of them pooling resources - which then charge other companies to use them.
The latest cable, named "Grace Hopper" after an American computer scientist and naval rear admiral, will hit the UK at Bude, in Cornwall. It is Google's fourth privately owned undersea cable.
But Google needs "an ever-increasing amount of transatlantic bandwidth", according to John Delaney from telecoms analyst IDC.
"Building its own cables helps them choose cable routes that are most optimal," and near data centres, he said.
"It also minimises operational expenditure by reducing the need to pay telcos and other third-party cable owners for the use of their infrastructure."
Jayne Stowell, who oversees construction of Google's undersea cable projects, told the BBC it needed an internet connection that could be relied upon.
"It's not enough to have a single cable because any element in the network can break from time to time, and if it's 8,000 metres under the sea, it takes a while to repair," she said.

Under the sea

The first ever transatlantic telecommunications cable was built in 1858, connecting Ireland and the US by telegraph.
Around 750,000 miles of cable already run between continents to support the demand for communication and entertainment - enough to run around the world almost 17 times.
Cables are required to withstand major hazards, including earthquakes and heavy currents, and have a lifespan of around 25 years.
But Ms Stowell says some of the transatlantic cables are "going out of service and we need newer, better and more sophisticated technology".
"It served its need and purpose at the time, but it's old generation," she said.
Google has yet to build a cable that lands in mainland China, where its services are restricted by the state and Ms Stowell said there are no plans to build one in the foreseeable future.
"We understand, being an American company, and understand the legalities of what we must abide by," she said. But she pointed out that the Asia market was bigger than China.
She also addressed growing fears that the world could soon see two internets: one controlled by the West and the other by China.
"The world wide web is dependent upon interconnected networks. One would hope networks would be regarded as neutral and continue to interconnect."

Wave of demand

Internet usage has skyrocketed around the world since Covid-19 restrictions were introduced. In April, Ofcom revealed that a record number of UK adults spent a quarter of their waking day online during lockdown.
As demand for high-speed internet increases around the world, companies are continuing to look for ways to reach more consumers.
And Google is not alone in pursuing ownership of vital data infrastructure.
Microsoft and Facebook, for example, are joint-owners with telecoms company Telxius of the Marea cable, which runs from the US to Spain.
In May, Facebook announced another project to build a 37,000km (23,000-mile) undersea cable to supply faster internet to 16 countries in Africa.
Ready for use by 2024, it will deliver three times the capacity of all current undersea cables serving the continent.
Africa lags behind the rest of the world in terms of internet access, with only four in 10 people having access to the web.
However, with a population of 1.3 billion, it has become a key emerging market for many businesses.

Jul 27, 2020

News | China | Tech | Giants Index: Hong Kong launches share index of tech giants

3-4 minutes - Source: BBC



The Hang Seng TECH Index went live on Monday and includes internet giant Alibaba. Image copyright Getty Images
A new share index focused on China's technology giants has been launched by Hong Kong's stock market.
The Hang Seng Tech Index went live on Monday and includes internet giants such as Tencent, Alibaba and JD.com.
It will feature 30 of the largest tech firms listed in Hong Kong, which are among the world's biggest companies.
The new index comes as Chinese tech firms face greater scrutiny in the US, with many looking at listings in both Hong Kong and China.
Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba, recently announced plans to list its affiliate financial arm Ant Group in Hong Kong.
Alibaba, NetEase and JD.com are three tech giants that have recently listed in Hong Kong amid growing tensions between the US and China. They are included in the new Hang Seng Tech Index.
The Ant Group is described as the world's most valuable unicorn - a start-up that has grown to a value of more than $1bn (£778m).
Once publicly listed, it should also move into the index.
Ant Group, a financial technology (fintech) firm, also wants to list on China's tech-centric Star stock market as it shuns a US stock market listing.
Analysts say the Hang Seng Tech index will attract investors to other Hong Kong tech stocks and look beyond the more well-known Hang Seng Index which is dominated by banks, property firms and energy companies.
"The new index aims to rival and beat the Nasdaq in the US market for Chinese tech giants," said Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research for China Renaissance Securities.
The Hang Seng Tech Index will track Hong Kong-listed companies that have high business exposure to selected technology themes, including the internet, fintech, cloud, e-commerce and digital activities.
"The Chinese government wants its technology companies to be able to access foreign capital. Thus, an index in Hong Kong would be better to suit that purpose," added Tianjun Wu, deputy economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

What does it mean for investors?

Investment experts say it will be more convenient for investors who want to buy Chinese tech companies listed in Hong Kong now they have their own index.
There is a huge appetite for technology stocks like Alibaba and Tencent, which have generally performed well during the coronavirus pandemic as more people go online for shopping and entertainment.
The new index could trigger the launch of specialised investment funds tracking these 30 tech stocks, which are known as Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).
"This is a great and positive new addition, marking the continued growth in China's technology space and its mind and portfolio share of local and international investors alike," added Andy Maynard, managing director at China Renaissance investment bank.

News | China | Tech | Huawei Summit: Huawei holds summit as global pressure grows

3minutes - Source: BBC



Huawei faces growing pressure as tensions rise between Beijing and the West. Image copyright Getty Images
Chinese technology giant Huawei starts a four-day online event today focusing on how technology can be used in the fight against the coronavirus.
The "Better World Summit" will also explore how to boost the world economy in the wake of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, HSBC has issued a statement defending its cooperation with the US in a case against Huawei.
It came after Chinese state media accused the London-headquartered bank of “setting traps to ensnare” Huawei.
The world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker said the summit will feature talks by technology industry executives and experts from around the world, including Huawei's deputy chairman Guo Ping as well as South Africa's telecoms minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
The event is being held against the backdrop of growing pressure on the company as tensions rise between Beijing and western governments.
On Friday, an article in China's official People’s Daily newspaper said HSBC had "framed” Huawei and played a role in the arrest of the company's finance chief Meng Wanzhou.
The following day, HSBC posted a statement on the Chinese social media platform WeChat which said it was not involved in Washington's decision to investigate Huawei or arrest Ms Meng.
It also said “HSBC has no malice against Huawei, nor has it ‘framed’ Huawei”. In response, another Beijing-controlled newspaper, The Global Times, said: "Chinese observers called HSBC's statement 'not persuasive' at all".
Meanwhile, the US has been calling on members of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance - which also includes the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - to avoid Huawei kit.
Australia has barred Huawei from providing 5G technology for the country's network.
Earlier this month, the British government banned the country's mobile providers from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after the end of this year.
The companies were also told they must remove all of the Chinese firm's 5G kit from their networks by 2027.
It follows sanctions imposed by the US government, which claims Huawei poses a national security threat - something the company denies.
As early as this week a court in Canada will open a hearing into what evidence should be made public in proceedings on whether to extradite Ms Meng to America.

Jun 23, 2020

News | China | Tech | Space | Satellites: China launches final satellite in GPS challenger

3minutes - Source: BBC



China launching the final satellite in its homegrown geolocation system designed to rival the US GPS network. Image copyright Getty Images
China has successfully put into orbit the final satellite in its BeiDou-3 navigation system, further advancing the country as a major power in space.
Tuesday's launch will allow China to no longer rely on the US government-owned Global Positioning System (GPS).
The $10bn (£8bn) network is made up of 35 satellites and provides global navigation coverage.
It comes as tensions between Beijing and Washington are increasing over the coronavirus, trade and Hong Kong.
The launch had been scheduled for last week but was delayed after technical problems were found with the rocket in pre-launch tests.
The third version of the Beidou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) offers an alternative to Russia's GLONASS and the European Galileo systems, as well as America's GPS.
Future plans promise to support a more accessible and integrated system scheduled to come online by 2035 with BDS at its core.
The first version of BeiDou, meaning "Big Dipper," was decommissioned in 2012.
China's space programme has developed rapidly over the last 20 years as Beijing has provided significant funding to develop the country's own high-tech systems.
In 2003, China became only the third country to launch its own crewed space mission. Since then it has built an experimental space station and sent two rovers to the moon.
The moves are seen as preparation for a permanent space station, a potential crewed flight to the moon, and a possible first attempt to send an orbiter and rover to Mars.
That would make China a serious contender to America in space exploration.

US-China strained relations

The relationship between Beijing and Washington has become increasingly strained over several issues since the start of this year.
US President Donald Trump and his administration have repeatedly criticised China over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak - the virus first emerged there in December.
In response to a new Hong Kong security law pushed by Beijing, the US president last month announced that he will end preferential treatment for the city in trade and travel.
This week the relationship between the US and China has come under increasing scrutiny after former National Security Adviser John Bolton said in his new book that Mr Trump sought help from Chinese President Xi Jinping to win re-election.

Jun 22, 2020

News | Business | Tech | China: China has a 15-year plan to shape the future of tech. But some call it hype

Arjun Kharpal

4-5 minutes - Source: CNBC



Chinese President Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping
Aris Messinis | Pool | Reuters

A major plan that will form part of China’s global technology push has been dubbed as hype and will face a number of challenges, a technology industry body told CNBC.
China Standards 2035 is an ambitious 15-year blueprint that Beijing is expected to release this year. It will lay out China’s plans to set the global standards for the next-generation of technologies.
Standards have been crucial for the development of technologies we use today such as 4G mobile networks or Wi-Fi. They are technical specifications that not only outline how technologies work but also interoperability. Standards are part of the reason why you can go abroad and still use mobile networks.
Typically, the development of standards have been dominated by U.S. and European companies and experts. But with China Standards 2035, Beijing is pushing domestic firms and experts to be part of the global effort to set standards for next-generation technologies.
“This is an ambition to set the rules for the future world, especially the technological rules as we enter into a new technological era. China Standards 2035 is the industrial plan that operationalizes this strategy,” Emily de La Bruyere, co-founder of consultancy Horizon Advisory, told CNBC’s “Beyond The Valley” podcast.
And what would be the significance of that?
“The short answer is we have a world operating according to Chinese rules and those rules hold in both the virtual and real domains,” Bruyere explained. “What that means is China has this inherent industrial competitive advantage. It also has an inherent information advantage, which both mean Beijing is able to collect better information on the world with security and with commercial implications, but also that it’s able to shape that information.”
China’s State Council did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by CNBC. 

‘Game day pep talk’

But China’s attempts will face challenges and the big plan may not be all that it is being hyped up to be, according to Naomi Wilson, senior director of policy for Asia at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). The U.S.-based industry body counts major technology firms among its members.
Wilson said that China has released a number of strategic plans over the years and this is the latest one targeted at domestic companies and experts.
“The intended audience is the Chinese populus, in this case Chinese companies and Chinese technical experts. So it’s really meant to be a little bit more effusive and kind of have the tone of almost like a game day pep talk,” Wilson told CNBC’s “Beyond The Valley” podcast.
“China will likely play an increasingly important role as their companies develop. The standards process and standards development doesn’t operate in a vacuum and it’s not the be all end all of technological competitiveness either. It’s one stage in the process. It’s an important stage, but it’s not an opportunity to sort of carte blanche rewrite the rules for technology’s future.”
Standards are set by industry bodies. Usually, many companies and experts in a field come together to come up with what those look like. They offer suggestions and then over the years those are refined to formulate a final set of rules around a particular technology. Wilson argued that this process means that it would be tough for China to come in and dominate the process.
“These fora are rules-based, consensus-based, industry-driven fora, that really have these ... long-established procedures in place to prevent that type of undue influence,” she said.
“And they (Chinese firms and experts) can propose any number of contributions that they like as other companies do, and the process really is intended to weed out the bad or the insufficient contributions in favor of the contributions that are the most appropriate for the current technology and for the consumer needs.”

Apr 30, 2020

Companings Earnings: Twitter reports strong first-quarter results, despite expected downturn from coronavirus

Lauren Feiner




GP: Twitter CEO Dorsey And Facebook COO Sandberg Testify Before Senate Intelligence Committee 1
Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chief executive officer of Twitter Inc., listens during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Twitter reported first-quarter 2020 earnings Thursday that beat estimates despite an expected hit to its ads business due to the coronavirus pandemic. The stock was up more than 11% during premarket trading.
Here’s what Twitter reported:
  • Earnings per share (EPS): 11 cents
  • Revenue: $808 million
  • Monetizable daily active users (mDAUs): 166 million
Wall Street had been anticipating earnings per share of 10 cents on revenue of $776 million, based on Refinitiv consensus estimates. Monetizable daily active users (mDAUs) was expected to come in at 164 million, based on StreetAccount estimates. However, it’s difficult to compare reported earnings to analyst estimates for Twitter’s first quarter, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit global economies and makes earnings impact difficult to assess.
Twitter did not provide guidance for the second quarter and is still suspending full year guidance, but it noted that its plans to build a new data center will likely be delayed, impacting capex spend in the 2020 fiscal year. It still expects stock-based compensation to grow sequentially in the second quarter by at least 25%.
The company pulled its guidance for the current quarter at the end of March, blaming the coronavirus for a slowdown in advertising revenue that made it hard to pin down its results.
The company said its mDAU growth represented the strongest ever year-over-year at 24%. It saw double digit growth in its top 10 markets, according to the shareholder letter. By the end of March, Twitter said, “The absolute number of mDAUs stabilized ... as many people around the world settled into new routines.”
Twitter said in the letter that its revenue growth of 3% was due to “a strong start to the quarter that was impacted by widespread economic disruption related to COVID-19 in March.”
Total advertising revenue was $682 million, up about $3 million compared to last year. But the company said its ad revenue should be viewed as two distinct periods, with January through the beginning of March performing as expected and the end of March taking a hit.
“As an indication of the rapid change in advertising behavior, from March 11 (when many events around the world began to be canceled and we made working from home mandatory for nearly all our employees globally) until March 31, our total advertising revenue declined approximately 27% year over year,” the company wrote in its shareholder letter. “The downturn we saw in March was particularly pronounced in the US, and advertising weakness in Asia began to subside as work and travel restrictions were gradually lifted.”
To weather the pandemic, Twitter is shifting resources to focus on revenue products including its Mobile App Promotion (MAP) product. It’s also lowering hiring and non-labor expense plans while continuing to invest in engineering, product and trust and safety.
Prior to the pandemic, Jack Dorsey’s role as CEO was challenged by activist investment firm Elliott Management. The firm wanted Dorsey removed in part because of his split responsibility as chief executive of both Twitter and Square and his previous plans to move to Africa for several months. As the coronavirus spread throughout the world, Dorsey said he was reconsidering the move to Africa and Twitter struck a deal with Elliott and Silver Lake, leaving Dorsey in place for the time being.
Analysts at Bernstein said earlier this month that the involvement of Elliott and Silver Lake will help catalyze innovation at Twitter, especially in ad products. The deal included a $1 billion investment in the company by Silver Lake.
But in the near term, the analysts said, Twitter, like other digital ad platforms, will likely suffer from lower ad revenue even as engagement climbs since many brands are wary of advertising on coronavirus-related content.

Apr 28, 2020

UK News | UK Media: Virgin Media goes offline for thousands

2minutes - Source: BBC



A Virgin Media technician works on the cabling in a roadside cabinet Image copyright Getty Images
Virgin Media, one of the UK's largest broadband providers, has gone offline for thousands of users.
Intermittent outages began just after 17:00 BST on Monday, coinciding with the government daily coronavirus press briefing.
The Downdetector service recorded more than 30,000 reports - some said service resumed quickly but others reported ongoing issues hours later.
Virgin said the problem was fixed as of Tuesday morning.
A Virgin Media spokesman told the BBC on Tuesday the issue "saw broadband drop for a minute or so every hour or two and then restore".
"We identified the problem and it's now fixed as of earlier this morning. This wasn't a constant loss of service, it was intermittent," he added.
Some users had reported brief outages continuing into the early hours, causing problems for services - such as customer service chats and online video games - which require a persistent connection.
Virgin Media's website had estimated problems would not be fixed until Tuesday morning for some UK postcodes.
Downdetector indicates that other UK broadband providers - including Sky, BT, TalkTalk and Vodafone - experienced problems for a brief time shortly after midnight, but it is not known whether this was related to Virgin's problem.

Apr 27, 2020

Technology: Microsoft Teams fixes funny Gifs cyber-attack flaw

3-4 minutes - Source: BBC



A man laughs at something on his phone while working from home in this photo Image copyright Getty Images
A security problem in Microsoft Teams meant cyber-attacks could be initiated via funny Gif images, researchers have revealed.
Like many chat apps, Teams lets colleagues send each other whimsical animated Gif images.
But CyberArk researchers discovered a problem that meant viewing a Gif could let hackers compromise an account and steal data.
Microsoft has since patched the security hole, researchers said.
The flaw involved a compromised subdomain serving up the malicious images.
All a user had to do was view the Gif to allow an attacker to scrape data from their account.
If left open, the flaw could have led to widespread data theft, ransomware attacks and corporate espionage, the team added.
Microsoft Teams, like many workplace collaboration tools, has seen huge growth in the past month, due to coronavirus lockdown rules.
This attack involves using a compromised subdomain to steal security tokens when a user loads an image - but the end user would just see the Gif sent to them, and nothing else.
"They will never know that he or she has been attacked - making this vulnerability... very dangerous," the team said.
CyberArk said it notified Microsoft of the vulnerability on 23 March - the day lockdown began in the UK - and a patch was released earlier this week. There is no evidence it was ever exploited by cyber-criminals.
It also warned that a similar attack could be replicated in future on other platforms.
Prof Alan Woodward, from the University of Surrey, said this type of exploit had been seen before, when applications fail to do the necessary checks while bringing in content from servers - in this case "apparently harmless gifs".
While the attack pattern is not easy to set up, it is a workable attack and "could spread very rapidly between all the users", he said.
"It would be a very niche attack, probably reserved for high-value targets.
"It is a really good demonstration of how data, however apparently innocuous, brought into a web based app can be used to sneak snippets of code onto your machine and conduct functions you simply shouldn't be authorised to do," added Prof Woodward.
"It also demonstrates very nicely so-called zero-click attacks - my merely displaying the gif in this attack could potentially work, no clicking in dodgy links or opening booby-trapped documents."
But Prof Woodward added that all software was bound to have security flaws occasionally.
"It's a salutary tale of why you need to keep your software updated," he said

Apr 13, 2020

Tech: Meg Whitman says Quibi reached 1.7 million downloads in first week

Lauren Feiner




RT: Meg Whitman, Quibi CES 200108
Quibi CEO Meg Whitman speaks during a Quibi keynote address at the 2020 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 8, 2020.
Steve Marcus | Reuters

New mobile streaming service Quibi saw 1.7 million downloads in its first week, CEO Meg Whitman said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Monday.
The service launched in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic last Monday, calling into question whether consumers would adopt the mobile streaming platform while cooped up at home with full-screen TVs. Quibi, which stands for “quick bites,” was initially envisioned as an app users would pull up to watch something while out and about, like waiting in line for coffee or commuting, experiences few consumers are having these days.
“It turns out people have in-between moments at home,” Whitman said. “We don’t actually think it hurt us.”
But Whitman said the first week downloads surpassed expectations while sign-ups are still within a 90-day free trial period. In an early sign of engagement, Whitman said 80% of people who have started a show watch it through the first episode.
Still, the adoption is small relative to launches like Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, which announced the day after its launch that it had more than 10 million subscribers. Unlike Disney, Quibi’s brand is new and relatively unknown, meaning it’s relied on advertising and celebrities in its shows to make a name for itself.
With so many potential customers for Quibi working from home as stay at home orders sweep the U.S., Whitman said the company is accelerating its plans to enable the app to cast to TVs. While the feature wasn’t planned to be part of the launch, Whitman said it was always in the cards for later on.
Quibi has sold out its advertising slate for the first year, Whitman said, pushing off anxiety other companies may be feeling about advertising prospects in the midst of an economic downturn.
After a 90-day trial, users who want to stick with Quibi can pay $4.99 per month for the ad-supported version or $7.99 per month for no ads. Even with tightening wallets, Whitman said she believes there is a unique place for Quibi alongside TV-based streaming subscriptions consumers already own.
“They’re three different use cases,” she said, referring to TV streaming services, music services and Quibi.
WATCH: Video game streaming is surging as millions are cooped up inside their homes

Apr 8, 2020

Tech News: Singapore's law minister says that to counter fake news, more information must be given

Saheli Roy Choudhury





Governments can tackle fake news during the coronavirus crisis by communicating regularly and promptly correcting misinformation, Singapore’s home affairs minister said.
Security experts have warned that disinformation campaigns about COVID-19 are on the rise over the internet, as people’s fears and ignorance are being exploited.
Singapore is not immune. The government has been fighting fake news: from misinformation about its leaders contracting the coronavirus, to false reports of virus-related deaths and scammers trying to impersonate health officials to extract people’s personal and financial details.
“We are not the only place where fake information is circulating, but I would say there is far less here,” K. Shanmugam, who is also Singapore’s law minister, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.
“You know the Singapore approach: We put out the clarification, we require the platform to carry what the true facts are and we saw a substantial reduction in the amount of fake news circulating,” Shanmugam said, adding that the presence of fake news is part and parcel of modern life. “You just have to accept it.”
Singapore passed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill in October last year, which dictates websites have to run government “correction notices” alongside content it deems false. Under the law, the government will also be able to issue so-called “take down” orders that require the removal of content posted by social media companies, news organizations or individuals.
The Singapore skyline.
Everett Rosenfeld | CNBC
“Regular communication, I think, is one way of fighting this fake news,” Shanmugam said. “Second, when there is fake news that you can identify, point it out and make sure that people get to know that this is fake news. Do your best.”
For its part, Singapore’s health ministry puts out a daily report on its website detailing newly reported cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and the status of existing patients over a 24-hour period. That information from the government is also disseminated via WhatsApp for people who’ve signed up to receive them.

Singapore’s fake news law

Shanmugam explained that when the fake news bill was being debated, tackling misinformation during a public health crisis was one of the scenarios being considered. He said in current times, fake news has been “industrialized” to sow confusion among the public and undermine society, through using modern means of communication. But the answer to countering fake news is not censorship, rather it’s to give more information, according to the law minister.
Our point is, for those who believe in free speech, well this is more speech. You read the fake stuff, you read the true stuff, or what we say is the true stuff, and you make up your mind.
K. Shanmugam
Singapore’s minister for home affairs
Critics of Singapore’s fake news law have said the rule could be used to clamp down on the opposition parties — a charge that ministers of the city-state have repeatedly denied. For his part, Shanmugam said critics are not acknowledging the fact that misinformation is not taken down by the original poster.
“It’s on that platform, but the person who put it out has got to carry a correction to say that this is being considered to be false, and for the true facts go to such and such a place,” he said. “Our point is, for those who believe in free speech, well this is more speech. You read the fake stuff, you read the true stuff, or what we say is the true stuff, and you make up your mind.”
In February, the government ordered Facebook to block access in Singapore to a blog page on its social networking platform, Reuters reported. Singapore reasoned that the page, called States Times Review, repeatedly conveyed falsehoods and did not comply with directions it was served under the fake news law, according to Reuters.
Facebook had said back then that orders like those were “disproportionate” and contradicted Singapore’s claim that the fake news law wouldn’t be used as a censorship tool, Reuters said.
Shanmugam said Facebook had been “behind the curve on fake news and has had to apologize a number of times.”
When contacted by CNBC about the minister’s remarks, a representative from the social media company declined to comment.

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