Facebook sues data analytics firm for harvesting users’ data – Latest News


Stung by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has filed a federal lawsuit in California court against New Jersey-based data analytics firm OneAudience for secretly harvesting its users’ data.

According to the lawsuit, OneAudience improperly accessed and collected user data from Facebook and other social media companies by paying App developers to install a malicious Software Development Kit (SDK) in their apps.

“After a user installed one of these apps on their device, the malicious SDK enabled OneAudience to collect information about the user from their device and their Facebook, Google, or Twitter accounts, in instances where the user logged into the app using those accounts,” read the lawsuit.

Security researchers first flagged OneAudience’s behaviour to Facebook as part of its data abuse bounty programme.

Facebook, and other affected companies, then took enforcement measures against OneAudience.

“Facebook’s measures included disabling apps, sending the company a cease and desist letter, and requesting their participation in an audit, as required by our policies. OneAudience declined to cooperate,” said Jessica Romero, Director of Platform Enforcement and Litigation.

“This is the latest in our efforts to protect people and increase accountability of those who abuse the technology industry and users,” she added.

In November last year, Facebook and Twitter admitted that data of hundreds of users was improperly accessed by some third-party apps on Google Play Store as they logged into those apps.

Security researchers discovered that the One Audience and Mobiburn software development kits (SDK) provided access to users’ data, including email addresses, usernames, and recent tweets, on both the platforms.

Twitter and Facebook said they will notify those whose information was likely shared through apps.

Facebook has sued several third-party platforms in the recent past for scrapping users’ data, including Israeli surveillance vendor NSO Group that sells malicious software Pegasus to government agencies.

“Through these lawsuits, we will continue sending a message to people trying to abuse our services that Facebook is serious about enforcing our policies, including requiring developers to cooperate with us during an investigation, and advance the state of the law when it comes to data misuse and privacy,” said the company.





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Google to invest over $10 billion in 2020 on US data centers, offices – Latest News


Alphabet Inc’s Google has said that it would invest more than $10 billion in offices and data centers across the United States this year.

The company added that the new investments will focus on 11 states including Massachusetts, New York and Ohio.

“These investments will create thousands of jobs – including roles within Google, construction jobs in data centers and renewable energy facilities, and opportunities in local businesses in surrounding towns and communities,” Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said in a blog post.

Last year, the company said it would spend over $13 billion on data centers and offices in the United States in 2019.

The tech giant’s total costs and expenses surged about 19% at $36.81 billion for the recently reported fourth quarter ended Dec. 31.





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Amazon: No checkout needed: Amazon opens cashier-less grocery store – Latest News


The online retailing giant is opening its first cashier-less supermarket, where shoppers can grab milk or eggs and walk out without waiting in line or ever opening their wallets. It’s the latest sign that Amazon is serious about shaking up the $800 billion grocery industry.

At the new store, which opened Tuesday in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle, shoppers scan a smartphone app to enter the store. Cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves. Items are charged to an Amazon account after leaving.

“I love the convenience of literally grabbing and going” said Art Kuniyuki, a payroll and benefits manager from Seattle, who spent $15 on Barilla pasta, Dove chocolate and other groceries shortly after the store opened.

Called Amazon Go Grocery, the new store is an expansion of its 2-year-old chain of 25 Amazon Go convenience stores. It’s 10,400 square feet – more than five times the size of the convenience stores – and stocks much more beyond the sodas and sandwiches found at Amazon Go.

Cameron Janes, who helps oversee Amazon’s physical stores, said the technology had to be tweaked to account for how people squeeze tomatoes to test for ripeness or rummage through avocados to find just the right one. Nothing at the store is weighed. One blood orange goes for 53 cents; a banana is 19 cents.

Amazon is not new to groceries. It made a splash in 2017 when it bought Whole Foods and its 500 stores. It’s also been expanding its online grocery delivery service. But it’s still far behind rival Walmart, the nation’s largest grocer, which has more than 4,700 stores. Walmart’s online grocery service has also been popular with customers, who buy online and then drive to a store to pick up their order.

Amazon also plans to open another type of grocery store in Los Angeles sometime this year, but the company said it won’t use the cashier-less technology at that location and has kept other details under wraps. The company declined to say if it plans to open more Amazon Go Grocery stores, and said there are no plans to bring the technology to Whole Foods stores.

Much of the fruits and vegetables come from the same suppliers at Whole Foods, Janes said. And it has products from the Whole Foods store brand 365, such as organic oatmeal and bagged baby carrots. But it also sells Oreos, Cheez-Its and other stuff banned from the natural grocer.

Families can shop together with just one phone scanning everyone in. Anything they grab and leave the store with will be added to the tab of the person who signed them in. But shoppers shouldn’t help out a stranger reaching for the top shelf: Amazon warns that grabbing an item for someone else means you’ll be charged for it if they walk out with it.

Hoping to catch up to Amazon, other retailers and startups are racing to bring similar cashier-less technology to stores. Earlier this month, 7-Eleven said it is testing a cashier-less store for employees inside its offices in Irving, Texas.

But cashier-less stores have come under scrutiny from lawmakers and advocates who say they discriminate against low-income people who may not have a credit card or bank account. Amazon has since let customers pay with cash at its convenience stores, and the company said shoppers can do the same at the grocery store by alerting a worker to let them in through the turnstile.

The stores also eliminates the job of cashiers. Janes declined to say exactly how many people the store employs, only saying it is “several dozen.” Workers greet customers and walk around aisles restocking shelves. One employee stands by the alcohol section to check IDs of shoppers who want wine or beer.

While cashier-less stores remove the annoyance of waiting in line to pay, it also kills some joys of the supermarket. There’s no one to bag groceries. Instead, Amazon gives out reusable bags so shoppers can fill them as they shop. And there’s no deli counter, butcher or fishmonger. Instead, sliced ham, steaks and salmon fillets are already packaged and found in refrigerated shelves.

“Just walk out technology is kind of cool, in theory,” said David Bishop, a partner at retail consultancy Brick Meets Click, but he said shoppers decide where to shop based on other factors besides how quickly they can get in and out of the store.

Bishop said those who want thinly sliced ham may skip Amazon Go Grocery and walk two blocks away to the Kroger-owned QFC supermarket, which is about five times the size.

Still, Bishop said, it’s hard for the grocery industry to ignore Amazon, which has the cash and technology to experiment with groceries. “They’re not giving up,” he said of Amazon.





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US still eyeing ways to curb sales to Huawei after Donald Trump’s chipmaker comments: Sources – Latest News


U.S. government officials are still considering ways to further curb sales to China’s Huawei Technologies, despite President Donald Trump’s tweets and comments last week in support of sales to China, according to people familiar with the matter.

An interagency meeting was held last week to discuss national security and China export issues, including proposals to restrict sales of chips to Huawei and a plan to block the sale of jet engines for China’s new passenger airplane.

But, while blocking General Electric Co from supplying the jet engines appeared to be off the table after Trump opposed efforts to stop their sale, sources now tell Reuters new restrictions aimed at limiting Huawei’s presence in the global telecommunications market were still in discussion.

The President told reporters last week that U.S. chipmakers should be able to sell to other countries, but he was not clear on how to handle Huawei, the world’s second-largest smartphone maker.





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Telecom crisis: This US company may have to shut India operations – Latest News


US satellite broadband provider Hughes Network Systems may have to shut its Indian operations due to unpaid levies owed to the government, which could put thousands of banking services at risk, a company letter seen by Reuters showed.

The Supreme Court late last year ordered a number of telecom companies, including Hughes and larger firms like Vodafone, to pay billions of dollars owed to the government.

Hughes’ India unit provides services to defence, education and banking sectors in the country and told the telecom ministry in a letter dated February 20 that it faces bankruptcy as it can’t pay the Rs 600 crore ($84 million) it owes.

The closure of the company could disrupt connectivity at more than 70,000 banking locations and many critical satellite networks in the Indian navy, army and railways, Hughes’ India President Partho Banerjee said in the letter, which was seen by Reuters.

“We are facing a huge demand … which by no means is serviceable by us and is in fact pushing our company towards bankruptcy & closure,” Banerjee wrote in the letter.

“This is an SOS request,” he added. The company says the government’s telecoms department had made an incorrect calculation of the dues more than a decade ago which has ballooned to $84 million with interest and penalties.

Hughes, when approached by Reuters for comment, would not comment on the substance of the letter but said in a statement it “remains committed to India” and would continue to provide services to its customers.

India’s telecoms ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Vodafone Idea, which owes $3.9 billion in dues, interest and penalties, has already warned of a potential exit, putting at risk 13,000 employees and billions of dollars in bank loans.

India’s claim for unpaid dues followed a dispute with companies over how adjusted gross revenue, a percentage of which companies need to pay to the government as fee, was calculated.

While the $84 million Hughes owes is significantly smaller than the sums owed by larger peers, a company document from December showed it was still more than three times its net worth in India.

“This, if not resolved, will make the operation unviable thus rendering many customers like banks, other enterprises and critical government networks without any connectivity,” the company said in a separate December letter to the government.

Hughes, which is part of U.S.-based satellite group Echostar Corp, said in December 2018 it had been chosen to provide high-performance satellite broadband system for India’s naval communications network.

The company also provides communication services to more than 30 public and private banks in India, according to its website.





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Apple CEO’s stalker named Rakesh Sharma, WhatsApp fixes Google ‘problem’, Samsung’s new phone and more


It seems that the app now is taking things in control and rolling out a Family Safety Mode for the parents to “keep their teens safe on TikTok.” Using the Family Safety Mode, parents will be able to link their TikTok account to their child’s TikTok account. When the feature is enabled, parents will be able to control “Digital Wellbeing” features, which includes three things — screen time management, direct messages and restricted mode. To know more, click here





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Flipkart: After Amazon, Flipkart challenges CCI probe – Latest News


NEW DELHI: Walmart’s Flipkart has filed a legal challenge against an antitrust investigation ordered against the company in India, a court filing seen by Reuters showed, following a similar petition by its rival Amazon.com Inc.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) in January ordered a probe into alleged violations of competition law and certain discounting practices by the two e-commerce giants, but a state court put the investigation on hold last week following a challenge by Amazon. Flipkart’s legal filing was aimed at signalling the company is aggrieved by the CCI’s probe order, a person familiar with the matter said.

The filing comes days ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to India, and amid U.S. concerns about India’s tightening of foreign investment rules for the ecommerce sector. In its Feb. 18 court filing in southern Bengaluru city, which is not public, Flipkart argues the CCI ordered its probe without initial evidence that the company’s practices were harming competition.

Flipkart said the CCI order was “perverse (and) passed without any application of mind”. “Such an order exposes responsible corporate entities … to the rigors of an intrusive investigation prejudicially affecting not only its credibility and reputation, but also its commercial prospects,” said Flipkart, urging the court to quash the probe.

A spokesman for Flipkart did not comment on the contents of the filing, saying it was a “procedural matter”. The case is likely to be heard next week. The CCI did not respond to a request for comment.

Amazon and Flipkart have faced criticism from Indian retailers which accuse them of violating local laws by racking up billions of dollars of losses to fund deep discounts and discriminating against small sellers. The companies deny the allegations.

The antitrust probe was ordered after a New Delhi-based trader group complained that the e-commerce giants were promoting select sellers and in turn hurting business for other smaller players.

Flipkart in its filing said the CCI had “failed in its duty” to close the frivolous complaint and an investigation would harm the company’s reputation, lead to significant managerial time loss and legal costs.





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Women cannot look sexy on Facebook in this country – Social News


A crackdown in Cambodia on women who wear provocative clothing while selling goods via Facebook live streams was slammed by women’s rights groups on Wednesday as dangerous and baseless.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said low cut tops were an affront to Cambodian culture and ordered authorities to track down Facebook vendors who wear them to sell items like clothes and beauty products – a popular trend in the conservative country.

“Go to their places and order them to stop live-streaming until they change to proper clothes,” the prime minister told the government’s Cambodian National Council for Women on Monday.

“This is a violation of our culture and tradition,” he said, adding that such behaviour contributed to sexual abuse and violence against women.

While Cambodia’s young population is increasingly educated, many expect women to be submissive and quiet, a legacy of Chbap Srey, an oppressive code of conduct for women in the form of a poem that was on primary school curricula until 2007.

The national police posted a video to Facebook on Wednesday, in which a Cambodian woman makes a public apology for sullying the “tradition and honour of Cambodian women” by wearing “extremely short and sexy clothes” in her online sales pitches.

Facebook was not immediately available to comment.

Interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak confirmed on Wednesday that authorities were “taking action” in line with the prime minister’s orders. He referred further questions to a police spokesman who could not be reached immediately.

Amnesty International regional director Nicholas Bequelin said the prime minister’s comments were a “dangerous instance of victim blaming”.

“This rhetoric only serves to perpetuate violence against women and stigmatise survivors of gender-based violence,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

One in five Cambodian men said they had raped a woman in a 2013 United Nations survey.

Ros Sopheap, head of the charity Gender and Development for Cambodia, said the government should look at the reasons why women sell goods online instead of dictating what they wear.

“They always talk about culture, culture, culture,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “What about jobs? What about education? These things are broken in Cambodia. And what about people’s right to make a living?”

Seven Cambodian women’s rights groups pointed out that the women vendors had breached no law.

“There is no evidence-based research that affirms that women’s clothing choice is the root cause of degradation of social morality,” they said in an open letter.





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Facebook faces tax court trial over Ireland offshore deal – Latest News


Facebook Inc is slated to begin a tax trial in a San Francisco court, as the Internal Revenue Service tries to convince a judge the world’s largest social media company owes more than $9 billion linked to its decision to shift profits to Ireland.

The trial, which Facebook expects will take three to four weeks, could see top executives including hardware chief Andrew Bosworth and Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer called to testify, according to a document the company filed in January.

The witness list also includes Naomi Gleit and Javier Olivan, veterans of Facebook’s aggressive growth team, and Chief Revenue Officer David Fischer.

The IRS argues that Facebook understated the value of the intellectual property it sold to an Irish subsidiary in 2010 while building out global operations, a move common among U.S. multinationals. Ireland has lower corporate tax rates than the United States, so the move reduced the company’s tax bill.

Under the arrangement, Facebook’s subsidiaries pay royalties to the U.S.-based parent for access to its trademark, users and platform technologies. From 2010 to 2016, Facebook Ireland paid Facebook U.S. more than $14 billion in royalties and cost-sharing payments, according to the court filing.

The company said the low valuation reflected the risks associated with Facebook’s international expansion, which took place in 2010 before its IPO and the development of its most lucrative digital advertising products.

“Facebook Ireland and Facebook’s other foreign affiliates – not Facebook US – led the high-risk, and ultimately successful, international effort to sell Facebook ads,” the company said in a pre-trial memorandum.

Facebook is the world’s second-biggest seller of online ads after Alphabet Inc’s Google. Monthly users of its core social network climbed 8% to 2.5 billion in the fourth quarter, while 2.9 billion people used one of its apps – Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram or Messenger – each month.

Bertie Thomson, a Facebook spokeswoman, said the company stood by the decisions in 2010 when it “had no mobile advertising revenue, its international business was nascent and its digital advertising products were unproven.”

If the IRS prevails, Facebook would face an additional federal tax liability of up to $9 billion, plus interest and any penalties, the company estimated in a recent securities filing.





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