Category: Business

Danish watchdog growls at Alphabet

A Danish consumer watchdog has reported Alphabet to the Danish Data Protection Agency for potentially breaking privacy laws.

What has got the Danes’ goat is that Alphabet was not capping the amount of time personal data is stored on Google’s servers.

Google and Facebook face increased scrutiny over how and where they store location and search history data from users of smartphones and mail accounts.

“The consumer council Taenk would like the Data Protection Agency to assess whether Google’s indefinite data collection complies with consumer’s basic right to privacy,” the watchdog snarled.

Google apparently has nearly a decade of data on users with a Google account,  the report claims.

Tech needs open data barks watchdog

Canada’s top securities watchdog  has barked that open access to data is essential to developing financial tech solutions using innovative technology such as blockchain.

The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) paper was the product of a “hackathon” it hosted in November aimed at finding new financial technology solutions to old problems such as regulatory processes, identity authentication, and transparency.

Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, underpinned most solutions proposed at the hackathon, according to the paper. Blockchain is a tamper-proof, decentralised database.

Pat Chaukos, chief of OSC LaunchPad, a regulatory “sandbox” created last fall as part of its efforts to modernize and support innovation said that Blockchain has the potential to create solutions for problems in an open and scalable way,

But it needs open-access data before you can get to the innovation.

The European Union is ahead on this sort of thing. Its Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2), for example, set to come into effect in early 2018, will allow a third party to access banking data with the customer’s permission.

“We’re going to support the facility of access to data. … It is very much a live discussion for all regulators, and I would actually even say for government,” said Chaukos.

Requiring financial institutions to make core information about a client available to other parties could potentially make signing up for financial services simpler, for example.

Open data would eliminate duplication and streamline manual regulatory processes, including how information is verified, collected and analysed, the paper said, improving auditing, and oversight, and making compliance checks faster.

The move would also increase competition and offers tangible benefits for investors, Chaukos added.

Streaming content is not piracy

Derbyshire Trading Standards has said that if users only stream and don’t download, they’re likely to be exempt from copyright law and can’t be considered pirates.

So far no one has been prosecuted for merely streaming content, mostly because it is hard to track, but the Standards body has suggested that while those selling streaming services are probably breaking the law, their customers are not.

Derbyshire Council Trading Standards said that Kodi was a legitimate piece of software and the developers do not support its use for illegal purposes.

“Derbyshire County Council trading standards officers believe it is illegal under copyright legislation to sell Kodi boxes installed with those add-ons that facilitate the illegal streaming of copyrighted material – although there are court cases pending elsewhere in the UK that will provide further clarification.”

“Accessing premium paid-for content without a subscription is considered by the industry as unlawful access, although streaming something online, rather than downloading a file, is likely to be exempt from copyright laws,” the spokesperson added.

FBI allow a “paedophile” to go free

The Untouchables do not want to be touched by a court demands that it explain how its Tor hack works.

The court wanted to know how the FBI located a child porn suspect, and federal prosecutors responded by dropping all charges against a man accused of accessing Playpen, a notorious and now-shuttered website.

The case is one of nearly 200 cases nationwide that have raised new questions about the appropriate limitations on the government’s ability to hack criminal suspects. Michaud marks just the second time that prosecutors have asked that case be dismissed.

Annette Hayes, a federal prosecutor, wrote in a court filing that the government had to choose between disclosure of classified information and dismissal of its indictment.

“Disclosure is not currently an option. Dismissal without prejudice leaves open the possibility that the government could bring new charges should there comes a time within the statute of limitations when and the government be able to provide the requested discovery.”

The Department of Justice is currently prosecuting over 135 people nationwide whom they believe accessed the illegal website.

To find those them, federal authorities seized and operated the site for 13 days before closing it down. During that period, the FBI deployed a Tor exploit that allowed them to find out those users’ real IP addresses.

The DOJ has called this exploit a “network investigative technique,” (NIT) while many security experts have dubbed it as “malware.” Defense attorneys want the NIT’s source code as part of the criminal discovery process.

Last year, US District Judge Robert Bryan ordered the government to hand over the NIT’s source code in Michaud. Since that May 2016 order, the government has classified the source code itself, thwarting efforts for criminal discovery in more than 100 Playpen-related cases that remain pending.

On the plus side many of the Playpen defendants have pleaded guilty, and only a few have had charges dropped altogether.

Uber might be forced to test drivers’ English

Uber lost a court battle to stop a London regulator from imposing strict new English reading and writing standards on private hire drivers.

The move could mean the loss of thousands of workers.

The company took legal action in August after public body Transport for London (TfL) said that drivers should have to prove their ability to communicate in English, including to a standard of reading and writing which Uber said was too high.

Judge John Mitting said the TfL was entitled to require private hire drivers to demonstrate English language compliance.

Uber had cited Tfl data that the language rules could mean about 33,000 private hire drivers out of a total of 110,000 operating in London would fail to renew their licenses over the next few years.

TfL’s new rules were partly a response to protests from drivers of London’s famous black cabs, who are concerned that Uber’s over 30,000 drivers are undermining their business model by not meeting the same standards.

Uber’s General Manager in London Tom Elvidge said in a statement said that writing an essay has nothing to do with communicating with passengers or getting them safely from A to B.

“We intend to appeal this unfair and disproportionate new rule.”

Uber did manage to overturn two other TfL proposals for drivers to have permanent private hire insurance and that it should operate a 24/7 call centre.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed the court’s decision and said he was focused on better regulating the sector.
“From my first day at City Hall I have been determined to drive up standards and improve safety for every taxi and private hire passenger traveling in London,” he said.

ZTE cuts a deal with US prosecutors over Iran

ZTE is close to cutting a deal with US prosecutors over its Iran dealings.

Apparently ZTE will plead guilty to US criminal charges and pay hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties over allegations it violated US laws that restrict sale of US technology to Iran. We guess the upside of the deal is that the US will not shut the company down and prevent it using US tech in its products,

The company has not yet signed a deal with the US Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Justice and the US Department of Treasury, but it is pretty likely. ZTE really wants the incident to go away.

The only thing that can really go wrong is if Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump takes an interest. Trump is very much against Iran because his chum Bibi Netanyahu wants a world war against the country.  Trump also does not like Chinese companies coming into the US either so might take the opportunity to scuttle any deal.

ZTE is expected to plead guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, among other charges, the source said, and pay penalties in the hundreds of millions.

The Commerce Department investigation followed reports by Reuters in 2012 that the company had signed contracts to ship millions of dollars worth of hardware and software from some of America’s best-known technology companies to Iran’s largest telecoms carrier.

Jim Mackey leaves Blackberry

Blackberry head of corporate development and strategy,Jim Mackey has quietly cleaned out his desk and snuck out of the building without anyone noticing.

Mackey left the company in the middle of February and it appears that no-one has thought to alert the media. The move does dump Blackberry in it somewhat as it lacks leadership as it tried to move from smartphone hardware to software.

Mackey, who was executive vice president, executive operations, made his own announcement on social notworking site Linkedin. He did not give a reason and became unavailable for comment.

Blackberry, which in late 2013 issued a press release on the hiring of Mackey, did not announce his exit. Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard refused to answer any questions either.

Mackey worked directly with Blackberry Chief Executive John Chen, navigating the purchase and integration of a string of acquisitions and the signing of major partnership agreements.

Beard said in the interview that the company had largely completed its software portfolio and needed to push hard to win more customers, including by adding partners.

“The biggest issue we have is not getting invited to the table because the customer doesn’t know that BlackBerry is doing that. That’s the challenge.”

Grab popcorn for South Korea’s trial of the century

Samsung Group supreme dalek Jay Y. Lee will go on trial for bribery and embezzlement next week a court ruled in what will be the latest episode in a corruption scandal that has rocked South Korea and led to the impeachment of the president.

Lee, the 48 year old third generation leader of the country’s top conglomerate, was indicted on Tuesday on charges including pledging $37.24 million in payments to a confidant of President Park Geun-hye.

The trial is important on many levels. If Lee is found guilty there will be a question as to whether he will get away with it because he is the head of a very large corporation.

South Korea is rather soft on corporate leaders who can more or less do what they like. The country is not that happy about jailing people who are believed to be good for the economy.

Lee has been charged with bribery and embezzlement in a case that has dealt a blow to the standard bearer for Asia’s fourth largest economy.

Among the charges against Lee are pledging bribes to a company and organisations tied to Park’s confidant, Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the centre of the scandal, to cement his control of the business empire.

The funding also included Samsung’s sponsorship of the equestrian career of Choi’s daughter, prosecutors say. So it looked like Samsung literally backed the wrong horse.

Legislation appointing the special prosecutor states that the trial should be finished in three months.

President Parl was the daughter of a former military strongman, and has had her powers suspended since her impeachment by parliament in December.

Appeals court backs Apple against Texas troll

US court in deep in the heart of Texas

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided to save the fruity tax-dodging cargo cult from the clutches of a patent troll.

The court decided to throw out the verdict of a two-year old legal case against Apple based on data storage patents.

The original verdict reached by a Texas jury stuck Apple with $533 million in damages.  It had been hoping for a hanging but settled for the next best thing.

Smartflash mostly targeted game developers who largely all settled out of court in 2014, but Apple defended its use of data storage management and payment processing technology in court.

The trial judge vacated the large damages award a few months after a Texas federal jury imposed it in February 2015, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said on Wednesday the judge should have ruled Smartflash’s patents invalid and set aside the verdict entirely.

A unanimous three-judge appeals panel said Smartflash’s patents were too “abstract” and did not go far enough in describing an actual invention to warrant protection.

It is unlikely that Smartflash will rise again to hit other companies.


IBM owns out of hours emails

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is furious that IBM has managed to score a patent on out of hours emails.

The EFF said it is bringing light to what it calls a “stupefyingly mundane” patent on e-mail technology which turns Biggish Blue into a spectacular troll.

For years IBM lawyers has argued with the US Patent and Trademark Office over a bizarre and alarming alternative history, in which IBM invented out of office e-mail—in 2010.

US Patent No. 9,547,842, “Out-of-office electronic mail messaging system” was filed in 2010 and granted about six weeks ago.

EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer described the case as the “Stupid Patent of the Month” blog post and cites a Microsoft publicity page that talks about quirky out of office e-mail culture dating back to the 1980s, when Microsoft marketed its Xenix e-mail system.

To be fair an IBM spokesperson said that “IBM has decided to dedicate the patent to the public”. The company notified USPTO today that it will forego its rights to the patent.

But the patent should never have been awarded.

IBM offers one feature that’s even arguably not decades old –  the ability to notify those writing to the out of office user some days before the set vacation dates begin.

It is a  feature, similar to “sending a postcard, not from a vacation, but to let someone know you will go on a vacation,” is a “trivial change to existing systems,” Nazer points out.

Nazer said that here were some major mistakes made during the examination process. The examiner never considered whether the software claims were eligible after the Supreme Court’s Alice v. CLS Bank decision, which came in 2014, and in Nazer’s view, the office “did an abysmal job” of looking at the prior art.

Nazer said the office “never considered any of the many, many, existing real-world systems that pre-dated IBM’s application”.

Needless to say, IBM is not one of those companies who likes the Alice judgement much.  It is lobbying Congress to roll back Alice and allow more types of software patents.

Rather than making trolls go away, it will mean that even more bizarre ones could get the nod by the Patent Office. After all IBM once applied to patent shorter meetings, it did not get anywhere with it, but it is the sort of thing it wants to be paid for.