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Skype and Facebook face tough data rules in EU

EU and country flags - Wikimedia CommonsMessaging services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp will face stricter rules on the way they handle customer data.

New privacy laws due are to be proposed by the European Union, which could give messaging services a few headaches.

The EU wants to extend some rules that now only apply to telecom operators to web companies offering calls and messages using the internet, known as “Over-The-Top” (OTT) services, according to the draft.

Under the move, messaging services must guarantee the confidentiality of communications and obtain users’ consent to process their location data, mirroring similar provisions included in a separate data protection law due which will operate in 2018.

Advertisers will also face strict rules on how they can target ads at web users based on their browsing history.

It will solve a few fairness problems in the online world. Telecoms companies have long complained that groups such as Alphabet Inc’s Google, Microsoft and Facebook are more lightly regulated, even though they offer similar services.

The phone companies want European Union rules specific to telecoms firms to either be repealed or extended to everyone. Obviously they want them repealed but if they can’t have that knowing that Google and Microsoft are suffering in the same way will make them feel better.

Lise Fuhr, director general of ETNO, the European telecoms operators association said that if Europe wants a Silicon Valley, it needs radical regulatory simplification. We won’t get new digital services unless we overhaul e-Privacy.

The draft proposals would prohibit the automatic processing of people’s data without their consent. Advertisers say such automatic processing is low risk as it involves data that can not identify the user.

Fines for breaking the new law will be steep at up to four percent of a company’s global turnover.

A Commission spokeswoman said the aim of the review was to adapt the rules to the data protection regulation which will come into force in 2018 and simplify the provisions for cookies.

Cookies are placed on web surfers’ computers and contain bits of information about the user, such as what other sites they have visited or where they are logging in from. They are widely used by companies to deliver targeted ads to users.

It would also remove the obligation on websites to ask visitors for permission to place cookies on their browsers via a banner if the user has already consented through the privacy settings of the web browser.

Ford signs Blackberry deal

classic car, wikimedia commonsIt appears that you can have any type of deal with Ford so long as it is a Blackberry.

The troubled phone maker is hoping to get its motor running again by signing a deal to work directly with Ford to expand the carmaker’s use of its QNX secure operating system.

The deal with Ford is the first BlackBerry has done directly with a major automaker, though it currently sells its technology to auto industry suppliers.

The company hopes to make its cash by expanding sales of software products, including to automakers and other manufacturers.  This happens only after it lost its smartphone business to all things Googlish.

Panasonic Automotive currently uses QNX software in the Sync 3 infotainment console that it supplies to Ford.

BlackBerry is hoping the new deal will expand use of BlackBerry’s software in Ford vehicles as the two companies identify other systems where it might be used.

BlackBerry said the cunning plan was to form the basis of the entire vehicle all the way from autonomous drive through to infotainment.

Ford is ramping up its driverless vehicle efforts and plans to offer a fully automated vehicle for commercial ride-sharing in 2021, it announced in August.

QNX’s software is certified for use in autonomous driving and active safety systems.

No-one is saying how QNX might be rolled out into new systems or talking about money.

A dedicated team of QNX engineers based in Ottawa and Waterloo will work with Ford to expand the carmaker’s use of the Neutrino industrial operating system, as well as an overarching program that can control other operating systems and related security technology, BlackBerry said.



UK troll hunter prepares her cells

TrollhunterMoviePosterThe UK’s Crown Prosecution service is gearing up to hunt trolls and is promising that many of them will end up in the slammer

New guidelines have been released by the Crown Prosecution Service to help coppers in England and Wales determine whether charges—under part 2, section 44 of the 2007 Serious Crime Act—should be brought against people who use social media to encourage others to harass

The CPS has been tweaking its guidelines on offensive behaviour on social media sites and the new rules include things like doxxing, where a person’s personal information such as bank details or home address are published online; violence against women and girls such as “baiting”—which labels someone as sexually promiscuous and can include the use of humiliating photoshopped images; and online harassment campaigns that encourage the use of derogatory hashtags.

Director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders said that while social notworking can educate, entertain, and enlighten it can also be used to bullly, intimidate, and harass.

“Ignorance is not a defence and perceived anonymity is not an escape. Those who commit these acts, or encourage others to do the same, can and will be prosecuted.”

Malicious comments posted on sites such as Facebook and Twitter are now routinely reported as causing offence by other users of social media. Prosecutions under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 outlaws messages that are “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing character.”

In 2015, the Criminal Justice Act strengthened UK legislation under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, giving police more time to investigate the alleged offences. Suspects found guilty of sending “grossly offensive” messages face a prison term of up to six months and/or a fine.

Volo goes global in Armenian worldwide mission

intel_ireland_semiconductor_chip_fab_300mm_waferWe had a chance last week to chat to Volo – a 10 year old company based in the capital, Yerevan, which now appears to have become a global, rather than a local, company.

Volo’s in house motto is “razor sharp thinking” – so what exactly does the company do?

It claims that it is “out innovating” other outsourcing companies in the field worldwide,  and that’s largely down to its solid engineering base and the way it approaches the market.

The company said that for the first eight years it had 24 of the best developers in the world, but few people had heard of the company.

Now all that’s changed. Its customers include Spinnaker, BMW and Accelerance and they’re just the ones it’s talking about.

Volo executives told TechEye last week: “Prospects had never heard of Armenia and people thought there couldn’t be IT in Armenia. But Armenians throughout history have invented things.”

Armenian technologeers were responsible for the first satellite to be launched – Sputnik – and Armenians also invented colour TV.

As far as outsourcing is concerned, the burning matter of the day isn’t price, but talent.

The company specialises in developing enterprise, internet of things and mobile technology for its customers.

We were told: “We are now a global company. We have big brains but small egos.”

Volo has hired superior post Soviet engineers and works with a number of big players including Microsoft.

And the company claimed that both it and the country have a progressive approach to engineering.

“Armenia has the highest proportion of female engineers than anywhere else [in the world].”

Edge will run in a virtual machine

U2 - No Line On The Horizon012Software king of the world Microsoft is planning a natty way of keeping you safer when you browse – it runs edge in a virtual machine.

The next major update to Windows 10 will run its Edge browser in a lightweight virtual machine. Running the update in a virtual machine will make exploiting the browser and attacking the operating system or compromising user data more challenging, because the hacker will be seeing the browser as a separate computer.

Called Windows Defender Application Guard for Microsoft Edge, the new capability builds on the virtual machine-based security that was first introduced last summer in Windows 10.

Windows 10’s Virtualization Based Security (VBS) uses small virtual machines and the Hyper-V hypervisor to isolate certain critical data and processes from the rest of the system. The most important of these is Credential Guard, which stores network credentials and password hashes in an isolated virtual machine.

The Edge browser already creates a secure sandbox for its processes. The sandbox has limited access to the rest of the system and its data. Hackers get around this by attacking the operating system itself, using operating system flaws to elevate their privileges, but if they attack the OS of a virtual computer that is all they will get control of.

It can’t see other processes, it can’t access local storage, it can’t access any other installed applications, and, critically, it can’t attack the kernel of the host system.

Sadly, the software will not be available to the great unwashed. Only uses who splash out on  Windows 10 Enterprise will get the software.

Application Guard will become available later this year in Insider builds of Windows Enterprise, hitting a stable version some time in 2017.

Teen sues parents over “Facebook expose”

GavelAn 18-year-old Austrian teen is suing her parents over the 500 childhood photos they’ve posted of her on Facebook without her consent.

The teen, who is unaware of the Streisand effect, said her parents “knew no shame and no limit” and didn’t care whether “it was a picture of me sitting on the toilet or lying naked in my cot. Every stage was photographed and then made public.”

She went on, “I’m tired of not being taken seriously by my parents,” who, despite her requests, have refused to take the photos down.

The woman’s dad believes he’s in the right to post the pictures because he took them. But her lawyer is adamant that if he can prove the photos violated the woman’s right to privacy, her parents could be forced to pay damages and legal fees.

This would mean an end of the parental ritual of showing your new partner embarrassing pictures of when you were small on the first time they are invited around for a family Christmas day dinner.

If she were living in France she would have a strong case. The French have a law which means that anyone who publishes and distributes images without the subject’s consent can face a year in jail and a fine of up to €45,000. But privacy laws are less strict in Austria, and there’s little precedent for a case of this kind. The trial date is set for November, unless the parties involved can sort everything out.

Quake rescuers ask people to open their wi-fi

_90923088_034949329-1Quake rescuers searching for survivors in the Italian quake have asked for people in the area to disable the passwords to their wi-fi.

The Italian Red Cross says residents’ home networks can assist with communications during the search for survivors.

On Wednesday a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy and killed more than 240 people.

More than 4,300 rescuers are looking for survivors believed to still be trapped in the rubble.

The Italian Red Cross posted a step-by-step guide which explains how local residents can switch off their wi-fi network encryption.

Image caption The Italian Red Cross has published a step-by-step guide on how to remove wi-fi passwords

Similar requests have been made by the National Geological Association and Lazio Region.

Normally opening a home wi-fi network is risky but added that those concerns are trivial in the context of the rescue operation. The risk is that a hacker might potentially has access to certain devices and files.

However that is nothing compared to the risk of people dying because rescuers can’t get a decent wi-fi signal. Besides what sort of psycho goes to a town like Amatrice so they can launch a cyber-attack on someone else.

Court rules that Twitter not responsible for Isis

cnn-isis-flag-spotted-at-gay-pride-paradeA lawsuit claiming that Twitter provided material support to the ISIS death cult has been thrown out by a California District Court.

The lawsuit claimed that ISIS’s persistent presence on Twitter constituted material support for the terror group, and sought to hold Twitter responsible for an ISIS-linked attack.

The case was filed by the family of an American contractor named Lloyd Fields who was killed in Jordan in an  ISIS-linked attack. The plaintiff’s initial complaint alleged widespread fundraising and recruitment through the platform, attributing 30,000 foreigners recruited through ISIS Twitter accounts in 2015 alone.

However US District Judge WIlliam H Orrick  said the plaintiffs had not offered a convincing argument for holding Twitter liable.

“Apart from the private nature of Direct Messaging, plaintiffs identify no other way in which their Direct Messaging theory seeks to treat Twitter as anything other than a publisher of information provided by another information content provider,” the ruling reads. At the same time, even the private nature of Twitter’s Direct Messaging feature “does not remove the transmission of such messages from the scope of publishing activity under section 230(c)(1),” the Judge said.

He gave the plantifs 30 days to come up with some other form of legal logic.

Had the case gone ahead it would have created a major problem for the Safe Harbor clause. The clause protects online services from liability for speech published on their network, like a libelous statement in the comments section of a news article.

The plaintiffs argued Twitter was not covered by Section 230 because its continued provision of accounts to ISIS counted as an act of publishing or speech. According to the plantiffs, the act of provisioning accounts to ISIS members constituted a material support, much like a newspaper choosing to publish a particular writer.

However that did not fly in the court becasue there was shedloads of past cases where publishing activity under section 230(c)(1) clearly suggested that Twitter was covered.

Twitter has largely dismissed that criticism, claiming it has shut down as many as 10,000 of the accounts in a single day.

Amazon is the Queen of online trading

AmazonAmazon had a brilliant June quarter and its shares rose 1.8 percent, on the news  pushing up its market capitalisation by about $6 billion to around $361 billion.

The company Amazon is the undisputed leader in cloud computing, although Microsoft and Alphabet are both nipping at its heels and getting under its feet. Amazon’s global retail sales also beat estimates in the quarter.

While in 2015, AWS revenue read $1.82 billion, this year, the service managed to pull $2.89 billion. That arm of Amazon is essential to maintaining investors’ faith in the company, as it crafted itself as the best provider of services for large corporations, government agencies and even startups.

During the second quarter, Amazon banked $857 million profit. One year earlier, the e-merchandizer and internet service provider scored only $92 million. Sales surged from $23.19 billion to $30.4 billion.

The e-vendor is preparing to enter harder on the retail market as well. The company scored a higher market value than Wal-Mart in 2015, and it started to deploy its own brick-and-mortar stores around the United States.

Amazon also saw the advantages of incentivizing its customers with the $99-per-year Prime unlimited shipping membership. The offer smoothened out the online sales by a long shot, and Amazon decided to upgrade the program. It did so by delivering exclusive video streaming content and music. Also, a select few goods in a number of cities benefit from a one-hour-delivery time frame.

One challenge for the company, if it wants to maintain the growth and profit rates, is managing shipping costs. These expenses surged by 42 percent during the first three months of the year. Previously, shipping costs jumped by 37 percent in the holiday quarter of 2015.

According to Amazon’s estimation, it spent $3.36 billion in shipping expenses during Q2.

The company’s attempt to better handle shipping costs means that it must handle the “last mile” of the transport on its own. To make this happen, it purchased 40 planes and branded truck trailers.

The company is confident that it will rise in both revenue and profits and estimates that Q3 will bring it sales ranging from $31 billion to $33.5 billion. Meanwhile, analysts are gauging the figure at $31.63 billion.



Skully is dead

maxresdefaultLast week AR motorbike helmet maker Skully’s CEO and co-founder Marcus Weller departed the company and now it seems that the start-up is dead.

Operations have ceased within the company, Weller has been asked to sign a confidentiality deal with investors. However Weller told TechCrunch he will not sign and that he’s completely walked away from all dealings with the company as of 10 days ago.

“I’m shocked and deeply saddened that they would now shut this company down. We were raising a Series B to continue raising capital but then we had a buyer…I’m almost dubious about this.”

Skully’s AR-1 helmet is sold out in every size and no one can order. The shutdown leaves several vendors and Skully’s manufacturer Flextronics with unpaid bills and at least 50 full-time employees out of a job. It’s unclear if any of the vendors will be paid.

That also means the more than 3,000 people who pre-ordered a helmet may never get one.

Weller said that he and his brother were forced out of the company after investors disagreed with the LeSports deal he brought to the table.  The deal would have seen the company sold. But the investors wanted to raise money themselves  an inside round. .

Investors from Intel Capital determined it was better to just shut the whole company down instead.

“We’re disappointed Skully has closed its doors. We’ve been focused on the company’s success for nearly two years and have recently been trying to negotiate a funding round to keep it going,” Intel Capital said in a statement. “We’re certainly sorry for the employees who are losing their jobs, the crowdfunding backers whose investments didn’t work out and the customers who’d pre-purchased product. We continue to be excited by the promise of this kind of wearable technology.”