(BBG) Google’s smartphone services store users’ locations even when privacy settings are adjusted to shut these features off, according to a report by the Associated Press.
While the company asks permission for users to share location information on its applications, it doesn’t halt tracking services when users pause Location History, according to the AP. Google Maps, for instance, grabs information when a user so much as opens the app, and automatic daily weather updates on Android phones give an approximation of user location. Computer-science researchers at Princeton University confirmed the Associated Press’s findings.
Google’s official message is to promote user autonomy when it comes to deciding what information to share: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored,” according to the company’s privacy page. But the AP said that isn’t true. Even pausing the Location History, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without permission, the AP found.
“Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in, and users have the controls to edit, delete, or turn it off at any time,” the company said in a statement to Bloomberg. “As the story notes, we make sure Location History users know that when they disable the product, we continue to use location to improve the Google experience when they do things like perform a Google search or use Google for driving directions.”
The search-engine giant, owned by Alphabet Inc., derives significant revenue through advertising, which is bolstered by user-generated data providing information useful to advertisers such as metrics on foot traffic. Google recently reported its advertising business increased 24 percent in the second quarter, pushing Alphabet’s total revenue minus partner payouts to $26.24 billion. Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said recently that the company is exploring new ways to place promoted content and advertisements into its Map services.
Shares of Alphabet were little-changed at $1,253.88 at 2:14 p.m. in New York.
(ZH) It appears that government and intelligence agencies throughout the world did little or nothing to change their policies for personal fitness app and tracker usage as for the second time this year a massive data breach has exposed sensitive locations and the daily routines of government personnel, all accessible to the public.
Yet now in some instances even the names and addresses of intelligence and military personnel are able to be known.
Image via ZDNet/Boston Mail
This time it’s the fitness app Polar Flow, created by a Finnish-based company with offices in New York, at the center of controversy after an investigation by Dutch news site De Correspondent confirmed that the app“lets anyone find names and addresses for thousands of soldiers and secret agents.”
This can even include profile pictures and often actual names of users shared via the publicly available “Explore” feature; but as researchers also found this data can potentially be accessed through a design flaw in the privacy setting.
De Correspondent actually demonstrates just what can be known by examining one particular Polar fitness tracker near Erbil’s international airport in Iraq. The results, found through quick open source searches, are startling:
The man – let’s call him Tom – is a Dutch soldier, part of the Netherlands’ Capacity Building Mission in Iraq. The CBM is encamped near the Erbil airport. Since 2015, this base has been one of the key locations from which the war against the terrorist group Islamic State is being waged.
We are absolutely not supposed to know who Tom is and where he’s stationed. And we most definitely shouldn’t know where Tom lives.
Yet the activity tracking map in Polar’s fitness applets us see that many of Tom’s runs start and end near a cluster of homes in a small town in the northern Netherlands. A little Googling gives us his exact address. We also find the names of his wife and children, and photos.
Though as the Dutch journalists note, exposing identities of intelligence agents is illegal in the US and many European countries, “we still found the names and addresses of personnel at intelligence agencies including the NSAand Secret Servicein the US, the GCHQand MI6in the UK, the GRU and the SVR RF in Russia, the DGSEin France, and the MIVD in the Netherlands.”
Dutch news site De Correspondent, working with the open source analysis site Bellingcat, produced infographic maps based on the Polar app, demonstrating how easy it is to locate home addresses of users via the Polar “Explore” feature:
“We found the names and addresses of personnel at military bases including Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, Erbil in Iraq, Gao in Mali, and bases in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Chad, and South Korea.” De Correspondent says this also included “the names and addresses of personnel at nuclear storage facilities, maximum security prisons, military airports where nuclear weapons are stored, and drone bases.”
Other journalists have since found names and addresses for what are believed to be intelligence and military personnel at sensitive government locations throughout the US as well, and noted that “Although the existence of many government installations are widely known, the identities of their employees were not.”
In the case of the Polaris app, as the tech site ZD Net explains, this can be done even if the user’s settings are set to “private”:
With two pairs of coordinates dropped over any sensitive government location or facility, it was possible to find the names of personnel who track their fitness activities dating as far back as 2014.
The reporters identified more than 6,400 users believed to be exercising at sensitive locations, including the NSA, the White House, MI6 in London, and the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, as well as personnel working on foreign military bases.
…they also found they could trick the API into retrieving fitness tracking data on private profiles.
Who knows how many times either foreign intelligence services or terrorist groups have already used this and possibly other apps to pinpoint the exact locations US government agents operating abroad? After all the journalists testing the online system explain how easy it was to cull the data: “Because there were no limits on how many requests the reporters could make, coupled with easily enumerable user ID numbers, it was possible for anyone — including malicious actors or foreign intelligence services — to scrape the fitness activity data on millions of users.”
But a few of the examples, names withheld by the journalists, are as follows:
ZDNet was able to trace one person who exercised nearby to NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade. The user later started his exercise tracking as he left his house in nearby Virginia. Through public records, we confirmed his name, and his role as a senior military official.
Another person, also believed to be an NSA staffer based at Ft. Meade, was found exercising close to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
The Dutch reporters also found the fitness tracking data of several foreign military and intelligence officers near sensitive installations in the US.
De Correspondent explained in an additional report how easy it was to follow around one Polar user, believed to be an officer at the Dutch state intelligence service, across the world, and even locate his home address.
Polar has since taken its tracking map offline and put out a statement: “While the decision to opt-in and share training sessions and GPS location data is the choice and responsibility of the customer, we are aware that potentially sensitive locations are appearing in public data, and have made the decision to temporarily suspend the Explore API” — the company posted on its website.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which oversees America’s 17 intelligence agencies, issued the following predictable and somewhat vague statement to ZD Net while saying it was “aware of the potential impacts” of personal fitness devices: “The use of personal fitness and similar devices by individuals engaged in US Government support is determined and directed by each agency and department.”
Based on this official response from the ODNI which is essentially an admission that we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing, we fully expect more massive classified data and identity breaches to follow.
No doubt action will finally and belatedly be taken if and when the first “Fitbit tracker-based kidnapping” of a government employee takes place.
(Reuters) The Portuguese unit of telecoms firm Altice, the country’s largest operator, is working with Chinese electronics giant Huawei to make Portugal a leader within Europe in the development and roll-out of next-generation 5G networks.
“I believe that the Portuguese market will be one of the first globally to be able to use this (5G) technology,” said Alexandre Fonseca, CEO of Altice Portugal, after the first demonstration of the technology on Wednesday using a prototype Huawei router with a top speed of 1.5 gygabytes per second.
Fonseca expects the first commercial devices to crop up in Portugal in 2019 or 2020, although regular users are unlikely to have access to the technology before 2021 or 2022, “because various questions need answers, such as investment versus profitability of the business”.
An advertising board is seen during the first demonstration of the technology 5G in Lisbon, Portugal June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
At a global level, the first commercial 5G projects are expected to launch in the United States this year, followed by Japan and South Korea in 2019 and China in 2020.
Providers across Europe are also working to roll out services. Vodafone, whose Portuguese unit competes with Altice Portugal, said last month it will begin testing 5G mobile networks in seven of Britain’s 10 largest cities later in 2018, before starting limited deployments in some markets next year.
In Italy, communications regulator AGCOM said the government would auction frequencies for 5G mobile services in September.
Portugal is no stranger to world-class technological innovation. The world’s first prepaid mobile phones were launched here, as were single, country-wide electronic motorway tolls. It has a dense fiber network, which makes it a fertile ground for the development of the new telecoms standard.
Wednesday’s demonstration followed two years of research and testing, which Fonseca says puts the partners ahead of their competition in Portugal.
When implemented on a larger scale, with a denser network of smaller antennae than the current 4G standard, the 5G technology will allow data transfer speeds 50 to 100 times faster than now.
Dutch-based Altice bought the assets of former telecoms monopoly Portugal Telecom in 2015. Altice’s fiber networks, which will help deliver the 5G service, cover 4.3 million homes in Portugal out of the total of 5.3 million, and Altice expects to cover the remainder by early 2020.
“This is extraordinary and does not happen in other European countries, such as Germany,” said Chris Lu, head of Huawei in Portugal. He projects that his company will develop a 5G smartphone prototype by next year or in 2020.
Industry analysts expect 5G upgrades to kick in next decade for faster phones, fixed wireless video and new industrial business uses. So far, there has been no clear game-changing device or service to emerge to drive 5G network demand.
Citing anti-money laundering rules and other regulations, traditional banks in Switzerland have often refused to operate accounts for crypto companies. But Heinz Tännler, finance director of Zug canton, said he believes regulators and politicians may remove some obstacles for crypto firms and allow them to work with banks in the same way as companies in other industries, the Financial Times reported.
“We hope to clarify relationships by the end of the year at the latest,” Tännler told the FT. “Time is pressing — other jurisdictions such as Malta and Singapore are very active and making a lot of effort to attract these companies. The lack of access to bank services is a significant competitive disadvantage.”
Yet the country’s central bank, federal government and financial supervisor “are willing to help,” according to Tännler. And while some institutions had to be pushed to resolve to the problem, “that now seems to be going well,” Tännler told the paper.
The news comes after Schweizerische Nationalbank Board Director Thomas Moser said that he doesn’t think it’s the right time to talk about issuing a national cryptocurrency for the country. During the “Future of Token Economy” panel at the Crypto Valley Conference in Zug, Switzerland, earlier this year, Moser said blockchain is similar to the “useless innovation” of compact discs, according to Cryptovest.
Switzerland isn’t the only country putting plans for a national crypto on hold. Earlier this month, it was reported that Estonia has shelved plans to develop its own national cryptocurrency after the idea prompted criticism by banking authorities and Mario Draghi, the Italian economist and president of the European Central Bank.
Estonia, which is among the most tech-friendly countries in Eastern Europe, had been a leader in potentially issuing a national cryptocurrency, but the plan was criticized by Draghi earlier in the year when he said the euro can be the only currency in the country.
Social media giant Facebook continues to ramp up the creepy factor. According to a recently filed patent, Facebook wants to spy on you by hiding inaudible messages in TV ads.
Facebook has filed a patent for a system that hides audio clips in TV commercials. These sounds would be so high-pitched that they are inaudible to human beings. They would then trigger your phone to record all the background noises in your home. The patent application is called “broadcast content view analysis based on ambient audio recording.”
According to The Daily Mail,these secret messages would force your phone to record the audio of the private conversations you have without you even knowing. According to a patent application by the social media platform, clips taken of your background conversations and your movements across a room would help advertisers determine whether or not you are watching their promotions.
According to the patent, originally discovered byMetro, the system would use “a non-human hearable digital sound” to activate your phone’s microphone. This noise, which could be a sound so high-pitched that humans cannot hear it, would contain a “machine recognizable” set of Morse code-style beeps. Once your phone “hears” or recognizes the trigger, it would begin to record the “ambient noise” in the home, such as the sound of your air conditioning unit, plumbing noises from your pipes, and even your movements from one room to another. Your phone would even listen in on “distant human speech” and “creaks from thermal contraction”, according to the patent.
Facebook is currently working on the controversial software too, said a patent application published on June 14 this year. If you’re like the rest of us, you might think this sounds like an Orwellian nightmare technology which will let Big Zucker intrude upon the lives of millions of unsuspecting people in unprecedentedly terrifying ways.
The tech is going to be used to monitor what people watch on their “broadcasting device” so that the adverts they are shown on Facebook are likely to appeal to them. This would also allow companies to get an accurate sense of the size of the audience which has viewed their promotion. That’s what Facebook says in its patent, however, there is absolutely no mention of spying on our private lives, invading our privacy, recording our intimate conversations, and forcing advertising into the heart of our homes whatsoever.
(ZH) Commerzbank is hoping that computers will soon be able to do at least as good a job writing its equity research reports as the armies of junior analysts that the big banks are no doubt looking to trim thanks to expensive MifidII regulations and restrictions that have cut funding costs for research departments.
Even as its captured the attention of bank executives, automated and computerized equity analysis has, for the most part, been a disaster over the last couple of years. While some larger firms may use algorithms and some automation to crank out macro economic reports, and while computers may be getting better at scraping and reporting data (without actually analyzing it), performing equity analysis requires a deeper look behind the numbers and its simply not a task optimized for automation.
However, we are apparently at that stage in the cycle where cutting costs becomes far more important then being productive or effective, particularly since MiFid II is forcing a race to bottom as investment banks seek out deep cuts in their research departments, driven by a drop in revenue that has accompanied being forced to charge a separate, optional, rate for research instead of bundling those costs with trading fees.
One of these competitors, Germany’s second largest bank has decided that the time has come to automate some of its equity analysis, and according to the Financial Times “Commerzbank is experimenting with artificial intelligence technology that automatically generates sports reports to see if it can write basic analyst notes, as Mifid II forces banks across the world to trim research costs.”
The German bank is working on the project with Retresco, a content automation company in which it invested two years ago through its fintech incubator unit. The project is still at an early stage and could take years to produce reports that banks would be happy to send to their clients, but the notion of AI replacing human research analysts is already attracting attention from senior bankers.
“There’s definitely work that can be done, parts of the [research] process that can be enhanced by algos and AI tools,” the head of one investment bank told the Financial Times, describing earnings reports as something that “should be robo-written.”
Research into AI and automation solutions that can lessen the burden of data-intensive research will likely soon be a theme across the big banks, as they scramble to reduce one of their biggest cost-centers in a time of declining revenues.
The Europe head of another investment bank said research was an area that was rife for automation over time, while analysts at several other banks said their managers were experimenting with AI and automation applications.
Banks are under fierce pressure to cut the costs of producing research on stocks and bonds following the implementation in January of European investor protections known as Mifid II. The measures force investors to pay for research explicitly instead of bundling its costs into trading commissions. Some firms say their implied research revenue has fallen by as much as 30 per cent as a result.
Possibly ignoring the fact that almost everybody (in the U.S.) reports in Non-GAAP numbers now and that any and all addbacks to earnings generally need to be looked at and analyzed on their own, a Commerzbank executive is confident that the venture would ultimately be successful.
Michael Spitz, head of Commerzbank’s R&D unit, Mainincubator, said the area showed promise because “equity research reports reviewing quarterly earnings are structured in similar ways” and the source documents are often prepared under common reporting standards. “That makes it easier for a machine learning program to extract and contextualise relevant data, which can be then framed in a report using natural language processing tools.” Retresco’s original business uses similar technology to write soccer reports in Germany, in other words if it works for sports it should work for the market.
Mr Spitz said the technology was already advanced enough to provide around 75 per cent of what a human equity analyst would when writing an immediate report on quarterly earnings. “If it is related to much more abstract cases, we feel that we are not there yet — that we can or maybe will ever replace the quality of a researcher,” he added. Bankers say regulatory demands for oversight on research publication could also protect humans in research jobs.
Recall, it was less than a year ago that we wrote about the first AI-controlled ETF. At the time, its creators said it “has the ability to mimic an army of equity research analysts working around the clock, 365 days a year, while removing human error and bias from the process.”
Last year, EquBot LLC, in partnership with ETF Managers Group (ETFMG) launched the world’s first ETF powered by artificial intelligence, the AI Powered Equity ETF (NYSE Arca: AIEQ). According to Business Wire, the new ETF uses “cognitive and big data processing abilities of IBM Watson™ to analyze U.S.-listed investment opportunities.”
Business Wire explained how EquBot makes investment decisions “EquBot’s approach ranks investment opportunities based on their probability of benefiting from current economic conditions, trends, and world- and company-specific events, and identifies those equities with the greatest potential for appreciation. EquBot and ETFMG expect the fund’s portfolio to typically consist of 30 to 70 of U.S. equities only and volatility comparable to the broader U.S. equity market…the fund’s underlying technology is constantly analyzing information for approximately 6,000 U.S.-listed equities, including company management and market sentiment, and processes more than one million regulatory filings, quarterly results releases, news articles, and social media posts every day.”
The moving of all financial services – including equity analysis – into AI, feels like it could become a major error not only as real human analysts will possibly be needed to reverse work that computers will likely do poorly, at least at first.
A bigger problem is that this “revolution” will come just as the paradigm that has defined markets for the past decade: central bank largesse pushing risk assets higher, fades, and neither AI nor unmanned algos will be able to trade in the “newer normal.” Ironically this is precisely the time when humans will be most needed.
But that bridge has yet to be crossed, and until then the main prerogative is to keep costs low.
With that said, it seems unlikely that any bank has the artificial intelligence or automation on the level necessary to effectively dissect the story and the narrative that are behind the numbers yet. Consider every time trading algorithms have misinterpreted a headline, only to be kneejerked back and forth until human traders intervene to “discover” the price.
For banks looking for a quick revenue saver, this option will almost certainly prove to be more trouble than it’s worth.
During a talk at the The Economic Club of New York, the banker struck an optimistic tone on bitcoin.
He explained how the world moved from gold to fiat currencies that we have today backed by government. Using that example, he said he could see a world where a cryptocurrency could exist.
“If you could go through that fiat currency where they say this is worth what it’s worth because I, the government, says it is, why couldn’t you have a consensus currency?” Blankfein said.
“And so it’s not for me, I don’t do it, I own no bitcoin. Goldman Sachs as far as I know… has no bitcoin, but if it does work out, I could give you the historical path why that could have happened.”
Blankfein has been more open than some on Wall Street about bitcoin. For example, J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon famously shot down the cryptocurrrency calling it a “fraud.” Blankfein said that he does not want to dismiss it.
“I’m not in this school of saying… because it’s uncomfortable with me, because it’s unfamiliar, this can’t happen, that’s too arrogant,” Blankfein said.
But bitcoin has often been criticized for being a speculative bubble after hitting a record high price of nearly $20,000 last year and since falling to below $7,000.
It has also not displayed the characteristics of an actual currency. For example, transaction times and fees are extremely high. Kristo Kaarmann, CEO of money transfer start-up TransferWise, said in a recent CNBC interview that the Egyptian pound is more useful than bitcoin.
(BBG) Bitcoin Could Break the Internet, Bank for International Settlements Says.
The Bank for International Settlements just told the cryptocurrency world it’s not ready for prime time — and as far as mainstream financial services go, may never be.
In a withering 24-page article released Sunday as part of its annual economic report, the BIS said Bitcoin and its ilk suffered from “a range of shortcomings” that would prevent cryptocurrencies from ever fulfilling the lofty expectations that prompted an explosion of interest — and investment — in the would-be asset class.
The BIS, an 88-year-old institution in Basel, Switzerland, that serves as a central bank for other central banks, said cryptocurrencies are too unstable, consume too much electricity, and are subject to too much manipulation and fraud to ever serve as bona fide mediums of exchange in the global economy. It cited the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies — Bitcoin and its imitators are created, transacted, and accounted for on a distributed network of computers — as a fundamental flaw rather than a key strength.
In one of its most poignant findings, the BIS analyzed what it would take for the blockchain software underpinning Bitcoin to process the digital retail transactions currently handled by national payment systems. As the size of so many ledgers swell, the researchers found, it would eventually overwhelm everything from individual smartphones to servers.
“The associated communication volumes could bring the Internet to a halt,” the report said.
Researchers also said that the race by so-called Bitcoin miners to be the first to process transactions eats about the same amount of electricity as Switzerland does. “Put in the simplest terms, the quest for decentralized trust has quickly become an environmental disaster,” they said.
The BIS is weighing in at pivotal moment in the cryptocurrency story. Even as Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the New York Stock Exchange, and other institutions take steps to offer clients access to the new marketplace, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is cracking down on the offerings of new digital tokens, which it has found are rife with ripoffs. At the same time, cyber-attackers are hitting crypto exchanges regularly — just last week, Bitcoin nosedived after a South Korean exchange reported it was hacked. It fell 0.8 percent to $6,449 as of 11:19 a.m. in New York on Monday.
The report may also revive concerns that for all its ingenuity, blockchain transactions will get harder and harder to protect as it scales up. When this decentralized anonymous system was introduced in 2009, it quickly proved it could secure purchases by computer enthusiasts, networks of friends, as well as criminals in the digital black market, says a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-profit organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Yet with supporters pushing to make it a mass market platform utilized by companies and governments, it may become too expensive to secure, concludes Eric Budish, the paper’s author and an economics professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
The value of the cryptocurrency market has plunged 53 percent this year to $280 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.
The BIS did say that blockchain and its so-called distributed ledger technology did provide some benefits for the global financial system. The software can make sending cross-border payments more efficient, for example. And trade finance, the business of exports and imports that still relies on faxes and letters of credit, was indeed ripe for the improvements offered by Blockchain-related programs.
Still, the institution concluded that Bitcoin’s great breakthrough, the ability of one person to send something of value to someone else with the ease of an email, is also its Achilles heel. It’s simply too risky on a number of levels to try and run the global economy on a network with no center.
“Trust can evaporate at any time because of the fragility of the decentralized consensus through which transactions are recorded,” the report concluded. “Not only does this call into question the finality of individual payments, it also means that a cryptocurrency can simply stop functioning, resulting in a complete loss of value.”
(Reuters)Cryptocurrencies are not scalable and are more likely to suffer a breakdown in trust and efficiency the greater the number of people using them, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS)said on Sunday in its latest warning about the rise of virtual currencies.
For any form of money to work across large networks it requires trust in the stability of its value and in its ability to scale efficiently, the BIS, an umbrella group for the world’s central banks, said in its annual report.
But trust can disappear instantly because of the fragility of the decentralized networks on which cryptocurrencies depend, the BIS said.
Those networks are also prone to congestion the bigger they become, according to the BIS, which noted the high transaction fees of the best-known digital currency, bitcoin, and the limited number of transactions per second they can handle.
“Trust can evaporate at any time because of the fragility of the decentralised consensus through which transactions are recorded,” the Switzerland-based group said in its report.
BLOCKCHAIN EXPLAINEDReuters breaks down blockchain in an interactive guide.
“Not only does this call into question the finality of individual payments, it also means that a cryptocurrency can simply stop functioning, resulting in a complete loss of value.”
The BIS’ head of research, Hyun Song Shin, said sovereign money had value because it had users, but many people holding cryptocurrencies did so often purely for speculative purposes.
“Without users, it would simply be a worthless token. That’s true whether it’s a piece of paper with a face on it, or a digital token,” he said, comparing virtual coins to baseball cards or Tamagotchi.
The dependency of users on so-called miners to record and verify crypto transactions is also flawed, according to the BIS, requiring vast and costly energy use.
It has issued a series of warnings this year after an explosive rise in cryptocurrency values attracted a wave of followers.
Agustin Carstens, general manager of the BIS, has described bitcoin as “a combination of a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster”.
The BIS has told central banks to think hard about the potential risks before issuing their own cryptocurrencies.
No central bank has issued a digital currency, though the Riksbank in Sweden, where the use of cash has fallen, is studying a retail e-krona for small payments.
The BIS also said in its annual report that effective regulation of digital coins needed to be global, targeting both regulated financial institutions as well as companies offering crypto-related services.
(Economist) An excerpt and interview with Andrew Ferguson, author of “The Rise of Big Data Policing”
“Minority Report”, a 2002 film directed by Steven Spielberg, features a squad of police officers who arrest people for murders they are predicted to commit. The film was science fiction; yet police departments around the world increasingly use predictive analytics to identify people who might become perpetrators or victims of crime. In “The Rise of Big Data Policing”, Andrew Ferguson, a former public defender and now professor at the University of the District of Columbia, discusses the promise and perils of data-driven policing.
The Economist asked him about how data and predictive analytics are changing modern policing. After his responses, you can read an excerpt from his book that shows what data-driven policing looks like on the ground.
The Economist: Police have always used data to make decisions. What makes this era different?
Andrew Ferguson: Policing has traditionally been reactive: officers respond to calls for service, and experience determines where they patrol. Big-data technology lets police become aggressively more proactive. New data sources coupled with predictive analytics now allow police to visualise crime differently, targeting individual blocks, at-risk individuals and gangs in innovative ways. New surveillance technologies let police map physical movements, digital communications and suspicious associations in ways that can reveal previously hidden patterns of criminal activity in otherwise overwhelming amounts of data. All of this information can be quite useful to law enforcement seeking to track criminal elements in society. The same technology can also be quite threatening to civil liberties and personal privacy in already over-policed communities.
More than 60 American police departments use some form of “predictive policing” to guide their day-to-day operations
The Economist:How pervasive is the use of tech in policing—how different is the day-to-day work of police officers today as opposed to 20 or 30 years ago?
Mr Ferguson: Technology is shaping where police patrol, whom they target, and how they investigate crime. More than 60 American police departments use some form of “predictive policing” to guide their day-to-day operations. In Los Angeles, this means that police follow patrols based on computer-forecast crime hot-spots. In Chicago, an algorithmically derived “heat list” ranks people at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of gun violence. The result is that police prioritise particular places and people for additional contacts and monitoring. In addition, new surveillance technologies—including police body cameras, automated licence-plate readers, Stingray cell phone trackers and high-definition surveillance cameras—provide powerful monitoring tools. All of this technology changes how officers see the communities they patrol and the citizens they police. The technology also changes the job of policing, forcing officers to become data collectors and analysts as they act on real-time inputs and assessments.
The Economist: Does big-data policing work? Has it made people less likely to be victims of crime?
Mr Ferguson: The jury is still out on effectiveness. The scientific studies are few in number and largely inconclusive. In some cities crime rates have trended down with the introduction of new technologies, but in others there has been no significant effect. Crime rates correlate with a host of economic and environmental forces that make it difficult to demonstrate any causal connection with a specific technology. But really, the benefit of big-data policing for police departments is political. New technology gives police chiefs an answer to the age-old question asked by every politician in every community forum: “Chief, what are you doing about crime?” They now have a progressive-sounding, technologically inspired answer: “We are using a new black-box technology to predict and deter crime.” Whether it works is secondary to having a response to the otherwise unanswerable (and somewhat unfair) question that every police chief faces.
The Economist: What are the biggest potentials for abuse?
Mr Ferguson: There are several. First, data can distort policing. Officers sent to an area flagged as being at risk of violent crime may see routine encounters as more threatening, thus making them more likely to use force. Second, the growing web of surveillance threatens to chill associational freedoms, political expression and expectations of privacy by eroding public anonymity. Third, even with the best use policies in place, officers have access to vast amounts of personal information of people not suspected of any crime. Finally, without carefully chosen data inputs, long-standing racial, societal and other forms of bias will be reified in the data.
The growing web of surveillance threatens to chill associational freedoms, political expression and expectations of privacy
The Economist:How can citizens best protect themselves from such abuse?
Mr Ferguson: The time to respond to the threat of big-data policing is now. Every city should have formal written policies in place detailing the approved use of new big-data policing technologies. Every citizen should be educated about the dangers to privacy, liberty and the imbalance of power that surveillance technologies bring. Every police department should engage impacted communities about the risks and rewards of new predictive technologies with official answers to concerns about transparency, racial bias and constitutional rights. Every community should host annual “surveillance summits” where the city officials, engaged citizens and police chiefs can come together for a moment of public accountability about the use and potential misuse of new big-data technologies. Education, empowerment, and engagement are the only protections against an encroaching data-driven surveillance state.
The Violence Virus An excerpt from “The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement”
A knock on an apartment door. A man gives the prognosis to a worried mother. Your son might die. He is at grave risk. Others he knows have already succumbed. An algorithm has identified the most likely to be stricken. He is one of a few hundred young men (approximately 0.048% of the city) who may die. In Chicago, Illinois, this scene has played out hundreds of times at hundreds of doors. The danger, however, is not some blood-borne pathogen. This is not a doctor giving a cancer diagnosis but a police detective giving a life diagnosis. Violence is contagious, and you are exposed. As a young man in Chicago, due to your friends, associates, and prior connection to violence, you have been predicted to be the victim or perpetrator of a shooting. Your name is on the “Strategic Suspects List,” also known as the “heat list,” and a detective is at your door with a social worker and a community representative to tell you the future is not only dark but deadly. A vaccine exists, but it means turning your life around now.
In Chicago, 1,400 young men have been identified through big data techniques as targets for the heat list. Software generates a rank-order list of potential victims and subjects with the greatest risk of violence. In New Orleans, Palantir has partnered with the mayor’s office to identify the 1% of violent crime drivers in the city. In Rochester, New York, and Los Angeles, similar techniques are being used to identify juveniles who might be involved in repeated delinquent activity. This is the promise of big data policing. What if big data techniques could predict who might be violent? What if a policing system could be redesigned to target those who are at-risk in a neighbourhood before the shooting occurs? This is the theory behind “person-based targeted policing.”
Person-based predictive policing involves the use of data to identify and investigate potential suspects or victims. Part public health approach to violence and part social network approach to risk assessment, big data can visualise how violence spreads like a virus among communities. The same data also can predict the most likely victims of violence. Police data is shaping who gets targeted and forecasting who gets shot.
While these predictive technologies are excitingly new, the concerns underlying them remain frustratingly old-fashioned. Fears of racial bias, a lack of transparency, data error and the distortions of constitutional protections offer serious challenges to the development of workable person-based predictive strategies. Yet person-based policing systems are being used now, and people are being targeted.
There are four main ways in which data and predictive analytics fundamentally change how police in liberal societies operate.
First, big data makes police more proactive. Traditionally, officers might react to calls for service, rely on observations made while on patrol, or respond to community complaints. With person-based predictive targeting, police can instead target suspects for surveillance or deterrence before a call comes in. For local prosecutors, this represents a significant change. As a former head of the Manhattan Criminal Strategies Unit stated, “It used to be we only went where the cases took us. Now, we can build cases around specific crime problems that communities are grappling with.”
Second, seeing violence as a public-health problem, rather than just a law-enforcement problem, lets societies rethink how best to identify and respond to criminal risk. Violence-reduction strategies in New Orleans, for instance, included social-service programmes. The idea that violence is contagious suggests that it can be prevented. If a good percentage of shootings are retaliatory, then one can design a cure that interrupts the cycle. Every time police summon people whom predictive analytics have identified as potential perpetrators or victims of violence, social-services representatives should be there, ready to offer those young men and women the opportunity to change their environment.
Third, moving from traditional policing to intelligence-led policing creates data-quality risks that need to be systematically addressed. Intelligence-driven systems work off many bits of local intelligence. Tips, crime statistics, cooperating witnesses, nicknames, and detective notes can get aggregated into a large data system. But the quality of that data is not uniform. Some tips are accurate; some are not. Some biases will generate suspicion, and some informants will just be wrong. An intelligence-driven policing or prosecution system that does not account for the varying reliability and credibility of sources—and just lumps them all together as “data”—will ultimately result in an error-filled database. Especially when these systems are used to target citizens for arrest or prosecution, the quality-control measures of black-box algorithms must be strong.
Fourth, other data-integrity concerns may arise when detectives, gang experts, or police intelligence officers control the target lists. While these professionals generally have close connections to the community and valuable knowledge of local gangs and potential targets, risk scores can be manipulated by police interested in prosecuting certain individuals. People can get added to the target lists—which are often riddled with errors—with no way to challenge or change their designation. After all, joining a gang is rarely a formal process; rumour, assumptions or suspicion can be enough to earn an elevated risk score. Worse, there is usually no easy way to get off the list, even as people’s circumstances change, time passes, and the data grows stale. The people on these lists, and most impacted by these risks, are primarily young men of colour. This reality raises serious constitutional concerns and threatens to delegitimise person-based predictive policing strategies.
(BBG) Microsoft is planning to acquire coding site GitHub, according to people familiar with the matter
For Microsoft Corp., acquiring GitHub Inc. would be both a return to the company’searliest roots and a sharp turnaround from where it was a decade ago.
The software maker has agreed to acquire GitHub, the code-repository company popular with many software developers, and could announce the deal as soon as Monday, according to people familiar with the matter.
Microsoft’s origin story lies in the market for software-development tools. Decades before former Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer jumped up and down on a stage, cheering for “developers, developers, developers,” Bill Gates and Paul Allen co-founded the company to give hobbyists a way to program a new micro-computer kit, the MITS Altair.
But even as Ballmer celebrated the developers building proprietary software for Microsoft, in the early 2000s he and his executive team were highly critical of the kind of open-source program built in GitHub today. Open-source software allows developers to tinker with, improve upon and share code — an approach that threatened Microsoft’s business model. A lot has changed since then, and under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft is supporting many flavors of Linux and has used open-source models on some significant cloud and developer products itself.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft is now one of the biggest contributors to GitHub, and as Nadella moves the company away from complete dependence on the Windows operating system to more in-house development on Linux, the company needs new ways to connect with the broader developer community.
GitHub preferred selling the company to going public and chose Microsoft partially because it was impressed by Nadella, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. Terms of the agreement weren’t known on Sunday. GitHub was last valued at $2 billion in 2015.
Frank Shaw, a spokesman for Microsoft, declined to comment. GitHub didn’t return an email seeking comment on a potential agreement.
San Francisco-based GitHub is an essential tool for coders. Many corporations, including Microsoft and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, use it to store their corporate code and to collaborate. It’s also a social network of sorts for developers. Still, GitHub’s losses have been significant — it lost $66 million over three quarters in 2016 — and it has been hunting for a new CEO for nine months. The company had revenue of $98 million in nine months of 2016.
In August, GitHub announced that it was looking for a CEO to replace Chris Wanstrath, one of the company’s co-founders. In the interim, GitHub’s Chief Business Officer Julio Avalos joined the company’s board of directors and took over much of the day-to-day leadership of the company.
Microsoft has talked to GitHub, which hosts 27 million software developers working on 80 million repositories of code, on and off for a few years. Recently they began talks about a partnership but progressed to discussing an acquisition, according to another person familiar with the situation.
Business Insider first reported talks between the companies on Friday.
(BBG) A unit of the South African Police Service said it’s started an investigation into an alleged cryptocurrency investment fraud that has affected more than 28,000 people and led to losses of more than 1 billion rand ($80.4 million).
The allegations involve “BitCaw Trading Company, commonly known as BTC Global,” the police unit said in an emailed statement on Friday. “Members of the public are believed to have been targeted as part of the scam and encouraged by BTC Global agents to invest with promises of 2 percent interest per day, 14 percent per week and ultimately 50 percent per month.”
“BitCaw Trading was not involved in the BTC Global scam and we are shocked to see our name connected with it,” Andrew Caw, who set up BitCaw Trading, said in messages via Facebook on Friday. “BitCaw Trading assists people with buying & selling Bitcoin as well as other Bitcoin related services. We do not manage third-party money or offer any kind of investment” and BitCaw didn’t set up BTC Global, he said.
BTC Global’s services are suspended, according to that company’s website. In a statement on the site it blames its financial woes on a former employee. No contact details are given for BTC Global.
“We are as shocked and angry as everyone,” the BTC Global team said in the statement. “If you feel you’ve had a crime committed against you, you need to follow the legal procedures to deal with the matter.”
Bitcoin prices have declined 45 percent this year and 58 percent since the high of $19,511 reached on Dec. 18. It was 0.9 percent lower at $7,485 as of 9:14 a.m. in New York.
(Entrepreneur) Europe’s westernmost country isn’t just a hot tourist destination.
Daniel de Castro Ruivo
Lisbon’s hosting of the Web Summit in November saw tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, investors and specialists flock to the Portuguese capital, the most visible sign of the country’s buoyant technology sector.
While the food, weather, beaches and architectural splendor have seen Portugal emerge as one of Europe’s hottest tourist destinations, startups are also beating a path to Europe’s westernmost country.
Lisbon has now climbed to fourth in a global list of the best places to start a new business (according to freelance marketplace PeoplePerHour’s Startup City Index), leaving a list of rivals that includes San Francisco and London in its dust. In fact, a report from Startup Europe Partnership found Portugal’s startup ecosystem is now growing twice as fast as the European average.
A key driver is the record number of foreign companies using Portugal as a more convenient and affordable way to assemble their digital platforms. The quality and cost of our tech services continues to draw these companies for specific projects, with increasing numbers returning to establish their tech hub here.
Competitive development prices mean a junior developer (i.e. someone with three years of experience) earns an average of $22,549 in Portugal — those with seven years under their belt are likely to earn twice that amount (around $45,000). However, using a similarly skilled software developer from Germany or Sweden is two-and-a-half times more expensive, someone from the U.K. will cost three times more and a bill from a Swiss developer will be four times higher.
If you choose to use top tier agencies — those that work purely with highly skilled developers such as PhD graduates and Open Source contributors — you’ll be charged around €80 per hour in Lisbon. In Switzerland, you’ll be likely to pay around €300 per hour.
Another local advantage comes in a more traditional area — bricks and mortar. Despite recent price rises, Portugal’s property market is still highly competitive, with an office in Lisbon costing on average €222 per square meter, per year. By comparison, Berlin costs €360 per square meter, per year, it’s €669 in Stockholm, €732 in Zurich or the stratospheric €1,223 in London’s West End!
And with an annual inflation rate of just 1 percent, Lisbon is also a significantly cheaper place to live. The cost of living in Lisbon is half what it would be in London, a fifth lower than Berlin and 60 percent cheaper than New York, San Francisco and Zurich.
Is ROI everything you should look at when picking your partners to build a tech product?
Other factors need to be taken into consideration to fully understand why so many firms see Lisbon (rather than other more traditional outsourcing areas) as a solution for their technology challenges:
Education, cultural adaptation, geography and resilience are some of the qualities that historically made Portugal a global power for over four centuries. Nowadays, these traits are making the country a land of opportunity for tech outsourcing and startups.
Portugal has a proud history of investment in education — it was key for the evolution of navigation. In the School of Sagres, the most advanced techniques for navigation were taught, allowing Portuguese explorers to be the first Europeans to reach South America, Asia and Africa.
With an educated workforce — and English spoken widely throughout the country — our eight universities produce 100,000 graduates a year. Fifty-three percent of 20- to 29-year-olds are graduates in an engineering or math related discipline.
Unsurprisingly, this pool of tech talent is attracting the attention of global firms. BNP Paribas, Zalando and Mercedes Benz have all set up operations in Portugal while a range of successful startups and tech agencies are now successfully working with clients around the world.
In the wake of the global financial crisis, Portugal has strived to become Europe’s most startup-friendly country. Investments of up to €5 million enjoy tax deductions of 20 percent, meaning the tax rate for startups can be as low as 7.5 percent.
The Portuguese government has also eased residency programs for foreign startups and slashed red tape — setting up a company has been simplified to a simple online process. It has also allocated €200 million to help foreign companies invest in local companies and/or relocate to Portugal.
Compared to the rest of Europe, Portugal’s local tech scene is relatively small but it’s growing rapidly — a trend that Brexit will only help accelerate. In 2016, VC investment totalled only €18.5 million — but that was a six-fold increase from 2015.
Portugal’s geographical location is also playing a part. We are in the same time zone as London, an hour behind Central European Time — and a three-hour flight from key cities such as Zurich, London and Stockholm. Looking west across the Atlantic, our clocks are only five hours ahead of New York.
Renowned as a country that made its name for launching ships around the globe, Portugal is now playing a central role in helping startups from all over the globe navigate and conquer today’s digital world.
The advent of the lean culture has made it easier than ever before to assemble tech products from anywhere in the world — and Lisbon is rapidly positioning itself as a serious alternative to its main European rivals.
With thousands of cryptocurrency diehards swarming into Manhattan for this week’s Consensus 2018 conference and other industry related events, the prediction from Bitcoin bulls like Tom Lee of Fundstrat Global Advisors was that the hype-filled gathering would trigger a market rally.
Alas, not even a trio of (rented) Lamborghinis, a 1,000-person yacht party and a performance by 46-year-old rapper Snoop Dogg could prevent the value of virtual currencies tracked by Coinmarketcap.com from sinking by $45 billion since May 11. Bitcoin, the most popular of the bunch, dropped 3.7 percent this week to $8,117.43 even as Arthur Hayes — the crypto exchange executive whose firm rented the Lamborghinis — predicted a surge to $50,000 by year-end.
“While there was not a Consensus bump, our conviction on cryptocurrencies strengthened during the conference,” Lee wrote in a note Friday. He cited over exuberance about the prospects for rising institutional demand and lingering concerns about the regulatory framework for depressing prices.
This week’s slump is far from extreme by crypto standards, but the market’s resistance to Blockchain Week’s ballyhoo highlights one of the argumentsoften used by virtual currency pessimists — that most people who are willing to buy the coins have already piled in.
While bulls point to a vast pool of pent-up demand from professional money managers, it’s far from clear that regulations in the U.S. and elsewhere will evolve in ways that attract institutional investors. Many Wall Street pros have dismissed the market as a speculative bubble, while Warren Buffett has likened Bitcoin to “rat poison squared.”
This week’s losses may have been the result of unmet expectations surrounding Consensus 2018, said Sunny Lu, the chief executive officer of blockchain-based logistics company VeChain Tech and one of the conference speakers.
“The quality of projects and speakers were not really as good as expected,” Lu said. “I guess people just got disappointed.”
(BBG) Threats are growing by the day. And yet the U.S. has no master plan for responding.
Last month, the U.S. and U.K. governments released a joint “Technical Alert” on the dangers of “Russian state-sponsored cyber actors.” While timely and targeted, this alert shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
We’ve witnessed enough cyberattacks in recent years to understand that the digital domain is humanity’s new battlefield. And while the West is ramping up its defenses, its efforts aren’t guided by an overall doctrine. That’s right: There is no master plan.
What we need now, before a more serious cyberattack, is a doctrine along the lines of our National Response Framework. This document is, in its own words, “a guide to how the nation responds to all types of disasters and emergencies.” Resources, roles, responsibilities, you name it. From the Oval Office down to local governments. It even includes Native American Tribal Councils. No, seriously, look it up — because you can. This isn’t a secret, eyes-only doomsday plan. The National Response Framework is open to the public because it needs to be. There can’t be any room for misinterpretation or confusion.
Although cyberattacks do fall under the umbrella of the NRF, they’re noted only in a vague and flimsy annex that leaves far too many questions unanswered. What kinds of attacks, for example, fall under the heading of “Incident of National Significance”? Hacked heating-oil companies in winter? Traffic lights at rush hour? What if an attack targets something seemingly innocuous, such as the billing department of a medical-insurance company that could delay someone’s life-saving medication? These and a thousand other conundrums need straightening out, along with everyone’s designated course of action.
A National Cyber Response Framework should outline three basic principles.
First: government responsibility. Who answers to whom? We need to know exactly what organ of government (NSA, FBI, the Defense Department’s Cyber Command, and so on) is responsible for what element of our security and response. Offense versus defense. Civilian versus military. Foreign versus domestic. We need to clear up overlap and formalize the chain of command. We can’t allow the nebulous morass of pre-Sept. 11 intelligence-sharing to repeat itself in cyberspace.
Second: private-sector responsibility. The NRF Annex concedes that “the authority of the Federal Government to exert control over activities in cyberspace is limited.” As for how the government should work with private companies in the event of an attack, the document uses phrases such as “information-sharing” and “promote ongoing dialogue.” Imagine if that had been the attitude toward the airline industry after the Sept. 11 attacks. If Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill taught us anything, it’s that our vaunted tech giants can be rewired to turn against us. Not only do American corporations need to be dragged kicking and screaming to help protect the country that protects them, but every other U.S. company, large and small, needs to be bear some responsibility for their own security. A new cyber doctrine should delineate an unquestionable line between public assistance and private-sector self-defense. If not, government resources will be too exhausted chasing the little attacks to respond to the big one.
Third: personal responsibility. No defense strategy is complete without the participation of common citizens. All of us have a role to play, down to my 13-year-old son and all his networked devices. Just as the Greatest Generation trained for air raids and darkened their homes with blackout curtains, we need to do our part. Last month’s alert did have some helpful tips, but, honestly, who read them? And who’s going to take the time to read them when new warnings seem to be coming out all the time? An easily accessible National Cyber Response Framework could outline our individual responsibilities while reducing our collective anxiety.
It’s great that we’ve finally woken up to the dangers of cyberattacks, and it’s even better that we’re starting to develop defensive tools. Now those tools need to be synchronized under a single plan. Failure to do so leaves us continually vulnerable, and encourages bolder attacks. And when those attacks come, we can’t allow our own chaos to give aid and comfort to the enemy.
(JN) O governo francês está a desenvolver o seu próprio serviço de mensagens encriptadas. Inicialmente, o serviço será usado apenas pelo Executivo gaulês, mas poderá ser disponibilizado ao público em geral.
O governo francês está a desenvolver um novo serviço de mensagens encriptadas, similar ao WhatsApp e Telegram, que deverá ser de uso obrigatório por todos os membros do Executivo já no Verão, indicou esta segunda-feira uma porta-voz do Ministério Digital gaulês.
A medida surge por receios de que entidades estrangeiras possam espiar as conversas privadas entre os membros do governo. Quer o WhatsApp quer o Telegram estão baseados em França, o que aumenta o risco de violação de dados nos servidores localizados fora do país.
Cerca de 20 membros do governo e altos cargos da administração pública estão a testar a nova app que foi criada por uma empresa contratada pelo Estado.
“Precisamos de encontrar uma forma de ter um serviço de mensagens encriptadas cuja encriptação não seja feita nos EUA ou Rússia”, referiu a porta-voz. “Pensando nas potenciais falhas que podem acontecer, como vimos no Facebook, entendemos agir”, acrescentou.
O WhatsApp foi comprado em 2014 pelo Facebook, que tem estado sob fogo devido ao acesso indevido a dados dos utilizadores da maior rede social do mundo por parte da consultora política Cambridge Analytica.
A nova app francesa poderá eventualmente ser disponibilizada ao público em geral, admitiu a porta-voz.
O presidente francês, Emmanuel Macron, bem como o seu círculo mais próximo usa frequentemente o Telegram, criado por um empresário russo. Moscovo começou a bloquear o acesso ao Telegram após a empresa ter recusado cumprir uma ordem que dava acesso às mensagens dos utilizadores por parte dos serviços de segurança russos.
(Bloomberg) — The European Union’s markets regulator moved
to rein in the sale of risky investment products to retail
clients, with cryptocurrency derivatives set for the toughest
The European Securities and Markets Authority used new
powers under MiFID II to temporarily ban binary options and
restrict the distribution of so-called contracts for difference
to retail investors. The products allow investors to bet on the
price of stocks, currencies, and commodities without owning
them, and gains and losses are often increased with the use of
“The combination of the promise of high returns and easy-
to-trade digital platforms in an environment of historical low
interest rates has created an offer that appeals to retail
investors,” ESMA Chairman Steven Maijoor said in a statement
Tuesday. “However, the inherent complexity of the products and
their excessive leverage – in the case of CFDs – has resulted in
significant losses for retail investors.”
The measures are the most far-reaching step so far by
European regulators to target CFDs. They include leverage
limits, meaning investors have to provide a certain minimum
amount of their own funds to trade the products. The limits
range from 30:1 for major currency pairs to 2:1 for virtual
currencies, reflecting the volatility of the underlying assets.
Why Contracts for Difference Are Under Scrutiny: QuickTake
The restrictions by ESMA follow its January “call for
evidence” and will apply for three months, at which point they
can be renewed, the Paris-based authority said. They take effect
after they’re published in the EU’s official journal, with a
delay of one month for binary options and two months for CFDs,
Among shares of CFD brokers, IG Group Holdings Plc slid 9.5
percent as of 9:47 a.m. in London. The company said the measures
will hurt 2019 revenue, given demand for crypto trades is likely
to weaken from this year’s level.
“IG is disappointed that ESMA has chosen to proceed with
its proposal to impose disproportionate leverage restrictions
which will unduly restrict consumer choice, and risk pushing
retail clients to providers based outside of the EU or to use
other products which allow the leverage clients seek,” the
company said. “This may result in poor client outcomes.”
CMC Markets Plc dropped 2.6 percent. Plus500 Ltd., a Haifa,
Israel-based CFD brokerage, rose 1.1 percent.
The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority said in a separate
statement that it supports ESMA’s actions, and will “consult on
whether to apply these measures on a permanent basis to firms
offering CFDs and binary options to retail clients.”
(Bloomberg View) — Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, credited with
inventing the World Wide Web, tweeted up a storm on Thursday,
reassuring internet users that they could reassert control over
their data — and the web’s future — after the Cambridge
Analytica-Facebook scandals. He’s right, but not necessarily in
the way he imagines.
“What can Web users do?” Berners-Lee wrote. “Get involved.
Care about your data. It belongs to you. If we each take a
little of the time we spend using the web to fight for the web,
I think we’ll be ok. Tell companies and your government
representatives that your data and the web matter.”
I understand his agony about what has happened to his
invention, and I envy his optimism about the efficiency of
activism and regulation. Both are, of course, useful in rolling
back the massive invasion of privacy we have all suffered, not
quite knowingly, in recent years. But even if we get “woke” to
the invasion, there’s not much we can do about it.
Sure, one can go into Facebook settings, shut off every
possible kind of data-based ad targeting and kill, one by one,
all the “interests” Facebook has ascribed to you on the basis of
your online and offline behavior. (If you don’t know how it’s
done, don’t worry, most people are like you; click “Settings,”
then “Ads”). One can do the same on Twitter (it’s under “Your
Twitter data”). One can delete all one’s previous activity from
a Google account. But one can’t so easily disable the constant
data sharing that occurs on every website that uses programmatic
advertising (and lots of sites do). These sites get all sorts of
information about a visitor — above all, the browsing and
search history — and make it available to advertisers (or,
rather, to algorithms that “represent” them) so that they can
bid for your eyeballs. Nor is there any easy way to purge the
detailed dossiers collected about each of us by data brokers,
companies that collect information for resale; Cambridge
Analytica, too, essentially served as a data broker, acquiring
information from a Cambridge professor to package and resell it
to election campaigns. Most apps that we use on mobile phones
collect and share our data, too.
Is it really possible to reassert control? That’s easier
said than done. Our data are no longer ours, and it’s used in
ways we’d reject — if we had the chance to weigh in on the
Berners-Lee’s invention has been subverted by a belief that
Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg exhibited in a
recent New York Times interview. He said this:
Our mission is to build a community for everyone in the
world and to bring the world closer together. And a really
important part of that is making a service that people can
afford. A lot of the people, once you get past the first billion
people, can’t afford to pay a lot. Therefore, having it be free
and have a business model that is ad-supported ends up being
really important and aligned.
Since the Web’s early days, it’s been full of freebies, and
entrepreneurs have learned to offer them in a standard way. They
misrepresent data collection to users as something that
shouldn’t bother a sane person and sold advertisers on the idea
that the data collection could translate into more precise ad
targeting than that of traditional media. That’s not just the
Facebook model — it’s that of Google, Twitter and even
traditional publishers who have introduced programmatic
advertising to their websites and apps.
One can argue whether it really works for advertisers or
whether all the services it funds are equally useful to society.
But regardless of one’s opinions on those counts, what we users
need to understand is that this is not the only model.
Right now, the world is watching the biggest initial coin
offering in history — that of the messenger Telegram. It has
already attracted $850 million and is in the process of doubling
the amount. The idea behind it is to create a blockchain-based
economy inside Telegram’s 170 million-strong user community,
using a cryptocurrency to transfer value and buy stuff. This
planned ecosystem — which, one must admit, hasn’t been built
yet — will have room for advertising, too, but it will be more
akin to traditional media advertising than to the microtargeting
offered by the Googles and Facebooks. Telegram has public
channels, whose owners can sell ads in them to advertisers
interested in their audience. Neither Telegram nor the channel
owners need to collect any personal data in order to monetize
the community. Telegram can live off a percentage of
transactions in its ecosystem. The “media” based on the platform
just needs to attract large audiences for narrowly targeted
content. Telegram says it doesn’t share users’ data with anyone
My hope — perhaps as heedlessly optimistic as Berners-
Lee’s — is that newer, privacy-respecting business models, like
the one envisioned by Telegram, will naturally supersede the old
model, at least in the social media arena. Messengers have a
natural synergy with fintech and niche media, and pretty much
any of it can be monetized without selling data to the highest
It’s harder, however, to imagine this happening to search
or to the strongest traditional publishers, capable of
collecting both subscription and advertising revenue. That’s
where the Berners-Lee method — pressure and regulation — is
probably the best. It would be fair to allow those users who
don’t want to give up data or see ads, targeted or otherwise, to
pay a subscription fee — the way they do on Spotify, for
example — and to have others actually sell their data by giving
them a percentage of the ad revenue they generate. If platforms
refuse to offer these opportunities, regulators can force them.
We don’t have to be suckers or chattel in the internet
economy. Berners-Lee’s message is about clawing back our power
is an important call to action in a world where true privacy is
no longer possible.
(Bloomberg) — Apple Inc. is designing and producing its
own device displays for the first time, using a secret
manufacturing facility near its California headquarters to make
small numbers of the screens for testing purposes, according to
people familiar with the situation.
The technology giant is making a significant investment in
the development of next-generation MicroLED screens, say the
people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning.
MicroLED screens use different light-emitting compounds than the
current OLED displays and promise to make future gadgets
slimmer, brighter and less power-hungry.
The screens are far more difficult to produce than OLED
displays, and the company almost killed the project a year or so
ago, the people say. Engineers have since been making progress
and the technology is now at an advanced stage, they say, though
consumers will probably have to wait a few years before seeing
The ambitious undertaking is the latest example of Apple
bringing the design of key components in-house. The company has
designed chips powering its mobile devices for several years.
Its move into displays has the long-term potential to hurt a
range of suppliers, from screen makers like Samsung Electronics
Co., Japan Display Inc., Sharp Corp. and LG Display Co. to
companies like Synaptics Inc. that produce chip-screen
interfaces. It may also hurt Universal Display Corp., a leading
developer of OLED technology.
Display makers in Asia fell after Bloomberg News reported
the plans. Japan Display dropped as much as 4.4 percent, Sharp
tumbled as much as 3.3 percent and Samsung slid 1.4 percent.
Controlling MicroLED technology would help Apple stand out
in a maturing smartphone market and outgun rivals like Samsung
that have been able to tout superior screens. Ray Soneira, who
runs screen tester DisplayMate Technologies, says bringing the
design in-house is a “golden opportunity” for Apple. “Everyone
can buy an OLED or LCD screen,” he says. “But Apple could own
None of this will be easy. Mass producing the new screens
will require new manufacturing equipment. By the time the
technology is ready, something else might have supplanted it.
Apple could run into insurmountable hurdles and abandon the
project or push it back. It’s also an expensive endeavor.
Ultimately, Apple will likely outsource production of its
new screen technology to minimize the risk of hurting its bottom
line with manufacturing snafus. The California facility is too
small for mass-production, but the company wants to keep the
proprietary technology away from its partners as long as
possible, one of the people says. “We put a lot of money into
the facility,” this person says. “It’s big enough to get through
the engineering builds [and] lets us keep everything in-house
during the development stages.”
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
Right now smartphones and other gadgets essentially use
off-the-shelf display technology. The Apple Watch screen is made
by LG Display. Ditto for Google’s larger Pixel phone. The iPhone
X, Apple’s first OLED phone, uses Samsung technology. Phone
manufacturers tweak screens to their specifications, and Apple
has for years calibrated iPhone screens for color accuracy. But
this marks the first time Apple is designing screens end-to-end
The secret initiative, code-named T159, is overseen by
executive Lynn Youngs, an Apple veteran who helped develop touch
screens for the original iPhone and iPad and now oversees iPhone
and Apple Watch screen technology.
The 62,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, the first of
its kind for Apple, is located on an otherwise unremarkable
street in Santa Clara, California, a 15-minute drive from the
Apple Park campus in Cupertino and near a few other unmarked
Apple offices. There, about 300 engineers are designing and
producing MicroLED screens for use in future products. The
facility also has a special area for the intricate process of
Another facility nearby houses technology that handles so-
called LED transfers: the process of placing individual pixels
into a MicroLED screen. Apple inherited the intellectual
property for that process when it purchased startup LuxVue in
About a year after that acquisition, Apple opened a display
research lab (described internally as a “Technology Center”) in
Taiwan. In a test to see if the company could pull off in-house
display manufacturing, engineers in Taiwan first built a small
number of LCD screens using Apple technology. They were
assembled at the Santa Clara factory and retrofitted into iPhone
7 prototypes. Apple executives tested them, then gave the
display team the go-ahead to move forward with the development
of Apple-designed MicroLED screens.
The complexity of building a screen manufacturing facility
meant it took Apple several months to get the California plant
operational. Only in recent months have Apple engineers grown
confident in their ability to eventually replace screens from
Samsung and other suppliers.
In late 2017, for the first time, engineers managed to
manufacture fully functional MicroLED screens for future Apple
Watches; the company aims to make the new technology available
first in its wearable computers. While still at least a couple
of years away from reaching consumers — assuming the company
decides to proceed — producing a functional MicroLED Apple
Watch prototype is a significant milestone for a company that in
the past designed hardware to be produced by others.
The latest MicroLED Apple Watch prototypes aren’t fully
functioning wearables; instead the screen portion is connected
to an external computer board. The screens are notably brighter
than the current OLED Watch displays, and engineers have a finer
level of control over individual colors, according to a person
who has seen them. Executives recently approved continued
development for the next two years, with the aim of shipping
MicroLED screens in products.
It’s unlikely that the technology will reach an iPhone for
at least three to five years, the people say. While the
smartphone is Apple’s cash cow, there is precedent for new
screen technologies showing up in the Apple Watch first. When it
was introduced in 2014, the Apple Watch had an OLED screen. The
technology finally migrated to the iPhone X last year.
Creating MicroLED screens is extraordinarily complex.
Depending on screen size, they can contain millions of
individual pixels. Each has three sub-pixels: red, green and
blue LEDs. Each of these tiny LEDs must be individually created
and calibrated. Each piece comes from what is known as a “donor
wafer” and then are mass-transferred to the MicroLED screen.
Early in the process, Apple bought these wafers from third-party
manufacturers like Epistar Corp. and Osram Licht AG but has
since begun “growing” its own LEDs to make in-house donor
wafers. The growing process is done inside a clean room at the
Santa Clara facility.
Engineers at the facility are also assembling prototype
MicroLED screens, right down to attaching the screen to the
glass. The backplanes, an underlying component that
electronically powers the displays, are developed at the Taiwan
facility. Apple is also designing its own thin-film transistors
and screen drivers, key components in display assemblies.
Currently, the Santa Clara facility is capable of manufacturing
a handful of fully operational Apple Watch-sized (under 2 inches
diagonally) MicroLED screens at a time.
Until MicroLED is ready for the world to see, Apple will
still — at least publicly — be all-in on OLED. The company
plans to release a second OLED iPhone in the fall, a giant, 6.5-
inch model, and is working to expand OLED production from
Samsung to also include LG.