President Bans Government Use of Huawei, ZTE Components

As part of the Defense Authorization Act, President Trump banned the use of Huawei and ZTE technology by the U.S. government and its contractors. Many Republicans regard the two Chinese companies as national security threats, which led to the passage of a Senate amendment in June to reinstate a trade ban on ZTE, which would have had the impact of shutting that company down. Trump worked to lift the ZTE ban, and the House did not sign off, setting off questions as to whether the two chambers would find a compromise. Continue reading President Bans Government Use of Huawei, ZTE Components

Tech Firms Working With Feds to Create Privacy Legislation

After years of fending off federal attempts to regulate handling of private data, some tech companies are now working with policy makers to create federal privacy laws. The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and Salesforce, hopes that federal legislation would preempt state regulations, such as the strict online privacy laws recently adopted by California, and create a single regulation rather than a confusing array of multiple state laws. Continue reading Tech Firms Working With Feds to Create Privacy Legislation

Facebook Deletes Fake Accounts in Windup to Next Elections

Stating that it had detected a political influence campaign potentially targeting the midterm elections, Facebook removed 32 pages and fake accounts that were active around contentious issues across the political spectrum. One was a sequel to last year’s “Unite the Right” rally and another was a campaign to abolish ICE. Facebook was not able to link the pages to Russia, but officials did say that “some of the tools and techniques” were similar to those used by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency (I.R.A.). Continue reading Facebook Deletes Fake Accounts in Windup to Next Elections

Cloud Services and Advertising Push Amazon to Major Profits

Amazon posted $2.53 billion in profit for the first time, with the highest profit margin ever, the result of the company’s more recent service businesses, including cloud computing, advertising and other services for sellers. The Q2 profit compares to $197 million a year earlier, and represents three straight quarters of profits over $1 billion, forever changing Amazon’s former profile as a company that posts either red ink or bare bones income. Alphabet and Microsoft, however, still deliver much bigger profits. Continue reading Cloud Services and Advertising Push Amazon to Major Profits

Congress Scrutinizes Social Media Liability for User Content

Social media platforms such as Google and Facebook are exempt from liability for user-posted content, a protection that top Republican legislators want to end. House Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) quizzed Twitter representatives about the exemption, asking why they should be “treated differently than,” for example, a hotel that faces limited responsibility for illegal actions on its property. Goodlatte is one lawmaker who also looked at the purported silencing of conservative points of view on the platforms. Continue reading Congress Scrutinizes Social Media Liability for User Content

Microsoft Calls On Congress to Regulate Facial Recognition

Microsoft is calling for regulation of facial recognition technology, with president Bradford Smith writing a blog post detailing its potential misuse, and comparing it to medicine and cars, both of which are highly regulated. He urged Congress to act, saying that, “government needs to play an important role in regulating facial recognition technology,” and that, “a world with vigorous regulation of products that are useful but potentially troubling is better than a world devoid of legal standards.” Continue reading Microsoft Calls On Congress to Regulate Facial Recognition

Senators Request Investigation of Smart TV Privacy Practices

Senators Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) have written a letter to Federal Trade Commission chair Joseph Simons requesting that his agency investigate the business practices of smart TV manufacturers. The two senators are concerned about “consumer privacy issues raised by the proliferation of smart TV technology,” since some companies are able to identify what people are watching and use that data to feed ads to other device’s in the consumer’s home. Continue reading Senators Request Investigation of Smart TV Privacy Practices

U.S. Commerce Department Lifts Trade Ban on China’s ZTE

Following a deal made by President Trump, the U.S. Commerce Department has given the go-ahead to Chinese telecom company ZTE to resume its commercial relations with U.S. suppliers. ZTE was told the ban would be lifted once the company placed $400 million into an escrow account and paid a $1 billion fine, part of the penalty the Department had imposed on ZTE for breaking an earlier agreement to not sell to Iran and North Korea. ZTE’s failure to make good on this agreement led the Commerce Department to ban U.S. companies from selling to the Chinese company. Continue reading U.S. Commerce Department Lifts Trade Ban on China’s ZTE

Twitter Cuts Millions of Followers to Combat Fake Accounts

In an effort to restore trust in its social platform, Twitter plans to “begin removing tens of millions of suspicious accounts from users’ followers” today, reports The New York Times. “Many users have inflated their followers on Twitter or other services with automated or fake accounts, buying the appearance of social influence to bolster their political activism, business endeavors or entertainment careers.” Twitter has acknowledged that easily creating or buying fake followers has negatively affected the legitimacy of the platform. Continue reading Twitter Cuts Millions of Followers to Combat Fake Accounts

Social Media Platforms Ramp Up Removal of Fake Accounts

On Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, millions of fake profiles take on the identities of authentic celebrities and public figures in music, movies and politics. Such profiles can be a cover for crimes, as when Australian authorities busted a 42-year old man who impersonated Justin Bieber and racked up 900 child sex offenses. Such social media imposters are so rife that Oprah Winfrey has warned her Twitter followers, and her chief marketing officer Harriet Seitler reported that, due to sheer volume, her team only reports the impostors if the miscreants are trying to scam fans. Continue reading Social Media Platforms Ramp Up Removal of Fake Accounts

Facebook Reveals More Data Sharing Details in New Report

Facebook revealed that it made a deal to give dozens of app developers, hardware device manufacturers and software developers special access to user data, despite having stated that it did not release personal information to outsiders starting in 2015. In a 747-page document released to Congress last Friday, Facebook described those deals in much greater detail, and also stated why it believed these special deals were necessary to allow developers and manufacturers to become compliant with changes in its policies. Continue reading Facebook Reveals More Data Sharing Details in New Report

Supreme Court Lets States Collect Sales Tax From E-Tailers

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote that states have the authority to collect sales taxes from online retailers, even if they don’t have a physical presence in the state. In doing so, the justices closed a loophole that helped Internet sales to grow and also overturned 50 years of its own precedents that banned states from collecting sales tax from companies without such physical presence. The decision did not follow typical ideological decisions, with liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joining conservative justices. Continue reading Supreme Court Lets States Collect Sales Tax From E-Tailers

Senators Query Amazon on Echo, Data Privacy Parameters

Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Coons asked Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos to explain how the Echo smart speaker listens to and stores users’ voices — and what his company does to protect users’ data. Their concern is sparked by such incidents as an Echo device that mistook background conversation for voice commands of a Portland, Oregon woman, and then sent the private conversation to one of her contacts. Flake and Coons are, respectively, chair and ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. Continue reading Senators Query Amazon on Echo, Data Privacy Parameters

Apple Bans Developers From Sharing Data Without Consent

For years, developers for Apple’s App Store have been able to ask users for access to their phone contacts and then share or sell the data of everyone listed in those digital address books, without their consent. That practice has recently been getting a lot of negative attention, and now Apple plans to ban developers from using that information. The updated Guidelines nixes the creation of databases of address book information collected from iPhone users as well as selling or sharing it with third parties. Continue reading Apple Bans Developers From Sharing Data Without Consent

Facebook Rejects U.S. Congress Claim That It Is a Monopoly

After two months, Facebook responded to the more than 2,000 questions that Congressional committees asked chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. In the resulting 450-page document, Facebook rebutted government claims that it is a monopoly and didn’t answer if an app can spy on its rivals. Instead, Facebook emphasized that it has learned its lesson and is giving its users more control over their data. It also revealed more details about the info it collected, such as battery levels of users’ devices and computer mouse movements. Continue reading Facebook Rejects U.S. Congress Claim That It Is a Monopoly

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