All posts on December, 2016


Evernote Toes the Privacy Line

Caught off guard by a huge backlash, Evernote recently abandoned its plan to let staffers read customer notes under certain circumstances. The plan would have allowed staffers to review private customer notes as a means of assessing the accuracy of its new machine learning technology. The company made a mistake in judgment, Evernote CEO Chris O’Neil acknowledged.

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Business and financeGulliver

Why President Trump might be a boon for autonomous vehicles

DONALD TRUMP’S election has generated much uncertainty about the future of travel to America, but one group of travellers might have reason to celebrate: those who hope to ride in driverless cars.

The Obama administration hasn’t exactly cracked down on this emerging technology. The 15-point guidelines released in September by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which cover everything from data protection to allowing a sober person to take control of the vehicle in the event of a malfunction, are voluntary for now, although the agency does plan to formalise them soon. But under Mr Trump, regulation of autonomous vehicles could be far more laissez-faire—or even actively supportive.

The first clues come from his early appointments. Most notable is Elaine Chao, the former secretary of labour under George W Bush (and wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell) whom Mr Trump has tapped to become secretary of transportation. Ms Chao…Continue reading

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Social Networks

Germany Could Ding Facebook for Fake News

The frenzied 2016 election cycle mercifully is over, but Facebook’s fake news problem isn’t going away. The company may face steep fines in Germany if it fails to address it satisfactorily. A bill slated for consideration next year would establish fines of up to $500,000 euros per day for each day that a fake news story persisted after notification of its falsehood was provided.

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Tech Law

Apple, Ireland Balk at EU’s Bill for Back Taxes

Apple and the Irish government are fighting what some view as a European Union tax grab. The two recently filed a formal appeal of the EC’s decision ordering Apple to pay nearly $14 billion in back taxes, based on its finding that Ireland had given Apple several illegal tax breaks. The EC found that Ireland had allowed Apple to determine its tax based on the activities of its subsidiary firms.

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2017: More Apple Security Flaws, Cyberattacks, Hacktivisim

More security vulnerabilities will appear in the software of Adobe and Apple than in Microsoft’s, more attacks on the Internet’s infrastructure will occur, and cybersecurity events will stoke international tensions. Those are a few of the predictions for 2017 that security experts have made. Signs of hackers’ increased interest in Adobe and Apple started appearing in 2016, Trend Micro noted.

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Tech Buzz

2016: The Year That Was

2016 really was a year like no other. We had yet another election defined by the misuse of analytics — and folks seem to be getting worse rather than better at this. We had a rush to robotics, particularly self-driving cars, and some firms even leaped ahead to self-flying, people-delivering drones. We had a wave of fake news, mostly paid for by Google, because that company has no compass.

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Social Networking

Fact-Checking the President-Elect’s Tweets

Fact-checking President-elect Donald Trump can be a chore, even for people paid to do it. The Washington Post wants to make it less so, with add-ons to the popular Chrome and Firefox browsers. The browser extension, RealDonaldContext, is available from the Chrome Web Store or the Mozilla Foundation. Once installed, the extension displays any fact-checking the Post may have done.

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ApprovedBusiness and financeFinance and economics

The state steps in to rescue Monte dei Paschi di Siena

FOR months, a bail-out had seemed likely; for weeks, unavoidable. On December 23rd it became fact. Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Italy’s third-largest bank and Europe’s most troubled, announced it had requested state help. The European Central Bank (ECB), Monte dei Paschi’s supervisor, had given it until the end of the year to find €5bn ($5.2bn) in equity, but the bank’s attempts to raise the money from the private sector failed. Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s new prime minister, said that “today represents a turning-point [for the bank] and a reassurance for its depositors and its future”.

That is the hope. The Tuscan lender’s problems have been rumbling for years. In 2007 it ill-advisedly bought Antonveneta, another Italian bank, from Spain’s Santander for €9bn in cash; more tales of mismanagement have emerged since. Monte dei Paschi has already had two state bail-outs, and raised €8bn from share issues in 2014 and 2015. Its gross non-performing loans amount to one-third of its book. In this summer’s European stress tests, it ranked 51st of 51 institutions. In the past year its stockmarket value has fallen by 88%, to a piddling…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

A domestic flight in Libya turns into a European hijacking crisis

NEWS that a domestic flight operated by Afriqiyah Airways, a state-owned Libyan airline, has been hijacked and flown to Europe should shock and appal an industry that has, since 9/11, spared no expense to end the scourge of such horrors. Events are still unfolding, but it is clear that two men claiming to have grenades forced the aircraft, an Airbus A320, to bypass its intended destination of Tripoli and fly on to Malta, the tiny Mediterranean island nation situated between Libya and Italy. Few details have emerged about the motives or demands of the hijackers. But, at the time of writing, all passengers and some crew had been released, signalling a peaceful end to the crisis.

Aviation in Libya is a messy affair. Afriqiyah lost one aircraft during the 2011 uprising against Muammar Qaddafi, and another two during the 2014 assault by Islamist militias on Tripoli International Airport. Several other planes are awaiting repairs after that assault, which all but destroyed the capital’s main airport (flights are now operated from the nearby Mitiga Airport, a former military base). Another of Afriqiyah’s planes was supposed to be leased to Turkish Airlines, but has been impounded…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusiness and financeFinance and economics

Germany’s biggest lender reaches a settlement with America’s Department of Justice

WELL, it might have been worse. Early on December 23rd Deutsche Bank announced that it had reached a settlement “in principle” with America’s Department of Justice (DoJ), over claims that it had mis-sold residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBSs) in 2005-07, in the run-up to the financial crisis. Deutsche says the agreement is worth $7.2bn—a far cry from the $14bn that the DoJ demanded in September, sending Deutsche’s share price reeling. Credit Suisse said that it too had struck a deal, worth $5.3bn. However, the DoJ is suing Barclays, with which it had also been negotiating, and two of its bankers. Barclays says it will fight the complaint.

Deutsche, Germany’s biggest bank, has always insisted that it would not pay anything like as much as the DoJ had asked for. Although $7.2bn is more than analysts had expected, investors will probably see the deal as good news: Deutsche will fork out only—“only”—$3.1bn in cash and pay the rest as “consumer relief”, such as changes to borrowers’ loans, which will be spread over five years. On the morning of the announcement the bank’s shares were trading 3-4% up.

Such…Continue reading

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