Tag Archives: Data

U.S. prosecutors probing Facebook's data deals: New York Times
March 14, 2019 6:00 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – U.S. federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook Inc struck with some of the world’s largest technology companies, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the requests and without naming the companies.

Both companies are among the more than 150, including Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp, that have entered into partnerships with Facebook for access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users, according to the report.

Facebook is facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over its privacy practices, including ongoing investigations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and two state agencies in New York.

In addition to looking at the data deals, the probes focus on disclosures that the company shared the user data of 87 million people with Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm that worked with U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Facebook said it was cooperating with investigators in multiple federal probes, without addressing the grand jury inquiry specifically.

“We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we will continue to do so,” Facebook said in a statement.

Facebook has defended the data-sharing deals, first reported in December, saying none of the partnerships gave companies access to information without people’s permission.

A spokesman for the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, which The New York Times reported is overseeing the inquiry, said he could not confirm or deny the probe.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Katie Paul in San Francisco; Editing by Richard Chang and Leslie Adler

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Who Should Govern Your Data? Inside the Privacy Debate in Davos
January 27, 2019 12:29 am|Comments (0)

Grüezi from the snow-coated Swiss Alps, in whose fir-studded, canvas blanc landscape the World Economic Forum recently transpired.

An inescapable theme at this year’s summit was data privacy. The topic happens, ironically, to play counterpoint to another central theme—that datavore dubbed “artificial intelligence,” as Adam Lashinsky, this newsletter’s regular, weekday author, noted in an earlier column (and elsewhere).

The two concepts are inversely related, a Yin and Yang. Businesses are looking to fill their bellies with as much information as possible, extracting insights that might give them an edge over the competition. Indeed, data-guzzling machine learning processes promise to amplify businesses’ ability to predict, personalize, and produce. But in the wake of a seemingly endless string of data abuses and breaches, another set of stakeholders has grown increasingly vocal about implementing some, let’s call them “dietary restrictions.” Our appetites need limits, they say; left unchecked, the fast-and-loose practices feeding today’s algorithmic models threaten to undermine the autonomy of consumers and citizens everywhere.

The subject of data stewardship clearly occupied the minds of the most powerful politicians in attendance. In the main hall of the forum, two heads of state shared their concerns on Wednesday. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the topic will be one of two primary agenda items for the G20 Summit he is hosting in Osaka in June. (The other is climate change.) Later, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Europe to find an approach to data governance distinct from the U.S.’s style, where corporations dominate, as well as the Chinese one, where the state seeks total control.

While policy-makers leaned, unsurprisingly, toward lawmaking, some members of the business set countered their notions with alternative views. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, cautioned against regulation, arguing that it restricts innovation. During a panel on digital trust I moderated on Thursday, Rod Beckstrom, the former CEO of ICANN, an Internet governance group, argued that Europe went astray when it adopted the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, last year, and he advised against the U.S. pursuing a similar path. Instead, Beckstrom proposed adding a privacy-specific amendment to the U.S. Constitution, one separate from the Fourth Amendment’s guard against warrantless searches and seizures. A provocative, if quixotic, idea.

By all measures, the disruptive, data-centric forces of the so-called fourth industrial revolution appear to be outpacing the world’s ability to control them. As I departed Davos, a conference-sponsored shuttle in which I was seated careened into a taxi cab, smashing up both vehicles. (No major injuries were sustained, so far as I could tell; though two passengers visited the hospital out of an abundance of caution.) While waiting in the cold for police to arrive and draw up a report, I was struck by how perfectly the incident encapsulated the conversations I had been observing all week.

We are all strapped, inextricably, to a mass of machinery, hurtling toward collision. Now what must be done is to minimize the damage.

A version of this article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Fortune’s tech newsletter Data Sheet. Sign up here.

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Dow Surges Nearly 750 Points on Strong Hiring Data, Dovish Comments From Fed Chair
January 5, 2019 12:01 am|Comments (0)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged nearly 750 points Friday, more than erasing its losses one day earlier, as a stock market hungry for good news received two morsels: a stronger-than-expected jobs report and comments from the Federal Reserve Chairman that signaled more flexibility in raising interest rates.

The Dow rallied 3.3% to 24,433.16, with the S&P 500 Index rising 3.4% to 2,531.94. Technology stocks, which have been especially volatile in recent months, were among the biggest gaining. The Nasdaq Composite rose 4.3% to 6,738.86.

Apple’s stock rose 4.3% to $ 148.26 two days after the company warned that a slowdown in China and overall iPhone sales would cause its revenue in the holiday quarter to fall well short of analyst expectations. Before Friday, Apple had lost 39% of the peak value it reached in early October.

The tech sector was the best performing subset of the S&P 500, rising 4%. Many large-cap tech stocks rose even further, with Amazon gaining 5%, Microsoft rising 4.7%, Alphabet advancing 5.1% and Netflix surging 9.7%. Since a market selloff on Christmas Eve, Netflix has gained 27%.

Early Friday, the Labor Department said that U.S. employers added the most workers in 10 months as wage gains accelerated and labor-force participation jumped, suggesting the underlying economy is holding up amid falling stock prices.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 312,000 in December, surpassing analyst forecasts. Average hourly earnings rose 3.2% year over year, the fastest pace since 2009. The unemployment rate inched up from a five-decade low to 3.9% as more people entered the labor market to find work.

The stock rally advanced further after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated at a conference in Atlanta that the Fed may pause from raising interest rates in the coming months. “With the muted inflation readings that we’ve seen coming in, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves,” Powell said. The remarks were received as more dovish than some of Powell’s recent comments, which have drawn the ire of President Trump.

Both developments were welcome in a market that had been bracing for more bad news. Apple’s revenue revision had led investors to worry about more disappointing earnings later this month. A Thursday report also showed manufacturing activity was slowing faster than expected. But investors took the jobs report in particular as a sign that the economy is holding up.

“No matter what the Fed’s going to do this year, today’s number showed that even though the Fed may still raise rates once or twice this year, it showed that a recession is still not very likely this year,” said Matt Maley, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. “Recessionary fears were really starting to grow but today’s number eased those fears.”

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Amazon Announces a Security Change That May Help Companies Using AWS to Avoid Data Breaches
November 17, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Amazon is finally offering a simple way for its cloud services customers to lock down data stored at its Simple Storage Service (S3) with one fell swoop. This change should help companies in the Fortune 500 and mom-and-pops down the street avoid embarrassing breaches of data.

Customers of Amazon Web Services (AWS) routinely leave private files available for public consumption. That’s led to routine, sometimes costly situations for companies that find hackers or security researchers have retrieved customer information, databases containing user passwords, or even proprietary company secrets.

That includes the global consulting and management firm Accenture, which in October 2017 left four of its S3 storage areas, known as “buckets,” open to public examination and download. Over 137 gigabytes of data could have been retrieved, including 40,000 unencrypted passwords. Accenture’s cloud platform, hosted on Amazon’s services, include 92 of the Fortune Global 100 and three-quarters of the Fortune Global 500. A security researcher discovered the public data and informed Accenture.

In August 2018, a researcher discovered that a company that sells surveillance software it markets for parents, Spyfone, left an Amazon S3 bucket publicly available, and intimate and personal data extracted from thousands of people its customers were monitoring were exposed, according to Motherboard. This included several terabytes of camera photos.

Last November, Amazon released a change that gave system administrators better notification about any storage buckets set to public access, using an orange label in its file-browsing dashboard.

The change released on Nov. 16, however, allows top-down control for an entire storage area, including disabling overrides for individual folders or files within it. This will prevent companies from leaving data open for global snooping—if they’re attentive enough to know about the new feature and enable it.

The number of security breaches due to customer settings at Amazon S3 has been so high that articles at tech sites devote themselves to listing them all.

Notable breaches include Uber, which exposed personal data of about 57 million customers in October 2016, and didn’t disclose the matter [until November 2017](Dara Khosrowshahi), after it had hired a new CEO; Deep Root Analytics, which exposed personal data on 198 million American voters; and the WWE wrestling entertainment firm, which exposed personal details of 3 million of its fans.

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Data Sheet—IBM’s Make or Break Deal for Red Hat
October 30, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

You’re just what I needed. The mobile search home page of Google got a makeover to promote links to other content. The new “discover” feature positions a curated list of content below the search box. The choice of new topics and stories is based on the user’s web habits. (I’m mostly getting suggested stories about the Red Sox World Series win this morning. Sigh.) Meanwhile, a story that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was planning to eliminate the ability to “like,” or favorite tweets blew up across Twitter on Monday, forcing the company to issue a semi-denial. “We are in the early stages of the work and have no plans to share right now.”

It’s not the perfume that you wear. In less positive news from Google, a backlash is brewing in the wake of a New York Times story alleging that male senior executives (including Android founder Andy Rubin) left with millions of dollars after being accused of sexual misconduct. A group of about 200 engineers is organizing a “women’s walk” walkout for later this week, BuzzFeed reports. And Intel is declaring that is has reached “full representation” in its workforce three years after making that a top priority. But at 27% female, 9% hispanic, and under 5% black, the employee base is still not representative of the U.S. workforce. Intel says the stat is one of its own devising measuring the make up of workers available in its market. Meeting the target is only a first step on its path to diversity, the company says.

I don’t mind you comin’ here. How is my favorite note organizing app doing? I’m note sure. Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill, who took over for co-founder Phil Libin in 2015, is departing after “putting Evernote on solid financial footing so we can continue to build for the future.” Those are the words of incoming CEO Ian Small, who had run video platform TokBox.

And wastin’ all my time. The new $ 1,300 Hydrogen One phone from high-end camera maker Red arrived on Monday and got some of the worst reviews in recent memory. The phone’s much hyped holographic screen “looks like the entire display has been smudged up when holographic mode kicks in,” The Verge says. “The phone seems misguided and unfinished,” adds PC Magazine “The phone’s advertising also lies about its screen being holographic, which makes me really cranky.”

Standin’ oh so near. My colleague Phil Wahba has a interesting take on a kind of boring subject. He reports how rental car company Avis plans to survive and thrive in the coming wave of self-driving cars.

(Headline reference explainer video for non-Gen Xers.)

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Broadcom sees fourth-quarter boost from data center demand, iPhone launch
September 7, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Broadcom Inc (AVGO.O) on Thursday forecast current-quarter revenue largely above estimates on higher demand for components that power data centers, while the launch of Apple Inc’s new iPhones is expected to bolster its wireless business.

A sign to the campus offices of chip maker Broadcom Ltd is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Shares of Broadcom rose 4 percent to $ 224.90 in extended trading after the chipmaker also reported third-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates.

Revenue from enterprise storage business jumped 70 percent in the reported quarter as the acquisition of Brocade helped drive sales gains at the unit.

Its wireless business, which makes chips for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS connectivity, reported flat revenue, while its wired infrastructure unit, which makes components used in telecommunication networks, posted a 4 percent rise from a year earlier.

“More than half our consolidated revenue … is benefiting from strong cloud and enterprise data center spending,” Chief Executive Officer Hock Tan said on a post-earnings call with analysts.

“This, coupled with a seasonal uptick in wireless, will drive our forecast revenue in the fourth quarter.”

The company expects a ramp at its North American customer – which analysts identified as Apple – to drive a 25 percent rise in wireless revenue from the previous quarter, although it may be down in single-digit percentage compared with a year earlier.

Apple (AAPL.O) is set to unveil its new iPhones next week.

Tan, who has transformed Broadcom into a $ 100 billion behemoth through a series of acquisitions, surprised Wall Street in July with his move to acquire software maker CA Technologies for $ 19 billion.

Explaining his rationale behind the CA acquisition, Tan said he planned to target the company’s enterprise customers with Broadcom’s offerings including server and storage connectivity products.

The CA deal comes after U.S. President Donald Trump blocked Broadcom’s $ 117 billion offer to buy Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) on national security grounds.

Broadcom forecast current-quarter revenue of about $ 5.40 billion, plus or minus $ 75 million. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $ 5.35 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income attributable to common stock rose to $ 1.2 billion, or $ 2.71 per share, in the quarter ended Aug. 5 from $ 481 million, or $ 1.14 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned $ 4.98 per share.

Net revenue rose to $ 5.06 billion from $ 4.46 billion.

Analysts on average were expecting earnings of $ 4.83 per share on revenue of $ 5.07 billion.

Reporting by Sonam Rai and Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

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Spotify hits subscriber targets but revenues slow on EU data rules
July 26, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

LONDON (Reuters) – Music streaming leader Spotify (SPOT.N) on Thursday reported results mostly in line with forecasts, as the number of paid subscribers rose 10 percent over the last three months, but revenue growth was slowed by new European data privacy rules.

FILE PHOTO: The Spotify logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Monthly subscribers, which account for around 90 percent of revenue, rose to 83 million at the end of June, up from 75 million in the first three months of 2018. Analysts, on average, was looking for 82 million subs, a Thomson Reuters poll showed.

Second-quarter revenue rose 26 percent to 1.27 billion euros, roughly in line with market expectations. Fifteen analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast, on average, 1.26 billion euros.

“We did see some GDPR disruption across our European markets during Q2 but seem to be largely past that now,” the company said in a statement, referring to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation that came into effect in May.

Reporting by Eric Auchard in London; Editing by Adrian Croft

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How Companies Can Safeguard User Privacy in the Data Era
July 18, 2018 6:56 am|Comments (0)

Many companies use data they collect about you to make the online services and connected devices you use that much more convenient. But that vast trove of personal information can also come with a number of risks like hacking.

The complexities of how companies can best navigate this reality was the focus of a round table discussion at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. on Tuesday.

Terry Myerson, executive vice president at Microsoft and former leader of its Windows and devices group, talked about his company’s efforts to replace passwords with biometrics, the use of fingerprints and eye readers instead of passwords. But he quickly pointed out the privacy concerns about using biometrics while another participant pointed out, ominously, that many peoples’ fingerprints are already available online.

Hal Lawton, president of Macy’s, said his company is “using AI to look for behaviors” online that may signal security concerns. But Cliff Justice, a partner at consulting firm KPMG, mentioned that sophisticated hackers are now starting to use AI to power their attacks.

“It’s a marathon. It’s a race,” Lawton said. “An arms race,” agreed Kirsten Wolberg, chief technology and operations officer of digital signature firm DocuSign.

“We are constantly struggling as companies to make sure we have the best experience for customers and at the same time ensure their security,” said Nat Natarajan, chief technology and product officer at Ancestry.com.

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Facebook says Indonesian user data not misused
July 13, 2018 6:47 am|Comments (0)

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Social media giant Facebook has assured the Indonesian government that personal data of about one million of its citizens had not been improperly accessed by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D plastic representation of the Facebook logo is seen in this illustration in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, May 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Facebook has faced intense scrutiny, including multiple official investigations in the United States, Europe and Australia, over allegations of improper use of data for 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica.

Indonesia, where more than 115 million people use Facebook, has also been pressing the firm to explain how its citizens’ personal data was harvested by Cambridge Analytica via a personality quiz. 

“Facebook has reported to the Communications Ministry that no data from any Indonesian users was collected,” Deputy Communications Minister Semuel Pangerapan said on Friday.

A Facebook official had told members of parliament in April that 1,096,666 people in Indonesia may have had their data shared, or 1.26 percent of the global total.

This led Communications Minister Rudiantara, who goes by one name, to briefly threaten to shut down Facebook in Indonesia if personal data was found to have been breached.

But Facebook told Reuters on Thursday it had only indicated the number of Indonesian users “who could potentially have had their data accessed, not necessarily misused”.

“Both public records and existing evidence strongly indicate Aleksandr Kogan did not provide Cambridge Analytica or (its parent) SCL with data on people who use Facebook in Indonesia,” it added, referring to the researcher linked to the scandal.

Facebook says Kogan harvested data by creating an app on the platform that was downloaded by 270,000 people, providing access not only to their own but also their friends’ personal data.

Pangerapan said he believed Facebook had improved options for users to limit access to data, but did not say whether authorities would continue their inquiry.

The Indonesian communications ministry had sent a letter to the company in April seeking confirmation on technical measures to limit access to data in Facebook and more information on an audit the social media company was doing.

Britain’s information regulator on Wednesday slapped a small but symbolic fine of 500,000 pounds on Facebook for breaches of data protection law, in the first move by a regulator to punish the social media giant for the controversy.

Reporting by Fanny Potkin & Cindy Silviana; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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New Zealand's Z Energy flags possible data breach in online card system
June 27, 2018 6:21 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – New Zealand-based fuel supplier Z Energy Ltd on Wednesday said it has been presented with evidence that customer data from its Z Card Online database was accessed by a third party in November 2017.

The database held customer data such as names, addresses, registration numbers, vehicle types and credit limits with the company, Z Energy said in a statement. The data accessed did not include bank details, pin numbers or information that would put customer finances directly at risk, it said.

Z Energy did not specify the extent to which its customer data had been compromised.

The company said it had notified affected customers and advised the Privacy Commissioner of the breach. It said the system in question had been closed since December 2017.

The Z Card allows customers to manage fuel accounts online, and is used primarily by companies with vehicle fleets.

Z Energy said it had been made aware of a potential vulnerability in the system in November, but had not found evidence of any data breaches at that time.

Z Energy operates in both New Zealand and Australia. New laws in Australia requiring companies to report data breaches took effect in late-February this year.

Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru

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