Displaying items by tag: Investigation

US technology behemoth Google is at the centre of an investigation by Indian competition officials after it was alleged that Google may have engaged in anti-competitive practices.

Google stands accused of abusing the market dominance of its Android platform. The European Union conducted a 3-year investigation that only concluded last year.

The European Commission determined that the deemed requirements for Android device makers to use Google apps were illegal. The US tech leader was subsequently fined €4.3bn.

Reports emerging from India claim that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) began probing potential abuse of Android’s position six months ago, following a complaint filed by a group of individuals.

In addition to this, it has been further disclosed that Google executives met with Indian officials to discuss the matter in greater detail. The CCI must now make their deliberations before deciding whether the case merits a further investigation, or if it should be dismissed.

A source told Reuters, “It is on the lines of the EU case, but at a preliminary stage. The EC’s action would make it difficult for the CCI to reject further investigation without demonstrating the problem has been addressed.”

Following the decision handed down by the EC, Google announced its intentions to stop bundling preinstalled apps with its Android platform and instead charge manufacturers a fee to licence its apps, as part of a bid to avoid additional fines.

Google has been in trouble in India before.

In February 2018, the CCI imposed an INR1.36 billion ($19.3 million) fine on the company for abusing its dominance in online web search and search advertising markets.

Google appealed against the fine, stating it could cause irreparable harm and reputational loss.

Published in Apps

The CFO at Chinese telecommunications behemoth Huawei has been arrested and detained in Canada, in a move that has been met with vehement criticism amongst authorities in Beijing, who have called for her immediate release.

Published in Telecom Vendors

Facebook embroiled in new data sharing claims

Written on Thursday, 14 June 2018 09:10

Beleaguered social media behemoth Facebook has been subjected to further scrutiny over its data sharing policies following a report by the Wall Street Journal.  The WSJ has claimed that Facebook offered deeper access to user records in a series of customized data sharing deals.

According to the report in the New York-based publication the Silicon Valley based social networking firm struck agreements, known internally as whitelists with a small group of companies which allowed access to users’ data which included connections, phone numbers and a metric that measures the closeness of a user with other users in its network.

When quizzed about these agreements and whitelists by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook acknowledged the deals which included agreements with enterprises such as the Royal Bank of Canada and Japanese car manufacturer Nissan, among others.

It was further alleged that the access was offered to companies which advertise on the social network or were valuable for other reasons, the newspaper said. In addition to this, it was further disclosed that Facebook continued to offer such access for periods lasting weeks and months after declaring it had cut off access to third party developers in 2015.

Company officials told WSJ Facebook struck the deals to improve user experience, test new features and allow certain partners to wind down existing data sharing projects. The latest revelation is the latest in a string of publicly damaging setbacks for the company, which faced fierce criticism in recent months over its data sharing activities.

Last week, Facebook’s data sharing practices with 60 device makers, including China-headquartered vendors, was flagged by a US politician. The company is also attempting to deal with the fallout of revelations in March that it shared data of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica. It was also announced last week that Instagram had overtaken Facebook amongst teenagers and young adults.

Published in Apps

Huawei denies collecting data from Facebook users

Written on Thursday, 07 June 2018 08:39

Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei has vehemently denied that it collected data from Facebook users after the Silicon Valley social media colossus confirmed that it granted the Chinese smartphone manufacturer with access to user information.

Huawei has been deemed a threat to national security in the United States by a number of leading US intelligence officials and Republican congressman. The Chinese vendor has been subjected to intense scrutiny over the last few months, and this latest revelation by Facebook will only serve to heighten concerns over national security.

Facebook confirmed that Huawei along with several other companies was allowed to access Facebook data to get the world’s leading social network to perform on its smartphones. Following a fierce backlash in the US congress, Facebook mobile partnerships leader Francisco Varela has leapt to the defense of Huawei, saying that the information utilized by the Chinese vendor was stored on the device and not on Huawei’s servers.

Varela said, “Facebook along with many other US tech companies have worked with them and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones. Given the interest from Congress, we wanted to make clear that all the information from these integrations with Huawei was stored on the device, not on Huawei's servers.”

A spokesperson for Huawei told AFP that it cooperated with Facebook as part of a concerted effort to improve user services, and strongly denied it collected or stored the data of users. In addition to this, it also rubbished claims it had any links to the Chinese government and dismissed fears in the US over national security.

The spokesperson said, “Like all leading smartphone providers, Huawei worked with Facebook to make Facebook's services more convenient for users. Huawei has never collected or stored any Facebook user data. Our infrastructure and computing products are used in 170 countries and we’ve worked hard to become a trusted ICT provider for our customers.”

US Senator Mark Warner, who is also vice-chairman of the senate select committee on intelligence, expressed his concern regarding the revelations by Facebook that Huawei had access to users’ data.

Warner said, “Concerns about Huawei aren't new. I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers."

Contracts with phone makers placed tight limits on what could be done with data, and "approved experiences" were reviewed by engineers and managers before being deployed - according to the social network.  Facebook said it does not know of any privacy abuse by phone makers who years ago were able to gain access to personal data on users and their friends. 

Published in Telecom Vendors

India’s newest 4G telecommunications operator Reliance Jio has launched an investigation amidst claims that the personal data of over 100 million of its customers has been leaked on to a website. If the claims are found to be true, it would represent the largest ever data breach at an Indian telecommunications operator.

Published in Telecom Operators

US President Donald Trump has admitted that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the prospect of forming a cybersecurity unit at the G20 summit which was held last week in Hamburg, Germany. The scrutiny over cybersecurity has intensified following the recent ransomware attack which destabilized hundreds of businesses and institutions like the NHS in the UK.

The attack only served to indicate further that it doesn’t matter what size your organization is, every entity it seems is extremely vulnerable to these cyber-attacks from those in the murky world of hacking. The US presidential race was dogged by allegations that Russia were involved in influencing the election. Hilary Clinton had her e-mail hacked during the campaign and was subsequently investigated by the FBI – and many political analysts believe this interference ultimately cost Clinton the election.

Both the CIA and FBI on the instruction from the Obama administration were asked to investigate the allegations further – in an attempt to establish whether Russia was responsible for the cyber-attack. The CIA later confirmed that it believed Russia was the source of the hack, but incredibly, this was rubbished by the President-elect Trump.

At the G20 Summit in Hamburg, both presidents were meeting for the first time, and Trump tweeted about the future of forming a cybersecurity unit between the two nations to combat fears over election hacking. He said it was time for the US to work constructively with officials in Moscow.

Trump tweeted, “Putin and I discussed forming an impenetrable cybersecurity unit so that election hacking and many other negative things, will be guarded and safe.” In addition to this, Trump disclosed that he had in fact challenged Putin on the allegations that Russia was responsible for the hacking scandal which embroiled the US presidential election, but said Putin rejected the claims.

Trump tweeted, “I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion. We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”

Published in Government

Social networking colossus Facebook is challenging a gag order from a US court that is currently preventing the organization from talking about three government search warrants. However, Facebook is claiming that the preventative measures implemented by the US court pose a threat to freedom of speech.

According to reports and court documents, Facebook wants to notify three of its users about the search warrants that are seeking their communications and information, and to provide those users with the opportunity to object to the warrants.

Facebook released a statement on the gag order and expressed its concern over a breach of the First Amendment concerns with this particular case. Facebook said: "We believe there are important First Amendment concerns with this case, including the government's refusal to let us notify three people of broad requests for their account information in connection with public events.”

The First Amendment to the US constitution guarantees certain rights including freedom of speech; however, William Miller, a spokesman for US prosecutors declined to comment on Facebook’s decision to challenge the gag order. In an undated court document it said that Facebook decided to challenge the gag order around the three warrants on the basis that free speech was at stake – and that the events underlying the government’s investigation were generally known to the public.

It has not yet been disclosed what the precise nature of the government’s investigation is; however, there have been suggestions that the timing of the proceedings coincide with charges against people who protested at Donald Trump’s inauguration in January. On the day, Donald Trump was sworn in as president - over 200 people were arrested in Washington as masked activists threw rocks at police, whilst multiple vehicles were set on fire.

Technology firms have consistently complied with thousands of requests for user data made on an annual basis by the government around the world, but in extraordinary circumstances, leading tech entities such as Microsoft and Twitter have defied and challenged government secrecy orders. Facebook fought a secrecy order in April, in relation to a disability fraud investigation, but it lost the case in New York highest state court.

Facebook says about half of U.S. requests are accompanied by a non-disclosure order prohibiting it from notifying affected users. In April, a local judge in Washington denied Facebook's request to remove the gag order there, according to the document. Facebook is appealing and has preserved the relevant records pending the outcome, the document said.

"The government can only insulate its actions from public scrutiny in this way in the rarest circumstances, which likely do not apply here," said Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for digital rights.

Published in Apps

UK regulator Ofcom on June 16 fined mobile phone provider Three £1,890,000, after uncovering a weakness in the mobile operator’s emergency call network. An Ofcom investigation found that Three broke an important rule designed to ensure everyone can contact the emergency services at all times.

Three fired back at Ofcom saying it acknowledged Ofcom’s decision to fine the company for a single point of vulnerability on Three’s network, but claims the vulnerability “has not had any impact on our customers and only relates to a potential point of failure in Three’s network,” the operator said.

On 6 October 2016, Three notified Ofcom of a temporary loss of service affecting customers in Kent, Hampshire and parts of London. Ofcom’s investigation found that emergency calls from customers in the affected area had to pass through a particular data centre in order to reach the emergency services. This meant that Three’s emergency call service was vulnerable to a single point of failure.

Three’s network “should have been able to automatically divert emergency calls via back-up routes in the event of a local outage,” Ofcom said. But these back-up routes would also have failed because they were all directed through this one point. To resolve the incident and address the underlying network weakness, Three added an additional back-up route to carry emergency call traffic.

Following Ofcom’s investigation, the regulator found Three had “breached the requirement to ensure uninterrupted access to the emergency services.” The breach of the rules was not the incident itself, but rather the weakness identified in Three’s network.

Ofcom’s investigation acknowledged that Three did not act deliberately or recklessly. However, the fine “reflects the seriousness of the breach, given the potential impact on public health and safety,” it said. Ofcom also acknowledged the steps Three took to ensure ongoing compliance with its emergency call service rules.

“Ofcom identified this vulnerability when investigating a separate, unprecedented and unforeseeable October 2016 fibre break outage on Three’s network,” said Three in a statement. “This resulted in a temporary loss of emergency call services affecting some customers. Three took immediate action and the issue was quickly resolved.”

Three highlighted that Ofcom recognized that the circumstances surrounding the October 2016 fibre break outage were exceptional and outside of Three’s control.  Therefore, Three claims the incident itself was “not a breach of Ofcom’s rules.”

As a result of the investigation, Ofcom said it expects all providers to “satisfy themselves that their networks do not have any single points of failure in the routing of their emergency call traffic, which could reasonably be avoided.”

Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom’s Enforcement and Investigations Director, said: “Telephone access to the emergency services is extremely important, because failures can have serious consequences for people’s safety and wellbeing.” Rasmussen added that the fine “serves as a clear warning to the wider telecoms industry. Providers must take all necessary steps to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency services.”

Published in Telecom Operators

Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick has sensationally resigned as CEO of Uber after coming under increased pressure from investors who raised serious concerns over his leadership. The co-founder of the ride-hailing service which has upended the taxi industry on a global scale has been under intense scrutiny over a series of scandals that have rocked the organization.

However, just last week it was announced following a board meeting that Kalanick had agreed to take a leave of absence for an undetermined period of time in an effort to grieve for his mother who had recently been tragically killed in a boating accident. His father was also seriously injured in the accident, and Kalanick said he needed a break to spend time with his family and work on his leadership skills.

It was expected he would return quietly in a few months when the controversies surrounding the organization blows over. However, it has been announced that Kalanick has now resigned as CEO after a letter from venture capitalist firm Benchmark called for his resignation.

In a statement given to the New York Times, Kalanick said it was imperative that Uber went back to building rather than becoming embroiled in a fight – and that he accepted the investors request. He said, “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors' request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”

Uber has been under the spotlight following an investigation into the culture that exists within its workplace and the practices employed by the firm which Kalanick co-founded in 2009. Uber is now the world’s most highly valued start-up business. A growing momentum of voices demanded changes at the helm, and it was the call from Uber’s biggest investors that ultimately forced Kalanick to concede that his position was now untenable.

One of Uber’s largest shareholders Bill Gurley is a partner in Benchmark and he also sits on the board. Other venture capital firms such as First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital, Menlo Ventures and Fidelity Investments, all called for the CEO to step aside. It has been reported that they delivered a letter to Kalanick when he was in Chicago. It is believed that Kalanick will remain on Uber’s board.

Gurley, one of Kalanick's closest confidants, praised the CEO on Twitter, after calling for his resignation. He tweeted, "There will be many pages in the history books devoted to @travisk - very few entrepreneurs have had such a lasting impact on the world.”

An Uber spokesman has expressed his shock and surprise at the decision taken by Kalanick. Some analysts felt that it was inevitable he had to go after an extensive investigation was initiated by former US Attorney General Eric Holder. Uber hired Holder to examine its culture and workplace practices after a former employee accused the company of engaging in brazen sexual harassment. Uber is now valued at $68 billion, which completely shattered the norms for Silicon Valley startups, and many feel the organization embodied many of Kalanick’s aggressive and pugnacious personality traits.

Published in Apps

The European Commission has opened an “in-depth” investigation to assess the proposed acquisition of NXP by Qualcomm under the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission has concerns that the transaction could lead to higher prices, less choice and reduced innovation in the semiconductor industry.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “We use our electronic devices every day - mobile phones or tablets. As semiconductors are used in practically every electronic device, we are dependent on them in those devices. With this investigation, we want to ensure that consumers will continue to benefit from secure and innovative products at competitive prices."

The proposed transaction involves the acquisition of the whole of NXP by Qualcomm and would combine two of the leading players in the semiconductor industry. More specifically, Qualcomm develops and supplies baseband chipsets (both standalone and integrated with an application processor) enabling cellular telecommunications standards such as UMTS and LTE. NXP is an important provider of semiconductors, in particular for the automotive industry. With respect to mobile devices, NXP is a leading provider of near-field communication ("NFC") chips and secure elements ("SEs").

The Commission's initial market investigation raised issues relating in particular to semiconductors used in mobile devices, such as smartphones, and in the automotive industry. The Commission is concerned that the merged entity would hold strong market positions within both baseband chipsets and NFC/SEs chips, and would have the ability and incentive to exclude their rival suppliers from these markets through practices such as bundling or tying.

The Commission is also concerned that the merged entity would have the ability and incentive to modify NXP's current intellectual property licensing practices, in particular in relation to NFC technology, including by bundling the acquired NFC intellectual property to Qualcomm's patent portfolio. The Commission will investigate whether such conduct could lead to anticompetitive effects, such as increased royalties for customers and/or exclusion of competitors.

The Commission claims the merger would remove competition between companies active in the markets for semiconductors used in the automotive sector and, in particular, in the emerging Vehicle-to-Everything ("V2X") technology, which will play an important role in the future development of "connected cars".

The transaction was notified to the Commission on 28 April 2017. The Commission now has 90 working days, until 17 October 2017, to take a decision. The opening of an in-depth investigation does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Published in Government
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