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EU Data-Privacy Regulator Raises Concerns About Windows 10

The European Union's data-protection watchdog says it still has concerns about the information Microsoft is collecting from users of its Windows 10 operating system.

The EU regulator sent Microsoft a letter a year ago raising concerns that the operating system didn't give users enough information or control over what data was being scooped up and sent to the Redmond company's servers.

Microsoft subsequently introduced an expanded settings menu that gives people installing the software more information on data privacy, but the EU's Article 29 Working Party said last week that the changes don't include enough disclosures to customers.

The group "remains concerned about the level of protection of users' personal data," Isabel Falque-Pierrotin, chair of the working party, said in a letter sent to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and company privacy czar Brendon Lynch. The regulator disclosed the letter Tuesday.

It is not clear, Falque-Pierrotin said, to what extent users will be informed about specific data Windows 10 collects. And the new settings leave much to be desired in their specificity, she said.

A Microsoft setting gives users the option to toggle from "full" telemetry data collection to a "basic" level, Falque-Pierrotin wrote. Microsoft's explanation to users says that means the company will collect "less data," without further explanation.

"Microsoft should clearly explain what kinds of personal data are processed for what purposes," the letter said. "Without such information, consent cannot be informed, and therefore, not valid."

In a statement Tuesday, Microsoft said it was listening carefully to comments from the EU and "will continue to cooperate with the Working Party and national data-protection agencies."

The statement said Microsoft's views on protection of user data in Windows 10 were contained in a blog post published in January by Microsoft Windows and Devices chief Terry Myerson. Myerson, outlining coming changes to the operating system's data-notification settings, said the company... Read More »

What To Expect at Mobile World Congress 2017

Although there is still almost a week to go before Mobile World Congress (MWC) opens in Barcelona, analysts say some of the themes of the 2017 show are already apparent. The event, which runs from February 27 to March 2, is one of the biggest mobile device events held annually.

Among the major trends expected at this year's conference are an increased focus on Internet of Things (IoT) technology, chatbot apps and digital payment and retail banking technology.

"As both enterprise and consumer IoT technologies and use cases continue to develop, the real promise of deriving value from IoT data will be a key theme at MWC," analysts with digital research and consulting firm Ovum wrote in a white paper previewing the event.

The Rise of IoT

Of all the themes expected at MWC, IoT might be the biggest this year. In particular, IoT devices that leverage Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies are expected to be front and center in Barcelona, with several announcements, demos and deployments. The use of IoT in smart city initiatives is also expected to be a major theme for 2017.

Meanwhile, the question of the value of all the new data expected to be gathered by the rollout of IoT technologies will be another major issue. "MWC will provide the opportunity for many discussions around innovative approaches to data usage, data storage, data ownership, data sharing, data lakes, and open data -- all of which will have a direct impact on the evolution of IoT," Ovum said in the white paper. Ensuring enterprises and applications are collecting enough data of the right type from IoT devices and analyzing them at the right point in the network is another question analysts expect will be discussed this year.

Chatbots and Digital Payments

The rise of chatbots in services will... Read More »

HTC U Ultra, HTC U Play launced in India: Price, specifications, features, release date and more

NEW DELHI: Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corporation on Tuesday launched HTC U Ultra and HTC U Play devices which are priced at Rs 59,990 and Rs 39,990, respectively. Both the smartphones come with 3D-contoured, liquid-adaptive HTC U sonic technology for personalised hearing experience and a unique combination of MegaPixel and UltraPixel camera technology on the […] Read More »

Verizon Shaves Price of Yahoo Deal by $350M in Wake of Breaches

While Verizon is moving ahead with its plan to take over core parts of Yahoo's business, the company has cut a new deal that lowers the price and has Yahoo shouldering more responsibility for any fallout from several large security breaches.

Expected to close in the second quarter of this year, the Verizon acquisition of Yahoo is now priced at $4.48 billion -- $350 million less than when the purchase was first announced in July. The new terms also assign Yahoo with half the cash liabilities that might result from any investigations or lawsuits connected to the security breaches at Yahoo.

Two major hacks of Yahoo that took place in 2013 and 2014 came to light after Verizon announced its acquisition plans. A more recent cookie forging attack also appears to have affected more Yahoo users than initially believed.

Acquisition 'Makes Strategic Sense'

"We have always believed this acquisition makes strategic sense," Marni Walden, Verizon's executive vice president and president of product innovation and new businesses, said in a statement today. "The amended terms of the agreement provide a fair and favorable outcome for shareholders. It provides protections for both sides and delivers a clear path to close the transaction in the second quarter."

In addition to lowering Yahoo's selling price, the new terms will also hold that company responsible for half of any cash liabilities that might arise after closing from any third-party lawsuits or government investigations outside of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Yahoo is already on the hook for any fallout from shareholder lawsuits or SEC investigations.

Under the new terms announced today, Verizon will not consider the recently disclosed Yahoo breaches -- or any potential losses stemming from those -- as a "business material adverse effect."

More Accounts Hit by Forged Cookies?

Following Verizon's acquisition announcement last... Read More »

Wal-Mart Earnings Fall, But Online Sales Surge

Wal-Mart drew more shoppers to its namesake stores in the United States and its e-commerce sales soared, signs that its efforts to lower prices and improve web services are helping it compete better against online leader Amazon.

The company saw the biggest gain in a key revenue measure in its U.S business in four years, marking the tenth consecutive increase. The number of customers rose for the ninth straight quarter. And online sales rose 29 percent in the third straight quarter of gains after about two years of a slowing trend.

Still, the world's largest retailer reported fourth-quarter earnings that fell 18 percent as its results have been squeezed by its investments in online upgrades and stores. The results did beat Wall Street expectations. And total sales were hurt by a stronger U.S. dollar, which is making its international business more challenging.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. also said Tuesday it has seen sales weaken at the beginning of the first quarter in part because a slowdown in tax refunds amid a new tax rule. And it warned that any tax on imported goods, as in a proposal Republicans in Congress have floated, would raise prices and would hurt shoppers.

Shares rose in morning trading.

Wal-Mart, like other traditional retailers, has been trying to improve its online operations to be a stronger challenger to online leader Amazon.com. The holiday shopping season was challenging for many retailers, underscoring the changes brick-and-mortar stores need to make. But Wal-Mart's results show that its aggressive efforts are helping.

"We're moving with speed to become more of a digital enterprise and better serve our customers," CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement.

Wal-Mart has retooled its own online shopping programs and bought up some smaller companies with online strengths. It spent more than $3 billion for Jet.com in a deal aimed at helping it... Read More »

Media Organizations Ask Judge To Order Release of iPhone Records

The Associated Press and two other news organizations asked a judge Monday to force the federal government to reveal how much it paid for a tool to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters.

The news organizations said in a court filing there was "no adequate justification" for the FBI to continue to withhold information on the cost of the tool or the identity of the vendor that sold it. They said their requests were narrowly tailored and, contrary to the arguments of the FBI and Justice Department, did not seek information that would jeopardize national security or be exploited by America's enemies.

"While it is undisputed that the vendor developed the iPhone access tool, the government has identified no rational reason why knowing the vendor's identity is linked in any way to the substance of the tool, much less how such knowledge would reveal any information about the tool's application," lawyers for the news organizations wrote in the filing to the U.S. District Court in Washington.

The AP, Vice Media LLC and Gannett, the parent company of USA Today, sued the FBI in September. The news organizations sought to learn more about the mysterious transaction that cut short a legal dispute in which the government won a court order to force Apple Inc. to unlock the work phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people in the December 2015 San Bernardino attack.

The FBI had maintained for weeks that only Apple could access the information on its phone, which was protected by encryption, but announced in March that it had ultimately broken or bypassed the company's digital locks with the help of an unidentified third party. The government has refused to say how it acquired the tool or how much it paid, though... Read More »

Money-Losing Toshiba Selling Medical Leasing Unit to Canon

Embattled Japanese electronics maker Toshiba Corp. is selling its stake in a medical equipment leasing company to Canon Inc. for 31.4 billion yen ($277 million).

Toshiba said Tuesday it is selling its entire 65 percent stake in Toshiba Medical Finance Co. to Canon, a Japanese camera maker, effective March 31. Tokyo-based Toshiba has been in talks with Canon since late last year on the sale.

Toshiba, which owns U.S. nuclear company Westinghouse, is in deep trouble after suffering massive losses in its nuclear business. It has been selling off lucrative businesses such as its computer-chip operations.

It is projecting a 712.5 billion yen ($6.3 billion) loss for its nuclear business, and has been unable to report April-December financial results. Its chairman has resigned to take responsibility for the mess.

Toshiba has already sold part of its chip business, and its president has said it is thinking about selling all of it to get out of the massive red ink.

It has also sold its household appliance unit to Midea of China, which is maintaining the Toshiba brand name.

The company has said it will no longer take on new reactor construction projects and will focus on maintaining the reactors it already has.

Toshiba is also involved in the decommissioning of Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns after a massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Its costs have risen because of growing safety concerns and regulations after the Fukushima accident, adding to Toshiba's woes.

Its reputation has also been tarnished in recent years by a scandal over the doctoring of accounting books to meet unrealistic profit targets.

Image Credit: iStock. Read More »

Customer Service Gets Smart Thanks to Salesforce Einstein

Done right, customer service has more potential than ever to help companies grow their businesses, but it's also become increasingly complex. That's where artificial intelligence (AI) can step in to help, according to Salesforce, which recently announced its new AI-powered Service Cloud Einstein.

Designed to help contact centers provide their customer service employees with faster, smarter insights, Service Cloud Einstein comes with new support for case management, mobile CRM (customer relationship management) and analytics for supervisors. The new offering builds on the initial Einstein services announced by Salesforce in September.

Salesforce is rolling out its latest Einstein services one at a time. Einstein Supervisor is already generally available. Its Intelligent Mobile Service for iOS was launched earlier this week (an Android app is also available as a pilot), while Einstein Case Management will become available as a pilot offering later this year, the company said.

AI Has 'Enormous Potential'

The artificial intelligence capabilities provided through Einstein are built in part on technology developed by a company called MetaMind, a deep learning startup acquired by Salesforce last year. However, Salesforce itself has been working on CRM-focused AI for more than two years, and Service Cloud Einstein marks its next step forward in putting that research into action.

"There is enormous potential for intelligence in customer service -- from smart image recognition to intelligent upsell & cross-sell to service bots -- and the companies that can harness all that AI has to offer will deliver better experiences for their customers, create competitive advantage, and disrupt entire industries over the next few years," Bobby Amezaga, Salesforce's senior director of product marketing for Service Cloud, wrote in a blog post.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can help business contact centers get deeper, real-time insights into their customers, Amezaga said. Organizations that make use of that... Read More »

Japanese Startup Positions Itself for Automotive Security

Having just completed its Series A financing round, Tokyo-based startup Trillium Inc is pre-emptively positioning itself as the provider of security solutions for autonomous cars.

The company designs and provides custom, multi-layer adaptive cyber-security systems, focused in the near-term on automotive needs, but which are also applicable to the entire IoT spectrum.

"With funding now in place, we are set to move quickly to market with a robust and urgently needed solution," said David Uze, Trillium's CEO. "Hundreds of articles on autonomous driving appear in the media every day, but almost none mention the elephant in the room: automakers do not yet have a reliable defense against cyber-threats. Period. One serious hack could immediately halt progress in automated driving. But we have the remedy," he claims in a company statement.

Trillium's claims its robust, comprehensive and cost-effective solution secures all three key "cyber-threat domains" in the car with a software-based approach compatible with any architecture or operating system. The company adds its solution can be implemented for as little as on tenth the cost of competing solutions -- most of which are still under development.

"We have moved into the real-world testing phase via partnerships with a legendary Japanese Super GT racing team and a leading maker of automotive semiconductors. We are now having in-depth discussions with several major automakers and tier-one suppliers. We're ready to implement whenever they are," said the CEO.

The new investment will help the company accelerate the development and deployment of its automotive IoT cyber-security platforms: 'SecureCAR' and 'SecureIoT' and expand in-vehicle implementation and testing of cyber-security retrofits on current-model connected vehicles. The funds will also serve the expansion of business operations in the Silicon Valley while establishing a satellite penetration testing and engineering hub in Michigan, USA.

To circumvent continually evolving threats, the company plans to deliver Security as a... Read More »

Trump’s First Weeks Spawn Anxiety for Some, Optimism for Others

President Donald Trump's first weeks in office have spawned anxiety and even arguments at some workplaces, putting owners -- especially at smaller companies -- in the position of needing to protect peace and productivity.

At software maker BetterWorks, CEO Kris Duggan has noticed a drop in productivity since Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration, with staffers distracted and having less energy as some of their focus shifted to politics.

"They're wound up, thinking about what march they're going to," says Duggan. His company, which makes business management programs and has a staff of about 100, is based in Redwood City, California.

Duggan says he's aware that employees aren't getting much rest on weekends -- instead of decompressing, they spend time on social media, sharing content that makes them uneasy.

Divided feelings over Trump's policies and personality affected workplaces of all sizes before the election too, but owners say there are more discussions now between co-workers that can turn disruptive. While plenty of workplaces haven't had issues or say their employees feel reassured by the new president, others say staffers have been subdued and distracted.

A survey conducted after the Republican and Democratic national conventions last year found a quarter of the 927 workers questioned said political conversations at work negatively affected them, reducing their productivity and creating stress. The survey, released the American Psychological Association, a professional organization, also found that a fifth of the participants were avoiding some co-workers because of their political views, a sign of increasing hostility in the workplace. There are few signs those emotions have waned.

After Trump issued an executive order restraining immigration from seven Muslim countries, staffers at Lou Hoffman's marketing company started worrying about a co-worker from one of those nations who's in the process of applying for a green card. The employees were concerned that she might be sent... Read More »