Facebook Flaw May Have Exposed Private Photos

Facebook says a software flaw may have exposed private photos of nearly 7 million users, the latest in a series of privacy issues facing the social media company.

Facebook said Friday that the photo glitch gave about 1,500 software apps unauthorized access to private photos for 12 days in September. 

“We’re sorry this happened,” Facebook said in a blog. It said it would notify users whose photos might have been affected.

Irish regulator  to investigate

The software flaw affected users who gave third-party applications permission to access their photos. Facebook usually allows the apps to access only photos shared on a user’s timeline. However, the glitch would have allowed the apps to see additional photos, including those on Marketplace and Facebook Stories, as well as ones uploaded but not shared. 

It is not known whether any of the photos were actually accessed. 

The lead regulator of Facebook in the European Union, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), said it was investigating the situation to determine whether the company complied with strict new EU privacy rules.

While Facebook says the bug has been fixed, the revelation brought new scrutiny to a company that has faced a series of security and privacy breaches. 

Earlier issues

Earlier this year, Facebook acknowledged that a political consultancy firm, Cambridge Analytica, gained access to the personal data from millions of user profiles. 

In September, the company said it discovered a security breach affecting about 50 million user accounts that could have allowed hackers to access the accounts. The company said hackers exploited the “View As” feature, which lets users see how their own profiles would look to other people. 

Facebook has also come under criticism for fake political ads posted on its site from Russia and other countries. 

The company has more than 2 billion users worldwide.

Apple Deepens Austin Ties, Expands Operations East and West

Apple will build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, break ground on smaller locations in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, and over the next three years expand in Pittsburgh, New York and Colorado.

The tech giant said Thursday that the new campus in Austin, less than a mile from existing Apple facilities, will open with 5,000 positions in engineering, research and development, operations, finance, sales and customer support. The site, according to Apple, will have the capacity to eventually accommodate 15,000 employees.

The three other new locations will have more than 1,000 employees each.

Early this year, Apple said that it would make more than $30 billion in capital expenditures in the U.S. over the next five years. That, the company said in January, would create more than 20,000 new jobs at existing and new campuses that Apple planned to build.

Where U.S. companies open new facilities or plants has always had the potential for public and political backlash.

That potential has intensified under the Trump administration, which has pushed companies to keep more of their operations inside the country’s borders.

While CEO Tim Cook has steered mostly clear President Donald Trump’s ire, Apple did receive some push back three months ago from the White House.

Apple sent a letter to the U.S. trade representative warning that the burgeoning trade war with China and rising tariffs could force higher prices for U.S. consumers.

Trump in a tweet told Apple to start making its products in the U.S., and not China.

Apple uses a lot of facilities overseas to produce components and its products, including China.

Top tech executives from Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Qualcomm gathered at the White House earlier this month to discuss strained ties between the administration and the industry, and trade tensions with China. Cook was not among them, nor was Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

There are already 6,000 Apple employees in Austin, its largest operation outside of company headquarters in Cupertino, California, where 37,000 people are employed.

“Apple has been a vital part of the Austin community for a quarter century, and we are thrilled that they are deepening their investment in our people and the city we love,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler in a prepared statement Thursday.

Apple said nearly a year ago that it would begin canvassing the U.S. for another campus.

Cities offered incentives to lure the company, but Cook avoided a high-profile competition that pitted them against one another as Amazon did over the last year and a half.

Amazon, too, expands

Amazon announced in November after a 14-month search it had selected Long Island City, Queens, and Arlington, Virginia, as the joint winners. Each site will employ around 25,000 people.

Cities are eager to bring in more tech employers because companies like Apple and Amazon ladle out six-figure salaries to engineers and other skilled workers.

The infusion of thousands of new and highly paid residents can ripple through an economy, with those employees filling restaurants, theaters, buying property and paying taxes.

Annual pay will vary at the new locations, but Apple workers in Cupertino have an average annual salary of about $125,000, according to a report the company submitted to the city.

Virgin Galactic’s New Flight Test to Soar Closer to Edge of Space

Virgin Galactic is preparing for a new flight test Thursday that aims to fly higher and faster than before toward the edge of space.

The U.S. company run by British tycoon Richard Branson is aiming to be the first to take tourists on brief trips into microgravity.

Virgin Galactic’s fourth flight test on the VSS Unity is scheduled for Thursday, weather permitting.

The flight will take off from a spaceport in Mojave, California.

The vessel does not launch from Earth but is carried to a higher altitude — about nine miles (15 kilometers) high — attached to an airplane.

Then, two pilots on the VSS Unity fire the engines toward the frontier of space, typically defined as an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers).

In July, after burning the rocket motor for 42 seconds, the VSS Unity reached a height of 32 miles, a part of the atmosphere called the mesosphere.

Commercial airplanes typically fly at an altitude of about six miles.

The VSS Unity reached a top speed of over 1,530 miles per hour, or beyond Mach 2.

“Overall the goal of this flight is to fly higher and faster than previous flights,” said a statement from Virgin Galactic.

“If all goes to plan our pilots will experience an extended period of microgravity as VSS Unity coasts to apogee, although — being pilots — they will remain securely strapped in throughout.”

Another U.S. rocket company, Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is also racing to be the first to send tourists to space, but using a small rocket to get there.

Virgin’s first flight date has been pushed back multiple times, following a test flight accident that killed a co-pilot in 2014.

Branson told CNN in November he hoped to send people to space “before Christmas.”

More than 600 clients have already paid $250,000 for a ticket.

OMG: California Regulators Consider Charge on Text Messaging

California regulators are considering a plan to charge a fee for text messaging on mobile phones to help support programs that make phone service accessible to the poor.

The Mercury News reports Wednesday that the proposal is scheduled for a vote next month by the state Public Utilities Commission.

The wireless industry and business groups have been working to defeat the plan.

Jim Wunderman of the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored advocacy group, says it would essentially put a tax on conversations.

The newspaper says it’s unclear how much money individual consumers would be asked to pay their wireless carrier for texting services under the proposal. But it likely would be billed as a flat surcharge — not a fee per text.

Sports, Deaths Among 2018’s Top Google Searches

Sports, disaster and death were among the top searches on Google last year.

Each December, the technology company releases it’s top trending searches of the year. Topics that drew the interest of Americans included the World Cup, Hurricane Florence and three people who died in 2018 — rapper Mac Miller, designer Kate Spade and TV host and author Anthony Bourdain.

Google does not come up with its lists based on the number of total searches. Instead, the company looks at the search terms that enjoyed the highest spike compared to the previous year.

“Black Panther” topped the list of most searched movies, while rising stars in the Democratic party dominated the list of most searched politicians.

Here are the Top 10:

1. World Cup

2. Hurricane Florence

3. Mac Miller

4. Kate Spade

5. Anthony Bourdain

6. Black Panther

7. Mega Millions Results

8. Stan Lee

9. Demi Lovato

10. Election Results

Other categories include:

News

1. World Cup

2. Hurricane Florence

3. Mega Millions

4. Election Results

5. Hurricane Michael

People

1. Demi Lovato

2. Meghan Markle

3. Brett Kavanaugh

4. Logan Paul

5. Khloe Kardashian

Politicians

1. Stacey Abrams

2. Beto O’Rourke

3. Ted Cruz

4. Andrew Gillum

5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Movies

1. Black Panther

2. Incredibles 2

3. Deadpool 2

4. Avengers: Infinity War

5. A Quiet Place

All of the 2018 Google top trending search lists can be found here.

Twitter CEO Acknowledges Suffering of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims

Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey is under fire for failing to address the humanitarian crisis involving the Rohingya Muslims during his recent meditation retreat in Myanmar.

Dorsey published a thread on his Twitter page Sunday praising Myanmar’s people as “full of joy,” and heaping equal praise on the nation’s cuisine.

Critics angrily accused Dorsey of ignoring the plight of more than 700,000 Rohingyas who fled from northern Rakhine state into neighboring Bangladesh to avoid a scorched earth campaign launched by the military in response to a series of attacks by Rohingya militants on security outposts.

A special United Nations fact-finding mission said the military acted “with genocidal intent” against the Rohingyas, based on interviews with hundreds of Rohingyas, who revealed numerous atrocities, including gang rapes, the torching of entire villages and extrajudicial killings.

Dorsey responded Wednesday that he was “aware of the human rights atrocities and suffering in Myanmar,” and that he did not “intend to diminish them by not raising the issue.” But he conceded that he “could have acknowledged that I don’t know enough and need to learn more.”

Critics have also pointed the finger at Twitter for allowing virulent anti-Rohingya hate speech onto the site during the height of the crackdown. Dorsey said people can use Twitter “to share news and information about events in Myanmar, as well as to bear witness to the plight of the Rohingya and other peoples and communities.”

This is not the first time the Twitter boss has gotten into hot water during his overseas travels. Dorsey caused a stir in India last month when a photograph emerged of him holding a poster that read “Smash Brahminical patriarchy,” a reference to India’s highest Hindu caste.

 

US Intelligence Official: China’s Hacking Against US on the Rise

A senior U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday that Chinese cyber activity in the United States had risen in recent months, targeting critical infrastructure in what may be attempts to lay the groundwork for future disruptive attacks.

“You worry they are prepositioning against critical infrastructure and trying to be able to do the types of disruptive operations that would be the most concern,” National Security Agency official Rob Joyce said at a Wall Street Journal cybersecurity conference.

Joyce, a former White House cyber adviser for President Donald Trump, did not elaborate. A spokeswoman for the NSA said Joyce was referring to digital attacks against the U.S. energy, financial, transportation and healthcare sectors.

The comments are notable because U.S. complaints about Chinese hacking have to date focused on espionage and intellectual property theft, not efforts to disrupt critical infrastructure.

China has repeatedly denied U.S. allegations it conducts cyber attacks.

Joyce’s remarks coincide with U.S. prosecutors preparing to unveil as early as this week a new round of criminal hacking charges against Chinese nationals. They are expected to charge that Chinese hackers were involved in a cyber espionage operation known as “Cloudhopper” targeting technology service providers and their customers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. Congress is looking into the allegations of increased Chinese hacking activity.

Senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department are scheduled to testify Wednesday morning at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “China’s Non-Traditional Espionage Against the United States: The Threat and Potential Policy Responses.”

Protesters Disrupt US Fossil Fuel Event at Climate Talks

Protesters disturbed a U.S.-sponsored event promoting fossil fuels on the sidelines of U.N. climate change talks on Monday.

The event called “U.S. innovative technologies spur economic dynamism,” touting the benefits of burning fossil fuels more efficiently, infuriated campaigners and many government delegations who want the talks to focus on moving away from coal, oil and gas.

Some 100 protestors in the audience at the event seized a microphone and interrupted opening remarks by Wells Griffith, the man President Donald Trump appointed as senior director for energy at the National Security Council.

They waved banners and chanted: “keep it in the ground.”

“I’m 19 years old and I’m pissed,” shouted Vic Barrett, a plaintiff in the “Juliana vs U.S.” lawsuit filed in 2015 by 21 young people against the government for allowing activities that harm the climate.

“I am currently suing my government for perpetuating the global climate change crisis… Young people are at the forefront of leading solutions to address the climate crises and we won’t back down.”

Before the interruption, Griffiths said it was important to be pragmatic in dealing with climate change in a world still heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

“Alarmism should not silence realism… This administration does not see the benefit of being part of an agreement which impedes U.S. economic growth and jobs,” he said.

The conference, in Katowice, Poland, aims to work out the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement, the global pact on combating climate change.

The United States, the world’s top oil and gas producer, is the only country to have announced its withdrawal from the accord.

Google CEO Tells Lawmakers Tech Giant Operates ‘Without Political Bias’

Google CEO Sundar Pichai insisted Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee that he runs the U.S. technology giant without political preference.

“We find that we have a wide variety of sources, including sources from the left and sources from the right. And we are committed to making sure there are diverse perspectives,” Pichai told the panel.

Pichai defended the company after accusations from Republican lawmakers that Google has developed online search algorithms to suppress conservative voices.

“There are numerous allegations in the news that Google employees have thought about doing this, talked about doing this and have done it,” Republican committee chairman Robert Goodlatte said.

Republican Congressman Lamar Smith cited a study by P.J. Media that concluded 96 percent of Google’s search results for President Donald Trump were from “liberal media outlets.”

“In fact, not a single right-leaning site appeared on the first page of search results. This doesn’t happen by accident but is baked into the algorithms. Those who write the algorithms get the results they must want and apparently management allows it.”

Smith also cited a study by “Harvard-trained psychologist” Robert Epstein that said Google’s alleged bias “likely swung” more than 2.5 million votes to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

“Google could well elect the next president with dire implications for our democracy,” Smith added.

“I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way,” Pichai said. “To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests.”

Top committee Democrat Jerry Nadler said Republican accusations of bias is “a completely illegitimate issue, which is the fantasy dreamed up by some conservatives that Google and other online platforms have an anti-conservative bias. As I’ve said repeatedly, no credible evidence supports this right-wing conspiracy theory.”

President Donald Trump is among those who have accused the company of censoring conservative content, tweeting in August that Google is “RIGGED” and that “Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out.”

‘Dragonfly’ project

Pichai’s testimony came after he angered committee members in September by declining an invitation to testify about manipulation of online services by foreign governments to influence U.S. elections.

The CEO was also questioned about the company’s planned “Dragonfly” project, a censored search engine for China and “next generation technology” that Congressman Smith said Google is “developing on Chinese soil.”

“This news raises a troubling possibility, that Google is being used to strengthen China’s system of surveillance, repression and control,” Smith said. “We need to know that Google is on the side of the free world, and that it will provide its services free of anti-competitive behavior, political bias and censorship.”

An international group of 60 human rights and media groups submitted a letter Tuesday to Pichai, calling on him to abandon the project, warning that personal data would not be safe from Chinese authorities.

Reporters Without Borders, a signatory to the letter, said China ranked 176 out of 180 countries in its Freedom of the Press Index.

Google shut down its search engine in China in 2010 after China insisted on censoring search results.

Pichai’s remarks in their entirety can be accessed here.