GulfNews Technology

GulfNews Technology

WhatsApp to Delhi HC: No deferment of privacy policy, trying to get users on board

India|Media|: New Delhi: Mobile messaging service WhatsApp on Monday told the Delhi High Court that it has not deferred the May 15 deadline for users to accept its new privacy policy. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing WhatsApp, submitted before a bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh that it is trying to get users on board, but if they do not agree to the privacy policy, then the company will slowly delete these user accounts. Sibal submitted before the court, "there is no deferment of policy." Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma, representing the Centre, submitted there are concerns that the policy was in violation of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Rules thereunder. Sharma informed the bench that the government has written to the CEO of the company, and it is waiting for a reply. The updated policy will allow WhatsApp to share some data about users' interactions with business accounts with its parent company Facebook. Read more India needs stricter action as WhatsApp privacy policy goes live WhatsApp adds voice and video calling feature to desktop version Most WhatsApp users reconsidering its usage; Telegram leading as an alternative: Study 'Committed to privacy' WhatsApp announces updated policy Is Signal better, safer than WhatsApp? Telegram launches new feature to import WhatsApp chat history Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing WhatsApp along with Sibal, objected to an argument made by advocate Manohar Lal who claimed that users who had not consented to the privacy policy were not being allowed to use the app. Datar submitted, "Our privacy policy does not violate the IT Rules, we can go rule by rule." The High Court has adjourned the matter till June 3. The ASG submitted the court should record the WhatsApp's counsel statement that the company will conform with the Indian law. He added that the company should maintain status quo where neither the account nor the data is deleted if users' revoke their consent for the new privacy policy.WhatsApp's counsel objected to the stay and submitted that they would not make any such statement. The High Court was hearing a plea filed by Seema Singh and law student Chaitanya Rohilla against WhatsApp's new privacy policy. The petitioners sought directions to the Centre to direct WhatsApp to roll back their policy or provide an option to the users of opt-out of the January 4, 2021, update. In February, the High Court had issued notice on the plea. The Centre had told the court that the new privacy policy does not provide the opportunity to review or amend the full information submitted by a user. In the backdrop of 2011 IT Act, the Centre had argued the new privacy policy fails to specify the types of "sensitive personal" data being collected, and with whom this information was being shared.

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Toshiba Gulf dominates storage market in Saudi Arabia, UAE and South Africa

Technology|: Toshiba Gulf FZE, the wholly owned subsidiary of Toshiba Corporation, highlights the significant surge in its market share in key geographies of UAE, Saudi Arabia and South Africa over the past year. Having concluded its FY 2020 on high growth, the storage leader has also garnered a greater market share for its Surveillance HDD portfolio and has built on the positive reception of its recently launched cutting-edge products. Santosh Varghese, Vice President – MEA, Toshiba Gulf FZE, commented, “At Toshiba Gulf, our focused priority continues to be to empower customers navigate the increasingly digital landscape with world-class storage solutions. We have positively grown our market share over the past 12 months, and we attribute this success to unsurpassed quality and expansive product range, relentless dedication of our valued employees and channel partners, and innovative go-to-market strategies.” The storage pioneer has invested substantially in strengthening its channel ecosystem. It has provided in-depth training workshops, resources and tools to manage challenging market dynamics and operate effectively in the new normal along with highly incentivized programs. By continuing its ‘go wide, go deep’ channel policy and excellent product offering in 2020, Toshiba Gulf has seized a significant 45% market share in Saudi Arabia and a notable 30% in UAE and South Africa, cementing its leadership position in the storage sector across these territories. Santosh Varghese, Vice President – MEA, Toshiba Gulf FZE Image Credit: Supplied The ongoing pandemic has accelerated the immediate need for organizations to digitalize their operations, which in turn has snowballed demands for data storage. According to World Economic Forum, by 2025, it is estimated that 463 exabytes of data will be created each day globally. This number will only get bigger as a result of the continuing impacts of COVID-19. The pandemic has compelled organizations and educational institutions to adopt work-from-home and remote learning models, leading to a further explosion of data generation, and fueling the demand for personal storage. Identifying the opportunities, Toshiba has doubled down on its HDD portfolio, with its Surveillance HDD line-up clocking a notable 17% climb in 2020 from 0.7% in 2018 in the Middle East and Africa region. Toshiba’s recent launches in its Canvio Portable Storage lineup has been well-received by the regional market and will continue to see a strong demand during the course of this year. The company expects to leverage the trends in the growing gaming market and position itself as a differentiator in the sector. Canvio Flex is the new USB-C portable storage designed for PCs/Mac, computers/iPad Pro and mobile digital devices/Tablets for cross platform compatibility. Canvio Gaming is the new portable game storage designed for game consoles and gaming PCs. The Canvio Advance and Canvio Ready feature a new design that offers advanced and easily accessible portable storage. This next generation of Canvio designs delivers seamless portability, high storage capacity and broad compatibility for various USB devices. Varghese said, “The regional ICT industry will experience incremental growth as enterprises underpin their digital transformation strategies and modernize their operations. Toshiba Gulf aims to continue enabling customers achieve their digital ambitions with excellent and reliable product offerings. Over the last year, we have further differentiated our portfolio through innovation and strategic planning. Toshiba’s brand equity has soared across all segments, thanks to our loyal channel partners. We have several exciting market plans and launches in the pipeline, and we look forward to collaborating even more closely with our channel partners this year.”

GulfNews Technology

Why Microsoft board asked Bill Gates to step down

Technology|Americas|: San Francisco: Some of the Microsoft board members last year wanted Bill Gates to step down amid an internal investigation into his alleged affair with an employee, The Wall Street Journal reported. Gates finally resigned from the Microsoft board in March 2020 before the investigation had been completed, the report said on Sunday. "Microsoft received a concern in the latter half of 2019 that Bill Gates sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement to the WSJ. "A committee of the Board reviewed the concern, aided by an outside law firm to conduct a thorough investigation. Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern," the company spokesperson added. A spokesperson for Gates, however, denied that his resignation from the board was related to the investigation. "There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably," the spokesperson was quoted as saying, adding that his "decision to transition off the board was in no way related to this matter". According to the report, some Microsoft board members "decided it was no longer suitable" for Gates to remain a director at Microsoft after the alleged affair came into limelight. Gates announced in March last year that he was stepping down from the board of directors of Microsoft, the company he co-founded in 1975 with the late Paul Allen. "I have made the decision to step down from both of the public boards on which I serve - Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway - to dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities including global health and development, education, and my increasing engagement in tackling climate change," Gates said via LinkedIn. Gates then began to shift his attention to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Earlier this month, the mega-billionaire couple Bill and Melinda Gates announced they were divorcing because their 27-year marriage has "irretrievably broken". The financial magazine Forbes has estimated Bill Gates is worth more than $100 billion.

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UAE Snapchat users can start making money by getting creative on 'Spotlight'

Markets|Technology|: Dubai: Snapchat users in the UAE and Middle East have a chance to get creative – and get paid for it, with the messaging platform adding the ‘Spotlight’ feature for users here. Local Snapchatters can earn a share from uploading their creative efforts. They don’t have to be a celebrity, influencer, or public figure to earn from their Snaps. Snapchatters do need to be 16 or older to earn, and where applicable, obtain parental consent. Pay for creatives has been hugely popular within the TikTok community, and with Spotlight, Snapchat wants to raise the competitive stakes. What’s Spotlight about? Spotlight shows up the most entertaining Snaps from the digital community all in one place, and will be tailored over time based on the user’s preferences. The entertainment platform for user-generated content has had more than 100 million users as of January, just two months after its release in the US and elsewhere. Hussein Freijeh, General Manager of Snap Inc. in the Middle East, said: "Our hope is that Spotlight continues to break down barriers to content creation and by democratising both distribution and the ability to earn, encourages Snapchatters to be creative and express themselves.” Consumption rates on Snapchat in the MENA region are often higher than the global average, with over 85 per cent of daily users interacting with Lenses every day. The region’s Snapchat generation is 1.2 times more likely than non-Snapchatters to feel like they are a part of others’ lives via their stories on social, communication, and camera apps.

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Is restrictive pricing of software limiting your business’s growth?

Technology|: A lasting effect of Covid-19 is that it accelerated the pace of digital transformation around the world. As businesses rush to capitalise on the growth opportunities and realise the cost efficiencies of the new norm, they face one challenge that has disappointedly remained unchanged by the pandemic - the cost of purchasing software. Despite the digital revolution that has been going on around us, technology and software wastage is an issue that remains broadly ignored. According to IT experts, wastage results from either software simply not being used perhaps because of a company introducing a reduction in staff, initiating a merger, or making change in the IT or business operations. In addition, it is not uncommon for a business unit or individual to overstate their initial software requirements. In these instances, elements of the software just never get used. Resale of used software Over the past ten years as companies have grown, the reselling of used software has become increasingly commonplace, especially in Europe. It is based on the simple premise that if we are comfortable buying and selling second-hand laptops and PCs, why should we not do the same with the software that we use on these devices. The resale market offers software that has been previously used or which remains unused having been installed but never actively deployed. In both the scenarios the usability of the software remains the same, and unlike hardware it has no depreciating value. One company’s unused software frequently has value to another. According to a study from EHI Retail Institute, a German-based scientific institute, a significant number of companies would have a strong interest in the commerce of second-hand software in order to reduce costs. Second-hand software licences can be acquired at a discount when compared to price of new ones and, in addition, the resale of used licences can provide a capital gain on the IT department’s balance sheet. Other reasons that push companies to look at second-hand software include a need to ensure software stability and to reduce a costly dependency on continuous upgrades from software vendors. Big money Recent research carried out by 1E, a UK IT solutions company, estimated the value of unused software in the US to be worth $12 billion (Dh44 billion) and £1.7 billion (Dh8.68 billion) in the UK. 1E concluded that on average each year businesses install, but do not actually use, more than $100 worth of software on each PC. Taking into consideration the historical volume of unused software already installed on any business PC, the value of the used software increases to over $400 suggesting a total value of approaching almost $50 billion. These figures support other research undertaken by Munich Strategy Group, a German-based consulting company, which estimated the value of unused software in Europe to be close to €10 billion (Dh44.4 billion), with Germany, Europe’s largest economy, the home to over €2 billion. Now one of the world’s leading resellers of business software, Wiresoft is launching in the UAE and it is on a mission to offer genuine software to the region’s businesses at a fraction of the normal cost, realising its ambition of making original software more accessible to businesses looking to grow and thrive. Originally launched in Germany in 2012, Wiresoft legally acquires original Used Software, including licences from reputable businesses. With more than 1 million satisfied clients, including many of the world’s largest and most successful brands, it has established itself as a trusted reseller of used original software. For more information visit www.wiresoft.ae

GulfNews Technology

India needs stricter action as WhatsApp privacy policy goes live

India|Media|: New Delhi: With the controversial WhatsApp privacy policy coming into effect from Saturday for its over 2 billion users including more than 400 million in India, industry experts emphasised that the government must implement stricter data privacy rules and restrain the Facebook-owned app as was done while banning Chinese apps to protect the sovereignty of the country. Giving an interim solace for those who do not accept the new policy, WhatsApp has said that its users will not immediately lose their accounts or face curtailed functionalities on the platform on May 15, but they will have to eventually go through limited functions if they fail to accept the new norms in the due course of time. On Thursday, a senior Ministry of Electronics and IT official said during an Assocham event that the government is pro-actively looking at a best possible action over the new WhatsApp privacy policy. MeitY Special Secretary and Financial Advisor Jyoti Arora stated that the ministry is aware about the fact that Germany has banned the privacy policy of WhatsApp. "There is no judicial order in favour of WhatsApp. In view of the unlawful nature of this privacy policy, the government should restrain WhatsApp as was done while banning Chinese apps to protect sovereignty of India," said Advocate Virag Gupta, who is arguing K.N. Govindacharya's matter before the Delhi High Court for disclosure of details of designated officers of social media companies. read more WhatsApp: Accept privacy policy or lose some functions How WhatsApp lost the trust of its users in India, its largest market Is Signal better, safer than WhatsApp? What would we do without WhatsApp? Most WhatsApp users reconsidering its usage; Telegram leading as an alternative: Study Signal is fastest growing app as WhatsApp privacy policy deadline inches closer WhatsApp has said that after giving everyone time to review the privacy policy from May 15, after a period of several weeks, the reminder people receive will eventually become persistent. After persistent reminders, the users will encounter limited functionality on WhatsApp until they accept the updates. The users won't be able to access chat list. After a few weeks of limited functionality, they won't be able to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to their phones. "WhatsApp's new terms requiring users to accept them by a cut-off date to continue to avail full functionality has brought click wrap contracts and their intended manner of operation under the glare. Click wrap contracts require a user to click 'yes' or 'ok' to the terms, which constitutes legal consent for availing a service," said Raj Ramachandran, Partner, J Sagar Associates. Given the substantial user base and the apparent network effect, it literally leaves little room for users to make a choice. "Germany has temporarily banned the update raising privacy concerns and EU may also looking into it closely. It is time for India too to implement effective data privacy rules, which has been pending for quite some time now," Ramachandran said in a statement. In March this year, MeitY filed an affidavit that that new privacy policy of WhatsApp violates the Information Technology Rules of 2011. "In January 2021, the ministry wrote a letter to WhatsApp exposing key objection of non-voluntary nature of the new privacy policy. The government also warned WhatsApp by quoting a Supreme Court of India judgment on privacy delivered in 2017," informed Gupta. It also said that data exchange between Facebook and WhatsApp is untenable because data collected from one service cannot be used in another service. "Instead of justifying its privacy policy, WhatsApp in its affidavit has exposed many other Internet-based applications and websites with similar policies and that some even collect more data. In light of this fact, the government must ensure physical presence of WhatsApp and other foreign Apps in India," Gupta reiterated.

GulfNews Technology

Passing on your password? Streaming services are past it

Companies|World|Business|: New York: Many of us were taught to share as kids. Now streaming services ranging from Netflix to Amazon to Disney" want us to stop. That's the new edict from the giants of streaming media, who are hoping to discourage the common practice of sharing account passwords without alienating subscribers who've grown accustomed to the hack. Password sharing is estimated to cost streaming services several billion dollars a year in lost revenue. That's a small problem now for an industry that earns about $120 billion annually, but something it needs to address as spending on distinctive new programing skyrockets. Amazon's upcoming "Lord of the Rings" series will reportedly cost $450 million for its first season alone - more than four times the cost of a season of HBO's "Game of Thrones." "Frankly the industry has been gravitating toward that. It's a question of when, not if," said CFRA analyst Tuna Amobi. "The landscape seems to be pretty set in terms of these new entrants, so it seems like a good time to get a much better handle on subscribers." It's a tricky balance. The video companies have long offered legitimate ways for multiple people to use a service, by creating profiles or by offering tiers of service with different levels of screen sharing allowed. Stricter password sharing rules might spur more people to bite the bullet and pay full price for their own subscription. But a too-tough clampdown could also alienate users and drive them away. In March some Netflix users began to get popups asking them to verify their account by entering a code sent via email or text, but also gave them the choice of verifying "later." Netflix did not say how many people were part of the test or if it was only in the U.S. or elsewhere. "They'll be taking a very cautious approach to it," Amobi said. "Handled the wrong way, there's always a downside to a move like this." The test comes at a crucial time for Netflix. Last year's pandemic-fueled subscriber growth is slowing. It remains the streaming service to beat with more than 200 million subscribers globally. But a bevy of new competitors have emerged, including Disney", which is cheaper and has quickly snapped up 100 million subscribers in less than two years. When Disney" launched in 2019, then CEO Bob Iger said the service was modeled on sharing. "We're setting up a service that is very family-friendly, we expect families to be able to consume it - four live streams at a time, for instance," he said in a CNBC interview. "We'll watch it carefully with various tools, technology tools, that we have available to us to monitor it. But it's obviously something we have to watch." Roughly two in five online adults have shared passwords to online accounts with friends or family members, according to the Pew Center for Internet and Technology. Among millennials it's even higher: 56% of online adults ages 18- to 29 have shared passwords. "With the cost of all the streaming platforms bought together equaling a cable bill -- which it was supposed to eliminate -- I think it's a great thing to be able to share your login to help family and friends save a few bucks," said Ryan Saffell, 39, an IT director from Las Vegas. Another study found more than a quarter of all video streaming services are used by multiple households. That includes a family or friend sharing the account they pay for outside of the household, or, less commonly, several households splitting the cost. And 16% of all households have at least one service that is fully paid for by someone else according to the study by Leichtman Research Group. That increases to 26% for 18- to 34-year-olds. Sharing or stealing streaming service passwords cost an estimated $2.5 billion in revenue in 2019 according to the most recent data from research firm Park Associates, and that's expected to rise to nearly $3.5 billion by 2024. That may be a small fraction of the $119.69 billion eMarketer predicts people will spend on U.S. video subscriptions this year. But subscriber growth is slowing, and costs are increasing. Companies are investing dizzying sums to produce own original movies and shows and stand out from competitors. Disney" said it'll spend up to $16 billion a year on new content for Disney", Hulu and ESPN" by fiscal 2024. Netflix is expected to spend $19 billion on originals this year, research firm Bankr estimates. "Programming spend is doubling, or in some cases tripling and quadrupling, so you have to fund it somewhere." CFRA's Amobi said. "Most services are looking at losses for the next few years before they break even. So they can use every subscription that they can get." Another way to finance all this new programing is to raise prices. Netflix hiked the price of its most popular plan by $1 last October, to $14 a month. Disney" followed in March with its own $1 a month increase, to $8. Josh Galassi, a 30-year-old Seattle resident who works in public relations, says everyone he knows shares passwords. If companies start to crack down, he said he would subscribe to the services he uses, but only if the shows he likes are on the service, like "The Good Fight" on Paramount". He does that with Starz' "Outlander," subscribing only when the show is on and then canceling. "One rule I have is I only share passwords with close friends or family members," Galassi said. "Or somebody I know that has a service I don't want to pay for, I'll ask them if they're willing to share in exchange for something that I pay for." Netflix played down its March user verification test, telling investors it was a continuing effort and nothing new. Company co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings promised not to spring any changes on customers too abruptly. "We would never roll something out that feels like `turning the screws,"' Hastings said in an April call with analysts. "It's got to feel like it makes sense to consumers that they understand."

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Facebook loses court fight over halting EU-US data transfers

Companies|Business|: London: Facebook lost a legal battle Friday with Ireland's data privacy watchdog over a European Union privacy decision that could result in the social network being forced to stop transferring data to the US. The Irish High Court rejected Facebook's bid to block a draft decision by the country's Data Protection Commission to inquire into, and order the suspension of, the company's data flows between the European Union and the US. Judge David Barniville wrote in his judgement that he concluded Facebook "must fail on those grounds of challenge and that it is, therefore, not entitled to any of the reliefs claimed in the proceedings." The Irish watchdog had launched its inquiry last year shortly after a ruling by the EU's top court striking down an agreement covering EU-US data transfers known as Privacy Shield, saying it didn't do enough to protect users from U.S. government cybersnooping. The Data Protection Commission "welcomes today's judgment," spokesman Graham Doyle said. Facebook said in a statement it looked forward "to defending our compliance" to the commission, "as their preliminary decision could be damaging not only to Facebook, but also to users and other businesses." The court ruling is the latest in a long-running battle between Facebook and Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems, who filed a complaint in 2013 about Facebook's handling of his data after former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's revelations. Facebook has data centers around the world and complying with the order could mean a costly and complex revamp of its operations to ensure European user data is siloed off from the U.S. It's unclear, however, what impact - if any - there would be for Facebook users. While the case specifically targets Facebook, it could have wider ramifications for trans-Atlantic data transfers. That's because Ireland's watchdog is the lead regulator for enforcing stringent EU privacy rules for many other Silicon Valley tech giants that also have their European headquarters in Ireland, including Google and Twitter.

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Apple holds edge in app store trial despite nagging issues

Companies|Business|: San Ramon, California: Apple seems to be prevailing in an antitrust trial examining whether its mobile app store illegally skims profits from smaller companies. But the tech giant's apparent edge has been carved out amid nagging questions about the financial vise it holds people in when they buy digital services on iPhones, iPads and iPods. If nothing else, the skirmish has sharpened the focus on the exclusive payment system that Apple has built into transactions occurring within apps installed on its family of mobile devices. Apple has collected a 15% to 30% commission on those in-app purchases for the past 13 years, fueling a moneymaking machine that has helped the company increase its market value from about $150 billion in 2008 to more than $2 trillion today. Those apps avoid a commission when their customers pay for their services through other options, such as a web browser. But Apple forbids apps from posting any links or making any other suggestions that steer people toward those other alternatives. The anti-steering provision prompted Epic Games, the maker of the popular video game Fortnite, to sue Apple last year and set the stage for the trial now approaching the end of its second week in an Oakland, California, courtroom. To prevail, Epic will have to persuade US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers that Apple's app store has become a monopoly that has enabled the Cupertino, California, company to engage in price gouging. That argument will likely require Gonzalez Rogers to embrace Epic's contention that the iPhone's software and the app store are large enough to represent a market by themselves. That has been a tough case to make, largely because the same commission rates have long been charged by similar stores operated by the leading video game consoles - Microsoft's Xbox, Sony's PlayStation and Nintendo's Switch - as well as on smartphones and other devices running on Google's Android system. What's more, Apple has never raised its commissions, and last year lowered them for companies that generate less than $1 million in annual sales on its products - a concession that applies to the overwhelming majority of the roughly 1.8 million apps now in its store. Antitrust expert Herbert Hovenkamp, a law professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said he doubts Gonzalez Rogers will agree with Epic's narrow market definition. And that, he said, gives Apple the clear upper hand in the case so far. "This is a case about market power, so even if there is bad behavior going on, it won't make a difference if Apple isn't (judged) a monopolist," Hovenkamp told The Associated Press. Epic on Thursday stepped up its efforts to turn the tide and prove Apple holds a monopoly on app distribution. While grilling Apple economic expert Loren Hitt, Epic rolled out evidence that many of the games that produce the most revenue aren't available to play on consoles. It remains to be seen whether any of that data will sway Gonzalez Rogers. But the judge has clearly been troubled by Apple's anti-steering requirements, based on her comments and questions during the past few days of the trial. Her concerns crystallized while one of Apple's expert witnesses, Richard Schmalensee, was on the stand. Schmalensee, formerly dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, also defended American Express in an antitrust case challenging its prohibition on merchants recommending customers use other credit cards with lower transaction fees - a policy the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in a 2018 decision. After Schmalensee likened Apple's in-app commissions to a credit card terminal that charges a fee for being part of its store, Gonzalez Rogers questioned why an app couldn't display different payment options, similar to the way stores can show a sign at checkout stands displaying the different credit cards and other forms of payment they accept. She suggested some sort of button or link might be inserted into apps allowing consumers to choose another payment method. That is something Epic would like, given the main motives underlying its lawsuit. Epic has two goals: to avoid giving Apple a cut of its sales to Fortnite players making impulse purchases for digital goods while playing the game" and it wants Apple to allow competition on the iPhone, including Epic's own own unprofitable app store that charges a 12% commission. But Apple insists that its payment system should remain the only option for in-app transactions on the iPhone and its other devices. It argues this helps pay for the $100 billion it says it has invested in mobile software, as well as protecting its customers' against potential security threats. Hovenkamp interpreted Gonzalez Rogers' questions about Apple's anti-steering requirements as "an invitation to settlement" of the case before she issues her decision at some point after the trial ends late this month. Even if Gonzalez Rogers sides with Apple and upholds the status quo, Epic could still win if the issues aired out in the trial raise consumers' awareness about the different options available to them, said Daniel Lyons, a Boston College law professor following the case. "Even if they lose the case, they have been playing a court-of-public-opinion game," Lyons said. "You spend a few million dollars on lawyers and you are a company that winds up being in the headlines for sticking up for the little guy. Maybe that's a win in itself."

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Twitter likely to re-launch verification programme

Media|World|: San Francisco: Micro-blogging site Twitter is reportedly looking to re-open public applications for profile verification from next week. Citing multiple sources, researcher Jane Manchum Wong on Twitter said that the social network is ready to launch its long-awaited new verification programme as soon as next week. Throughout May, Wong shared more details about how the Verification Request form will work and which type of accounts will be eligible to receive the blue badge. After controversies in the US national politics and other subjects, Twitter decided it would label different verified users for other people on the social network to understand whether the account represents the government, a politician, content creator or journalist, for example. As for now, only governmental accounts have a different label, 9To5Google reported. According to the report, Twitter will ask whether your account is of an activist, a company, entertainment group, government official, journalist/or professional sports entity. And then users will have to share their ID with the social network. According to Wong, "on Twitter's upcoming verification form, the eligible account type and qualifications pretty much aligns with their guideline." If Twitter launches its new verification programme next week, it will be another step for the company to continue improving and bringing more features to the platform, the report said. Recently, the social network launched its Spaces function and announced the Tip Jar feature for helping creators monetise in the platform. Twitter is also planning to launch a subscription tier, something it has been bolstering by buying other startups.

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For Dubai 3D startup Entourage, the future is around 'hybrid events'

Markets|Technology|: Dubai: Starting Sunday, Dubai will be hosting its first major in-person exhibition of the year – the Arabian Travel Market. It will set the marker on how the city gets back to being the destination of choice for mega-events and more – even with all the guidelines required to keep COVID-19 at bay. Abu Dhabi has already been on this road, having earlier this year hosted the biennial IDEX (International Defence Exhibition). So, as the UAE and its destinations prepare for a return of in-person events, what would it mean for the virtual exhibition business? In the second-half of 2020, 3D-based virtual events were all the rage, and it was felt that these would be around well after the world bids farewell to all vestiges of the COVID-19. Have virtual events outlived their use too soon? Mohammed Tayem, founder and CEO of eve virtual, which is a heavy hitter in anything that’s three-dimensional, is not too concerned about all that negative chatter. That’s because there’s always going to be a place for hybrid events, even after the pandemic. “Live events play a major role in the economy of the GCC region, especially UAE and Saudi,” said Tayem. “With the current situation, we have seen demand for virtual events grow rapidly; but people have been introduced to hybrid events. Now, the hybrid format is playing a major role in demonstrating the importance of reach and conversion. “So, as per market sentiments, 3D-based event platforms are just beginning to scratch the surface.” Let's go three-dimensional... Avatars and 3D platforms have become an option mere video-conferencing. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Hybrid element Even at next week’s ATM 2021, there will be a hybrid component, with the conferences following the exhibitions adopting the virtual format. In that regard, Tayem’s contention of hybrid options sitting alongside in-person events rings true. There are also possibilities beyond trade shows. “The Emirati singer, Balqees Fathi, launched her album on eve virtual and the platform was capable to host more than 650,000 attendees who interacted heavily with the artist and could make their avatars dance,” he added. “The attendees were able to meet others who were on the platform and enjoyed a surprise from Balqees when she picked a few fans and surprised them with video calls. “I would definitely agree COVID-19 gave us a great opportunity pushed us to take steps in different directions, which made us study the virtual events business and led to developing eve as a 3D virtual platform.” Alternative to videocon The virtual hosting platform launched in July last year, and proved an effective replacement for the video conferencing tools that were in peak deployment at the time. With eve, ‘attendees’ could simulate an event environment. On eve, from the registration to the actual sessions, all of the activity is done within a 3D virtual environment with personalized avatars and integrated communication tools. This was how the utility industry focussed WETEX exhibition was ‘hosted’. “We created 85,000 square metres of virtual space, 400 exhibition stands, four areas, six stages with participation from 63,000 people,” the CEO said. Creating that 3D aspect... the eve platform was deployed at the recent WETEX trade show. It hosted more than 60,000 people during the 'event'. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Mimic the real world “The key difference is how to utilize a technology you have developed and start enhancing it to cater to other businesses and the future. eve, when it started, was meant to have the 3D environment as a cutting-edge, but today caters not just events. Recently, we launched holographic presentations to make the speakers presentations more engaging for the audiences. “The 3D world has advanced, especially with virtual reality (VR). Taking that principle, we designed a platform that can mimic real-world experiences. This opened a lot of door for creativity - since anything imaginable can be built on 3D with a good designer. “We have also introduced readymade templates for 3D events - these simplify the process of creating and launching the event and it can be done in less than a week. And we are getting into 2D events very soon.” Tayem and eve sure have covered all bases… and then there's always the hybrid option.

GulfNews Technology

Remote work leads to massive surge in hacking globally: Report

Technology|World|: New York: With most people working from home, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been a surge in cyber crime. The year 2021 saw 5,258 data breaches across the globe, a third more breaches analysed than last year, according to a report on Thursday. The 14th edition of Data Breach Investigations Report (2021 DBIR) by US-based Verizon Business, analysed 29,207 security incidents from data collected from 83 contributors, with victims spanning 88 countries; 12 industries, and three world regions. The report showed that with an unprecedented number of people working remotely, phishing and ransomware attacks increased by 11 per cent and 6 per cent respectively, with instances of misrepresentation increasing by 15 times compared to last year. Additionally, breached data showed that 61 per cent of breaches involved credential data. About 95 per cent of organisations suffering credential stuffing attacks had between 637 and 3.3 billion malicious login attempts through the year. "The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on many of the security challenges organisations are currently facing," said Tami Erwin, CEO, Verizon Business, in a statement. "As the number of companies switching business-critical functions to the cloud increases, the potential threat to their operations may become more pronounced, as malicious actors look to exploit human vulnerabilities and leverage an increased dependency on digital infrastructures" Erwin added. Among Financial and insurance industries, 83 per cent of data compromised in breaches was personal data, while in Professional, Scientific and Technical services industries only 49 per cent was personal. Further, the 2021 DBIR report also revealed many breaches that took place in Asia Pacific regions were caused by financially motivated attackers -- phishing employees for credentials, and then using those stolen credentials to gain access to mail accounts and web application servers. Europe, Middle East and Africa regions saw basic web application attacks, system intrusion, and social engineering, while Northern America was the target of financially motivated cyber criminals searching for money or easily monetisable data. Social engineering, hacking and malware continued to be the favoured tools utilised by cyber criminals in this region.

GulfNews Technology

Mind over matter: brain chip allows paralysed man to write

Technology|: Tokyo: Paralysed from the neck down, the man stares intently at a screen. As he imagines handwriting letters, they appear before him as typed text thanks to a new brain implant. The 65-year-old is "typing" at a speed similar to his peers tapping on a smartphone, using a device that could one day help paralysed people communicate quickly and easily. The research could benefit people suffering spinal cord injuries, strokes or motor neurone disease, said Frank Willett, a research scientist at Stanford University and lead author of the study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. "Imagine if you could only move your eyes up and down but couldn't move anything else - a device like this could enable you to type your thoughts at speeds that are comparable to that of normal handwriting or typing on a smartphone," he told AFP. Thinking about letters Existing devices for those with paralysis rely on eye movement or imagining moving a cursor to point and click on letters. But Willett and his team wondered whether thinking about handwriting letters might be another way for people to express themselves. The theory was not necessarily obvious, as handwriting is a much more complex action than moving a cursor from point to point. But the researchers found that handwriting generates distinctive brain activity that proved easier for an implant to detect and a computer programme to interpret and translate into text. The research involved a man nicknamed T5 who was paralysed from the neck down after a spinal cord injury in 2007. He was fitted with two aspirin-sized brain-computer interface (BCI) chips on the left side of his brain that could detect neurons firing in the motor cortex that governs hand movement. Algorithm Sensors transmitted the signals to a computer for translation by an artificial intelligence algorithm into typed text. The first step was to determine whether T5 even produced distinctive and readable brain activity when imagining writing, given the many years since his injury. And once that activity was detected, the algorithm had to be trained to recognise and interpret the thoughts, a process that took nine days over a six-week period. T5 painstakingly imagined handwriting individual letters and copying out sentences so the programme could identify which brain activity patterns indicated which letter. 'It will get better' Over time, T5 was able to produce 90 characters or about 18 words a minute when copying sentences, and around 74 characters or 15 words a minute when replying to questions. That compares with the maximum 40 characters a minute that point and click systems can produce. The sentences weren't flawless, with a mistake in about one in every 18 characters when copying and one in every 11 characters when replying to questions. But adding an autocorrect function like that on a smartphone reduced the error rate to between one and two percent, the authors said. And even the training exercise offered a chance for T5 to express some poignant thoughts, including the advice he would give his younger self. "Be patient it will get better," he replied. Writing in a review commissioned by Nature, Pavithra Rajeswaran and Amy Orsborn of the University of Washington's bioengineering department called the work a "milestone". "The authors' approach has brought neural interfaces that allow rapid communication much closer to a practical reality," they wrote. But they cautioned that further testing and refinement is still needed. The study involved a single participant, and research is needed on how the implant will adapt to the way brain activity changes with age. Willett acknowledged the challenges, which also include creating technology smart enough to recognise handwriting without training and making the entire set up wireless. "Here, we are just showing a proof-of-concept demonstration that a handwriting BCI is an exciting and potentially viable approach for restoring communication to people who are severely paralysed," he said. But he is hopeful the technology could be feasible for general use within "years as opposed to decades".

GulfNews Technology

Global tech stocks are sliding - is there a meltdown on the way over inflation fears?

Markets|Technology|: New York: The worldwide slump in tech stocks has deepened, with investor angst over inflation and stretched valuations adding to fresh signs of regulatory scrutiny in China. Futures on the Nasdaq 100 tumbled 1.3 per cent after the underlying index's 2.6 per cent slide on Monday, while Europe's Stoxx 600 Technology Index dropped as much as 2.5 per cent, led lower by semiconductor makers and pandemic winners. In Asia, losses in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. helped send MSCI Inc.'s gauge of Asian tech stocks to its biggest drop since February 26, while the Hang Seng Tech Index sank as much as 4.5 per cent, extending its tumble from a February high to about 30 per cent. After tech stocks benefited from lower interest rates and emerged as investor favorites last year, concern is mounting that commodity-fueled inflation will prompt central banks to tighten monetary policy, denting the appeal of stocks whose valuations often hinge on earnings prospects far into the future. Read More UAE: If you had Dh10,000, what are the latest best non-traditional investment trends to benefit from? Real estate and banking stocks light up DFM ahead of Eid break Inflationary threats "It's as if many investors have woken up and realized that inflation is real and isn't transitory," said Neil Campling, an analyst at Mirabaud Securities. "The problem for tech is that it has been seen as a one-way ticket for the last decade - offering a glimmer of growth in a no-growth/low growth world," he said. With the Nasdaq 100 still trading within 5 per cent of its all-time high last month, some market participants see a good window to take profits. Investors "continue to place their focus on the inflation narrative, with rising commodities prices and chip shortages in play," said Yeap Jun Rong, a market strategist at IG Asia Pte. "Concerns of higher inflation may weigh on growth stocks, considering that much of their value may come from future earnings." Drag down broader market Tuesday's tech rout weighed heavily on the broader equity market, with Europe's benchmark Stoxx 600 Index falling as much as 2.1 per cent, and the MSCI Asia-Pacific Index slipping 2 per cent and closing at its lowest since March 31. MSCI's broadest measure of world equities fell for a second day. That's after hitting another record just last week after surprisingly weak US jobs data eased some fears about inflation and a cutback in stimulus. "Investors' tendency to look at just the good side of things is quickly fading," said Shogo Maekawa, a strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management. "People were inclined to buy technology stocks even after weak US jobs data on the view that any exit in monetary policies is far away. But now, a deep-rooted concern over inflation is leading to declines in technology stocks." Crackdown in China In Asia, Chinese tech giants have borne the brunt of the sector's retreat this month, after regulators expanded an antitrust crackdown and announced steps to rein in the companies' fast-growing finance units. Meituan stock plunged as much as 8.7 per cent on Tuesday, taking the slump over two days to 15 per cent, after the Chinese e-commerce giant's business practices were criticized by an influential consumer advocacy group, just days after the company's CEO shared and then deleted a poem on social media that some interpreted as a veiled criticism of Beijing. Herald van der Linde, HSBC Holdings head of Asia-Pacific equity strategy, says they turned neutral on China's internet sector in November arguing that this might be the "single biggest issue" in 2021. "Sometimes, Asian stock markets get carried away by what we can call 'big market delusions' - they believe that growth in sectors will continue," he said. "But then, these stocks can turn suddenly and de-rate even while growth remains strong."

GulfNews Technology

Leave no game behind with the WD Black P10 Game Drive

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