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Australian police reveal they broke new metadata laws

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 08:18:40 UT

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian police revealed on Friday that an officer broke the country's contentious new metadata laws by illegally accessing a journalist's phone records to identify an anonymous source. The laws force Australian communication companies and internet providers to store customers' personal metadata, such as phone numbers called and websites accessed, for at least two years as a counterterrorism measure for the convenience of law enforcement agencies. Police destroyed all the evidence gathered as a result of the breach and advised the Commonwealth Ombudsman, a watchdog that investigates complaints from the public of unreasonable treatment by government agencies, Colvin said. Colvin said the investigator had not been aware that before accessing a journalist's phone records to identify a source, police must get a federal judge to issue a Journalist Information Warrant.

A robot that picks apples? Replacing humans worries some

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 07:40:36 UT

Harvest has long been mechanized for large portions of the agriculture industry, such as wheat, corn, green beans, tomatoes and many other crops. [...] for more fragile commodities like apples, berries, table grapes and lettuce — where the crop's appearance is especially important — harvest is still done by hand. Members of the $7.5 billion annual Washington agriculture industry have long grappled with labor shortages, and depend on workers coming up from Mexico each year to harvest many crops. Some have purchased new equipment to try to reduce the number of workers they'll need, while others have lobbied politicians to get them to deal with immigration in a way that minimizes harm to their livelihoods. The work is hard and dangerous, and has long drawn Mexican workers to central Washington, where several counties near the Canadian border are now majority-Hispanic. A robot is not going to rent a house, buy clothing for their kids, buy food in a grocery and reinvest that money in the local economy. The two robot makers are likely to hit their production goals, said Karen Lewis, a Washington State University cooperative extension agent who has studied the issue.

Uber self-driving car exec steps aside during Google lawsuit

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 00:37:21 UT

Waymo filed a lawsuit in February accusing Levandowski of illegally downloading its blueprints for a navigation technology known as lidar before founding a startup that he later sold to Uber for $680 million. Waymo is seeking a court order that would force Uber to stop its work on autonomous vehicles on the grounds that the project has been drawing on trade secrets taken by Levandowski before he left Google. Levandowsk has added to the intrigue swirling around the high-profile case by invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, raising the possibility that Waymo's civil lawsuit might trigger a criminal investigation into what happened.

YouTube ad boycott could spell trouble for Alphabet's Google

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 22:09:56 UT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — YouTube's inability to keep big-brand ads off unsavory videos is threatening to transform a rising star in Google's digital family into a problem child. Skittish advertisers have curtailed their spending until they are convinced Google can prevent their brands from appearing next to extremist clips promoting hate and violence. Google CEO Sundar Pichai told analysts during a Thursday review of the first quarter that the company has had "thousands and thousands" of conversations with advertisers as YouTube takes steps to protect their brands. Advertisers began to flee YouTube last month, after The Times in London and other media outlets turned up evidence that their brands were appearing alongside clips promoting terrorism and racism. The findings alerted advertisers that YouTube didn't have adequate technology or staffing to shield brands from some of the appalling material that gets posted on a site that receives 400 hours of video per minute. (Some also stepped back from a related system that Google operates to place commercials next to videos on outside websites.) The list included big-spending marketers such as PepsiCo, Wal-Mart Stores, Starbucks, AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, and Volkswagen. RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney estimates the reduced spending on YouTube and Google's ad network for video on third-party sites could reduce Alphabet's net revenue by $300 million, to $1.5 billion, this year.

5 reasons Amazon is experimenting with physical stores

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 21:56:40 UT

Amazon has been dabbling in physical retail since 2015, during which time it's opened a half-dozen bookstores that double as gadget emporia, a score of campus bookstores that don't sell books and a convenience store without cashiers. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter says physical bookstores are good places to win Kindle converts, as "the only people who don't have Kindles who should have Kindles are luddites who also read." Miriam Sontz, CEO of Powell's Books in Portland, calls Amazon's entry "an acknowledgement of the inability of the internet to provide a certain retail experience that book buyers enjoy." Robert Hetu, a retail analyst at Gartner, says online customers tend to go to a website knowing what they want to buy. By contrast, customers visiting a physical store often make impulse purchases, even if they go in with something specific in mind. Amazon could learn more about that serendipity from its stores, and perhaps find better ways to increase impulse buying online, Hetu says. Once it launches, Prime members will be able to order groceries online and visit one of these stores for pickup, skipping the aisles. The Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle uses sensors to track items as shoppers put them into baskets or return them to the shelf. Amazon not only saves money on cashiers but also could use the data to manage inventory better and even assess when to discount items, says Mulpuru, the retail analyst. Hetu suggests that Amazon might even license its technology to other retailers, the way it rents out its data centers to businesses and groups to power their websites and other digital needs.

Microsoft's fiscal 3Q revenue falls short of expectations

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 21:20:32 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — Microsoft's cloud business propelled its fiscal third-quarter earnings above Wall Street's expectations, but revenue fell short, sending the software maker's stock lower in after-hours trading. Businesses and government agencies are increasingly turning to such "cloud computing" services, which is helping Microsoft move on from its old software business.

Microsoft beats Street 3Q forecasts

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:53:08 UT

(AP) — Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) on Thursday reported fiscal third-quarter earnings of $4.8 billion. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, came to 73 cents per share. The average estimate of 15 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 69 cents per share.

Alphabet posts 1Q profit

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:27:31 UT

(AP) — Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) on Thursday reported first-quarter net income of $5.43 billion. The Mountain View, California-based company said it had profit of $7.73 per share. In the final minutes of trading on Thursday, shares hit $874.25, an increase of 24 percent in the last 12 months.

Theme parks: Comcast's under-the-radar growth driver

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:01:31 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — One of Comcast's fastest-growing businesses hasn't been selling cable or internet subscriptions — or making movies and TV shows, or selling TV ads. Since 2011, when Comcast first took over NBCUniversal's film and TV studios, cable and broadcast networks, TV stations and theme parks, the parks have been one of its biggest revenue drivers. TV advertising faces a threat from digital giants Facebook and Google, who can target ads precisely to users. [...] the Florida Universal park had opened a Harry Potter attraction in 2010, before Comcast took control, and it was a smashing success. [...] Comcast has spent billions of dollars refurbishing and expanding its park empire, moving into Asia and adding rides and attractions to its California and Florida destinations. Universal's big-budget movies do well overseas — the eighth "The Fast and the Furious" movie is expected to cross $1 billion in global box office this week; film revenue soared 43 percent to $1.98 billion during the January-March period. There's also a Universal attraction in Singapore that Comcast doesn't own, and it has a Beijing theme park that's long been in the works with Chinese state-owned companies.

India bans social media sites to quell unrest in Kashmir

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 10:11:53 UT

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir have banned 22 social media sites in an effort to calm tensions in the disputed region after videos depicting the alleged abuse of Kashmiris by Indian forces fueled protests. An official with Kashmir's state-owned telecom company, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd., said engineers were still working on shutting down the 22 sites, including Facebook and Twitter, but so far had been unable to do so without freezing the internet across the Himalayan region. While the government has halted internet service in Kashmir in previous attempts to prevent anti-India demonstrations, this is the first time they have done so in response to the circulation of videos and photos showing alleged military abuse. An international journalists' rights group urged Indian authorities to immediately revoke the "sweeping censorship of social media," saying it "will bring neither peace nor order" in the region. The statement quoted a 2016 report from the U.S. think tank the Brookings Institution saying that India blocked access to the internet in various regions to prevent demonstrations 22 times in the 12 months starting in July 2015, "more often than did Syria, Pakistan and Turkey combined." Kashmiris have been uploading videos and photos of alleged abuse for some years, but several recently posted clips, captured in the days surrounding a violence-plagued local election on April 9, have proven to be especially powerful and have helped to intensify anti-India protests.

UAE's first solar-powered gas station opens in Dubai

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:22:35 UT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A government oil company in the United Arab Emirates says it has opened the country's first solar-powered gas station in Dubai.

AP Explains: What is net neutrality and why does it matter?

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:36:32 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — "Net neutrality" regulations, designed to prevent internet service providers like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Charter from favoring some sites and apps over others, are on the chopping block. [...] regulators, consumer advocates and internet companies were concerned about what broadband companies could do with their power as the pathway to the internet — blocking or slowing down apps that rival their own services, for example. The telecom giant exempted its own video app from cellphone data caps, which would save some consumers money, and said video rivals could pay for the same treatment. Republican lawmakers who opposed the 2015 rules on Wednesday invited Democrats in Congress to work on net neutrality legislation that would take precedence over FCC regulations. In the long run, net-neutrality advocates say undoing these rules makes it harder for the government to crack down on internet providers who act against consumer interests and will harm innovation.

FCC chief lays out attack on 'net neutrality' rules

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 19:11:19 UT

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said in a Wednesday speech that he wants to ditch the Obama-era rules, hated by telecoms, that prevent broadband and wireless companies from interfering with the sites and apps that consumers use. Pai doesn't have an immediate plan to replace net neutrality, but is seeking input on how to "approach" its core: three hard-and-fast rules that bar broadband providers from steering users toward (or away from) particular internet sites and services. Existing net-neutrality rules mean companies like Comcast and Verizon — which offer their own video services they'd very much like subscribers to use — can't slow down Netflix, can't block YouTube, and can't charge Spotify extra to stream faster than Pandora. Many internet companies have already been running the Washington playbook — lobbying Congress, schmoozing government regulators, and signing letters of protest. Engine, a policy group for startups, called up small internet companies to keep them updated and got more than 800 signatures for a letter that urges the FCC not to dismantle the net neutrality rules. The Internet Association, which speaks for Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix and Uber, earlier called on Pai to support net neutrality, and Wednesday issued a statement warning that his changes would "result in a worse internet for consumers."

Trump tweets don't help: 1st Twitter revenue drop since IPO

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 16:51:56 UT

[...] the company still faces stagnant user growth, has never made a profit and even reported a quarterly revenue decline Wednesday, a first since going public. Anything he tweets can serve as fodder for social media, TV news shows and, often, late-night comedy. Excluding stock compensation expenses and other one-time items, the company earned 11 cents per share in the latest quarter, down from 15 cents a year earlier. With its slogan "it's what's happening," Twitter has been trying to corner the market for real-time information, to be a place where people can go to find out what's going on in the world and talk about it with friends and strangers. [...] it's not just politics, but also sports events like the March Madness college basketball tournament or World Cup soccer, not to mention the stuff seemingly made for Twitter, such as the outrage over the dragging of a paying United passenger off a full flight to make room for crew. [...] in the wake of such setbacks, competition is growing. Besides Facebook and Instagram, Twitter is also vying for advertising revenue from Snap Inc., the owner of Snapchat.

Old car, new tricks: Adding safety tech to an older car

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:06:46 UT

For a few hundred dollars, drivers can add new safety technology — like forward collision warning systems or backup cameras — to older cars. Forward collision warning systems, for example, can reduce the risk of a crash by 27 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To get blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and lane departure warning on a new, 2017 Altima SL, you have to spend $28,570 for the car and add $3,000 in options. For a fraction of that amount — $500 — you could add an aftermarket forward collision system, backup camera and blind spot detection monitors to an older car. A 2015 Nissan Altima SL with blind spot monitoring, a rearview camera and lane departure warning can be found for less than $20,000, for example. Shawn Sinclair, an automotive engineer with Consumer Reports magazine, says forward collision warning is the most important feature to consider if you're thinking about adding tech to your car. Blind spot systems use sensors to monitor the sides of the vehicle and flash an icon to the driver if something is in the way. According to government statistics, roughly 250 people are killed each year in backover accidents, many of them children.