Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

US Top Court to Intervene in Government’s Email Dispute With Microsoft

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear an appeal from the Justice Department on whether U.S. investigators can obtain emails stored overseas if they have a search warrant.

Since 2013, Microsoft has defied U.S. authorities in turning over emails that were stored on a data center in Ireland. While the investigators had a search warrant to obtain private records – in this case, emails – regarding a drug-trafficking case, Microsoft argued the warrant was valid under U. S. law but did not apply to other countries.

Microsoft’s lawyers maintained that the Stored Communications Act of 1986, the federal law that regulates electronic records, does not extend beyond the United States. Under the same logic, the tech company argued foreign governments could cause Microsoft to turn over data stored on U.S. servers.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court in New York overruled the Justice Department in favor of Microsoft. The Microsoft-Ireland decision, as it has come to be known, set a precedent for tech companies on U.S. soil. Essentially, tech companies can withhold digital evidence of crimes in the United States if the data is on a foreign server.

“Hundreds, if not thousands, of investigations of crimes – ranging from terrorism to child pornography to fraud – are being or will be hampered by the government’s inability to obtain electronic evidence,” Jeffrey Wall, Deputy Attorney General, said in the appeal, which was made in June. “The decision protects only criminals whose communications are placed out of reach of law enforcement officials because of the business decisions of private providers.”

The Supreme Court will hear the case early next year. Unlike most cases regarding privacy, the case does not hinge on Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, but the Stored Communications Act of 1986 on electronic records and privacy.

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Tesla Fires Hundreds of Workers After Annual Reviews

Tesla Motors fired hundreds of workers after completing its annual performance reviews, even though the electric automaker is trying to ramp up production to meet the demand for its new Model 3 sedan.

The Palo Alto, California-based company confirmed the cuts in a Saturday statement, but didn’t disclose how many of its 33,000 workers were jettisoned. The San Jose Mercury News interviewed multiple former and current Tesla employees who estimated 400 to 700 workers lost their jobs.

The housecleaning swept out workers in administrative and sales jobs, in addition to Tesla’s manufacturing operations.

An unspecified number of workers received bonuses and promotions following their reviews, according to the company.

Tesla is under pressure to deliver its Model 3 sedan to a waiting list of more than 450,000 customers. The company so far has been lagging its own production targets after making just 260 of the vehicles in its last quarter.

Including other models, Tesla expects to make about 100,000 cars this year. CEO Elon Musk is aiming to increase production by five-fold next year, a goal that probably will have to be met to support Tesla’s market value of $59 billion, more than Ford Motor Co.

Unlike Ford, Tesla hasn’t posted an annual profit yet.

Despite the mass firings, Tesla is still looking to hire hundreds more workers.

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Twitter CEO Vows to Police Sexual Harassment, Hate, Violence

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is promising the company will do a better job weeding out sexual harassment, hateful symbols and violent groups from its short messaging service.

The pledge issued in a series of tweets late Friday followed a boycott organized by women supporting actress Rose McGowan after she said Twitter temporarily suspended her account for posting about the alleged misconduct of film producer Harvey Weinstein. The movie mogul was fired last Sunday by the company he co-founded amid accusations that he sexually harassed or sexually assaulted women.

Dorsey acknowledged Twitter hasn’t been doing enough to ensure voices aren’t silenced on the service despite policy changes made since 2016. He said the new rules will be announced next week, with the changes taking effect soon after.

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Mystery Hacker Steals Australian Defense Data

A  mystery hacker who was given the alias of a TV soap opera character has stolen sensitive information about Australia’s multi-billion dollar warplane and navy projects.  Intelligence officials say the break was significant, although the Australian government insists that only low-level data was taken.  The identity of the cyber criminal is not known. 

The virtual break-in saw cyber thieves take illustrations of a major Australian naval project. About 30GB of data was stolen.  Details about new fighter planes, submarines and Australia’s largest warships were also compromised.  The breach began in July last year, but the Australian Signals Directorate, a domestic spy agency, was not alerted until November.  Intelligence officials say the hack, which targeted a private defence contractor in South Australia state, was – in their words – ‘extensive’ and ‘extreme.’

But the government is insisting there was no threat to national security.

Australia’s Defence Industry Minister, Christopher Pyne, says only low-level data was taken.

“I am pleased in a way that it reminds Australian business of the dangers that lurk out there,” said Pyne. “The information that has been stolen is commercial information.  It is not classified information, so it is not military information.  The government is doing its job.  Australian businesses need to be thorough in providing for their cyber security otherwise they will not get contracts with the government.”

It is thought the hacker had exploited a weakness in software being used by the government contractor in the city of Adelaide, which had not been updated for 12 months.

Australian cyber security officials humorously dubbed the mystery attacker “Alf”, after a character on the popular TV soap opera ‘Home and Away’.  They haven’t said if they suspect a foreign state was involved.

Earlier this year, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said cyber security was “the new frontier of warfare” and espionage, while announcing new measures to protect Australian governments and businesses from foreign interference.

Last year, a foreign power, reported in sections of the Australian media to be China, installed malicious software on computers at Australia’s national weather bureau. 

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Richard Branson Takes Another Bet on the Future with Hyperloop One

British billionaire Richard Branson on Thursday placed another bet on the future with an investment in Hyperloop One, which is developing super high-speed transportation systems.

Hyperloop One said Branson’s Virgin Group would take the company global and rebrand itself as Virgin Hyperloop One in the near future.

Branson has joined the board of Hyperloop One, which aims to develop pods that will transport passenger and mixed-use cargo at speeds of 250 miles per hour (402 km per hour).

The pod lifts above a track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to low aerodynamic drag.

The company did not disclose the size of the investment.

Hyperloop One was originally conceptualized by Elon Musk. In July, Musk said he had received verbal approval to start building the systems that would link New York and Washington, cutting travel time to about half an hour.

Last month, Hyperloop One raised $85 million in new funding, bringing the total financing raised to $245 million since it was founded in 2014.

Hyperloop One’s co-founders, executive chairman Shervin Pishevar and president of engineering Josh Giegel, have previously worked at Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic is Branson’s space company, which in 2016, was granted an operating license to fly its passenger rocket ship with the world’s first paying space tourists once final safety tests are completed.

“Virgin Hyperloop One will be all-electric and the team is working on ensuing it is a responsible and sustainable form of transport,” Virgin Group said in a statement.

Hyperloop One is also working on projects in the Middle East, Europe, India and Canada, according to the statement.

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