Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

Facebook Launches Job Search Feature for Low-Skilled Workers

Facebook wants to make it easier for people to find low-skilled jobs online.

After testing the new software in U.S. and Canada since last year, Facebook added job postings Wednesday in another 40 countries across Europe and elsewhere.

The software works with both Apple and PC operating systems.

Users can find openings using the Jobs dashboard on Facebook’s web sidebar or its mobile app’s More section. The search can be filtered according to area and type of industry, as well as between full-time and part-time jobs.

Users can automatically fill out applications with information from their Facebook profile, submit the applications and schedule interviews.

Businesses can post job openings using the Jobs tab on their page, and include advertisements.

Separately, Facebook announced the introduction of a face recognition software that helps users quickly find photos they’re in, but haven’t been tagged in. The new software will help users protect themselves against unauthorized use of their photos, as well as allow visually impaired users learn who is in their photos and videos.

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Moon to Get Its Own Mobile Network

Several high-tech companies are teaming up on a plan to put a mobile phone network on the moon next year.

Vodaphone Germany, Nokia, and Audi are working on a mobile network and robotic vehicles that are part of a private expedition to the moon, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary year of the first manned lunar landing.

The project with PTScientists in Germany would use a 4G network to send high-definition information from rovers back to a lunar lander, which would then be able to communicate it back to Earth. 

Project scientists say the system uses less energy than having rovers speak directly to Earth, leaving more power for scientific activities. 

They plan to launch the vehicles from Cape Canaveral next year on a Space X Falcon 9 rocket. 

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New Operating Systems, Improved Cameras on Display at Barcelona’s Mobile Phone Congress

The world’s biggest mobile phone trade fair, the Mobile World Congress, or MWC, opened earlier this week in Barcelona, Spain. Except for Apple, which traditionally stays away, all other big and small phone manufacturers and developers are displaying their wares as they continue to battle a market valued at $478 billion in 2017. VOA’s George Putic has more.

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New Operating Systems, Improved Cameras on Display at Barcelona’s Mobile Phone Congress

The world’s biggest mobile phone trade fair, the Mobile World Congress, or MWC, opened earlier this week in Barcelona, Spain. Except for Apple, which traditionally stays away, all other big and small phone manufacturers and developers are displaying their wares as they continue to battle a market valued at $478 billion in 2017. VOA’s George Putic has more.

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Ford, Miami to Form Test Bed for Self-driving Cars

Ford Motor Co. is making Miami-Dade County its new test bed for self-driving vehicles.

The automaker and its partners — Domino’s Pizza, ride-hailing company Lyft and delivery company Postmates — are starting pilot programs to see how consumers react to autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. Self-driving startup and Ford partner Argo AI already has a fleet of cars in the area making the highly detailed maps that are necessary for self-driving. Ford also will establish its first-ever autonomous vehicle terminal in Miami, where it will learn how to service and deploy its test fleet.

More services will likely be introduced as the partnership goes on, including Chariot, an app-based shuttle service owned by Ford. It’s all part of Ford’s effort to find viable business models for fully autonomous vehicles and get them on the road by 2021.

“This is, I think, the future of any automotive company or mobility company. If a majority of the world’s population is going to be living in cities, we need to understand how to move those people around,” said John Kwant, Ford’s vice president of city solutions, who inked the deal with Miami-Dade.

Ford isn’t the first automaker to run test fleets of autonomous vehicles. General Motors Co. will start testing autonomous vehicles in New York City this year, while Nissan Motor Co. is launching an autonomous taxi service in Yokohama, Japan, next week. Technology companies like Waymo — a division of Google — are also testing self-driving vehicles on public roads in Phoenix, San Francisco and Singapore, among other cities.

But the partnership with a specific metropolitan is less common. Both sides envision a deep relationship where Ford can help Miami-Dade solve specific issues, like how to most efficiently move people from its suburbs to its downtown monorail, and Miami-Dade can offer solutions like dedicated lanes for automated vehicles or infrastructure projects like advanced traffic lights that can send signals to connected cars. 

“We want to be on the forefront of this because we want to give our people choices,” said Carlos Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, which is home to 34 cities and 2.7 million people. 

Traffic congestion a concern

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, says the company also intends to work closely with local businesses. The company wants to learn, for example, how a florist might use an autonomous delivery vehicle.

“Autonomous vehicle technology is interesting, but it’s a whole lot more interesting with a viable business model,” he said.

The city of Miami is the fifth-most congested in the U.S., according to a recent traffic study by the consulting firm Inrix. After more than a century of selling people vehicles, Kwant says Ford now wants to figure out ways to move people more efficiently in order to cut down on that time in traffic.

Making money

Sam Abuelsamid, a senior research analyst with the consulting firm Navigant Research, says Ford and others must figure out how to make money on self-driving cars.

“If this does take off, if people do adopt automated vehicles and use them for ride-hailing, that’s going to result in a decline in retail vehicle sales,” Abuelsamid said. “They need to figure out, if we’re going to have a decline in the number of vehicles we sell to consumers, how do we keep our business stable?”

Kwant says the testing will also help Ford determine what its future self-driving vehicles need to look like and how they must perform.

“If you don’t have steering wheels, how do you begin to use that package space? How do you begin to look different in terms of carrying more people?” he said.

Ford won’t say how many vehicles it will have on the road in Miami-Dade, but says it will be Ford’s largest test bed for autonomous vehicles by the end of this year. 

Backup safety drivers

All of the vehicles will have backup safety drivers. Domino’s experimental vehicles aren’t even technically autonomous; they’re equipped to be, but for now they have actual drivers. The windows are blacked out so customers can experience how to get pizza from the car without dealing with a person.  

Miami will give Ford new challenges. Previously, it tested Domino’s cars in suburban Michigan, where parking wasn’t an issue. But in busy Miami Beach, the cars will have to figure out where they can go to allow apartment-dwellers to safely retrieve their pizzas. An autonomous delivery vehicle from Postmates might have to switch between Spanish and English commands when it picks up a meal and delivers it to a customer. Self-driving Lyft vehicles will be tasked with mapping out the best places to wait for customers without causing more traffic headaches.

Kwant says Ford will announce more city partnerships as this year progresses. But Miami-Dade was a natural, since it has good weather, lots of different urban and suburban terrain and support from Gimenez and other government leaders.

Cheaper and safer

Gimenez, who began talking to Ford in 2017 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, says he’s not worried about consumer acceptance of self-driving cars. He thinks his community will embrace them as companies prove that shared autonomous vehicles can be cheaper and safer than regular ones.

Gimenez says self-driving vehicles also can potentially improve traffic flow without significant new investments in roadways. They can travel more closely together, for example, because they’re always watching the car in front of them and can brake automatically.

“That’s why I’m really high on this technology,” he said.

 

 

 

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Ford, Miami to Form Test Bed for Self-driving Cars

Ford Motor Co. is making Miami-Dade County its new test bed for self-driving vehicles.

The automaker and its partners — Domino’s Pizza, ride-hailing company Lyft and delivery company Postmates — are starting pilot programs to see how consumers react to autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. Self-driving startup and Ford partner Argo AI already has a fleet of cars in the area making the highly detailed maps that are necessary for self-driving. Ford also will establish its first-ever autonomous vehicle terminal in Miami, where it will learn how to service and deploy its test fleet.

More services will likely be introduced as the partnership goes on, including Chariot, an app-based shuttle service owned by Ford. It’s all part of Ford’s effort to find viable business models for fully autonomous vehicles and get them on the road by 2021.

“This is, I think, the future of any automotive company or mobility company. If a majority of the world’s population is going to be living in cities, we need to understand how to move those people around,” said John Kwant, Ford’s vice president of city solutions, who inked the deal with Miami-Dade.

Ford isn’t the first automaker to run test fleets of autonomous vehicles. General Motors Co. will start testing autonomous vehicles in New York City this year, while Nissan Motor Co. is launching an autonomous taxi service in Yokohama, Japan, next week. Technology companies like Waymo — a division of Google — are also testing self-driving vehicles on public roads in Phoenix, San Francisco and Singapore, among other cities.

But the partnership with a specific metropolitan is less common. Both sides envision a deep relationship where Ford can help Miami-Dade solve specific issues, like how to most efficiently move people from its suburbs to its downtown monorail, and Miami-Dade can offer solutions like dedicated lanes for automated vehicles or infrastructure projects like advanced traffic lights that can send signals to connected cars. 

“We want to be on the forefront of this because we want to give our people choices,” said Carlos Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, which is home to 34 cities and 2.7 million people. 

Traffic congestion a concern

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, says the company also intends to work closely with local businesses. The company wants to learn, for example, how a florist might use an autonomous delivery vehicle.

“Autonomous vehicle technology is interesting, but it’s a whole lot more interesting with a viable business model,” he said.

The city of Miami is the fifth-most congested in the U.S., according to a recent traffic study by the consulting firm Inrix. After more than a century of selling people vehicles, Kwant says Ford now wants to figure out ways to move people more efficiently in order to cut down on that time in traffic.

Making money

Sam Abuelsamid, a senior research analyst with the consulting firm Navigant Research, says Ford and others must figure out how to make money on self-driving cars.

“If this does take off, if people do adopt automated vehicles and use them for ride-hailing, that’s going to result in a decline in retail vehicle sales,” Abuelsamid said. “They need to figure out, if we’re going to have a decline in the number of vehicles we sell to consumers, how do we keep our business stable?”

Kwant says the testing will also help Ford determine what its future self-driving vehicles need to look like and how they must perform.

“If you don’t have steering wheels, how do you begin to use that package space? How do you begin to look different in terms of carrying more people?” he said.

Ford won’t say how many vehicles it will have on the road in Miami-Dade, but says it will be Ford’s largest test bed for autonomous vehicles by the end of this year. 

Backup safety drivers

All of the vehicles will have backup safety drivers. Domino’s experimental vehicles aren’t even technically autonomous; they’re equipped to be, but for now they have actual drivers. The windows are blacked out so customers can experience how to get pizza from the car without dealing with a person.  

Miami will give Ford new challenges. Previously, it tested Domino’s cars in suburban Michigan, where parking wasn’t an issue. But in busy Miami Beach, the cars will have to figure out where they can go to allow apartment-dwellers to safely retrieve their pizzas. An autonomous delivery vehicle from Postmates might have to switch between Spanish and English commands when it picks up a meal and delivers it to a customer. Self-driving Lyft vehicles will be tasked with mapping out the best places to wait for customers without causing more traffic headaches.

Kwant says Ford will announce more city partnerships as this year progresses. But Miami-Dade was a natural, since it has good weather, lots of different urban and suburban terrain and support from Gimenez and other government leaders.

Cheaper and safer

Gimenez, who began talking to Ford in 2017 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, says he’s not worried about consumer acceptance of self-driving cars. He thinks his community will embrace them as companies prove that shared autonomous vehicles can be cheaper and safer than regular ones.

Gimenez says self-driving vehicles also can potentially improve traffic flow without significant new investments in roadways. They can travel more closely together, for example, because they’re always watching the car in front of them and can brake automatically.

“That’s why I’m really high on this technology,” he said.

 

 

 

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‘Disagree’ Banned on China Social Media

Authorities in China have launched an intense crackdown on online commentary in the wake of a proposal by the country’s communist party leaders to amend the constitution and scrap a two-term limit on the president’s time in office.

A wide range of phrases in Chinese have been banned such as “constitutional amendments,” “constitution rules,” “emigration” and “emperor.” Even the phrase “I disagree” has been blocked from China’s SinaWeibo social media site.

Many were caught off guard by the announcement and the response online has been persistent, despite efforts to silence the debate.

The announcement comes a little more than a week ahead of meetings for China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress. During the gathering, which wraps up around mid-March, the proposal is widely expected to become China’s new reality.

And while party backed media have said the amendments have the public’s broad support, clearly there is much more to the debate than the communist party is letting on.

On social media, some phrases and comments were taken down shortly after they were posted. However, phrases in Chinese such as “lifelong tenure,” “emigration” and “disagree” are blocked immediately when a user attempts to post the phrase.

Of those posts that managed to make it past authorities’ dragnet, some called the decision to allow Xi Jinping to stay in office indefinitely a “step backward,” others argued that China is becoming more like North Korea.

In one comment, a user said: “5,000 years of civilization and in one night, a step backwards 5,000 years.”

For some critics, the proposal to allow Xi to stay in office indefinitely and scrap what has become a predictable system of two five-year terms, marks a worrisome return to the days of Mao Zedong. Some argue the move is a sign that Xi may want to become emperor for life.

On the streets in Beijing, those we spoke with, who were willing to talk — despite the sensitivity of the issue — voiced similar concerns.

“It was a very sudden and bold move that has raised many questions and concerns and there are some who cannot understand,” why the change is needed, said one man surnamed Ding, who works in the finance sector.

Ding said China’s communist party leaders need to answer the public’s questions and concerns and clarify whether the move is meant to give Xi lifelong tenure or just to allow him to stay in office a little longer.

“The public will undoubtedly draw comparisons and have thoughts about what is happening now and China under the leadership of Mao Zedong,” Ding said.

One said emigration was something he was now considering. Others said they were taking a wait and see approach, and that they were willing to see how Xi used his extra time in office to promote more difficult reforms.

One woman surnamed Gan, an unemployed petitioner, said more time in office could be a good thing.

“If a leader is constantly being changed every two to three years, can they really do a good job and be responsible? If a leader can really focus on his work more can get done,” Gan said.

But now, given that the proposal is unlikely to be stopped, that is something that will only become clearer over time.

The New York-based rights advocacy group Freedom House warns that the end of term limits is a sign that stepped up control and repression under Xi is likely to worsen.

And the implications are both regional and global.

In a statement, Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz said, “the decision sends a chilling message to democratic voices in Hong Kong and to Taiwan, both of which have come under intense pressure from Beijing.

He said it also “signals that Beijing’s drive to create a new world order in which democratic institutions and norms play little or no role will be accelerated.”

Party controlled media in China have rejected suggestions that the proposed amendments mean Xi is aiming to become China’s next emperor or its leader for life.

Willy Lam, a veteran China watcher based in Hong Kong said that it looks like Xi will at least stay on for a third term until 2028, and perhaps one more until 2033 if health permits. At that point, Xi would be 80 years old.

Yang Kai-huang, head of Ming Chuan University’s Cross-Strait Research Center in Taiwan said that Xi does not strike him as someone who wants to repeat the mistakes of Mao, nor is he someone who wants to honor the two-term limit former leader Deng Xiaoping established.

“Judging from Xi’s past traits, the abolishment [of term limits] may have paved an easy path for Xi to seek his third term, but I don’t think Xi wants to be an emperor for life,” Yang said.

Xi is impatient and eager to get things done and put his own thoughts of governance into practice, Yang adds. And that’s why the announcement of the constitutional amendment package was so sudden.

Allen Ai contributed to this report.

 

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‘Disagree’ Banned on China Social Media

Authorities in China have launched an intense crackdown on online commentary in the wake of a proposal by the country’s communist party leaders to amend the constitution and scrap a two-term limit on the president’s time in office.

A wide range of phrases in Chinese have been banned such as “constitutional amendments,” “constitution rules,” “emigration” and “emperor.” Even the phrase “I disagree” has been blocked from China’s SinaWeibo social media site.

Many were caught off guard by the announcement and the response online has been persistent, despite efforts to silence the debate.

The announcement comes a little more than a week ahead of meetings for China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress. During the gathering, which wraps up around mid-March, the proposal is widely expected to become China’s new reality.

And while party backed media have said the amendments have the public’s broad support, clearly there is much more to the debate than the communist party is letting on.

On social media, some phrases and comments were taken down shortly after they were posted. However, phrases in Chinese such as “lifelong tenure,” “emigration” and “disagree” are blocked immediately when a user attempts to post the phrase.

Of those posts that managed to make it past authorities’ dragnet, some called the decision to allow Xi Jinping to stay in office indefinitely a “step backward,” others argued that China is becoming more like North Korea.

In one comment, a user said: “5,000 years of civilization and in one night, a step backwards 5,000 years.”

For some critics, the proposal to allow Xi to stay in office indefinitely and scrap what has become a predictable system of two five-year terms, marks a worrisome return to the days of Mao Zedong. Some argue the move is a sign that Xi may want to become emperor for life.

On the streets in Beijing, those we spoke with, who were willing to talk — despite the sensitivity of the issue — voiced similar concerns.

“It was a very sudden and bold move that has raised many questions and concerns and there are some who cannot understand,” why the change is needed, said one man surnamed Ding, who works in the finance sector.

Ding said China’s communist party leaders need to answer the public’s questions and concerns and clarify whether the move is meant to give Xi lifelong tenure or just to allow him to stay in office a little longer.

“The public will undoubtedly draw comparisons and have thoughts about what is happening now and China under the leadership of Mao Zedong,” Ding said.

One said emigration was something he was now considering. Others said they were taking a wait and see approach, and that they were willing to see how Xi used his extra time in office to promote more difficult reforms.

One woman surnamed Gan, an unemployed petitioner, said more time in office could be a good thing.

“If a leader is constantly being changed every two to three years, can they really do a good job and be responsible? If a leader can really focus on his work more can get done,” Gan said.

But now, given that the proposal is unlikely to be stopped, that is something that will only become clearer over time.

The New York-based rights advocacy group Freedom House warns that the end of term limits is a sign that stepped up control and repression under Xi is likely to worsen.

And the implications are both regional and global.

In a statement, Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz said, “the decision sends a chilling message to democratic voices in Hong Kong and to Taiwan, both of which have come under intense pressure from Beijing.

He said it also “signals that Beijing’s drive to create a new world order in which democratic institutions and norms play little or no role will be accelerated.”

Party controlled media in China have rejected suggestions that the proposed amendments mean Xi is aiming to become China’s next emperor or its leader for life.

Willy Lam, a veteran China watcher based in Hong Kong said that it looks like Xi will at least stay on for a third term until 2028, and perhaps one more until 2033 if health permits. At that point, Xi would be 80 years old.

Yang Kai-huang, head of Ming Chuan University’s Cross-Strait Research Center in Taiwan said that Xi does not strike him as someone who wants to repeat the mistakes of Mao, nor is he someone who wants to honor the two-term limit former leader Deng Xiaoping established.

“Judging from Xi’s past traits, the abolishment [of term limits] may have paved an easy path for Xi to seek his third term, but I don’t think Xi wants to be an emperor for life,” Yang said.

Xi is impatient and eager to get things done and put his own thoughts of governance into practice, Yang adds. And that’s why the announcement of the constitutional amendment package was so sudden.

Allen Ai contributed to this report.

 

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Microsoft, Justice Department in Showdown Over Foreign-stored Data

The U.S. Justice Department and Microsoft will face off against each other Tuesday when the Supreme Court hears arguments on whether tech companies’ desire to protect user data is at odds with the government’s interest in pursuing criminals who use the internet.

The case, known as United States v. Microsoft Corp., has global implications and could potentially trigger an international backlash, subjecting Americans’ data to seizure by foreign governments, legal and digital rights experts warn.

“The case is important for privacy, it’s important for security, it’s important for the future of the internet,” said Jennifer Daskal, a professor at American University Washington College of Law.

At issue is whether a U.S.-based email provider can be forced, under the 1986 Stored Communications Act, to turn over communications stored outside the United States.

Email records

Federal prosecutors believed it could when they went to Microsoft in 2013 with a court warrant, demanding that the tech giant turn over the email records of a suspect in a drug-trafficking investigation. But there was a problem.

Although Microsoft kept the account’s metadata such as address books on servers in the U.S., the contents of the user’s emails were stored at a data hub in Ireland — one of over 100 such data centers the company operates in more than 40 countries.

U.S.-based internet providers had long cooperated with government requests for foreign-stored data.

But in 1993, Microsoft, under fire along with other tech companies for their role in a secret government surveillance program exposed by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, drew a line.

The company handed over the metadata to prosecutors but refused to disclose the actual emails, arguing that the data was beyond the warrant’s reach because it was stored overseas. That set off a legal battle that eventually led the Supreme Court to take up the case last year.

The case has galvanized international attention.

The governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom have both filed briefs in the case as have the European Commission and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy (SRP).

The central dispute is whether a warrant issued under the Stored Communications Act can be applied outside the United States.The government says it has long relied on the law to obtain electronic communications regardless of their location and that it needs the authority to secure such data for criminal investigations.

Microsoft argues that the Stored Communications Act does not have extraterritorial application. It says that the laws of the country where the data is stored — in this case, Ireland — not the laws of the United States, govern its disclosure.

Digital rights advocates and some transnational legal experts have weighed in on the side of Microsoft, arguing that a decision in favor of the government could encourage foreign governments to seize Americans’ private communications. 

“You can bet many other governments in the world will come knocking on the doors of providers in the United States,” said Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based organization that has filed a brief in support of Microsoft.

European governments are already pushing back.

Belgium recently ordered U.S. providers to destroy data that the providers store in the United States, Nojeim said.

Austen Parrish, dean of the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University, noted that past attempts by the U.S. government “to extraterritorially seize documents or information from foreign countries (have) led to protests (and) blocking statutes.”

“It upsets a lot of countries because they view it not only as a violation of international law but as a violation of their own sovereignty,” Parrish said. On both counts, there is an assumption that the laws passed by Congress are designed for Americans and that they don’t violate international law, he added.

“In this case, the best result is to read the 1986 Stored Communications Act as only applying to communications within the United States,” Parrish said.

Ways to obtain data

Proponents of Microsoft acknowledge the U.S. government’s interest in foreign-stored data and point to other ways U.S. law enforcement agencies can obtain the data.One is the so-called Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, an international agreement that allows for the exchange of evidence in criminal investigations.

Another is a bilateral cross-border data sharing agreement. The U.S. and U.K. recently negotiated such an agreement, and Congress is working to clear the way for its approval.

Regardless of how the court rules, the issue could become moot if Congress passes a recently proposed bill called the CLOUD Act. The bill would enable the U.S. government to obtain user data from email providers regardless of its location while allowing providers to decline a request if it violated the host country’s laws.

Daskal, the professor at American University, said the bill “strikes the right balance.”

But critics say it can be used by foreign governments to gather data from U.S. providers for intelligence purposes.

Both the Justice Department and Microsoft have endorsed the proposed legislation.

Short of congressional action, the court should try to strike a balance between the U.S. government’s need for data in criminal investigations and foreign governments’ need to protect the privacy of citizens, Daskal said.

“My hope is that if the court rules in favor of the government, that it does so in a way that reminds the lower courts of the importance of issuing warrants in a way that also respects conflicting rules in foreign governments as well,” she said.

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