Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

Singapore Prepares for Doctor Visits over Video Call

In a 2017 episode of the TV show “The Good Wife,” a doctor in Chicago is seen advising a dental surgery in Syria, over Skype. Such remote operations, part of an emerging sector known as telemedicine, is not only the stuff of televised fiction, but a real technology that is attracting increasing attention from business and government. That includes Singapore, which has introduced telemedicine legislation in a nation whose medical research and development already has impacts across borders.Telemedicine lawSingapore will regulate telemedicine businesses as part of its upcoming Healthcare Services Act 2020.These services already “have become increasingly popular and are poised to become a key feature of Singapore’s health care system,” said Marian Ho, a senior partner in the corporate division of Dentons Rodyk Singapore, a law firm.Regulate medical services not premisesShe said in a legal briefing that what makes the new law significant is that Singapore will focus on the types of medical services provided, rather than on the premises where they’re provided. For instance, if a patient only needs to refill his painkiller prescription, it is less important that he is on the premises of a hospital, and more important that he is receiving consultation services from a doctor, even if it is over Skype.Citizens of Singapore are readySingaporeans have already started using smartphone apps for simple check-ins with their doctors, using text messages and video calls. The apps range from Doctor Anywhere to MaNaDr. However the new law will be the overarching framework that the island nation uses to regulate this business, including to authorize the Ministry of Health to issue licenses for new services.As businesses develop new ways to provide health services over the internet, the impacts are likely to spread beyond Singapore. The rich micro-state is already a world leader in biomedical science, manufacturing four out of the world’s top 10 drugs, for instance, according to a 2019 report from consulting firm TMF Group and Singapore’s Economic Development Board, a government board.RisksHowever the new technology also comes with risks, such as a doctor’s accuracy rate over a video call versus in person, whether personal data will be protected as it is handed over to apps, and insurance and liability questions in case of malpractice.“My understanding is that out of 10 startups, maybe one survives,” gastroenterologist Desmond Wai told Singapore’s Business Times. “When the rest close down, who will be keeping the patient records?”Large part of the Singapore economyThe Healthcare Services Act, approved by parliament this month, will regulate one of Singapore’s biggest sectors.  National manufacturing decreased overall from December to January, yet biomedical production increased 10.3% annualized, including a 20% increase in medical technology production, according to research from Singapore’s OCBC Bank.That makes medtech a significant part of the Southeast Asian economy, one that will see even more telemedicine in the future.“Singapore’s strong digital capabilities and vibrant research ecosystem aided by close collaboration between the public, private and academic sectors make it the region’s leading center for biomedical sciences,” the TMF-EDB report said. “Over 30 of the world’s major biomedical science and pharmaceutical companies have established their regional clinical trial centers in Singapore.”   

Britain Grants China’s Huawei Limited Role in 5G Network Rollout

Britain will allow China’s Huawei Technologies Co. to help build the country’s next-generation cellular network, dealing a blow to a U.S. campaign to launch a worldwide boycott of the telecom equipment giant.The British government said Tuesday it would permit Huawei to build less critical parts of the country’s new high-speed 5G wireless network.The U.S. has campaigned against Huawei for more than a year, noting concerns about national security and the Chinese firm’s relations with the country’s Communist Party.“The United States is disappointed by the U.K.’s decision,” said a senior Trump administration official Tuesday. “There is no safe option for untrusted vendors to control any part of a 5G network.”The U.S. official said the U.S. is willing to work with Britain to exclude “untrusted vendor components from 5G networks.”Mobile network phone masts are visible in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London, Jan. 28, 2020. The Chinese tech firm Huawei will be given the opportunity to build non-core elements of Britain’s 5G network, the government announced.Without mentioning any companies, Britain said it would exclude “high-risk” companies from providing “core” components of the new network. It also said it would permit high risk suppliers to supply up to 35-percent of new network’s less risky parts of its infrastructure.Britain’s announcement comes a day before U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to meet in London with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The announcement puts Johnson in an awkward position, as he needs the Trump administration to quickly reach a trade agreement after Brexit.The 5G rollout is particularly critical for Britain, as it leaves the European Union with hopes of positioning its economy as a beneficiary of technological innovation.  In a Friday phone call with Johnson, U.S. President Donald Trump told the British prime minister that giving Huawei the go-ahead would cause a major rift in transatlantic relations and jeopardize intelligence-sharing between Washington and London.U.S. officials have also voiced frustration with decisions by some European nations to grant Huawei some access in the rollout of their 5G network.  Under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the U.S. defense secretary should brief Congressional defense committees by March 15 on the implementation of plan for fifth generation information and communications technologies, including steps to work with U.S. allies and partners to protect critical networks and supply chains. 

Workers Criticize Amazon on Climate Despite Risk to Jobs

Hundreds of employees are openly criticizing Amazon’s record on climate change despite what they say is a company policy that puts their jobs at risk for speaking out.On Sunday, more than 300 employees of the online retail giant signed their names and job titles to statements on blog post on Medium. The online protest was organized by a group called Amazon Employees For Climate Justice, an advocacy group founded by Amazon workers that earlier this month said the company had sent letters to its members threatening to fire them if they continued to speak to the press.   “It’s our moral responsibility to speak up, and the changes to the communications policy are censoring us from exercising that responsibility,” said Sarah Tracy, a software development engineer at Amazon, in a statement.   Amazon said that its policy on external communications is not new and is in keeping with other large companies. It said the policy applies to all Amazon employees and is not directed at any specific group.”While all employees are welcome to engage constructively with any of the many teams inside Amazon that work on sustainability and other topics, we do enforce our external communications policy and will not allow employees to publicly disparage or misrepresent the company or the hard work of their colleagues who are developing solutions to these hard problems,” according to an Amazon spokesperson.   Amazon, which relies on fossil fuels to power the planes, trucks and vans that ship packages all over the world, has an enormous carbon footprint. And its workers have been vocal in criticizing some of the company’s practices.Last year, more than 8,000 staffers signed an open letter to CEO and founder Jeff Bezos demanding that Amazon cut its carbon emissions, end its use of fossil fuels and stop its work with oil companies that use Amazon’s technology to locate fossil fuel deposits.Amazon said in a statement that it is passionate about climate change issues and has already pledged to become net zero carbon by 2040 and use 100% renewable energy by 2030. 

Bringing Broadband to Rural America an Ongoing Quest

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission estimates that about 19 million Americans still don’t have access to broadband internet. Most of those people live in rural parts of the country. But little by little, individuals, companies and the government are changing that. VOA’s Calla Yu reports.

Huawei Founder Says Company Can Withstand Increased US Pressure

Despite the U.S.-China trade deal signed last week, the two countries appear headed for more confrontation, especially over high tech.One of China’s highest-profile tech executives, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, told the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday that he expects the U.S. to escalate its crackdown on Huawei. But he vowed that the world leader in building 5G networks is prepared to withstand further restrictions on its foreign markets and suppliers.Analysts say his remarks suggest that the Chinese may be ready to directly confront Americans in the global competition for high-tech advancements, which are seen at the core of trade frictions.Tech war is on”He [Ren] is fully aware that the tech competition between the U.S. and China will escalate. The U.S. has no plan to cut China some slack simply because they have just signed the Phase 1 deal. Both are now entering the battleground of their tech disputes,” said Lin Tsung-nan, professor of electrical engineering at National Taiwan University in Taipei.Beijing’s critics say Huawei acts as a virtual arm of the Chinese government, benefitting from favorable policies and funding that have sped its expansion around the world. They warn countries that allow Huawei to build their new wireless data networks that they are giving Beijing’s authoritarian government enormous influence over their security. Instead, U.S. officials argue, countries should trust American, European, Korean and other companies.Ren Zhengfei, founder and chief executive officer of Huawei Technologies, gestures during a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 21, 2020.Provisions in the U.S.-China Phase 1 trade agreement aim to root out Chinese state policies that encourage intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers. However the deal leaves open questions about enforcement. Many, including Huawei chief Ren, remain skeptical that the countries will reach an agreement on such issues.Speaking to the audience in Davos, Ren said he believes the United States will escalate its crackdown on Huawei, but that the impact will be minimal as the company has adapted to restrictions imposed since last year.Huawei and its 46 affiliates were targeted in 2019 after the U.S. government concluded that the company has long engaged in activities contrary to U.S. national security. Ren’s daughter, Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, is fighting an extradition case in Canada stemming from allegations she committed fraud by lying about Huawei’s relationship with an affiliate doing business in Iran.Huawei’s Plan BAnalysts have mixed views about the long-term impact of the blacklisting on Huawei. Ren said he is optimistic because Huawei has invested hundreds of billions of dollars in its own core technology over the past few years, including chips and software. Last year, the company released its own operating system, called HarmonyOS, though, so far, it hasn’t been installed in any of the company’s smartphones.It has also released a flagship smartphone, the Mate 30, without licensed Google Android software. Sales in China have been in line with expectations, although its global sales target of 20 million units is yet to be met.FILE – Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s consumer business group, speaks on stage during a presentation to reveal Huawei’s latest smartphones Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro in Munich, Germany, Sept. 19, 2019.But Professor Lin said the ultimate challenge facing Huawei lies ahead.”The real test will come after the U.S. completely cuts off [Huawei’s] access to American technology and relevant exchanges. Huawei will then have to prove if its products, manufactured based on its so-called plan B, will continue to be competitive in overseas markets,” the professor said.More tech restrictionsAfter having restricted Huawei’s access to American technology, the United States is reportedly looking to introduce a stricter rule that could block Huawei’s access to an increased number of foreign-made goods.Media reports said the United States plans, among other things, to force Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, to limit its supplies of 14 nanometer chips to Huawei.  Washington is also lobbying other countries, such as Britain and Germany, to bar Huawei — which it accuses of spying for the Chinese government — from the buildup of their next-generation mobile networks known as 5G.  Whether U.S. allies will be persuaded to block Huawei from building their 5G networks remains uncertain, but Lin said the stakes in the standoff are clear.”If China succeeds in using Huawei to dominate [the global 5G network], the free world will gradually fall into China’s high-tech iron curtain. That’s why the U.S. has turned aggressive in blocking Huawei, which has strived after having had copied code from Cisco’s [router software] technology a decade ago,” Lin said.Escalating tensionsSong Hong at the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said he’s worried the U.S. may widen its target to include more Chinese tech firms.But he said Beijing is adapting to the new reality by gradually cutting its dependence on the U.S. technology.”China has greatly strengthened its tech capabilities. I think Huawei’s [Ren] speaks on behalf of most Chinese businesses. That is, if you try to block me, I have no choice but to work to find other solutions,” he said.An executive from China’s tech sector, who spoke to VOA on the condition of anonymity, said he’s not worried that the U.S.-China tech war will escalate. But he said China should respond to U.S. concerns.”The U.S. has made a great contribution [to the world’s tech development] and now come up with some requests. I find that reasonable, right? I think China, as a responsible country, should respect and communicate well [with the U.S.] on a reasonable basis,” he said.  Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her Vancouver home with her security detail for an extradition hearing in British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver, British Colombia, Jan. 21, 2020.Warning from Meng’s caseWhile tech executives look at how the long-term competition between the two countries will play out, the fate of Meng — the daughter of Huawei’s founder — will impact relations in the short term. Canada has begun week-long court hearings to determine whether to extradite Meng to the United States to stand trial on fraud charges linked to the alleged violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.Meng, who was arrested in late 2018 in Canada, denies any wrongdoing.Regardless of the outcome of the case, said Lin of National Taiwan University, the United States has succeeded in sending a warning to those who have harmed or plan to go against U.S. tech interests.  

When Algorithms Make Art: Immersive Art Installation Exhibits Machine-Learning

An immersive art installation in New York City has visitors captivated. The team behind the popular attraction? It’s part human and part machine-learning algorithms. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at what happens when artificial intelligence becomes part of the creative process

Intellectual Property Theft a Growing Threat

The new U.S.-China trade agreement includes provisions that are aimed at curbing forced technology transfers, in which companies hand over technical know-how to foreign partners. For many high-tech businesses, the intellectual property behind their products represents the bulk of their companies’ value.  To learn more about the risks of IP theft, Elizabeth Lee recently visited the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where companies talked about the risks to their technology secrets.

EU Legal Opinion: Mass Data Retention at Odds With EU Law

A legal adviser at the European Union’s highest court said Wednesday that the bloc’s data protection rules should prevent member states from indiscriminately holding personal data seized from Internet and phone companies, even when intelligence agencies claim that national security is at stake.
In a non-binding opinion on how the European Court of Justice, or ECJ, should rule on issues relating to access by security and intelligence agencies to communications data retained by telecommunications providers, advocate general Campos Sanchez-Bordona said “the means and methods of combating terrorism must be compatible with the requirements of the rule of law.”
Commenting on a series of cases from France, the U.K. and Belgium — three countries that have been hit by extremist attacks in recent years and have reinforced surveillance — Sanchez-Bordona said that the ECJ’s case law should be upheld. He cited a case in which the court ruled that general and indiscriminate retention of communications “is disproportionate” and inconsistent with EU privacy directives.
The advocate general recommended limited access to the data, and only when it is essential “for the effective prevention and control of crime and the safeguarding of national security.”
The initial case was brought by Privacy International, a charity promoting the right to privacy. Referring to the ECJ’s case law, it said that the acquisition, use, retention, disclosure, storage and deletion of bulk personal data sets and bulk communications data by the U.K. security and intelligence agencies were unlawful under EU law.
The U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal referred the case to the ECJ, which held a joint hearing with two similar cases from France and another one from Belgium.
“We welcome today’s opinion from the advocate general and hope it will be persuasive to the Court,” said Caroline Wilson Palow, the Legal Director of Privacy International. “The opinion is a win for privacy. We all benefit when robust rights schemes, like the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, are applied and followed.”
The ECJ’s legal opinions aren’t legally binding, but are often followed by the court. The ECJ press service said a ruling is expected within two months.
“Should the court decide to follow the opinion of the advocate general, ‘metadata’ such as traffic and location data will remain subject to a high level of protection in the European Union, even when they are accessed for national security purposes,” said Luca Tosoni, a researcher at the Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law. “This would require several member states — including Belgium, France, the U.K. and others — to amend their domestic legislation.”

National Security Agency Discovers a Major Security Flaw in Microsoft’s Windows Operating System

The National Security Agency has discovered a major security flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system and tipped off the company so that it can fix it.Microsoft made a software patch to fix it available Tuesday and credited the agency as the flaw’s discoverer.The company said it has not seen any evidence that hackers have used the technique discovered by the NSA.”Customers who have already applied the update, or have automatic updates enabled, are already protected,” said Jeff Jones, a senior director at Microsoft, in a statement.Priscilla Moriuchi, who retired from the NSA in 2017 after running its East Asia and Pacific operations, said this is a good example of the “constructive role” that the NSA can play in improving global information security. Moriuchi, now an analyst at the U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said it’s likely a reflection of changes made in 2017 to how the U.S. determines whether to disclose a major vulnerability or exploit it for intelligence purposes.The revamping of what’s known as the “Vulnerability Equities Process” put more emphasis on disclosing unpatched vulnerabilities whenever possible to protect core internet systems and the U.S. economy and general public.Those changes happened after a group calling itself “Shadow Brokers” released a trove of high-level hacking tools stolen from the NSA.

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