Facebook and Qualcomm Team Up to Bring Fast Internet to Cities in 2019

Qualcomm is joining Facebook in its effort to bring low-cost, fast Wi-Fi to cities by 2019.

Facebook’s Wi-Fi plan, announced in 2016, would use antennas on light poles and other city structures to bring Wi-Fi to the area. The technology is also supposed to be able to divert online traffic around around tall buildings and heavy congestion on the Wi-Fi network, making it ideal for urban environments. Terragraph is meant to bring faster Internet speeds and at a lower cost than fiber technology.

Now Qualcomm’s chips will be integrated with Facebook’s so-called Terragraph technology, allowing manufacturers to build routers capable of sending data at 60GHz speeds.

“With Terragraph, our goal is to enable people living in urban areas to access high-quality connectivity that can help create new opportunities and strengthen communities,” Yael Maguire, Facebook’s vice president of connectivity, said in a statement.

Facebook and Qualcomm expect trials of the new Wi-Fi service to begin in mid-2019.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Sails Through E.U. Parliament Grilling

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg managed to dodge tough questioning by European Union parliamentary members on Tuesday during a hearing about the company’s data collection practices.

The parliamentary members asked thorough, multi-part questions about Facebook’s policies and global operations. But because their questions were grouped together at the beginning of the roughly hour-and-a-half long session, Zuckerberg was able to mostly ignore them when it was finally his turn to speak.

Instead, he reiterated the company’s recent talking points around its efforts to clean up its service like hiring more monitors and combating fake news.

Several EU politicians brought up previous questions Zuckerberg ducked during two U.S. congressional hearings in April in Washington D.C. Similar to the EU parliamentary hearing, the U.S. congressional hearings were intended to look into Facebook’s response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which involved an academic obtaining and selling Facebook user data to a political consulting firm, and the company’s repeated privacy blunders that forced its executives to repeatedly apologize and pledge to do better.

Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s party in the European Parliament, kicked off questioning during the hearing on Tuesday by first commending Zuckerberg for apologizing for the company’s lapses and voluntarily appearing for the heading. The German politician then asked Zuckerberg a series of questions that included the following:

Can Facebook guarantee that another Cambridge Analytica scandal will not occur within the next year?

Did Zuckerberg personally make the decision against notifying its users when the company learned of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a question Weber noted, was similar to one U.S. Senator Kamala Harris asked during the recent U.S. Congressional hearing?

Would Facebook be open to a discussion about whether it should open its secretive algorithms to the public to ensure transparency?

Zuckerberg did not respond to these questions when it came time for his answers, but he pledged that Facebook (fb) would follow up later in writing.

British politician Syed Kamall, the co-chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, asked Zuckerberg about “the public outcry over shadow profiles,” a reference to Facebook’s practice of collecting data about non-Facebook users. He wanted Zuckerberg to expand on comments he had made during the previous U.S. congressional hearings during which he said that Facebook collects non-user data for security purposes. He asked Zuckerberg whether the only way for users to avoid having their data collected by Facebook would be to stay off the Internet entirely.

Another parliamentary member asked Zuckerberg whether he could guarantee that Facebook doesn’t use that non-user data for other services like targeted ads.

Zuckerberg avoided answering any questions related to shadow profiles until the very end of the hearing, when parliamentary members appeared upset and began shouting over each other in frustration.

“On the security side, we think it’s important to keep it to protect people in our community,” Zuckerberg said, a vague answer that implied that Facebook would continue to collect data about non-Facebook users. The executive then quickly shifted gears and said, “Were there any other themes that we wanted to get through?”

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After the hearing, several parliamentary members tweeted their frustration with Zuckerberg:

Zuckerberg largely reiterated what Facebook has already said publicly about its efforts to fix its service following the latest data privacy uproar.

And in the end, investors seemed pleased with his performance, as Facebook shares were relatively flat at end-of-day trading, slightly in-line with the overall market for tech stocks.

Daniel Ives, an analyst with GBH Insights, seemed positive about Facebook in a research note after the EU hearing. He said that the company’s stock continues to rebound after several months of investor concern that its latest scandals would impact the company’s bottom line.

“The Street has stepped away from the edge of the cliff over the last month on Facebook as the combination of stronger than expected March results, an impressive performance by Zuckerberg in DC, and the fears of regulation starting to fade in the background have been catalysts for a major rebound in shares,” Ives wrote. “While we expect more back and forth between the EU and Facebook over the coming weeks, we view today as another step forward for Zuckerberg post Cambridge.”

As Zuckerberg heads to Brussels, British lawmakers ask for answers

LONDON, May 22 (Reuters) – British lawmakers want their European counterparts to quiz Facebook FB.O CEO Mark Zuckerberg about a scandal over improper use of millions of Facebook users’ data, as he will not give evidence in London himself.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Zuckerberg will be in Europe to defend the company after alleged misuse of its data by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consultancy that worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign.

But while he will answer questions from lawmakers in Brussels on Tuesday, and is meeting French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, he has so far declined to answer questions from British lawmakers, either in person or via video link.

Damian Collins, chair of the British parliament’s media committee, said on Tuesday that he believed Zuckerberg should still appear before British lawmakers.

“But if Mark Zuckerberg chooses not to address our questions directly, we are asking colleagues at the European Parliament to help us get answers – particularly on who knew what at the company, and when, about the data breach and the non-transparent use of political adverts which continue to undermine our democracy,” he said in a statement.

Last month, Facebook Chief Technical Officer Mike Schroepfer appeared before Collins’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is investigating fake news.

But the lawmakers have said his testimony and subsequent written answers from the firm to follow-up questions have been inadequate.

Collins outlined deficiencies in Facebook’s answers so far in a letter to Rebecca Stimson, head of public policy at Facebook UK, which has been shared with the EU lawmakers who will quiz Zuckerberg. Collins requested a response from Facebook to his questions by June 4.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Microsoft, Google find fresh flaw in chips, but risk is low

(Reuters) – Cyber security researchers have found a new security flaw that affects a broad swath of modern computing chips and is related to the Spectre and Meltdown chip flaws that emerged in January.

Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Microsoft logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The newest chip problem, known as Speculative Store Bypass or “Variant 4” because it’s in the same family as the original group of flaws, was disclosed by security researchers at Microsoft Corp and Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday. Though the flaw affects many chips from Intel Corp, Advanced Micro Devices Inc and Softbank Group’s ARM Holdings, researchers described the risks as low, partly because of web browser patches already issued earlier this year to address Spectre.

The Meltdown and Spectre flaws, which emerged in January, can allow passwords and other sensitive data on chips to be read. The flaws result from the way computers try to guess what users are likely to do next, a process called speculative execution.

When the flaws emerged in January, researchers warned that they were likely to find new variants of Spectre in the future. Earlier this month, German computer science magazine c’t reported that a “next generation” of flaws had been found in Intel’s chips and was likely to be disclosed this month. Intel declined to comment on whether Monday’s announcement was related to the German magazine’s story.

FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is pictured atop an office building in Irvine, California, U.S., August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

In its research findings, Microsoft said that patches issued for common web browsers earlier this year greatly increased the difficulty of carrying out an attack with the newly discovered flaw.

Chips from Intel, AMD and ARM all have patches available, either directly from the makers or through software suppliers such as Microsoft. Intel said it expects a performance slowdown of between 2 percent and 8 percent from the patches, and ARM said it expects a slowdown of between 1 percent and 2 percent.

However, Intel said that because of the low risk of a real-world attack, it would ship its patches turned off by default, giving users the choice whether to turn them on. AMD also advised leaving the patches turned off due to the difficulty of carrying out an attack.

The security problems do not appear to have impacted chipmakers’ stock prices. Intel shares are up nearly 16 percent to since the start of the year to $54.32, and AMD shares are up 18.3 percent to $12.99 since the start of the year.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Charging Electric Scooters Is a Profitable, Fun—and Occasionally Dangerous—Youth Trend

The newest big trend in tech startups is in turn fueling an emergent youth culture, as teenagers and young adults spend their free time collecting and charging electric scooters. Some compare it to a game—one that they’re getting paid pretty well for playing, but also comes with some real-world risks.

As reported by The Atlantic, the part-time gig is sometimes called ‘Bird hunting.’ That name comes from Bird, the most prominent company in a wave of new “dockless” scooter and bike rental startups, which use smartphone apps to both rent and track light vehicles.

The systems offer a potentially innovative solution to urban transportation, particularly what’s known as the “last mile” problem: how to get users of public transit from stations to their doorsteps. Because they can be dropped off anywhere, the rental vehicles can be more convenient for riders than personal scooters or bikes (though they can also, according to some city officials, create a “public nuisance”).

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The apparent convenience of those systems, though, is created by a lot of behind-the-scenes work, much of it done by contractors, known as “chargers,” who collect and charge the scooters. Several young chargers described their work to The Atlantic as a fun side-hustle—one even compared it to playing Pokémon GO, since it involves using an app to find the GPS-tagged scooters. The “prizes” for finding scooters are also game-like, with chargers paid more for retrieving scooters that are harder to find. Young chargers report teaming up to do the work faster, starting what amount to small businesses with some socializing thrown in for good measure.

Rewards can range up to $20 for a single scooter, and chargers described making up to several hundred dollars per night. Those rewards are likely to decline, assuming that Bird and other startups are following the standard tech-industry model of sacrificing revenue for market share early on (at least $250 million in venture capital supports Bird and similar companies). But the game-like aspects of charging may make workers less price sensitive.

That said, just as Uber has become a primary source of income for many of its drivers, it’s clear that recharging scooters is not a game for everyone. Chargers interviewed by The Atlantic describe occasional conflicts over scooter bounties, manipulation of the reward systems, and outright theft of the scooters, which criminals have been known to chop up for parts. Perhaps worst of all, some report that criminals are hunting the hunters—using scooters as bait, then mugging the chargers who arrive to retrieve them.

Tesla: Tsunami Of Sales And Profits In Q3

Bullish expectations for Q3

This article explores the bullish projection that Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) is about to become profitable in Q3.

Among the expectations discussed below are that Tesla Model 3 sales in Q2 will be 20,000 cars fewer than production due to federal tax credit rules. This will appear to be poor sales, but in reality will be due to stockpiling cars for sale in Q3 due to the way the tax rules are written.

While this means Q2 revenue will be reduced, it also means Q3 revenue will be increased. As a result, Model 3 should become a top 20 selling vehicle in the US in Q3 with a potential of 80,000 units sold into the US.

This is an average per month sales of about 27,000 Model 3 cars, making it the 12th best selling vehicle in the US ahead of the Nissan Altima (see list below).

Tesla Q3 sales will match the total number of cars sold by Tesla in all of 2017.

Elon Musk has adopted “profits” as his current goal. This replaces his previous goal of fast expansion of the product lineup. The former goal required capital input to fund rapid expansion. The new goal will flip the losses upside down and generate profits now that the bottlenecks are being eliminated one after another.

Most authors write that Tesla is shutting the production line down to “fix problems”. I suggest that Tesla is shutting the production line down to install new machinery that will increase the production speed. Increased production speed means increased gross margin, and if the increase is large enough, net profits.

Showing profits will potentially increase stock price and eliminate the potential for bankruptcy. This in turn will eliminate the bear thesis that Tesla is about to go under and is therefore a good stock to short.

With the short thesis proven wrong, I expect the stock to increase to a new plateau above $400 per share. This was my expectation a year ago, but the bottlenecks delayed the realization until now.

However, sales will likely remain low for May and June. I don’t expect this share price increase to be realized until after a barrage of sales in July make what I’m suggesting here obvious.

Let’s now explore why I’ve come to the above conclusions.

Model 3 may enter top 20 selling US cars in Q3

This week, Tesla has reached 500 cars per day, or, 3,500 cars per week. Bloomberg just increased their production estimate to 3,523/wk.

According to Electrek, Tesla is well on its way to reaching 5,000 cars per week by the start of Q3 in July.

If Tesla reaches this target for next quarter, the Model 3 will enter the top 20 list of US vehicles sold. A rate of 5,000 cars per week means an annual rate of 250,000 cars and a monthly rate around 20,000 cars. I expect Tesla will sell 80,000 Model 3 cars in Q3 so look for 27,000 or so cars per month on the list below.

That rate is between the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Toyota Tacoma. If realized, the Model 3 will become a top 20 selling car in the US, next quarter.

This data was published by Focus2move here:

Today, the Model 3 is the best selling EV, but it isn’t on the top 100 list. Neither is any other EV. Every one of the top 100 selling cars in the US have an internal combustion engine. And while Tesla is now projected to be building more than 3,000 cars per week, which is to say over 12,000 cars per month (which would place the Model 3 around the #40 position of vehicles sold in the US), I expect this will not happen in May or June.

The reason? The federal tax credit.

It is beneficial for any company to cross the 200,000th car sold into the US threshold, early in a new quarter. Doing so wins that company an extra quarter of sales where customers receive the full tax credit.

Tesla would likely cross that mark this quarter if it sold all the cars it builds, as soon as they are built. To avoid this, Tesla is likely already stockpiling vehicles for a blow out delivery rush starting in July.

Several authors have noticed that the production figures are higher than reported sales figures. Tesla should have built over 6,500 cars in April, but sold fewer than 4,000. That’s a 2,500 or so discrepancy.

There are articles projecting that the discrepancy results from poor build quality and cars piling up for re-work and being stored in parking lots until Tesla can get around to fixing them.

I contend that thesis is wrong, and instead, Tesla is piling up a tsunami of cars for sale in Q3. Here’s why.

How the Federal Tax Credit works

The federal tax credit phases out over a 4-quarter (1-year) period beginning the second quarter after a company sells their 200,000th car.

If Tesla actually sold the cars produced, I expect the company would cross the threshold this quarter. By delaying the 200,000th US sale until after July 1, Tesla adds nearly an entire extra quarter of sales to the program, benefiting their customers. Tesla will sell nearly 60,000 more cars under full tax credit.

For this reason, I think one should expect sales to be flat this month and next (in Q2), while a 20,000 car stockpile ready for Q3 sales is accumulated.

Musk’s Increased Confidence

Elon Musk has stated several times that Tesla will not need to raise money this year. During the recent earnings call, he explicitly stated Tesla will not raise money this year.

Much was written about Musk’s behavior on that call. Most articles in one fashion or another, assert that Musk is cracking under the pressure. If so, Tesla may be headed for a crash near term.

So many people bought into that notion that 400,000 new shares sold short overnight after the earnings call. The stock price dropped 10% in one day.

Since then, however, the stock price has fully recovered and the divide between the bullish and bearish theses has widened.

Listening to the call, it made perfect sense to me that Elon was annoyed by the callers who had read the release and yet asked questions about things specifically stated in that paper. It was as if the callers were saying they knew the paper said they would be profitable, but they don’t believe it and so are trying to figure out what Elon is lying about. Feeling like he was being called a liar, I believe, is why he lost his cool.

But that isn’t what’s interesting. What’s interesting is that he is so confident that he will not need to raise funds that he didn’t bite his tongue.

What this means is that for the first time, Musk is placing profits ahead of expansion and rapid growth. And what’s more, he fully expects to reach profitability.

Bloomberg’s Model 3 Tracker diverging from reality

Bloomberg’s Model 3 Tracker website has been excellent at following the ramp up in Model 3, until April. The analysis has a flaw that doesn’t account for the federal tax credit deviation from business as usual.

The Tracker assumes that when a car is built and ready for sale, that Tesla will sell it as quickly as possible. This has been true, until this past month. Now, and until the end of June, Tesla can benefit its customers best by holding back about 20,000 (total) cars built in Q2 and then selling them in Q3.

Here’s the VIN data from the wild, plotted as yellow dots. Notice the gap in the numbers from about 23,000 to 25,500 representing about 2,500 cars that are absent from the public. Where did they go? Were they built?

Tesla should have built around 6,500 Model 3 cars in April. This is based on Tesla statements that they built 2,000+ cars per week for 3 weeks in a row (2 in April), and then shut down the line to add improvements and further speed the line production. April production should have been ~6,500 cars.

Instead of 6,500 Model 3 cars sold in April, Tesla only sold 3,875 M3 cars according to InsideEVs here.

We know Tesla built over 4,000 Model 3 cars in the first 2 weeks of April and would have needed to shut the line down for the rest of the month if cars produced were the same as cars sold. That makes no sense.

One logical explanation is that Tesla “sold” fewer cars than it “produced” by around 2,500. If these cars are being stockpiled, then in May and June this discrepancy should get much worse.

Tesla should build around 10,000 Model 3 cars in May and around 18,000 cars in June. But Tesla will likely sell just 5,000 per month for those two months to remain below 200,000 cars sold into the US. That means Tesla may accumulate 2,500 + 5,000 + 13,000 = 20,500 cars more than it sells in Q2.

Bloomberg’s model averages the estimates of cars produced with cars sold. But that’s averaging apples and oranges, it doesn’t work.

Last week the production estimate was 1,752 and this week it is 3,523.


Bloomberg needs to separate the sales and production projections into two different values. Otherwise they are trying to average apples and oranges. This would be fine any other time except now, where unusual strategy makes sense to benefit customers who desire to receive the federal tax credit.

Potential Q3 Sales

This brings us to estimate potential Q3 sales based on these optimistic expectations.

First, if Tesla succeeds at ramping to 5k/wk by the beginning of Q3, then it should have produced about 30,000 M3 cars in May and June. If it sells 10k of those to hold #1 BEV position for those months, there would remain 20,000 cars in stock.

Second, Tesla should pass 5k/wk build rate and increase to higher than that during the middle of Q3. That means Tesla should build more than 60,000 cars in Q3. VIN filings must significantly increase to meet that pace, and those filings will be public information.

For the past month, VIN filings are about 3,800 cars per week. This is well on its way to 5,000 per week by the end of the quarter. Tesla should also build about 25,000 of Models S and X in Q3.

Tesla will be coming out with the dual motor and possibly also ludicrous mode variants of the Model 3 in Q3. Tesla is taking orders for the higher cost variants of Model 3 first, so I expect the average price to remain high and will use $50k for these estimates.

The total M3 cars sold in Q2 should be around (20k + 60k) * $50k = $4B.

The total MS and MX sold should be around 25k * $100k = $2.5B.

The total revenue from cars should be in the range of $6.5B with a gross profit of $1.3B if they make the 20% margin figure claimed. I’ll ignore the energy side for this treatise as small by comparison.

Given that Musk has firmly asserted the company will not need cash, and also that it will be profitable and cash flow positive, I suspect that Musk is thinking Tesla will manage something like the above.

Model 3 is about to enter the US Top 20 list

The Model 3 is about to climb the ranks of other vehicles, and if the above figures are met, it will pass Toyota Corolla and Honda Accord, landing in a tie with the Jeep Grand Cherokee for top selling vehicles in the US for Q3.

I admit that this comparison is, and isn’t, fair. The Model 3 is an EV whereas all of the top 100 cars sold in the US today have internal combustion engines, ICE.

The Model 3 is the best selling EV and the only mass produced EV. In this regard, the comparison is NOT fair since it is different from all of the rest of the cars on that top 100 list.

However, any other car company could have launched an EV instead of their ICE models. And, they could have built their own equivalent of the Supercharger Network instead of relying on other businesses to do so for them. So in this regard, the comparison IS fair and demonstrates that people want electric cars with good range and a fast charging system that is already deployed.

That this is so is confirmed by a recent Consumer Reports article about a AAA survey showing that 20% of Americans expect their next vehicle purchase to be an EV. US car sales dropped by 2% in 2017 according to JDPowers. That marked the end of a 7-year run of steady sales growth. Given the AAA survey of intentions combined with blooming sales of Model 3, I expect we will see US sales of internal combustion engine cars drop by a larger figure in 2018.

There are not enough good EVs to replace the drop in ICE vehicle sales.

Jaguar I-Pace, for example, claims 350kW charging capability. But the claim is a farce. Today, no 350kW chargers exist out on the open road and it will likely be several years (if ever) before a network of charging stations is built. It isn’t clear yet that the 350kW charging standard will even work.

Upon introduction this summer, anyone that purchases an I-Pace will be forced to use the only chargers actually deployed… the same ones used by the Bolt and Leaf that only charge at 50kW instead of Tesla’s 120kW. Charging an I-Pace will take more than double the time to charge a Tesla.

What this means is that counter to claims that Tesla is about to face a swarm of new contenders, the fact is that none of them can hold a candle to the charging speed of the Supercharger Network. Ironically, all of the contenders should increase Tesla sales, as once anyone reviews charging infrastructure, Tesla is the only logical brand choice.

Introduction of the competition should further increase Model 3 sales until such time as a new charging infrastructure is actually in place, and, assuming Tesla is unable to use that new infrastructure. If Tesla CAN use that new infrastructure, then Tesla remains the best EV choice bar none, simply for its enhanced number of charging stations.

Conclusions

Tesla is building more cars than it is selling. This may indicate that Tesla is accumulating cars to be sold in Q3 due to tax phase out rules.

If Tesla makes the production targets it has disclosed, it would generate approximately $6.5B in Q3 gross sales with around $1.3B in gross margin. Even without cutting back on spending, that much extra gross margin should yield net profits.

The Model 3 may rise from below rank #100 for sales into the US now, to above position #20 next quarter. That is, the Model 3 appears poised to jump 80 positions in the US top 100 vehicle sales list, beginning in July.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Editor’s Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major U.S. exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

Spotlight On Gambling Reset And Banking Bill

Welcome to Seeking Alpha’s Stocks to Watch – a preview of key events scheduled for the next week. Follow this account and turn the e-mail alert on to receive this article in your inbox every Saturday morning.

While investors will surely have their eyes on trade talks, developments in the oil market and rising interest rates in the week ahead — a sideline show will continue to be the complete reset in the gambling industry following the Supreme Court decision that opens up legalized sports betting. Notable movers since the SCOTUS decision came down include Dover Downs (NYSE:DDE) +46%, Scientific Games (NASDAQ:SGMS) +13%, Churchill Downs (NASDAQ:CHDN) +11%, Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ:PENN) +8%, The Stars Group (NASDAQ:TSG) +8% and Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) +8%. Across the pond, bookmaker stocks William Hill (OTCPK:WIMHY), Paddy Power (OTC:PDYPF), GVC Holdings (OTCPK:GMVHF) and 888 Holdings (OTCPK:EIHDF) also jetted higher. Expect even more price swings with new names as the ramifications become clearer. Nomura Instinet analyst Harry Curtis reminds that the upside potential from the Supreme Court decision down the road includes higher traffic and customer engagement at land-based casinos, as well as digital offerings and tech/financial partnership opportunities. On that last point, there’s a sense major players such as Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Visa (NYSE:V), Mastercard (NYSE:MA) and Google (GOOG, [GOOGL]]) aren’t going to completely ignore the developments. On the economic calendar this week, data on new and existing home sales will capture some attention.


Notable earnings reports: Monro (NASDAQ:MNRO) on May 21; Ctrip.com International (NASDAQ:CTRP), Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ:URBN), The Container Store (NYSE:TCS) and TJX Companies (NYSE:TJX) on May 22; Target (NYSE:TGT), Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (NYSE:HPE), Lowe’s (NYSE:LOW) and Lion’s Gate (NYSE:LGF.A) on May 23; GameStop (NYSE:GME), Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), Gap (NYSE:GPS) and Splunk (NASDAQ:SPLK) on May 24; Foot Locker (NYSE:FL) on May 25. See Seeking Alpha’s Earnings Calendar for the complete list.

IPOs expected to price: Evo Payments (EVOP) on May 22; CLPS (CLPS), Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals (KNSA), Scholar Rock (SRRK) and GreenSky (GSKY) on May 23; Iterum Therapeutics (ITRM) on May 24.

Analyst quiet period expirations: Ceridian HCM (NYSE:CDAY) and Nlight (NASDAQ:LASR) on May 21; DocuSign (NASDAQ:DOCU), Goosehead Insurance (NASDAQ:GSHD) and Smartsheet (NYSE:SMAR) on May 22.

Upcoming stock splits: DDR (NYSE:DDR) 1-for-2 on May 21, China Lodging (NASDAQ:HTHT) ADS-to-ordinary share ratio to change on May 24 from one ADS per four ordinary shares to one ADS per one ordinary.

Banking bill: The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a banking reform bill next week. The bill would raise the threshold at which banks are considered risks to the system to $250B from $50B. The legislation also exempts banks with less than $10B in assets from some proprietary trading rules. Zions Bank (NASDAQ:ZION), BB&T (NYSE:BBT), Bank of New York (NYSE:BK), State Street (NYSE:STT) and SunTrust (NYSE:STI) are just a few of the banks to keep an eye on with the new rules. On a broader scale, John Hancock Regional Bank Fund’s Lisa Welch observed that the S&P 500 bank index trades at 11.34X earnings estimates for the next 12 months compared with the historical mean of 12.56X. “It’s a sector that benefits from rising rates, a growing economy and a more favorable regulatory environment that’s trading at attractive valuations,” she noted.

Projected dividend hike announcements: Donaldson (NYSE:DCI) to $0.185 from $0.180, DXC Technology (NYSE:DXC) to $0.21 from $0.18, Flower Foods (NYSE:FLO) to $0.18 from $0.17, National Storage to $0.30 from $0.28, Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) to $0.55 from $0.50.

Notable Analyst/investor meetings: Micron (NASDAQ:MU), Monro (MNRO) and (NASDAQ:GLAD) on May 21; Walgreen Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:WBA), Brooks Automation (NASDAQ:BRKS), National Instruments (NASDAQ:NATI), Sanmina (NASDAQ:SANM), Xilinx (NASDAQ:XLNX), Atlas Financial (NASDAQ:AFH) on May 22; Align Technology (NASDAQ:ALGN), Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE:TMO), Phototronics (NASDAQ:PLAB), Pure Storage (NYSE:PSTG), Qorvo (NASDAQ:QRVO) and Huntsman (NYSE:HUN) on May 23; Cabot (NYSE:CBT) on May 24.

FDA watch: Loxo Oncology (NASDAQ:LOXO) and Bayer (OTCPK:BAYRY) are expected to hear on a FDA review for larotrectinib NDA, while Lexicon Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:LXRX) and Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) should find out whether sotagliflozin NDA for type 1 diabetes has been accepted for FDA review.

Wolfe Research 11th Annual Global Transportation Conference: Companies due to talk at the transportation industry get-together include Genesee & Wyoming (NYSE:GWR), American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), United Continental (NYSE:UAL), Alaska Air (NYSE:ALK), USA Truck (NASDAQ:USAK), J.B. Hunt Transport (NASDAQ:JBHT), Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ:WERN), ArcBest (NASDAQ:ARCB) and Daimler Trucks (OTCPK:DDAIF). The high cost of freight transportation has been a common topic on the Q1 earnings conference calls of retailers.

Crypto watch: The big blockchain event in New York last week didn’t light a fire under cryptocurrencies as regulatory concerns still linger. Over the last seven days, Bitcoin (BTC-USD) is down 2.3%, Ethereum (ETH-USD) is up 4.6%, Litecoin (LTC-USD) fell 2.5% and Ripple (XRP-USD) dropped 1%. ZCash (ZEC-USD) was one of the cryptos that did break significantly higher, with a 50% pop during the week,

Eyes on crude oil: Saudi Energy Ministry Khalid al-Falih will meet with Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak at a St. Petersburg economic summit next week. An election in Venezuela on Sunday could also impact oil prices if President Nicolas Maduro is re-elected to a six-year term. WTI crude oil trades at $71.28 per barrel, while Brent crude is at $78.51.

M&A watch: Shareholders with Bravo Brio Restaurant Group (NASDAQ:BBRG) will hold a special shareholder meeting on May 22 to approve the merger transaction with Spice Private Equity. The deadline for the start of the tender offer by Lilly (NYSE:LLY) for Armo BioSciences (NASDAQ:ARMO) hits on May 23. The go-shop period on the acquisition of VeriFone Systems (NYSE:PAY) by Francisco Partners expires on May 24.

60 Minutes: Alphabet will be featured in a story on the Sunday night news show. Critics are expected to take aim at the tech company over some of its anti-competitive practices.

Box Office: Fox’s (NASDAQ:FOXA) Deadpool 2 is expected to dominate the weekend box office. The Marvel comic book mashup is expected to take in $138M in a wide release of 4,439 theaters. Disney’s (NYSE:DIS) Avengers: Infinity War is predicted to come in second place with $29M to add to its eye-popping $1.69B global box haul through this week. Next Friday, Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in a highly-anticipated holiday weekend debut. The U.S. box office is up 4.4% YTD.

Barron’s mentions: Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) are lined up as attractive high-dividend stocks at knockdown prices. All three trade with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of lower than 20 and below their historic norms. Chinasoft International (OTC:CFTLF) and Baozun (NASDAQ:BZUN) are mentioned as two other ways for investors to play the digital explosion in China beyond first-movers Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) and Tencent (OTCPK:TCEHY). Lowe’s is seen as having limited downside into its earnings report.

Sources: EDGAR, Bloomberg, CNBC and Reuters.

Editor’s Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major U.S. exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

Fed Up With Apple's Policies, App Developers Form a 'Union' Ahead of WWDC

Nearly two years ago, Apple revealed its plans for a revamped App Store. It introduced ads within search results in the iOS portion of the store, rolled out more ways for developers to offer subscriptions, and sweetened the revenue deal for app makers who did offer subscriptions. The changes marked the most significant update to the App Store since it had opened for business, and it was part of an effort by Apple to show that the company was attuned to developers’ needs, even as the company raked in billions of dollars from their apps each year.

But as the iOS App Store approaches its tenth anniversary, some app developers are still arguing for better App Store policies, ones that they say will allow them to make a better living as independent app makers. Now a small group of developers, including one who recently made a feature-length film about the App Store and app culture, are forming a union to lobby for just that.

In an open letter to Apple that published this morning, a group identifying themselves as The Developers Union wrote that “it’s been difficult for developers to earn a living by writing software” built on Apple’s existing values. The group then asked Apple to allow free trials for apps, which would give customers “the chance to experience our work for themselves, before they have to commit to making a purchase.”

The grassroots effort is being lead by Jake Schumacher, the director of App: The Human Story; software developer Roger Ogden and product designer Loren Morris, who both worked for a timesheet app that was acquired last year; and Brent Simmons, a veteran developer who has made apps like NetNewsWire, MarsEdit, and Vesper, which he co-created with respected Apple blogger John Gruber. (“Brent’s been developing for Apple products since before any of us were born,” Schumacher quipped.)

The union, so far, is loosely-formed. There’s no official strategy in place for collective bargaining and no membership requirements (like dues). The union has goals of reaching a thousand members this week and hitting a mass of 20,000 signees by early June, when Apple will host its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California. But at launch, the four representatives will be the only names attached to the letter. Non-developers are welcome to join as well, they said.

“It’s a non-union union in a way,” Morris, the product designer, said when reached by phone. “I’m not super interested in creating a traditional union; I’m more interested in bringing the voice of indies back into the spotlight and this is a step in that direction.”

“We might eventually incorporate voting on certain things, but right now it’s really about the unification of developers,” Ogden added.

Free app trials have been a sticking point over the past several years for some iOS app developers, who believe that mobile apps–especially premium ones that cost more than a few bucks and aren’t games–should mimic the experience that people have had for years with desktop apps. It’s a particularly thorny issue for app makers who don’t make subscription apps, but who still want to give potential customers a free trial of their apps.

Apple has given developers some ability to offer free app trials, for time periods ranging from three days up to a whole year. But a free trial can only accompany a subscription app. This means that when opting to get the free trial, the customer has to authorize Apple to automatically charge them when a trial ends, developers say. The ideal situation, they say, would allow them to offer free trials for all apps, at lengths they determine, and without barriers that might make people shy away from trying their apps.

Apple has not responded to a request for comment on this story.

Another topic The Developers Union says it will attempt to tackle is revenue sharing. Apple’s longstanding policy gives App Store developers 70 percent of the money made from most apps, while Apple takes 30 percent. Back in 2016, Apple changed this split to 85/15 percent for developers who are able to maintain long-term subscription customers. Google soon followed suit, offering the same revenue split for subscription apps sold through the Google Play Store. But Microsoft is taking it a step further: later this year it will give 85 percent of any non-gaming app revenue to Windows developers if the app was purchased through the Microsoft Store; while 95 percent of the money will go to developers if the customer discovers the app through an external web page or app.

While the open letter says that the union plans to “advocate for a more reasonable revenue cut,” the members have not yet shared specifics beyond that.

Slice of the Pie

Making a living off of making apps is something that’s felt increasingly out of reach for independent developers. Some have described a kind of divergence that’s happening: Apple’s services business is booming, while some developers’ own businesses are floundering.

Apple, in recent years, has started sharing how much it pays out to developers. In January, it said that iOS developers were paid a total of $26.5 billion in 2017, a 30 percent jump from the year before. Since the inception of the App Store, developers have earned more than $86 billion dollars.

But that revenue is credited largely to in-app purchases and currencies–essentially, games. Ben Thompson, who writes the Stratechery blog and who has extensively analyzed the business of app stores, has identified these as “games with repetitive mechanics that can monetize existing users through in-app purchases,” and wrote back in 2013 that other apps, like premium productivity apps, are “a terrible match for app store economics.” Schumacher, Ogden, and Morris call the biggest money-making apps “the guys with the angry faces”–referring to the app icons for games that feature, well, men with angry faces.

Not all developers are thrilled by the union. Schumacher told me that one notable developer he reached out to said that, while he hopes the grassroots effort makes progress, he wasn’t inclined to join. “He said, ‘I make all my income from Apple. I don’t know if I should be throwing rocks,'” Schumacher told me.

And despite the issues they have with the App Store, even the union organizers themselves–with the exception of Simmons, who wasn’t available for an interview–acknowledged that developing for the App Store carries a kind of cache that other software stores don’t.

“Apple is getting a lot right, especially around security,” Schumacher said. This new group is just looking for a few more breadcrumbs, he said. And not the kind you buy in mobile games.


More Great WIRED Stories

FCC investigating reports website flaw exposed mobile phone locations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said on Friday it was referring reports that a website flaw could have allowed the location of mobile phone customers to be tracked to its enforcement bureau to investigate.

A security researcher said earlier this week that California-based LocationSmart data could have been used to track AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US consumers without consent within a few hundred yards of their location. Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, on Friday urged the FCC to investigate, saying on Twitter a “hacker could have used this site to know when you were in your house so they would know when to rob it. A predator could have tracked your child’s cell phone to know when they were alone.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

3 Ways to Sow the Seeds of Your Startup's Success This Spring

Many business owners measure the success of their company by how much profit they’re bringing in. This isn’t necessarily the wrong way, and a large part of business is learning how to minimize expenses while maximizing revenue, but for fledgling startups that might not yet have a large customer base, these metrics aren’t ideal. Instead, a good indicator you’re on the road to startup success is when you find yourself in a productive, thriving ecosystem.

A Blossoming Ecosystem

An ecosystem is partly defined by the geographic area where you’ve chosen to put down your company’s roots, but it’s also made up of the people you choose to surround yourself with. These people might be your employees, advisors, and investors, in addition to other counselors such as law or finance professionals. The attitudes and outlooks of all of these individuals contribute to your ecosystem, and for your business to thrive, their impact needs to be positive.

Good influences will help you talk through decisions and support you when you’re not sure which option to pursue. They’ll also help you connect with other individuals who they think might have something to offer to you and your business — and the best team members will do so without being asked. To get the most out of your ecosystem, though, you’ll also need to give back.

What can you do to help the people you work with? What are their goals and aspirations, and how are you and your business capable of helping them achieve those goals? In an unhealthy ecosystem, one organism hoards all of the resources for itself. In a healthy one, organisms cooperate to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes that are greater than what any party involved could have achieved on its own.

Once you’ve made sure your ecosystem is the kind that breeds successful businesses and partnerships, take these three steps to cultivate your startup’s success:

1. Network to help your startup sprout essential partnerships.

With the right mindset, networking can happen in any place and at any time, sprouting relationships that are valuable for your startup’s growth. Whether you’re on a bus, at the airport, or getting some work done at your favorite coffee shop, be approachable and strive to make connections on a daily basis. That’s not all there is to it, however. Justin Zastrow, CEO of Smart Armor, points out that “Networking and ‘showing up’ is only half the battle. In addition to networking, you need to learn how to meaningfully and authentically connect with people. Otherwise, your networking efforts will be wasted.”

So much of business is about relationships, but the literature tends to overemphasize forming new relationships and underemphasize nurturing the ones you create. Don’t let connections wither away by falling out of touch. Reach out to your contacts on a regular basis to see what you can offer or how you can help.

2. Join a startup support organization that will help you establish strong roots.

Accelerators and incubators are valuable communities that help startups and entrepreneurs build a solid foundation. These groups will help provide you with a number of key elements necessary to fertilize your startup, including mentorship, working space, networking opportunities, and even financial backing in some cases.

The Ameren Accelerator, for instance, is a partnership that combines the resources of a leading energy corporation, a lauded accelerator program, and a state university system to produce an ecosystem in which energy-focused startups can flourish. The accelerator selects five to seven companies for a 12-week program that connects them with mentors, including current and former business executives, in addition to providing funding opportunities, office space, and other perks.

Different accelerators cater to different industries, so find one that fits your startup idea and do everything you can to join the community.

3. Keep finances fertile by outsourcing.

Startup owners often feel the need to fill certain roles with full-time employees when they could save money and get a better product by outsourcing. If you’re running an e-commerce website, you don’t necessarily have a full team of developers on the payroll, and the same can be true for marketing or finance. An in-house CMO will end up costing a fortune, so don’t be afraid to outsource this role.

Erik Huberman, one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and founder and CEO of Hawke Media, says outsourcing positions like a CFO or CMO can save your company between 40 to 65 percentHe explains, “For less money, you can contract someone who will not only get the job done efficiently, but who will also not be looking to justify, retain, or grow his or her in-house position.”

If your startup is like most, you don’t have unlimited resources. Instead of blowing through your budget on one big hire, sow more than one seed by outsourcing certain positions.

Your product might not make it to market until late summer, or you might be hoping to secure a seed investment to finance your dream. No matter what stage of the startup process you’re in, you can set yourself up for success each day by taking the right steps to encourage healthy growth.

Apple’s Self-Driving Car Permits Outnumber Waymo’s and Tesla’s

Apple is leading the technology industry in its self-driving car testing in California.

In an e-mailed statement to Apple-tracking site MacReports recently, the California Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed the tech giant now has 55 self-driving car permits and 83 drivers licensed to test the technology on the state’s roads. That puts Apple in second place, behind only General Motors’ Cruise division, which has 104 vehicles and 407 drivers, according to the report.

Apple’s permit number is staggering. The iPhone maker didn’t have a single permit in March 2017 and was awarded three permits in April 2017. In a little over a year, Apple has amassed the largest number of self-driving car permits of any tech company. That said, some of its apparent competitors are coming on strong.

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Alphabet’s Waymo, for instance, now has 51 self-driving car permits and 338 drivers. Tesla, which is also testing self-driving car technology, has 39 vehicles permitted and 92 drivers.

Although many of the other companies testing self-driving cars in California have been discussing their plans and strategies openly, Apple has remained tight-lipped. And although it was rumored a couple of years ago that Apple was building its own self-driving car, it’s now believed to be working on the technology that will control a self-driving car. If all goes well, Apple ostensibly plans to sell the technology to carmakers when autonomous vehicles begin hitting the road with consumers inside.

Self-driving car testing has been conducted by several companies for years. While the eventual launch of the vehicles is a bit of a moving target, most industry experts say the technology should start hitting the road in large numbers by 2020.

Homeland Security unveils new cyber security strategy amid threats

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday unveiled a new national strategy for addressing the growing number of cyber security risks as it works to assess them and reduce vulnerabilities.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Department of Homeland Security emblem is pictured at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) located just outside Washington in Arlington, Virginia September 24, 2010. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang

“The cyber threat landscape is shifting in real-time, and we have reached a historic turning point,” DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. “It is clear that our cyber adversaries can now threaten the very fabric of our republic itself.”

The announcement comes amid concerns about the security of the 2018 U.S. midterm congressional elections and numerous high-profile hacking of U.S. companies.

“The United States faces threats from a growing set of sophisticated malicious actors who seek to exploit cyberspace. Motivations include espionage, political and ideological interests, and financial gain,” according to the 35-page report reviewed by Reuters before its public release. “Nation-states continue to present a considerable cyber threat. But non-state actors are emerging with capabilities that match those of sophisticated nation-states.”

The report noted that by 2020 more than 20 billion devices are expected to be connected to the internet. “The risks introduced by the growing number and variety of such devices are substantial,” it said.

Nielsen said the government “must think beyond the defense of specific assets — and confront systemic risks that affect everyone from tech giants to homeowners.”

The report also noted the 2015 intrusion into a federal agency resulted in the compromise of personnel records of over 4 million federal employees and in total impacted nearly 22 million people.

The DHS report said the agency “must better align our existing law enforcement efforts and resources to address new and emerging challenges in cyberspace, to include the growing use of end-to-end encryption, anonymous networks, online marketplaces, and cryptocurrencies.”

Nielsen will testify Tuesday at a Senate hearing.

In March, Nielsen said the department was prioritizing election cyber security above all other critical infrastructure it protects, such as the financial, energy and communications systems.

U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that Russia will attempt to meddle in the 2018 contests after doing so during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Nielsen said that more than half of U.S. states have signed up for the agency’s cyber scanning services, designed to detect potential weaknesses that could be targeted by hackers.

DHS said in 2016 that 21 states had experienced initial probing of their systems from Russian hackers in 2016 and that a small number of networks were compromised, but that there was no evidence any votes were actually altered.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler

Popular encrypted email standards are unsafe: researchers

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – European researchers have found that the popular PGP and S/MIME email encryption standards are vulnerable to being hacked and they urge users to disable and uninstall them immediately.

FILE PHOTO: WhatsApp and Facebook messenger icons are seen on an iPhone in Manchester , Britain March 27, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble -/File Photo

University researchers from Muenster and Bochum in Germany, and Leuven in Belgium, discovered the flaws in the encryption methods that can be used with popular email applications such as Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail.

“There are currently no reliable fixes for the vulnerability,” lead researcher Sebastian Schinzel, professor of applied cryptography at the Muenster University of Applied Sciences, said on Monday.

“If you use PGP/GPG or S/MIME for very sensitive communication, you should disable it in your email client for now.”

The team had been due to publish its full findings on Tuesday but rushed them out after the news made waves among the community of encrypted email users that includes activists, whistleblowers and journalists working in hostile environments.

Titling the exploit ‘Efail’, they wrote that they had found two ways in which hackers could effectively coerce an email client into sending the full plaintext of messages to the attacker.

There’s no immediate suggestion that spy agencies or state-sponsored hackers have already used the technique to burrow into people’s emails.

The researchers have informed email providers of their findings, under so-called responsible disclosure, and it now falls to others to establish whether the exploits can be replicated.

DIRECT EXFILTRATION

In the first exploit, hackers can ‘exfiltrate’ emails in plaintext by exploiting a weakness inherent in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), which is used in web design and in formatting emails.

Apple Mail, iOS Mail and Mozilla Thunderbird are all vulnerable to direct exfiltration, they said.

A second attack takes advantage of flaws in OpenPGP and S/MIME to inject malicious text that in turn makes it possible to steal the plaintext of encrypted emails.

The vulnerabilities in PGP and S/MIME standards pose an immediate risk to email communication including the potential exposure of the contents of past messages, said the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a U.S. digital rights group.

In a blog post, the EFF recommended that PGP users uninstall or disable their PGP email plug-ins while the research community evaluates the seriousness of the flaws reported by the European research team.

It also said that users should switch for the time being to non-email-based secure messaging apps such as Signal for sensitive communications.

Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) said in a statement there were risks that attackers could secure access to emails in plaintext once the recipient had decrypted them.

It added, however, that it considered the encryption standards themselves to be safe if correctly implemented and configured.

“Securely encrypted email remains an important and suitable means of increasing information security,” it said in a statement, adding that the flaws which have been discovered can be remedied through patches and proper use.

PGP – short for Pretty Good Privacy – was invented back in 1991 by Phil Zimmermann and has long been viewed as a secure form of end-to-end encryption impossible for outsiders to access. Zimmermann is co-founder and chief scientist of Silent Circle, an encrypted communications firm.

PGP has in the past been endorsed, among others, by Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on pervasive electronic surveillance at the U.S. National Security Agency before fleeing to Russia.

PGP works using an algorithm to generate a ‘hash’, or mathematical summary, of a user’s name and other information. This is then encrypted with the sender’s private ‘key’ and decrypted by the receiver using a separate public key.

To exploit the weakness, a hacker would need to have access to an email server or the mailbox of a recipient. In addition the mails would need to be in HTML format and have active links to external content to be vulnerable, the BSI said.

It advised users to disable the use of active content, such as HTML code and outside links, and to secure their email servers against external access.

Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Electrified roads: Swedish project could slash cost of electric vehicles

OSLO (Reuters) – An electrified road in Sweden that is the first in the world to charge vehicles as they drive along is showing promise and could potentially help cut the high cost of electric cars, project backers Vattenfall [VATN.UL] and Elways told Reuters.

The state-funded project, named eRoadArlanda and costing about 50 million crowns ($5.82 million), uses a modified electric truck that moves cargo from Stockholm’s Arlanda airport to Postnord’s nearby logistics hub to test the technology.

A electrified rail embedded in the tarmac of the 2-km-long (1.24 miles) road charges the truck automatically as it travels above it. A movable arm attached to the truck detects the rail’s location in the road, and charging stops when the vehicle is overtaking or coming to a halt.

The system also calculates the vehicle’s energy consumption, which enables electricity costs to be debited per vehicle and user.

Elways’ chief executive Gunnar Asplund said the charging while driving would mean electric cars no longer need big batteries — which can be half the cost of an electric car — to ensure they have enough power to travel a useful distance.

“The technology offers infinite range — range anxiety disappears” he said. “Electrified roads will allow smaller batteries and can make electric cars even cheaper than fossil fuel ones.”

Asplund said the Swedish state, which is funding the project, was happy with the results so far, with the only issue — now resolved — having been dirt accumulating on the rail.

Elways has patented the electric rail technology and is part of a Swedish consortium backing the eRoadArlanda project that also includes infrastructure company NCC and utility Vattenfall, which provides power from the national grid to the rail.

“Such roads will allow (electric vehicles) to move long distances without big, costly and heavy batteries,” said Markus Fischer, a Vattenfall spokesman, adding that installing the arm in new cars would be cheaper than retrofitting current models.

Vattenfall said in a statement electrified roads could reduce carbon dioxide emissions from lorries, which account for about 25 percent of total road traffic emissions.

“The investment cost per kilometer is estimated to be less than that of using overhead lines, as is the impact on the landscape,” it added.

Testing at eRoadArlanda started in April and will last at least 12 months so that the electric truck can use it under different weather conditions.

Editing by Catherine Evans

California Cannabis Regulations Make Shippers Report to the Feds

Imagine driving through California, your vehicle packed with Mendocino County’s finest kush. That scenario might once have induced a panic attack or—depending on your temperament—an adrenaline spike. Now that medical and adult-use recreational cannabis is legal, it’s a legit way to make a paycheck, and hitting the road with a trunk full of the devil’s lettuce is mostly cool.

Cool, but complicated.

It’s not just that the federal government still considers transporting cannabis very much a crime. It’s not even that California has never finalized rules for moving the leafy greens, even two decades after legalizing medical toking. (Insert joke about the duration of an average Phish song here.) It was only in January, a year after Californians voted to legalize recreational marijuana, that the state issued temporary regs.

These laid the groundwork for a digital track-and-trace system, which will be outlined in full once the state’s weed agency, the Bureau of Cannabis Control, releases the final regulations in the next month or so. A crucial part of the system will be licensing every vehicle used to traffic transport weed across the state.

This has the weed transport industry equal parts excited and anxious. On one hand, legitimate cannabis capitalists using armored vehicles will no longer have to compete with that shady dude who swears his Honda CRX can outrun any jackers. On the other hand, California’s pre-existing laws require many commercial vehicles operating within the state register with the federal Department of Transportation—by telling them exactly how the vehicle will be used.

When California first decriminalized marijuana with the 1996 Compassionate Use Act, it simply “encouraged the federal and state governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.” Over two decades, the state built up structure and oversight for the medical cannabis system—except the whole to-and-from thing. “It was really the wild west in terms of transportation because there were zero regulations,” says Alison Malsbury, a cannabis industry lawyer with Harris Bricken in San Francisco.

The sun began to set on California’s cannabis transport free-for-all in November 2016, when voters passed Proposition 64, allowing state-licensed dispensaries to sell cannabis and cannabis-infused products to adults age 21 and up. (It also allows grown ups to grow their own crops, give small amounts of weed as gifts, and carry up to an ounce without worrying about tripping up the law.)

The law also came with a requirement that vehicles used to transport cannabis must be owned, or leased, by someone with a permit issued by the Bureau of Cannabis Control. For now, those permits are temporary, dictated by an emergency set of rules the agency set out in January. This permitting system is integral to digital track-and-trace, the centerpiece of California’s cannabis regulation that demands every bit grown and sold in the state is accounted for, from seed to smoke.

Each plant gets a serial number, as does the bud that it produces, as do all the oils, tinctures, dabs, cookies, candies, lotions, extracts, and whatever other products the young industry’s mad alchemists create from the raw material. Anyone transporting the stuff will have to scan an RFID tag upon pickup and delivery. They’ll have to deliver it in a GPS-equipped vehicle and stick to a predetermined route, no unplanned excursions or unscheduled pit stops.

Beyond that, the temporary regulations offer little in the way of specifics. The transport will be commercial but small scale. Big rigs, or any other vehicle over 10,000 pounds, gets regulated by the federal government, so as long as California’s legal cannabis transporters stick to smaller vehicles (think unmarked Sprinter vans or armored cars) the feds should turn a blind eye.

But California’s regulations contain at least one glaring oversight that could force some would-be cannabis couriers to snitch on themselves. Anyone hoping to commercially transport cannabis in California must apply for a Motor Carrier Permit (the only exception is for companies transporting their own goods). The catch is, beginning in 2016, the state’s Department of Transportation began requiring any commercial vehicle seeking a Motor Carrier permit to obtain a federal DOT number. That involves explaining to the federales—who are not so cool with this marijuana thing—exactly how the vehicle will be used.

“How am I supposed to tell the feds I’m going to starting up a criminal conspiracy to transport cannabis?” says Debby Goldsberry, the CEO of Magnolia Wellness, an Oakland cannabis company, who is hoping to add cannabis transport to her company’s roster of services. She might be able to get around this requirement, as long as she is only transporting her company’s own products. But Goldsberry wants to be able to transport anyone’s goods, so the state’s limits her potential to grow as a business.

Unless she wants to start another business altogether. There’s another way around the rule: Own a preexisting transport company. Or, in the state’s legal parlance, a licensed motor carrier. For instance, many cannabis transport companies started out as traditional armored car services. “We currently have four armored vehicles loaded with product at the moment,” says Jeff Breier, COO of HardCar Security. His company offers an elite transport, staffed by combat veterans. This overlap in cash and cannabis transport is actually pretty beneficial—most weed companies deal in cash, because federal rules bar them from having bank accounts.

Technically, motor carrier companies are supposed to report what they are shipping when they apply for their federal DOT number. Existing transport companies don’t have to worry about this, because they are already registered. However, new transport companies that hope to specialize in cannabis will have to get … creative with their applications. Goldsberry says, she’d prefer if California just update its transportation statute, so it doesn’t require cannabis transport vehicles under 10,000 pounds register with the federal government. “We don’t believe in building a business based on violating federal law,” she says.

For the time being, she is stuck with her dilemma. “We can’t change what’s written in statute with our regulations,” says California Bureau of Cannabis Control spokesperson Aaron Francis. The state’s DOT and DMV aren’t likely to make an exception without serious political pressure. Until that happens, cannabis transport companies hoping to take the high road better keep things on the low-down.


Sticky Icky Situations

Artificial Neural Nets Grow Brainlike Cells to Find Their Way

Having the sense to take a shortcut, the most direct route from point A to point B, doesn’t sound like a very impressive test of intelligence. Yet according to a new report appearing last week in Nature, in which researchers describe the performance of their new navigational artificial intelligence, the system’s ability to explore complex simulated environments and find the shortest route to a goal put it in a class previously reserved for humans and other living things.

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The surprising key to the system’s performance was that while learning how to navigate, the neural net spontaneously developed the equivalent of “grid cells,” sets of brain cells that enable at least some mammals to track their location in space.

For neuroscientists, the new work seems to offer important clues about how grid cells in living brains make us better navigators. It also shows how neural nets could contribute greatly to future neuroscience studies: Neil Burgess, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London who was not involved with the study, suggested that the systems should “provide fertile ground for understanding how and why the human brain works as it does.”

Meanwhile, for AI researchers, the work’s relevance to improving automated navigation systems is obvious. But its greater importance might eventually lie in suggesting a more general way to enhance the intelligence of machines.

According to the researchers Andrea Banino at the British AI company DeepMind and Caswell Barry at University College London, who were lead authors on the new Nature paper, the project evolved out of questions they had about the function of the brain’s grid cells. Grid cells are often called “the brain’s GPS” because of their importance to navigation in many animal species. (Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser shared a 2014 Nobel Prize for their discovery of grid cells nine years earlier.) These clusters of neurons, which are arranged in roughly hexagonal arrays, collectively work like the inertial guidance systems on ships, aircraft and missiles: They keep track of how the body is moving through space, even in total darkness. “It’s basically updating your belief about where you are based on how you’re moving,” Barry said.

Neuroscientists have therefore credited grid cells with performing the function called “path integration”—the dead-reckoning form of navigation that doesn’t involve external cues: for example, “Take five steps forward, turn 90 degrees to the left, then walk straight ahead for another 15 steps.…” But various experiments have also hinted that grid cells perform other functions, including some that might go beyond navigation. For example, some studies implicate grid cells in measuring time and distance during travel. As Barry noted, if grid cells provide a spatial reference for objects and locations, “then in principle you can use them to calculate the direct route between those places”—that is, what’s called “vector-based navigation.”

The researchers decided to use deep-learning neural networks to investigate the role of grid cells in these navigational functions. As a first step, they set up a neural net to learn how to do path integration for a simulated agent moving through a small space. “We wanted to see whether we could set up an artificial network with an appropriate task so that it would actually develop grid cells,” Barry said.

The neural net obliged, and, according to Barry, “what was surprising was how well it worked.” The “grid units” that spontaneously emerged in the network were remarkably similar to what’s seen in animals’ brains, right down to the hexagonal grid.

The grid units that organized spontaneously in the neural network given a navigation task are surprisingly similar to the analogous grid cells in the brain, right down to their approximately hexagonal arrangement. These scans show firing activity in the living and artificial neurons.

The research team then joined the neural network’s abilities to systems that helped simulated agents find their way through mazelike virtual environments to goals. The system with grid units was far superior to systems without: For example, the system could tell if a previously closed door offered a shortcut to the goal, and it would take that route preferentially. According to Banino, this knack demonstrated that the grid units in the neural net were performing vector-based navigation because they were identifying a shorter, more direct route based on knowledge of the goal’s position.

“I think with this work, we were able to give a proof of principle that grid cells are used for taking shortcuts,” Banino said. The results therefore supported theories that grid cells in the brain are capable of both path integration and vector-based navigation. Comparable experimental proof with studies on living animals, he added, would be much more difficult to obtain.

In repeated runs of maze tasks, all the tested neural networks could learn to navigate to a goal (left). But if a barrier was removed, only the networks with grid cells recognized that it opened a shortcut and took that route preferentially. Other systems continued to take any available routes.

“The interesting implication is that this same approach could be used for different sorts of neuroscience questions,” Barry said. Researchers interested in limb control, for example, could train a neural network to control a robotic arm the way that the brain controls a living arm, and then run experiments on the artificial system to generate further insights into the living one. “It’s a potentially very exciting general-purpose neuroscience tool.”

“It’s quite spectacular,” said Stefan Leutgeb, a professor of neurobiology at the University of California, San Diego. “I think they make a very good case for vector navigation being a possible function [of grid cells]. This has long been proposed, but I don’t think anyone has come as close to finding a possible mechanism.”

But at the same time, he notes, “It has the limits of any computational study. This is a way in which it could work, but it doesn’t prove that it’s the way it works in animals.”

Francesco Savelli, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University who co-authored a commentary accompanying the new Nature paper, offered a similar view. He considers it very interesting that “you somehow get these [grid] cells without programming them. … And still they come out, as emergent properties.” But at the same time, “because it’s not a biologically realistic system, then you might be a little less clear on exactly what information it gives you.

“Unless you’re able to break into the black box of this network, and make this network a little more biologically realistic, then at some point you hit the limit in how you can inform further neurobiological studies,” he said.

On the other hand, what’s encouraging from a technological perspective is that “these deep learning systems, more and more, can tackle tasks that are more similar to higher cognitive function of the brain,” Savelli said. “It really is a demonstration that the benefits of using deep learning can extend to tasks that are more like higher cognitive functions.”

One might imagine that the DeepMind researchers would be looking to use this better navigational network to improve, say, the capabilities of exploratory robots or future self-piloting drones. But according to Banino, their plans are less focused—and more ambitious. “We think navigation is a fundamental aspect of our intelligence,” he said. “Personally, we’re not thinking of any application other than creating a general-purpose algorithm.

“The brain is the only example we have of a general-purpose algorithm,” he continued. “So why not source from it?”

Jordana Cepelewicz contributed reporting to this story.

Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.

Facebook Just Tapped the Next Mark Zuckerberg

Earlier this week, Facebook announced a grand reshuffle of its leadership. First reported by Recode, the new structure includes teams for the company’s apps, new platforms and infrastructure, and central product services. Most of the people moving into new roles have been with the company for close to a decade or longer, and many have proven themselves adept at the skill Facebook appears to value over all others: growth.

Chris Cox Is the New Mark Zuckerberg

If there were ever a question as to who would step in to fill Zuckerberg’s shoes should something happen to him, it has been resolved. With his new role as head of the company’s family of apps—Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and the tried and true Big Blue (aka Facebook)—Facebook’s chief product officer is stepping out as the leader he has long been internally. Anyone paying close attention knows this already.

Cox, who is very close friends with Zuckerberg, dropped out of a Stanford graduate program to join Facebook in 2005. He’s done a lot of jobs since. When I first met him in 2008, he was the 25-year-old head of resources who zipped around the office on a ripstik. An engineer by training, he helped invent news feed and was the star of the video Facebook showed investors in the run-up to its initial public offering. Cox is a brilliant public face for the company because he pairs engineering rigor and Facebook history with an emotive voice that Zuckerberg sometimes lacks. (Check out his F8 keynote from 2011 to see this in action.)

Cox’s new role also suggests Facebook will integrate Instagram and WhatsApp more deeply into the company, now that they’re organizationally closer to Messenger and Facebook. This may have contributed to WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum’s departure last month.

Javier Olivan Just Got a Lot More Important

Of Zuckerberg’s three direct reports on the product side of the business, Olivan is the only one not currently on Facebook’s leadership page. The Spanish native arrived at Facebook after finishing his Stanford MBA in 2007 to run international growth, when the company had just 40 million users, most in the United States. The growth team is Facebook’s Navy SEALs, a special-operations force brought in when the company sees potential for a feature to take off and the stakes are high. Historically, most teams at Facebook have included one of Olivan’s direct reports.

Olivan’s responsibilities now include ad products, analytics, and a group called “integrity, growth, and product management.” One could also read this as one way Zuckerberg is demoting ad products. Mark Rabkin, who is in charge, now reports to Olivan.

Controversy Won’t Stop WhatsApp’s New Boss

Unlike its Instagram acquisition, Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp was never a great culture fit. Koum promised to keep WhatsApp ad-free, then sold it to an ad company. In March, cofounder Brian Acton, who’d already left Facebook to start a foundation, advised his 35,000 Twitter followers to #Deletefacebook. Then last month, Koum announced he was leaving his post as WhatsApp’s CEO and stepping off Facebook’s board.

Now Chris Daniels, a seven-year Facebook veteran, steps in to replace Koum, eschewing the title as CEO of WhatsApp for a vice president title. It will be on Daniels, who will report to Cox, to sort out a business for the messaging service. He’s got the experience to take on the challenge. Until recently, Daniels ran Facebook’s internet.org initiatives around expanding access in developing countries. The largest of these projects is Free Basics, an app that offers access to free web services. Although telecom companies rejected the idea of partnering with Facebook to provide the Free Basics app early on—and India banned it in 2016—more than 80 carriers partner with Facebook to offer the service.

Facebook Probably Has a Blockchain Plan

David Marcus, who ran Facebook’s Messenger app, will now lead a team of fewer than a dozen people dedicated to blockchain technology. Kevin Weil, who was in charge of product at Instagram, is joining him along with James Everingham, who was in charge of engineering there. (WIRED’s Erin Griffith and Sandra Upson have some thoughts on what this means.)

A board member of cryptocurrency wallet Coinbase with a lot of payments experience, Marcus has a history of leaving large posts to take up seemingly small projects. He was CEO of PayPal in 2014 when he left to run Messenger. The move was a head-scratcher: At the time, Messenger was a tiny messaging app that had failed to take off as an email replacement. But Zuckerberg had a plan to transform Messenger into a better version of WhatsApp (which, it should be said, he’d just bought), one that businesses could harness to reach users in new ways.

Messenger’s Chief is a Growth Expert

Replacing Marcus at Messenger is Stan Chudnovsky. He’s one of the newer members of the leadership bench, having arrived at Facebook in 2014. Like Marcus, Chudnovsky is a serial entrepreneur; he sold his last company, the software startup IronPearl, to PayPal before it was a year old. Chudnovsky’s nascent startup had been building growth tools for companies, and at PayPal he was head of growth. At Messenger, Chudnovsky worked closely with Marcus to grow Messenger into a service with more than 1.3 billion monthly active users.

There Are Almost No Women Here

A shamefully obvious aspect of the image of the org chart that Recode pieced together earlier this week is the paucity of female faces. In fact, there’s only one: Naomi Gleit, who now runs “integrity, growth and product management.” Gleit, who is Facebook’s longest tenured employee (she was #29), has long been part of the growth team at Facebook and was until recently the company’s “vice president of social good.” Gleit is a force to be reckoned with, no doubt. But this new structure raises questions about Zuckerberg’s commitment to building an inclusive workforce. For as much as the company has benefitted from the work its chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has done personally to promote women, it should be unacceptable for Zuckerberg to fill 13 of the company’s 14 most critical technical positions with men.

A New Face(book)

Xiaomi sued for alleged patent infringement ahead of blockbuster IPO

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese smartphone maker Coolpad Group said its unit has sued three group firms of Xiaomi, which last week filed for a Hong Kong IPO that could be worth up to $10 billion, for patent infringement.

A company logo of Xiaomi is displayed on its smartphone during an event announcing a strategic alliance between CK Hutchison and Xiaomi in Hong Kong, China May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Coolpad said in a statement late on Thursday its subsidiary, Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific (Shenzhen) Co Ltd filed a lawsuit against Xiaomi Telecom Technology Co Ltd, Xiaomi Technology Co Ltd and Xiaomi Factory Co Ltd in a court in Jiangsu province for using its patent without authorization.

Yulong demanded that the Xiaomi companies should immediately stop production and sale of some smartphone models, including the Mi MIX2, Coolpad said.

Yulong had filed a similar legal case against Xiaomi in a Shenzhen court in January.

“It is because the IP (intellectual property) protection environment in China improved that Coolpad launched the lawsuit in January this year,” Coolpad’s global chief patent officer Nancy Zhang told a press conference on Friday, denying they were timed with Xiaomi’s upcoming IPO.

Xiaomi last week filed its IPO plans, which could be the largest listing globally in almost four years.

Coolpad has alleged that Xiaomi violated its patented multi-simcard design and other technology related to user interface. It demanded that Xiaomi compensate it for losses due to the alleged infringement, though Zhang declined to give a figure.

In a statement, Xiaomi said it has requested patent authorities to invalidate patent rights that are the subject of the lawsuit filed in Shenzhen. It said it will fully cooperate in the investigation by authorities on the matter.

Coolpad, a Shenzhen-based smartphone maker founded 25 years ago, was once a unit of Jia Yueting’s LeEco conglomerate, which has been struggling financially over the past year and a half. LeEco sold off all its interest in Coolpad in January.

Coolpad shares have been suspended since March 2017. It has been unable to report its 2017 annual result on time and only just filed its 2016 annual report last month after repeated delays due to audit problems. It reported a loss of HK$4.38 billion for 2016 versus a profit of HK$2.32 billion in 2015.

Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

Watch the New SpaceX Reusable Rocket Make Its Debut

SpaceX is set to launch the Block 5 version of its flagship rocket, the Falcon 9, at 4:12 pm Eastern on Thursday, an event that signals that reusable rockets are here to stay—or, rather, to boldly go. This upgraded version of the Falcon is expected to launch, land, and re-launch multiple times with little down time in between flights.

Today’s mission marks the first time SpaceX has returned to Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center following the epic maiden flight of its massive rocket, the Falcon Heavy. That highly anticipated launch captivated crowds across the world on February 6, as it ascended through the atmosphere, carrying Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla roadster (and a dummy driver, Starman) into space.

Now, SpaceX will make its long-awaited transition to the Block 5—which may not look incredibly different than previous versions, but packs a much bigger punch: 1.8 million pounds of thrust, which amounts to a 7 percent increase in power. The rocket will lift off sometime during a planned two-hour and 25-minute window and ferry the Bangabandhu-1 satellite to space. Then the first stage booster will return to Earth, where it’ll try to stick a landing on the company’s drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You, waiting in the Atlantic Ocean.

(The nearly 8,000-pound Bangabandhu-1 satellite will bring commercial communications capabilities to a rural region of Asia for up to 15 years after being placed into orbit. It’s the first satellite for Bangladesh, making it the 58th country to operate its own satellite in geostationary orbit.)

SpaceX’s philosophy has always been that a fully (and rapidly) reusable rocket is the key to dramatically reducing the cost of spaceflight. Currently, a Falcon 9 rocket costs around $62 million, and while SpaceX is currently successfully reusing first-stage boosters—the most expensive portion of the rocket—Elon Musk would like to get to the point where much more is reused, essentially ensuring that fuel becomes the only major expense. To that end, SpaceX is also attempting to recover and reuse the payload fairings—the protective nose cone that shields the rocket’s cargo as it travels through the atmosphere—with the help of a new West Coast based recovery vehicle dubbed Mr. Steven.

The vessel, outfitted with a claw-like catcher’s mitt was first employed earlier this year during a mission to launch the Paz satellite. The fairing is an expensive piece of hardware, which historically has been discarded, costs about 10 percent of the overall price tag of the Falcon 9, so being able to recover and reuse it would be a win for SpaceX. Currently, after separation from the rocket’s upper stage, the two halves of the fairing navigate back to Earth before a parachute deploys and they land in the ocean.

So far Mr. Steven has been unsuccessful in its attempts to snag the fairings, but SpaceX gathers data from each attempt, and will ideally make a successful catch in the near future.

The previous version of the Falcon 9, dubbed the full thrust variant, was only capable of flying two or three times at most. If SpaceX is to meet its ultimate goal of flying daily, a rocket that can only fly twice is not practical. Here’s where the Block 5 is crucial.

The Block 5, a culmination of more than 10 years of development, marks the final design iteration for the Falcon 9 and will be the version the company relies on as its workhorse for the foreseeable future. It’s designed to re-fly as soon as 48 hours after landing—a dramatic reduction in the downtime SpaceX rockets currently require.

The Block 5 accomplishes this thanks to a set of upgrades including improved engines, a more durable interstage, titanium grid fins, and an improved thermal protection system, which hold up better to the stresses of launch. And gone are the days of the all-white Falcon—the spiffy new interstage, along with a set of new, retractable landing legs are painted black. According to SpaceX, the Block 5 is capable of flying 10 times or more, needing only light refurbishments, and up to 100 times before the booster is retired.

SpaceX plans to use the Block 5 to launch astronauts to the space station as early as 2019. In order to achieve that goal, it has to fly the Block 5 at least seven times without making any alterations to the design, and there are around 20 launches left on the schedule this year. This is shaping up to be one slick-looking space taxi.

3, 2, 1, Blastoff: More Rocket Launches

Cloud security: The skills gap is delaying cloud migration

A new report from McAfee highlights the skills gap when it comes to security in the cloud. The report reveals that one in four organizations using infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or software as a service (SaaS) have experienced cybersecurity threats that compromised some data. Moreover, one in five were infiltrated by advanced attackers targeting their public cloud infrastructures.

Why? Because the lack of cloud security talent at companies puts them at more risk for data breaches. Also, that talent gap is delaying enterprise migration to cloud computing.

The trouble is that even if you find people with deep general IT security skills, those IT security skills are not cloud security skills; for example, the ability to deal with identity access management (IAM) on Amazon Web Services. Traditional IT security skills are important, but not sufficient.

The fact is that enterprises have done a poor job in prepping the talent pool for the cloud. The skills gaps—not only in cloud secrity but cloud databases, cloud networking, and cloud monitoring—is becoming the real barrier to enterprise cloud adoption. As I always say, the technology is easy, the people issues are hard.

The obvious solution is to hire faster, hire better, and put an aggressive hiring and training plan, as well as budget, in place. But before you do that, I advise that you first do a skills gap analysis of your current skills inventory to see what skills the addition of cloud and other new enabling technologies requires but you don’t yet have.

Also, understand that having poor talent is worse than not having the talent at all. The breaches that I see are caused by people doing dumb things, not by the lack of technology. Things are misconfigured, updates are not applied, or the wrong technologies are chosen. Indeed, you can trace most breaches over the last five years to that root cause of poor talent.

Let’s not repeat that with cloud. Get smart, skilled people.

Sweden's iZettle to list on Nasdaq Stockholm

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Fast-growing Swedish fintech firm iZettle said on Tuesday it planned to list on the Nasdaq Stockholm stock exchange, with the initial public offering to take place this year.

An entrance of the iZettle company is pictured in the headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, August 12, 2016. REUTERS/Violette Goarant

The company said it planned to list during 2018, “depending on market conditions”, and that the listing application had been approved by the stock exchange.

The firm said it planned to raise around 2 billion crowns ($226.17 million) in connection with the initial public offering.

Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom, editing by Helena Soderpalm

Chinese-American Elites Lament a Brewing Trade War

It’s not easy to promote closer US-China ties these days. The countries are moving toward a trade war; a US delegation left Beijing Friday reporting little progress on resolving disputes. US executives accuse China of stealing their intellectual property. The US government is imposing ever tighter restrictions on Chinese telecommunications firms.

That made an uncomfortable backdrop for the annual conference of the Committee of 100, a group of influential Chinese-Americans, in Silicon Valley over the weekend. The group billed the event as a “Bridge Between the US and China.” But speakers and attendees lamented deteriorating relations, heaped scorn on the Trump administration, and expressed concern that nativism could lead to discrimination against Chinese-Americans.

“It does not take a very stable genius to understand that the US relationship with China is now under severe stress,” Chas Freeman, a senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute, told several hundred guests. In 1972, Freeman was an interpreter for President Nixon during his first visit to China. More than four decades later, Freeman noted the growing hostility between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies, even as their nations remain interdependent. “The US and China are each too globalized, too successful, and entangled to divorce,” he said.

Freeman and others said Trump administration policies risk weakening the US or exacerbating tensions between the countries. The tax cut approved by Congress last year will lead the government to issue more debt, much of which will be bought by the Chinese, he said. Blocking Chinese telecom company ZTE from buying US-made components could backfire by encouraging China to buttress its domestic suppliers; those firms could eventually displace US components in other products.

Not all the blame went toward Washington. Susan Shirk, chair of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego, said China is engaged in a “massive government-organized and lavishly funded drive to acquire foreign technology to make itself into a high-tech superpower.” After decades of movement toward a market-based economy, Shirk said the Chinese government is increasing its involvement in the economy, and re-emphasizing its socialist ideology. “What’s happening in China is not your normal industrial policy,” Shirk said. “These are efforts to reduce integration with the rest of the global economy.”

Shirk said executives and political leaders in other developed economies share concerns about China’s path. “This is a much broader and deeper concern than just Trump,” she said. Gary Locke, a former US ambassador to China, echoed that sentiment, saying China limits foreign ownership of Chinese businesses, prodding many US firms into uncomfortable joint ventures with Chinese companies that are, or could be, rivals.

Technology executives find the growing tensions unsettling. “As a tech person, I love to think that technology has no boundaries,” said Paul Yeh, who runs a Palo Alto, California venture capital fund that invests in both the US and China. But Yeh said he’s not naive, and thinks the tech industry ultimately will suffer from the hostility. One potential warning sign: Three-fourths of respondents to a recent survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China said foreign businesses are less welcome in China than previously.

Beneath the rhetoric, China has emerged as a legitimate tech power. Locke, the former ambassador, noted that Chinese inventors filed more patents than those from any other nation last year, and the country is home to the world’s fastest supercomputer. China has been particularly aggressive in artificial intelligence, with a national goal to catch the US by 2020. China’s SenseTime, which makes image-analysis software, is now the world’s most valuable AI startup.

Fei-Fei Li, Google’s chief scientist for artificial intelligence and machine learning, offered a more personal perspective on the rivalry between the two countries. Li was born in China and came to the US during high school. She earned a bachelor’s degree in physics before moving into computer science and ultimately, AI. She noted that the discoveries that revolutionized physics in the early 20th century came from scientists in several countries. “No company or country owned modern physics,” she said, drawing a parallel to artificial intelligence. “We all benefit.”

In some areas, the two countries are so interconnected that it’s hard to distinguish what is American and what is Chinese. Several startups pursuing self-driving technology include people from both countries and technology from both countries, said Jonathan Woetzel, the Asia-based director of the McKinsey Global Institute. “Business is what happens while politicians are talking,” he said.

Rising Tension

Why Elon Musk and Warren Buffett Are Suddenly Trolling Each Other Over See’s Candies

During the annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting Saturday, CEO Warren Buffett offered some advice to Tesla’s Elon Musk: Stay away from See’s Candies.

What the renowned investor probably didn’t anticipate was that Musk, a fellow multi-billionaire, would interpret his message as a dare.

Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway owns See’s Candies, was responding to a shareholder’s question about whether he agreed with Musk’s views about so-called economic “moats,” a term Buffett coined in a 1999 Fortune article referring to a company’s wide competitive advantages.

While Buffett has long extolled the benefits of moats—which are a key component of his stock-picking process—Musk spurned the concept entirely during a Tesla earnings call this week.

“I think moats are lame,” Musk told analysts on Tesla’s first-quarter earnings call Wednesday. “They are like nice in a sort of quaint, vestigial way. If your only defense against invading armies is a moat, you will not last long. What matters is the pace of innovation, that is the fundamental determinant of competitiveness.”

Presented with Musk’s comment, Buffett acknowledged that the acceleration of technological advancement in recent years has made more moats vulnerable and “susceptible to invasion.” But he still believes the concept is crucially important, and that some companies’ moats are more impenetrable now than they’ve ever been.

“Certainly you should be working on improving your own moat and defending your own moat all the time. And Elon may turn things upside down in some areas,” Buffett said during the Berkshire meeting in Omaha. “I don’t think he’d want to take us on in candy.”

Buffett often cites See’s Candies as a company with a wide moat, because of the company’s loyal, entrenched customer base, particularly on the West Coast—making it difficult for any rival chocolate chains to steal any business from See’s.

Berkshire Hathaway acquired See’s Candies in 1972, and Buffett is famously fond of its peanut brittle— which he and his business partner Charlie Munger continuously munch on while answering questions for six hours at their shareholder meeting each year. Some of Berkshire Hathaway’s other businesses also have moats wide enough to stave off competition from an innovative tech upstart, such as Garanimals, a line of children’s clothing it owns, Buffett added.

Munger also scoffed at Musk’s perspective on moats. “Elon says a conventional moat is quaint, and that’s true of a puddle of water. And he says that the best moat would be to have a big competitive position, and that is also right,” Munger said. “It’s ridiculous. Warren does not intend to build an actual moat. Even though they’re quaint.”

Musk, who did not attend the Berkshire Hathaway meeting, caught wind of Buffett and Munger’s comments, and apparently felt he was being trolled. Responding to the Berkshire Hathaway executives in a series of tweets, Musk first posted a musical YouTube clip from the movie Trolls.

Then Musk announced on Twitter, “I’m starting a candy company and it’s going to be amazing.”

Although the Tesla CEO insisted he was “super super serious,” the tone of his Twitter thread — in which he also noted that “the plot of Willy Wonka is really messed up” — suggested otherwise. Still, Musk added, “Ok ok, just for sake of argument, what do you wish for in candy?” He followed that up with a single-word tweet: “Cryptocandy.”

Both Buffett and Munger loathe cryptocurrencies, which the Berkshire CEO on Saturday predicted “will come to bad endings.”

Later in the evening, Musk referenced Buffett directly, tweeting that he was “going to build a moat and fill it with candy” in order to lure Berkshire Hathaway into investing in his confectionery venture.

As for whether the investing duo will respond to Musk, it’s unlikely they even took notice of his tweets: While Buffett has a Twitter account, he has tweeted exactly nine times, and not since the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway meeting two years ago.

Why Warren Buffett Thinks Buying Microsoft Stock ‘Would Be a Mistake’

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have known each other 27 years, enjoy playing bridge together and rallying in ping pong at the annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting.

But the billionaires’ friendship has its boundaries: Buffett will never buy Microsoft stock.

“It just would be a mistake for Berkshire to buy Microsoft,” the famous stock picker said at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting Saturday.

Buffett has been notoriously averse to tech stocks for most of his investing career, though in 2016 he stunned shareholders by buying Apple stock, which is now by far Berkshire Hathaway’s largest holding.

Yet Buffett’s resistance to Microsoft (msft) has nothing to do with its business model or industry. Rather, the problem lies with Gates, who joined the Berkshire Hathaway board in 2004, and retired as chairman of Microsoft in 2014.

“If something happened a week later, a month later, in terms of [Microsoft] having better earnings than expected or making an acquisition—anything—both Bill and I would, incorrectly, but would be a target of suggestions and accusations, perhaps even, that somehow he had told me something, or vice versa,” Buffett said at the Berkshire meeting in Omaha.

In other words, Buffett is concerned with avoiding even the slightest perception of insider trading—however false—or anything that could invite such suspicions.

“I try to stay away from a few things just totally because the inference would be drawn that we might have talked, I might have talked to somebody about something,” Buffett added. “There’d be a lot of people who wouldn’t believe us if something good immediately happened after we bought it.”

Of course, Buffett had plenty of opportunities to buy Microsoft stock without any remote appearance of insider trading. Microsoft went public in 1986—more than five years before Buffett even met Gates. So why didn’t the Oracle of Omaha invest back then?

“In the earlier years, it’s very clear—the answer is stupidity,” Buffett admitted.

Now, Microsoft is just one of “a few [companies] that are off the list” of what Berkshire Hathaway (brk-a) is willing to invest in because of ethical conflicts, Buffett said. (He did not name the others in this group.)

“But both that and my stupidity have cost us a lot of money,” he added.

At least it doesn’t seem to be getting in the way of his friendship with Gates.

Dell EMC freshens high-end SANs with VMAX makeover, PowerMax

Dell EMC has unveiled the PowerMax series, the new flagship family of its SAN storage offerings. With a heritage in all-flash VMAX, PowerMax arrays offer improved performance as well as support for inline data deduplication.

At Dell EMC World last week in Las Vegas the company announced a refresh of its high-end storage range, with PowerMax unveiled as a successor to EMC’s VMAX and the latest in an evolution that originated in its historic Symmetrix family.

PowerMax takes much from the existing VMAX architecture but brings significant upgrades such as support for NVMe flash drives and inline data deduplication.

Like the current VMAX AF, PowerMax implements a multi-controller architecture based on so-called “PowerBricks”. Each PowerBrick comprises a 4U module with two active-active controllers and two shelves of 24 2.5” NVMe flash drives. The drives are dual-port to allow maximum availability in case one of the controllers fails.

PowerMax comes in two models, the 2000 and the 8000. The first is essentially an updated VMAX 250F. It can accommodate a maximum of two PowerBricks in the same rack, with 96 drives of 1.9TB, 3.8TB or 7.6TB for a maximum capacity of around 1PB. Like the VMAX 250F, the PowerMax 2000 only supports open systems (Windows, Linux, Unix) and not mainframe.

Topping off the series is the PowerMax 8000, which succeeds the VMAX 950F and can house up to eight PowerBricks. While its VMAX forebear was built on Intel Xeon E5v2 processors, the PowerMax 8000 uses the same Xeon E5v4 as the PowerMax 2000, which allows Dell EMC to boost the processing power of the array.

Like the VMAX 850F, the PowerMax 8000 supports open systems and the mainframe IBM Z-Series. PowerMax 8000 instances can be dispersed to different racks in the same datacentre to protect against electrical failure or other incidents within the same datacentre. As with its VMAX predecessor, arrays can be connected by a dual Infiniband fabric.

Dell EMC claims the PowerMax 2000 can deliver up to 1.7 million IOPS (read, 8k blocks) with latency below 300µs, which is about 50% better than the VMAX equivalent. Meanwhile, the PowerMax 8000 tops out at 10 million IOPS with a similar latency figure, but with throughput of around 150GBps.

For PowerMax, Dell EMC has significantly re-worked the OS code that drives its high-end systems and has upgraded its file system to optimise data placement on its drives. Eventually, these arrays will support up to eight classes of service, but that depends on Dell EMC adding support for Intel Optane drives to the flash drives currently supported

Another new feature is native support for inline data deduplication. Dell EMC’s position historically was that the technology held no interest for it in its high-end arrays, but it has bowed to pressure from competitors. The company has recently added deduplication to its Unity arrays and decided to do the same for PowerMax.

According to those responsible in the company, the algorithm used allows for a maximum reduction ratio of 5:1 and an average of 3:1. In the high-end storage array market, support for deduplication returns the advantage to Dell EMC over the DS888x systems from IBM and allows the firm to go up against Hitachi Vantara (and HPE, which re-sells Hitachi systems re-badged as XP7).

Storage admins can select data duplication and compression functionality by volume without impact on existing data services.

The two new PowerMax models are available this week, with Dell EMC indicating that new configurations that incorporate Intel Optane drives are set for 2018 release.

Support for NVMe-over-fabrics is also part of the Dell EMC roadmap, but the firm has not explained whether the protocol will be used to link server-based storage or to support shelves of NVMe-over-fabrics compatible external storage.

Qualcomm to depose Apple services chief Eddy Cue

(Reuters) – Qualcomm Inc can depose Apple Inc’s services chief Eddy Cue in addition to Chief Executive Tim Cook, a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California ruled on Friday, part of the chipmaker’s effort to determine whether Apple worked with Samsung to focus regulatory scrutiny on Qualcomm.

Eddy Cue, Senior VP of Internet Software, introduces Apple TV during a launch event in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

The access to Cue is important because Qualcomm alleges talks between executives at Apple and its rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd were central to its decision to cut off Apple from a stream of nearly $1 billion in licensing rebate payments.

Apple sued Qualcomm early last year, contesting the San Diego-based chipmaker’s licensing practices and asking for those rebate payments back. Qualcomm then sued Apple for patent infringement in several countries. As part of the disputes, Qualcomm is also seeking to ban the import of some iPhones it believes are violating its patents.

In the lawsuit in Southern California filed by Apple, Qualcomm has alleged that at a conference in Idaho in 2015, a top Apple executive encouraged Samsung to “get aggressive” in asking South Korean antitrust regulators to pursue action against the chipmaker.

Cook and Cue are regular attendees of a media mogul conference held each year in Sun Valley, Idaho. The Apple executive in question, Qualcomm alleged, explained that a regulatory ruling on Samsung’s home turf would be Samsung’s “best chance” to force Qualcomm to change its licensing practices.

Qualcomm did not name the Apple executive cited in its filings. However, the conversation between Apple and Samsung is important because Qualcomm alleges it amounted to Apple “wrongfully inducing” a regulatory action against Qualcomm.

Qualcomm said such a move violated a cooperation agreement it had with Apple and that it stopped sending rebate payments to Apple because of that and other violations of the agreement.

Apple has argued in court filings that it cooperated with requests from regulators and that Qualcomm improperly retaliated against it for doing so.

Though Qualcomm is known as a chipmaker, its profit has been driven by a patent licensing business. Some of Qualcomm’s practices caused conflicts with customers such as Apple and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL], as well as with regulators in China, Korea and the United States. Qualcomm has begun changing some of those practices to become more “regulator friendly,” its executives have said.

Apple declined to comment, and Samsung and Qualcomm did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Matthew Lewis

How to Change Your Twitter Password Right Now

On Thursday, Twitter chief technology officer Parag Agrawal disclosed in a blog post that the company had inadvertently recorded user passwords, in plaintext, in an internal system. This is not how things are supposed to go! And while Twitter has fixed the bug, and doesn’t think any of the exposed passwords were accessed in any way, you should still change your Twitter password right now to make sure your account is secure.

“It’s a bad thing and Twitter should be held to the fire for it,” says David Kennedy, CEO of the penetration testing firm TrustedSec. “But they are taking the right steps by requesting everyone change their password and making the bug public versus hiding it.”

Twitter has begun notifying both mobile and desktop users to change their passwords, but several people have reported errors and lags, presumably because everyone is trying to make account changes at once (which is good!).

Companies generally protect user passwords by scrambling them in a cryptographic process known as hashing. As Agrawal explained, Twitter does this, too, using a well-regarded hash function called bcrypt. But a bug caused Twitter to accidentally store passwords unprotected in some type of internal log before its password management system finished hashing them. The system would then complete the hash, and everything would look fine, even though the passwords were readable in the log. While it’s great that Twitter eventually realized the situation and is taking steps to ensure that it never happens again, it’s disconcerting that such a fundamental flaw in a crucial user protection existed in the first place.

“I’m sorry that this happened,” Agrawal wrote on Twitter after posting the announcement. “We are sharing this information to help people make an informed decision about their account security. We didn’t have to, but believe it’s the right thing to do.” The disclosure came on World Password Day.

It’s true that Twitter could have simply implemented remediations and hoped for the best, but its users deserve to know if and when their passwords have been exposed—especially because it’s always possible that the data actually was improperly accessed. And the company could have gone even farther with its disclosure. “We ask that you consider changing your password on all services where you’ve used this password,” Agrawal wrote in the statement. Instead of making it optional, Twitter could have forced all of its users to change their passwords to guarantee their security.

To do just that for your own account, navigate to Settings and privacy > Password. Enter your current password and then pick a new one. And if you used your old Twitter password for any other accounts, you should change those, too.

While you’re at it, set up two-factor authentication for Twitter if you don’t have it enabled already. Go to Settings and privacy > Account. In the Security subsection, click on Review your login verification methods. After entering your (newly revised) password to confirm that you want to make changes, you’ll land on a Login verification screen. Here you can set things up so you receive second factor codes via SMS or, preferably, using a code-generating app like Google Authenticator or Authy. The problem Twitter announced today is exactly the type of situation where two-factor is helpful—even if your Twitter password was compromised while it was exposed in the internal log, two-factor would keep a bad actor from using that information alone to access your account.

Twitter declined to comment on how long the plaintext passwords were exposed, or why the company decided not to reset all user passwords, but it seems to have acted in good faith to resolve the issue. For a platform with 336 million users, though, it’s a pretty major gaffe.

Past Passwords

Facebook Dating Looks a Lot Like Hinge

When Facebook announced a new dating feature at its annual developer conference this week, it drew quick comparisons to existing apps like Tinder and Bumble. But the social network’s matchmaking service, simply called Dating, most closely resembles another, lesser known dating app: Hinge.

Facebook hasn’t yet begun to test Dating, but the demo version touted on stage by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and chief product officer Chris Cox looks nearly identical to Hinge. This isn’t the first time Facebook has ripped off a competitor; Instagram famously lifted Stories from Snapchat in 2016. And as in previous cases, Hinge probably doesn’t have much recourse to stop them.

Based on the demo shown at the F8 developer conference, Facebook Dating doesn’t have a Tinder-like “hot or not” swiping feature for quickly sorting through potential matches. Instead, it works like Hinge, which has users scroll through detailed profiles. Both Hinge and Facebook Dating also allow users to post answers to questions on their profiles, like whether they prefer dogs or cats. And in the biggest similarity, singles on both services can start conversations not by merely saying hello but by commenting on a specific profile item. For example, you can click on a picture of a crush’s trip to Morocco and mention that you’ve been there too. You can also simply “like” an image, video, or question response to signify your interest.

Hinge and Facebook Dating also share the same ethos. On stage, Zuckerberg stressed that Dating focuses on finding meaningful relationships rather than hookups. Hinge advertises itself the same way. In 2016, the app added a paid service; for $7 a month, users can interact with an unlimited number of potential matches and gain access to other exclusive features. The assumption is that people willing to pay to find a relationship are looking for something more substantial than casual dating. Facebook wants to do the same, just without the price tag.

Like most popular dating apps, Hinge also largely relies on Facebook data to operate; you even need a Facebook account to sign up, though the company says it’s developing a workaround. Hinge uses info from the social network to show you potential matches that have friends in common with you. You can also automatically pull in your Facebook photos and other information.

Again, Facebook Dating has yet to launch, so it’s impossible to know exactly how much it has in common with Hinge. But at first glance, they seem nearly identical, not just because they have the same features but also in the way they’re designed. Facebook didn’t respond to requests for comment about the similarities. Hinge, meanwhile, is playing it off as a compliment.

“When the Hinge team saw the similarity between our designs, particularly the profile and liking interaction, we congratulated each other. It’s gratifying to have one of the world’s biggest technology companies enter the dating space and draw so much inspiration from Hinge,” Tim MacGougan, Hinge’s vice president of product, said in an email. “We’re interested to see how their product evolves as they find their footing, and we’ll keep our focus on innovating at the forefront of the anti-swipe, pro-dating movement.”

Hinge

Hinge

Besides, it’s not like Hinge can really do anything about it. The reality is tech companies have ripped off each other’s interfaces for years, even if Facebook has a few recent, brazen examples. And legally, they’re entitled to.

“I don’t think any claim that Hinge could plausibly raise would stand much of a chance of being successful,” says Evan Brown, a partner at the firm Much Shelist who specializes in technology and intellectual property law. Brown explains that copyright laws are designed to protect creative expression, rather than methods of doing something, like crafting a successful dating app. “When you look at the similarities between how Hinge looks and Facebook looks, those similarities—as I see it—are purely factual or methodological,” he says.

Brown points to a 1996 Supreme Court case, Lotus Development Corp v. Borland International, in which a software company tried to assert that a drop-down menu it created was protected by copyright. The high court was split, but a lower court held that copyright doesn’t extend to the user interface of a computer. Brown says many of the same issues would come into play with Hinge. “No one would think they have exclusivity under copyright, it’s the very same thing here,” he says. “These are just stock elements of how interfaces look and operate.”

That hasn’t stopped other dating apps from suing each other, though. In March, Match Group, which owns Tinder, sued competing dating app Bumble for violating its patents and trademarks, as well as misusing trade secrets. Bumble quickly countered with a lawsuit of its own—accusing Match of coaxing it into revealing confidential information under the impression that it might purchase it. Whitney Wolfe Herd, the founder of Bumble, was previously one of the earliest employees at Tinder.

Daniel Nazer, a staff attorney on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s intellectual property team, thinks Tinder’s case faces many of the same pitfalls. “I think most utility patents in this space face the same problems,” he says. (Utility patents protect new machines, processes, and other inventions). He specifically cites Alice Corp v CLS Bank International, a landmark Supreme Court case from 2014 that found an abstract idea doesn’t become eligible for a patent just because it’s implemented on a computer. The decision is largely seen as having been crucial in helping software companies fight back against patent trolls. He thinks the case decision makes Tinder’s patents invalid. IAC, Match’s parent company, declined to comment on ongoing litigation.

Facebook’s copycat moves can still feel unfair, especially for a company of its size. But bringing already successful features to new products mostly stands to benefit users. If Stories are any indication, people won’t mind that Facebook Dating’s look originated elsewhere. The social network announced earlier this week that a whopping 450 million people use WhatsApp Status every day, the Facebook-owned app’s version of Stories. Snapchat, by comparison, has less than 200 million users total. For now though, all Hinge can do is keep talking to Facebook, and hope the social network doesn’t kill its business.

“Since the announcement, our team has been in touch with Facebook about what our relationship will look like moving forward,” says Hinge’s MacGougan.

Internet Dating Diaries

U.S. safety agency says 'did not assess' Tesla Autopilot effectiveness

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. traffic safety regulator on Wednesday contradicted Tesla Inc’s claim that the agency had found that its Autopilot technology significantly reduced crashes, saying that regulators “did not assess” the system’s effectiveness in a 2017 report.

Charging stations for Tesla electric cars are seen near Estavayer-le-Lac, Switzerland April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Autopilot, a form of advanced cruise control, handles some driving tasks and warns those behind the wheel they are always responsible for the vehicle’s safe operation, Tesla has said.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which issued the statement, and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating a fatal crash in March in which the driver was using Autopilot.

Following that fatality, Tesla pointed to a 2017 NHTSA report on a May 2016 fatality involving a driver using Autopilot. The report said crash rates fell by 40 percent after installation of Autopilot’s Autosteer function, and noted that this number was derived from Tesla airbag deployment data.

The agency said on Wednesday its crash rate comparison “did not evaluate whether Autosteer was engaged” and “did not assess the effectiveness of this technology.”

The agency described the Autopilot analysis in the 2017 report as a “cursory comparison” of airbag deployment rates before and after installation of the feature to determine whether models with Autosteer had higher crash rates. Such a finding “could have indicated that further investigation was necessary,” the agency said.

Tesla declined to comment.

In March, Tesla said that over a year ago, the U.S. government found that its first iteration of Autopilot reduced crash rates by as much as 40 percent. “Internal data confirms that recent updates to Autopilot have improved system reliability,” it added.

On Jan. 19, 2017, Musk tweeted: “The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation.” Autosteer, a system that automatically keeps the vehicle in the center of a lane, is part of the Autopilot technology package.

The 2017 NHTSA probe found no evidence of a defect. Investigations into the death of Walter Huang, the driver in the March 23 Tesla car crash, are ongoing.

The NTSB confirmed last month it had two other pending investigations of incidents involving Tesla vehicles, including an August 2017 Tesla battery fire in Lake Forest, California, after an owner lost control and ran the vehicle into his garage.

The NTSB previously faulted Tesla in a 2016 fatal crash in Florida in which Autopilot was engaged. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said in 2017 that “system safeguards were lacking.”

He also noted that “Tesla allowed the driver to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed and the system gave far too much leeway to the driver to divert his attention.”

Tesla said it had improved the system since the crash.

Tesla on Wednesday told investors in its quarterly financial report that on March 15 it released a “significant Autopilot update” that has been well received by its customers.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Alexandria Sage; Editing by Joseph White and Richard Chang

Facebook employee fired over bragging about access to user information

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc on Thursday said that it fired an employee accused of bragging on matchmaking app Tinder about his access to private user information.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of laptop users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo/File Photo

The incident comes as Facebook faces global concerns about personal data privacy, including Congressional hearings at which Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg testified.

A Twitter user earlier on Wednesday posted here about the Tinder conversation along with screenshots, saying Facebook’s security engineer is “likely using privileged access to stalk women online”.

In the unverified screenshot, the employee in question writes of being a “professional stalker” searching for hackers.

In a statement, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said the company quickly investigated the situation and immediately fired the person.

Access to sensitive data is logged, and the company has automated systems designed to detect and prevent abuse, Stamos said.

“Employees who abuse these controls will be fired — period.”

The firing was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr