Telekom CEO argues for strong No. 3 player in U.S. wireless market: newspaper

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – A strong No. 3 player in the U.S. wireless market would enhance competition, the chief of Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE) told a German newspaper, as T-Mobile US Inc (TMUS.O) seeks to merge with Sprint Corp (S.N).

Timotheus Hoettges, Chief Executive Officer of Germany’s telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom AG poses for a picture at the Cyber Defense and Security Operation Center (SOC) of Telekom Security in Bonn October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Chief executive officer Timotheus Hoettges also urged the new German government to think twice before selling down its large stake in Deutsche Telekom, according to an interview in Welt am Sonntag.

T-Mobile US, majority-owned by Deutsche Telekom, is close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with Sprint Corp, people familiar with the matter have said, a breakthrough in efforts to merge the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers.

Hoettges, in the interview published on Sunday, declined to comment directly on talks between the companies.

“In the U.S. there is a duopoly between two very big players, and then there are two smaller players well behind,” he said. “A third strong player would be good for competition.”

Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and AT&T Inc (T.N) are the two largest wireless carriers.

Competition regulators have in the past quashed consolidation efforts by T-Mobile, but Hoettges said chances are now better under U.S. President Donald Trump.

“History has taught us that governments led by Republicans are more hands-off than Democratic administrations,” he said.

On the German state’s nearly 32 percent stake in Deutsche Telekom, Hoettges acknowledged it would be the new government’s decision whether to sell or keep.

But he said those who argued for a sale “should perhaps ask themselves who will buy the stake”.

“What interest would the owner have in infrastructure security? Would the owner want to invest in Germany, and if so, where and in particular, how much?”

The FDP and Green parties, which are in talks to form a coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, have both advocated a sale or partial sale of the stake.

Reporting by Tom Sims and Douglas Busvine; editing by John Stonestreet

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

U.S. senator probes Pentagon on Russian source code reviews

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. senator on Tuesday asked the Defense Department to explain how it manages the risks when it uses software that has been scrutinized by foreign governments, saying the practice may represent a national security threat.

Reuters reported earlier this month that Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co allowed a Russian defense agency to review the source code or inner workings of cyber defense software known as ArcSight, which is used by the Pentagon to guard its computer networks.

”HPE’s ArcSight system constitutes a significant element of the U.S. military’s cyber defenses,” Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis seen by Reuters.

Shaheen, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said disclosure of ArcSight’s source code to the Russian agency presented an “opportunity to exploit a system used on [Defense Department] platforms.”

Shaheen questioned whether the Trump administration was pushing back on demands for source code from Russia and elsewhere that are imposed on U.S. companies as a condition for entry into foreign markets.

Such reviews highlight a quandary for U.S. technology companies, as they weigh U.S. cyber security protections while pursuing business with some of Washington’s adversaries, including Russia and China, according to security experts.

“I understand that individual businesses must make decisions weighing the risk of intellectual property disclosure against the opportunity of accessing significant overseas markets,” Shaheen wrote. “However, when such products undergird [Defense Department] cyber defenses, our national security may be at stake in these decisions.”

The Pentagon and HPE did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the letter.

Cyber security experts, former U.S. intelligence officials and former ArcSight employees said the review of ArcSight’s core instruction, also known as source code, could help Moscow discover weaknesses in the software, potentially helping hackers to blind the U.S. military to an attack.

HPE has said in the past that such reviews, by a Russian government-accredited testing company, have taken place for years at a research and development center it operates outside of Russia.

The software maker has also said it closely supervises the process and that no code is allowed to leave the premises, ensuring it does not compromise the safety of its products. A company spokeswoman said last week that no current HPE products have undergone Russian source code reviews.

HPE was spun off from Hewlett-Packard Inc as a separate software company in 2015.

Shaheen’s letter asked Mattis whether he foresaw risks associated with the disclosure of ArcSight’s code and whether the Pentagon was monitoring whether technology vendors share source code or “other sensitive technical data.”

She also asked how frequently vendors disclose the source code of products used by the Pentagon to foreign governments.

Shaheen recently led successful efforts in Congress to ban all government use of software provided by Moscow-based antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab, amid allegations the company is allied with Russian intelligence. Kaspersky vehemently denies such links.

Tech companies have been under increasing pressure to allow the Russian government to examine source code in exchange for approvals to sell products in Russia. While many Western firms have complied, some, including California-based cyber firm Symantec, have refused.

ArcSight was sold to British tech company Micro Focus International Plc in a deal completed in September.

The company said last week that while source code reviews were a common industry practice, it would restrict future reviews by “high-risk” governments and subject them to chief executive approval.

Reporting by Dustin Volz and Joel Schectman; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Tom Brown

Tech

Facebook says 10 million U.S. users saw Russia-linked ads

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Some 10 million people in the United States saw politically divisive ads on Facebook that the company said were purchased in Russia in the months before and after last year’s U.S. presidential election, Facebook said on Monday.

Facebook, which had not previously given such an estimate, said in a statement that it used modeling to estimate how many people saw at least one of the 3,000 ads. It also said that 44 percent of the ads were seen before the November 2016 election and 56 percent were seen afterward.

The ads have sparked anger toward Facebook and, within the United States, toward Russia since the world’s largest social network disclosed their existence last month. Moscow has denied involvement with the ads.

Facebook has faced calls for increased U.S. regulation from U.S. authorities. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has outlined steps that the company plans to take to deter governments from abusing the social media network.

Earlier on Monday, Facebook said in a separate statement that it planned to hire 1,000 more people to review ads and ensure they meet its terms, as part of an effort to deter Russia and other countries from using the platform to interfere in elections.

The latest company statement said that about 25 percent of the ads were never shown to anyone.

“That’s because advertising auctions are designed so that ads reach people based on relevance, and certain ads may not reach anyone as a result,” Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of policy and communications, said in the statement.

For 99 percent of the ads, less than $ 1,000 was spent, he said. The total ad spend was $ 100,000, the company has said.

Still, he said it was possible Facebook would find more Russia-linked U.S. ads as it continues to investigate.

Schrage, while criticizing the ad buyers for using fake accounts, also said many of the ads otherwise “did not violate our content policies” and could have remained if bought using real accounts.

“While we may not always agree with the positions of those who would speak on issues here, we believe in their right to do so – just as we believe in the right of Americans to express opinions on issues in other countries,” he wrote.

Facebook is working with others in the tech sector, including Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, on investigating alleged Russian election meddling, Schrage added.

The 1,000 new workers represent the second time this year that Facebook has responded to a crisis by announcing a hiring spree. In May, it said it would hire 3,000 more people to speed up the removal of videos showing murder, suicide and other violent acts that shocked users.

Like other companies that sell advertising space, Facebook publishes policies for what it allows, prohibiting ads that are violent, discriminate based on race or promote the sale of illegal drugs.

With more than 5 million paying advertisers, however, Facebook has difficulty enforcing all of its policies.

The company said on Monday that it would adjust its policies further “to prevent ads that use even more subtle expressions of violence.” It did not elaborate on what kind of material that would cover.

Facebook also said it would begin to require more thorough documentation from people who want to run ads about U.S. federal elections, demanding that they confirm their businesses or organizations.

Reporting by David Ingram in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Apple sees sharp increase in U.S. national security requests

(Reuters) – Apple Inc has received more than three times as many national-security related requests from the U.S. government in the first half of this year versus a year ago, according to a company report on Thursday.

Apple said it had received between 13,250 and 13,499 national security requests affecting between 9,000 and 9,249 users. That compares with a range of 2,750 and 2,999 requests affecting between 2,000 and 2,249 users in the first half of 2016. (apple.co/2xO5fLM)

The requests come in the form of so-called National Security Letters, or NSLs, and requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. Apple and other companies report ranges because government rules prevent disclosing precise numbers.

Apple declined to comment beyond the figures it released.

The disclosures are voluntary, and firms like Microsoft Corp, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc have yet to report any figures for 2017. In the past, those companies have issued more detailed reports, for example separating FISA requests and NSLs. The government requires they wait six months to report that level of information.

It was not immediately clear what drove the increase in requests to Apple. But Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that the number of government requests to technology companies has been increasing since 2014, when data first started to become available as part of a settlement between technology firms and the government.

“There’s not a huge track record here, but you can start to make a simple graph. The trend does seem to be upward,” Crocker said.

Crocker also said the higher requests to Apple could represent it coming in line with its peers. Despite Apple’s huge user base – it has sold more than 1.2 billion iPhones – the number of requests to it had been relatively low compared with firms like Google or Microsoft.

National security letters are a type of government subpoena for communications data sent to service providers. They are usually issued with a gag order, meaning the target is often unaware that records are being accessed, and they do not require a warrant.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Facebook to overhaul political ads after threat of U.S. regulation

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) on Thursday launched an overhaul of how it handles paid political advertisements, giving a concession to U.S. lawmakers who have threatened to regulate the world’s largest social network over secretive ads that run during election campaigns.

The company also said it would turn over to congressional investigators the 3,000 political ads that it says were likely purchased by Russian entities during and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company, for the first time, would now make it possible for anyone to see any political ads that run on Facebook, no matter whom they target.

Facebook will also demand that political advertisers disclose who is paying for the advertisements, a requirement that under U.S. law applies to political ads on television but not on social media.

“We will work with others to create a new standard for transparency in online political ads,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg, broadcasting live on Facebook from company headquarters in Menlo Park, California, said the changes would help address concerns that governments including Russia are using Facebook ads to meddle in other countries’ elections.

Earlier this month, Facebook said an internal review had shown that an operation likely based in Russia spent $ 100,000 on 3,000 Facebook ads promoting divisive messages in the months before and after last year’s U.S. presidential election. The company initially declined to turn over details on the ads to Congress.

U.S. congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller are examining alleged Russian election interference, which Moscow has denied.

Investigators are interested in other companies as well. Representatives for Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) are set to meet next week with staff from the Senate Intelligence Committee in relation to inquiries into the 2016 election.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on Thursday that he wants to hear from Facebook, Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, Twitter and others in public hearings.

“It will be important for the committee to scrutinize how rigorous Facebook’s internal investigation has been, to test its conclusions and to understand why it took as long as it did,” Schiff said in a statement.

‘WILD, WILD WEST’

The political advertising changes represent a retreat for Facebook, which for years has resisted calls from transparency advocates and academics for the regulation of political ads. The company has instead treated them like all commercial ads.

In the days after the November 2016 U.S. election, Zuckerberg said it was a “crazy idea” to think that misinformation on Facebook swayed the vote toward President Donald Trump.

Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, this month compared political ads on social media to the “wild, wild West” and said legislation might be needed to address them.

The U.S. Federal Election Commission last week sought public comment on possible regulatory changes to digital ads and considered whether to call Facebook and other tech firms before the commission for a public hearing.

Facebook has grown to be the leading online platform for political ads because of its low costs and tools for targeting messages to narrow audiences.

U.S. political campaigns likely spent $ 300 million on Facebook ads during the 2016 election cycle, according to Nomura analysts, though the exact amount is unknown.

It remained unclear whether Facebook’s voluntary changes would satisfy demands for government action.

Warner and another senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar, on Thursday sent a letter to colleagues inviting them to be co-sponsors of legislation they are writing that would formalize and expand the commitments Zuckerberg made.

The legislation, they wrote, would require digital platforms with 1 million or more users to maintain a publicly available file of all election-related ads bought by people who spend more than $ 10,000, according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters.

Trevor Potter, president of the pro-transparency Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement that his group would “carefully monitor Facebook’s implementation of this new policy.” He said Facebook “helped create the secrecy that gave rise to foreign interference in the 2016 elections.”

In the past, Facebook has argued that ad details had to remain confidential unless released by the advertisers.

GERMAN ELECTION MONITORING

Zuckerberg, who returned to work on Thursday after a month of paternity leave, laid out other steps the company would take to prevent governments from using Facebook to manipulate each other’s elections.

He said Facebook would hire 250 additional people; expand partnerships with election commissions around the world; and adapt systems to help deter political bullying.

Facebook has not found an attempt at election-meddling in Germany, Zuckerberg said, but he added that the company would continue to examine fake accounts that it has removed in advance of Sunday’s German national election.

“I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That’s not what we stand for,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said in a blog post on Thursday that it was unusual for Facebook to voluntarily turn over information to government authorities, as it was doing by giving U.S. lawmakers copies of ads.

The company has long had a rigid policy of refusing to turn over any user information without a court order or other legal process.

But ultimately, Stretch wrote, “We believe the public deserves a full accounting of what happened in the 2016 election.”

Reporting by David Ingram in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Dustin Volz and Patricia Zengerle in Washington and Abinaya Vijayaraghavan in Bangaluru; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Diane Craft

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

U.S. surveillance law may see no new protections for foreign targets

Any reform of a controversial U.S. law allowing the National Security Agency to spy on people overseas will likely focus on its impact on U.S. residents, without curbing its use elsewhere.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) expires on Dec. 31, and some digital rights groups are calling on Congress to overhaul the law to protect the privacy of residents of both the U.S. and other countries. Congress will almost certainly extend the provision in some form. 

But a congressional hearing on Wednesday focused largely on the NSA’s “inadvertent” collection of U.S. residents’ data, with little time given to the privacy concerns of people overseas.

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How The U.S. Military’s Tech Is Going Green To Save Lives

Refueling a destroyer or any other large piece of military hardware is incredibly dangerous because it leaves troops very vulnerable to attack, especially if it requires a huge convoy. U.S. troops have lost their lives trying refuel vessels that are ultra-dependent on oil. The Department of Defense knows this, and as…

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GamesBeat weekly roundup: Miitomo hits the U.S., and Final Fantasy XV gets a release date

It turns out that Nintendo knows what it is doing.

Welcome to another GamesBeat weekly roundup! This time, we reviewed Microsoft exclusive Quantum Break, the Oculus Rift starts shipping, and we discussed how Muslims are portrayed in gaming.

Happy reading, and have a great weekend!

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Time to coffee up for September.

Above: Time to coffee up for September.

Image Credit: Sony

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Willy Wonka social casino slots game.

Above: Willy Wonka social casino slots game.

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Samsung says new U.S. offices are its ‘biggest investment in Silicon Valley’ to date

samsung-new-office-silicon-valley

Samsung officially opened the doors to its new 1.1-million-square-foot Silicon Valley offices Thursday, more than 30 years after its arrival in the San Jose tech corridor in 1983.

The building will house various research labs dedicated to semiconductors, LEDs and displays, staff in sales and marketing, and other support areas, the company said.

“[We are] laying the groundwork for a more aggressive pace of growth over the next several decades,” said Samsung’s chief executive, Dr. Oh-Hyun Kwon, at the grand opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, the company’s president of its U.S.-based device solutions operations, Jaesoo Han, said that the move “represents a major milestone as we open our most strategically important Samsung facility in the U.S., and also our biggest investment in Silicon Valley.”

samsung-office

Samsung also said that it has established a $ 1 million STEM College Education Scholarship Fund. In its own words:

Deserving university students who are currently enrolled in STEM-focused programs at a California State or University of California school will benefit from this program, beginning with a $ 50,000 gift to San Jose State University this year. Each scholarship will cover tuition and living expenses for one year.

But the announcement of the new office has been largely overshadowed by news in virtual reality today: we reported that the Samsung Gear VR will launch as a consumer product this November for $ 99. (You can also read our roundup from that event here.)

Earlier this week, Samsung unveiled its new fonts-inspired Serif TVs, and shared more about how it relies on startups to stay ahead on technological innovation.

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