US capital sues Facebook over Cambridge Analytica data breach accusations



The attorney-general for Washington, DC, said on Wednesday the US capital city had sued Facebook Inc for allegedly misleading users about how it safeguarded their personal data, in the latest fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The case joins several legal and regulatory proceedings that threaten to hit Facebook with significant penalties and increase its operating costs.

Authorities and consumer advocates have questioned whether Facebook’s efforts on security, content moderation and cultural diversity have kept pace with the social responsibility it should have for its services, including WhatsApp and Instagram, which are essential communication tools for more than 2 billion people each month.

The world’s largest social media company has drawn global scrutiny since disclosing earlier this year that a third-party personality quiz distributed on Facebook gathered profile information on 87 million users worldwide and sold the data to British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Washington, DC, attorney-general Karl Racine said Facebook misled users because it had known about the incident for two years before disclosing it. The company had told users it vetted third-party apps, yet made few checks, Racine said.

“This continues a year of bad publicity and significant issues for [Facebook], making it more likely that the US government will take action to penalize and/or regulate” it, said financial analyst Scott Kessler of CFRA Research. “Yet, we still see its fundamentals as healthy and valuation as attractive.”

Facebook shares suffered their biggest drop since July 26, closing down more than 7 percent at US$133.24 on Wednesday, extending a roughly five-month stretch since the company warned that profit margins would erode in coming years because of consumer and government pressure to better guard data and suppress objectionable content.


“Facebook could have prevented third parties from misusing its consumers’ data had it implemented and maintained reasonable oversight of third-party applications,” according to the lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of Washington, DC, on Wednesday.

Facebook said in a statement, “We’re reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in D.C. and elsewhere.”

The court could award unspecified damages and impose a civil penalty of up to US$5,000 per violation of the district’s consumer protection law, or potentially close to US$1.7 billion, if penalized for each consumer affected as is typical. The lawsuit alleges the quiz software had data on 340,000 DC residents, though just 852 users had directly engaged with it.

‘Confusing settings’

Facebook offered separate privacy settings around 2013 to control what friends on the network could see and what data could be accessed by apps, enabling the quiz and other services to collect details about their users’ Facebook friends without many of them realising it, according to the lawsuit.

It further alleges Facebook misled users by allowing several partners, including mobile software maker BlackBerry, “to override Facebook consumers’ privacy settings and access their information without their knowledge or consent.”

The New York Times reported new details on Tuesday about the user data that remained available to such partners years after they had shut down the features that required them. Facebook acknowledged the lapse, but said that it has not found evidence of wrongdoing by those partners.

Racine criticized Facebook’s “lax oversight and confusing privacy settings,” telling reporters that Facebook had tried to settle the case before he filed suit, as is common during investigations of large companies.

He said that a lawsuit was necessary “to expedite change” at the Silicon Valley company.

Britain’s data protection authority in July fined Facebook 500,000 pounds for the breaches of data in the Cambridge Analytica incident.

Since then, Facebook has disclosed a pair of security breaches involving profile data and posts of up to 29 million users and 6.8 million users, respectively.

At least six US states have ongoing investigations into Facebook, according to state officials.

In March, a bipartisan coalition of 37 state attorneys wrote to the company, demanding to know more about the Cambridge Analytica data and its possible links to US President Donald Trump’s election campaign.

At the same time, the Federal Trade Commission took the unusual step of announcing an investigation into whether Facebook had violated a 2011 consent decree, exposing the company to a multi-billion dollar fine.
State attorneys general have found some success taking on technology companies over data privacy. Uber Technologies Inc in September agreed to pay US$148 million as part of a settlement with 50 US states and Washington, D.C., which investigated a data breach that exposed personal data from 57 million Uber accounts.

Agnieszka McPeak, a professor at Duquesne University School of Law, said states will likely make claims similar to those of DC, pressuring Facebook into a settlement that involves both a monetary fine and modified business practices.

“If a company faces 51 separate actions around the country for deceptive practices, that can have a real impact,” McPeak said.




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Miss Universe 2018 - Philippines' Catriona Gray wins

Miss Universe 2018 - Philippines' Catriona Gray 

MANILA, Philippines - Christmas came early to the Philippines as Catriona Gray bested 93 other aspirants for the 2018 Miss Universe crown in ceremonies staged at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday morning to becoming the fourth Filipino woman to win the crown.

She received her crown from last year's winner Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa.

Nel-Peters' compatriot Tamaryn Green failed to score a back-to-back victory for their country and settled for second place. Venezuela's Sthefany Gutierrez came in third.

The representatives from Vietnam and Puerto Rico, both strong and popular contenders, cracked the Top 5.

Philippines' Catriona Gray crown Miss Universe 2018

The 94-candidate haul this year is the biggest in the pageant's 66-year-history.

During the final round of questioning, the final three were asked about the most important lesson they learned in their lives.

Gray shared her experience working in the slums of Tondo, Manila, and looking at the "silver lining" through the smiles of the children there.

She hopes to inspire a feeling of being grateful "where negativity will not foster, and the children will have smiles."

This year, the global tilt had its first all-female panel of judges.

The esteemed group of women includes two Filipinos - US-based international fashion designer Monique Lhuillier, and Richelle Singson-Michael, daughter of former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson, who organised the 65th Miss Universe pageant in the Philippines.

They were joined by former Miss Universe winners Porntip Nakhirunkanok of Thailand (who now goes by the name Bui Simon) and Michelle McLean of Namibia who won her crown in Bangkok in 1992.

Miss Philippines with performer Ne-Yo

Also in the panel were entrepreneurs Liliana Gil Valetta, Iman Obou, and Janaye Ingram.

As in the previous year, the Miss Universe pageant selected semifinalists based on geographical regions. Five delegates were chosen each from the Americas, Europe, and Africa and Asia-Pacific. Five more "wildcard" aspirants were included, regardless of the continent from where their countries are located.

The pageant also paid tribute to Spain's Angela Ponce for breaking barriers by being the first transgender woman to reach its global stage.

"I don't need to win Miss Universe, I just need to be here," Ponce said in Spanish in a pre-taped segment shown live during the telecast. She received a standing ovation from the judges and the audience.

The other Filipino Miss Universe winners were Gloria Diaz (1969), Margie Moran (1973) and Pia Wurtzbach (2015).

Steve Harvey hosted the ceremonies for the third straight year, with Grammy-winning RnB artist Ne-Yo performing.



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Johnson & Johnson shares plunge after the report on asbestos in baby powder

US pharmaceutical and cosmetics group Johnson & Johnson

The controversy has long dogged the company, which has been facing a wave of several thousand court cases claiming the baby powder is causing cancer

NEW YORK: US pharmaceutical and cosmetics group Johnson & Johnson saw its shares plunge Friday after a media report alleged the group had deliberately concealed for decades that its baby powder sometimes contained asbestos.

A lengthy investigation by the Reuters news agency, which reviewed thousands of company documents, showed the company marketed talc-based products that, at least between 1971 and the beginning in the 2000s, sometimes contained asbestos.

The company’s executives, researchers, doctors and lawyers were aware but deliberately chose not to disclose this information and not to refer it to the authorities, according to the report.
Johnson & Johnson strenuously rejected the claims made in the article, calling it “one-sided, false and inflammatory.”

“Simply put, the Reuters story is an absurd conspiracy theory,” the company said in a statement. “Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free.”
J&J stock closed down more than 10 per cent at $133 on the New York Stock Exchange, its worst one-day fall in 16 years.

The controversy has long dogged the company, which has been facing a wave of several thousand court cases claiming the baby powder is causing cancer.

In July, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.7 billion in damages to a group of 22 women claiming to have developed ovarian cancer following the use of the powder.
The company said Friday there were rigorous tests showing the talc did not contain the cancer-causing mineral.

In addition, “J&J has cooperated fully and openly with the US FDA and other global regulators, providing them with all the information they requested over decades.”

According to Reuters, the company also tried, unsuccessfully, to block regulations that lower the maximum level of asbestos allowed in talc-based cosmetics.



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Hyundai sets sales price of Kona Electric for U.S. market

Hyundai Motor Company

NEW YORK, -- Hyundai Motor Company has announced starting price of all-electric compact utility vehicle (CUV) Kona Electric on Friday for the U.S. market.

Consumers could pay no more than 30,000 U.S. dollars for the crossover CUV after reduction of around 7,500 U.S. dollars of tax credit, according to a release by Hyundai Motor America on Friday.

As Hyundai's first compact electric crossover for the U.S. market, Kona Electric has as much as 415 km of range for each charge and would be shipped to the U.S. market in the beginning of 2019 from its manufacturing base in Ulsan, South Korea.

Hyundai Motor has received awards from Australia, the United Kingdom and Spain regarding Kona Electric, according to media reports.

The affordability of Kona Electric makes it attractive but production capacity of the electric vehicle is seen limited to around 4,000 each month now.

The United States recorded 1 million EVs running on the road in September in comparison of 260 million of national total vehicles.

Still, sales of EVs in the United States could be dampened as U.S. President Donald Trump is working to roll back incentive measures aimed to stimulates deployment of environmental friendly EVs.

Now, a tax payer in the country could claim as much as 7,500 U.S. dollars of tax credits in buying one EV, according to federal laws enacted in 2010 under the Obama administration.

Why Huawei arrest deepens conflict between US and China


chief financial officer of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou

Washington has been pushing other countries not to buy the equipment from Huawei, arguing that the company may be working stealthily for Beijing’s spymasters.

British Telecom said this week that it would stop using Huawei equipment in its 5G network, the BBC reported, and US lawmakers have lobbied Canada’s prime minister to freeze out the Chinese supplier

WASHINGTON: The dramatic arrest of a Chinese telecommunications executive has driven home why it will be so hard for the Trump administration to resolve its deepening conflict with China.
In the short run, the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer heightened skepticism about the trade truce that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping reached last weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina. On Thursday, US stock markets tumbled on fears that the 90-day cease-fire won’t last, before regaining most of their losses by the close of trading.

But the case of an executive for a Chinese company that’s been a subject of US national security concerns carries echoes well beyond tariffs or market access. Washington and Beijing are locked in a clash over which of the world’s two largest economies will command economic and political dominance for decades to come.
“It’s a much broader issue than just a trade dispute,” said Amanda DeBusk, chair of the international trade practice at Dechert LLP. “It pulls in: Who is going to be the world leader essentially.”

The Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, was detained by Canadian authorities in Vancouver as she was changing flights Saturday — the same day that Trump and Xi met at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina and produced a cease-fire in their trade war. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, reported that Meng is suspected of trying to evade US sanctions on Iran. She faces extradition to the United States, and a bail hearing was set for Friday.
The British bank HSBC is cooperating with US authorities in its investigation, people familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Huawei, the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and Internet companies, has long been seen as a front for spying by the Chinese military or security services, whose cyber-spies are widely acknowledged as highly skilled. A US National Security Agency cybersecurity adviser, Rob Joyce, last month accused Beijing of violating a 2015 agreement with the US to halt electronic theft of intellectual property.

Other nations are increasingly being forced to choose between Chinese and US suppliers for next-generation “5G” wireless technology. Washington has been pushing other countries not to buy the equipment from Huawei, arguing that the company may be working stealthily for Beijing’s spymasters.
Beijing protested Meng’s arrest but signaled that it doesn’t want to disrupt progress toward settling its trade dispute with the Trump administration. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said China is confident it can reach a deal during the 90 days that Trump agreed to suspend a scheduled increase in US import taxes on $200 billion worth of Chinese products.

US national security adviser John Bolton told NPR that he knew of the pending arrest in advance. He noted that there has been much concern about the suspicion that Chinese firms like Huawei use stolen US intellectual property.

In the view of the United States and many outside analysts, China has embarked on an aggressive drive to overtake America’s dominance in technology and global economic leadership. According to analysts, China has deployed predatory tactics, from forcing American and other foreign companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market to engaging in cyber-theft.
Washington also regards Beijing’s ambitious long-term development plan, “Made in China 2025,” as a scheme to dominate such fields as robotics and electric vehicles by unfairly subsidizing Chinese companies and discriminating against foreign competitors.

In addition to Trump’s tariffs, the administration is tightening regulations on high-tech exports to China. It’s also making it harder for Chinese firms to invest in US companies or to buy American technology in such cutting-edge areas as robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Earlier this year, the United States nearly drove Huawei’s biggest Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., out of business for selling equipment to North Korea and Iran in violation of US sanctions. But Trump issued a reprieve, possibly in part because US tech companies are major suppliers of the Chinese giant and would also have been scorched. ZTE got off with paying a $1 billion fine, changing its board and management and agreeing to let American regulators monitor its operations.

The US and Chinese tech industries depend on each other so much for components that “it is very hard to decouple the two without punishing US companies, without shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Adam Segal, cyberspace analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Dean Garfield, president of the US Information Technology Industry Council trade group, said innovation by US companies often depends utterly on product development and testing by Chinese partners, not to mention component suppliers.

British Telecom said this week that it would stop using Huawei equipment in its 5G network, the BBC reported, and US lawmakers have lobbied Canada’s prime minister to freeze out the Chinese supplier. New Zealand and Australia already have.  Other, less wealthy nations are concerned less about spying and more about low prices, which play to Huawei’s advantage.

Both Huawei and ZTE have not only been barred from use by US government agencies and contractors; they have also been mostly locked out of the American market. A 2012 report by the House Intelligence Committee report urged US businesses to avoid their products and called for blocking all mergers or acquisitions involving them.

And nearly a year ago, AT&T pulled out of a deal to sell Huawei smartphones.
“There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party — and Huawei, which China’s government and military tout as a ‘national champion’ is no exception,” Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote in October to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They urged him to keep Huawei off Canada’s next-generation network.

Priscilla Moriuchi, a former East Asia specialist at National Security Agency now with the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said both ZTE and Huawei are wedded to China’s military and political leadership.
“The threat from these companies lies in their access to critical Internet backbone infrastructure,” she said.

“No matter what happens in the short term, (the arrest of Huawei’s CFO) is a symptom of a long-term technology clash,” said Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “We’re not going to deal that away in 90 days.”

Scissors said he doubts that China will change its tech policies. Beijing must develop innovative technologies to keep its economy growing as its labor force ages and it confronts a huge stockpile of debt. Yet its political and economic system — which promotes inefficient state-owned companies at the expense of nimbler private ones — discourages innovation.
“I don’t see a way out of this,” Scissors said.

Likewise, Rod Hunter, an international economic official in President George W. Bush’s White House and a partner at law firm Baker McKenzie, said, “I’m skeptical that the Chinese are going to want to say ‘uncle.’ ” US and Chinese officials are “trying to tackle a problem that is going to take years, maybe a decade, to resolve.”



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