Jerusalem, Dec 17 (AP/UNB) — Facebook has blocked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's son Yair for 24 hours after he wrote a post criticizing the social media platform as "thought police" and sharing previously banned content.
Yair Netanyahu blasted the website on Sunday for removing an earlier post in which he called for "avenging the deaths" of two Israeli soldiers killed last week by Palestinian gunmen and calling for the expulsion of Palestinians. He shared a screenshot of the earlier post in violation of Facebook's community rules.
Facebook deleted a post by Netanyahu last week in which he said he would "prefer" if "All the Muslims leave the land of Israel."
Facebook had no immediate comment.
Netanyahu's son has drawn media criticism for crude social media posts and a life of excess at public expense.
Beijing, Dec 16 (AP/UNB) — While a Huawei executive faces possible U.S. charges over trade with Iran, the Chinese tech giant's ambition to be a leader in next-generation telecoms is colliding with security worries abroad.
Australia and New Zealand have barred Huawei Technologies Ltd. as a supplier for fifth-generation networks. They joined the United States and Taiwan, which limit use of technology from the biggest global supplier of network switching gear. This week, Japan's cybersecurity agency said Huawei and other vendors deemed risky will be off-limits for government purchases.
None has released evidence of wrongdoing by Huawei, which denies it is a risk and has operated a laboratory with Britain's government since 2010 to conduct security examinations of its products. But the accusations, amid rising tension over Chinese technology ambitions and spying, threaten its ability to compete in a sensitive field as carriers prepare to invest billions of dollars.
"This is something that's definitely concerning Huawei at this stage, because there is a political angle to it and a business angle," said Nikhil Bhatra, a senior researcher for IDC.
Huawei is no ordinary electronics supplier. The company founded in 1987 by a former military engineer is China's first global tech brand and a national champion at the head of an industry Beijing is promoting as part of efforts to transform this country into a technology creator. It has China's biggest corporate research-and-development budget at 89.7 billion yuan ($13 billion) in 2017 — 10 percent more than Apple Inc.'s — and foreign customers can draw on a multibillion-dollar line of credit from the official China Development Bank.
That puts Huawei at the heart of strains over the ruling Communist Party's technology aspirations, competition with Western economies and ties between companies and government, including possibly spying.
A European Union official, Andrus Ansip, expressed concern that Chinese rules requiring telecom equipment suppliers to cooperate with intelligence services would involve possible "mandatory backdoors" in computer or telecom systems.
"Do we have to be worried about Huawei and other Chinese companies? Yes, I think we have to be worried," said Ansip, the trade bloc's vice president for a digital single market.
The company says it is employee-owned and operates independently. It denies it designs equipment to allow eavesdropping or that it is controlled by the Communist Party — a stance critics including some U.S. senators say is doubtful in China's state-dominated system. The company notes it uses the same global components suppliers as Western manufacturers.
"Not a single shred of evidence against the company has ever been presented," Huawei said in a written response to questions.
The company is the "most examined telecoms equipment vendor," the statement said. It said foreign officials visit regularly to see "the lengths we go to assure them of the integrity of our technology."
Huawei, headquartered on a leafy campus in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, has been working on 5G since 2009 and is one of the major suppliers of the technology, along with Sweden's LM Ericsson and Finland's Nokia Corp.
The company whose technology winds up being adopted stands to reap billions of dollars from sales and license fees.
5G promises more than just faster mobile phone service. It is designed to support vastly expanded networks of devices from internet-linked cars and medical equipment to factory robots and nuclear power plants. Annual sales of 5G network gear are forecast to reach $11 billion by 2022, according to IHS Markit.
That makes it more politically sensitive, raises the potential cost of security failures and requires more trust in suppliers.
Even a "really minuscule" risk could disqualify a provider, said Andrew Kitson, head of technology industry research for Fitch Solutions.
But Kitson sees commercial motives behind the accusations against Huawei. He said many come from U.S. and European suppliers that are losing market share to Chinese rivals.
"There never has been any actual proof," said Kitson. "They've only got to make a few insinuations for other governments to sit up and think, hang on, even if there is no proof, it is too much of a risk."
Huawei took a new hit on Dec. 1 when its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Vancouver on U.S. charges of lying to banks about transactions with Iran.
Huawei is more politically important than ZTE Corp., a Chinese rival that was nearly driven out of business after Washington blocked it from buying U.S. technology over exports to Iran and North Korea. President Donald Trump restored access after ZTE paid a $1 billion fine, replaced its executives and hired U.S.-picked compliance officers.
That won't work with Huawei, which is the "key to Beijing's aspirations to lead globally" on 5G, Eurasia Group said in a report. It said Chinese leaders would see an attempt to impose ZTE-style controls as "tantamount to an open technology war."
Huawei's U.S. business evaporated after a 2012 congressional report labeled the company and ZTE security threats. The same year, Australia banned it from bidding on a national high-speed broadband network.
Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its territory and regularly threatens to attack, imposed curbs in 2013 on Huawei and other Chinese telecoms technology. Lawmakers are discussing expanding the controls.
Elsewhere, Huawei supplies phone carriers in Asia, Africa and Europe. The company says it serves 45 of the 50 biggest global telecom operators. Its 2017 global sales rose 16 percent to 604 billion yuan ($92.5 billion) while profits increased 28 percent to 47.5 billion yuan ($7.3 billion).
Huawei accounted for 28 percent of last year's $32 billion global sales of mobile network gear, according to IHS Markit. Ericsson was second with 27 percent and Nokia had 23 percent. ZTE, South Korea's Samsung Electronics Corp. and other vendors made up the rest.
Asked about the impact of security concerns on its 5G business, Huawei said this year's total revenue — which also includes the No. 3 global smartphone brand and an enterprise unit — should exceed $100 billion. That would be an 8 percent gain over 2017.
Washington is pressing allies to shun Huawei, but Germany, France and Ireland say they have no plans to ban any 5G network suppliers.
Huawei "has an important place in France" and "its investments are welcome," the country's economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, said Dec. 7, according to news reports.
The company has agreements to field test 5G equipment with Deutsche Telekom, Bell Canada, France's Bouygues, Telecom Italia, India's Bharti Airtel and carriers in Singapore, South Korea and Ireland.
China's foreign ministry complained critics were "hyping so-called threats" to hamper Huawei's business without evidence.
As for Ansip's concern about eavesdropping, "we have no such law that authorizes" backdoors, said a spokesman, Lu Kang.
IDC's Bhatra said excluding Huawei would leave countries with only two major 5G suppliers, Ericsson and Nokia. That would limit competition, raise prices and might slow innovation, he said.
Already, industry analysts say telecoms equipment costs more in the United States and other markets that lack lower-priced Chinese competitors.
"There are quite widespread implications," said Bhatra.
New York, Dec 15 (AP/UNB) — Facebook's privacy controls have broken down yet again, this time through a software flaw affecting nearly 7 million users who had photos exposed to a much wider audience than intended.
The bug disclosed Friday gave hundreds of apps unauthorized access to photos that could in theory include images that would embarrass some of the affected users. They also included photos people may have uploaded but hadn't yet posted, perhaps because they had changed their mind.
It's not yet known whether anyone actually saw the photos, but the revelation of the now-fixed problem served as another reminder of just how much data Facebook has on its 2.27 billion users, as well has how frequently these slipups are recurring.
The bug is the latest in a series of privacy lapses that continue to crop up, despite Facebook's repeated pledges to batten down its hatches and do a better job preventing unauthorized access to the pictures, thoughts and other personal information its users intend so share only with friends and family.
In general, when people grant permission for a third-party app to access their photos, they are sharing all the photos on their Facebook page, regardless of privacy settings meant to limit a photo to small circles such as family. The bug potentially gave developers access to even more photos, such as those shared on separate Marketplace and Facebook Stories features, as well as photos that weren't actually posted.
Facebook said the users' photos may have been exposed for 12 days in September. The company said the bug has been fixed.
The company declined to say how many of the affected users are from Europe, where stricter privacy laws took effect in May and could subject companies to fines. Facebook said it has notified the Irish Data Protection Commission of the breach.
The problem comes in a year fraught with privacy scandals and other problems for the world's biggest social network.
Revelations that the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed data from as many as 87 million users led to congressional hearings and changes in what sorts of data Facebook lets outside developers access. In June, a bug affecting privacy settings led some users to post publicly by default regardless of their previous settings. This bug affected as many as 14 million users over several days in May.
With each breakdown, Facebook risks losing credibility with both its audience and the advertisers whose spending generates most of the company's revenue.
"It's like they keep getting these chinks in the armor that is causing this trust deficit," said Michael Priem, CEO of Modern Impact, which places ads for a variety of major brands.
Although Facebook doesn't appear to be losing a lot of users, Priem said some advertisers have been seeing data indicating that people are spending less time on the social network. That's raising concerns about whether the privacy breakdowns and problems with misinformation being spread on the services are taking a toll.
But it's difficult to know how much Facebook's recent wave of headaches has been affecting the service because its growth, particularly among younger people, had been slowing even before the problems began to crop up, said Nate Elliott, an analyst with the research firm Nineteen Insights.
Advertisers are unlikely to curtail their spending significantly as long as Facebook is able to maintain the current size of its audience, Elliott said. So far there has been little evidence a significant percentage of the users are worried enough about privacy to get off the service.
"Even if people don't trust Facebook, as long as the value that the service provides is worth more than the cost of the privacy violations, then that may be a trade-off most people are willing to make," Elliott said.
On Thursday, to counter the bad rap it's gotten around privacy, Facebook hosted a one-day "pop-up" to talk to users about their settings and whatever else may be on their mind. Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan gave Facebook's work on privacy a "B'' when asked by a reporter for a grade. By 2019, she said she hopes the improvements will result in an "A."
Privacy experts might call it grade inflation. In any case, the company has its work cut out before it makes the top grade. The company has had to increase how much it spends on privacy and security, which put a dent in its bottom line and in August contributed to a stock price plunge .
New York, Dec 14 (AP/UNB) — Wrapping up a year of privacy scandals , congressional hearings and a host of other problems, Facebook hosted a one-day "pop-up" event in New York City's Bryant Park on Thursday, hoping to talk to users about their privacy settings, ad preferences and whatever else may be on their mind.
Amid the park's holiday market, food stalls and a busy ice-skating rink, the company set up a trailer to lure in passers-by from the cold with hot chocolate. Some did, though journalists and Facebook employees in gray fleece sweaters far outnumbered members of the public as of midday.
Facebook's chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, acknowledged that only a few of Facebook's more than 2 billion users are likely to stop by. But she says the hope is that those who do will "teach others" about what they learn. Facebook has held similar events in Dubai, Dublin, London and Cologne, Germany, all within the past year.
For those who did stop by, it was a rare chance to speak to a real person from Facebook about concerns such as being shut out of an account for using an alias, receiving a notification about a login attempt, or seeing what information the social network uses to target them with ads.
The trailer was outfitted with posters telling users that Facebook doesn't "sell" their information (true, though it does use people's information to sell ads targeted at them), prompting them to ask questions and take brochures on managing ad preferences. The trailer's decorators also threw in a few signs usually seen at Facebook offices, such as "be bold" and "always be open."
Egan said users at similar events generally wanted to know about who can see "their stuff" and how ads are targeted to them. As for Facebook's privacy work in the past year, she acknowledged there is work to do but, asked to give a letter grade, she granted the company a "B." By 2019, she said she hopes the improvements will result in an "A."
Privacy wasn't a big concern for Janet Fabian, who popped in with a friend. She said the pop-up was "great" because "certain things you really don't know who to ask." Fabian, who lives in New York and gave her age as "over 50," said she's been on Facebook for nine or 10 years and loves it because it is easy to use.
She asked a Facebook employee about notifications she's received that someone else was trying to log in to her account. As for Facebook's privacy troubles — the company's impetus for setting up the pop-up — she said she was aware but not too concerned.
"I've got nothing interesting to give them," she said, adding that she's much more worried about her financial information being compromised in hacks such as the recent data breach at Marriott-owned hotels.
James Matias, from Long Island, New York, meanwhile, nursed a hot chocolate and said that, while his brother-in-law and wife are "Facebook people," he doesn't use it much.
"I am not good at surfing it," he said, adding that telling people what he had for breakfast seems useless and he prefers talking as a "communications device."
"However, Facebook is a wonderful tool for connecting with people you haven't seen in 50 years," he said.
Texas, Dec 14 (AP/UNB) — One tech giant strung dozens of North American cities through a circus-like contest that led mayors and governors to desperately pitch their regions — and offer huge sums of public money — in hopes of landing a gleaming new corporate campus. The other swept in quietly before making its big move.
The outcome was largely the same: Amazon and Apple are running out of room in their West Coast hometowns and establishing a major foothold in a handful of U.S. cities already known as second-tier technology hubs.
But this week, at least, Apple may have won the prize for completing its search with the fewest hurt feelings.
Apple announced plans Thursday to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a city that has already become a destination for tech startups and bigger companies.
The decision comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax cut on overseas profits, which prompted the company to bring about $250 billion back to the U.S.
The company said it will also open offices in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, each employing at least 1,000 workers over the next three years. Apple also pledged to add hundreds of jobs each in New York; Pittsburgh; Boston; Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon.
"They are just picking America's most established superstar cities and tech hubs," said Richard Florida, an urban development expert at the University of Toronto.
Apple's scattershot expansion reflects the increasing competition for engineers in Silicon Valley, which has long been the world's high-tech capital. The bidding for programmers is driving salaries higher, which in turn is catapulting the average prices of homes in many parts of the San Francisco Bay Area above $1 million. Many high-tech workers are thus choosing to live elsewhere, causing major tech employers such as Apple, Amazon and Google to look in new places for the employees they need to pursue their future ambitions.
"Talent, creativity and tomorrow's breakthrough ideas aren't limited by region or ZIP code," Cook said in a statement.
Cities around the country offered financial incentives in an attempt to land Apple's new campus, but Cook avoided a high-profile competition that pitted them against one another, as Amazon had before deciding to build huge new offices in New York and Virginia.
Amazon could receive up to $2.8 billion in incentives in New York, depending on how many it ultimately hires there, and up to $750 million in Virginia. Apple will receive up to $25 million from a jobs-creation fund in Texas in addition to property-tax rebates, which still need approval. The figure is expected to be a small fraction of what Amazon received.
The government incentives offered to Apple seem "more in the line of normal business site selection" compared with Amazon's public "shakedown," said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Center.
"There's a growing backlash in the country against the entire process of subsidies and relocation inducements," Muro said. "That said, the Apple numbers for a very significant increase in jobs are much less eye-popping than the Amazon numbers."
The spots where Amazon and Apple decided to expand were obvious choices, based on an analysis released earlier this year by CBRE Research. Washington, D.C., ranked as the third best place in North America for tech talent, behind Silicon Valley and Seattle. New York ranked fifth and Austin sixth. No. 4 was outside the U.S.: Toronto.
The new Austin campus, with about 3 million square feet (nearly 280,000 square meters) of office space, will be about a mile from another large office that Apple opened five years ago. Apple currently employs about 6,200 workers in Austin, making it the company's largest hub outside Silicon Valley even before the expansion.
The new jobs are expected to mirror the same mix Apple already has at its Cupertino, California, headquarters, ranging from jobs in technology and research that pay well over $100,000 to lower-paying positions in customer call centers.
Cities have been eager to bring in more tech employers because their hires often make six-figure salaries. That can ripple through the economy, with new employees filling restaurants and theaters, buying property and paying taxes.
But an influx of affluent tech workers can also drive up rent and home prices, making it more difficult for those in lower-paying jobs to make ends meet.
"When tech companies invest in a place and try to hire thousands of workers, it is of course good news for tech workers who are already there and want to be there," said Jed Kolko, chief economist for employment website Indeed.com. "But it can put a strain on the housing market and transportation."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hailed Apple's new campus as a milestone development that "truly elevates Austin as one of the premier technology hubs in the entire world."