Google Unveils First Gmail Redesigns Since 2013

The first Gmail redesign since 2013 has been unveiled by Alphabet Inc’s Google on Wednesday.

According to reports it will include offline functionality and resemble Microsoft Outlook.

It is Google’s most extensive update to software in its G Suite workplace bundle.

It is accelerating efforts to steal business from Microsoft Corp’s dominant Office workplace software suite.

Previously, G Suite added instant-messaging and spreadsheet features.

With Gmail, Google said it restructured email storage databases, unified three-dueling-systems for syncing-messages across devices and upgraded-computers underpinning the service.

That shift to Google’s self-developed Tensor processing chips enables smart-assistant features such as “suggested replies” to messages and “nudges” to respond to forgotten emails.

“This is an entire rewrite of our flagship, most-used product,” said Jacob Bank, Product Manager Lead for Gmail, which 1.4 billion people use each month.

Unreliable offline access to email has long discouraged would-be customers.

Meanwhile, recent high-profile corporate data breaches have increased desire to lock down email.

Analysts estimate G Suite generated about $2 billion in revenue last year, 10 times behind Office.

Google declined to specify costs associated with the redesign.

But parent Alphabet reported on Monday that first-quarter capital expenditures nearly tripled year-over-year to $7.3 billion.

Chief Financial Officer, Ruth Porat, told analysts that half of the spending resulted from hardware purchases to support expanding use of machine learning.

This expansion describes automated programmes that can, among other things, identify spam and predict which emails users would find most important.

 

Facebook Releases Rule Book For Users

Facebook Inc on Tuesday released the most detailed rule book in its history for the types of posts it allows on its social network on subjects ranging from drug use and sex work to bullying, hate speech and inciting violence.

Facebook for years has had “community standards” for what people can post.

But only a relatively brief and general version was publicly available, while it had a far more detailed internal document to decide when individual posts or accounts should be removed.

Now, the company is providing the longer document on its website to clear up confusion.

The company wants to be more open about its operations, said Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of product policy and counter-terrorism.

“You should, when you come to Facebook, understand where we draw these lines and what’s OK and what’s not OK,” Bickert told reporters in a briefing at Facebook’s headquarters.

Facebook has faced fierce criticism from governments and rights groups in many countries for failing to do enough to stem hate speech.

It is said to have not prevent the service from being used to promote terrorism, stir sectarian violence and broadcast acts including murder and suicide.

At the same time, the company has also been accused of doing the bidding of repressive regimes by aggressively removing content that crosses governments.

It is said to have proved too little information on why certain posts and accounts are removed.

New policies will, for the first time, allow people to appeal a decision to take down an individual piece of content.

Previously, only the removal of accounts, Groups and Pages could be appealed.

Facebook is also beginning to provide the specific reason why content is being taken down for a wider variety of situations.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has become a dominant source of information in many countries around the world.

It uses both automated software and an army of moderators that now numbers 7,500 to take down text, pictures and videos that violate its rules.

Under pressure from several governments, it has been beefing up its moderator ranks since last year.

Angola’s First Geostationary Satellite Dead

The first geostationary satellite of Angola (Angosat-1) is dead.

This was disclosed at a news conference by Angolan Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technologies Jose Carvalho da Rocha on Monday saying that there had been disturbances in its operation since the official launch.

Meanwhile, the minister also announced officially the construction of a new satellite, expected to be completed within one and half years.

Built in 2012, following an agreement signed between Angola and Russia in 2009, Angosat-1 cost over 300 million dollars.

The communications satellite was launched into orbit on the night of Dec. 26, and scheduled to work for 15 years

 

Bill Gates Supports Use Of Technology To End Malaria

Billionaire Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has supported the use of technology to help put an end to malaria.

This was disclosed while on Wednesday while speaking at the Malaria Forum conference in London saying that it should not jeopardise exploration of tools such as CRISPR gene editing and so-called “gene drive” technologies.

“I’m very energised about the potential of gene drive. (It’s) the kind of breakthrough we need to support,” Gates said.

“It may prove critical here.”

Gene drive technologies alter DNA and drive self-sustaining genetic changes through multiple generations by overriding normal biological processes.

CRISPR technology enables scientists to find and modify or replace virtually any gene. The techniques are being explored across science – from human medicine to livestock- and crop-breeding.

In mosquitoes that transmit malaria, genetic alterations can be used to induce infertility to reduce populations, or alter the insects’ ability to carry and pass on the malaria parasite. The technologies can be extremely powerful.

However, they are also controversial, since such genetically engineered organisms released into the environment could have an unknown and irreversible impact on the ecosystem.

Asked in a interview with the Media about that controversy, Gates said there were understandable concerns about safety and efficacy that would need to be addressed in research and trials.

But he countered: “Malaria itself is quite controversial – it kills about 400,000 kids a year. So we’re definitely not on the side of malaria.”

He also noted that at their summit in January, leaders of the African Union endorsed gene drive research as part of the fight against a disease that continues to kill their people.

“They spoke out to say that, for them, getting rid of malaria is worth using innovative science,” Gates said.

The WHO warned late 2017 that global progress against malaria had stalled and could be reversed if momentum in the fight to wipe it out was lost.

The disease infected around 216 million people in 91 countries in 2016, an increase of 5 million cases over the previous year.

It killed 445,000 people, about the same number as in 2015, with the vast majority of deaths occurring in babies and young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gates told the Forum that his almost 20 years of involvement in global efforts to beat malaria had been both gratifying, in terms of progress, and tough, in terms of suffering he witnessed.

He described seeing a child in a hospital in Tanzania convulsed with seizures due to cerebral malaria.

“With the state of science and the wealth of the world, that really should be an affront,” he said. “We really shouldn’t accept that this disease can continue.”

Gates said that ending malaria for good would take many years and a range of tools both new and old – from bednets and mosquito traps to a new vaccine and next generation gene tools.

He said he thought it unlikely that creating gene drives in malaria-spreading mosquitoes would have a major impact on the wider ecosystem.

His reason is so because it would only target a few species and suppress their populations for a period of time.

“None of these (gene technology) constructs will actually wipe out the species,” he said. “It will evolve back. After all, evolutionary pressures always push back.”

Dramatically reducing mosquito populations with such technologies could give a window of opportunity to help limit the human-reservoir-of-disease so that transmission of the disease among people is stopped, he said.

Gates also said that genetic information and data, gathered in the field and transmitted swiftly to sophisticated surveillance systems, is allowing scientists to identify evolving strains of malaria parasites.

They are also tracking drug and pesticide resistance, helping them stay one step ahead of the disease.

 

Taxify Gives Users Access To Emergency Calls

Taxify has upped its game to provide adequate security for its drivers-partners against violence, car-jacking, robbery and any other situation that requires immediate attention.

The SOS button works by triggering a distress call to the Lagos State Emergency Response Agency. The integration of the SOS button comes on the back of Taxify’s plans to further utilize technology to keep drivers safe on the roads.

The introduction of this safety feature comes at a critical time for Taxify, where the competition in the ride-hailing space is stiff and players are heavily competing for both drivers and riders. According to Operations Manager, Uche Okafor, “Over the last few years we’ve led the way with technology-based safety features such GPS tracking of every trip and our two-way rating system.

“We recognize that we can utilize our technology even further and now that we have integrated the SOS button into the Taxify driver app, we look forward to applying this additional layer of safety to further strengthen driver safety while on the platform.”

Taxify was founded by Markus Villig in 2013. It’s one of the fastest-growing ride-sharing platforms in the world, focusing on Europe and Africa.

#ZuckerBowl Without A Clear Winner As Facebook Hearings End

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg emerged largely unscathed Wednesday from two days of high-stakes hearings that saw US lawmakers grill the billionaire over how the online giant feeds users’ data to advertisers and chide him over privacy rights.

The marathon 10 hours of questioning was one of the biggest spectacles in Congress in recent memory, followed blow by blow on social media under the hashtags #ZuckerBowl and #ZuckUnderOath.

Channelling public anger over data privacy lapses — including most spectacularly the leak of personal information from 87 million Facebook users to a political consultant — lawmakers in both House and Senate raised the spectre of regulations to bring online firms to heel.

The 33-year-old CEO conceded that some regulation of social media companies is “inevitable,” while offering a laundry list of reform pledges at Facebook and vowing to improve privacy and security.

But he stiffly defended Facebook’s business model — specifically the way it uses data and postings from the 2.2 billion users of its free platform — calling it necessary to attract ad revenue the $480 billion company depends on.

In the wake of the massive leak of user information to Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Zuckerberg reiterated that the company had shut down the pipeline that allowed data — including his own — to slip without consent into the hands of third parties.

A day earlier Zuckerberg took personal responsibility for the data breach.

Yet in his testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he was also steadfast in arguing that Facebook’s users themselves are choosing to make their data available and that the company’s “opt-in” provisions offered them sufficient control.

“Every time that a person chooses to share something on Facebook, they’re proactively going to the service and choosing that they want to share a photo, write a message to someone.”

“Every time there is a control right there,” Zuckerberg said.

AFP

It Was My Mistake, And I’m Sorry- Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken sole responsibility for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, apologizing for not taken preventive measure to protect the network from hate speech, interference with elections and data privacy.

Zuckerberg described Facebook as an idealistic company that is focused on connecting people. The social network has given 2 billion people around the globe powerful new tools to stay connected with the people they love and rally around social causes, raising $20 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, he said.

“But it’s clear now we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well,” Zuckerberg said. “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook. I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

In his formal remarks, Zuckerberg described how the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica obtained personal information about millions of Facebook users through a Cambridge University researcher who had extracted those details through a personality quiz app. He described the steps Facebook is taking now to prevent future abuse.

Zuckerberg also addressed Facebook’s awareness of Russian cyber threats leading up to the 2016 election and the disinformation campaign run by the Internet Research Agency, which tried to manipulate people in the U.S., Europe and Russia.

Zuckerberg’s comments comes ahead of two days of Congressional hearings, which began at 2:15 p.m. yesterday, April 9,  with a joint session of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees and resume at 10 a.m. on Wednesday before the House commerce committee.

 

Facebook To Offer ‘Bounty’ For Reporting Data Abuse

Facebook said Tuesday it would begin offering rewards to people who report misuse of private information from the social network, as part of an effort to step up data protection in the wake of a firestorm.

The new program “will reward people with first-hand knowledge and proof of cases where a Facebook platform app collects and transfers people’s data to another party to be sold, stolen or used for scams or political influence,” product security chief Collin Greene said in a statement.

Greene said the new offer was inspired by the “bug bounty” offered by Facebook and other online services to reward people who find security flaws.

The reward will be “based on the impact of each report,” Greene said, with a minimum of $500 for verified cases of abuse affecting 10,000 people or more.

“While there is no maximum, high impact bug reports have garnered as much as $40,000 for people who bring them to our attention,” he added.

The announcement comes with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg set to begin testimony at congressional hearings Tuesday and Wednesday on abuse of private data collected by the social network.

Facebook is under fire in the United States and around the world following disclosures of private data hijacked by the consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which was working for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“We’ll review all legitimate reports and respond as quickly as possible when we identify a credible threat to people’s information,” Greene said of the new program.

“If we confirm data abuse, we will shut down the offending app and take legal action against the company selling or buying the data, if necessary. We’ll pay the person who reported the issue, and we’ll also alert those we believe to be affected.”

AFP

Facebook Data Scandal: Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Closes Facebook Account

Facebook keeps loosing users as their shares price also continues to drop after it was alleged that the social media giant had allegedly revealed the data of about 50 million Facebook users by a London-based data analysis company Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica was accused of illegally accessing Facebook user data in violation of Facebook terms of
service after the data was allegedly misused for U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign efforts in 2016.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak closed his Facebook account as one of the latest tech leaders who started to distance themselves from the world’s largest social media firm following its scandal involving alleged misuse of user data.

Recall that in March, Tesla CEO Elon Musk deleted Facebook accounts for his two major companies, Tesla and SpaceX, in response to a call from WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton in a #deletefacebook campaign on Twitter.

Wozniak told the USA Today daily that he was taken aback by the extent of Facebook’s data collection when he
changed and deleted some of his information before deactivating his account.

“I was surprised to see how many categories for ads and how many advertisers I had to get rid of, one at a
time.

“I did not feel that this is what people want done to them,” he said in an email to the American newspaper.

“Users provide every detail of their life to Facebook and … Facebook makes a lot of advertising money off
this,” he said.

“The profits are all based on the user’s info, but the users get none of the profits back,” he added.

He compared Apple with Facebook in their relations with users, saying “Apple makes its money off of good products, not off of you.”

“With Facebook, you are the product,” said the Apple senior executive, who is one of the latest prominent users
who have called for quitting Facebook.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will appear Tuesday and Wednesday before a joint hearing of the U.S. Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees, as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on the data-privacy scandal and Facebook’s failure to properly protect its users’ data.

 

Personal Information Of 87 Million Users May Have Been Improperly Shared- Facebook

In the series of events that has occurred with Facebook, it has become vividly clear that the idea of privacy might soon become a fantasy in the digital age.

The social media giant revealed that the personal information of up to 87 million users may have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

This number is up from a previous news media estimate of more than 50 million. Most of the 87 million people whose data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, were in the United States, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer wrote in a blog post.

Cambridge Analytica worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Facebook said it was taking steps to restrict the personal data available to third-party app developers.

The world’s largest-social-media company has been hammered by investors and faces anger from users, advertisers and lawmakers after a series of scandals about fake-news stories, election-meddling and privacy.

Last month, Facebook acknowledged that personal information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg will testify about the matter next week before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, the panel said on Wednesday.

Also recall that shares in Facebook were down 1.4 per cent on Wednesday to 153.90 dollars. They are down more than 16 percent since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.

The previous estimate of more than 50 million Facebook users affected by the data leak came from two newspapers, the New York Times and London’s Observer, based on their investigations of Cambridge Analytica.

Schroepfer did not provide details of how Facebook came to determine its higher estimate.

However, he said Facebook would tell people if their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

A representative from Cambridge Analytica could not immediately be reached for comment.

The British-based consultancy has denied wrongdoing.

It says it engaged a university professor “in good faith” to collect Facebook data in a manner similar to how other third-party app developers have harvested personal information.

The scandal has kicked off investigations by Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and by some 37 U.S. state attorneys general.

BMW Plans New EVs, May Pause i3, i8 Production

As BMW has confirmed that it is about to unveil a series of new all-electric vehicles this year, a company executive has said that the automaker is considering getting rid of its current only all-electric vehicle, the BMW i3, and their plug-in hybrid of the same sub-brand, the BMW i8.

In an interview with Automotive News, the Head of Electric Powertrain for BMW, Stefan Juraschek, said that those vehicles were “technology showcases” and they could not expand into a family.

He said, “These cars are very unique. These two cars were not [developed] as a family that we can expand in different [ways] or maybe five or 10 derivatives.”

The report described it as an interesting comment amid the company announcing that it would bring to market a new vehicle in the ‘i’ sub-brand.

Juraschek said that there might not be a next generation of the i3 and i8 – though it was apparently still being considered by the German automaker, which made it sound like they did not have a second generation of the BMW i3 in the works five years after the original launch of the vehicle.

A similar report by Car Buzz also quoted Automotive News as saying it was a big deal when BMW launched its i3 and i8 back in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

It added that the German automaker rightly prided itself as taking the first steps into the electric and hybrid powertrain era. While the i3’s design did not appeal to everyone, and the i8’s price tag was out of range for the average car buyer, BMW still produced a pair of vehicles previewing the future.

Automotive News reported that with the BMW i4 and iNext EVs set to debut in 2020 and 2021, the i3 and i8 would likely no longer be needed.

Meanwhile, BMW has continued to completely overhaul its main vehicle platforms so that it can be compatible with combustion, electric and plug-in hybrid tech.

“If all goes according to plan, those new platforms will be good to go for 2021, thus allowing for a new generation of vehicles, such as the i4. The i3 and i8 may simply no longer be needed because, for starters, much of their technologies will be outdated,” the report stated.