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FBI investigating COVID-19 data breach in South Dakota

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FBI investigating COVID-19 data breach in South Dakota

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — The FBI is investigating a data breach that may have compromised the identity of people with the COVID-19 virus in South Dakota.

Paul Niedringhaus, who directs the South Dakota Fusion Center that handles emergency calls, sent a letter to people who may have been affected by the June 19 breach, the Rapid City Journal reported Friday.

The letter, dated Monday, says the state’s fusion center used Netsential.com’s services to build a secure online portal this spring to help first responders identify people who had tested positive for the coronavirus so they could take precautions while responding to emergency calls.

The South Dakota letter said police in the state weren’t given names but could call a dispatcher to verify positive cases. Houston-based Netsential added labels to the files that might allow a third-party to identify patients, the letter said, and the breach could have compromised people’s names, addresses and virus status.

“This information may continue to be available on various internet sites that link to files from the Netsential breach,” the letter said.

Netsential hosted the websites of more than 200 U.S., law enforcement agencies, most of them fusion centers like the South Dakota one affected. The company confirmed in June that its server had been breached.

The server was the source for a trove of files, dubbed BlueLeaks, that were shared online by a transparency collective called DDoSecrets. The collective said it had obtained them from a hacker who said they were sympathetic to anti-racism protesters.

South Dakota Department of Public Safety spokesman Tony Mangan confirmed to The Associated Press in a short telephone interview that the FBI was investigating but had no further comment. A message left Friday at the FBI’s Minneapolis office wasn’t immediately returned.

The letter from the state agency said the files didn’t include any financial information, Social Security numbers or passwords.

Public officials in at least two-thirds of states share addresses of people who have tested positive with first responders, including police, firefighters and EMTs. An Associated Press review in May found at least 10 states also share patients’ names.

Some states erase the information after a certain period. Still, civil liberties groups have warned that sharing such information could lead to racial profiling of Blacks and Hispanics or help immigration officials track people down.

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This story has been updated to correct Paul Niedringhaus’ title. He is the director of the South Dakota Fusion Center, not the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

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Apple to launch first online store in India next week

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Apple to launch first online store in India next week

NEW DELHI (AP) — Apple announced Friday that it will launch its first online store in India next week, as it seeks to increase sales in one of the world’s fastest-growing smartphone markets.

The company at present uses third-party online and offline retailers to sell its products in the country.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a tweet that the company “can’t wait to connect with our customers and expand support in India.”

The Sept. 23 launch comes ahead of India’s major Hindu festival season beginning next month.

With a nearly 1.4 billion people, including millions of new Internet users every month, India has become a key focus of tech giants over the last few years.

In August, three contract manufacturers for Apple iPhones and South Korea’s Samsung applied for large-scale electronics manufacturing rights in India under a $6.5 billion incentive scheme announced by the government.

Apple assembles some smartphones at Foxconn and Wistron’s plants in two southern Indian states.

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Phone flip: New Quibi series ‘Wireless’ empowers the viewer

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Phone flip New Quibi series 'Wireless' empowers the viewer

NEW YORK (AP) — Most directors insist on having final edit approval of their films. Not the creators of “Wireless.”

The series on the mobile-platform Quibi employs an ingenious way to tell a story on a smartphone: You see different things on the screen depending on whether you hold your phone vertically or horizontally.

Horizontally, a traditional cinematic film follows a college student navigating the snowy Colorado mountains. But flip your phone vertically and you see his smartphone as he scrolls through photos, checks the map or calls his mom.

That means that the viewer becomes the editor. And each viewer sees a slightly different film, depending on at what points they rotate the phone.

“You’re never going to have the same experience as somebody else watching the show,” said Zach Wechter, the director, co-creator and co-writer. “It really is in our viewers’ hands when they’re going to turn the phones at any given moment.”

The 10-episode series that launched this week has the backing of director Steven Soderbergh, an eager adopter of nascent technology whose influential films include “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and “Traffic.”

He signed on to be an executive producer after seeing “Pocket,” a short film by Wechter and his creating partner Jack Seidman that experimented with the two-screen technology.

“It was the first thing I’d ever seen that I felt was designed to be watched and experienced on the phone and absolutely worked,” Soderbergh said.

The show signals a technological jump for Quibi, which launched during the pandemic offering mobile-friendly installments of movies and TV in 10 minutes or less.

The platform initially got fewer subscribers than hoped, despite landing celebs like Chance the Rapper, Chrissy Teigen and Jennifer Lopez. Even so, it heads into the weekend Emmy Awards with an impressive 10 nominations.

The technological leap with “Wireless” means it waves goodbye to passive entertainment. By letting viewers rotate their phones and choose their perspective, Wechter is empowering the audience, letting them feel like they’re controlling the story.

“I’d like to think that our project is something that will inspire filmmakers and artists to consider the possibilities of this new frontier — a new landscape for storytelling,” Wechter said.

“Wireless” stars Tye Sheridan as a college student with an unhappy past and a secret habit who is driving to a New Years Eve’s party to try to rekindle a relationship with his ex-girlfriend.

As he drives over the mountains, we watch what he does on his phone: Scrolling through Instagram, checking maps, firing up Tinder, texting friends, asking Siri questions and cuing up the band Brockhampton on the stereo. The human in horizontal mode and the technological on vertical are fused.

The filmmakers have so seamlessly integrated the phone-in-the-phone that our hero listens to his old voicemail messages and looks at photos from happier times to give context for his emotions. They’ve even created a fake, chirpy online commercial for a fictional vehicle, the Chevy Colorado.

Wechter said he was inspired to create the show based on how much time everyone spends on their phone these days, and says we have almost an emotional relationship with our devices. Soderbergh agrees, calling them “an additional appendage.”

“I think the ubiquity of smartphones is one of the most impactful parts of our lives nowadays,” Wechter said. “It really just was birthed out of realizing how essential these devices have become in our day-to-day lives.”

Soderbergh laughs that filmmakers these days are lamenting how putting their work on a phone is a depreciation of their work. “This is a complete inversion of what you typically hear a filmmaker say: To experience it NOT on your phone would be a diminishment.”

He hopes viewers will watch the thriller and then re-watch it, flipping their phone for more looks at the in-screen phone during the second time or focusing more on the actor’s perspective. “I hope other people will seize on the ability to do their own edits.”

In an interesting twist, Andie MacDowell, who starred in the indie “Sex, Lives and Videotape” 31 years ago, voices the college student’s mom in this Quibi show. Soderbergh laughs at the old technology of that film, which used video confessionals. “Think about how quaint that seems,” he said. “It’s like a Jane Austen novel compared to what we are experiencing now.”

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By MARK KENNEDY AP Entertainment Writer.

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Celebs join Instagram ‘freeze’ to protest Facebook inaction

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Celebs join Instagram 'freeze' to protest Facebook inaction

LONDON (AP) — Kim Kardashian West, Katy Perry, Leonardo DiCaprio and other celebrities are taking part in a 24-hour Instagram “freeze” on Wednesday to protest against what they say is parent company Facebook’s failure to tackle violent and hateful content and election misinformation.

Hollywood stars and influencers are lending their backing to the “#StopHateforProfit” movement’s latest campaign. The movement asks people to put up a message highlighting what they called the damage Facebook does but otherwise refrain from posting on Instagram for a day.

“I can’t sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation – created by groups to sow division and split America apart – only to take steps after people are killed,” Kardashian West posted on her Instagram account on Tuesday.

Facebook declined to comment but pointed to recent announcements about what it’s doing to limit the reach on its platform of groups that support violence and its efforts to protect the U.S. election in November.

With 188 million followers, Kardashian West is one of the most influential people on Instagram and support from her and other big names for the boycott saw Facebook shares slide in aftermarket trading late Tuesday. They were down 1.7% ahead of the market open on Wednesday.

The organizers behind “#StopHateforProfit,” including civil rights groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP and Color Of Change, had previously led a campaign that got hundreds of brands and nonprofits to join a Facebook advertising boycott in July.

Ashton Kutcher, Mark Ruffalo, Kerry Washington, Rosario Dawson, Jamie Foxx and Sacha Baron Cohen were among about two dozen Hollywood stars and celebrity influencers supporting the campaign, the organizers said.

DiCaprio said he was standing with the civil rights groups to call “on all users of Instagram and Facebook to protest the amplification of hate, racism, and the undermining of democracy on those platforms.”

Facebook, which earned nearly $70 billion in advertising revenue last year, is facing a reckoning over what critics call indefensible excuses for amplifying divisions, hate and misinformation on their platforms.

“We are quickly approaching one of the most consequential elections in American history,” organizers said. “Facebook’s unchecked and vague ‘changes’ are falling dangerously short of what is necessary to protect our democracy.”

The movement also singled out for criticism Facebook’s handling of online material ahead of the shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin last month. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the company made a mistake in not removing sooner a page belonging to a militia group that called for armed civilians to enter the town. It only took the page down after an armed teenager killed two people after violent protests sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, who is Black.

BY KELVIN CHAN AP Business Writer.

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