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Privacy, once hidden topic, gets attention at CES tech show

Inside Telecom Staff



CES tech show


LAS VEGAS (AP) — Once a hidden and under-the-radar topic, privacy got more attention at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas this week. Startups now volunteer information about how they’re securing your data and protecting your privacy when you use their heart rate monitor or cuddly robot.

Roybi, an alien-looking robot that teaches kids languages and other skills, has a camera with facial recognition that can remember children and guess whether the kid was excited or sad after a lesson. Roybi says it uses that information to make changes to its lessons.

But the $199 robot also comes with a sticker, so parents can block the camera if they want.

“We want to make sure we give people choices,” said CEO and founder Elnaz Sarraf, who said parents questioned the lens. “When it comes to children, people are more sensitive.”

Caregiver Smart Solutions, which makes products for caregivers to track the elderly remotely, decided to do away with cameras, declaring them too intrusive. The company opted instead for small sensors that monitor when doors are opened and closed.

After two years of tech companies facing the reckoning of rising privacy concerns, the message seems to be setting in: The way you use customers’ information can no longer be ignored.

Friday was the final day of the annual CES technology conference in Las Vegas, a forum for companies to unveil their products and services for the coming year.

Among other highlights this week:


Airport screens are a jumble of flight numbers, times and gates. Delta wants to change that.

The airline will soon start testing an airport screen that will show personalized flight information only to you.

The twist: nearly 100 people will be able to look at the same screen simultanously and see just their own information. No special glasses needed, just the naked eye.

It’s a technology that could change the way people get from airport security to their planes. The hope is that similar screens will fill the halls of airports, pointing people to where they need to walk or where they can stop to get a bite to eat.

Delta is teaming with startup Misapplied Sciences for the technology. Misapplied CEO Albert Ng said normal TVs send the same colored light in all directions. His company’s screens control which colors are emitted to different people. Cameras above figure out where each person is standing and send the right combination of lights in that direction.

Delta will test the screen later this year at Detroit’s airport. The company said the screens won’t be used for targeted advertising.

Frank Gillett, a technology analyst at Forrester, said the technology may be too expensive right now to expand to every airport. But he said Delta’s plans to make the airport experience easier for travelers could hook more customers to the airline.


Meet your new artificial friend, called Neon.

For weeks leading up to CES, Samsung has teased Neon as the next big thing in artificial intelligence. What is being shown is essentially a humanoid chatbot with AI.

Neon is an independent company backed by Samsung’s advanced research lab.

Ask the Neon a question, and it will respond. It won’t know all the answers, the way the Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa is supposed to. In that sense, it’s intended to be more like a human — with some knowledge and an ability to learn.

The vision is a future where Neons are so human-like that humans start interacting with them just like any other person.

Neon CEO Pranav Mistry says that it will let humans have real human connections with the machines, instead of just yelling orders like “stop” and “open.”

But that’s some time a way. Neon is still in an early stage of development.


Things don’t always go as planned.

Samsung’s new Sero TV can pivot between horizontal and vertical orientations, but just getting it to work onstage was a challenge at the company’s CES event earlier in the week.

Product training manager Scott Cohen was unable to connect his smartphone to the TV set and eventually chose to carry on the stage demonstration regardless.

“Since we cannot get it to work, I will explain all the things we can do,” he said. “We’re not sure if the Wi-Fi in here with everyone on is doing it.

Samsung later blamed unreliable Wi-Fi that prevented the smartphone from connecting.

The Sero — which means “vertical” in Korean — is intended to let viewers watch social media, YouTube and personal videos in their true orientation, without black bars at the side. When viewing vertical video, for instance, the TV physically rotates to that position.

AP video journalists Jona Kallgren and James Brooks contributed to this report.

AP’s CES coverage:

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Facebook to add 1,000 UK jobs, including tech, content roles

Inside Telecom Staff



Facebook Jobs
LONDON (AP) — Facebook said Tuesday it plans to hire 1,000 more staff in Britain, mainly for its technology and harmful content teams. 

The U.S. tech company said Tuesday that it will add the new roles by the end of the year, bringing its U.K. workforce to more than 4,000.

More than half of the new jobs will be in technology-focused roles such as software engineering. 

There will also be a "large number" of jobs working on building tools to detect and remove harmful content from Facebook and its other platforms, which include WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. The company did not give an exact number. 

Facebook is devoting more effort to keeping harmful content such as spam and abusive material off its sites as authorities put more pressure on the big tech companies to better police their platforms. 

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Extradition hearing begins for top Huawei exec in Canada

Inside Telecom Staff



Huawei exec in Canada

By JIM MORRIS and ROB GILLIES Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The first stage of an extradition hearing for a senior executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei started in a Vancouver courtroom Monday, a case that has infuriated Beijing, caused a diplomatic uproar between China and Canada and complicated high-stakes trade talks between China and the United States.

Canada’s arrest of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, in late 2018 at America’s request enraged Beijing to the point it detained two Canadians in apparent retaliation.

Huawei represents China’s progress in becoming a technological power and has been a subject of U.S. security concerns for years. Beijing views Meng’s case as an attempt to contain China’s rise.

“Our government has been clear. We are a rule of law country and we honor our extradition treaty commitments,” Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at a Cabinet retreat in Manitoba. “It is what we need to do and what we will do.”

China’s foreign ministry on Monday accused the United States and Canada of violating Meng’s rights and called for her release.

“It is completely a serious political incident,” said a ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang. He urged Canada to “correct mistakes with concrete actions, release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and let her return safely as soon as possible.”

Washington accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng, 47, committed fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

Meng, who is free on bail and living in one of the two Vancouver mansions she owns, sat next to her lawyers wearing a black dress with white polka dots. She earlier waved at reporters as she arrived at court.

Meng denies the U.S. allegations. Her defense team says comments by President Donald Trump suggest the case against her is politically motivated.

“We trust in Canada’s judicial system, which will prove Ms. Meng’s innocence,” Huawei said in a statement as the proceedings began.

Meng was detained in December 2018 in Vancouver as she was changing flights — on the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for trade talks.

Prosecutors have stressed that Meng’s case is separate from the wider China-U.S. trade dispute, but Trump undercut that message weeks after her arrest when he said he would consider intervening in the case if it would help forge a trade deal with Beijing.

China and the U.S. reached a “Phase 1” trade agreement last week, but most analysts say any meaningful resolution of the main U.S. allegation — that Beijing uses predatory tactics in its drive to supplant America’s technological supremacy — could require years of contentious talks. Trump had raised the possibility of using Huawei’s fate as a bargaining chip in the trade talks, but the deal announced Wednesday didn’t mention the company.

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for cellphone and internet companies. Washington is pressuring other countries to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft.

The initial stage of Meng’s extradition hearing this week is focusing on whether Meng’s alleged crimes are crimes both in the United States and Canada. Her lawyers filed a a motion Friday arguing that Meng’s case is really about U.S. sanctions against Iran, not a fraud case. Canada does not have similar sanctions on Iran.

Richard Peck, Meng’s lawyer, said in court that the fraud allegations are a “facade” and the charges are really about the United States attempting to enforce its sanctions on Iran. “Would we be here in the absence of U.S. sanctions law? My response is no,” Peck said.

Arguments will continue Tuesday and throughout the week.

The second phase, scheduled for June, will consider defense allegations that Canada Border Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI violated Meng’s rights while collecting evidence before she was actually arrested.

The extradition case could take years to resolve if there are appeals. Nearly 90% of those arrested in Canada on extradition requests from the United States. were surrendered to U.S. authorities between 2008 and 2018.

In apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. The two men have been denied access to lawyers and family and are being held in prison cells where the lights are kept on 24-hours-a-day.

China has also placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola oil seed and meat. Last January, China also handed a death sentence to a convicted Canadian drug smuggler in a sudden retrial.

“That’s mafia-style pressure,” Lewis, the Washington-based analyst, said.

Associated Press writer Jim Morris reported this story in Vancouver and AP writer Rob Gillies reported from Toronto.

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Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

Inside Telecom Staff



Google CEO

KELVIN CHAN AP Business Writer

LONDON (AP) — Google’s chief executive called Monday for a balanced approach to regulating artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also “negative consequences.”

Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used.

“There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. The question is how best to approach this,” Pichai said, according to a transcript of his speech at a Brussel-based think tank.

He noted that there’s an important role for governments to play and that as the European Union and the U.S. start drawing up their own approaches to regulation, “international alignment” of any eventual rules will be critical. He did not provide specific proposals.

Pichai spoke on the same day he was scheduled to meet the EU’s powerful competition regulator, Margrethe Vestager. She’s also due to meet Microsoft President Brad Smith separately on Monday.

Vestager has in previous years hit the Silicon Valley giant with multibillion-dollar fines for allegedly abusing its market dominance to choke off competition. After being reappointed for a second term last autumn with expanded powers over digital technology policies, Vestager has now set her sights on artificial intelligence, and is drawing up rules on its ethical use.

Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology. Vestager and the EU have been the among the more aggressive regulators of big tech firms, an approach U.S. authorities have picked up with investigations into the dominance of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

“Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities,” he said, adding that it could incorporate existing standards like Europe’s tough General Data Protection Regulation rather than starting from scratch.

While it promises big benefits, he raised concerns about potential downsides of artificial intelligence, citing as one example its role in facial recognition technology, which can be used to find missing people but also for “nefarious reasons” which he didn’t specify.

In 2018, Google pledged not to use AI in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights.

Pichai was also due on Monday to meet Frans Timmermans, the EU commissioner overseeing the European Green Deal, the bloc’s plan to fight climate change by making the continent carbon neutral by 2050, including through technology. He’s then scheduled to head to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week.

Follow Kelvin Chan on Twitter

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