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Ex-Google CEO says Ukraine proves value of IT in war

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Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, says the skillful use of some basic information technologies has helped Ukraine defend itself from Russia
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Ukraine has been a very effective proving ground for the use of contemporary information technology in war, from satellite dishes to smartphone apps, Eric Schmidt, the former Google chief executive, said Monday.

Schmidt, now a US government consultant on artificial intelligence, told reporters after a 36-hour visit to the country that the civilian tech sector has been crucial to Kyiv’s defense.

The proof came the day after Russian troops invaded on February 24. 

After a long stall, Ukraine’s legislature came together to agree on a crucial step to protect all the government’s data from Russian hackers and strikes.

“In one day, they had a meeting of the parliament and changed that law… they moved all their data from government servers in Kyiv to the cloud,” Schmidt said. 

“The war gave everybody a political excuse to do the right thing,” he said. 

The second crucial move came with US tech billionaire Elon Musk’s donation of access to his Starlink satellite-based broadband system, effectively insulating both the public and Ukrainian military from a Russian assault on telecommunications.

Musk and donors sent in some 20,000 ground terminals with small dish antennas that allowed everyday transmissions as well as helping fighters with targeting data. That stymied a key goal of the Russian attackers.

“Elon Musk is genuinely a hero here,” said Schmidt. “This allowed the strategy of shutting down the internet by the opposition to fail.”

– Field intelligence from citizen apps –

Two apps meanwhile got citizens directly involved, Schmidt said.

A function called “E-Enemy” was added to the popular Diia app used for government services that permitted people to report things such as damage from shelling, or Russian troop sightings.

And an encrypted Swiss chat service called Threema allowed users to send such data to the military without exposing their identities.

The military would get thousands of such reports every day, said Schmidt, and filter them with artificial intelligence programs.

“They would whittle them down to targets using computer intelligence and human intelligence and eventually go after them,” he said.

“So if you think about that, here’s what they had: they had an internet that stayed up, they had their government data protected,” and a way for citizens to give them intelligence information, he said.

Ukraine, long an incubator for programming as well as illegal hacking skills, has a deep IT workforce that has been able to launch cyberattacks against the Russia, breaking into their communications.

The country has also skillfully used biometric and facial recognition techniques to identify Russian troops involved in atrocities, such as the massacre in Bucha early in the war.

In addition, Ukrainian programmers have been skilled in making drones useful in the war.

“I can just report that based on my small amount of data, the Ukrainian tech industry really did make a contribution to the front,” said Schmidt.

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UK eyes big TikTok fine over child privacy lapse

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A UK regulator said TikTok ay have processed the data of children under the age of 13 without appropriate parental consent
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Britain on Monday warned it could fine TikTok £27 million ($29 million) over a potential failure to protect children’s privacy on the Chinese-owned video app.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said the social media company “may have processed the data of children under the age of 13 without appropriate parental consent”.

The ICO also found that the short-form video platform may have “failed to provide proper information to its users in a concise, transparent and easily understood way”.

The watchdog has served the group with a notice of intent — which is a legal document that precedes a possible fine — over the possible breach of UK data protection law.

“We all want children to be able to learn and experience the digital world, but with proper data privacy protections,” said Information Commissioner John Edwards.

“Companies providing digital services have a legal duty to put those protections in place, but our provisional view is that TikTok fell short of meeting that requirement.”

In response, TikTok said it disagreed with the ICO’s provisional views and stressed that no final conclusions had been reached.

“While we respect the ICO’s role in safeguarding privacy in the UK, we disagree with the preliminary views expressed and intend to formally respond to the ICO in due course,” TikTok said in a statement.

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Apple to make iPhone 14 in India in shift away from China

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The Apple logo at a store in New York
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Apple will manufacture its new flagship smartphone in India, the US tech giant said Monday, as it seeks to diversify production away from a dependence on China.

The iPhone supply chain is based mainly in China but the country’s zero-Covid policies and tensions with the United States have hurt production, analysts say.

“We’re excited to be manufacturing iPhone 14 in India,” Apple said in a brief statement.

The California-based firm already makes older iPhone models in India via Taiwanese manufacturers such as Foxconn, which has a factory in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The latest announcement comes just weeks after Apple launched new smartphones. The tech behemoth is commencing production of the iPhone 14 in India much earlier than it did for previous models, Canalys analyst Sanyam Chaurasia said.

“Over the last couple of years, it has been increasingly diversifying its supply chain to India,” Chaurasia told AFP.

About 7.5 million iPhones — around three percent of Apple’s global production — were made in India last year, the analyst added.

“We expect that the local production of iPhones could reach more than 11 million this year,” he said.

Apple’s announcement will be a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” strategy under which he has urged foreign businesses to manufacture goods in the South Asian nation.

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US charges Boeing with misleading investors on 737 MAX safety, fined $200 mn

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US regulators say Boeing and its former CEO 'put profits over people,' misleading the public about the safety of the 737 MAX aircraft
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US securities officials fined Boeing $200 million over the aviation giant’s misleading assurances about the safety of the 737 MAX airplane following two deadly crashes, regulators announced Thursday.

Boeing agreed to the penalty to settle charges it “negligently violated the antifraud provisions” of US securities laws, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a statement, saying the company and its leader “put profits over people.”

Boeing’s former chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, also agreed to pay $1 million to settle the same charges in the civil case.

The settlement marks the latest hit to Boeing over the MAX following the Lion Air Crash in Indonesia in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in Ethiopia in March 2019, which together claimed nearly 350 lives. 

One month after the first crash, a Boeing press release approved by Muilenburg “selectively highlighted certain facts,” implying pilot error and poor aircraft maintenance contributed to the crash.

The press release also attested to the aircraft’s safety, not disclosing that Boeing knew a key flight handling system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), posed safety issues and was being redesigned.

After the second crash, Boeing and Muilenburg assured the public that there was “no surprise or gap” in the federal certification of the MAX despite being aware of contrary information, the SEC said.

– Boeing ‘failed’ –

“In times of crisis and tragedy, it is especially important that public companies and executives provide full, fair, and truthful disclosures to the markets,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler in a press release. 

“The Boeing Company and its former CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, failed in this most basic obligation. They misled investors by providing assurances about the safety of the 737 MAX, despite knowing about serious safety concerns.”

The SEC said both Boeing and Muilenburg, in agreeing to pay the penalties, did not admit or deny the agency’s findings.

Boeing said the agreement “fully resolves” the SEC’s inquiry and is part of the company’s “broader effort to responsibly resolve outstanding legal matters related to the 737 MAX accidents in a manner that serves the best interests of our shareholders, employees, and other stakeholders,” a company spokesman said.

“We will never forget those lost on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, and we have made broad and deep changes across our company in response to those accidents.”

US air safety authorities cleared Boeing’s 737 MAX to resume service in November 2020 following a 20-month grounding after the crashes.

A principal cause of the two crashes was identified as the MCAS, which was supposed to keep the plane from stalling as it ascended but instead forced the nose of the plane downward. The Federal Aviation Administration required Boeing to upgrade this system to address the flaw.

In January 2021, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle a US criminal charge over claims the company defrauded regulators overseeing the 737 MAX.

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