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Huawei Appeals Against 5G Network Ban in Sweden

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By Reuters | Updated: 6 November 2020

Huawei has appealed against Sweden’s decision to exclude the Chinese telecoms equipment maker from 5G networks, the Swedish telecoms regulator PTS said on Friday.

“What happens now is we will send the appeal to the administrative court of Stockholm. After that, they will handle this case,” a PTS spokesman said.

Sweden last month banned Huawei and peer ZTE from its 5G network, joining other European nations that have restricted the role of Chinese suppliers on security grounds.

“We think the decision that has been taken is not good for customers nor for Sweden in general,” Kenneth Fredriksen, Huawei’s Executive Vice President, Central East Europe and Nordic Region, told Reuters.

“We therefore want a Swedish court to look at if the decision has been taken through a proper process and according to the law.”

European governments have been tightening controls on Chinese companies building 5G networks following diplomatic pressure from Washington, which alleges Huawei equipment could be used by Beijing for spying. Huawei has repeatedly denied being a national security risk.

PTS has given companies taking part in 5G spectrum auctions until January 1, 2025 to remove Huawei and ZTE equipment from their existing infrastructure and core functions.

The auctions are expected to start next week, and to benefit Huawei’s Nordic rivals, Nokia and Ericsson.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Cryptocurrency

Binance Ordered by Malaysia Regulator to Completely Disable Website, App

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By Reuters | Updated: 30 July 2021

Malaysia has taken enforcement action against cryptocurrency platform Binance to stop it operating in the country, the Securities Commission said on Friday.

The Commission said it had issued a public reprimand against Binance Holdings Limited, its CEO Zhao Changpeng and three other entities registered in the United Kingdom, Lithuania, and Singapore, for continuing to operate in Malaysia despite being added to the regulator’s investor alert list a year ago.

The regulator ordered Binance to disable its website and mobile applications, cease media and marketing activities, as well as restrict Malaysian investors from accessing its Telegram group.

“Those who currently have accounts with Binance are strongly urged to immediately cease trading through its platforms and to withdraw all their investments immediately,” it said.

Binance said on Friday it would wind down its futures and derivatives products offerings across Europe as the platform faces growing pressure from regulators across the world.

Governments and financial watchdogs are paying closer attention to the cryptocurrency industry, often putting in place rules that pose a challenge for exchanges like Binance that have thrived in a mostly unregulated environment.

Financial authorities in Britain, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, and Thailand have all recently raised concerns about Binance.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Internet

Google Says Microsoft Is Unwilling to Turn Over Documents in Antitrust Fight, Failed to Comply With Subpoena

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By Reuters | Updated: 30 July 2021

Alphabet’s Google has asked a judge hearing the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against the search and advertising giant to compel Microsoft to turn over documents, saying it has failed to comply with a subpoena, according to a court filing unsealed late Thursday.

Google served a subpoena to Microsoft more than three months ago, seeking documents regarding Microsoft’s Bing search engine as well as its Internet Explorer and Edge but has not received them, the filing said.

Google says some of the documents might shed light on whether Microsoft was actually restrained from competing with Google, or whether it simply failed to compete successfully.

“In particular, there are nineteen Microsoft employees who held important positions relating to activities at the core of this case but whose files Microsoft refuses to commit to search at this time,” Google said in the filing.

Google’s search engine is the market leader by far while Bing’s share is in single digits. Google also has a browser, Chrome.

Microsoft, also in a filing late on Thursday, said that Google’s additional requests brings the total number of custodians, whose files Microsoft will have to search, to 55.

Google has failed to offer “specific reasons” for why these additional files are necessary, Microsoft added.

Google had said that the 19 of these additional custodians were “highly likely to possess relevant, non-cumulative documents.”

According to Google, these executives covered issues at the core of the case, including the development and distribution of Microsoft’s various search engines, Microsoft’s search advertising business, and Microsoft’s effort to market devices that would give it more search access points beyond the Windows desktop.

The Justice Department sued Google in October, kicking off a spate of federal and state antitrust lawsuits against both Google and Facebook. The federal case against Google and a broader state case have been consolidated for purposes of trial preparation.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Social Networking

Facebook, WhatsApp’s Pleas Challenging New IT Rules to Be Heard by Delhi High Court on August 27

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 30 July 2021

The Delhi High Court Friday said it will hear on August 27 the pleas by Facebook and WhatsApp challenging the new IT rules for social media intermediaries, requiring the messaging app to “trace” chats and make provisions to identify the first originator of information, on the ground that they violate the right to privacy and are unconstitutional.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh listed the matter for August 27 after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said he was in some difficulty and urged the court to adjourn the hearing.

The request was not opposed by senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for WhatsApp and Facebook respectively.

The new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were announced by the government on February 25 and requires large social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp to comply with the norms by May 25.

The Facebook owned WhatsApp in its plea said the requirement of intermediaries enabling the identification of the first originator of information in India upon government or court order puts end-to-end encryption and its benefits “at risk”.

WhatsApp has urged the high court to declare Rule 4(2) of the Intermediary Rules as unconstitutional, ultra vires to the IT Act and illegal and sought that no criminal liability be imposed on it for any alleged non-compliance with Rule 4(2) which requires to enable the identification of the first originator of information.

WhatsApp, which has arrayed the Centre through the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology as a party to the petition, said the traceability provision is unconstitutional and against the fundamental right to privacy.

The plea said the traceability requirement forces the company to break end-to-end encryption on its messaging service, as well as the privacy principles underlying it, and infringes upon the fundamental rights to privacy and free speech of the hundreds of millions of citizens using WhatsApp to communicate privately and securely.

It said WhatsApp enables government officials, law enforcement, journalists, members of ethnic or religious groups, scholars, teachers, students, and the like to exercise their right to freedom of speech and expression without fear of retaliation.

“WhatsApp also allows doctors and patients to discuss confidential health information with total privacy, enables clients to confide in their lawyers with the assurance that their communications are protected, and allows financial and government institutions to trust that they can communicate securely without anyone listening to their conversations,” it said.

“There is no way to predict which message will be the subject of such a tracing order. Therefore, the petitioner would be forced to build the ability to identify the first originator for every message sent in India on its platform upon request by the government forever. This breaks end-to-end encryption and the privacy principles underlying it, and impermissibly infringes upon users” fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech,” the petition said.

It claimed that Rule 4(2) infringes upon the fundamental right to privacy without satisfying the three-part test set forth by the Supreme Court in K S Puttaswamy judgement, that is, legality, necessity and proportionality.

It also said that the rule violates the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as it chills even lawful speech and citizens will not speak freely for fear that their private communications will be traced and used against them, which is antithetical to the very purpose of end-to-end encryption.

Rule 4(2) states that a significant social media intermediary which provides services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable the identification of the first originator of the information on its computer resource as may be required by a judicial or government order.

As per data cited by the government, India has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 44.8 crore YouTube users, 41 crore Facebook subscribers, 21 crore Instagram users, while 1.75 crore account holders are on microblogging platform Twitter.
The new rules were introduced to make social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram – which have seen a phenomenal surge in usage over the past few years in India – more accountable and responsible for the content hosted on their platform.

Social media companies will have to take down posts depicting nudity or morphed photos within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

Notably, the rules require significant social media intermediaries – providing services primarily in the nature of messaging – to enable identification of the “first originator” of the information that undermines sovereignty of India, security of the state, or public order.

This could have major ramifications for players like Twitter and WhatsApp.

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Social Networking

Pinterest Sees Slower US User Growth as People Step Out Due to Ease in COVID-19 Restrictions

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By Reuters | Updated: 30 July 2021

Pinterest on Thursday said user growth in the United States was decelerating as people who used the platform for crafts and DIY projects during the height of the pandemic are stepping out more as curbs ease.

Shares of the digital pinboard site slumped nearly 20 percent in extended trade, with investors looking past Pinterest beating revenue estimates in the second quarter, as overall monthly active users (MAUs) fell short of expectations.

Social media companies worldwide saw digital advertisement spending and user growth surge as lockdowns accelerated the shift to e-commerce, but analysts are now concerned if those gains are here to stay.

“Pinterest’s use case was very compelling for people staying at home during the pandemic, and with the economy opening up, there is less focus on what Pinterest is best for,” Wedbush analyst Ygal Arounian said.

Overall MAUs, a widely watched metric, rose by only 9 percent to 454 million during the quarter. Analysts had estimated 487.1 million, according to Refinitiv IBES data. It had risen 30 percent in the prior quarter.

“For the past year, we’ve highlighted how people came to Pinterest for inspiration to reinvent their lives during such a difficult time. Now as the world opens up, we’re seeing the similar effect in the opposite direction,” Chief Executive Officer Ben Silbermann said during a call with analysts.

Pinterest’s MAUs in the United States, a major market for the company, was nearly 7 percent lower as of July 27. Its global MAUs grew by about 5 percent.

The shift in user engagement was more visible in Web than mobile app users, Pinterest said, adding that Web users tended to be, on average, less engaged and generated lower revenue.

Total revenue more than doubled to $613 million (roughly Rs. 4,560 crores) in the quarter versus analysts’ average estimates of $562.1 million (roughly Rs. 4,180 crores).

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Science

International Space Station Thrown Out of Control by Russian Module Misfire: NASA

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By Reuters | Updated: 30 July 2021

The International Space Station (ISS) was thrown briefly out of control on Thursday when jet thrusters of a newly arrived Russian research module inadvertently fired a few hours after it was docked to the orbiting outpost, NASA officials said.

The seven crew members aboard – two Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut, and a European space agency astronaut from France – were never in any immediate danger, according to NASA and Russian state-owned news agency RIA.

But the malfunction prompted NASA to postpone until at least August 3 its planned launch of Boeing’s new CST-100 Starliner capsule on a highly anticipated uncrewed test flight to the space station. The Starliner had been set to blast off atop an Atlas V rocket on Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Thursday’s mishap began about three hours after the multipurpose Nauka module had latched onto the space station, as mission controllers in Moscow were performing some post-docking “reconfiguration” procedures, according to NASA.

The module’s jets inexplicably restarted, causing the entire station to pitch out of its normal flight position some 250 miles above the Earth, leading the mission’s flight director to declare a “spacecraft emergency,” US space agency officials said.

An unexpected drift in the station’s orientation was first detected by automated ground sensors, followed 15 minutes later by a “loss of attitude control” that lasted a little over 45 minutes, according to Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA’s space station programme.

‘Tug-of-war’

Flight teams on the ground managed to restore the space station’s orientation by activating thrusters on another module of the orbiting platform, NASA officials said.

In its broadcast coverage of the incident, RIA cited NASA specialists at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as describing the struggle to regain control of the space station as a “tug of war” between the two modules.

At the height of the incident, the station was pitching out of alignment at the rate of about a half a degree per second, Montalbano said during a NASA conference call with reporters.

The Nauka engines were ultimately switched off, the space station was stabilised and its orientation was restored to where it had begun, NASA said.

Communication with the crew was lost for several minutes twice during the disruption, but “there was no immediate danger at any time to the crew,” Montalbano said. He said “the crew really didn’t feel any movement.”

Had the situation become so dangerous as to require evacuation of personnel, the crew could have escaped in a SpaceX crew capsule still parked at the outpost and designed to serve as a “lifeboat” if necessary, said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s commercial crew programme.

What caused the malfunction of the thrusters on the Nauka module, delivered by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has yet to be determined, NASA officials said.

Montalbano said there was no immediate sign of any damage to the space station. The flight correction maneuvres used up more propellant reserves than desired, “but nothing I would worry about,” he said.

After its launch last week from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, the module experienced a series of glitches that raised concern about whether the docking procedure would go smoothly.

Roscosmos attributed Thursday’s post-docking issue to Nauka’s engines having to work with residual fuel in the craft, TASS news agency reported.

“The process of transferring the Nauka module from flight mode to ‘docked with ISS’ mode is underway. Work is being carried out on the remaining fuel in the module,” Roscosmos was cited by TASS as saying.

The Nauka module is designed to serve as a research lab, storage unit, and airlock that will upgrade Russia’s capabilities aboard the ISS.

A live broadcast showed the module, named after the Russian word for “science,” docking with the space station a few minutes later than scheduled.

“According to telemetry data and reports from the ISS crew, the onboard systems of the station and the Nauka module are operating normally,” Roscosmos said in a statement.

“There is contact!!!” Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, wrote on Twitter moments after the docking.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Cryptocurrency

Ethereum Set to Get a Major Upgrade That Will Alter Supply, Fix Transaction Fees

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By Reuters | Updated: 30 July 2021

Ethereum, the second-largest blockchain network, is about to undergo a technical adjustment that will significantly alter the way transactions are processed, as well as reduce the supply of the ether token and sharply boost its price.

The scheduled coding revamp will go live on August 4.

The upgrade known as Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 1559 is similar, analysts said, to a Bitcoin “halving” event in which periodic adjustments reduced the supply of Bitcoin. Each halving helped propel Bitcoin’s price to higher records. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 29.5 lakhs as of 11:30am IST on July 30.

While Bitcoin is the preferred store of value in the digital ecosystem, Ethereum has emerged as the leading financial infrastructure, settling over $12 billion (roughly Rs. 89,240 crores) of daily transactions, according to a Grayscale report released in February this year. Ethereum price in India stood at Rs. 1.7 lakhs as of 11:30am IST on July 30.

Andrew Keys, managing partner at DARMA Capital, said Ether’s current price has yet to factor in the looming software upgrade.

He estimates that the expected software adjustment next week, coupled with another upgrade in the first quarter of 2022, should “easily quintuple the price of ether” by next year. On Thursday, ether was up 0.6 percent at $2,312 (roughly Rs. 1.7 lakhs).

What is EIP 1559?

EIP-1559 is a software upgrade that fundamentally changes the way transactions are processed on Ethereum by providing clear pricing on transaction fees in ether paid to miners to validate transactions and “burning” a small amount of those tokens. The burned tokens will be permanently taken out of circulation.

In token burning, miners would typically send the tokens to specialised addresses that have unobtainable private keys. Without access to a private key, no one can use the tokens, putting them outside the circulating supply. By reducing the number of tokens, the currencies that remain in circulation become rarer and more valuable.

What is the current practice on the Ethereum blockchain?

Currently, a person or entity trying to send a transaction on the Ethereum network must pay a so-called “gas fee” in ether to miners to process their transactions.

But the exact transaction fee is not clear and market participants say there is no way of knowing the price beforehand.

This creates two issues, said Matt Hougan, chief investment officer at Bitwise Asset Management.

“First, it introduces a major uncertainty around whether you’ll get your transaction processed in a timely fashion,” he said. “Second, people overpay because they don’t know the clearing price and they bid too much to make sure the transaction is processed.”

Will mining, buying, and selling Ether become easier?

EIP-1559 changes this mechanism by setting a “base fee” paid to miners for each transaction, part of which will be burned. Participants can also include an optional “tip” with their base fee to speed up the process, if desired.

Another adjustment, market players said, is doubling the amount of space available in each block. Blockchains like Ethereum settle transactions in batches or blocks. Each block can contain only a certain number of transactions.

Blocks are propagated on Ethereum every 17 seconds and EIP 1599 is going to be deployed on Block 12,965,000, which is estimated to happen on August 4, said DARMA’S Keys.

There was a bug bounty, which paid people if they found bugs. That has process has been completed.

What does it mean for Ether supply?

Bitwise’s Hougan cited estimates that EIP-1599 will reduce ether’s overall inflation rate from roughly 4 percent a year to 3 percent. That is about half as large a reduction proportionately seen in Bitcoin “halving” events, he said.

What does it mean for investors?

The change should make it easier for investors to understand the value of holding ether. Hougan said EIP 1559 should increase transactions on the Ethereum network and raise the use of Ether, which will likely help bring a wave of institutional investors into the market.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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