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EU Electric Car Makers May Soon Have Level Playing Field With US EV Manufacturers For Subsidies: Details

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By Reuters | Updated: 14 October 2022

European Union and US officials expect to reach an agreement that would grant EU companies, including electric car makers, the same status as US ones in the US market, to avoid what the EU calls discrimination against its producers by the US Inflation Reduction Act.

The EU says that while it allows government tax breaks or subsidies for purchases of US electric cars such as those made by Tesla, the United States makes such support conditional on the car, or parts of it, being made in the United States.

European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for trade, is holding talks on Thursday and Friday with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the issue.

“Last month Tesla model Y was the most sold car in Germany,” Dombrovskis told a news briefing.

“That would not have been possible without the un-discriminatory EU subsidy, while EU electric cars do not get a similar subsidy in the US, which is discrimination that we want to address,” Dombrovskis said.

EU car makers – like Volkswagen – are affected by the US legislation, which covers a host of other products.

He said the problem also concerned a wide range of goods from the “green economy” sector, including batteries, hydrogen, and renewable energy equipment.

“There is a willingness to engage on the US side on this,” Dombrovskis said.

“We hope we can resolve these issues before they become disputes,” he said, adding talks would focus on whether changes to the status of EU companies could be made through the implementation of regulations to the US law, rather than having to send the whole Inflation Reduction Act back to Congress for amendments.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, asked if the issue could be resolved, told reporters she expected the EU and U.S. would reach an agreement.

“On the strength of the EU-US relationship, I have every confidence we will work through this,” she said after a meeting with Dombrovskis.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Meta Used Public Instagram, Facebook Posts to Train Its New AI Assistant

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Meta also said it did not use private chats on its messaging services as training data for the AI model.
By Reuters | Updated: 29 September 2023

Meta Platforms used public Facebook and Instagram posts to train parts of its new Meta AI virtual assistant, but excluded private posts shared only with family and friends in an effort to respect consumers’ privacy, the company’s top policy executive told Reuters in an interview.

Meta also did not use private chats on its messaging services as training data for the model and took steps to filter private details from public datasets used for training, said Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg, speaking on the sidelines of the company’s annual Connect conference this week.

“We’ve tried to exclude datasets that have a heavy preponderance of personal information,” Clegg said, adding that the “vast majority” of the data used by Meta for training was publicly available.

He cited LinkedIn as an example of a website whose content Meta deliberately chose not to use because of privacy concerns.

Clegg’s comments come as tech companies including Meta, OpenAI and Alphabet’s Google have been criticized for using information scraped from the internet without permission to train their AI models, which ingest massive amounts of data in order to summarize information and generate imagery.

The companies are weighing how to handle the private or copyrighted materials vacuumed up in that process that their AI systems may reproduce, while facing lawsuits from authors accusing them of infringing copyrights.

Meta AI was the most significant product among the company’s first consumer-facing AI tools unveiled by CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday at Meta’s annual products conference, Connect. This year’s event was dominated by talk of artificial intelligence, unlike past conferences which focused on augmented and virtual reality.

Meta made the assistant using a custom model based on the powerful Llama 2 large language model that the company released for public commercial use in July, as well as a new model called Emu that generates images in response to text prompts, it said.

The product will be able to generate text, audio and imagery and will have access to real-time information via a partnership with Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

The public Facebook and Instagram posts that were used to train Meta AI included both text and photos, Clegg said.

Those posts were used to train Emu for the image generation elements of the product, while the chat functions were based on Llama 2 with some publicly available and annotated datasets added, a Meta spokesperson told Reuters.

Interactions with Meta AI may also be used to improve the features going forward, the spokesperson said.

Clegg said Meta imposed safety restrictions on what content the Meta AI tool could generate, like a ban on the creation of photo-realistic images of public figures.

On copyrighted materials, Clegg said he was expecting a “fair amount of litigation” over the matter of “whether creative content is covered or not by existing fair use doctrine,” which permits the limited use of protected works for purposes such as commentary, research and parody.

“We think it is, but I strongly suspect that’s going to play out in litigation,” Clegg said.

Some companies with image-generation tools facilitate the reproduction of iconic characters like Mickey Mouse, while others have paid for the materials or deliberately avoided including them in training data.

OpenAI, for instance, signed a six-year deal with content provider Shutterstock this summer to use the company’s image, video and music libraries for training.

Asked whether Meta had taken any such steps to avoid the reproduction of copyrighted imagery, a Meta spokesperson pointed to new terms of service barring users from generating content that violates privacy and intellectual property rights.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Volkswagen’s Trinity model to be built in Zwickau -Handelsblatt

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Volkswagen's Trinity model to be built in Zwickau -Handelsblatt
By Reuters | Updated: 29 September 2023

Sept 29 (Reuters) – Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) plans to build its Trinity electric vehicles (EV) at its factory in Zwickau, the German daily Handelsblatt reported on Friday, citing several company sources.

The decision on the location for the prestige EV will be discussed at the Volkswagen supervisory board meeting on Friday, Handelsblatt reported.

A spokesperson for the German carmaker declined to comment on the report.

The Trinity electric car, which is to be based on the new SSP platform, was supposed to be launched in 2026.

However, shortly after taking office, Chief Executive Oliver Blume pushed the project back by two years in order to relieve pressure on the struggling software subsidiary Cariad.

Volkswagen had initially planned to build a new factory for the model, but due to delays in developing the brand, the German carmaker was also considering converting its Wolfsburg factory.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Internet

Australia Inc roiled by string of cyber attacks since late 2022

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By Reuters | Updated: 29 September 2023

Sept 29 (Reuters) – Australian firms have suffered many cyber attacks since September 2022, putting the spotlight on the country’s understaffed cybersecurity industry that experts say seems ill-equipped to tackle such hacks, endangering sensitive information of people.

Here is a list of companies that have been hit by data breaches:

OPTUS
Australia’s second-largest mobile operator and a unit of Singapore Telecommunications (STEL.SI) was the first to report a data breach in September that affected up to 10 million customers, about 40% of the nation’s population. The exposed data included home addresses, drivers’ licences and passport numbers.

Sept 29 (Reuters) – Australian firms have suffered many cyber attacks since September 2022, putting the spotlight on the country’s understaffed cybersecurity industry that experts say seems ill-equipped to tackle such hacks, endangering sensitive information of people.

Here is a list of companies that have been hit by data breaches:

OPTUS
Australia’s second-largest mobile operator and a unit of Singapore Telecommunications (STEL.SI) was the first to report a data breach in September that affected up to 10 million customers, about 40% of the nation’s population. The exposed data included home addresses, drivers’ licences and passport numbers.

WOOLWORTHS
Australia’s biggest grocer Woolworths Group Ltd (WOW.AX) said in October its majority-owned online retailer MyDeal identified that a “compromised user credential” was used to access its systems, exposing email addresses, phone numbers and delivery addresses of about 2.2 million customers.

FORCENET
Australia’s Assistant Minister For Defence Matt Thistlethwaite said on Oct. 31 that hackers targeted a communications platform used by the country’s military personnel and defence staff with a ransomware attack but that no data was compromised.

DAILOG
IT services consulting firm Dailog, another unit of Singapore Telecommunications (STEL.SI), faced a cyber attack that potentially affected 1,000 current and former employees and fewer than 20 client, the company said on Oct. 10.

AUSTRALIAN CLINICAL LABS
Medlab, a unit of Australian Clinical Labs Ltd (ACL.AX), one of the country’s largest pathology providers, suffered a breach in the same month that exposed data of about 223,000 patients.

MEDIBANK
Health insurer Medibank Private (MPL.AX), which covers about one-sixth of Australians, said in November that personal and significant amounts of health claims data of around 9.7 million of its current and former customers were compromised, forcing it to flag a hit to earnings and withdraw forecast for a key metric.

On June 20, Medibank confirmed that a file containing names and contact details of staff members had been compromised after its building manager faced a cybersecurity breach.

TELSTRA
Australia’s largest telecoms operator Telstra (TLS.AX) in early October suffered what it called a small data breach, which exposed data of about 30,000 current and former employees dating back to 2017.

On Dec. 11, Telstra said 132,000 customers were affected by an internal error which led to the disclosure of certain customer details.

BWX
Skin and hair care products maker BWX Limited said in November a malicious code was “unlawfully” entered onto one of its websites that may have compromised credit card numbers and expiry dates of about 2,500 customers.

TPG TELECOM
Australia’s No.2 internet service provider TPG Telecom (TPG.AX) said in December it had been notified of unauthorised access to a hosted exchange service that hosts email accounts of up to 15,000 business customers.

CBA
Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX) said on March 8 its Indonesian unit, PT Bank Commonwealth (PTBC), had been hit by a cyber incident involving unauthorised access of a web-based software application used for project management.

IPH
Days later, Australian intellectual property services provider IPH Ltd (IPH.AX) said it had detected unauthorised access to a portion of its IT environment, compromising information including administrative documents and some client documents.

LATITUDE
Australian digital payments and lending firm Latitude Group Holdings Ltd (LFS.AX) said on March 16 a hacker had stolen personal information held by two service providers, compromising about 103,000 identification documents and 225,000 customer records.

On April 11, the firm said it will not pay a ransom to the hackers as it saw no assurance that the payment would result in the return or destruction of the stolen data, and it did not want to reward criminal behaviour.

TECHNOLOGYONE
Australia’s TechnologyOne Ltd (TNE.AX) said on May 10 it had detected an unauthorised third-party access to its back-office systems, becoming the latest target in a series of cyber attacks that has bogged companies in the country since last year.

SMARTPAY
New Zealand-based Smartpay Holdings (SPY.NZ) disclosed a ransomware attack confirming the theft of information from customers in Australia and New Zealand, making it the latest victim in a slew of cyberattacks in the region.

SHELL
Shell Plc (SHEL.L) said on Sept 15 that it has identified a cybersecurity incident involving some employees who worked with its unit BG Group in Australia before the merger, becoming the latest victim of the MOVEit hack.

ENERGY ONE
Australian software supplier Energy One (EOL.AX) said on Sept. 29 it has not uncovered any evidence of malicious activity on its customer systems after the company identified a cyber incident in August. The company’s investigations found no evidence of compromise of personal information of its current and former employees, it said, adding that Energy One continues to securely trade.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Internet

OpenAI, Jony Ive in talks to raise $1 billion from SoftBank for AI device venture, Financial Times reports

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By Reuters | Updated: 28 September 2023

Sept 28 (Reuters) – ChatGPT maker OpenAI is in advanced talks with former Apple designer Jony Ive and SoftBank’s (9984.T) Masayoshi Son to build the “iPhone of artificial intelligence”, fuelled by more than $1 billion in funding from the Japanese conglomerate, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

Sam Altman, OpenAI’s chief, has tapped Ive’s company LoveFrom to develop the ChatGPT creator’s first consumer device, the report said.

Discussions are said to be “serious” but no deal has been agreed on, and it could be several months before a venture is formally announced, the report said, adding that Son, Altman and Ive have discussed creating a company that would draw on talent and technology from their three groups.

SoftBank declined to comment on the FT report. OpenAI did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Ive and LoveFrom could not be reached for comment.

Tech website The Information first reported on Tuesday that Ive and Altman have been discussing building a new AI hardware device and that Softbank’s Son has also been involved in some aspects of the conversation.

Ive was a close creative collaborator with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. He spent more than two decades at the tech giant and led the design of the candy-colored iMacs that helped Apple re-emerge from near death in the 1990s as well as the design of the iPhone.

SoftBank has been looking for deals in AI, including a potential investment in OpenAI, after the blockbuster listing of its Arm unit, the FT reported earlier this month, adding that Son was looking to invest tens of billions of dollars in the technology.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Cryptocurrency

Binance Crypto Exchange to Sell Its Russia Business to CommEX for Undisclosed Amount

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Binance said it will have no ongoing revenue split from the sale, nor will it maintain an option to buy back shares in the business.
By Reuters | Updated: 28 September 2023

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance said on Wednesday it will sell its Russia business to newly-launched exchange CommEX, becoming the latest company to pull out of Moscow since the country began its war against Ukraine.

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, did not disclose financial details of the deal. The company said it will have no ongoing revenue split from the sale, nor will it maintain an option to buy back shares in the business.

“As we look toward the future, we recognise that operating in Russia is not compatible with Binance’s compliance strategy,” Chief Compliance Officer Noah Perlman said, without referring to the war in Ukraine, which Russia calls a “special military operation.”

Binance also said that all the assets of its existing Russian users were safe and that there will be an orderly process for the migration of users. The divestment process will take up to one year, it added.

CommEX is a centralized cryptocurrency exchange backed by crypto venture capitalists, according to its website. The company only launched its exchange on Tuesday. It did not respond to a request for comment on the Binance deal.

Many Western companies, including the likes of Renault, Shell, McDonald’s and others, have agreed to sell their Russian assets or hand them over to local managers to take action to comply with sanctions over the war in Ukraine and deal with threats from the Kremlin that foreign-owned assets may be seized.

Last month, Mastercard announced that the company and Binance exchange would end their four crypto card programmes in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Bahrain as of September 22. The Binance cards allow users to make payments in traditional currencies, funded by their cryptocurrency holdings on the exchange.

Binance is also facing legal and regulatory challenges. US regulators sued the crypto exchange and its CEO Changpeng Zhao in June for allegedly operating a “web of deception.” Binance has said it would defend itself “vigorously.”

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Internet

Leonardo’s air booking system resumes after cyberattack, Rostec says

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By Reuters | Updated: 28 September 2023

MOSCOW, Sept 28 (Reuters) – Russian state conglomerate Rostec said on Thursday it had restored normal operations at its Leonardo air booking system following what it called a “massive cyberattack from abroad”.

“The cyberattack has been successfully repelled,” Rostec said in a statement.

It described the incident as a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attack”, in which the attacker floods a server with internet traffic to prevent users from accessing connected online services and sites.

Rostec gave no further information. The company controls much of Russia’s weapons industry.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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