US Supreme Court’s Climate Change Ruling Could Weaken Agencies Efforts to Rein in Big Tech
By Associated Press | Updated: 4 July 2022
The Supreme Court’s latest climate change ruling could dampen efforts by federal agencies to rein in the tech industry, which went largely unregulated for decades as the government tried to catch up to changes wrought by the internet.
In the 6-3 decision that was narrowly tailored to the Environmental Protection Agency, the court ruled Thursday that the EPA does not have broad authority to reduce power plant emissions that contribute to global warming. The precedent is widely expected to invite challenges of other rules set by government agencies.
“Every agency is going to face new hurdles in the wake of this confusing decision,” said Alexandra Givens, the president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based digital rights nonprofit. “But hopefully the agencies will continue doing their jobs and push forward.”
The Federal Trade Commission, in particular, has been pursuing an aggressive agenda in consumer protection, data privacy and tech industry competition under a leader appointed last year by President Joe Biden.
Biden’s picks for the five-member Federal Communications Commission have also been pursuing stronger “net neutrality” protections banning internet providers from slowing down or blocking access to websites and applications that don’t pay for premium service.
A former chief technologist at the FTC during President Donald Trump’s administration said the ruling is likely to instill some fear in lawyers at the FTC and other federal agencies about how far they can go in making new rules affecting businesses.
The court “basically said when it comes to major policy changes that can transform entire sectors of the economy, Congress has to make those choices, not agencies,” said Neil Chilson, who is now a fellow at libertarian-leaning Stand Together, founded by the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch.
Givens disagreed, arguing that many agencies, especially the FTC, have clear authority and should be able to withstand lawsuits inspired by the EPA decision. She noted that Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the opinion, repeatedly described it as an “extraordinary” situation.
Givens is among the tech advocates calling for Congress to act with urgency to make laws protecting digital privacy and other tech matters. But she said laws typically stay on the books for decades, and it’s unrealistic to expect Congress to weigh in on every new technical development that questions an agency’s mandate.
“We need a democratic system where Congress can give expert agencies the power to address issues when they arise, even when those issues are unforeseen,” she said. “The government literally can’t work with Congress legislating every twist and turn.”
Empowered by Congress in the 1970s to tackle “unfair or deceptive” business practices, the FTC has been in the vanguard of Biden’s government-wide mandate to promote competition in some industries, including Big Tech, health care and agriculture. A panoply of targets include hearing aid prices, airline baggage fees and “product of USA” labels on food.
Under Chair Lina Khan, the FTC also has widened the door to more actively writing new regulations in what critics say is a broader interpretation of the agency’s legal authority. That initiative could run into stiff legal challenges in the wake of the high court decision. The ruling could call into question the agency’s regulatory agenda — leading it to either tread more cautiously or face tougher and more expensive legal challenges.
Khan “hasn’t really been someone who pursues soft measures, so it may be a damn-the-torpedoes approach,” Chilson said.
University of Massachusetts internet policy expert Ethan Zuckerman said it would be hard to gauge any potential impact of the court’s ruling on existing tech regulation. That’s partly because “there’s just not that much tech regulation to undo,” he said.
He said one target could be the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “a bête noire for many conservatives.” Big companies such as Facebook parent Meta could also potentially appeal tough enforcement actions on the idea that federal agencies weren’t explicitly authorised to regulate social media.
“We’re in uncharted territory, with a court that’s taking a wrecking ball to precedent and seems hell-bent on implementing as many right-wing priorities as possible in the shortest possible time,” Zuckerman said.
The ruling could dampen the appetite for agencies like the FTC to act to limit harm from artificial intelligence and other new technologies. It could have less effect on new rules that are more clearly in the realm of the agency imposing them.
Michael Brooks, chief counsel for the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, said the ruling isn’t likely to change the government’s ability to regulate auto safety or self-driving vehicles, although it does open the door to court challenges.
For instance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has clear authority to regulate auto safety from a 1966 motor vehicle safety law, Brooks said.
“As long as the rules they are issuing pertain to the safety of the vehicle and not anything that’s outside of their authority, as long as it’s related to safety, I don’t see how a court could do an end run around the safety act,” he said.
Unlike the EPA, an agency with authority granted by multiple, complex laws, NHTSA’s “authority is just so crystal clear,” Brooks said.
NHTSA could have problems if it strayed too far from regulating safety. For example, if it enacted regulations aimed to shift buyers away from SUVs to more fuel-efficient cars, that might be struck down, he said. But the agency has historically stuck to its mission of regulating auto safety with some authority on fuel economy, he said.
However, it’s possible that a company such as Tesla, which has tested the limits of NHTSA’s powers, could sue and win due to an unpredictable Supreme Court, Brooks said.
ChatGPT-Maker OpenAI CEO Sam Altman to Visit India This Week
By Agencies | Updated: 5 June 2023
OpenAI Chief Executive Officer Sam Altman is set to visit India this week. Altman, whose company deals with artificial intelligence technologies and has created ChatGPT, will be on a six-nation tour.
Altman tweeted on Sunday (local time) he was excited to visit India, Israel, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, and South Korea this week.
excited to visit israel, jordan, qatar, the uae, india, and south korea this week!— Sam Altman (@sama) June 4, 2023
His day-to-day itinerary was not immediately known.
Given India’s strong IT industry and a large set of data, AI-based utilities can leverage huge potential in the country. Though AI is still in its early stages.
The government quoting NASSCOM data in February this year said the overall AI employment in India is estimated at about 416,000 professionals. The growth rate for the sector is estimated at about 20-25 percent.
Further, AI is expected to contribute an additional $957 billion (roughly Rs. 79,00,300 crore) to India’s economy by 2035.
Many nations the world over have been using AI technologies for better service delivery and to reduce human intervention but fears of job cuts remain as the technology evolves.
Meanwhile, the boss of OpenAI said last week that his firm’s technology would not destroy the job market as he sought to calm fears about the march of artificial intelligence (AI).
Altman, on a global tour to charm national leaders and powerbrokers, said in Paris that AI would not — as some have warned — wipe out whole sectors of the workforce through automation.
“This idea that AI is going to progress to a point where humans don’t have any work to do or don’t have any purpose has never resonated with me,” he said.
Asked about the media industry, where several outlets already use AI to generate stories, Altman said ChatGPT should instead be like giving a journalist 100 assistants to help them research and come up with ideas.
Apple Likely to Unveil AR/VR Mixed Reality Headset at WWDC 2023: What to Expect
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 5 June 2023
Apple on Monday is expected to show off pricy mixed-reality headgear at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, challenging Facebook-owner Meta in a market that has yet to sizzle.
The iPhone maker has remained mum on reports that it is poised to unveil a headset for augmented or virtual reality experiences at its annual jamboree for developers and app designers.
The release would be the most significant product launch by the iconic iPhone maker since it unveiled the Apple Watch in 2015.
It could also invite more tensions between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg who have feuded over the handling of their sprawling tech empires, especially over data issues and China ties.
Expectations are high that Apple will use the WWDC stage to spotlight a “Reality Pro” headset priced around $3,000 (roughly Rs. 2,47,600), along with custom-made software for the gear, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to investors.
“We believe Apple’s Reality Pro will come with many apps and use cases,” Ives said.
Cook is also expected to talk about the company’s strategy when it comes to artificial intelligence, which has been in the spotlight since startup OpenAI released ChatGPT late last year.
The headset has been in development at Cupertino-based Apple for years, and will focus on gaming, streaming video and conferencing, as well as health and fitness, according to Ives.
It is also expected to synch closely with other Apple devices, following the company’s strategy of using premium hardware to lock customers into other products and services.
“From all reports, Apple hoped to release a product that felt more like designer glasses than a gaming headset, but it’s releasing something much bulkier,” said Insider Intelligence principal analyst Yory Wurmser.
“It wants to get its device into the hands of early adopters and developers, who will start to build a (mixed reality) ecosystem around Apple software.”
A report by Bloomberg described the headset as a high-tech pair of ski googles that would project a wearer’s eyes and facial expressions on an external screen.
Just days before Apple’s event, Meta ramped up its line of Quest virtual reality headgear.
A new-generation Quest 3 with improved performance and slimmed design will be available later this year at a starting price of $500 (roughly Rs. 41,300), Zuckerberg said.
The Facebook founder described the coming model as Meta’s “most powerful headset yet” and promised it would provide the best wireless way to experience virtual reality.
Zuckerberg has been adamant that Meta remains devoted to building for a future in which internet life plays out in virtual worlds referred to as the metaverse.
“Meta has been the dominant VR manufacturer over the past several years, thanks to its cheap Quest devices,” Wurmser said.
But Meta’s experience with the metaverse has been humbling despite it being a leader in the emergent sector and many questioned whether Apple would in the end jump in.
And less than two years after changing its name to Meta to reflect a metaverse priority, the Facebook giant has fired tens of thousands of staff and promised to get back to its social media basics.
Meta’s false start follows the failure of Google Glass, the search engine giant’s decade long effort that was mothballed for good in March.
Hackers Exploit Security Flaw in Popular File Transfer Tool MOVEit to Steal User Data
By Reuters | Updated: 3 June 2023
Hackers have stolen data from the systems of a number of users of the popular file transfer tool MOVEit Transfer, US security researchers said on Thursday, one day after the maker of the software disclosed that a security flaw had been discovered.
Software maker Progress Software Corp, after disclosing the vulnerability on Wednesday, said it could lead to potential unauthorized access into users’ systems.
The managed file transfer software made by the Burlington, Massachusetts-based company allows organizations to transfer files and data between business partners and customers.
It was not immediately clear which or how many organizations use the software or were impacted by potential breaches. Chief Information Officer Ian Pitt declined to share those details but said Progress Software had made fixes available since it discovered the vulnerability late on May 28.
The software’s eponymous cloud-based service had also been impacted by this, he told Reuters.
“As of now we see no exploit of the cloud platform,” he said.
Cybersecurity firm Rapid7 and Mandiant Consulting – owned by Alphabet’s Google – said they had found a number of cases in which the flaw had been exploited to steal data.
“Mass exploitation and broad data theft have occurred over the past few days,” Charles Carmakal, chief technology officer of Mandiant Consulting, said in a statement.
Such “zero-day,” or previously unknown, vulnerabilities in managed file transfer solutions have led to data theft, leaks, extortion, and victim-shaming in the past, Mandiant said.
“Although Mandiant does not yet know the motivation of the threat actor, organizations should prepare for potential extortion and publication of the stolen data,” Carmakal said.
Rapid7 said it had noticed an uptick in cases of compromise linked to the flaw since it was disclosed.
Progress Software has outlined steps users at risk can take to mitigate the impact of the security vulnerability.
Pitt did not have a comment on who might have been trying to steal data by exploiting the flaw.
“We have no evidence of it being used to spread malware,” he said.
MOVEit Transfer was used by a relatively “small” number of customers compared to those of the company’s other software products that number more than 20, he said.
“We have forensics partners on board and we are working with them to make sure that we have an ever-evolving grasp of the situation.”
© Thomson Reuters 2023
YouTube to Stop Removing Content Spreading Misinformation on Past Elections as Part of New Policy
By Reuters | Updated: 3 June 2023
Alphabet’s YouTube said on Friday that the platform would stop removing content that might have spread false claims related to US presidential elections in 2020 and before. The new set of updates is part of YouTube’s elections misinformation policy that will go into effect immediately.
“In the current environment, we find that while removing this content does curb some misinformation, it could also have the unintended effect of curtailing political speech,” YouTube said in a blog post. The platform also said the rest of its policies against hate speech, harassment, and incitement to violence would continue to apply to all user content, including elections. The proliferation of disinformation has raised questions about how social media platforms enforce their policies against misleading content about elections.
Other social media platforms like Twitter and Meta Platform’s Facebook have also seen a spike in disinformation related to elections.
In March, YouTube lifted restrictions on former US President Donald Trump’s channel, following more than two-year suspension after the deadly Capitol Hill riot on January 6, 2021.
“We carefully evaluated the continued risk of real-world violence, while balancing the chance for voters to hear equally from major national candidates in the run up to an election,” YouTube said in a tweet, referring to the move.
The video-streaming platform banned Trump in 2021 for violating its policy of inciting violence after his supporters stormed the US Capitol when Congress began to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
In the same month, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued orders to eight social media and video streaming firms including Meta Platforms, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube seeking information on how the platforms screen for misleading advertisements.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Twitter’s Head of Brand Safety and Ad Quality to Leave Company: Details
By Reuters | Updated: 3 June 2023
Twitter’s head of brand safety and ad quality, A.J. Brown, has decided to leave the company, according to a source familiar with the matter on Friday, the second safety leader to depart in a matter of days.
The latest departure adds to a growing challenge for new Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino, even before she steps into the role.
On Thursday, Ella Irwin told Reuters that she resigned from her role as vice president of product for trust and safety at the social media company, where she oversaw content moderation efforts and often responded to users with questions about suspended accounts.
Platformer and the Wall Street Journal earlier reported Brown’s departure.
Since Tesla CEO Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October, the platform has struggled to retain advertisers, who were wary about the placement of their ads after the company laid off thousands of employees.
Musk’s hiring of Yaccarino, former ad chief at Comcast’s NBCUniversal, signaled that ad sales remained a priority for Twitter even as it works to grow subscription revenue.
Twitter and Brown did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
Amazon’s India, South Asia Head of Cloud Division, Puneet Chandok, Resigns: Details
By Reuters | Updated: 2 June 2023
The India and South Asia head of Amazon.com’s cloud division, Puneet Chandok, has resigned with effect from August 31, the company said on Friday.
Chandok had taken the helm of Amazon Web Services in June 2019.
Vaishali Kasture, currently head of the enterprise for mid-market and global businesses at AWS India and South Asia, would take on the role of interim leader of commercial business for the unit, Amazon India said.
The news came over two weeks after Amazon’s cloud computing unit revealed plans to invest $12.87 billion (roughly Rs. 10,60,12 crore) in India by 2030, doubling down on its past investments to cater to the growing demand for such services in Asia’s No. 3 economy.
The interim provides an opportunity for other cloud companies such as Azure and Google Cloud Platform, along with homegrown players, to make aggressive bids for accounts, said Akshara Bassi, an analyst at Counterpoint Research.
In April, AWS released a suite of technologies aimed at helping other companies develop their own chatbots and image-generation services backed by artificial intelligence.
The firm also partnered with startup Hugging Face, a software development hub, in February to make it easier to carry out artificial intelligence work (AI) in Amazon’s cloud.
AWS, the biggest cloud computing provider, already offers tools to help developers create AI-based software, including proprietary computing chips for raining AI algorithms on huge amounts of data at lower cost than rivals to services that reduce how much time it takes to create a chatbot or other AI products.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
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