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  1. When officers from Hungary's National Tax and Customs Administration raided a pirate IPTV provider they were unsurprised to discover large amounts of satellite and computer equipment for capturing and distributing live TV . However, what they also found was hundreds of pounds of food that had been stockpiled by the operator, who hadn't been outside for months due to fears of catching the coronavirus. 2020 has developed into one of the most memorable years in living memory for the entire planet but for mostly the wrong reasons. Not a day goes by without news of the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating effect on individuals, families, the economy, and health in general. In common with many industries, coronavirus has hit the entertainment sectors too, with few new films and TV shows coming out (with notable exceptions such as Mulan) as people are either forced or inclined to stay home and stay safe. Throughout all of this, however, pirate operations have remained mostly online, with notable spikes in interest reported earlier in the year. IPTV Raid and Arrest But Authorities Didn’t Expect This As part of European efforts to crack down on the supply of IPTV, a few weeks ago officers in the National Tax and Customs Administration raided a pirate IPTV provider. What they found was extraordinary to say the least. Situated in what appeared to be a fenced-off barbed wire compound with CCTV surveillance, the outside of the building was perhaps not much of a surprise. Adorned with a large number of satellite dishes used to source original programming from the skies, the walls of the structure gave away what may lie inside. Indeed, the main contents of the building were as expected, such as an office with desks, chairs and various computers, plus a separate area containing what appear to be rows of servers used for capturing TV content from official providers and redistributing it over the Internet. In total, the authorities seized 52 computers, several decoders, TV cards, plus six servers dedicated to redistribution. The image above suggests that the operation wasn’t set up on the large budgets usually witnessed in police footage from raids elsewhere in Europe but with at least 8,000 paying customers, it was clearly functional. However, in a video released by the authorities, it is apparent that on some of the server shelves also sit items of food, including dozens and dozens of packets of flour. A panning camera shot also reveals a large refrigerator and then a small mountain of stacked canned food. Another shot, possibly in another area, reveals little floor space due to yet more stacked cans, a significant area occupied by box upon box of dried pasta packets, plus additional shelves loaded with soft drinks, other foodstuffs, and the coronavirus pandemic staple – dozens of toilet rolls. An Operator of the Service Was Scared of the Coronavirus According to the National Tax and Customs Administration, the service was founded by a man from Nagykanizsa who first set out to “redirect” his mother’s paid TV package to his own home for free. He teamed up with a man from Budapest to create a service that was subsequently offered to close friends too. Over time, however, they realized they could make money from the operation and began offering it on an invitation-only basis to outsiders. The network of customers grew and ultimately became available worldwide via the Internet. However, earlier this year, when the coronavirus started to sweep across Europe, one of the people in charge of the operation reacted like many across the region. In fear of catching what could be a deadly virus, he stockpiled the mountains of food detailed Situated in what appeared to be a fenced-off barbed wire compound with CCTV surveillance, the outside of the building was perhaps not much of a surprise. Adorned with a large number of satellite dishes used to source original programming from the skies, the walls of the structure gave away what may lie inside.above – hundreds of pounds/kilos – so that he could keep the service running but without having to venture far outside. “In addition to IT equipment, durable food was in the Budapest property. The young man had accumulated hundreds of kilos of flour, canned food and pasta in fear of the coronavirus epidemic, and had not ventured into the streets for months,” the authorities explain. Damage to Copyright Holders But Also Paying No Taxes According to estimates provided by the tax authorities, the service is alleged to have generated around HUF 6 million (US$1.97m) for the pair but for reasons that aren’t explained, they “forgot” to pay the necessary duties to the state. This explains why the tax authorities were involved in the raid. “An illegal IPTV service that is provided without payment of royalties infringes copyright or copyright-related rights, which is a criminal offense. The offender can be sentenced to up to eight years in prison,” the National Tax and Customs Administration says. Whether the self-imposed prison sentence of a few months will now be extended to a forced sentence of a few years is currently unknown. Previous Post Source: TorrentFreak
  2. (Reuters) - Europe’s reported coronavirus cases more than doubled in 10 days, crossing 200,000 daily infections for the first time on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, with many Southern European countries reporting their highest single-day cases this week. Europe reported 100,000 daily cases for the first time on Oct. 12. Europe has so far reported about 7.8 million total coronavirus cases and about 247,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally. European countries like Italy, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia reported their highest single-day coronavirus cases on Thursday. Europe as a region is reporting more daily cases than India, Brazil and the United States combined. The increase is partly explained by far more testing than was done in the first wave of the pandemic. The global coronavirus tally stands at about 41.4 million cases and about 1.1 million deaths. According to a Reuters tally, Wednesday saw the highest total of infections reported in a single day across the world, at 422,835. As of now, Europe accounts for nearly 19% of global cases and about 22% of global deaths, according to Reuters tally. In Western Europe, France, which is reporting the highest seven-day average of new cases in Europe with 25,480 infections per day, reported an all-time high of 41,622 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to French health authorities. To slow the spread of infection, France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced widening of a coronavirus curfew to more than two thirds of its population. Another Western European country Netherlands reported more than 9,000 in 24 hours, a new record, data released by the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) on Thursday showed. Germany, which reported more than 10,000 daily cases for the first time on Thursday, extended travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, most of Austria and Italian regions including Rome. Hospitals across Europe remain under strain. Even though the it remains well below levels at the peak of the crisis six months ago in the region, COVID-19 hospital admissions and occupancy are going up again. A World Health Organization (WHO) expert said on Monday said Europe and North America should follow the example of Asian states by persevering with anti-COVID measures and quarantining anyone who comes into contact with infected people,. Source
  3. Google services have gone down across the UK, including Gmail, Google Drive and YouTube. Reports flooded the outage service DownDetector as users frantically tried to access their email accounts, Google documents and videos on YouTube. Google Drive and Google Hangouts are also down. The tech company says it is currently investigating the issue. ‘We’re aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a majority of users,’ the company stated. ‘The affected users are unable to access Gmail. We will provide an update by 12/14/20, 12:12 PM detailing when we expect to resolve the problem’ Meanwhile, Google’s users were quick to vent their frustration. ‘I can’t access anything from Google says error or does not recognise my account. Can’t access youtube, gmail, etc… Not good Google,’ wrote one users on DownDetector. Another commented: ‘Looks like servers are down just like when YouTube was down previously and now its affecting every google apps’ London appears to be the worst-affected area but users in Manchester and over in Dublin are also reporting problems. Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/14/youtube-and-google-services-down-for-millions-of-users-13749402/?ito=cbshare Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/ Users trying to access YouTube on laptops or phones are also unable to see the website or app. Instead, they’re greeted with a holding page and the caption ‘something went wrong’. Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/14/youtube-and-google-services-down-for-millions-of-users-13749402/?ito=cbshare Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/ Many irritated users took to Twitter to try and find out why they’ve lost access to their Google accounts. ‘I’ve been logged out of my Google account on my phone and I can’t log back in- it says problem with my account and now I am locked out of all my Google Apps :(,’ wrote one user on Twitter. ‘What can I do to get back in- all my details are correct?’ Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/14/youtube-and-google-services-down-for-millions-of-users-13749402/?ito=cbshare Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/ It’s not yet clear how widely the problem has spread, but other areas of Europe also appear to have been affected. ‘We work on isolating and fixing every product issue that we’re aware of,’ Google explains on its Workspace admin page. ‘Some issues might not be listed here. We characterize known Issues as follows: We can consistently reproduce an unexpected behavior. Engineers are actively working towards a fix to correct the behavior. The issue is observed globally and has generated a large number of support cases.’ Metro.co.uk has contacted Google for a comment on the outage. Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/14/youtube-and-google-services-down-for-millions-of-users-13749402/?ito=cbshare Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/ Source: https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/14/youtube-and-google-services-down-for-millions-of-users-13749402/ (As of 26 Minutes Ago)
  4. Bloomberg) -- International Business Machines Corp. is planning to cut about 10,000 jobs in Europe in an attempt to lower costs at its slow-growth services unit and prepare the business for a spinoff. The wide-ranging losses will affect about 20% of staff in the region, according to people familiar with the matter. The U.K. and Germany are set to be most impacted, with cuts also planned in Poland, Slovakia, Italy and Belgium. IBM announced the job cuts in Europe earlier in November during a meeting with European labor representatives, according to a union officer briefed on proceedings. The person asked not to be identified because the talks are private. IBM shares fell 1.6% at 9:37 a.m. in New York. They’ve declined 8.6% this year. “Our staffing decisions are made to provide the best support to our customers in adopting an open hybrid cloud platform and AI capabilities,” an IBM spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “We also continue to make significant investments in training and skills development for IBMers to best meet the needs of our customers.” Hardest hit will be IBM’s legacy IT services business, which handles day-to-day infrastructure operations, such as managing client data centers and traditional information-technology support for installing, operating and repairing equipment. IBM said in October it’s planning to spin off the business and focus on its new hybrid-cloud computing and artificial intelligence unit, which the company hopes will return it to revenue growth. IBM said it aims to complete the carve-out as a tax-free spinoff to IBM shareholders by the end of 2021. “We’re taking structural actions to simplify and streamline our business,” said IBM Chief Financial Officer James Kavanaugh during the company’s third-quarter earnings call in October. “We expect the fourth-quarter charge to our operating results of about $2.3 billion.” Once an iconic blue-chip company, IBM’s star has faded over the years as its legacy in mainframe computing and IT services fell behind while newer technology firms like Amazon.com Inc. swooped in to dominate the emerging cloud-computing market. IBM was already cutting jobs earlier this year, although the company wouldn’t say how many positions were being eliminated. The company has traditionally declined to disclose the numbers of job cuts for decades, with arguably one exception in 1993 when Lou Gerstner, a CEO hired from outside the company, announced 60,000 dismissals. The spin-off of its services unit is the first big move by Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna, who took over from Ginni Rometty in April and has been pushing to revive growth after almost a decade of shrinking revenue. Krishna earlier this year cut thousands of jobs as he began reshaping the business. The current round of job cuts should be completed by the end of the first-half of 2021, one of the people added. Source
  5. From GDPR to antitrust to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Europe is always looking over Silicon Valley's shoulder. The influence of the biggest US tech companies is as powerful in Europe as anywhere else in the world. But what sets Europe apart is that the relationship is, to an extent, reciprocal. Whenever a Silicon Valley company makes a move, the EU is watching over its shoulder to make sure it's abiding by local laws, providing the best possible experience for European citizens and taking full responsibility for its mistakes. And if the companies want to keep operating across the continent, they have little choice but to comply. This year, new scandals, new legislation and the resolution of years-long investigations across the continent meant that US tech giants have come under more scrutiny than ever before and have been forced to acknowledge Europe's collective power. This shift has occurred as the world started to recognize the enormous potential harm these massive platforms can bring. From a push towards more privacy to antitrust fines, here are the key ways Europe has made its presence felt in Silicon Valley. Cambridge Analytica When the news broke in March that consultants working for Donald Trump's presidential campaign exploited the personal Facebook data of millions, the UK found itself inextricably caught up in the scandal. The data consultancy firm at the heart of the revelations was UK-based Cambridge Analytica, and the researcher responsible for harvesting the data, Aleksandr Kogan, was an academic at Cambridge University. But long after the shock of the revelations subsided, the UK still finds itself as Facebook's most persistent agitator, demanding more and more answers from the company even though the issue is no long and front and center on the agenda of US lawmakers. The UK's Information Commissioner's Office is the only data watchdog in the world to hit Facebook with a fine over its role in the scandal. The $645,000 penalty may seem small, but it's the maximum fine the watchdog is allowed to hand out. Parliament's committee looking into fake news, led by member of parliament Damian Collins, is maintaining calls for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to submit to questioning (as he did before Congress and the European Parliament). If Zuckerberg enters the UK at the moment, he risks being subject to a formal summons, which could see him escorted to Parliament. Facebook, for its part, hired former UK deputy prime minister and European Parliament member Nick Clegg to run its policy and communications team. The company hopes Clegg's political experience in both the UK and the EU will help Facebook navigate the tricky waters ahead. Antitrust One of the issues Facebook could be up against in the coming years is an antitrust investigation into its ad business. The company has fallen foul of the EU's Competition Commission before, having been penalized with a $122 million fine in 2017 for providing misleading information about its acquisition of WhatsApp. Right now it's a case of wait and see as to whether Commissioner Margrethe Vestager wants to investigate the company further Pretty much all of Silicon Valley has endured run-ins with Vestager at one time or another. Google, in particular, has been on the firing line. This year, the Competition Commission issued the company a record $5 billion fine over forcing phone manufacturers to bundle Google apps and services, including the Google Play store, on all Android phones. Google is appealing the decision, but the EU's ruling could have a knock-on effect on what apps and services come preinstalled on Android phones in the future. The Android case was the second of three antitrust investigations the Commission launched into Google. The first, on the matter of how Google promotes its own shopping service above others in search, was decided in 2017. Google was hit with a $2.7 billion fine, but as recently as November its shopping rivals accused the company of failing to comply with the EU's ruling. The final investigation into Google AdSense is set to conclude next year. GDPR In May this year, the EU's sweeping new privacy law came into effect, after being overhauled so that it was fit for the internet world. The General Data Protection Regulation changed the rules for companies that collect, store or process large amounts of information on residents of the EU, requiring more openness about what data they have and who they share it with. For every company that handled European data, it meant making changes. Violations could result in penalties of up to 20 million euros, or 4 percent of a company's annual revenue. "GDPR has become a 'de-facto' international privacy standard," said Forrester senior analyst Enza Iannopollo over email. "It has also shaped the privacy regulation that has followed and will follow." The regulation came into effect long after people's data was harvested from Facebook's platform by third parties for political purposes. If GDPR had been effect at the time, the company could have been slapped with a giant fine. The company welcomed the introduction of the regulation, and even said it would go worldwide with the new protections it had put in place to comply with it, In spite of this, the UK Information Commissioner's Office (yes, those guys again) referred Facebook to Ireland's data protection authority in November over a potential violation. Catalyst for US regulation? Europe has long had a reputation for leading the way when it comes to regulating big tech, but now off the back of data scandals and the implementation of GDPR, it seems that the US could follow. And it's not just politicians calling for regulatory change -- the tech companies themselves are leading the charge. In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a passionate speech at the European Parliament saying he supports a comprehensive data privacy law in the US. He praised the effective data privacy regulation enforced in the EU. "It is up to us, including my home country, to follow your lead," he said. Later on the same day, his sentiments were echoed by Facebook's privacy chief, Erin Egan. "We support strong and effective privacy legislation in the United States and around the world," she said. "We recognize the value of regulation of privacy." Members of Congress have shown interest in moving toward a federal law governing consumer privacy. In testimony last month, representatives of AT&T, Amazon, Google, Twitter, Apple and Charter Communications told lawmakers how they collect data and how regulation, if it comes to that, should play out. Looking into 2019, proposals for US regulation could start to take shape, and it would come as no surprise if the rules were based, at least in part, on the European model. The California Privacy Act, passed in January 2018, was largely shaped by GDPR, according to Iannopollo, and she believes the same will be true of regulations in other US states too. L'annee du tech Francais Momentum has been building in the French tech scene for several years, but 2018 was the year it fully came of age. France is an important base for artificial intelligence and has a thriving startup scene. But it's the ability of the President Emmanuel Macron to draw together leaders from across the tech industry and put his country at the center of the debate that has really made waves. He's used his status to advocate heavily in favor of more regulation. In May, Macron hosted the closed-door Tech For Good summit at the Elysee Palace in Paris. With 50 tech bosses in attendance, including the heads of Facebook, Intel, IBM, Uber, Microsoft and Cisco, the guest list read like a who's who of the world's most powerful leaders in tech. "President Macron just got to the point -- he's very direct," said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, speaking at the VivaTech conference in Paris following the summit. "He wanted me to demonstrate that we're committed to France, that we're not just going to come here and pull from France, that we're going to invest in France." During a speech at the Internet Governance Forum in November, Macron issued a declaration dubbed the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace. Designed to make the internet secure and trustworthy, it calls upon policymakers and the tech industry to work together to secure the internet and counted Microsoft, Google and Facebook among early signatories. France has also shown it isn't going to be pushed around by the tech giants. Just this month, the country said it wouldn't wait for the EU to bring in Europe-wide tax rules aimed at the industry. It will begin taxing US tech companies at a national level starting in 2019. Source
  6. “People are dying from measles. This was unbelievable five or 10 years ago.” A raging measles outbreak in Europe may be a warning sign of what could occur in the U.S. if something doesn’t change soon, experts say. So far this year, there have been 41,000 cases in Europe and 40 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The European experience may offer a window on how quickly things can go awry when parents choose not to vaccinate their children, doctors caution. Because measles is relatively rare in the U.S., many Americans have no idea of the disease's frightening impact and its stunning contagiousness. Many forget that measles isn’t just a childhood disease. Silvia Rosetti, who lives in Rome, still has nightmares about contracting measles when she was 32 weeks pregnant in 2017. When Rosetti, now 41, was a child, measles vaccines were not required and she didn't think about the risk of exposure when she first became pregnant. She was healthy and ecstatic at the thought of having her first child. But then she caught measles and the symptoms came on in a rush: fever, cough and congestion so bad she could barely breathe. “The situation got worse and worse so they decided to do a C-section,” Rosetti said. “I went into quarantine for five days. I couldn’t see my baby.” Her newborn son, Nathan, was also quarantined until doctors determined he was not infected. Rosetti developed pneumonia as a complication of her measles and was so weak she couldn’t stand up. "And I had a rash even in my eyes, so I couldn't see anything," Rosetti told NBC News. Rosetti eventually recovered. Her baby, Nathan is now a year old and has gotten all his vaccinations. "If you do the vaccination, you love yourself, you love your sons, and you love everybody," she said. "You protect everybody. It's not just for myself or for my son." Rosetti is one of the more than 2,000 people in Italy who have been diagnosed with measles already this year. “We have a very serious situation,” said Dr. Alberto Villani, pediatric infectious disease doctor at Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital and the president of the Italian Pediatric Society. “People are dying from measles. This was unbelievable five or 10 years ago.” Even in England, which had been declared free of measles by the World Health Organization a year ago, cases are surging. The reason, experts say, is that in Europe, many parents have opted to skip vaccinating their children. “It’s the main factor leading to the outbreaks,” said Anca Paduraru of the European Commission in Brussels. “It’s unacceptable to have in the 21st century diseases that should have been and could have been eradicated.” At least 95 percent of the population must have received at least two doses of measles vaccine to prevent outbreaks, WHO said. Some parts of Europe are below 70 percent. The measles vaccine has been available in the U.S. since 1963, and is now commonly administered to children in tandem with the vaccines for mumps and rubella. The effectiveness of the vaccine led federal officials to declare measles eradicated in the U.S. back in 2000. Before the vaccine, there were 3 million to 4 million cases annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ut the success of vaccines has at least in part been their undoing. Many parents are unfamiliar with the havoc measles can wreak because there have been few cases in the U.S. since the vaccine became widely available, said Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner, a professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles. “People don’t see them and so they forget about them or they think the diseases don’t exist anymore,” Klausner said. “They don’t realize their child is at risk for measles meningitis, encephalitis and permanent brain damage.” As in Europe, the number of children in the U.S. going unvaccinated has been increasing in certain parts of the country, said Dr. Albert W. Wu, an internist and professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This is a real setup for disaster since measles is insanely contagious,” Wu said. “This is an accident waiting to happen.” Why, when vaccines have been so successful at wiping out scourges like smallpox and polio, have parents become so skeptical of them? “What has been happening in Europe is now happening in the U.S. — on a smaller scale at this point,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine and author of “Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad.” The problem is the plethora of misinformation online, Hotez said. “The anti-vaccine groups have made very strategic use of the internet and social media,” he added. “It’s estimated that there are more than 400 anti-vaccine websites now, and when you put ‘vaccine’ into a search engine, it’s almost inevitable you’re going to get an anti-vaccine website popping up.” And it’s not just the internet, Hotez said. “Now there are political action committees popping up in several states, including Texas,” he added. It’s not clear what exactly is driving the anti-vaccine movement, Hotez said. But “there’s an element of the anti-vaccine movement that is peddling alternative therapies and making money off of phony treatments,” he said. “And there’s an element that have tied themselves to different political groups. In Texas the major anti-vaccine lobby likes to use libertarian garbage terms like ‘medical freedom’ or ‘medical choice.’ ” The anti-vaxxers have had such a large impact that “now there is a terrific vulnerability in states like Texas and up in the Pacific Northwest,” Hotez said. “People forget that before kids were getting vaccinated we had between 400 and 700 deaths from measles annually in the U.S.” Right now, there is no public relations campaign to explain why vaccines are so important, Hotez said. “It’s left to a handful of academics who are willing, like me, to go out and tell their personal stories,” he said. “And we’re clearly outgunned.” Hotez said he wouldn’t be surprised to see a major measles outbreak in the U.S. this year. That might help people understand what’s at stake, Wu said, adding, “I’m afraid it will take a really big outbreak in the United States before we begin to see a reversal of this anti-vaccine sentiment.” Source
  7. Daylight saving time will end around Europe on Sunday, in what could be the last time the clocks go back an hour on the continent. For the past 16 years the summertime change has been regulated by the European Union (EU) directive 2000/84/EC, which states the switchover dates are the last weekend of March and the last weekend of October. But last August, the European Council recommended EU member states stop changing the clocks in spring and autumn and use summertime for the whole year. It came after 4.6 million people from EU countries replied to a public consultation on the summertime arrangement, with 84 per cent of those wanting the time change to be abolished. The clear majority of those people would prefer "permanent summertime", while 36 per cent were in favour of "permanent standard time". "I will recommend to the commission that, if you ask the citizens, then you have to do what the citizens say. "We will decide on this today, and then it will be the turn of the member states and the European Parliament." The measure still needs to be approved by the European Parliament, and member states would then have the choice to opt out of the time change. Currently there are three time zones in the EU: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is used by the UK, Ireland and Portugal; Central Europe Time (CET), which 17 EU member states use and is an hour ahead of GMT; and Eastern European time, which is used in eight states and is two hours ahead of GMT. Debate over daylight saving drawbacks and benefits There has been conjecture over the benefits and drawbacks of daylight saving time, with those in favour arguing that having synchronised clocks across the EU saves energy and allows the single market to function better. Critics say the time changes upset sleep patterns and can have negative health effects. Another issue that could arise is the possibility the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland would be in two different time zones after the UK exits the European Union in March next year. The Republic would have to chose between having a time-zone border with the north if it opts out of daylight saving time, or keeping it and being in a different time zone to fellow EU countries. The UK currently has British Summer Time (GMT+1) that has been in place since 1916, when it was introduced during World War I to conserve coal. In 2011 the British Government proposed a three-year trial of a move to CET — GMT+1 in winter and GMT+2 in summer — with the idea that lighter evenings would reduce traffic accidents. But the plan was discarded after it drew opposition from Scotland and the north of England, where it would have meant some areas would not have seen daylight until 10am during winter. Source
  8. steven36

    Huawei is now cloning Europe

    Why stop at just copying AirPods? Huawei’s new European-inspired headquarters in Dongguan, China. Huawei has been releasing products that look heavily inspired by those from Apple for years. Now, with its new Dongguan headquarters in China, the tech company is setting its sights on something even bigger to clone: all European architecture. CNBC got a look inside Huawei’s new corporate campus, which is composed of 12 “towns” named and modeled after European cities. Thus, there’s a Granada area that’s modeled after the design of the city in the south of Spain; a Paris town with Parisian architecture; Verona (for Italian design); Bruges (Belgium); and Cesky, presumably for Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic. There’s also a bridge spanning a lake that divides the campus in half that’s a replica of the Freedom Bridge in Budapest, Hungary, along with a tram station for ferrying employees around the campus (sort of like a miniature Eurail). The idea of copying famous architecture from around the world isn’t exactly new in China. There are also replicas of Paris, London, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, scattered across the country that date back to the 1990s, as this ABC News report shows. (The United States isn’t exactly immune to this, either. Look at Las Vegas, for example.) But Huawei’s headquarters feel extra odd since it’s the private campus for a major international company. The headquarters is meant to hold up to 25,000 employees when completed. (Currently, only eight of the 12 areas are finished.) That’s about half of the employees at Huawei’s Shenzhen headquarters, or about 1/29,680th of the roughly 742 million people who live in Europe. Source
  9. Aircraft manufacturer still investigating the breach. Did not reveal any other information. European aerospace corporation Airbus disclosed today a security breach that impacted its commercial aircraft manufacturing business. The company said the security breach "resulted in unauthorised access to data." According to a press release published earlier today, Airbus said that "some personal data was accessed," but "mostly professional contact and IT identification details of some Airbus employees in Europe." The aircraft manufacturer is currently investigating to understand if the intruders targeted and accessed employee and other specific data on purpose, or if this was an opportunistic attack. Airbus said its security team had taken the appropriate measures to strengthen its security defenses. Airbus experts are also looking into the cause and origin of the hack. The company said that despite the security breach, there was no impact on its commercial operations, with its manufacturing plants continuing to operate as normal. An Airbus spokesperson did not respond to a request for additional information from ZDNet before this article's publication. The company also said it notified the relevant authorities, according to existing GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rules, and also notified all employees who may have had their data exposed in the breach. Airbus stock was up following the announcement. Last year in March, Airbus rival Boeing was hit by a rogue strain of the WannaCry ransomware, but said the malware infection didn't impact its production capabilities. Source
  10. European regulators to Microsoft: We’re watching you The company has kept out of regulators’ crosshairs for some time now, but its seeming indifference to privacy matters could be changing that. Thinkstock Microsoft has built itself into the company with the world’s highest valuation, while managing to avoid (for the past several years, anyway) the attention of the U.S. Justice Department, federal regulators and Congress. Its peers, meanwhile, including Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple, have found themselves embroiled in time-consuming and energy-sapping investigations. But for Microsoft, those days of freedom may be coming to an end. Windows 10 and Office have fallen afoul of the European’s GDPR privacy regulations, and the consequences may be serious, and even spur investigations in the United States. The biggest danger to Microsoft is the way in which Windows gathers and uses data. Even before the GDPR regulations, which went into effect in late May 2018, some European countries had their doubts about Windows and privacy. In 2017, the Netherlands’ Data Protection Agency (DPA) concluded that the way in which Windows 10 gathers telemetry data from its users violated that country’s data protection laws. The agency didn’t fine Microsoft but did require that Microsoft change the way it gathers and uses the data. Those changes were incorporated into the Windows 10 April 2018 update. Among them were a tool Microsoft released, with great hoopla, called the Diagnostic Data Viewer. Microsoft said in a blog post that the tool is part of the company’s commitment to be “fully transparent on the diagnostic data collected from your Windows devices, how it is used, and to provide you with increased control over that data.” Transparent it isn’t. The tool is so complex and arcane that even many programmers can’t understand or use it. Rather than providing a simple way to let you know what information Windows gathers about you, it forces you to scroll or search through incomprehensible headings such as “TelClientSynthetic.PdcNetworkActivation_4” and “Microsoft.Windows.App.Browser.IEFrameProcessAttached” with no explanation of what they mean. Click a heading and you get a listing of spaghetti code you can’t possibly understand. Looking at it, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could talk about the Diagnostic Data Viewer and transparency in the same breath. The Dutch DPA has taken a long time examining that and other changes Microsoft made, to see whether Windows now complies with the agency’s regulations, as well as with the newer GDPR rules. The DPA concluded that the changes complied with what the DPA originally asked Microsoft to do. But its examination “also brought to light that Microsoft is remotely collecting other data from users. As a result, Microsoft is still potentially in breach of privacy rules,” according to the agency. So the DPA turned over the case to the Irish Data Protection Committee (DPC), because Microsoft’s European operations are headquartered in Ireland. That agency will determine whether Microsoft is violating the GDPR. The signs don’t look good for Microsoft. The DPA’s investigation noted, “We’ve found that Microsoft collect diagnostic and non-diagnostic data. We’d like to know if it is necessary to collect the non-diagnostic data and if users are well informed about this.” How well informed are Windows users about the non-diagnostic data? As far as I can see, not very. The Diagnostic Data Viewer certainly provides no help. And as TechCrunch points out, Windows is coercive about getting people to accept its privacy agreement during the operating system’s installation. TechCrunch notes that during installation, Windows asks several times if you want to allow the gathering and use of data about you, including for targeting ads. Cortana provides a running commentary. At one point, TechCrunch says, Cortana bluntly warns, “If you don’t agree, y’know, no Windows!” If the investigation finds Microsoft is violating the GDPR, the consequences could be serious — up to a $4 billion fine, according to Forbes, as well as the requirement that Microsoft change the way that Windows gathers and uses data. It’s not just Windows that European regulators are targeting for privacy issues. Various versions of Office are in their crosshairs as well. Dutch authorities found that “Microsoft systematically collects data on a large scale about the individual use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Covertly, without informing people. Microsoft does not offer any choice with regard to the amount of data, or possibility to switch off the collection, or ability to see what data are collected, because the data stream is encoded.” In addition, a German state has banned the use of Office 365 because of the way Office handles data. Even more problematic for Microsoft is what the U.S. might do based on GDPR findings. U.S. regulators and Congress aren’t immune to publicity generated overseas, especially in a political climate in which big tech has become Washington’s latest bogeyman. If Europe fines Microsoft for its privacy practices, U.S. investigations may follow. Already many states, including California and New York, are creating their own tech privacy rules, and Microsoft is one of the targets. What does all this mean? Although Microsoft has so far dodged a bullet when it comes to privacy issues, those days may be coming to an end. The last time the company faced down federal regulators, in the 1990s, it led to a long, slow decline in the company’s fortunes. If it happens again, it could end up being, in the words of Yogi Berra, “déjà vu all over again.” Source: European regulators to Microsoft: We’re watching you (Computerworld - Preston Gralla)
  11. Research by a privacy rights advocacy group has found popular mental health websites in the EU are sharing users’ sensitive personal data with advertisers. Europeans going online to seek support with mental health issues are having sensitive health data tracked and passed to third parties, according to Privacy International’s findings — including depression websites passing answers and results of mental health check tests direct to third parties for ad targeting purposes. The charity used the open source Webxray tool to analyze the data gathering habits of 136 popular mental health web pages in France, Germany and the UK, as well as looking at a small sub-set of online depression tests (the top three Google search results for the phrase per country). It has compiled its findings into a report called Your mental health for sale. “Our findings show that many mental health websites don’t take the privacy of their visitors as seriously as they should,” Privacy International writes. “This research also shows that some mental health websites treat the personal data of their visitors as a commodity, while failing to meet their obligations under European data protection and privacy laws.” Under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), there are strict rules governing the processing of health data — which is classified as special category personal data. If consent is being used as the legal basis to gather this type of data the standard that must be obtained from the user is “explicit” consent. In practice that might mean a pop-up before you take a depression test which asks whether you’d like to share your mental health with a laundry list of advertisers so they can use it to sell you stuff when you’re feeling low — also offering a clear ‘hell no’ penalty-free choice not to consent (but still get to take the test). Safe to say, such unvarnished consent screens are as rare as hen’s teeth on the modern Internet. But, in Europe, beefed up privacy laws are now being used to challenge the ‘data industrial complex’s systemic abuses and help individuals enforce their rights against a behavior-tracking adtech industry that regulators have warned is out of control. Among Privacy International’s key findings are that — 76.04% of the mental health web pages contained third-party trackers for marketing purposes Google trackers are almost impossible to avoid, with 87.8% of the web pages in France having a Google tracker, 84.09% in Germany and 92.16% in the UK Facebook is the second most common third-party tracker after Google, with 48.78% of all French web pages analysed sharing data with Facebook; 22.73% for Germany; and 49.02 % for the UK. Amazon Marketing Services were also used by many of the mental health web pages analysed (24.39% of analyzed web pages in France; 13.64 % in Germany; and 11.76% in the UK) Depression-related web pages used a large number of third-party tracking cookies which were placed before users were able to express (or deny) consent. On average, PI found the mental health web pages placed 44.49 cookies in France; 7.82 for Germany; and 12.24 for the UK. European law around consent as a legal basis for processing (general) personal data — including for dropping tracking cookies — requires it to be informed, specific and freely given. This means websites that wish to gather user data must clearly state what data they intend to collect for what purpose, and do so before doing it, providing visitors with a free choice to accept or decline the tracking. Dropping tracking cookies without even asking clearly falls foul of that legal standard. And very far foul when you consider the personal data being handled by these mental health websites is highly sensitive special category health data. “It is exceedingly difficult for people to seek mental health information and for example take a depression test without countless of third parties watching,” said Privacy International technologist Eliot Bendinelli in a statement. “All website providers have a responsibility to protect the privacy of their users and comply with existing laws, but this is particularly the case for websites that share unusually granular or sensitive data with third parties. Such is the case for mental health websites.” Additionally, the group’s analysis found some of the trackers embedded on mental health websites are used to enable a programmatic advertising practice known as Real Time Bidding (RTB). This is important because RTB is subject to multiple complaints under GDPR. These complaints argue that the systematic, high velocity trading of personal data is, by nature, inherently insecure — with no way for people’s information to be secured after it’s shared with hundreds or even thousands of entities involved in the programmatic chain, because there’s no way to control it once it’s been passed. And, therefore, that RTB fails to comply with the GDPR’s requirement that personal data be processed securely. Complaints are being considered by regulators across multiple Member States. But this summer the UK’s data watchdog, the ICO, essentially signalled it is in agreement with the crux of the argument — putting the adtech industry on watch in an update report in which it warns that behavioral advertising is out of control and instructs the industry it must reform. However the regulator also said it would give players “an appropriate period of time to adjust their practices”, rather than wade in with a decision and banhammers to enforce the law now. The ICO’s decision to opt for an implied threat of future enforcement to push for reform of non-compliant adtech practices, rather than taking immediate action to end privacy breaches, drew criticism from privacy campaigners. And it does look problematic now, given Privacy International’s findings suggest sensitive mental health data is being sucked up into bid requests and put about at insecure scale — where it could pose a serious risk to individuals’ rights and freedoms. Privacy International says it found “numerous” mental health websites including trackers from known data brokers and AdTech companies — some of which engage in programmatic advertising. It also found some depression test websites (namely: netdoktor.de, passeportsante.net and doctissimo.fr, out of those it looked at) are using programmatic advertising with RTB. “The findings of this study are part of a broader, much more systemic problem: The ways in which companies exploit people’s data to target ads with ever more precision is fundamentally broken,” adds Bendinelli. “We’re hopeful that the UK regulator is currently probing the AdTech industry and the many ways it uses special category data in ways that are neither transparent nor fair and often lack a clear legal basis.” We’ve reached out to the ICO with questions. We also asked the Internet Advertising Bureau Europe what steps it is taking to encourage reform of RTB to bring the system into compliance with EU privacy law. At the time of writing the industry association had not responded. The IAB recently released a new version of what it refers to as a “transparency and consent management framework” intended for websites to embed to collect consent from visitors to processing their data including for ad targeting purposes — legally, the IAB contends. However critics argue this is just another dose of business as usual ‘compliance theatre’ from the adtech industry — with users offered only phoney choices as there’s no real control over how their personal data gets used or where it ends up. Earlier this year Google’s lead privacy regulator in Europe, the Irish DPC, opened a formal investigation into the company’s processing of personal data in the context of its online Ad Exchange — also as a result of a RTB complaint filed in Ireland. The DPC said it will look at each stage of an ad transaction to establish whether the ad exchange is processing personal data in compliance with GDPR — including looking at the lawful basis for processing; the principles of transparency and data minimisation; and its data retention practices. The outcome of that investigation remains to be seen. (Fresh fuel has just today been poured on with the complainant submitting new evidence of their personal data being shared in a way they allege infringes the GDPR.) Increased regulatory attention on adtech practices is certainly highlighting plenty of legally questionable and ethically dubious stuff — like embedded tracking infrastructure that’s taking liberal notes on people’s mental health condition for ad targeting purposes. And it’s clear that EU regulators have a lot more work to do to deliver on the promise of GDPR. Source
  12. There’s a Lost Continent 1,000 Miles Under Europe Scientists tracked down the last remnants of Greater Adria, an ancient Greenland-sized landmass. Remnants of Greater Adria in the Taurus Mountains. Image: Utrecht University Scientists have reconstructed the tumultuous history of a lost continent hidden underneath Southern Europe, which has been formally named “Greater Adria” in a new study. This ancient landmass broke free from the supercontinent Gondwana more than 200 million years ago and roamed for another 100 million years before it gradually plunged underneath the Northern Mediterranean basin. Researchers led by Douwe van Hinsbergen, a professor of global tectonics and paleogeography at Utrecht University, have been piecing together Greater Adria’s past for a decade. The team collected rock samples from Spain to Iran, looking for the last material remnants of the continent that are accessible to scientists. The results were published this month in the journal Gondwana Research, and include an animated summary of the lost continent’s birth, life, and death. Unless you live in an earthquake zone, it can be easy to forget that Earth is constantly cannibalizing its own landmasses. The map of our world morphs over the eons, as continental plates shift around, bump into each other, and undergo subduction, which occurs when one plate slides underneath another. Greater Adria was about the size of Greenland when it slammed into Europe during the mid-Cretaceous period. At that time, most of the continent was covered by a shallow sea that supported a thriving ecosystem built around tropical reefs. As the Adriatic plate was forced down into Earth’s mantle, the realm beneath the planet’s crust, this top layer of sediment and lifeforms was sheared right off. The messy shavings helped form the backbone of mountains such as the Alps, the Apennines, and the Taurus range. “Much of the southern European mountain ranges are derived from Greater Adria,” van Hinsbergen said in an email. He noted that the Western and Northern Alps, and the Carpathians, are exceptions. By collecting and analyzing rocks from these alpine locations, the team was able to identify the last surface vestiges of Greater Adria, which extend from Turin to Salento in Italy. The remains of the subducted part of the continent, which was about 60 miles thick, are also still detectable with seismometers. This underworld portion of the continent currently lies about 1,000 miles below Southern Europe. The team was able to recreate the geological changes that Greater Adria underwent by analyzing their field data with software called GPlates. The process was like virtually peeling off the modern area layer by layer, showing its evolution since the Triassic period, van Hinsbergen explained. “Now that we have put the jigsaw of the Mediterranean back together, we can restore other geological features, like volcanoes and ore deposits, back into their configuration in which they formed,” he told VICE. “From that, we can learn about the fundamental drivers of such features, and also aid new ore exploration strategies, correlating across political boundaries and modern seas.” Source: There’s a Lost Continent 1,000 Miles Under Europe
  13. Climate Change Is Shifting Europe's Flood Patterns, and These Regions Are Feeling the Consequences A new study maps out which regions have seen increases in the magnitude of destructive river flooding, and why. British soldiers and mountain rescue teams evacuated people in York, UK, as the River Ouse flooded in 2015. Credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images Global warming is driving big changes in floods across Europe by fueling the atmosphere with more moisture and changing the path and speed of rain storms, new research shows. In some areas, that means more rainfall and surging rivers that could overwhelm levees if communities don't plan for increasing flooding. Other regions have seen a decline in rain and snow, which sets up a different challenge: as flood risk there decreases, it could discourage investments in defensive measures, leaving communities vulnerable to less frequent but still damaging extreme storms. The study shows "clear flood risk patterns across Europe that match the projected impacts of climate change," said Günther Blöschl, lead author of the study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and director of the Centre for Water Resource Systems at the Vienna University of Technology. To assess the continent's changing flood risks, a team of scientists from across Europe tracked the highest annual river flows at more than 3,700 stations over 50 years, from 1960 to 2010. In some of the local hotspots in northwestern Europe, they found the flows had increased by nearly 18 percent every decade. In other parts of Europe, flows had declined up to 23 percent per decade. "For each year, we picked the maximum discharge and looked at how these annual peaks change over time," Blöschl said. He said the study is the first to clearly show regional patterns of flood magnitude across Europe driven by global warming. How Is Global Warming Involved? To understand how global warming affects floods differently in different areas, it's necessary to think about climate on a continental scale. For Europe, the areas seeing the biggest increases in the magnitude of flooding are in the north and northwest. Scotland, coastal France and parts of Norway are hotspots, Blöschl said. Floods are increasing in northwestern Europe because global warming is increasing moisture in the atmosphere, making storms wetter, and shifting the track of incoming storms northward, bringing more rainfall to the region. The storms are also moving slower, so they drop more rain over river catchments, he said. From Iceland to the Alps, the study found that river flooding had increased regionally by 11.4 percent per decade, with increases of up to 17.8 percent in some areas. The northward shift of the storm tracks also reflects an expansion of semi-arid subtropical zones in the south, the study found. As a result, precipitation has declined in southern and eastern Europe, and warming temperatures have also increased the evaporation of water from the soil there. But while flooding overall is down in those regions, they are still at risk from flash floods in smaller river basins as extreme rainfall events increase. "We know the mechanism. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture. Rainfall is increasing, so there's more water for the floods," Blöschl said. "Also, the soils are wetter so they can't take up water, but this is not the most relevant factor," he said. "More relevant is that the storm tracks are farther north than they were in the past, which means the Mediterranean gets less, the northwestern regions get more rain." Regional Details Can Help Communities Prepare Globally, river flooding averages about $100 billion in damages a year, and understanding how global warming affects the threat is critical for at-risk communities. Earlier research had tracked seasonal changes in Europe's flood risk, finding that spring flooding was starting earlier, but there had been little agreement as to how global warming affected the magnitude of floods on a regional scale. Blöschl said that's because most studies looked at data from just a few hundred sites, not enough to show clear regional trends. The new study looked at about 3,700 flood-measuring stations. Flooding from heavy rain in 2018 caused a bridge in Villegailhenc, France, to collapse into the Trapel River. Credit: Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty Images There's plenty of scientific evidence showing more frequent flooding, but less research has been done on flood magnitude, particularly at the regional level, so the new research will help identify growing flood risks driven by global warming, said Kristy Dahl, a climate researcher with the Union of Concerned Scientists USA. One earlier study had looked at the frequency and magnitude of the largest flood events on a broader scale and found they had increased by about 9 percent in Europe overall and about 8 percent in the United States starting in 1980. Local officials could use local and regional data, like that in the new study, to make better decisions for their communities, said Sven Willner, who studies floods at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. "This new study makes the point that flood risks are already changing and have already changed, due to climate change," Willner said. "Municipalities have to find their own way to become more resilient to the increased risks they face." Regional cooperation is also important, in part because flood control measures in one area can create new flood risks downstream. Frequency of Severe Flooding Is Also Changing The study's results show how both the extent and timing of severe floods in Europe is changing. "While past studies have focused on a few catchments or were clustered around western Europe, this study provides a continental perspective, which allows for an analysis of climate processes that manifest themselves at larger scales. Isolated local or national scale studies, however, are broadly, consistent with our findings," the authors wrote. The data show that, in northwestern Europe, 100-year floods—those with about a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year and often used as a benchmark in flood risk management—are now occurring more frequently, putting them closer to 50- to 80-year floods. But in much of eastern Europe, 100-year floods are happening less frequently, the study found. The study doesn't make specific projections for the future, but "it implies that what we have seen in the past may continue into the future, and what we've seen is well accounted for in climate models," Blöschl said. He hopes the findings will encourage better flood preparation and planning. "There is a saying: 'After a flood is before a flood,'" he said. "It's wise to build levees before a flood, but it never happens. Public spending only starts if there is visible damage." Source: Climate Change Is Shifting Europe's Flood Patterns, and These Regions Are Feeling the Consequences
  14. From 2021 onward, manufacturers across the pond will have to make household appliances longer-lasting and easier to repair thanks to new standards in the European Union. If only the same could be said here in the United States. As part of the new standards, appliance makers will have to make spare parts available to independent repair shops for up to a decade, according to the BBC. The parts must also be accessible with common tools—no proprietary parts that require specific equipment to fix. The new rules apply to a variety of products, including refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, and televisions. (If you’re wondering about Brexit, the BBC reports British firms who want to sell their products in the EU must also comply as of April 2021.) The move is a big win for consumers. Household appliances are expensive to begin with and manufacturer monopolies can drive up repair costs to the point where it’s easier to just shell out for a replacement. That has far-reaching impacts. Not only does it encourage companies to engage in “planned obsolescence,” it generates a ton of e-waste that’s crap for the environment. According to the European Commission, combined with new ecodesign and energy label rules, the measures are expected to save 167 TWh of energy—the equivalent of Denmark’s annual energy consumption—and 46 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2030. But even though it’s a step in the right direction, the new standards fall short of the right-to-repair ideal. Consumers will still have to pay professionals for repairs, which is admittedly fine for most, but individuals should have the option of attempting repairs themselves. Here in the United States, there is no federal right-to-repair law. As of March, 20 states had considered right-to-repair bills on the state level. While that’s encouraging, it doesn’t guarantee that right-to-repair is on its way. Washington state’s bill has gone nowhere, with Microsoft named as a driving force behind stopping the attempt. Apple has also thrown its weight behind fighting the right-to-repair movement, citing dubious safety concerns as a major reason to promote its own authorized third-party repair network. Earlier this year, Motherboard reported an Apple lobbyist was involved in pushing California to delay its right-to-repair bill, telling lawmakers consumers could hurt themselves while conducting their own repairs. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have voiced support for a national right-to-repair law, with both politicians framing the issue as a protection for farmers. (Tractor maker John Deere is notorious for forcing farmers to use authorized repair centers that can’t meet demand.) If you asked the average American, it’s hard to believe that most wouldn’t support the idea of longer lasting, easier-to-fix appliances, gadgets, and gizmos. It sure would be nice to have something akin to the standards the EU just passed, but that would also require consumers to hold both manufacturers and their legislators accountable. Source
  15. Europe’s top court has ruled that pre-checked consent boxes for dropping cookies are not legally valid. Consent must be obtained prior to storing or accessing non-essential cookies, such as tracking cookies for targeted advertising. Consent cannot be implied or assumed. It’s a decision that — at stroke — plunges websites into legal hot water in Europe if their cookie notices don’t ask for consent first. As many don’t, preferring not to risk their ability to track users for ad targeting. Now they could be risking a big fine under EU privacy laws if they don’t obtain valid consent for tracking. Full text of the CJEU cookie ruling improves understanding of #GDPR consent. Preselected fields make it impossible to detect if user consented. #ePrivacy https://t.co/rzuVEzGtRi — Lukasz Olejnik (@lukOlejnik) October 1, 2019 Sites that have relied upon opting EU users into ad-tracking cookies in the hopes they’ll just click okay to make the cookie banner go away are in for a rude awakening. Or, to put it another way, the ruling should put a stop to some, er, ‘creative’ interpretations of the rules around cookies that manage to completely miss the point of the law… ehem at here refreshing Curia press release page & noticed their own non-compliant #cookie notice – spot the irony on their cookie information page – looks like the Court are about to render their own site illegal wrt to pre-ticked boxes… a little embarrassing… #privacy #planet49 pic.twitter.com/ewdEqQqrvb — Alexander Hanff (@alexanderhanff) October 1, 2019 The decision is also likely to influence the ongoing reform of ePrivacy rules — which govern online tracking. While the outcome of that very heavily lobbied piece of legislation remains to be seen today’s ruling is clearly a win for privacy. Planet49 case The backstory to today’s ruling is that a German court asked the CJEU for a decision in a case relating to a lottery website, Planet49, which had required users to consent to the storage of cookies in order to play a promotional game. In an earlier opinion an influential advisor to the court also took the view that affirmative action not simple inaction must be necessary to constitute consent. Today the CJEU agreed, handing down a final judgement which makes it plain that consent can’t be assumed — it requires an active opt-in from users. In a punchily brief press release the court writes: In today’s judgment, the Court decides that the consent which a website user must give to the storage of and access to cookies on his or her equipment is not validly constituted by way of a prechecked checkbox which that user must deselect to refuse his or her consent. That decision is unaffected by whether or not the information stored or accessed on the user’s equipment is personal data. EU law aims to protect the user from any interference with his or her private life, in particular, from the risk that hidden identifiers and other similar devices enter those users’ terminal equipment without their knowledge. The Court notes that consent must be specific so that the fact that a user selects the button to participate in a promotional lottery is not sufficient for it to be concluded that the user validly gave his or her consent to the storage of cookies. Furthermore, according to the Court, the information that the service provider must give to a user includes the duration of the operation of cookies and whether or not third parties may have access to those cookies. So, to sum up, pre-checked consent boxes (or cookie banners that tell you a cookie has already been dropped and pointlessly invite you to click ‘ok’) aren’t valid under EU law. Furthermore cookie consent can’t be bundled with another purpose (in the Planet49 case the promotional lottery) — at least if that fuzzy signal is being used to stand for consent. There’s also an interesting new requirement which looks set to shrink the ability of service operators to obfuscate how persistently they’re tracking Internet users. For consent to cookies to be legally valid the court now says the user must be provided with some specific information on the tracking, namely: How long the cookie will operate, and who their data will be shared with. So, er, awkward… The most interesting thing is how the Court justifies that info on cookie duration/those who can access should be provided. ePrivacy refers to data protection law on the information provided, but as ePrivacy is not always about personal data, the info reqs in DP don't always fit — Michael Veale (@mikarv) October 1, 2019 What's more interesting: sites must inform about the duration of cookie validity. This is interesting insight, and was not generally followed. Should be identical to 'Expires' or 'Max-Age' setting when cookies are set. Does it also apply to SameSite configuration? #GDPR #ePrivacy pic.twitter.com/f55AtbqArb — Lukasz Olejnik (@lukOlejnik) October 1, 2019 “Extending information requirement to include cookie configuration details is an interesting twist that will provide more information to users,” Dr. Lukasz Olejnik, an independent cybersecurity advisor and research associate at the Center for Technology and Global Affairs at Oxford University, told us. “Sites will need to be wary to be sure that the user-facing text matches the actually used values of max-age or expires attributes. It is also interesting to wonder if sites will want to provide similar information about other cookie attributes.” Safe to say, there will be some long faces in the ad industry today. “The Court has made clear that consent should always be manifested in an active manner, and may not be presumed. Therefore, online operators should ensure that they do not collect consent by asking users to unclick a pre-formulated declaration of consent,” said Luca Tosoni, a research fellow in computers and law at the University of Oslo, also commenting on the court ruling. ePrivacy reform As we’ve reported before very many sites and services in Europe have, at best, been playing lip-service to EU cookie consent requirements — despite the advent of tighter rules coming into force last year under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which says that consent must be specific, informed and freely given to be a valid legal basis. And despite — more recently — further guidance from DPAs clarifying the rules around cookie consent. So the CJEU ruling should lift a fair few heads out of the sand. “Before the entry into force of the GDPR, the conditions for consent were interpreted differently across Europe. Today’s judgment is important as it brings some clarity on what should be considered valid consent under EU data protection law,” Tosoni also told us, saying he expects the ruling to result in changes to many cookie notifications. “National courts and data protection authorities across the EU will need to follow the Court’s interpretation when assessing whether controllers have validly obtained consent. In turn, this should lead to more harmonization in enforcement across Europe, in particular with regard to cookie notices. Thus, I would expect many operators to change their non-compliant consents to conform with the ruling.” EU law on cookie consent dates back much earlier than the GDPR — to the prior Data Protection Directive and the still in force ePrivacy Directive — Article 5(3) of which specifies that for cookies to be used users must give opt-in consent after being provided with clear and comprehensive information (with only a limited exception for ‘strictly necessary’ cookies). Although European legislators have been trying for years to agree on an update to the ePrivacy Directive. A draft proposal for an ePrivacy Regulation was introduced by the Commission at the start of 2017. But negotiations have been anything but smooth — with a blitz of lobbying from the adtech and telecoms industries pushing against a firm requirement for opt-in consent to tracking. The CJEU’s clarity that consent is required to store and access cookies pushes in the opposite direction. And that firm legal line protecting individual privacy from background tracking technologies should be harder for legislators to ignore. “Today’s ruling is likely to have a significant impact on the ongoing negotiations on the ePrivacy Regulation which is set to regulate cookie usage, an issue on which European legislators are struggling to find an agreement,” Tosoni said, adding: “In the past, the Court’s rulings have had an important impact on the development of the GDPR.” In the meanwhile, the judgement should at least force some of the more cynical and/or stupid cookie banners to be quietly replaced with something that at least asks for consent. Cookie walls That said, the ruling does not resolve all the problems around cookie consent. Specifically the court has not waded into the contentious forced consent/cookie wall issue. This is where a site requires consent to advertising cookies as the ‘price’ for accessing the sought for service, with the only other option being to leave. Earlier this year the Dutch DPA deemed cookie walls to be illegal. But the agency’s interpretation is open to legal challenge. Only the CJEU can have the final word. In the Planet49 case the court sidestepped the issue — saying the referring court did not ask it to rule on the question of “whether it is compatible with the requirement that consent be ‘freely given’, within the meaning of Article 2(h) of Directive 95/46 and of Article 4(11) and Article 7(4) of Regulation 2016/679, for a user’s consent to the processing of his personal data for advertising purposes to be a prerequisite to that user’s participation in a promotional lottery, as appears to be the case in the main proceedings”. “In those circumstances, it is not appropriate for the Court to consider that question,” it wrote. Likely it’s doing so because another case is already set to consider that question. Tosoni says he expects the Orange Romania case — which is pending before the court — to further clarify the requirements of valid consent in the context of it being ‘freely given’. “Some uncertainty on the requirements of valid consent remains. Indeed, in today’s judgment, the Court has primarily clarified what constitutes unambiguous and specific consent, but the Court has, for example, not clarified what degree of autonomy a data subject should enjoy when choosing whether or not to give consent for the latter to be considered “freely given”,” he said. “Today’s judgment does not provide an answer on the legality of cookie walls, which require consent to access the underlying service. The Court found that it was unable to address this point, as the referring German court had not asked the ECJ to assess the legality of making participation in a lottery — the service at issue in the case — subject to giving advertising cookie consent. Further clarity on this issue may come from the Orange Romania case, which is currently pending before the ECJ.” We’ve reached out to the IAB Europe for a response to the ruling and to ask what advice it will be issuing to its members. At the time of writing it had not yet responded to these questions. Today's decision of the EU Court of Justice in the case #Planet49 is a message to the #adtech industry: your business model based on unlawful profiling, forced tracking and unconsented targeted ads is not valid under EU law #ePrivacy https://t.co/BDgRpB0hK2 — Access Now (@accessnow) October 1, 2019 Source
  16. Netflix will reduce its European network traffic by 25 percent to manage surge Netflix has taken some initiatives already Netflix will take new actions to reduce bit rates of streams in Europe following a conversation between the European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton and CEO Reed Hastings, the company announced on Thursday. “Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” a spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.” The reduction comes on top of other methods Netflix has implemented since 2011 to keep streaming steady in low bandwidth areas. Netflix already uses an adaptive streaming tool that automatically adjusts the quality of streaming video based on accessible bandwidth, the company confirmed to The Verge. Netflix began the pilot of its “open connect” program when the company started streaming video between 2010 and 2011. Netflix, which partners with internet service providers around the world on network management, will determine what quality of stream is best for the viewer in an effort to ensure buffering doesn’t occur. If bandwidth is low, videos will automatically stream at a lower resolution. But if everyone is running at higher speeds and trying to share those pipes, don’t expect HD or 4K streaming. “Important phone conversation with Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, today,” Breton tweeted on Wednesday. “To beat COVID-19, we stay at home. Teleworking and streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain. To secure internet access for all, let’s switch to standard definition when HD is not necessary.” Netflix’s bit rate reduction comes at a time when Nielsen is estimating that people staying home “can lead to almost a 60 percent increase in the amount of content we watch in some cases and potentially more depending on the reasons” due to the novel coronavirus. Streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Hulu — alongside other forms of streaming entertainment — will grow the longer people are stuck at home. Nielsen has already seen increases in TV and internet consumption in areas heavily impacted by the novel coronavirus, including South Korea and Italy. In South Korea, between the second week of February and the fourth week, “there was a surge in the virus, the analysis noted a 17 percent increase in TV viewing — an increase of approximately 1.2 million viewers.” Italy saw similar gains. Video games and Twitch-style gaming streams are also testing the limits of the network. StreamElements, a research firm that conducts regular surveys of the industry with partner Arsenal.gg, discovered that Twitch saw a 10 percent increase in viewership over the last week. Live-stream viewership in Italy also grew more than 66 percent since the first week of February, according to StreamElements — just when the quarantine began. “In addition to individual channels growing in size, we have ... seen the amount of channels being watched almost double,” CEO Doron Nir told The Verge. Widespread containment efforts have also resulted in many more people relying on the internet for previously offline activities, like working or conducting classes. Many people are using video conferencing tools like Zoom, which puts an additional weight on broadband. Washington state’s Northshore School District superintendent Michelle Reid wrote to parents about the move to online schooling and noted that if students don’t have a stable or usable internet connection, they’ll be provided with a mobile hotspot in order to continue their education. Other school districts aren’t as well prepared, but are trying to conduct online classes in similar ways. Netflix declined to comment to The Verge about how much of an increase in consumption the company is seeing around the world, but it seems likely that the service has also seen an uptick in users. And as more people around the world are forced to self-isolate or work from home, the amount of people opening streaming apps will grow — and the network is likely to continue to strain under the pressure. Source: Netflix will reduce its European network traffic by 25 percent to manage surge (The Verge)
  17. Europe moves closer to making VTOL air taxis a reality The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA), the regulatory body that provides the rules of the skies needed for commercial airlines and other air travel providers to operate, has released new certification guidelines that set the stage for commercial operation of both hybrid and electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft. This is a key step towards actually making it possible to operate an air mobility service from a technical perspective, but also from a regulatory one (at least in Europe) as well. The EASA’s new special conditions add two new certification categories, including one ‘basic’ and one ‘enhanced,’ both applying to ‘small-category’ craft which are classified as aircraft that carry nine or fewer people and weight 7,000 lbs or less when fully loaded. Basic certification requires only that the aircraft in question are able to perform a controlled emergency landing, as defined by the safety rules set out by the EASA in terms of protection of passengers and others; enhanced certification means that the aircraft is able to also fly and land safely on a continuous basis, and for any aircraft intending to operate commercially, both certifications are required. This isn’t yet the full regulatory framework necessary for true, full-scale commercial operation – it’s a step before that, and the EASA says that “the experience gained through the application of the VTOL special condition will feed into the Rulemaking process,” so basically as they see how companies work with these conditions they’ll adapt what becomes the final governing rules. But it’s still a step on the path towards on-demand aerial taxi service, which is good news for anyone working on making air mobility a reality. Source: Europe moves closer to making VTOL air taxis a reality
  18. FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Ford (F.N) said it will cut 12,000 jobs in Europe by 2020 to return its business back to profit. FILE PHOTO: A view of the Ford engine plant at Bridgend, Wales, Britain Ford said it has ceased production at three plants in Russia, is closing plants in France and Wales, and has cut shifts at factories in Valencia, Spain and Saarlouis, Germany. Approximately 12,000 jobs will be impacted at Ford’s wholly owned facilities and consolidated joint ventures in Europe by the end of 2020, primarily through voluntary separation programs. The challenge of investing in electric, hybrid and autonomous vehicles while having to overhaul combustion engines to meet new clean-air rules, has forced Europe’s carmakers to slash fixed costs and streamline their model portfolios. Source
  19. Europe says SpaceX “dominating” launch, vows to develop Falcon 9-like rocket "What is state-of-the-art in the USA is only in its beginnings in Europe." This month, the European Commission revealed a new three-year project to develop technologies needed for two proposed reusable launch vehicles. The commission provided €3 million to the German space agency, DLR, and five companies to, in the words of a news release about the project, "tackle the shortcoming of know-how in reusable rockets in Europe." This new RETALT project's goals are pretty explicit about copying the retro-propulsive engine firing technique used by SpaceX to land its Falcon 9 rocket first stages back on land and on autonomous drone ships. The Falcon 9 rocket's ability to land and fly again is "currently dominating the global market," the European project states. "We are convinced that it is absolutely necessary to investigate Retro Propulsion Assisted Landing Technologies to make re-usability state-of-the-art in Europe." SpaceX began testing supersonic retro-propulsion as far back as September 2013, when the company first flew its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, v1.1. This involves relighting the rocket's Merlin engines as the Falcon thunders toward Earth through the atmosphere at supersonic speeds. Relighting a rocket's engines and controlling its descent with aerodynamic surfaces was a huge engineering challenge that the company has now mostly mastered. Initially, SpaceX's competitors looked askance at the concept of vertically landing rockets, but as the company has racked up dozens of successes—and began to fly the same first stage boosters two and even three times—those attitudes have begun to change. US-based United Launch Alliance has begun exploring how to reuse its rocket engines, China has dozens of new space companies exploring these kinds of reuse technologies, and now Europe also appears to have shifted its stance as well. While European space firms have acknowledged SpaceX's success, previously they have indicated that reuse is not a viable option for a continent that only launches five to 10 rockets a year. It would not be sustainable for a European factory to build just one rocket a year, officials have said. Instead, the European strategy has been to try to reduce the costs of its flagship Ariane and Vega launchers. But the attitude of the new RETALT project appears to have indicated European acceptance of the inevitability of reusable launch vehicles. Engineers will work toward two different concepts. The first will be a Falcon-9-like rocket that will make use of seven modified Vulcain 2 rocket engines and have the capacity to lift up to 30 tons to low-Earth orbit. The second will be a more revolutionary single-stage-to-orbit vehicle that looks like the Roton rocket developed by Rotary Rocket about two decades ago. "What is state-of-the-art in the USA is only in its beginnings in Europe," the press release acknowledges. "The consortium is determined to accept the challenge and to become important players in this game-changing technology." Listing image by RETALT Source: Europe says SpaceX “dominating” launch, vows to develop Falcon 9-like rocket (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  20. Europe is now formally investigating Amazon’s use of merchant data European regulators have announced a formal antitrust investigation of Amazon’s use of data from third parties selling on its ecommerce platform. Commenting in a statement, competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager said: “European consumers are increasingly shopping online. Ecommerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behaviour. I have therefore decided to take a very close look at Amazon’s business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules.” The move is not a surprise as Amazon was already on the radar of Vestager’s department. Last fall it emerged the regulator was making preliminary enquiries about Amazon’s use of third party sellers’ data — to try to determine whether or not merchants selling on its platform are being placed at a competitive disadvantage vs the products Amazon also sells as a consequence of its access to their data. Dual sided platforms — that both host sellers on a marketplace and sell stuff themselves — raise competition-related questions about what is done with third parties’ data, she said then. Based on its preliminary fact-finding the Commission said today that Amazon “appears to use competitively sensitive information — about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace”. Although it’s worth emphasizing that this is a preliminary finding and does not prejudice the outcome of the formal probe. The Commission said its in-depth investigation of Amazon’s practices will focus on: the standard agreements between Amazon and marketplace sellers which allow its retail business to analyse and use third party seller data — saying that, in particular, it will focus on “whether and how the use of accumulated marketplace seller data by Amazon as a retailer affects competition” the role of data in the selection of the winners of the ‘Buy Box’ and “the impact of Amazon’s potential use of competitively sensitive marketplace seller information on that selection”. The Commission notes that the ‘Buy Box’ is “displayed prominently” on Amazon and “seems key for marketplace sellers as a vast majority of transactions are done through it” The Buy Box — an example of which can be seen in the below screengrab — refers to a coveted section of the Amazon website where consumers who are viewing a product can click to add it to their shopping cart. Seller/s who win placement in the box likely gain an advantage over competing sellers of the product. Responding to the Commission’s announcement of a formal probe, an Amazon spokesperson sent us this statement: “We will cooperate fully with the European Commission and continue working hard to support businesses of all sizes and help them grow.” Yesterday the ecommerce behemoth was among a number of tech giants being questioned by US lawmakers about antitrust concerns. On both sides of the Atlantic regulators are fast dialling up their scrutiny of the tech sector. Although Europe has led the charge — with Vestager spearheading a number of investigations into tech giants during her tenure as competition chief, including probes of Google and Apple, as well as Amazon. Earlier this year EU institutions also reached agreement over new regulations designed to boost transparency around online platform businesses and curb unfair practices to support traders and other businesses that rely on digital intermediaries for discovery and sales. The new fairness and transparency rules online platforms are likely to come into force in the EU next year. Image Credits: Stefano Guidi / Getty Images Source: Europe is now formally investigating Amazon’s use of merchant data
  21. Renewable energy production beat fossil fuels in Europe It’s now Europe’s main source of electricity Wind turbines pictured during evening light on November 23rd, 2020, in Oschersleben, Germany. Photo by Florian Gaertner / Photothek via Getty Images Renewable energy became the biggest source of electricity in the European Union in 2020, beating fossil fuels for the first time. Germany and Spain also hit that milestone individually last year — so did the UK, which officially left the EU in January 2020. Renewables powered 38 percent of electricity in the EU last year, according to a report released today by energy think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende. That gives renewable energy a narrow lead over fossil fuel-fired generation, which accounted for 37 percent of Europe’s electricity. The remaining quarter comes from nuclear energy. The rise of renewables is good news for the health of the planet. Still, renewable energy will need to grow at an even faster rate to stave off a future with more climate change-induced disasters. “Renewables overtaking fossils is an important milestone in Europe’s clean energy transition. However, let’s not be complacent,” Patrick Graichen, director of Agora Energiewende, said in a statement. “Post-pandemic recovery [programs] need to go hand-in-hand with accelerated climate action.” The European Union recently set a goal of roughly halving its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels) and virtually eliminating them altogether by 2050. That’s in line with what United Nations scientists believe will be necessary to keep climate change at a relatively manageable level. Europe will need to double the speed at which it deployed renewables in 2020 to fulfill that EU commitment, according to Graichen. Wind and solar energy drove the growth in renewables last year, as the growth of other forms of carbon-free energy, like hydropower, stagnated. Together, wind and solar generation saw an increase of 10 percent in 2020. Coal generation, on the other hand, tumbled a whopping 20 percent last year. About half of that decline was because of new wind and solar capacity, according to the report. The rest can be attributed to an uptick in natural gas and a drop in electricity demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. That left coal generation in 2020 at about half of what it was in 2015. Nuclear energy generation also fell dramatically last year. It saw a record 10 percent drop, following the permanent closure of reactors in Sweden and Germany. Nuclear energy is projected to keep shrinking as more countries phase out their facilities, according to the report. Taking all of these trends into account, Europe’s electricity in 2020 was 29 percent cleaner than it was five years ago. In 2015, each kilowatt-hour of electricity used resulted in roughly 317 grams of carbon dioxide. Now, that same amount of electricity only creates about 226 grams of CO2. And the race to get that figure down to zero is just heating up. Renewable energy production beat fossil fuels in Europe
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