The chief strategy officer for DriveIT, Ian Schwarber, will be the featured speaker June 8 for the Greater Akron Chamber’s Morning Buzz breakfast series.
DriveIT, an Akron-based startup, provides information technology training through what it calls “Gyms for the Brain.” The programs are aimed at improving the fitness of the IT workforce on a year-round basis.
The Morning Buzz is a monthly speaker breakfast series aiming to connect small- and medium-sized businesses.
The June program will be at the Hilton Garden Inn Akron, 1307 E. Market St., Akron.
Business connections, registration and breakfast begin at 7:30 a.m. The speaker program runs from 8 to 9 a.m.
Cost is $25 for members, $50 for non-members and includes a breakfast buffet.
To make a reservation, call the Greater Akron Chamber at (330) 376-5550 or register at http://www.greaterakronchamber.org.
SAN FRANCISCO: Getting rid of racist, sexist and other hateful remarks on Facebook is challenging for the company because computer programs have difficulties understanding the nuances of human language, the company said Tuesday.
In a self-assessment, Facebook said its policing system is better at scrubbing graphic violence, gratuitous nudity and terrorist propaganda. Facebook said automated tools detected 86 percent to 99.5 percent of the violations in those categories.
For hate speech, Facebook’s human reviewers and computer algorithms identified just 38 percent of the violations. The rest came after Facebook users flagged the offending content for review.
Tuesday’s report was Facebook’s first breakdown of how much material it removes. The statistics cover a relatively short period, from October 2017 through March of this year, and don’t disclose how long, on average, it takes Facebook to remove material violating its standards. The report also doesn’t cover how much inappropriate content Facebook missed.
Facebook said it removed 2.5 million pieces of content deemed unacceptable hate speech during the first three months of this year, up from 1.6 million during the previous quarter. The company credited better detection, even as it said computer programs have trouble understanding context and tone of language.
Facebook took down 3.4 million pieces of graphic violence during the first three months of this year, nearly triple the 1.2 million during the previous three months. In this case, better detection was only part of the reason. Facebook said users were more aggressively posting images of violence in places like war-torn Syria.
The increased transparency comes as the Menlo Park, California, company tries to make amends for a privacy scandal triggered by loose policies that allowed a data-mining company with ties to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign to harvest personal information on as many as 87 million users. The content screening has nothing to do with privacy protection, though, and is aimed at maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere for users and advertisers.
The report also covers fake accounts, which has gotten more attention in recent months after it was revealed that Russian agents used fake accounts to buy ads to try to influence the 2016 elections.
Facebook previously estimated fake accounts as accounting for 3 percent to 4 percent of its monthly active users. Tuesday’s report said Facebook disabled 583 million fake accounts during the first three months of this year, down from 694 million during the previous quarter. Facebook said the number tends to fluctuate from quarter to quarter. Facebook said more than 98 percent of the accounts were caught before users reported them.
OMAHA, Neb.: Billionaire Warren Buffett deflected questions about his eventual successor at Berkshire Hathaway on Saturday, and encouraged the thousands of people at his annual meeting to focus more on big picture investing principles than day-to-day events.
The shareholder meeting celebrates the successes of the conglomerate that Buffett built with Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger while offering a chance to learn from the two accomplished businessmen.
Buffett doesn’t plan to retire, even though he’s 87 years old, but he invited more questions about his eventual successor earlier this year when he promoted Greg Abel and Ajit Jain to vice chairmen and expanded their responsibilities. Both men now oversee about half of Berkshire’s operating companies.
Buffett and Munger both said little has changed because Berkshire’s businesses largely run themselves day to day. Buffett said he still spends most of his time reading about businesses, thinking and fielding the occasional phone call.
“Part of the Berkshire secret is that when there is nothing to do, Warren is very good at doing nothing,” Munger said.
Dairy Queen CEO Troy Bader was promoted to lead the restaurant chain this year, and he said Berkshire’s overall philosophy hasn’t changed just because Buffett isn’t directly overseeing the companies now.
“Warren preaches that we should manage it as if it’s our own business and protect reputation,” Bader said.
Many shareholders say they trust that Buffett has a solid succession plan in place.
“He’s done a phenomenal job for his shareholders,” said Gary Gocken, of Lincoln. “I think they’ve got it all taken care of as far as what will happen when they eventually retire or move on.”
Longtime Berkshire board member Ron Olson told Yahoo Finance he thinks the new roles for Abel and Jain will take some pressure off of Buffett and make it easier for him to continue running Berkshire, which includes an eclectic mix of more than 90 companies.
Berkshire investors are also eager to see how Buffett might spend the company’s $116 billion in cash and short-term investments. Buffett reiterated Saturday that he thinks shareholders will be better off if that cash is reinvested in the business, not used for dividends.
Buffett encouraged everyone in the crowd to make long-term investments without worrying about headlines, like trade disputes, Federal Reserve actions or the economy.
“The overriding question is: How is American business going to do in your lifetime?” he said.
Berkshire Hathaway owns 10 percent of Wells Fargo’s stock, and Buffett reiterated his support for the bank Saturday despite its recent scandals.
Buffett said Wells Fargo appears to have learned a valuable lesson from the scandals and that he thinks it’s likely to avoid future problems. Wells Fargo had been trying to repair its reputation after admitting in 2016 that employees opened as many as 2 million accounts without getting customers’ permission to meet aggressive sales targets.
“I have no reason to think that Wells Fargo, going forward will be anything other than a large, well-run bank,” Buffett said.
Here are a few of the lessons Buffett and Munger offered:
• “If you’re going to live a long time, you’re going to have to continue learning,” Munger said.
• “We’re going to make mistakes. The most important thing is that we do something about it,” Buffett said.
• “We’d do a lot better in all of our stockpicking if we did it in retrospect,” Munger said.
SAN FRANCISCO: Google says it will do a better job of verifying the identity of political ad buyers in the U.S. by requiring a government-issued ID and other key information.
Google will also require ad buyers to disclose who is paying for the ad. Google executive Kent Walker is repeating a pledge he made in November to create a library of such ads that will be searchable by anyone. The goal is to have this ready this summer.
Google’s blog post comes short of declaring support for the Honest Ads Act, a bill that would impose disclosure requirements on online ads, similar to what’s required for television and other media. Facebook and Twitter support that bill.
Google didn’t immediately provide details on how the ID verification would work for online ad buys.
LONDON: The company at the center of the Facebook privacy scandal, political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, is going out of business. But that doesn’t mean those behind the entity will escape the scrutiny of regulators.
As authorities continue to investigate the use of the data of millions of people, here’s a look at what the bankruptcy filings in the U.K. and U.S. mean for the probe.
HOW DID THIS START?
Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica in light of allegations that it had improperly harvested personal data from as many as 87 million Facebook accounts and used the material in Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign. Cambridge Analytica says it bought the data from another company that was contractually required to comply with data protection rules and that none of the Facebook data was used in the Trump campaign.
The scandal triggered a sharp drop in Facebook shares amid concern the revelations could threaten the social network’s business model of offering a free service in return for data that could be marketed to advertisers. At one point, the sell-off wiped $50 billion off the company’s market value.
WHAT DOES CAMBRIDGE ANAYLYTICA SAY?
The company suspended its CEO, Alexander Nix, pending an investigation. Last week it said it was “no Bond villain” and had been vilified by inaccurate reporting, including footage of Nix boasting of the company’s dirty tricks — including honey traps and fake news — to win elections.
Cambridge Analytica also hired an outside lawyer to investigate the allegations. Results of the probe released Wednesday contradicted claims made by whistleblower Christopher Wylie and described his involvement with the firm as being “very modest.”
Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office has been investigating Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, SCL Group, as part of a wider look at the use of personal data and election campaigns. That probe, which involves as many as 30 other companies, goes on. The commissioner’s office said Thursday that it will continue “civil and criminal investigations and will seek to pursue individuals and directors as appropriate and necessary, even where companies may no longer be operating.”
The office also promised to “monitor closely any successor companies,” meaning that the people behind Cambridge Analytica wouldn’t be able to avoid scrutiny simply by incorporating under a new name.
British corporate records show that Nix is also director of a company called Emerdata Ltd. that was incorporated in August 2017. Other Emerdata directors include people associated with Cambridge Analytica. The New York Times reported that officials from Cambridge Analytica and SCL have raised the possibility of using Emerdata as a rebranding of Cambridge Analytica by buying the latter’s data and intellectual property. More details could emerge when Cambridge Analytica files for bankruptcy protection in New York, as planned.
Damian Collins, the chair of the U.K. Parliament’s media committee, told Sky News that he was “alive to the risk” that the company might try to rebrand itself.
WILL THE BANKRUPTCY STOP THE INVESTIGATION?
Absolutely not, say British authorities. Collins told Sky News that company leaders will “be in for a nasty surprise” if they think shutting Cambridge Analytica will make it possible to erase the data that prompted the investigation.
Facebook also says it will continue to seek answers “to understand exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
While individuals and businesses are typically required to preserve evidence for known investigations, it’s not clear how this will work if a company is insolvent. And in any case, the U.K. Information Commissioner says it can take action against individual directors even of a company that’s been declared insolvent, Collins added.
It doesn’t appear the closure would directly affect the parent company, SCL Group, making it more difficult to get rid of evidence on insolvency grounds. Wednesday’s news release announcing the decision lists only Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections, not the parent company.
IS FACEBOOK OFF THE HOOK?
Not at all.
Founder Mark Zuckerberg testified last month to the U.S. Congress about the use of the data in the presidential election. He acknowledged that tighter regulation of data is inevitable, but otherwise came away relatively unscathed — Facebook shares rose after his testimony.
The U.K. and EU parliaments also want Zuckerberg to answer their questions publicly, though he has so far declined. Collins this week repeated that, insisting that he needs to come clean on 40 questions Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer failed to “fully” answer last week.
Collins also said there was no precedent for a senior executive refusing a summons, adding that even Rupert and James Murdoch chose to appear during an investigation into phone hacking.
The Federal Trade Commission in the U.S., meanwhile, also is investigating Facebook.
NEW YORK: Cambridge Analytica, the Trump-affiliated data firm at the center of Facebook’s worst privacy scandal in history, is declaring bankruptcy and shutting down.
The London firm blamed “unfairly negative media coverage” and said it has been “vilified” for actions it says are both legal and widely accepted as part of online advertising.
Cambridge Analytica said it has filed papers to begin insolvency proceedings in the U.K. and will seek bankruptcy protection in a federal court in New York.
“The siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers,” Cambridge Analytica said in a statement. “As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business.”
Facebook said it will keep looking into data misuse by Cambridge Analytica even though the firm is closing down. And Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, a digital advocacy group in Washington, said criticisms of Facebook’s privacy practices won’t go away just because Cambridge Analytica has.
“Cambridge Analytica’s practices, although it crossed ethical boundaries, is really emblematic of how data-driven digital marketing occurs worldwide,” Chester said. “Rather than rejoicing that a bad actor has met its just reward, we should recognize that many more Cambridge Analytica-like companies are operating in the conjoined commercial and political marketplace.”
Cambridge Analytica, whose clients included Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, sought information on Facebook users to build psychological profiles on a large portion of the U.S. electorate.
The company was able to amass the database quickly with the help of an app that purported to be a personality test. The app collected data on tens of millions of people and their Facebook friends, even those who did not download the app themselves.
Facebook has since tightened its privacy restrictions, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress for the first time in two days of hearings. Facebook also has suspended other companies for using similar tactics. One is Cubeyou, which makes personality quizzes. That company has said it did nothing wrong and is seeking reinstatement.
Cambridge Analytica suspended CEO Alexander Nix in March pending an investigation after Nix boasted of various unsavory services to an undercover reporter for Britain’s Channel 4 News. Channel 4 News broadcast clips that showed Nix saying his data-mining firm played a major role in securing Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential elections.
Acting CEO Alexander Tayler also stepped down in April and returned to his previous post as chief data officer.
Cambridge has denied wrongdoing, and Trump’s campaign has said it didn’t use Cambridge’s data. On Wednesday, Cambridge Analytica said an outside investigation it commissioned concluded the allegations were not “borne out by the facts.”
Facebook’s audit of the firm has been suspended while U.K. regulators conduct their own probe. But Facebook says Cambridge Analytica’s decision to close “doesn’t change our commitment and determination to understand exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Cambridge Analytica has said it is committed to helping the U.K. investigation. But the office of U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in March that the firm failed to meet a deadline to produce the information requested.
Denham said the prime allegation against Cambridge Analytica is that it acquired personal data in an unauthorized way, adding that the data provisions act requires services like Facebook to have strong safeguards against misuse of data.
The story has been corrected to specify that it was Denham’s office, rather than Denham herself, that said Cambridge Analytica did not meet a deadline.
The share price for ATM maker Diebold Nixdorf Inc. nosedived Wednesday after the Green-based company reported a quarterly loss and announced that it will suspend its dividend.
Diebold Nixdorf reported it lost money for its first quarter ending March 31, with both earnings and revenue coming in below analyst estimates.
And its top executives said Diebold Nixdorf will suspend its quarterly dividend to improve cash generation and reduce debt.
Shares were down $2.50, or 16.4 percent, to $12.90 at the close of trading Wednesday.
Diebold Nixdorf reported it lost $70.9 million, or 94 cents per share, on revenue of $1.06 billion.
That compares to a loss of $58.8 million, or 78 cents per share, on revenue of $1.1 billion a year ago.
“We will be executing on a number of actions, such as suspending our shareholder dividend, to improve our cash generation and net debt position,” Chris Chapman, CFO, said in a news release.
Diebold Nixdorf last paid a quarterly cash dividend of 10 cents per share on March 16.
Diebold Nixdorf still expects adjusted earnings for the full year will come in as previously projected, Chapman said.
Diebold Nixdorf said it expects to lose $75 million to $95 million for the full year.
“Our first quarter results reflect similar challenges that we faced in 2017, with banking hardware revenue and the associated profitability remaining under pressure,” Chapman said.
“With respectable order activity and continued cost management, we are maintaining our non-GAAP outlook for 2018.”
First quarter revenue fell 4 percent because of lower banking volume, the company said.
Growth in services, software and retail partially offset the fall in revenue.
Diebold Nixdorf’s new chief executive officer, Gerard Schmid, said the company’s immediate focus should be to streamline and simplify business operations to improve financial operations. Schmid was hired as CEO in February.
“To help accomplish this and build on the success of recent integration work, we are enacting a business improvement plan that is centered on customers, achieving operational excellence, and forging a cohesive company culture,” Schmid said in a news release.
Former CEO Andy Mattes, who engineered the $1.8 billion purchase in 2016 of German ATM maker Wincor Nixdorf, resigned last year.
The renamed Diebold Nixdorf has been struggling to digest the acquisition in addition to dealing with changing ATM global market conditions.
The company for years has been working to transition from a focus on ATM manufacturing to a focus on services and software.
SAN JOSE, Calif.: The Latest on Facebook’s developer conference (all times local):
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the company is working on a feature that allows users to clear their browsing history from the site and prevent it from keeping tabs on link clicks going forward.
Zuckerberg warned that the service won’t be quite as good if users take this step, as it has to relearn their history. But he added the goal is to put more power into its users’ hands to determine what they want to share.
Zuckerberg made the announcement at Facebook’s annual f8 developer conference, in which he acknowledging that 2018 has been an “intense year” just four months in.
Facebook is ready to launch a portable headset that it’s counting on to transform the geeky realm of virtual reality into a mass phenomenon.
The $199 device, called the Oculus Go, is going on sale Tuesday. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s plan to make the headset six months ago.
Oculus Go is different from other virtual reality devices that require smartphones or a cord tethered to a personal computer to cast people into artificial worlds or show three-dimensional videos.
The need for additional equipment is one of the reasons virtual reality, or VR, has had limited appeal so far.
Zuckerberg is counting on the Oculus Go to widen the audience for VR, as Facebook tries to deploy the technology to reshape the way people interact and experience life, much as its social network already has done.
Move over Match.com.
Facebook is launching a dating feature. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said to laughs at Facebook’s f8 developer conference Tuesday that the new tool is “not just for hookups” but to build “meaningful, long-term relationships.”
That is, if you want. The feature will be opt-in, meaning you have to choose to use it. Zuckerberg also stressed that the feature was built with privacy and security in mind from the start. The company has been under fire recently for possibly not doing this with some of its features over the years.
Zuckerberg also said the dating feature will not suggests users’ friends to date. This is already what other dating apps that rely on Facebook data do, such as Tinder.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg kicked off his company’s annual developer conference acknowledging that 2018 has been an “intense year” just four months in.
Speaking in San Jose, California, at Facebook’s f8 gathering of tech folks, startups and others, Zuckerberg said to cheers that the company is re-opening app reviews, the process that gets new and updated apps on its services.
He also reiterated that Facebook is investing a lot in security and in strengthening its systems so they can’t be exploited to meddle with elections.
But unlike other recent public appearances, he did not start off with an apology for the company’s recent privacy scandal.
Mark Zuckerberg has a fresh opportunity to apologize for Facebook’s privacy scandal — and to sketch out Facebook’s future.
The Facebook CEO will kick off F8, the company’s annual conference for software developers. Zuckerberg will speak Tuesday in San Jose, California, to assembled software developers and other tech folks.
It’s normally a sympathetic audience. But they are likely to have some tough questions this year.
Zuckerberg might touch on Facebook’s year of privacy scandals, congressional testimony, Russia investigations and apologies.
He will also have an opportunity to talk about where things go from here. Facebook is forging ahead with new promises to protect user privacy even if it means restricting access to developers.
The DriveIT gymnasium just opened in Akron as a place where brains, not brawn, will get workouts.
It’s a gym only in a cerebral sense — DriveIT is a tech training center whose founders and backers say will help the Akron area nurture state-of-the-art information technology specialists. The facility opened on the fourth floor of the Stark State Akron building off White Pond Drive.
On Monday, DriveIT hosted its official grand opening, with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles; state Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson; Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro; and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan in attendance.
DriveIT will teach data science, cybersecurity, business intelligence, software architecture and cloud computing, allowing midcareer people to strengthen their information technology skills and education.
DriveIT’s executives and local government officials also see the training center as an economic development tool to recruit businesses to the region.
“Silicon Valley, watch out! We’re coming after ya, OK?” Shapiro quipped in addressing the opening celebration. “We have serial entrepreneurs that not only know their craft, but are willing to take that to a community as a whole and say, ‘We’re here.’ ”
Information technology is used by almost every business, she said, and DriveIT will help build a pipeline of talent. “That helps us attract even more. That catches fire,” she said.
Horrigan said he thinks the Akron region is doing the kinds of economic development and technology things seen in places such as New York and Boston.
“They’re not doing anything that we’re not doing,” he said. “I think that we just need to brag about it a little more and maybe become a little more organized.”
Ryan called DriveIT a public-private partnership that can help the Midwest compete with the likes of Silicon Valley.
DriveIT’s training also will help the United States compete against the likes of China, which continues to expand in influence around the world, he said.
“This is going to help us be competitive in the fierce, fierce global economy,” Ryan said.
Eric Wise, DriveIT co-founder and chief executive officer, said his business is fundamentally about curriculum.
DriveIT is partnering with local employers to upgrade employee skills and knowledge, he said. Companies simply cannot fire their current staff and bring in all-new people with needed skills, he said.
“The new people aren’t out there,” Wise said. “You have to invest in your workforce.”
DriveIT will offer what it said will be eight to 12 “experiential” learning programs each month designed for professionals in entry and midlevel positions.
Individuals as well as businesses and organizations will be able to buy memberships to take courses — a model similar to what gymnasiums and fitness centers offer.
“We’ll produce world-class data specialists and cybersecurity specialists,” said Eric Ward, DriveIT’s chief learning officer.
DriveIT’s roots and inspiration trace back to the Software Craftsmanship Guild, an Akron “boot camp” that taught software coding out of Canal Place to meet growing business demand for coders. The guild was purchased in 2015 by Kentucky-based Learning House Inc. Wise, DriveIT’s CEO, was also co-founder of the guild boot camp.
NEW YORK: T-Mobile and Sprint reached a $26.5 billion merger agreement Sunday that would reduce the U.S. wireless industry to three major players — that is, if the Trump administration’s antitrust regulators let the deal go through.
The nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless companies have been considering a combination for years, one that would bulk them up to a similar size as industry giants Verizon and AT&T. But a 2014 attempt fell apart amid resistance from the Obama administration.
The combined company, to be called T-Mobile, would have about 127 million customers. Consumers worry a less crowded telecom field could result in higher prices, while unions are concerned about potential job losses.
In a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure acknowledged that getting regulatory approval is “the elephant in the room,” and one of the first things the companies did after sending out the deal’s news release was to call Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
The companies stressed that they plan to have more employees following the combination, particularly in rural areas, than they do as stand-alone companies now.
They also emphasized that the deal would help accelerate their development of faster 5G wireless networks and ensure that the U.S. doesn’t cede leadership on the technology to China.
And they said the combination would allow them to better compete not only with AT&T and Verizon but also with Comcast and others as the wireless, broadband and video industries converge.
“This isn’t a case of going from 4 to 3 wireless companies — there are now at least 7 or 8 big competitors in this converging market,” T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere said in a statement. He would be the CEO of the combined company.
The all-stock deal values each share of Sprint at slightly more than 0.10 T-Mobile shares. Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile’s parent, would own about 42 percent of the combined company. Japan’s SoftBank, which controls Sprint, would own 27 percent, and the remainder would be held by the public.
The companies said they expect the deal to close by the first half of 2019 and would result in about $6 billion in annual cost savings.
Investors have been anticipating a deal like this for some time. In addition to the thwarted attempt three years ago, the two companies were poised to combine in October, but the deal was called off after what analysts said was a disagreement over control of the combined company.
The deal will have to be reviewed by the Justice Department and the FCC.
National carriers had not been able to get a deal through under President Barack Obama. But the FCC in September deemed the wireless market “competitive” for the first time since 2009, which some analysts say could make it easier to present a deal.
The 5G aspirations are at the heart of the agreement, and the new technology could allow companies to provide faster service to homes.
Sprint’s Claure likened going from 4G to 5G to switching from black-and-white television to color. The combined company plans to invest up to $40 billion in its network in the first three years.
Sprint has a lot of debt and has posted a string of annual losses. It has cut costs and made itself more attractive to customers, BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk said, but it hasn’t invested enough in its network and doesn’t have enough airwave rights for quality service in rural areas.
T-Mobile, meanwhile, has been on a yearslong streak of adding customers. After the government nixed AT&T’s attempt to buy the company in 2011, T-Mobile led the way in many consumer-friendly changes, such as ditching two-year contracts.
NEW YORK: An audit of Facebook’s privacy practices for the Federal Trade Commission found no problems even though the company knew at the time that a data-mining firm improperly obtained private data from millions of users — raising questions about the usefulness of such audits.
Facebook agreed to outside audits every two years as part of a 2011 settlement with the FTC over its privacy practices. It is not clear from the report whether the company informed PricewaterhouseCoopers, which performed the audit, of the Cambridge Analytica data grab that would put Facebook in the crosshairs of Congress.
The heavily redacted audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers is available on the FTC’s website. It covers February 12, 2015 to February 11, 2017.
PwC declined to comment, but Facebook said Friday that keeping data secure is a priority.
“We remain strongly committed to protecting people’s information, said Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, in a statement. “We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have.”
The fact that PwC found no issues raised red flags for privacy advocates.
“The FTC failed to protect the public,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the nonprofit digital rights group Center for Digital Democracy. “Instead of conducting its own review to enforce one of its most important decisions— the consent decree —it looked the other way, which allowed Facebook to engage in serious misconduct.”
Chester said the audit shows that the “FTC cannot be relied on to really protect consumers.”
The 2011 consent decree bound Facebook to a 20-year privacy commitment. Any violations of that pact could cost the company a ton of money. In his congressional testimony last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared uninformed about key details of the agreement, saying he did not remember if it carried a financial penalty.
Any violations of the 2011 agreement could subject Facebook to fines of $41,484 per violation per user per day. To put that in context, Facebook could theoretically owe $8 billion for one single day violation affecting all of its American users, or about half of the profit that the company booked for all of last year.
The agreement requires that Facebook users give “affirmative express consent” any time that data they haven’t made public is shared with a third party. Cambridge Analytica accessed information from so many users (the firm puts the number at 30 million, although Facebook has said 87 million) because it was able to access the data of people’s friends, and not just people who explicitly permitted access when they took a personality quiz. While Facebook did have controls in place that allowed people to restrict such access, they are found buried in the site’s settings and are difficult to find.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat from Nevada, said during last week’s hearing that in her view, “these requirements were not met,” because user consent shouldn’t have been buried in privacy settings.
“In our opinion, Facebook’s privacy controls were operating with sufficient effectiveness to provide reasonable assurance to protect the privacy of covered information and that the controls have so operated throughout the Reporting Period, in all material respects for the two years ended February 11, 2017,” the report states.
Facebook is also under a separate investigation by the FTC because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The agency is looking at whether Facebook has engaged in “unfair acts” that cause “substantial injury” to consumers.
A. Schulman Inc. shareholders will vote June 14 on selling the Fairlawn polymer company to LyondellBasell Industries for $2.25 billion.
LyondellBasell is a Houston and London plastics and refining company with $34.5 billion in revenue last year.
LyondellBasell is offering $42 per share and a “contingent value right” related to A. Schulman’s lawsuit involving its 2015 Citadel purchase. Lyondell Basell is also assuming all A. Schulman debt.
A. Schulman’s board is recommending stockholders approve the merger.
The merger is expected to close in the second half of the year, pending shareholder and regulatory approvals.
NEW YORK: Amazon has cut a deal to sell voice-controlled TVs at Best Buy, the latest attempt by the online retailer to get its burgeoning suite of tech products out where people can see and touch them.
Best Buy already sells the Amazon Kindle and other gadgets, but the deal announced Wednesday makes the electronics retailer the only other place where you can walk in and buy a TV powered by Amazon’s Fire TV software. Investors seemed to like the partnership: Best Buy’s stock rose 4 percent Wednesday, close to an all-time high.
Amazon has begun to make its physical presence known, buying the Whole Foods grocery chain last year and opening more than a dozen bookstores.
In addition to its own stores (an Amazon Go cashier-less convince store opened its doors earlier this year), Amazon is creating partnerships with traditional retailers in a sector that is threatened by its dominance.
Kohl’s carved out space for Amazon shops in some of its department stores and Sears sells Kenmore appliances on Amazon.com.
This summer, Best Buy will begin selling 10 models of the Fire TV in the U.S., and later this year in Canada. The new TVs are made by Toshiba and Best Buy Co.’s own brand, Insignia.
The TVs come with a remote that has Amazon’s Alexa voice-assistant built in, so users can press a button and say out loud which shows you want to watch, or what channel you want to switch to. The TVs can be paired with Amazon’s smart speakers, meaning you don’t need to pick up a remote.
Charlie O’Shea, a retail analyst at Moody’s, said the “win-win” deal will boost traffic at Best Buy and it gives Amazon another brick-and-mortar space to show off its products.
Associated Press Writer Michelle Chapman in Newark also contributed to this story.
Americans who waited until the last day to pay their taxes online got an unwelcome surprise: The IRS website to make payments and access other key services is down.
The IRS still expects Americans to pay their taxes but U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says extensions will be granted to those impacted when the site is up again.
The IRS said in a statement that “certain IRS systems are experiencing technical difficulties.” It also said that at this point, the problem appears to be a hardware issue.
The agency advised taxpayers to “continue filing their tax returns as they normally would.”
The problem is, electronic filing is the most popular way to file. And the IRS offered no immediate solution but said the returns will be processed when feasible.
However, Mnuchin who oversees the IRS, said that they expect the direct pay system to go up shortly.
“We’ll make sure taxpayers have extensions once the system comes up to make sure they can use it and it in no way impacts people paying their taxes,” he told reporters in New Hampshire. “It was just a technical issue we’re working through. A high volume technical issue that impacted the system.”
Pages on the IRS website (http://www.irs.gov) used to view account information, make a direct payment or set up a payment plan were all not functioning most of the day Tuesday.
It’s unclear when and why the failure occurred. But it appears, based on a message on the site, that the online payment system became unavailable at 2:50 A.M. ET that morning.
It’s unclear how many people were impacted Tuesday but, by comparison, about 5 million tax returns were filed on the final day of last year’s tax season.
The IRS snafu also caused problems for popular third-party tax preparers such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block. Both said that they will hold onto customer tax returns and file them as soon as the IRS system reopens.
Tax day falls on April 17 this year because April 15 was a Sunday and April 16 was Emancipation Day, a holiday in Washington, D.C.
IRS Acting Commissioner David Kautter testified during a House Oversight Hearing Tuesday that a number of systems are down at the moment and that the agency is working to resolve the issue.
Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow offered a deadpan reaction when asked about the failure.
“The IRS is crashing? Sounds horrible. Really bad,” he said during a briefing with reporters in West Palm Beach, Florida. “I hope it gets fixed.”
The IRS typically recommends that taxpayers use electronic filing to avoid common mistakes. Online filing is quicker than dropping something in the mail — when the site works, of course.
Jill Colvin in West Palm Beach, Florida and Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.
NEW YORK: Domino’s, which has been bringing pizzas to doorsteps for more than half a century, will now deliver to the great outdoors.
The pizza chain said Monday that its drivers can meet customers at U.S. beaches, parks and landmarks to hand over pizza, cheesy bread and other food on its menu.
In all, Domino’s said it will deliver to 150,000 outdoor locations including under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis; by the Las Vegas welcome sign; or next to a statue of soul singer James Brown in Augusta, Georgia. The locations show up in the company’s app or website as “Domino’s Hotspots.”
Delivery is a key part of the company’s business, and it has been aggressive in making it easy to order through tweets, text messages and Amazon’s voice-activated Echo. But competition has grown from other fast-food chains that are offering more delivery options. McDonald’s has a deal with online service UberEats, and the parent company of KFC and Taco Bell recently teamed up with Grubhub to expand delivery.
Domino’s Pizza Inc. says it tested the service last fall in Miami, where customers ordered outside hotels and the zoo. Dennis Maloney, the company’s chief digital officer, wouldn’t say how many deliveries were made during the test, but said it was enough to decide to roll it out nationwide.
Franchisees chose the hotspots, including local dog parks and airports. Drivers will pull up to the curb to meet customers, Domino’s said, and people can tell the app what they’re wearing so they’re easier to spot.
Contact Joseph Pisani at http://twitter.com/josephpisani
WASHINGTON: Online retail giant Amazon is ignoring Donald Trump’s barrage of taunts and threats, focusing instead on expanding its reach into a swath of industries that the president’s broadsides haven’t come close to hitting.
Trump has hurled one charge after another at the company over the last week. He’s assailed Amazon’s contract with the U.S. Postal Service as a “scam,” accused the company of not paying enough taxes, and declared that its large lobbying operation gives it an unfair advantage. Much of this isn’t new for Trump, who suggested during the presidential campaign that Amazon could face antitrust scrutiny if he were elected.
Trump’s attacks have targeted what Amazon is best known for: rapidly shipping just about any product you can imagine to your door. But the company CEO Jeff Bezos founded more than two decades ago is now a sprawling empire that sells groceries in brick-and-mortar stores, hosts the online services of other companies and federal offices in a network of data centers, and even recently branched into health care.
Amazon relies on a nearly 30-member in-house lobbying team that’s four times as large as it was three years ago as well as outside firms to influence the lawmakers and federal regulators who can help determine its success. The outside roster includes a retired congressman from Washington state who was a senior member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee when he stepped down.
“Amazon is just not on an even playing field,” Trump told reporters Thursday aboard Air Force One. “They have a tremendous lobbying effort, in addition to having The Washington Post, which is as far as I’m concerned another lobbyist. But they have a big lobbying effort, one of the biggest, frankly, one of the biggest.”
Overall, Amazon spent $15.6 million on lobbying in 2017. That’s less than Boeing, Comcast and AT&T spent during the same period, according to the political money website Open Secrets.
Amazon does not own the Post. Bezos does. He and the newspaper have previously declared that Bezos isn’t involved in any journalistic decisions.
Trump’s charge that Amazon pays “little or no taxes” may have merit. Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said in February that Amazon “has built its business model on tax avoidance.” Amazon reported $5.6 billion of U.S. profits in 2017 “and didn’t pay a dime of federal income taxes on it,” according to Gardner.
The company declined to comment on Trump’s remarks or its lobbying operations.
Amazon has grown rapidly since it launched in 1995 as a site that sold books. It has changed the way people buy paper towels, diapers or just about anything else. And its ambitions go far beyond online shopping: its Alexa voice assistant is in tablets, cars and its Echo devices; it runs the Whole Foods grocery chain; the company produces movies and TV shows and it designs its own brands of furniture and clothing.
The company is in the midst of launching an independent business with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway that is seeking to lower health care costs for employees at the three companies. Given the three players’ outsize influence the alliance has the potential to shake up how Americans shop for health care and the initiative sent a shudder through the industry when it was announced in January.
Amazon Web Services is angling for a much larger share of the federal government’s market for cloud computing, which allows massive amounts of data to be stored and managed on remote servers. The CIA signed a $600 million deal with Amazon in 2013 to build a system to share secure data across the U.S. intelligence community.
A partner of Amazon Web Services, the Virginia-based Rean Cloud LLC, in February scored what appeared to be a lucrative cloud computing contract from the Pentagon. But the contract, initially projected to be worth as much as $950 million, was scaled back to $65 million after Amazon’s competitors complained about the award.
Lobbying disclosure records filed with the House and Senate show Amazon is engaged on a wide variety of other issues, from trade to transportation to telecommunications. The company also lobbied lawmakers and federal agencies on the testing and operation of unmanned aerial vehicles. Amazon has been exploring the use of drones for deliveries, but current federal rules restrict flying beyond the operator’s line of sight.
The $15.6 million Amazon spent on lobbying last year was $2.6 million more than in 2016, according to the disclosure records. The bulk of the money — $12.8 million — went for Amazon’s in-house lobbying team. The nearly 30-member unit is led by Brian Huseman, who worked previously as chief of staff at the Federal Trade Commission and a Justice Department trial attorney.
As most large corporations do, Amazon also employs outside lobbying firms — as many as 14 in 2017.
In Amazon’s corner is former Washington congressman Norm Dicks of the firm Van Ness Feldman. Dicks was serving as the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee when he ended his 36-year congressional career in 2013. He represented the company on information technology matters and “issues related to cloud computing usage by the federal government,” according to the records, which show Van Ness Feldman earned $160,000 from Amazon last year.
Associated Press writer Joseph Pisani in New York contributed to this report.
Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rplardner
NEW YORK: Anyone who’s been wondering if their private Facebook data might have been swept up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal will soon get their first clues.
Starting Monday, all 2.2 billion Facebook users will receive a notice on their feeds, titled “Protecting Your Information,” with a link to see what apps they use and what information they have shared with those apps. If they want, they can shut off apps individually or turn off third-party access to their apps completely.
In addition, the 87 million users who might have had their data shared with Cambridge Analytica will get a more detailed message informing them of this. Facebook says most of the affected users (more than 70 million) are in the U.S., though there are over a million each in the Philippines, Indonesia and the U.K.
Reeling from its worst privacy crisis in history — allegations that this Trump campaign-affiliated data mining firm may have used ill-gotten user data to try to influence elections — Facebook is in full damage-control mode, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledging he’s made a “huge mistake” in failing to take a broad enough view of what Facebook’s responsibility is in the world. He’s set to testify before Congress next week.
How this all started
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie previously estimated that more than 50 million people were compromised by a personality quiz that collected data from users and their friends.
That Facebook app, called “This is Your Digital Life,” was a personality quiz created in 2014 by an academic researcher named Aleksander Kogan, who paid about 270,000 people to take it. The app vacuumed up not just the data of the people who took it, but also — thanks to Facebook’s loose restrictions — data from their friends, too, including details they hadn’t intended to share publicly.
Facebook later limited the data apps can access, but it was too late in this case.
Zuckerberg said Facebook came up with the 87 million figure by calculating the maximum number of friends that users could have had while Kogan’s app was collecting data. The company doesn’t have logs going back that far, he said, so it can’t know exactly how many people may have been affected.
Cambridge Analytica said in a statement Wednesday that it had data for only 30 million people.
CEO messages deleted
On Friday, Facebook said it has been secretly deleting some messages Zuckerberg sent through its Messenger application, an option that hasn’t been available to most of the social network’s users.
The company said it has been removing Zuckerberg’s messages from the inboxes of various people for several years. The recipients of Zuckerberg’s messages weren’t informed before that happened. Facebook made the acknowledgement after TechCrunch first reported the tactic.
Facebook said it began erasing the messages of Zuckerberg and a few other top executives in 2014 after computer hackers released emails from Sony Pictures executives.
Although the ability to automatically delete sent texts hadn’t been previously available, Facebook said it now plans to make it available to all users. The company apologized for not doing so sooner.
NEW YORK: Facebook’s acknowledgement that most of its 2.2 billion members have probably had their personal data scraped by “malicious actors” is the latest example of the social network’s failure to protect its users’ data.
Not to mention its seeming inability to even identify the problem until the company was already embroiled in scandal.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters Wednesday that Facebook is shutting down a feature that let people search for Facebook users by phone number or email address. Although that was useful for people who wanted to find others on Facebook, it turns out that unscrupulous types also figured out years ago that they could use it identify individuals and collect data off their profiles.
The data scrapers were at it long enough, Zuckerberg said, that “at some point during the last several years, someone has probably accessed your public information in this way.”
The only way to be safe would have been for users to deliberately turn off that search feature several years ago. Facebook had it turned on by default.
“I think Facebook has not been clear enough with how to use its privacy settings,” said Jamie Winterton, director of strategy for Arizona State University’s Global Security Initiative. “That, to me, was the failure.”
The breach was a stunning admission for a company already reeling from allegations that the political data mining firm Cambridge Analytica inappropriately accessed data on as many as 87 million Facebook users to influence elections.
Over the past few weeks, the scandal has mushroomed into investigations across continents, including a probe by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Britain’s information commissioner said Thursday that Facebook is among some 30 organizations being investigated to see how social media platforms were used in political campaigns.
The European Union said Thursday it is contacting data protection authorities in its member nations and the U.S. to better follow up investigations into whether Facebook breached EU privacy laws when millions of people had their data accessed through a leak.
Australian authorities also are investigating whether Facebook breached the country’s privacy law when personal information of more than 300,000 Australian users was obtained by Cambridge Analytica.
Zuckerberg will be questioned by Congress for the first time Tuesday.
“The FTC looked the other way for years when consumer groups told them Facebook was violating its 2011 deal to better protect its users. But now the Cambridge Analytica scandal has awoken the FTC from its long digital privacy slumber,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director for the privacy nonprofit Center for Digital Democracy.
Neither Zuckerberg nor his company has identified those who carried out the data scraping. Outside experts believe they could have been identity thieves, scam artists or shady data brokers assembling marketing profiles.
Zuckerberg said Facebook detected the problem in a data privacy audit started after the Cambridge Analytica disclosures, but didn’t say why it hadn’t noticed it — or fixed it — earlier.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday on when it discovered the data scraping.
The scraped information was limited to what a user had already chosen to make public — which, depending on a person’s privacy settings, could be a lot — as well as what Facebook requires people to share. That includes full name, profile picture and listings of school or workplace networks.
But hackers and scam artists could then use that information to pull hoaxes on people, plant malware on their computers or commit other mischief.
NEW YORK: Facebook revealed Wednesday that tens of millions more people might have been exposed in the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal than previously thought and said it will restrict the user data that outsiders can access.
In a call with reporters Wednesday, Zuckerberg acknowledged he made a “huge mistake” in failing to take a broad enough view of what Facebook’s responsibility is in the world. He said it isn’t enough for Facebook to believe app developers when they say they follow the rules. He says Facebook has to ensure they do.
Facebook is facing its worst privacy scandal in years following allegations that Cambridge Analytica, a Trump-affiliated data mining firm, used ill-gotten data from millions of users through an app to try to influence elections.
Facebook said Wednesday that as many as 87 million people might have had their data accessed — an increase from the 50 million disclosed in published reports. Facebook is basing the estimate in part on the number of friends each user might have had. Cambridge Analytica said in a statement that it had data for only 30 million people.
On Monday all Facebook users will receive a notice on their Facebook feeds with a link to see what apps they use and what information they have shared with those apps. They’ll have a chance to delete apps they no longer want. Users who might have had their data shared with Cambridge Analytica will be told of that. Facebook says most of the affected users are in the U.S.
Zuckerberg said fixing the company’s problems will take years.
Besides the privacy scandal, Facebook also has been dealing with fake news, the use of Facebook to spread hate and discord and concerns about social media’s effect on people’s mental well-being.
These are “big issues” and a big shift for Facebook as it broadens its responsibility, Zuckerberg said. He added that he does think that by the end of this year the company will have “turned a corner” on a lot of the issues. Zuckerberg has made fixing the company his personal challenge for 2018.
As part of the steps it’s taking to address scrutiny about outsiders’ access to user data, Facebook outlined several changes to further tighten its policies. For one, it is restricting access that apps can have to data about users’ events, as well as information about groups such as member lists and content.
In addition, the company is also removing the option to search for users by entering a phone number or an email address. While this helped individuals find friends, Facebook says businesses that had phone or email information on customers were able to collect profile information this way. Facebook says it believes most of its 2.2 billion users had their public profile information scraped by businesses or various malicious actors through this technique at some point.
WASHINGTON: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before a House oversight panel on April 11 amid a privacy scandal that has roiled the social media giant, the panel announced Wednesday.
Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing will focus on the Facebook’s “use and protection of user data.” Announcement of the hearing date comes as Facebook faces scrutiny over its data collection following allegations that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica obtained data on tens of millions of Facebook users to try to influence elections. Walden is the committee’s Republican chairman and Pallone is the panel’s top Democrat.
“This hearing will be an important opportunity to shed light on critical consumer data privacy issues and help all Americans better understand what happens to their personal information online,” Walden and Pallone said.
Their committee is the first of three congressional panels that requested Zuckerberg’s testimony to announce a hearing date. The Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees also have called for Zuckerberg to appear before them.
Walden and Pallone said last month that they wanted to hear directly from Zuckerberg after senior Facebook executives failed to answers questions during a closed-door briefing with congressional staff about how Facebook and third-party developers use and protect consumer data.
Zuckerberg said during a March 21 interview on CNN that he would be “happy” to testify before Congress, but only if he was the right person to do that. He said there might be other Facebook officials better positioned to appear, depending on what Congress wanted to know. Walden and Pallone said a day later that as Facebook’s top executive, Zuckerberg is indeed the “right witness to provide answers to the American people.”
Their call represented the first official request from a congressional oversight committee for Zuckerberg’s appearance as lawmakers demanded that Facebook explain reports that Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of more than 50 million Facebook users.
The company, funded in part by Trump supporter and billionaire financier Robert Mercer, paired its vault of consumer data with voter information. The Trump campaign paid the firm nearly $6 million during the 2016 election, although it has since distanced itself. Other Republican clients of Cambridge Analytica included Sen. Ted Cruz’s failed presidential campaign and Ben Carson, the famed neurosurgeon who also ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016.
The data was gathered through a personality test app called “This Is Your Digital Life” that was downloaded by fewer than 200,000 people. But participants unknowingly gave researchers access to the profiles of their Facebook friends, allowing them to collect data from millions more users.
It’s far from certain what action, if any, the GOP-led Congress and the Trump administration might take against Facebook, but the company will almost certainly oppose any efforts to regulate it or the technology business sector more broadly.
As do most large corporations, Facebook has assembled a potent lobbying operation to advance its interests in Washington. The company spent just over $13 million on lobbying in 2017, with the bulk of the money spent on an in-house lobbying team that’s stocked with former Republican and Democratic political aides, according to disclosure records filed with the House and Senate. The company sought to influence an array of matters that ranged from potential changes to government surveillance programs to corporate tax issues.
Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rplardner