Technology

COMCAST Loses IP Theft Case to TiVo

Comcast, the telecom giant that owns NBC and MSNBC, has lost a case that alleged the company deliberately stole intellectual property from TiVo for its cable boxes. The case, one of three brought by TiVo against Comcast before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), was decided last Thursday. Another case was won by TiVo before the U.S. Court of Appeals earlier in the year. In its determination, the ITC ruled that Comcast must face “(1) a limited exclusion order prohibiting the entry of infringing digital video receivers and related hardware and software components; and (2) cease and desist orders directed to respondents.” The latest ITC legal setback for Comcast will hit the telecom giant’s customers, as it means they will lose a valuable feature of their viewing experience. Comcast has been forced by the courts to remove valuable search features from its products, at a time during a pandemic when more customers are using their product than ever before. Despite having now lost two out of three cases bought by TiVo, Comcast does not appear to be changing course. Comcast might be betting on the fact that companies like TiVo might not have the stomach to see this fight through to the end – but in TiVo’s case, they just need to win one more case. Comcast-owned broadcasters are known for their liberal bias. Earlier this year, President Trump derided MSNBC as “MSDNC,” and called NBC “worse than CNN.” “And Comcast, a company that spends millions and millions of dollars on their image… I’ll do everything possible to destroy their image because they are terrible. They are terrible. They’re a terrible group of people,” said the president at a rally in February. Last month Andrew Surabian, the former special assistant to the President, praised the crackdown on Comcast’s IP violations in a column for Fox Business. “Far from merely putting the writing on the wall for Comcast’s other future IP decisions, the federal court’s opinion also represents a significant economic victory for all U.S. workers and innovators,” Surabian said. “It will ensure that no company can deliberately jump through hoops to avoid IP law, which almost assuredly would have become a recurring trend should Comcast been allowed to set the precedent.”

Former Reagan official: Revive Cold War-era program to keep China from benefiting from coronavirus

A former intelligence official from the Reagan administration is concerned that China is using the shutdown of the American economy during the coronavirus pandemic to their competitive advantage, and suggests that restarting a Cold War-era program he led could be the key to keeping them at bay and spurring American growth. In the 1980s, physicist Michael Sekora was the director of Project Socrates, an initiative of the Defense Intelligence Agency that looked to exploit existing technologies to keep the U.S. ahead of the rest of the world. The program was shuttered in 1990, after the end of the Reagan administration and as the Cold War was drawing to a close. Now Sekora believes reviving it is “the only way” to keep China in check. “If we look at what’s going to happen right now and you look at the virus,” Sekora said in an interview with Fox News, “they’re using that to improve their competitive edge.” He argues the U.S. has been at a disadvantage even before this crisis — which has seen much of the U.S. economy shuttered as Washington spends trillions to keep families and businesses afloat. This, as China claims to be emerging from the pandemic which started inside the country. According to Sekora, the U.S. has been at a self-imposed disadvantage due to a “finance-based planning” economic strategy that focuses on maximizing profits in the short-term rather than producing the best products to establish long-term market dominance. He said this has been the case since the time following World War II when the U.S. lacked serious global competition. In the decades that followed, however, countries such as Russia, China, Japan, and India have used “technology-based planning” to grow at tremendous rates. Project Socrates was the result of the Reagan administration believing that a return to a tech-focused approach – overseen by the government – would help counter the Soviet Union. It involved a system that included a program that mapped out existing technologies and identified competitors while playing the “what-if game” to predict how the tech environment might develop. Sekora explained that technological advances occur when two existing technologies combine, and Socrates was to be used to create what he called “automated innovation.” If this sounds complicated, it is because it is part of what Sekora called “a technology chess game” where countries try to acquire technologies and block others from doing the same. He acknowledges that modern-day American tech giants like Google and Apple engage in such planning, but argues that the country needs a centralized approach with government backing. He said President Ronald Reagan was about to sign an executive order creating a new federal agency dedicated to this effort, and that all U.S. companies were to have access to Socrates, but it never happened. When President George H.W. Bush took office, he scrapped the project. Sekora believes bringing it back is the best way the U.S. can recover from the current economic crisis and keep China from establishing dominance. He said current measures will only provide short term relief. “We’re going to spend trillions of dollars, and when all the dust settles we’re not going to have a competitive advantage,” he said. Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers like Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are calling for reducing American reliance on the Chinese supply chain for medical products. They have noticed that China’s positioning leaves the U.S. at an industrial disadvantage, and are pushing for legislation that will reduce dependence on China for pharmaceuticals. “Over a year ago, I warned about our nation’s critical vulnerabilities and supply chain risk in key sectors of our economy, including the medical supply chain, as a result of decades of lost industrial capacity to China,” Rubio said in a statement. “The industrial capacity of a nation still matters, and we are learning a painful lesson as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Once our nation has recovered from this unprecedented crisis, we must take steps to address the systemic vulnerability and supply chain risk that the coronavirus pandemic revealed.”

Agreed 100%!!  As for Mr. Sekora’s ideas..   It’s definitely a slippery slope into just another big government federal bureaucracy; something we need like another pandemic.  So, we’re VERY leery about going down such a similar path.  That said, if President Trump were to create some sort of partnership with Google, Apple and other tech firms, much in the same way he has done with businesses during this Wuhan virus crisis, we can see how that might be beneficial in focusing efforts on thwarting China’s aggression.  And, that’s the real goal.  We need to push back against the Communist Chinese Party (CCP) on every possible level.

Josh Hawley: Google, Apple CEOs Must Be Personally Liable for User Privacy

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has called on the CEOs of Google and Apple to accept personal legal liability for protecting user privacy as they move to implement “contact tracing” technology in smartphones to track the spread of the Chinese virus. As Breitbart News reported earlier this month, Google and Apple are teaming up to track carriers of the Chinese coronavirus and other individuals, a process known as “contact tracing,” using smartphone location data. The companies promise a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms,” meaning the technology will be embedded in Android and iOS smartphones. Now Sen. Hawley is calling on the companies to address privacy concerns by making their CEOs personally liable for any improper use of user data. “If you seek to assure the public, make your stake in this project personal,” wrote Hawley in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai “Make a commitment that you and other executives will be personally liable if you stop protecting privacy, such as by granting advertising companies access to the interface once the pandemic is over. The public statements you make now can be enforced under federal and state consumer protection laws. Do not hide behind a corporate shield like so many privacy offenders have before. Stake your personal finances on the security of this project.” This comes after Google’s recent announcement that, allegedly due to pandemic-related disruption, it would delay the rollout of key features in its plan to eliminate third-party tracking technology (known as “cookies”) in its Chrome internet browser. The effort is part of a wider push by Google to reassure consumers about its commitment to their privacy. But as Breitbart News reported last month, eliminating third-party cookies does not mean Chrome browsers won’t be collecting user data. It just means that Google will have an even tighter monopoly over that data, supplementing the vast amounts of data it collects on its users’ behavior via services like Google Search, Maps, YouTube, Gmail, Google Docs, and hardware like Android phones, tablets, and Chromebooks. The company also does not have a sterling reputation for responsibly accessing healthcare data. In 2019, the company gained access to the personal health data of 50 million Americans through an initiative the company branded “Project Nightingale.” According to reports at the time, doctors and patients were unaware of Google’s data-harvesting operation.

Major kudos to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who is also the former Attorney General for the State of Missouri, for putting these CEOs on notice.  This whole so-called “contact tracing” just stinks of big brother and allowing the government the ability to track your whereabouts without any restrictions.

Feds move to block China-owned telecom service from operating in US

The Justice Department and other executive branch agencies recommended Thursday that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revoke and terminate China Telecom Corp.’s authorizations to provide international telecommunication services to and from the U.S. “Today, more than ever, the life of the nation and its people runs on our telecommunications networks,” said John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security. “The security of our government and professional communications, as well as of our most private data, depends on our use of trusted partners from nations that share our values and our aspirations for humanity,” Demers said in a statement. The Justice Department reviewed China Telecom’s authorizations and determined the company had failed to comply with the terms of an existing agreement with the department. China Telecom is a subsidiary of the People’s Republic of China state-owned telecommunications company. In its recommendation, the executive branch agencies cited “increased knowledge of the PRC’s role in malicious cyber activity targeting the United States” and “concerns that China Telecom is vulnerable to exploitation, influence, and control by the PRC government.” The FCC last May voted unanimously to deny another Chinese state-owned telecommunications company, China Mobile Ltd., the right to provide service in the U.S., saying the Chinese government could use the company to conduct espionage on the U.S. government. It said then it was “looking” at China Telecom’s license. Earlier Wednesday, the DOJ gave Google clearance to build and operate a subsea cable between the U.S. and Taiwan, which is governed separately from China but which China asserts sovereignty over. The DOJ however banned any connection to Hong Kong, where the Chinese government has strengthened control in recent years, much to the ire of hundreds of thousands of protesters in 2019.

Kudos to our DOJ for taking this common-sense stance for our national security.  We cannot afford to trust the communist Chinese government with our telecom infrastructure.  For more, click on the text above.

 

Apple to ship 1 million face masks a week for health care workers

Apple is going to design and produce millions of face shields for health care workers as part of its effort to help the workers battling coronavirus in the United States. “We’ve launched a company-wide effort bringing together product designers, engineering, operations, and packing teams and our suppliers, to design, produce, and ship face shields for health workers,” CEO Tim Cook explained in a video posted to Twitter. Previously, the tech giant announced that it had secured 10 million masks for medical workers. Apple debuted a new COVID-19 website and app not long after that. Cook also said that one shipment has been delivered to Kaiser hospital facilities in California’s Santa Clara valley and that the company expects to make one million face masks by the end of the week and just as many each following week. Initially, this effort will be for U.S. health care workers, but Apple hopes to expand it enough to aid workers in other countries impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The tech executive ended his video statement by encouraging people to follow local guidelines to shelter in place and maintain social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

Major kudos to Apple for all they’re doing to help fight this scourge.  Outstanding job Apple!    🙂

Google to issue reports on users’ location data to help governments enforce social distancing

Google said Friday it will begin publishing reports created from Google Maps users’ whereabouts to help governments make policy decisions regarding social distancing measures enacted to fight coronavirus. Karen DeSalvo, Google’s chief health officer, said Friday the company will protect individuals’ privacy by not revealing any one user’s location, contacts or movement at any point. Dr. DeSalvo said the COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports will initially cover 131 countries and regions and they will expand to cover additional countries and regions in the coming weeks. “The reports use aggregated, anonymized data to chart movement trends over time by geography, across different high-level categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential,” Dr. DeSalvo wrote on Google’s blog. “We’ll show trends over several weeks, with the most recent information representing 48-to-72 hours prior. … In addition to other resources public health officials might have, we hope these reports will help support decisions about how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.” Dr. DeSalvo wrote that the information Google has long collected but is now publishing may help officials understand better what defines an “essential” trip and where public transit resources may need to be allocated. Google users with the “Location History” setting turned on are having their whereabouts provide information for the mobility reports, which are publicly searchable on Google. Dr. DeSalvo wrote that her team is also working with epidemiologists who are focused on coronavirus and is providing them with an “existing aggregate, anonymized dataset” to learn more about the coronavirus outbreak and “forecast the pandemic.”

This certainly should raise all sorts of privacy and ‘big brother’ questions/concerns.  We’ll, of course, keep an eye on this developing story…

Apple announces new coronavirus app and website

Apple on Friday announced a new COVID-19 app and website to help people stay informed and stay healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic. The app and website allow users to answer a series of questions around risk factors, recent exposure and symptoms for themselves or a loved one, and then receive guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about possible next steps. In a statement released by Apple, the company emphasized that the screening tool is designed to be a resource but that it does not replace instructions from health care providers or guidance government officials. The new app and website offer resources to provide useful support and information to people about the coronavirus pandemic, including answers to common questions about risk factors and symptoms, as well as CDC guidance on washing hands and cleaning surfaces. The COVID-19 app and website do not require a sign-in or association with a user’s Apple ID, and the tech giant says that individual responses will not be sent to Apple or any government organization.

The President mentioned this in his daily briefing yesterday.  Again, this doesn’t replace instructions or guidance from doctors, etc.   It’s simply a resource.  Kudos to Apple for putting this together, and for the millions and millions of masks they’re donating to the cause.  They’re another American company stepping up during this tough time.  For more on this app, click on text above.