Facebook’s Zuckerberg Apologizes to EU Lawmakers

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg apologized to EU lawmakers on Tuesday, saying the company had not done enough to prevent misuse of the social network and that regulation is “important and inevitable.”

Meeting the leaders of the European Parliament, Zuckerberg stressed the importance of Europeans to Facebook and said he was sorry for not doing enough to prevent abuse of the platform.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility. That was a mistake and I am sorry for it,” Zuckerberg said in his opening remarks.

In response to questions about whether Facebook ought to be broken up, Zuckerberg said the question was not whether there should be regulation but what kind of regulation there should be.

“Some sort of regulation is important and inevitable,” he said.

He declined to answer when leading lawmakers asked him again as the session concluded whether there was any cross use of data between Facebook and subsidiaries like WhatsApp or on whether he would give an undertaking to let users block targeting adverts.

Facebook has been embroiled in a data scandal after it emerged that the personal data of 87 million users were improperly accessed by a political consultancy.


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Indian Innovators Convert Diesel Exhaust Into Ink To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink. 

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest. 

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye. 

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up. 

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using. 

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems. 

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink. 

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon. 

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says. 

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere. 

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms. 

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. 


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Robots Taking Over Grocery Warehouses

Grocery stores in the U.S. are locked in a fierce battle for customers who often demand the convenience of home deliveries. Automation is increasingly becoming part of the competitive equation. When U.S. mail-order retail giant Amazon shook up the supermarket industry with its purchase of Whole Foods, America’s second biggest food retailer, Kroger, responded by partnering with a British online supermarket known for its advanced warehouse technology. VOA’s George Putic reports.


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Man Dies After Tesla Crashes into San Francisco-Area Pond

A man was killed when the Tesla automobile he was driving veered off a road, crashed through a fence and plunged into a pond, authorities said Monday.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Daniel Jacowitz said rescuers pulled the Tesla Model S from the pond early Monday and found the man’s body inside.

The driver was identified as Keith Leung, 34, of Danville, California, said Sgt. Ray Kelly, spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s office.

Kelly said it was too soon to know if the vehicle’s semi-autonomous Autopilot mode was engaged when the crash occurred or whether the driver may have been speeding or intoxicated.

Photographs of the car show that its backend was destroyed, its hood crumpled and windows shattered.

The crash occurred near the cities of San Ramon and Danville on Sunday evening, Jacowitz said. A property owner contacted authorities after hearing a noise and seeing damage to his fence and tire tracks.

The car was traveling at a speed “great enough to leave the roadway, hit a fence, keep going down an embankment and into a pond on the property,” Jacowitz said.

Federal transportation authorities have been investigating if the Tesla’s Autopilot mode has played a role in other recent crashes.

In March, the driver of a Tesla Model X was killed in California when his SUV hit a barrier while traveling at “freeway speed.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating that case, in which the Autopilot system was engaged.

Autopilot was also engaged in a crash earlier this month in Utah, according to data from the car.

Also this month, the NTSB opened a probe into an accident in which a Model S caught fire after crashing into a wall at a high speed in Florida. Two 18-year-olds were trapped in the vehicle and died in the flames. The agency has said it does not expect Autopilot to be a focus in that investigation.

Autopilot is the most well-known semi-autonomous system. It uses cameras and sensors on the front, sides and rear of the car to observe lane markings and to “see” other cars that are nearby. It’s simple to engage, requiring only two quick taps of a stalk. There are no limitations on where Autopilot can be used. Drivers can enable it on the freeway, side streets, or anywhere with distinct lane markings.


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From Airlines to Pizza Parlors, EU Businesses Adopt Data Law

Lisa Meyer’s hair salon is a cozy place where her mother serves homemade macaroons, children climb on chairs and customers chat above the whirr of hairdryers.

Most of the time Meyer is focused on hairstyles, color trends and keeping up with appointments. But now she’s worried about how the European Union’s new data protection law will affect her business as she contacts customers to seek permission to store their details. Even though she supports the law, Meyer fears it may cut her mailing list by 90 percent as people choose to withhold their data or simply overlook her emails.

 

“It will be difficult to market upcoming events,” she said at her shop, Lisa Hauck Hair & Beauty in London.

 

Businesses from pizza parlors to airlines across the EU’s 28 countries are bombarding customers with emails seeking consent to use personal data as they rush to comply with the bloc’s General Data Protection Regulation, which takes effect May 25. While much of the attention has focused on how technology giants like Facebook and Google will comply with the rules, consumers are learning firsthand that they apply to any firm, large or small, that stores personal data.

The new rules , called GDPR for short, are designed to make it easier for EU residents to give and withdraw permission for companies to use personal information, requiring consent forms that are written in simple language and no more than one-page long. Companies that already hold such data have to reach out to customers and ask for permission to retain it. Authorities can fine companies up to 4 percent of annual revenue or 20 million euros ($23.6 million), whichever is higher, for breaching the rules.

As a result, email boxes all over the continent are being swamped with messages from opticians, hotels, greeting card companies and even charities that fear stiff penalties for non-compliance.

 

In an effort to rise above the clutter, some companies are trying to spice up their approach as they try to ensure continued access to information vital to their businesses.

 

The St. Pancras Hotels Group promises that “only nominated people have access to your details, and they are kept really safe, guarded by our very own British Bulldogs. And a rude punk rocker.” Britain’s Channel 4 television offered up a video featuring one of the country’s best-known comedians explaining GDPR and how it will affect viewers. Many are using animations, like this one from like France’s mobile operator Bouygues, to explain the rules.

 

Regulators say the law applies to anyone who collects, uses or stores personal data. That can be a burden for small businesses that are forced to hire outside lawyers or consultants because they don’t have the staff or expertise to deal with the law.

 

The EU’s one-size-fits-all approach is one of the flaws in the law, according to Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy advocate who has formed a non-profit to take action against big companies that deliberately violate the new rules.

 

When the rules were being discussed, industry lobbyists sought to weaken the law by creating uncertainty, and as a result there are no clear guidelines that exempt small companies, Schrems told the BBC recently.

 

“GDPR is a prime example of corporate law gone wrong, because it’s helpful for big companies,” he said. “They have to do all of this anyways and they can use the uncertainty in the law to kind of get around things. But it leaves small companies that don’t … have a law department, or something like that, in a situation with a lot of uncertainty.”

 

Meyer falls under the new rules’ jurisdiction because she keeps data. Like many hair colorists, she keeps a card on each of her clients that notes whether they are allergic to any chemicals used in the dyes. That’s considered personal medical information that must be protected.

 

She took a data protection course to learn about her obligations and avoid legal bills.

 

“I find it actually quite scary how data is being used so carelessly,” Meyer said. “It’s a good wake-up call. It’s made me more aware.”

 

But many others have been caught off guard.

 

A survey by French consultancy Capgemini says that 85 percent of European firms will not have completed their preparations for GDPR this week. It finds that British businesses are the most advanced and Swedish ones have the most work to do still.

 

A survey conducted by Britain’s Federation of Small Businesses estimates that complying with the rules will cost an average of 1,030 pounds ($1,390) per company.

“For a small business, it’s hugely onerous,” said Mark Elliott, who runs the digital marketing company, Sparks4Growth Ltd. He knows other small business owners who are worried about the extra red tape and costs of complying with the law. “I think, quite simply, they left us open to the lions,” he said of regulators.

 

EU officials say GDPR is necessary to catch up with all the technological advances since 1995, when the last comprehensive European rules on data privacy were put in place.

 

As technology advances, data becomes more important. The ability to analyze everything from medical records to the weather holds enormous potential, with suggestions it will make us healthier, improve traffic flows and help scientists learn more about the movements of endangered species, to name but a few items.

 

But with that potential comes concern about privacy.

The threat was vividly illustrated earlier this year when allegations surfaced that a little known campaign consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, misused data from millions of Facebook accounts to help Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election. That touched off a global debate over internet privacy and triggered speculation other jurisdictions will soon follow the EU in tightening data protection laws.

 

That is just fine with Meyer, who thinks society needs a new etiquette for dealing with personal data.

 

“It’s like sitting up straight at the table. It’s like not talking too loud on the bus,” she said. Respect for data “has to get into our culture.”

 


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EU Parliament to Broadcast Zuckerberg Hearing

A European Parliament meeting on Tuesday with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be broadcast live, parliamentary officials and the company said on Monday after controversy over plans for a closed-door hearing.

Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who was criticized by legislators and some senior EU officials over arrangements for the discussion on public privacy concerns, tweeted that it was “great news” that Zuckerberg had agreed to a live web stream.

A Facebook spokeswoman said: “We’re looking forward to the meeting and happy for it to be live streamed.”

Zuckerberg, who founded the U.S. social media giant, will be in Europe to defend the company after scandal over its sale of personal data to a British political consultancy which worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign, among others.

He will meet Tajani and leaders of parties in the European Parliament in Brussels from 6:15 p.m. (1615 GMT) on Tuesday.

He is also due to meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday.


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Xinhau: China Launches Satellite to Explore Dark Side of Moon

China launched a relay satellite early on Monday designed to establish a communication link between earth and a planned lunar probe that will explore the dark side of the moon, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Citing the China National Space Administration, Xinhua said the satellite was launched at 5:28 a.m. (2128 GMT Sunday) on a Long March-4C rocket from the Xichang launch center in the southwest of the country.

“The launch is a key step for China to realize its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the moon,” Xinhua quoted Zhang Lihua, manager of the relay satellite project, as saying.

It said the satellite, known as Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, will settle in an orbit about 455,000 km (282,555 miles) from Earth and will be the world’s first communication satellite operating there.

China aims to catch up with Russia and the United States to become a major space power by 2030. It is planning to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.

However, while China has insisted its ambitions are purely peaceful, the U.S. Defense Department has accused it of pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis. 


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New GPS Technology Offers Help For Old School Transportation

Drivers can choose from several GPS apps that can alert them to accidents or slow traffic so they can avoid them. But bike riders – who travel the same roadways as cars – are on their own. So an English university student designed an app to help cyclists report dangerous hot spots to other cyclists, and local governments. Faith Lapidus reports.


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Facebook’s Zuckerberg, EU Lawyers Locked in Negotiations

Facebook and European Union officials were locked in high-stakes negotiations Sunday over whether founder Mark Zuckerberg will appear Tuesday before EU lawmakers to discuss the site’s impact on the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of Europeans, as well as Facebook’s impact on elections on both sides of the Atlantic and the spreading of fake news.

Being debated is whether the meeting would be held after EU Parliament President Antonio Tajanibe agreed to have it live-streamed on the internet and not held behind closed-doors, as previously agreed.

The leaders of all eight political blocs in the parliament have insisted the format be changed.

Lawmakers say it would be deeply damaging for Zuckerberg, if he pulls out simply because they want him to hold what they say is the equivalent of a “Facebook Live.”

Claude Moraes, chairman of the EU parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs panel, warned Zuckerberg will have to go into greater detail than he did in his testimony before U.S. Senate and Congressional panels last month on the “issues of algorithmic targeting, and political manipulation” and on Facebook’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook shared with the British firm the data of millions of Americans and Europeans, which was subsequently used for election campaigning purposes. Facebook did not return calls from VOA asking about whether Zuckerberg’s meeting with EU lawmakers would still go ahead.

“EU governments are absolutely aware that every election now is tainted. We want to get to the heart of this,” said Moraes. EU lawmakers say Zuckerberg’s appearance is all the more important as he has declined to appear before national European parliaments, including Britain’s House of Commons.

Terrorist connections

Zuckerberg is likely also to be pressed on why Facebook is still being used by extremists to connect with each other and to recruit. Much of the focus in recent weeks on Facebook has been about general issues over its management of users’ data, but analysts are warning the social-media site is enabling a deadly form of social networking and isn’t doing enough to disrupt it.

“Facebook’s data management practices have potentially served the networking purposes of terrorists,” said the Counter Extremism Project, nonprofit research group, in a statement.

“CEP’s findings regularly debunk Facebook’s claims of content moderation. This week, a video made by the pro-ISIS al-Taqwa media group was found that includes news footage from attacks in the West and calls for further violence, encouraging the viewer to attack civilians and ‘kill them by any means or method,” according to CEP

CEP researchers say Facebook’s “suggested friends” feature helps extremists connect to each other and is “enabling a deadly form of social networking.” “Worldwide, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, there has been a spike of militant activity on social media channels … Encrypted messaging apps like Facebook-owned WhatsApp are well known mechanisms used by terrorists to communicate, plot and plan attacks, a practice that is tragically continuing,” CEP says.

New rules

Aside from the EU parliament, Zuckerberg has agreed to be interviewed onstage Thursday at a major tech conference in Paris, and is scheduled to have lunch with French president Emmanuel Macron during the week.

His visit comes as the British government is threatening social-media companies with a tax to pay for efforts to counter online crime. According to Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper, British ministers have instructed officials to carry out research into a new “social media levy” on internet companies.

Culture Minister Matt Hancock indicated Sunday the British government is beginning to move away from allowing the internet companies to regulate themselves and is ready to impose requirements on them, which if approved by parliament will make Britain the “safest place in the world” to be online.

A new code of practice aimed at confronting social-media bullying and to clear the internet of intimidating or humiliating online content could be included in the legislation, say officials. Other measures being considered include rules that have to be followed by traditional broadcasters that prevent certain ads being targeted at children. Hancock said work with social-media companies to protect users had made progress, but the performance of the industry overall has been mixed, he added.

Hancock said, “Digital technology is overwhelmingly a force for good across the world and we must always champion innovation and change for the better.”

 


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American Inventors You’ve Never Heard Of

Edison did it. Eastman did it. And so did Steve Jobs.

They invented products that changed our lives.

But for every well-known inventor there are many other, less recognizable individuals whose innovative products have greatly impacted our world.

Fifteen of those trailblazing men and women — both past and present — were recently honored for their unique contributions in a special ceremony at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum, which is nestled in a corner of the vast atrium of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office building in Alexandria, Virginia.

Augmented reality

Stan Honey was honored for inventing a graphics systems that makes it easier for television viewers around the world to see key moments during live sporting events… such as sailing, car racing and American football.

“What we do is we superimpose graphic elements like yellow lines into the real world, correctly positioned so that they can reveal something that’s important to a game that is otherwise hard to see,” he said.

The graphics make those yellow lines look like they’re actually on the field, Honey explained, but “they’re keyed underneath the athletes… so it looks like it’s on the grass, but in fact if you were in the stadium of course, it’s not actually there!”

In sports like football, Honey pointed out, the graphics are used “for the ‘first down’ line.” In baseball, to show “where the balls go through the strike zone or miss the strike zone,” and in sailing they’re used “to show who’s ahead, who’s behind, where the laylines are, what the wind direction is.”  

“Any sport that has something that’s really important and hard to see can benefit from graphics that are inserted into the real world,” he added.

WATCH: Julie Taboh’s video report

Lasting beauty

“Curiosity and exploration are the essential starting points of innovation,” says inductee Sumita Mitra. She credits her life-long love of learning to her parents and teachers; “They taught me how to learn… and if you know how to learn, you can learn anything.”

Mitra put her learning skills to full use when she discovered that using nanoparticles can strengthen dental composites while helping teeth maintain their natural look. She was looking for “beauty that lasts,” she said, and decided “nanoparticle technology would be the right ticket to create something to meet these objectives.”

Rini Paiva, who oversees the selection committee at the National Inventors Hall of Fame, noted that more than 600 million restorations take place every year using Mitra’s technology.

Gallery of icons

The annual selection process is very competitive, say Paiva, “because there are a lot of terrific inventors out there and our job is really to look for the ones who have had the most impact on our world.”

Each year, as a select group of inventors are inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, they’re presented with hexagonal-shaped plaques inscribed with their name, invention and patent number. Those simple but symbolic awards become part of a permanent collection that now stands at more than 560.

Five of the 2018 inductees were recognized for their contributions posthumously, their awards accepted by their respective representatives.

Temperature controls

Mary Engle Pennington, who died at the age of 80 in 1952, was a pioneer in the safe preservation, handling, storage and transportation of perishable foods, which impacted the health and well-being of generations of Americans. She was recognized for her numerous accomplishments, including her discovery of a way to refrigerate train cars, allowing perishable foods to be safely moved from one place to another.

In 1895, Warren Johnson introduced the first multi-zone automatic temperature control system commercially feasible for widespread application. The Johnson System of Temperature Regulation was used in commercial buildings, offices, and schools, and also installed in the U.S. Capitol Building, the Smithsonian, the New York Stock Exchange, West Point Military Academy, and the home of Andrew Carnegie. In 2008, it was designated an ASME Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

Johnson’s innovations and the company he co-founded, Johnson Controls, helped launch the multi-billion-dollar building controls industry.

The real deal

Established in 1973 in partnership with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum provides numerous displays and interactive exhibits on patents and the patent process, and the inductees and their patented inventions.  

There’s a model of Thomas Edison’s light bulb, George Eastman’s hand-held cameras, and replicas of Ford Mustangs from 1965 and 2015 — split down the middle to show how the iconic car has changed over 50 years.

Visitors can also learn about trademarks, (think NIKE’s Swoosh logo), how to detect the real from the fake, (counterfeit designer handbags and accessories were hard to tell apart from the genuine article), and match characters, colors, and even sounds, to their respective brands.

Future inventors

Rini Paiva notes that while the museum is dedicated to honoring the greatest innovative minds from the past and present, it is also committed to its educational intiatives through its partnership with 1,300 schools and districts nationwide.

“Our museum does share the stories of the inductees in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, but beyond that it really shows people what we can do through our education programs, really in encouraging young people to pursue STEM fields, and also in the power of intellectual property.”

Education merges with the symbolic presence of some of the world’s most innovative minds whose examples of American ingenuity serve to inform and inspire others who may follow in their paths.


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