WhatsApp to combat fake messages in India


India said Facebook-owned WhatsApp had pledged on Tuesday to develop tools that would combat fake messages, to help the country crack down on people whipping up public anger through mass message forwards on social media.

WhatsApp chief executive officer Chris Daniels gave the assurance to India’s information technology minister during a meeting in New Delhi.
IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had asked the company to work out ways to trace the origin of “sinister” messages, like those that led to a series of mob beatings across the country this year.
“It does not need rocket science to locate a message,” Prasad said after his meeting, adding that the U.S. tech giant had agreed to name a grievance officer to deal with issues in India.
A Facebook spokeswoman in India did not respond to a request for comment.
India is WhatsApp’s biggest market with more than 200 million users and one where it says people forward more messages, photographs and videos than any other country.
There are also concerns that supporters of political parties could use social media platforms such as WhatsApp to spread false messages in the run-up to India’s national elections in 2019.
In July, WhatsApp said message forwards will be limited to five chats at a time, whether among individuals or groups, and said it will remove the quick forward button placed next to media messages.
IT minister Prasad also said WhatsApp was working with law enforcement agencies to tackle the problem and was planning a big campaign to educate consumers about fake messages.
WhatsApp will also comply with the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) directive of April that said all payments firms operating in the country should start storing data locally for “unfettered supervisory access”, Prasad said.
The central bank is currently working on guidelines related to the directive, which has drawn protest from companies such as Mastercard, Visa and American Express who fear it would lead to higher costs of setting up data centers in the country and weaken analysis of global fraud detection patterns.
Lack of clarity over the RBI’s directive has delayed the launch of WhatsApp inter-bank money transfer service in India, which it had tested earlier this year, a source with direct knowledge previously told Reuters.

Samsung to suspend operations at China mobile phone plant – Report

BY Reuters < 1 MINUTE READ

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is considering suspending operations at one of its mobile phone manufacturing plants in China due to slumping sales and rising labor costs, the Electronic Times reported on Monday.

Samsung might stop producing mobile phones this year at Tianjin Samsung Telecom Technology, located in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, the South Korean newspaper said, describing the move under consideration as a potential withdrawal.

The world’s biggest smartphone maker said on Monday that nothing had been decided on the fate of its Tianjin operation.

“The overall smartphone market is having difficulties due to slowing growth. Samsung Electronics’ Tianjin telecom enterprise aims to focus on activities that increase competitiveness and efficiency,” it said in a statement to Reuters.

Just five years ago, Samsung had 20 percent of the Chinese market only to see that fall to less than 1 percent this year, outgunned by Huawei, Xiaomi (1810.HK) and other Chinese brands, particularly on pricing.

The South Korean tech giant is also under pressure to jump-start faltering smartphone sales after posting its slowest quarterly profit growth in more than a year, as rivals nipping at its heels with cheaper, feature-packed models.

In addition to the Tianjin plant, Samsung also another Chinese phone factory in Huizhou.

In recent years, Samsung has focused its major mobile phone investments on production facilities in Vietnam and India. It opened the world’s biggest smartphone factory outside New Delhi last month, which is slated to become an export hub.

According to the Electronic Times, its Tianjin plant in China produces 36 million mobile phones a year and its Huizhou plant makes 72 million units a year, while the two factories in Vietnam combined to make 240 million units a year.




Microsoft in race to ring in till changes


Microsoft is working on technology that would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores, in a nascent challenge to Amazon.com’s automated grocery shop.

The software giant, which is developing systems that track what shoppers add to their carts, has shown sample technology to retailers across the world and has held talks with Walmart about a potential collaboration.

Microsoft aims to help retailers keep pace with Amazon Go, a highly automated store that opened to the public in Seattle in January.

Amazon customers scan their smartphones at a turnstile to enter. Cameras and sensors identify what they remove from the shelves. When customers are finished shopping, they simply leave the store and Amazon bills their credit cards.

Amazon Go, which will soon open in Chicago and San Francisco, has sent rivals scrambling to prepare for yet another disruption by the world’s biggest online retailer. Some have tested programs where customers scan and bag each item as they shop, with mixed results.

FILE- In this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo a shopper scans an Amazon Go app on a cellphone while entering an Amazon Go store in Seattle. Microsoft is working on automated checkout technology that could help retailers compete with Amazon’s new cashier-less stores. One firm building automated checkout systems, AVA Retail, said Thursday, June 14 that it is working with Microsoft on the technology for physical stores. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

For Microsoft, becoming a strategic ally to retailers has meant big business. In addition to developing retail technologies, it ranks number two behind Amazon in selling cloud services that are key to running e-commerce sites.

It is not clear how soon Microsoft would bring an automated checkout service to market, if at all, or whether its technology would be the answer retailers are looking for. But some see the technology as the next big innovation in shopping, one that Amazon’s competitors cannot afford to ignore.

“This is the future of checking out for convenience and grocery stores,” said Gene Munster, head of research at Loup Ventures.



South African authorities investigates $80m bitcoin scam

BY Reuters < 1 MINUTE READ
South African authorities are investigating an alleged cryptocurrency scam that defrauded investors of R1 billion ($80 million) with promises of huge returns that never materialised, police said on Friday.
The fraud investigation involves a company named BTC Global, which told clients they would earn 2 percent per day, 14 percent a week and 50 percent in a month, the police said.
A search for the company on the internet showed its services had been suspended.
The website lists Steven Twain as the “primary trader”. A request for comment by Reuters sent to an email address listed on the website as belonging to Twain received no response.
“Members of the public are believed to have been targeted as part of the scam and encouraged by agents of BTC Global,” the police said in a statement.
“Some of the investors got paid in terms of the agreement. However, the payments suddenly stopped.”
Local technology news website mybroadband.co.za had reported in March that more than $50 million was lost by investors in BTC Global.
“This may prove to be the tip of the iceberg with potentially thousands more yet to discover they’ve lost money,” police investigator Yolisa Matakata said.
The investigation follows a case this week where kidnappers demanded a ransom in bitcoin of nearly $120,000 to release a South African teenage boy.
On Thursday South Africa’s central bank said it was in the process of determining whether cryptocurrencies complied with its financial surveillance and exchange control regulations. 

Zuckerberg’s grilling over data privacy continues


Concern about Facebook’s respect for data privacy is widening to include the information it collects about non-users, after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the world’s largest social network tracked people whether they had accounts or not.

Privacy concerns have swamped Facebook since it acknowledged last month that information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

The firm that has counted US President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign among its clients.

Zuckerberg said on Wednesday under questioning by US representative Ben Lujá* that, for security reasons, Facebook also collects “data of people who have not signed up for Facebook posts.”

Legislators and privacy advocates immediately protested the practice, with many saying that Facebook needed to develop a way for non-users to find out what the company knows about them.

“We’ve got to fix that,” representative Lujá* , a Democrat, told Zuckerberg, calling for such disclosure, a move that would have unclear effects on the company’s ability to target ads. Zuckerberg did not respond. On Friday Facebook said it had no plans to build such a tool.

Critics said that Zuckerberg has not said enough about the extent and use of the data.

“It’s not clear what Facebook is doing with that information,” said Chris Calabrese, vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington advocacy group.

Facebook gets some data on non-users from people on its network, such as when a user uploads e-mail addresses of friends. Other information comes from “cookies,” small files stored via a browser and used by Facebook and others to track people on the internet, sometimes to target them with ads.

“This kind of data collection is fundamental to how the internet works,” Facebook said.

Asked if people could opt out, Facebook added: “There are basic things you can do to limit the use of this information for advertising, like using browser or device settings to delete cookies. This would apply to other services beyond Facebook because, as mentioned, it is standard to how the internet works.”

Facebook often installs cookies on non-users’ browsers if they visit sites with Facebook “like” and “share” buttons, whether or not a person pushes a button.

Facebook said it uses browsing data to create analytics reports, including about traffic to a site.

The company said it does not use the data to target ads, except those inviting people to join Facebook.

Advocates and lawmakers say they are singling out Facebook because of its size, rivalled outside China only by Alphabet’s Google, and because they allege Zuckerberg was not forthcoming about the extent and reasons for the tracking.



Amazon buys Blink cameras

BY Reuters < 1 MINUTE READ

AMAZON.COM paid about $90million (R1.08billion) to acquire the maker of Blink home security cameras late last year, in a secret bet on the start-up’s energy efficient chips, people familiar with the matter said.

The deal’s rationale and price tag underscore how Amazon aims to do more than sell another popular camera, as analysts had thought.

The online retailer is exploring chips exclusive to Blink that could lower production costs and lengthen the battery life of other gadgets, starting with Amazon’s Cloud Cam and potentially extending to its family of Echo speakers. Amazon views its in-house devices as key to deepening its relationship with shoppers.

– Reuters

Commodity traders feel techno impact

BY Reuters < 1 MINUTE READ

“CHOCFINGER” made his name and his money by taking bold bets on cocoa markets. But after nearly four decades of trading, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, Anthony Ward threw in the towel.

Ward blames the rise of computer-driven funds and high-frequency trading for forcing him and some other well-known commodities investors to close their hedge funds.

While computerised trading is not new, Ward and others argue its steady rise has reached a tipping point that is distorting prices and creating uncertainty not only for investors, but for chocolate firms, carmakers and others who rely on commodities.

It was in January 2016, after a slide in cocoa prices, that Ward decided the days of traditional commodity investors doing well from taking positions based on fundamentals such as supply and demand may be numbered.

Commodity markets fell across the board that month after weak factory data in China. Ward blamed the slide in cocoa on what he regarded as misplaced selling by computer-driven funds reacting to the Chinese data, given China has scant impact on the cocoa market. His prediction that a hot, harmattan wind from the Sahara desert would hit harvests in Ivory Coast and Ghana and drive cocoa prices higher did come to pass – but not before the fund had been forced to cut its losses when the market slumped.

At the end of 2017, Ward closed the CC+ hedge fund that had invested in cocoa and coffee markets for years.

And at the end of January, commodity hedge fund Jamison Capital Partners run by Stephen Jamison closed. He told investors that machine learning and artificial intelligence had eliminated short-term trading opportunities, while commodities did not offer obvious benefits in the long term.

– Reuters


US share market: A correction or crash?


Global share markets last week recorded one of their biggest sell-off since the 2008 recession.

In the US, the Dow Jones industrial index had lost 10.3% since the beginning of the current downward “correction” on January 26.

Inflation expectations and fears for huge increases in the discount rate by the Federal Reserve during this year had led to strong rises in the Fed bond yields. This had triggered a strong sell-off in equities on world markets over the last two weeks.

This negative sentiment was fuelled the previous Friday by the news that wage growth in the US had intensified in January. This indicate that US interest rates are about to increase at a faster rate than previously anticipated.

The sell-off in shares in the US had spilled over to almost all global markets. Over the same time (January26) the MSCI emerging market index had already lost 7.5% and the World index 8.5%.

World stock and capital markets are expected to stay nervous this week ahead of the release of the US inflation rate for January on Wednesday.

Expectations are that the inflation rate increased to 2.1%. This is higher than the 2% set as upper target by the Fed. If this inflation rate is attained, or is even higher, the sell-off of equities on US and global markets will continue.

On the domestic front, the economy is showing more and more signs of improvement. Manufacturing data released last week, had indicated that manufacturing production increased by 2% in December. Mining production during 2017 recorded growth of more than 4%.

On the JSE, the all share index ended 2753 points (-4.7%) lower than the previous Friday and closed on 55902.62 points. This was already 5693 points (9.2%) lower than the high of 61596 points on January26.

Last week the JSE Top40 index traded 5% down, while financials lost 1%. Industrial shares retreated 5.7%, while resources decreased 6.5%. Listed property shares on the other hand increased by 2.7%.

Meanwhile, the rand rate moved volatile against the dollar last week.



Banks ban credit card cryptocurrency buys

BY Reuters < 1 MINUTE READ

Banks in Britain and the US have banned the use of credit cards to buy Bitcoin and other “cryptocurrencies”, fearing a plunge in their value will leave customers unable to repay their debts.

Lloyds Banking Group, which issues just over a quarter of all credit cards in Britain, and Virgin Money said they would ban credit card customers from buying cryptocurrencies, following the lead of US banking giants JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup.

The move is aimed at protecting customers from running up huge debts from buying virtual currencies on credit.

Concerns have arisen among credit card providers because their customers have increasingly been using credit cards to fund accounts on online exchanges.

Other banks said on Monday that they would continue to allow credit card customers to buy cryptocurrencies.

Barclays is Britain’s leading credit card issuer with a market share of around 27 percent through its Barclaycard brand.

Spain’s second-biggest bank, BBVA, also said it has no restrictions in place on such purchases.

Last week Mastercard Inc, the world’s second biggest payments network, said customers buying cryptocurrencies with credit cards fuelled a 1percentage point increase in overseas transaction volumes in the fourth quarter.

At that time, Bitcoin was staging a spectacular rise in value, reaching a peak of $19187 on December 16 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange.

However, it has since fallen dramatically and on Monday was down by 11percent.

The decision on whether to allow credit card users to buy cryptocurrencies is a credit risk decision made by the card-issuing banks, said Mastercard.

– Reuters

Samsung’s boss remains out of reach of the law


Samsung Electronics’ ailing chairperson, Lee Kun-hee, was named by South Korean police yesterday as a suspect in an 8.2billion won (R90.36million) tax evasion case that involved the use of bank accounts held by employees.

A series of scandals have dogged the family of Samsung, the country’s biggest business empire.

The chairperson’s son Jay Y Lee, heir to the Samsung Group, was released from detention earlier this week, after an appeals court halved his sentence for bribery and corruption to two-and-a-half years and suspended it for four years.

Following a heart attack in 2014, the elder Lee, 76, has remained hospitalised in Seoul’s Samsung Medical Centre and is difficult to communicate with having shown little sign of recovery.

Until his imprisonment Jay Y Lee had been regarded as the de facto head of the group.

Police said the elder Lee could not be questioned due to his physical condition, and Samsung declined comment.“Samsung chairperson Lee Kun-hee and a Samsung executive managed funds in 260 bank accounts under names of 72 executives, suspected of evading taxes worth 8.2bn won,” Korean National Police Agency said, planning to send the case to prosecutors.

Police added that the accounts, holding some 400bn won, were found in the course of their probe into alleged improper payments for the renovation of Lee’s family residence.

The investigation into tax evasion harks back to the late payment of 130bn won in tax in 2011, though only 8.2bn of that sum falls within the statute of limitations, according to police.

The graft case that led to the younger Lee’s arrest last year and brought down the former president Park Geun-hye prompted Samsung to vow to improve transparency in corporate governance and grant heads of the group’s affiliates more autonomy from the Lee family.

The group dismantled its corporate strategy office in late 2017.

The new liberal government led by President Moon Jae-in elected after the corruption scandal promised to put family-run conglomerates under stronger scrutiny and end the practice of pardoning corporate tycoons convicted of white-collar crimes.

Though Jay Y Lee has not been seen back at the office since his release on February 5, members of the Korean business community expect him to take up the reins once again, and invest more in the business to create jobs that might help soothe public anger.

Returning home from prison, the younger Lee apologised for not showing his best side and said he would do his best, but did not give specifics on his business plans.

While he spent a year behind bars, Samsung Electronics, the world’s top semiconductors maker, earned record profit as it benefited from a memory chip “super cycle”.

It is not the first time the elder Lee has been investigated for tax evasion.

He was convicted in 2009 and later pardoned for tax evasion after being embroiled in a scandal that also involved the use of accounts held by trusted employees.

Police say they have since identified more such accounts.

Shares in Samsung Electronics rose 1.1percent compared to a 0.5percent rise in the wider market.

Generally, blue chip tech stocks rebounded.

– Reuters