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Privacy Shield rubber stamped amid dissent

dataThe European Commission has formally adopted the controversial ‘Privacy Shield’ framework intended to replace the previous Safe Harbour agreement, reports

Both schemes covered the transfer of data between the EU and the US, with the balance between free movement of data and the protection of individuals a tricky one to strike. Privacy Shield has many critics who fear it does little to address the issues faced by Safe Harbour. In spite of that the EC has decided to plough forward as anticipated.

“We have approved the new EU-US Privacy Shield today,” said Andrus Ansip, Commission VP for the Digital Single Market. “It will protect the personal data of our people and provide clarity for businesses. We have worked hard with all our partners in Europe and in the US to get this deal right and to have it done as soon as possible. Data flows between our two continents are essential to our society and economy – we now have a robust framework ensuring these transfers take place in the best and safest conditions.”

“The EU-U.S. Privacy Shield is a robust new system to protect the personal data of Europeans and ensure legal certainty for businesses,” said Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “It brings stronger data protection standards that are better enforced, safeguards on government access, and easier redress for individuals in case of complaints. The new framework will restore the trust of consumers when their data is transferred across the Atlantic. We have worked together with the European data protection authorities, the European Parliament, the Member States and our U.S. counterparts to put in place an arrangement with the highest standards to protect Europeans’ personal data”.

Not everyone in Brussels was convinced, however. “The Commission has today signed a blank cheque for the transfer of personal data of EU citizens to the US, without delivering equivalent data protection rights,” said the Green Party MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht. “The ‘Privacy Shield’ framework does not seem to address the concerns outlined by the European Court of Justice in ruling the Safe Harbour decision illegal. In particular the individual rights of consumers are still too weak and blanket surveillance measures are still in place. In this context, the Commission should not be simply accepting reassurances from the US authorities but should be insisting on improvements in the data protection guaranteed to European consumers.

“The European Parliament already underlined concerns about the lack of general data protection provisions in the US when the initial Safe Harbour decision was concluded in 2000. Independent data protection authorities are still lacking in the US. EU justice commissioner Jourova must now make clear that, once the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation enter into force in 2018, there will also be a need to revise the Privacy Shield decision.”

Elodie Dowling, VP, EMEA General Counsel at BMC Software reckons there’s still plenty of work to do. “Following negotiations between EU and US officials, the formal adoption of Privacy Shield has officially started today in the EU’s 28 member states,” said Dowling. “Starting August 1, it will then be for businesses across the US and the EU to innovate and comply around this in order to create a culture of trust amongst their customers.


“However, with the ongoing discussions generated throughout the negotiation period, it’s unlikely that the official adoption of the Privacy Shield closes the loophole completely. For example, it remains unclear the type of ‘assurances’ the US has provided to the EU to ensure mass surveillance does not apply or, if it does, that it happens in a transparent and framed manner for EU citizens. Surely this particular item is going to be carefully considered by data privacy activists.”

Connected home will be operated by Apple and Google

Research from Gartner has claimed 25% households in developed economies will utilise the services of digital assistants, such as Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant, on smartphones as the primary means to interact with the connected home.

The user experience is an area which has been prioritized by numerous tech giants, including those in the consumer world, as the process of normalizing the connected world moves forward. Although IoT as a concept has been generally accepted by industry, efforts to take the technology into the wider consumer ecosystem are underway.

Connecting all IoT applications under a digital assistant could be a means to remove the complexity of managing the connected home, playing on the consumer drive for simplicity and efficiency. The digital assistant also presents an entry point for artificial intelligence, as appliances and systems in the home can be optimized alongside information available over the internet. Energy consumption, for example, could potentially be reduced as the digital assistant optimizes a thermostats levels dependent on current weather conditions.

“In the not-too-distant future, users will no longer have to contend with multiple apps; instead, they will literally talk to digital personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant,” said Mark O’Neill, Research Director at Gartner. “Some of these personal assistants are cloud-based and already beginning to leverage smart machine technology.”

The process of normalizing IoT in the consumer world will ultimately create a number of new opportunities for the tech giants, as the technology could offer a gateway into the home for a number of other verticals. Banks and insurance companies for example, could offer advice to customers on how they could save money on bills, should they have access to the data which is generated in the connected home.

“APIs are the key to interoperating with new digital interfaces and a well-managed API program is a key success factor for organizations that are interested in reaching consumers in their connected homes,” said O’Neill. “In the emerging programmable home, it is no longer best to spend time and money on developing individual apps. Instead, divert resources to APIs, which are the way to embrace the postapp world.”

25% of New Yorkers have no broadband access

Digital Device Tablet Laptop Connection Networking Technology ConceptResearch from the Wireless Broadband Alliance highlighted broadband connectivity is no longer a challenge reserved for rural areas, as 57% of the world’s urban population is currently unconnected, reports

Initiatives to increase the number of people who have a consistent connection to the internet has predominantly focused around rural communities, though the report demonstrated there are still a number of advanced western cities who have higher numbers than maybe expected. The research showed New York and Los Angeles currently have 27% and 25% of their populations who would be classed in the “Urban Broadband Unconnected” category. Shanghai was another city where the percentage of unconnected urban citizens seems high at 42%.

While New York, Los Angeles and Shanghai could be seen as technologically advanced cities, the seemingly high number of unconnected citizens could be attributed to the diversity in wealth and affluence. The report claims the numbers could be driven simply by broadband not being available in certain neighbourhoods, but also the price of broadband being unaffordable. While this would almost certainly be considered a ‘first-world problem’, there could be a potential impact on other areas of society, for example politics, as more communications move online, in particular to social media.

The CIA World Fact Book lists the USA as one of the world’s most affluent countries, accounting for $55,800 GDP per capita, which makes the statistics taken from two of its leading cities perhaps more surprising, though it does provide clarity to the high percentages in other nations. Lagos and Karachi were two of the cities which demonstrated the highest number of unconnected urban citizens at 88% and 86% respectively, though their GDP per capita is listed at $6,100 and $5,000, and are two countries which have been typically associated with political unrest.

“There is a clear divide between the digital haves and the digital have-nots,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance. “And while this divide generally mirrors socioeconomic trends around the world, there are surprisingly high levels of urban unconnected citizens in major cities.

“World Wi-Fi (June 20) Day is an opportunity to recognize the contributions being made to help connect the unconnected around the globe, whether they be in major cities or rural communities.”

The report evaluated 18 of the worlds’ leading cities including Tokyo, Dusseldorf, New Delhi, Johannesburg and London, which was listed as the worlds’ most connected city as only 8% of the population are unconnected currently. Europe was the most connected continent demonstrating the lowest levels of unconnected citizens at 17%, while in Asia Pacific 68% of its urban citizens were unconnected.

IBM launches weather predictor Deep Thunder for The Weather Company

cloud storm rainIBM’s Weather Company has announced the launch of Deep Thunder to help companies predict the actual impact of various weather conditions.

By combining hyper-local, short-term custom forecasts developed by IBM Research with The Weather Company’s global forecast model the team hope to improve the accuracy of weather forecasting. Deep Thunder will lean on the capabilities of IBM’s machine learning technologies to aggregate a variety of historical data sets and future forecasts to provide fresh new guidance every three hours.

“The Weather Company has relentlessly focused on mapping the atmosphere, while IBM Research has pioneered the development of techniques to capture very small scale features to boost accuracy at the hyper local level for critical decision making,” said Mary Glackin, Head of Science & Forecast Operations for The Weather Company. “The new combined forecasting model we are introducing today will provide an ideal platform to advance our signature services – understanding the impacts of weather and identifying recommended actions for all kinds of businesses and industry applications.”

The platform itself will combine more than 100 terabytes of third-party data daily, as well as data collected from the company’s 195,000 personal weather stations. The offering can be customized to suit the location of various businesses, with IBM execs claiming hyper-local forecasts can be reduced to between a 0.2 to 1.2 mile resolution, while also taking into account other factors for the locality such as vegetation and soil conditions.

Applications for the new proposition can vary from the agriculture to city planning & maintenance to validating insurance claims, however IBM has also stated consumer influences can also be programmed into the platform, meaning retailers could manage their supply chains and understand what should be stocked on shelves with the insight.

Court of Appeals hits back at US telco industry with net neutrality ruling

Lady Justice On The Old Bailey, LondonThe District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals has hit back at the US telcos industry, ruling in favour of government net neutrality regulations, reports

Although the decision will be appealed to the US Supreme Court, the decision marks a victory for FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s camp in the FCC, which has been split over the dispute. Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly championed efforts opposing Wheeler’s Democratic team, though the decision does appear to move US carriers closer to the realms of utilities.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth,” said Wheeler in a statement. “After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections – both on fixed and mobile networks – that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future.”

The decision itself will now ensure US carriers cannot block, degrade or promote internet traffic, which has been strongly opposed by the telecoms industry and members of the Republican Party. The argument against has been based around the idea of an ‘open internet’ where free-trade rules the roost. Texas Senator Ted Cruz once described the move towards net neutrality as “Obamacare for the internet”, believing it is burdensome and would create an environment of over-regulation for the internet.

The ruling also hits back at claims made by industry attorneys that ISPs are like newspaper editors, and thus have the right to edit content which flows over its network. This has been struck down by the DC Court of Appeals stating ISPs should view themselves as ‘conduits for the messages of others’ as opposed to dictating the opinions which are viewed on the internet.

While this would be considered a victory for the Wheeler camp inside the FCC, the dispute is likely to continue for some time. AT&T has already announced it will be appealing the decision and Verizon has stated its investments in Verizon Digital Media Services would be at risk without an open Internet.

The dispute on the whole has seen conflicting opinions at every level. The ruling from the DC Court of Appeals also demonstrated similar conflicts, with Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Williams stating “the ultimate irony of the Commission’s unreasoned patchwork is that, refusing to inquire into competitive conditions, it shunts broadband service onto the legal track suited to natural monopolies.”

In terms of opposition within the FCC itself, O’Rielly said in a statement “If allowed to stand, however, today’s decision will be extremely detrimental to the future of the Internet and all consumers and businesses that use it. More troubling is that the majority opinion fails to apprehend the workings of the Internet, and declines to hold the FCC accountable for an order that ran roughshod over the statute, precedent, and any comments or analyses that did not support the FCC’s quest to deliver a political victory.”

The other Republican Commissioner at the FCC Ajit Pai stated “I am deeply disappointed by the D.C. Circuit’s 2-1 decision upholding the FCC’s Internet regulations. The FCC’s regulations are unnecessary and counterproductive.”

The end of this dispute will unlikely to be seen for some time, and there are strong arguments for both camps. On the commercial side represented by the Republican Party and the telco industry, there has to be a means to commercialize the billions of dollars invested infrastructure. AT&T, Verizon, etc are not charities. However, the net neutrality camp containing the Democrat Party and the FCC Chairman insists there has to be an element of control. There is a requirement for telcos to be held accountable, and invoking the First Amendment right to free speech in this context could potentially have dangerous consequences from a commercial and political perspective.

Facebook launches 30 made-for-VR games at E3

FacebookFacebook, Bethesda Softworks and Sony are among the names to have announced new made-for-VR games at E3, reports

Facebook has launched 30 made-for-VR games for the Oculus Touch as it continues efforts to diversify its portfolio. Aside from those being released in the coming months, the Oculus team have also stated it has ‘hundreds’ more titles in the pipeline, though it hasn’t established when the Touch motion controllers might ship. The announcement also included the launch of Oculus Ready PCs, made by Alienware, Lenovo, and HP.

Bethesda Softworks also claims its Fallout 4 will become first big open-world game to get an official, studio-released virtual reality mode, as well as Sony announcing its Resident Evil title will receive the ‘full VR experience’.

While the shift towards VR and AR offers healthy potential for brands and gaming companies alike, it could present the same challenges for network players as the rise of mobile. VR could provide similar stress on the network as smartphone mass-adoption and the subsequent reduction in the price of data did. Deloitte estimates 2.5 million VR headsets and 10 million game copies could be sold in 2016 alone.

From a VR perspective, the gaming industry represents a healthy opportunity for brands such as Oculus. Research from intelligence firm Newzoo estimates gamers worldwide could generate a total of $99.6 billion in revenues in 2016, up 8.5% compared to 2015. Mobile will account for $36.9 billion, exceeding PC revenues for the first time, and growth is expected to continue at a healthy 6.6% CAGR through to 2019, potentially reaching $118.6 billion in total.

One of the main challenges for the VR industry currently is the levels of adoption and normalization of the technology itself. Currently the hardware is generally perceived as a luxury item and VR revenues will remain marginal for the short- to mid-term future until uptake has moved into the mainstream market. Newzoo expect the majority of revenues to be generated by hardware sales, spectator content, and live viewing formats, though this is likely to be the platform where consumers communicate with each other and interact with content in the long run.

Elsewhere in the industry, Sony has confirmed its first steps into the world of high-end VR, by announcing the release of PlayStation VR. The headset will be available later this year; October 13th and will be priced at $499 when bundled with the camera and Move controllers it needs to be fully functional.

While Sony is slightly later to the market than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, should the team be able to capitalise on strong performance in recent months the move could prove to be a successful venture. During the final quarter of 2015, Sony’s gaming division reported a 10.5% year-on-year increase revenue brought on by strong PlayStation hardware and software sales totalling $4.89 billion. Operating income for the gaming unit was 45.5% higher owing partly to the fact the company sold more than sold over 35 million PlayStation 4 consoles.

SMEs not prepared for the threat of cyber criminals – Barclaycard

Hacker performing cyber attack on laptopResearch from Barclaycard claims cyber security is not being prioritized by small businesses, putting numerous organizations at risk of attack.

The findings state only 20% of the organizations surveyed believe cyber security is a top business priority, with 10% claiming their team has not invested in cyber security at all. The average attack costs UK businesses between £75,000 and £311,000 according to HM Government’s 2015 Information Security Breaches report, as more than 50% of the respondents believe their organization is at risk of a breach within the next 12 months.

“Businesses of all sizes face a constant and growing threat from cybercrime,” said Paul Clarke, Product Director at Barclaycard. “As our research shows, many small businesses are failing take the necessary precautions, either because they don’t know how to protect themselves or, more worryingly, because they don’t think they need to. At Barclaycard we work with our customers to ensure they are aware of the growing threats they face and understand how they can protect themselves from cyber threats.”

Worryingly for business owners throughout the UK, only 13% of those who completed the survey believe they have the relevant skills to adequately protect themselves online. This statistic, combined with the lack of prioritization around security, may indicate decision makers believe their organization is safer, as cyber criminals would target the larger and more data heavy businesses in the UK.

While this may be considered a perception held by small businesses, the findings claim just under half have been hit by at least one cyber-attack in the past year, with a tenth experiencing more than four attacks.

“Cybersecurity is not a one-off investment that can then be forgotten about, especially as criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the way they target businesses,” said Clarke. “For fifty years we’ve been working in partnership with customers to ensure they are not only putting the right measures in place from the outset, but are also continuously reviewing their policies to keep up with the latest industry developments.”

75% of apps not compliant under EU data protection rules

Research from Netskope has claimed more than 75% of business apps lack key capabilities to ensure compliance under EU General Data Protection Regulation.

The company tracked 22,000 apps of which three quarters failed to meet minimum requirements of the EU, falling down in areas such as deleting personal data in a timely manner or violating data portability requirements.

The companies who have not met the required standards now have just under two years to ensure compliance, when GDPR comes into play in 2018. Failure to meet the criteria will see a company fined up to $22 million or up to four percent of annual worldwide revenue, whichever is greater.

“The shift to the cloud presents an increasing complexity and volume of security challenges for enterprises, including regulations like the EU GDPR,” said Sanjay Beri, CEO of Netskope. “With the deadline for compliance looming, complete visibility into and real-time control over app usage and activity in a centralised, consistent way that works across all apps is paramount for organisations to understand how they use and protect their customers’ personal data.”

The number of sanctioned apps containing malware increased from 4.1% to 11% in the period between reports. More of a quarter of the instances of malware was detected in files that had been shared with others within the organization. In terms of cloud data loss prevention, cloud storage applications accounted for 73.6%, with Webmail coming in at second with 22.1%.

Symantec acquires Blue Coat for $4.65 billion

SymantecSymantec has announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire cloud security specialists Blue Coat for $4.65 billion.

Blue coat is generally accepted as the market share leader and share gainer in web security and the deal is expected to close in Q3 this year. For the year ending April 2016, Blue Coat reported revenues of $598 million, demonstrating 17% year-on-year growth, accounting for 15,000 customers worldwide.

The company’s current CEO Greg Clark will be confirmed as Symantec’s new CEO and board member upon closing of the transaction. The move to appoint Clark as the company’s new CEO may indicate a shift in strategic direction for the business, as Symantec could be viewed as one of the technology industry’s old guard.

“Today, Symantec keeps global enterprises, governments and individual consumers protected with solutions across threat protection, information protection and managed services,” said Clark. “Likewise, Blue Coat is the trusted source for protecting billions of web transactions daily and is the clear leader in the growing cloud security market. Once combined, we will offer customers around the world – from large enterprises and governments to individual consumers – unrivalled threat protection and unmatched cloud security.”

Symantec has stated it will incorporate Blue Coat capabilities to ‘define the future of cybersecurity and set the pace for innovation industrywide’. R&D investments will focus around 3,000 engineers and nine Threat Response Centres in various locations around the world.

As part of the agreement, Silver Lake has agreed to make an additional investment of $500 million, taking its total investment to $1 billion. Bain Capital has also agreed to invest an additional $750 million in the company, as well as adding David Humphrey, a Managing Director of Bain Capital Private Equity, to Symantec’s Board of Directors.

“With this transaction, we will have the scale, portfolio and resources necessary to usher in a new era of innovation designed to help protect large customers and individual consumers against insider threats and sophisticated cybercriminals,” said Dan Schulman, Chairman of Symantec. “Together, we will be best positioned to address the ever-evolving threat landscape, the massive changes introduced by the shift to mobile and cloud, and the challenges created by regulatory and privacy concerns.”

Orange Business Services beefs up cloud gateway

GatewayOrange Business Services has integrated its Enterprise Application Management (EAM) Riverbed offering into its Business VPN Galerie portfolio, reports

The EAM offering is a fully-managed service from Orange Business Services targeted on delivering application acceleration and WAN optimization to boost user experience. The product aims to tackle a number of different challenges for customers including insufficient WAN bandwidth, as well as insufficient transport and application protocols in high-latency environments.

The offering uses Riverbed’s Steelhead appliances to deliver application acceleration and WAN optimization, which uses various optimization techniques including data, transport, application and management streamlining. The data streamlining techniques are claimed to reduce WAN bandwidth utilization by 65% to 98% for TCP-based applications.

“Customers need to boost end-user application experience with faster response times to increase productivity at a global scale, enable business-critical migration projects and improve the corporate image,” said Pierre-Louis Biaggi, VP of the connectivity business at Orange Business Services. “By integrating Riverbed’s best-of-breed technology in our secure and fully-managed solution we can deliver this promise.”

The Business VPN Galerie, which Orange claims was the world’s first cloud-ready network, offers customers a range of cloud-based applications and services from their own private network provided by Orange Business Services or its partners. The portfolio currently has 1,600 customers, as well as more than 20 cloud partners including Orange Cloud for Business, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Express Route, Salesforce and AWS.

Elsewhere in the Orange business, the team have opened a new Eco campus based in Chatillon on the outskirts of Paris, which will be devoted completely to research and innovation.

“Innovation, has always been one of the Group’s fundamentals, and must be the expression of Orange’s mission: transforming technology into progress each day and serving people through innovation,” said Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange. “To put the human context in the centre of our thinking, it is a choice we accept and that characterises us, this is a philosophy that now has a name: ‘Human Inside’. ‘Human Inside’ is both a slogan and a catchword, that gives meaning and which highlights all our action.”