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Facebook crash exposes risks in social networking products – Aljazeera.com

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Facebook Inc.’s worldwide crash exposed the risks of relying on its social networking products, bolstering European regulators’ drive to contain its reach just as a U.S. whistle-blower’s testimony threatens to attract more unwanted scrutiny at home.

While Europe awoke to find Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger services back online, the scale of Monday’s blackout quickly led to criticism. The European Union’s antitrust chief and digital czar, Margrethe Vestager, said the Facebook failure would focus minds on the company’s dominance.

“It’s always important that people have alternatives and choices. This is why we work on keeping digital markets fair and contestable,” Vestager said. “An outage as we have seen shows that it’s never good to rely only on a few big players, whoever they are.”

The networking problem that brought down services used by more than 2.75 billion people couldn’t have come at a worse time. After a U.S. television interview on Sunday, whistle-blower Frances Haugen will appear before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday and will tell lawmakers what she calls the “frightening truth” about Facebook. Haugen’s accusations that the company prioritizes profit over user safety were still making headlines as Facebook services were down.

The revelations prompted U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to highlight the risks faced by countries that rely on the services for communication.

Facebook climbed as much as 1.3% to $330.33 in New York, paring a 4.9% slump Monday.

Facebook already faces numerous antitrust and privacy investigations across Europe as well as intense scrutiny of even small deals, such as its planned takeover of a customer-service software provider. The company was fined 225 million euros ($261 million) last month over WhatsApp data failings and faces separate antitrust probes from the European Commission and German competition watchdog Bundeskartellamt.

EU lawmakers will in coming months vote on new laws that would curb the ability of powerful Internet platforms such as Facebook to expand into new services. The services disruption showed the “serious consequences” of dependency on one company for key communication channels, and that Facebook should never have been allowed to buy Instagram and WhatsApp, said Rasmus Andresen, a German Green member of the European Parliament.

“Everyone in the European Union as well as in the U.S. must realize now at the latest that we need strong regulations against quasi-monopolies,” Andresen said in a statement. “We need close transatlantic cooperation.”

Political Fallout

The event spurred calls for a new digital “order” by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a man with little tolerance for political criticism on social media. The hours-long shutdown showed how “fragile” social networks are, said Fahrettin Altun, his presidential communications director, urging a rapid development of “domestic and national” alternatives. “The problem we have seen showed us how our data are in danger, how quickly and easily our social liberties can be limited,” Altun said in a series of Twitter posts.

The nationalist Alternative for Germany party welcomed the disruption, with lawmaker Beatrix von Storch saying that she hopes competitors will benefit.

In Nigeria, the blackout silenced President Muhammadu Buhari’s communications team, government officials and governors in 36 states for six hours. The government has increasingly relied on Facebook to inform the public after Twitter’s services were blocked in Africa’s most populous country on June 5. A spokesman for the president’s office declined to comment.

Hungarian opposition politicians who use Facebook products to circumvent state-owned media outlets lamented that the company couldn’t be relied on as they campaign against Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Facebook is “for us opposition politicians one of the last media outlets where we can talk to you and which isn’t totally dominated by” Fidesz, Orban’s political party, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony said in a video posted on Tuesday. Problems with the platform threaten the ability to disseminate information, he said.

The outage forced some phone companies to take action. The Polish Play unit of Paris-based telecommunications company Iliad SA recorded an eightfold increase in the number of calls to its customer service between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. local time, it said in a blog post on its website. It had to reconfigure its network to prevent an overload.

“This outage does show the over-dependence we have on a single company, and the need for diversity and greater competition,” Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group in London, said in an interview. “Their reliance of data-driven, attention-optimizing products is dangerous and needs to be challenged through interventions enabling greater competition.”

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All vaccinated Ontarians can now download enhanced, scannable certificates – Sudbury.com

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TORONTO — All Ontarians vaccinated against COVID-19 can now download their enhanced certificates, which include a QR code.

The provincial government has said the scannable documents will allow for faster entry into settings that require proof of vaccination. 

The enhanced system officially takes effect on Friday, but Ontarians can get their new vaccine certificates before then, and businesses can start using a new app to verify those codes.

Residents whose birthdays fall between January and April were able to download the enhanced vaccination certificate through the province’s COVID-19 website on Friday, and further cohorts got access over the weekend.

Under Ontario’s vaccine certificate program, only those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — or have a valid medical exemption from a doctor — can access certain settings. 

They include theatres, gyms, nightclubs and restaurant dining rooms.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Oil prices fall as weaker China growth, U.S. output stoke demand concerns

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Oil prices fell on Tuesday, with Brent down a second straight day, after Chinese data showed slowing economic growth and U.S. factory output dropped in September, raising fresh concerns about demand amid patchy recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Brent Crude was down by 43 cents, or 0.5%, at $83.90 a barrel by 0132 GMT after falling 0.6% on Monday. The contract is still up nearly 7% this month.

U.S. oil fell 33 cents, or 0.4%, to $82.11 a barrel, having risen 0.2% in the previous session and nearly 10% this month.

Factory output in the United States dropped the most in seven months last month as a global shortage of semiconductors slowed auto production, further evidence that supply constraints are a strain on economic growth.

In China, the world’s second-biggest economy, bottlenecks also contributed to a decline in the growth rate to a one-year low as energy shortages and sporadic outbreaks of coronavirus hit the country.

China’s daily crude oil processing rate fell again last month to the lowest level since May last year.

But with temperatures falling as the northern hemisphere winter approaches, prices of oil, coal and gas are likely to remain elevated, analysts said.

“A frigid winter has the potential to send energy prices even higher,” Citi Research commodities analysts said in a note, after upgrading their forecast for Brent oil for the rest of 2021 to $85 a barrel from $74 a barrel.

Colder weather has already started to grip China, with the temperature forecast to fall to near freezing point in areas of the north, according to AccuWeather.com.

Also helping keep a lid on prices, U.S. oil output is rising. Production in the largest shale formation in the U.S. is expected to gain further next month, according to an official report.

 

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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Ecuadorean indigenous communities sue to halt oil development

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Indigenous communities from Ecuador’s Amazon on Monday sued the government to halt plans by President Guillermo Lasso to increase oil development in the country, calling the expansion efforts a “policy of death.”

Lasso, a conservative ex-banker who took office in May, issued two decrees in the first days of his administration meant to facilitate the development of oil blocks in environmentally sensitive jungle areas and attract more foreign investment for mining projects.

Leaders of Amazonian  indigenous communities are asking the Constitutional Court, the country’s highest judicial body, to nullify the decrees.

“The Ecuadorean government sees in our territory only resource interests,” said Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo, in remarks outside the court, surrounded by dozens of supporters.

“Our territory is our decision and we’ll never allow oil or mining companies to enter and destroy our home and kill our culture.”

Lasso has said he will seek international investment to increase oil production to 1 million barrels per day by the end of his term in 2025.

He also wants to make mining one of the country’s top sources of income.

The indigenous communities plan to present a separate suit against the decree related to mining, they said in a statement.

Expanding oil extraction will put in danger some of the world’s most biodiverse jungle, home to dozens of indigenous communities, the indigenous leaders said.

The energy ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“They seek to continue this policy of death,” said Leonidas Iza, who heads the CONAIE indigenous organization. “This isn’t a problem of the indigenous, it’s one of civilization.”

Indigenous groups have said they could hold protests against Lasso’s social and economic policies.

 

(Reporting by Tito Correa; Writing by Alexandra Valencia and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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