Category Archives: Tech

Apple CEO Tim Cook Urges China To ‘Open Up’ At Beijing Economic Forum

BEIJING (AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook says he’s “extremely bullish” about the global economy based on the amount of innovation being carried out, and he’s urging China to continue to “open up.”

In a speech at an economic forum in Beijing on Saturday, Cook said Apple is less concerned with the short term economic outlook because the tech giant makes investments looking ahead years or decades.

His remarks come as China and the U.S. prepare to meet again to resolve their trade dispute, which has roiled global markets, and as Apple is expected to announce that it’s launching a video service.

The iPhone has long been Apple’s marquee product and main money maker, but sales are starting to decline. The company is pushing digital subscriptions as it searches for new growth.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

San Francisco Startup’s High-Tech Bottle Purifies Water With UV Light

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — LARQ, a San Francisco-based startup, claims to have built the world’s first self-cleaning water bottle.

In just 60 seconds, LARQ will purify water and clean the inner surfaces of the water bottle.

LARQ says it created proprietary UV-C LED technology to kill nearly 100 percent of germs and harmful bacteria and viruses.

“A big part of what we’re trying to solve is not that people can’t clean the water bottle, it’s that we find that a lot of people end up reaching for a plastic water bottle,” said CEO & Co-Founder Justin Wang.

CEO and co-founder Justin Wang says he came up with the idea after feeling guilty about grabbing for a plastic water bottle one too many times.

Wang first launched a wildly successful KickStarter campaign, raising almost $2 million for LARQ.

The bottle activates every two hours in self-cleaning mode.

“We always found this issue of, when you’re on the go and you’re searching for your water bottle, it’s not clean. It’s a little smelly, you can’t purify water on the go, sometimes,” said Wang.

LARQ says only a tiny fraction of plastic bottles are recycled and turned into new ones. More than 1 million plastic bottles end up in landfills every minute.

“Water safety and water is not only a third-world-country issue but it’s also something that affects the U.S. so having that option every time during a hurricane or even in Flint, Michigan you have water-quality issues,” he added.

Even when the water quality is good, as is the case with most tap water in San Francisco, LARQ says many germs, and the stench come from the bottle itself.

“I definitely would try it out, give it a shot, I think bottles always get really disgusting on the inside if you have it for awhile,” said Bay Area resident Chiko Chingaya.

UC Berkeley environmental engineering professor Ashok Gadgil specializes in safe drinking water.

“UV disinfection is a very effective and safe way to disinfect water,” Gadgil said.

He says UV light illuminates the water and kills the DNA of the bacteria.

“It’s a pretty, pretty new technology and to have it reach commercial prices, the prices have come down for commercial use, that’s a very recent development,” he added.

The LARQ bottle retails for $95. It is rechargeable and each charge lasts a month.

“It’s very steep, although if it does all that and if it lasts for a month and you break it down per day then it wouldn’t be so bad,” said Theresa Soto, who is visiting San Francisco from Kansas.

LARQ is currently sold at Bloomingdale stores nationwide and on its website. In the first three months since it went live, LARQ says it has shipped 25,000 bottles.

The company says it is working on expanding to more retailers across the country and introducing similar technology for use in homes.

Pinterest Files To Go Public Amid Busy Season For Tech IPOs

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF / AP) — Digital scrapbooking site Pinterest on Friday filed for an initial public offering of stock.

It follows a similar filing with securities regulators earlier this month by ride-hailing company Lyft in what is shaping up to be a busy season for technology IPOs. Also expected to sell stock to the public in the coming weeks: Lyft rival Uber and messaging app Slack.

Pinterest said in its filing that it intends to list itself on the New York Stock Exchange using the ticker symbol “PINS.” The company hasn’t yet said how many shares it’s selling in the IPO or how much money it intends to raise.

The San Francisco-based company had revenue of $756 million and a loss of $63 million last year. Pinterest allows people to search for and “pin” images as inspiration for fashion, interior design, travel and more.

The company said it has more than 250 million users each month, and users have saved more than 175 billion pins since the site was launched.

Pinterest has raised nearly $1.5 billion in the private markets, and was last valued at $12.3 billion in 2017, according to PitchBook Data.

Pinterest has long shunned being labeled a social network. Because of that, it doesn’t push users to add friends or build connections. It also means it’s been able to avoid problems of its larger rivals like Facebook.

Pinterest was founded in 2010 by Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp, who still serve as CEO and chief product officer, respectively.

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Man Accused Of Smuggling Electronics To Russia Faces Charges In SF Federal Court

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A Russian-born Estonian citizen has been extradited to face charges in federal court in San Francisco of illegally buying specialized microelectronic components and smuggling them to Russia.

Valery Kosmachov, 66, a Russian native who became a naturalized Estonian citizen, was indicted under seal by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on Sept. 21, 2017.

He was arrested in Tallinn, Estonia, one year later and was extradited to the United States on March 14.

The indictment, unsealed Wednesday, alleges that some of the smuggled chips and other components had potential military as well as civilian uses.

Kosmachov and a co-defendant named in the indictment, Russian citizen Sergey Vetrov, 66, are accused of using two Estonian companies they owned as fronts to export the components between 2012 and 2014 by representing that the end users were in Estonia. They allegedly then smuggled the items to Russia.

Vetrov has not been apprehended, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Abraham Simmons. The U.S. and Russia do not have an extradition agreement.

Kosmachov pleaded not guilty to the charges before a federal magistrate in San Francisco on March 15. At another court appearance on Wednesday, he waived a detention hearing and agreed to remain in custody for the time being.

Kosmachov’s next appearance is before U.S. District Judge William Orrick on March 28.

Kosmachov and Vetrov are each accused of 52 counts of 52 counts of conspiracy, money laundering and violation of the federal International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which forbids the unlicensed export of items of potential military use.

The charges include conspiracy to export unlicensed electronic components to Russia; 12 counts of exporting unlicensed items; 21 counts of smuggling items by means of false paperwork; conspiracy to launder money; and 17 counts of laundering money by transferring funds from an Estonian bank to U.S. banks to pay for the exports.

The charges each carry possible maximum sentences of 10 to 20 years in prison if the defendants are convicted.

The International Emergency Economic Powers Act, enacted by Congress in 1977, authorizes presidents to declare a national emergency to regulate international commerce when there is an unusual or extraordinary threat to the nation’s security, foreign policy or economy.

Since 2001, according to the indictment, U.S. presidents have used that authority to order continuous one-year extensions of the Export Administration Act, which expired in 2001 and which restricted the unlicensed export of items with potential military use.

 

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

First Artificial Intelligence Google Doodle Features Bach

MOUNTAIN VIEW (CBS SF / AP) — Google is celebrating composer Johann Sebastian Bach with its first artificial intelligence-powered Doodle from the Mountain View-based internet giant.

Thursday’s animated Google Doodle shows the composer playing an organ in celebration of his March 21, 1685, birthday under the old Julian calendar. It encourages users to compose their own two-measure melody.

This image provided by Google shows the animated Google Doodle on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Google is celebrating composer Johann Sebastian Bach with its first artificial intelligence-powered Doodle. Google says the Doodle uses machine learning to "harmonize the custom melody into Bach's signature music style." (Google via AP)

This image provided by Google shows the animated Google Doodle on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Google is celebrating composer Johann Sebastian Bach with its first artificial intelligence-powered Doodle. Google says the Doodle uses machine learning to “harmonize the custom melody into Bach’s signature music style.” (Google via AP)

Google says the Doodle uses machine learning to “harmonize the custom melody into Bach’s signature music style.” Bach’s chorales were known for having four voices carrying their own melodic line.

To develop the AI Doodle, Google teams created a machine-learning model that was trained on 306 of Bach’s chorale harmonizations. Another team worked to allow machine learning to occur within the web browser instead of on its servers.

The Doodle will prompt users who are unsure of how to interact with the animated graphic.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Facebook Stored Millions Of Passwords In Plain Text

(AP) — Facebook had stored millions of user passwords in plain text for years, the social media company confirmed on Thursday after a security researcher posted about the issue online.

Facebook says there is no evidence that employees had abused access to this data.

(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

The company says the passwords were stored on internal company servers, no outsiders could access them. But the incident reveals a huge oversight for the company amid a slew of bruises and stumbles in the last couple of years.

The security blog KrebsOnSecurity says some 600 million Facebook users may have had their passwords stored in plain text. Facebook said in a blog post Thursday it will likely notify “hundreds of millions” of Facebook Lite users, millions of Facebook users and tens of thousands of Instagram users.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Europe Fines Google $1.7 Billion In Antitrust Case

(AP) — Europe’s antitrust regulators slapped Google with a big fine Wednesday for the third time in less than two years, ordering the tech giant to pay 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for freezing out rivals in the online advertising business.

The ruling brings to nearly $10 billion the fines imposed against Google by the European Union. And it comes at a time when big tech companies around the world are facing increasing regulatory pressure and fierce political attacks over privacy violations, online misinformation, hate speech and other abuses.

Still, the latest penalty isn’t likely to have much effect on Google’s business. It involves practices the company says it already ended, and the sum is just a fraction of the $31 billion in profit that its parent, Alphabet, made last year.

Alphabet stock rose 2 percent on Wall Street on Wednesday.

The EU ruling applies to a narrow portion of Google’s ad business: when Google sells ads next to Google search results on third-party websites.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. European Union regulators have hit Google with a 1.49 billion euro ($1.68 billion) fine for abusing its dominant role in online advertising. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Investigators found that Google inserted exclusivity clauses in its contracts that barred these websites from running similarly placed ads sold by Google’s rivals.

As a result, advertisers and website owners “had less choice and likely faced higher prices that would be passed on to consumers,” said the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.

Anyone who suffered from Google’s behavior can seek compensation through national courts, she said.

EU regulators opened their investigation in 2016 — seven years after Microsoft filed a complaint — though by that time, Google had already made some changes to give customers more freedom to show competing ads. For that reason, regulators did not require a specific remedy to restore competition.

But Vestager said it appeared rivals haven’t been able to catch up, and some are “quite small.” By contrast, the EU said, Google has more than 70 percent of the European market for selling ads that run alongside search results on third-party websites.

Google did not say whether it would appeal.

“We’ve already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the commission’s concerns,” Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker, said in a statement. “Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe.”

E-marketing analyst Bill Fisher noted a “growing wave of sentiment” toward curbing the influence of Big Tech and said that even if the EU’s rulings apply only to Google’s European operations, Google should “begin to open up, become more transparent and possibly look to alter some of its business practices” worldwide.

Earlier this month, a British expert panel recommended the government curb the dominance of giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google. In the U.S., Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed breaking up the biggest American tech companies, accusing them of wielding too much power.

This week, as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union and other activists, Facebook agreed to overhaul its ad-targeting systems to prevent discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads.

The EU has led the way in promoting tougher regulation of big tech companies. Besides cracking down on antitrust breaches by Microsoft and Intel, it has enforced stricter data privacy rules that affect Facebook and other social media companies.

U.S. regulators haven’t been as tough, though the Federal Trade Commission recently created a task force focused on anti-competitive behavior in the industry.

Last year, Vestager fined Google a record 4.34 billion euros ($5 billion at the time) for forcing cellphone makers using the company’s Android operating system to install Google search and browser apps.

In 2017, she penalized Google 2.42 billion euros ($2.7 billion) for manipulating online shopping search results and directing visitors to its comparison-shopping service, Google Shopping, at the expense of its rivals.

Google, which is appealing those two earlier fines, has said it has since made adjustments to its shopping results and will start asking European users of Android phones if they want to use other search or browser apps.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.