Amazon’s New Vehicles Section Is a Car Research Resource

Amazon's New Vehicles Section Is a Car Research Resource
  • Website is designed to help people get more information on vehicles
  • Amazon already sells millions of car parts and accessories
  • Customers can leave reviews for cars

Although Amazon isn’t getting into the business of selling cars, a new section of its website is designed to help people looking for a new ride get more information on the vehicles out there. The Amazon Vehicles section of the massive online retailer went online Thursday.

Amazon already sells millions of car parts and accessories, but this is the first time it has taken a serious push to feature vehicles on the site. One selling point for Amazon Vehicles, according to the company, will be that customers can leave reviews for cars in much the same way as they can for any other item on the site.

“Amazon Vehicles is a great resource for customers who are interested in car information or looking for a broad selection of parts and accessories – all enhanced by the ability to tap into the knowledge, opinions and experiences of other car owners within the Amazon customer community,” said Adam Goetsch, director of automotive at Amazon.com.

Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post.

Amazon also has collected basic information on a number of vehicles, giving users easy access to attributes such as gas mileage and car dimensions. Users can compare different versions of the same model of car – the hatchback vs. the sedan, for example. Listings also contain safety information, including information on recalls.

The move positions Amazon against many well-known car research sites, including trusted names such as Edmund’s or Kelley Blue Book – which also list professional and consumer reviews for cars. While Amazon doesn’t have the same reputation on vehicles as these older sites, it appears to be banking on the fact that customers already on the site will find it convenient to get auto information at Amazon’s one-stop shop.

It will take some time for the site to get off the ground, however, because reviewers haven’t yet had time to leave much commentary. Someone looking at the new Amazon Vehicles section on Thursday morning wouldn’t have very much information from other drivers – many cars don’t have any reviews.

Amazon also doesn’t have a way for users to find dealerships selling the cars they want, which is an option on other car research sites. Instead, Amazon users can save a car to a “garage” on the site. Doing so will make it easier for people to find compatible car parts and accessories – where else? – on Amazon.

EU Approves Data Protection Reform, Boosting Privacy

EU Approves Data Protection Reform, Boosting Privacy

The European Union on Thursday approved new data protection rules to strengthen online privacy, streamline legislation between the 28 member states and boost police and security cooperation.

The rules will for the first time create a strong data protection law for Europe’s 500 million citizens, replacing an outdated patchwork of national rules that only allowed for tiny fines in cases of violation.

There will be “a right to be forgotten” that means consumers can ask for non-essential information to be deleted from web searches, such as those of Google.

The rules also state that individuals must give their “clear and affirmative consent” before private data is processed by companies or governments. This point became important after leaks two years ago showed allegedly widespread US government snooping of European data such as phone calls and emails.

The new rules also allow for the streamlining of data transfers for policing and judicial purposes, helping to improve security in the wake of the November 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people, and last month’s suicide bombings in Brussels, which left 32 dead.

Privacy has become a hot topic amid pressure by companies to get information on consumers, as well as the needs of security services to have as much data as possible on possible suspects involved in extremist attacks.

The European parliament’s president, Martin Schulz, said that “the security of European citizens should never be ensured at the expense of their rights and freedoms.”

But he welcomed the new rules as “crucial steps” in the digital age when the privacy of consumers has come under ever greater threat.

Commercially, there also is a lot a stake and the parliament’s chief negotiator, Jan Philipp Albrecht, has said that firms breaching EU data protection rules could be fined as much as 4 percent of annual turnover, which could amount to billions in dollars.

After four years of fierce political battles between industry and privacy groups, the rules should now become official within a two-year span.

Chrome 50 Released for Windows, OS X, Linux; Retires Legacy Platform Support

Chrome 50 Released for Windows, OS X, Linux; Retires Legacy Platform Support

Google has released Chrome 50 for Windows, OS X, and Linux. The update brings several improvements, as well as bug and security fixes, apart from new features. An update for Android and Chrome OS is also expected to roll out soon.

As announced back in November, Google has retired support for older operating systems, namely – Windows XP, Windows Vista, OS X 10.6, OS X 10.7, and OS X 10.8.

Chrome 50 for Windows, OS X, and Linux updates the Push API to add push notifications payloads, which is meant to make notification deliveries more efficient by sending notification data simultaneously along with the message. Developers will also be able to customise their notifications with buttons and time stamps, while sites can give users the silent, sound, and vibrating notifications. Webmasters will also be informed when a notification is closed by a user, helping sync notifications across devices while also providing analytics data.

Other new features in Chrome 50 include a declarative preload where site developers can let the browser know which resources are needed to properly display a page with the “link rel=’preload'” attribute, significantly reducing page load time. To showcase this, Google has also published a video contrasting the page load times with and without the implementation. Several other developer facing features were also unveiled.

In the meanwhile, Chrome 50 for Android will get a pause and cancel button for downloads. The company also mentioned that Chrome 50 came with 20 security fixes, and highlighted the most important contributions by external researchers. These are, universal XSS in extension bindings; out-of-bounds write in V8; out-of-bounds read in Pdfium JPEG2000 decoding; uninitialized memory read in media; use-after-free related to extensions; Android downloaded file path restriction bypass; address bar spoofing, and a potential leak of sensitive information to malicious extension.

Microsoft Sues US Government Over Data Requests

Microsoft Sues US Government Over Data Requests

Microsoft Corp has sued the US government for the right to tell its customers when a federal agency is looking at their emails, the latest in a series of clashes over privacy between the technology industry and Washington.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in federal court in Seattle, argues that the government is violating the US Constitution by preventing Microsoft from notifying thousands of customers about government requests for their emails and other documents.

The government’s actions contravene the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property, the suit argues, and Microsoft’s First Amendment right to free speech.

The Department of Justice is reviewing the filing, spokeswoman Emily Pierce said.

Microsoft’s suit focuses on the storage of data on remote servers, rather than locally on people’s computers, which Microsoft says has provided a new opening for the government to access electronic data.

Using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the government is increasingly directing investigations at the parties that store data in the so-called cloud, Microsoft says in the lawsuit. The 30-year-old law has long drawn scrutiny from technology companies and privacy advocates who say it was written before the rise of the commercial Internet and is therefore outdated.

“People do not give up their rights when they move their private information from physical storage to the cloud,” Microsoft says in the lawsuit. It adds that the government “has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations.”

Surveillance battle
The lawsuit represents the newest front in the battle between technology companies and the US government over how much private businesses should assist government surveillance.

By filing the suit, Microsoft is taking a more prominent role in that battle, dominated by Apple Inc in recent months due to the government’s efforts to get the company to write software to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in a December massacre in San Bernardino, California.

Apple, backed by big technology companies including Microsoft, had complained that cooperating would turn businesses into arms of the state.

“Just as Apple was the company in the last case and we stood with Apple, we expect other tech companies to stand with us,” Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in a phone interview after the suit was filed.

One security expert questioned Microsoft’s motivation and timing. Its lawsuit was “one hundred percent motivated by business interests” and timed to capitalize on new interest in customer privacy issues spurred in part by Apple’s dispute, said D.J. Rosenthal, a former White House cyber-securityofficial in the Obama administration.

As Microsoft’s Windows and other legacy software products are losing some traction in an increasingly mobile and Internet-centric computing environment, the company’s cloud-based business is taking on more importance. Chief Executive Satya Nadella’s describes Microsoft’s efforts as “mobile first, cloud first.”

Its customers have been asking the company about government surveillance, Smith said, suggesting that the issue could hurt Microsoft’s ability to win or keep cloud customers.

In its complaint, Microsoft says over the past 18 months it has received 5,624 legal orders under the ECPA, of which 2,576 prevented Microsoft from disclosing that the government is seeking customer data through warrants, subpoenas and other requests. Most of the ECPA requests apply to individuals, not companies, and provide no fixed end date to the secrecy provision, Microsoft said.

Microsoft and other companies won the right two years ago to disclose the number of government demands for data they receive. This case goes farther, requesting that it be allowed to notify individual businesses and people that the government is seeking information about them.

Increasingly, US companies are under pressure to prove they are helping protect consumer privacy. The campaign gained momentum in the wake of revelations by former government contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 that the government routinely conducted extensive phone and Internet surveillance to a much greater degree than believed.

Late last year, after Reuters reported that Microsoft had not alerted customers, including leaders of China’s Tibetan and Uigher minorities, that their email was compromised by hackers operating from China, Microsoft said publicly it would adopt a policy of telling email customers when it believed their email had been hacked by a government.

The company’s lawsuit on Thursday comes a day after a US congressional panel voted unanimously to advance a package of reforms to the ECPA.

Last-minute changes to the legislation removed an obligation for the government to notify a targeted user whose communications are being sought. Instead, the bill would require disclosure of a warrant only to a service provider, which retains the right to voluntarily notify users, unless a court grants a gag order.

It is unclear if the bill will advance through the Senate and become law this year.

Separately, Microsoft is fighting a US government warrant to turn over data held in a server in Ireland, which the government argues is lawful under another part of the ECPA. Microsoft argues the government needs to go through a procedure outlined in a legal-assistance treaty between the US and Ireland.

Twitter Inc is fighting a separate battle in federal court in Northern California over public disclosure of government requests for information on users.

The case is Microsoft Corp v United States Department of Justice et al in the United States District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 2:16-cv-00537.

India Launches E-Trading Platform for Farmers

India Launches E-Trading Platform for Farmers

India launched an electronic trading platform for farm goods on Thursday to improve transparency in wholesale markets and help farmers fetch better prices for their produce.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, inaugurating the platform, said it would trade products from 365 wholesale markets initially but aims to increase that to 585 by March 2018.

“This initiative will usher in transparency which will greatly benefit the farmer,” Prime Minister Modi said. “This scheme naturally benefits farmers, but it also benefits other stakeholders, and consumers.”

Analysts have welcomed the new platform, but say it has limitations. For example, India has 7,000 wholesale markets and only 8 percent of them will use the trading platform.

A law, dating back more than 50 years, had stipulated that farmers must sell their produce at regulated wholesale markets, where an opaque system of auction by cartels of traders leaves farmers with little bargaining power.

The Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act was originally introduced to protect farmers from rich landlords. But it led to the creation of a layer of middlemen in these markets, who take a hefty cut, depriving farmers of a better price and also inflating the cost of farm goods.

Even big retailers like Reliance Industries, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Shoppers’ Stop and Britain’s Tesco Plc are required to procure products from such regulated markets.

Since taking office in May 2014, Prime Minister Modi has urged Indian states to amend the APMC Act to facilitate the online trading of crops. However, eight of India’s 29 states have not agreed to adopt electronic trading, which means that farmers in those states will lose out.

Initially 25 commodities including rice, corn, wheat, oilseeds and a few other vegetables and spices will be traded on the platform.

The 21 states that have agreed to connect their wholesale markets to the e-platform include key agricultural states Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat.

US Agency Advises Windows PC Users Remove Apple’s QuickTime Over Bugs

US Agency Advises Windows PC Users Remove Apple's QuickTime Over Bugs

The US government has recommended that Windows PC users uninstall Apple Inc’s QuickTime video player after security software maker Trend Micro Inc said on Thursday it had discovered two new bugs in the software.

Trend Micro said it had uncovered two critical vulnerabilities in the version of the QuickTime media player for Microsoft Corp’s Windows operating system, which could be leveraged to launch attacks on PCs if users visit a malicious web page or open a tainted file.

The warning does not apply to QuickTime for Apple’s Mac computers.

A spokesman for Apple declined comment.

Trend Micro said that it did not know of any cases where the bugs had been exploited by attackers, but urged Windows users to immediately uninstall it because Apple was phasing out the program, which means it will not fix the bugs.

The Department of Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, or US-CERT, said in an alert on Thursday that the bugs put users at heightened risks from viruses and other security threats since Apple was ending support for the product.

“The only mitigation available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows,” the alert said.

UC Davis Thought It Could Pay to Erase a Scandal From the Internet

UC Davis Thought It Could Pay to Erase a Scandal From the Internet

The University of California at Davis shelled out some $175,000 (roughly Rs. 1.16 crores) to consultants to clean up the school’s online reputation following a 2011 incident in which campus police pepper-sprayed student protesters, according to documents cited by the Sacramento Bee.

The newspaper reported Wednesday that the documents – including proposals and purchase orders – reveal that the school paid to have negative Internet search results scrubbed to help the reputations of the university and its chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi.

The university has since confirmed that it tried to improve its reputation following the pepper-spraying scandal.

“We have worked to ensure that the reputation of the university, which the chancellor leads, is fairly portrayed,” UC Davis spokeswoman Dana Topousis told the Bee. “We wanted to promote and advance the important teaching, research and public service done by our students, faculty and staff, which is the core mission of our university.”

The incident occurred Nov. 18, 2011, when Occupy demonstrators ignored orders to leave the UC Davis campus and university police started spewing pepper spray into the crowd. The police response prompted massive protests on campus, which gained national media attention and ignited a debate about police brutality and use of excessive force against peaceful protesters.

The Sacramento Bee reported that the backlash lingered for more than a year as the university became embroiled in investigations and lawsuits that soiled the school’s reputation.

In January 2013, UC Davis signed a contract with Nevins & Associates in Maryland for “eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in search results on Google for the university and the Chancellor,” according to the proposal. The cost: $15,000 (roughly Rs. 10 lakh) a month for six months.

“Nevins & Associates is prepared to create and execute an online branding campaign designed to clean up the negative attention the University of California, Davis, and Chancellor Katehi have received related to the events that transpired in November 2011,” the proposal said. “This campaign also includes consultation services from David Nevins, founder and President of Nevins & Associates, to provide further support to the reputation enhancement efforts of the university and Chancellor Katehi, as desired. Online evidence and the venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the Chancellor are being filtered through the 24-hour news cycle, but it is at a tepid pace.”

The following year, the university hired Sacramento-based ID Media Partners, known as IDMLOCO, for $82,500 (roughly Rs. 54 lakhs) to “design and execute a comprehensive search engine results management strategy” with the intent to “achieve a reasonable balance of positive natural search results on common terms concerning UC Davis and Chancellor Katehi,” according to the proposal.

The Bee reported that the firm was awarded a second contract in February 2015 for $8,000 a month (up to a maximum of $96,000) to improve the university’s social media program; a third contract was awarded in September 2015 for $22,500 a month (up to a maximum $67,500) for a strategic communications redesign.

The university told the Bee that the funds were taken from the communications department budget.

Today, a Google search for “UC Davis pepper spray” pulls up news articles and YouTube videos of the 2011 incident as well as results on John Pike, who was identified as one of the campus police officers captured on video pepper-spraying protesters. A search for “UC Davis” reveals mainly university-sponsored web pages, including its Facebook page and an official athletics page.

In recent years, online reputation management agencies have become popular among celebrities, corporations and other high-profile clients who want a fresh start online.

Daniel Russell from Go Fish Digital, a firm based in McLean, Virginia, told The Washington Post’s Caitlin Gibson in 2014 that repeated searches and clicks tell search engines such as Google that the link is important.

“If there’s something bad out there,” he said, “the first thing to do is to stop looking at it.”

But Doug Elmets, a public affairs consultant in Sacramento, told the Bee this week that it’s surprising UC Davis thought it could keep its cleanup efforts quiet.

“I would say that it is common for an individual who might be applying for a job or an individual who has been wrongly maligned to go to a company like Reputation.com, but for a public university that is funded through taxpayer funds, who has repeatedly stepped into a vast hole, it is surprising that they thought this could be done without the light of day shining on the act,” he told the newspaper. “It is one more example of how out of touch the leadership at UC Davis is when it comes to their public perspective.”

Neither Nevins & Associates nor IDMLOCO provided comment to the Sacramento Bee or the Associated Press.

UC Davis officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

You can read the documents on the Bee’s website.

Chennai’s Freshdesk Acquires Social Engagement Tool Airwoot

Chennai's Freshdesk Acquires Social Engagement Tool Airwoot

Chennai-based customer support platform Freshdesk has acquired New Delhi-based Memetic Labs Technologies, the creators the Airwoot SaaS-based helpdesk product to manage customers over social media, for an undisclosed sum.

Airwoot will continue as a standalone product, the company said, adding that its software uses deep learning and virality scores to alert customer services agents when a conversation goes out of control on social media. The startup claims a response time of under two minutes for 98 percent of customers.

This is Freshdesk’s fifth acquisition, the Tiger Global backed company’s previous acquisitions include 1CLICK, a live video chat platform, Frilp, a social recommendation app, Konotor, a mobile first user engagement platform, and Framebench, a platform for creative collaboration.

“Airwoot’s Artificial Intelligence technology has been instrumental in helping brands do this effortlessly. Harnessing the power of machine learning, Airwoot filters out the noise and marketing chatter from your social handles and allows you to respond to customer queries, then and there,” said Girish Mathrubootham, Founder and CEO of Freshdesk, in a blog discussing the acquisition. Some brands see over 10,000 interactions on a day-to-day basis with their customers, Airwoot helps tackle exponential load, and focus on exactly what customer issues need to be responded to, he added.

Founded in 2012 by Saurabh Arora, Prabhat Saraswat, and Achal Aggarwal, Airwoot had raised funding from Kae Capital and prominent angel investors in August 2013. The startup’s clients include Jet Airways, Paytm, Snapdeal, Ola, Mobikwik, Goibibo, MakeMyTrip, and Grofers. Airwoot’s team has already shifted to Chennai, and plans to expand its team size by three times, the company said.

US Government Worse Than All Major Industries on Cyber-Security

US Government Worse Than All Major Industries on Cyber-Security: Report

US federal, state and local government agencies rank in last place in cyber-security when compared against 17 major private industries, including transportation, retail and healthcare, according to a new report released Thursday.

The analysis, from venture-backed security risk benchmarking startup SecurityScorecard, measured the relative security health of government and industries across 10 categories, including vulnerability tomalware infections, exposure rates of passwords and susceptibility to social engineering, such as an employee using corporate account information on a public social network.

Educations, telecommunications and pharmaceutical industries also ranked low, the report found. Information services, construction, food and technology were among the top performers.

Government agencies have struggled for years to keep pace with malicious hackers and insider threats, a challenge that came into focus after it was disclosed last year that more than 21 million individuals had their sensitive data pilfered during a breach at the Office of Personnel Management.

SecurityScorecard said it tracked 35 major data breaches across government from April 2015 to April 2016.

President Barack Obama has made improving cyber defenses a top priority of his remaining year in office. His administration asked Congress to dedicate $19 billion (roughly Rs. 1,26,548 crores) to cyber-security in its fiscal 2017 budget proposal, which would include $3.1 billion (roughly Rs. 20,647 crores) for technology modernization at various federal agencies.

Federal agencies scored most poorly on network security, software patching flaws and malware, according to SecurityScorecard, which said they may be more vulnerable to risk due to their large size.

Of the 600 government entities tracked, Nasa performed the worst, the report found. The space exploration agency was vulnerable to email spoofing and malware intrusions, among other weaknesses, according to SecurityScorecard’s analysis.

Other low-performing government organizations included the US Department of State and the information technology systems used by Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington and Maricopa County, Arizona.

Government organizations with the strongest security postures included Clark County, Nevada, the US Bureau of Reclamation, and the Hennepin County Library in Minnesota.

Jabong Says Lower Discounts Helped Narrow Gross Loss in 2015

Jabong Says Lower Discounts Helped Narrow Gross Loss in 2015

Online lifestyle retailer Jabong has narrowed down its gross loss to Rs. 46.7 crores for 2015 on the back of lower level of discounts.

The gross loss of the company stood at Rs. 159.5 crores in 2014, the company’s parent Rocket Internetsaid in an investor presentation on Thursday.

The company’s net revenue rose 7.1 percent to Rs. 869.1 crores for the reported year compared with Rs. 811.4 crores in 2014.

“Gross profit margin improved by 14 pp (percentage points) driven by lower level of discounts,” the company said.

For the fourth quarter of 2015, the company’s gross loss declined to Rs. 1.9 crores as against Rs. 45.9 crores in the same quarter last year.

“The increased focus on gross profit margin, unit economics and overall profitability resulted in net revenue and GMV decline in Q4 2015 vs Q4 2014,” it added.

The GMV (gross merchandise value) in 2015 increased to Rs. 1,502.9 crores compared with Rs. 1,320.6 crores in 2014.

In India, fashion is one of the largest and fiercely contested categories in the e-commerce space. Launched in 2011, Jabong offers more than 400,000 products. The company said throughout 2015, it continued the development of its marketplace platform, enabling merchants to offer their products directly on its platform.