Displaying items by tag: Germany

Germany are proposing to adopt new legislation that would hold major social media companies liable for provocative and inflammatory content that breaks German law. The government plan to impose heavy fines on companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter and others which fail to police, control and delete hate speech from its platforms. 

Angela Merkel’s coalition government devised the idea in an attempt to alleviate the growing problem of hate speech and fake news stories polluting social media channel in the country. Her cabinet believes companies should set-up clear channels for registering complaints -make the details of those complaints public, and hire legally qualified ombudsmen to carry out deletions.

Online platforms that fail to meet such legal requirements could be hit with fines calculated on the basis of their global annual turnover, or face on-the-spot fines of up to €500,000 if they neglect to remove posts in breach of German hate speech law within 24 hours.

Social media and the power of it is under the microscope following the seismic political shift that occurred in both the US and UK this year. Populist narratives, conspiracy theories and xenophobic rhetoric were at the forefront of the Brexit campaign in the UK, and then the shock election of Donald Trump in the USA. Social media was a powerful tool used during both campaigns. Those results have now left many people feeling nervous ahead of elections in Germany and France next year.

Germany already has in place some of the toughest laws in Europe in relation to hate speech, which includes prison sentences for Holocaust denial. A taskforce regarding hate speech was set-up by German Justice Minister Heiko Maas last year.

He met representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter, and the meeting was ultimately aimed at deleting illegal postings within 24 hours. However, a government report into the deletion of illegal postings have unearthed some unsatisfactory results.

It signalled clearly that tech companies are struggling to adapt adequately to the breaches of law on their platforms. Facebook only deleted 46%, YouTube just 10% and incredibly Twitter only deleted 1% of illegal content which was flagged by users.

Mass said: “We are already looking in detail at how we can make providers of online platforms criminally liable for undeleted content that breaks German law. Of course, if other measures don’t work we also need to think about fines. That would be a strong incentive for quick action. We urgently need more transparency.  Companies that make money with their social networks have social obligations – it cannot be in any company’s interest that their platform is used to commit crimes.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook and other leading tech firms react to the proposed legislation and new laws if passed, and the legality of collecting fines. Facebook is a US based company and it’s not clear whether or not Germany would have any recourse in collecting fines. The murky world of social media has just got murkier.

Published in Government

A Chinese company’s attempt to purchase a German technology firm that specializes in the semiconductor industry has been blocked by the US Treasury. A review conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the USA - which is chaired by out-going US President Barack Obama, found the potential takeover posed too many risks to national security.

It was able to block the purchase of German technology company Aixtron by blocking the inclusion of Aixtron’s US business in the proposed deal. In a statement issued by the US Treasury in relation to the attempted takeover, it said that the proposed purchase could place sensitive technology with potential military applications in Chinese hands.

A spokesman for the US treasury said: “CFIUS and the president assess that the transaction poses a risk to the national security of the United States that cannot be resolved through mitigation.”

It said publicly-traded Aixtron SE's expertise in technology key to making advanced compound semiconductors used for LED lighting, lasers and solar cells also has military applications.
Washington does not want to see such technology end up in the hands of the Chinese government-backed company which wants to buy Aixtron, Grand Chip Investment.

The Treasury said Aixtron's US business is an important contributor to that technology. In late October, the German government withdrew its initial approval for the 670 million euro ($714 million) takeover after Washington raised security concerns. Citing German intelligence sources, Handelsblatt daily reported that the United States had expressed fears that China could use Aixtron technology to bolster its nuclear program.

After receiving the information, the German economy ministry said on October 24 that it would reopen its review of the deal. The US Treasury said Friday that Grand Chip, a German company, expressly set up for the deal and is "ultimately owned by investors in China, including some which have Chinese government ownership."

It added that the deal would be financed by a unit of China IC Industry Investment Fund, a Chinese government-supported industrial investment fund designed to support the country's integrated circuit industry.

Published in Government

Germany’s economics ministry has withdrawn clearance for Chinese firm Grand Chip Investment GmbH’s acquisition of German chip-equipment manufacturer, Aixtron. It shows the latest sign of alarm from the German government following a wave of Chinese takeovers. Aixtron’s shares tumbled in response to the news, trading down 9.7% at €5.29 around 1200 GMT.

Germany's Aixtron said the economy ministry had cancelled the so-called "clearance certificate" it issued last month that paved the way for the 670-million-euro ($730-million) takeover to go ahead. The ministry will now reopen a review of the "proceedings in connection with the takeover offer by Grand Chip Investment," Aixtron said in a statement, adding that it had been informed of the decision on Friday, October 21.

Matthias Machnig, state secretary in the economy ministry, was quoted by daily Die Welt as saying that the U-turn came after "the government received previously unknown information related to security," AFP Reported. The unexpected move by Germany comes at a time of concern over a series of Chinese takeovers in the country, which has prompted German Economy Minister, Sigmar Gabriel to urge Brussels to shield key EU industries from foreign investors.

Mr. Gabriel was particularly alarmed by appliance giant Midea's purchase of leading German robotics firm Kuka in August, which fed into fears of high-end intellectual property, technology and know-how departing for China. A spokeswoman for the economy ministry confirmed that approval for the Aixtron deal had been withdrawn pending review, but declined to shed light on the reasons behind the move. If the outcome of the review is negative, the deal could in theory be cancelled altogether, she told reporters in Berlin.

Published in Government

BMW is just as famous for its motorcycles as it is for its premium cars. According to the German automaker, in the future, motorcycle riders will no longer need to wear helmets or padded clothing. Riders also won’t need to put their feet on the ground when they stop, because BMW’s smart motorcycle of the future will balance itself and help its driver to avoid crashes.

The BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 was revealed in California recently, offering a glimpse into what motorcycles of the future will look like decades from now, according to BMW designers. Motorcycles will be just as exciting as they are now, but a lot safer. For example, balancing wheels will expel the need for a kickstand, and the smart vehicle will also feature an “electronic safety cage” that’s able to communicate with other vehicles on the road through sensors so that it can automatically avoid crashes, CNN reported.

BMW has presented an ambitious concept, and it’s important to remember that it is just that: a concept. It’s unclear just how much of the technology presented in the Motorrad Vision Next 100 will be able to be implemented by BMW. A production model hasn’t been announced. The bike would be powered by an electric motor as opposed to a gasoline engine, BMW says. But BMW’s charismatic motorcycle appeal will not lose its famous shape of flat-twin engines with the cylinders coming out the sides.

Another notable safety feature of the concept vehicle is its flexible frame which could bend as the bike steers, eliminating the need for joints, and also making it much safer if it comes into impact. There would be no traditional shock absorbers, and the tires would smooth the ride themselves, says CNN. They would also have a variable tread that adjusts itself to suit different road conditions. The bike is the last of the BMW Next 100 concept vehicles unveiled in celebration of BMW’s 100th anniversary.

Published in Internet of Things

German police said an electric Tesla vehicle crashed into a tourist bus on a motorway on September 28, with the driver claiming he had activated the car’s autopilot mode. It follows an incident in May this year when a Tesla vehicle’s sensor system reportedly failed to distinguish a large white 18-wheel truck and trailer crossing the highway before it in Florida, resulting in a devastating crash.

The driver of the Tesla car in Germany was slightly injured, while the 29 people on board the Danish bus were unhurt in the incident on Wednesday, police in Ratzeburg in Schleswig-Holstein state said. The 50-year-old driver's car hit the bus as it changed lanes outside the northern town of Gudow. The driver told police that he had not removed his hands from the wheel while the autopilot was activated, German press agency DPA reported.

"We will now have to look into why the autopilot didn't work" to prevent the crash, police said in a statement, according to AFP. Available for Tesla's Model S electric cars since October 2015, the driverless autopilot system has come under global scrutiny following fatal crashes in northern China in January and the crash in Florida in May.

The Florida case attracted the attention of a U.S. Senate Committee, which demanded a briefing on the autopilot's role in the accident. Consumer activists have called on the company, founded by PayPal billionaire Elon Musk, to disable the autopilot feature until it is updated to detect whether the driver's hands are on the steering wheel during operation, as the company says they ought to be.

The incident raised serious concerns about the safety of autonomous vehicles. Tesla attempted to avoid blame for the man’s death, claiming that it was Tesla’s first known autopilot death in some 130 million vehicles driven by its customers.

“Among all vehicles in the U.S., there is a fatality every 94 million miles,” the company noted in a statement, which continued to highlight that the car’s autonomous software is designed for users to keep their hands on the wheels to ensure they’re paying attention. “Autopilot is getting better all the time, but it is not perfect and still required the driver to remain alert,” said Tesla.

Published in Internet of Things

In one of many controversies surrounding WhatsApp’s decision to share user data with its parent company Facebook, on Tuesday, September 27, German data protection authorities announced that Facebook had been officially blocked from sharing subscriber data with WhatsApp, citing privacy concerns.

In a statement citing reasons for the block, Hamburg’s Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Johannes Caspar, referred to Facebook and WhatsApp’s promise in the wake of the Silicon Valley giant’s 2014 acquisition, that the two companies would not share data with one another. He added that Facebook is required to delete any data it has already received from WhatsApp in Germany.

“It has to be [the users’] decision whether they want to connect their account with Facebook,” said Caspar. “Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance.”

35 million people in Germany use WhatsApp, and Caspar said he moved to block the sharing of info between WhatsApp and Facebook to protect their privacy. Facebook's activities in German-speaking regions are managed through its subsidiary in Hamburg, placing the firm under the jurisdiction of the regulator in the northern port city.

Facebook is said to be challenging the decision, according to AFP. A company spokesperson said: “Facebook complies with EU data protection law. We will appeal this order and will work with the Hamburg DPA in an effort to address their questions and resolve any concerns.”

WhatsApp announced in August that it would begin sharing data with Facebook, in a bid to allow better targeted advertising and to fight spam on the platform.  Currently, users of the instant messenger must opt out of sending information to Facebook through WhatsApp's settings on their smartphone.

In mid-September, the European Commission recommended tighter privacy and security requirements for services including WhatsApp and Microsoft-owned video calling service Skype, saying they should be regulated more like traditional telecoms, AFP reports.

Published in Government
Tuesday, 16 August 2016 11:54

Samsung Gear S3 to release on August 31

With Samsung holding its IFA electronics show press conference on September 1 in Germany this year, rumors quickly spread that the Korean tech giant would release its highly anticipated Gear S3 smartwatch at the same time. Ending speculation, Samsung recently confirmed on Twitter that the Samsung Gear S3 will be unveiled on August 31.

While Samsung hasn’t released much, if any details about its new smartwatch, some reports suggest that there will be three variants of the device, including a Gear S3 Classic, a Gear S3 Frontier and a Gear S3 Explorer. In terms of physical appearance, it’s said that the Gear S3 will keep its original, round shaped appearance, as well as the rotary bezel.

Smartwatches have been met with mixed reviews since the idea was launched in full-effect by Samsung and its rival Apple. According to analyst estimates, smartwatch sales have dropped this year. Samsung was one of just a few firms that were able to hold or improve its sales, while Apple’s smartwatch sales dipped. Samsung is reportedly releasing the Gear S3 in order to boost its smartwatch sales and regain interest in the concept, especially since Apple is predicted to refresh its own smartwatch range in September.

Samsung’s previous smartwatch model, the Gear S2, launched in September 2015 at the very same game show that the Gear S3 will be launched at. The Gear S2 was met with optimism, thanks to its attractive interface and unique spinning bezel. There’s been suggestions that perhaps the reason smartwatch sales have been down this year is because people are waiting for the latest Samsung and Apple smartwatches to be released, so that they can get their hands on the fresh devices as opposed to buying new previous model versions.

Samsung is keeping understandably quiet about the details of its new smartwatch design to keep its customers keen and excited. The only way to find out more is to wait for the release, which will be streamed online like all other Samsung unveilings, for you to watch at your own convenience.

Published in Devices

France has experienced more than its fair share of terror attacks in the past year. In response, France is said to be cracking down on all potential gateways for terrorists to communicate – which includes instant encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram – popularly used by terrorists to plan attacks.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Thursday, August 11, that the issue needs to be fought at an international level. He has called for Germany to help him promote a global initiative. Cazeneuve said he plans to meet with his German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere, on August 23 in Paris, France, where they will discuss a European initiative to launch an international action plan.

According to reports, French intelligence services are struggling in their efforts to intercept extremists who are repeatedly switching from mainstream social media platforms to encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp and Telegram.

“Many messages relating to the execution of terror attacks are sent using encryption; it is a central issue in the fight against terrorism,” said Cazeneuve after a government meeting on security. “France will make proposals,” he added. “I have sent a number of them to my Germany colleague.” He declined to say whether France will request decryption methods from services operators.

Mr. de Maiziere believes that Germany lies in the “crosshairs of terrorism” and he has laid out plans for the German military to train more closely with police authorities to better prepare for any potential large-scale terrorist attacks.

Encrypted messaging has been used in a number of cases by terrorists, including the recent incident in France where a French priests’ throat was cut in the name of Islamic State. The terrorist reportedly used Telegram frequently to communicate with his followers.

The app is widely used in Russia, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia, and Latin America. It’s popular because of its prime security features; all data shared on the app is end-to-end encrypted, meaning only the sender and receiver of the message is able to access it.

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