Facebook Faces Prospect of ‘Devastating’ Data Transfer Ban After Irish Ruling

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Ireland’s data regulator can resume a probe that may trigger a ban on Facebook’s transatlantic data transfers, the High Court ruled Friday, raising the prospect of a stoppage the company warns would have a devastating impact on its business.
 
The case stems from EU concerns that U.S. government surveillance may not respect the privacy rights of EU citizens when their personal data is sent to the United States for commercial use.
 
Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), Facebook’s lead regulator in the European Union, launched an inquiry in August and issued a provisional order that the main mechanism Facebook uses to transfer EU user data to the United States “cannot in practice be used.”
 
Facebook had challenged both the inquiry and the Preliminary Draft Decision (PDD), saying they threatened “devastating” and “irreversible” consequences for its business, which relies on processing user data to serve targeted online ads.
 
The High Court rejected the challenge Friday. “I refuse all of the reliefs sought by FBI [Facebook Ireland] and dismiss the claims made by it in the proceedings,” Justice David Barniville said in a judgment that ran to nearly 200 pages.
 
“FBI has not established any basis for impugning the DPC decision or the PDD or the procedures for the inquiry adopted by the DPC,” the judgment said.
 
While the decision does not trigger an immediate halt to data flows, Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems, who forced the Irish data regulator to act in a series of legal actions over the past eight years, said he believed the decision made it Inevitable.
 
“After eight years, the DPC is now required to stop Facebook’s EU-U.S. data transfers, likely before summer,” he said.
 
A Facebook spokesman said the company looked forward to defending its compliance with EU data rules as the Irish regulator’s provisional order “could be damaging not only to Facebook, but also to users and other businesses.”
 Privileged access
 
If the Irish data regulator enforces the provisional order, it would effectively end the privileged access companies in the United States have to personal data from Europe and put them on the same footing as companies in other nations outside the bloc.
 
The mechanism being questioned by the Irish regulator, the Standard Contractual Clause (SCC), was deemed valid by the European Court of Justice in a July decision.
 
But the Court of Justice also ruled that, under SCCs, privacy watchdogs must suspend or prohibit transfers outside the EU if data protection in other countries cannot be assured.
 
A lawyer for Facebook in December told the High Court that the Irish regulator’s draft decision, if implemented, “would have devastating consequences” for Facebook’s business, affecting Facebook’s 410 million active users in Europe, hitting political groups and undermining freedom of speech.
 
Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon in February said companies more broadly may face massive disruption to transatlantic data flows as a result of the European Court of Justice decision.
 
Dixon’s office welcomed the decision on Friday but declined further comment. 

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Russia-linked Cyberattack on US Fuel Pipeline is ‘Criminal Act,’ Biden Says  

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A Russia-linked cyberattack targeting the largest U.S. fuel pipeline system is a “criminal act, obviously,” President Joe Biden said Monday.“The agencies across the government have acted quickly to mitigate any impact on our fuel supply,” the president said at the White House at the start of remarks about his economic agenda.Biden, responding to a reporter’s question after he concluded his prepared statement about whether there is any evidence of involvement of Russia’s government, replied: “I’m going to be meeting with President (Vladimir) Putin. And so far, there is no evidence based on — from our intelligence people that Russia is involved.”Biden added, however, with evidence that the ransomware actors are based in Russia, the government in Moscow has “some responsibility to deal with this.”Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., asks a question during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing, July 28, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.A member of the House Armed Services Committee, Arizona Democrat Ruben Gallego, said, “The Russian government cannot give refuge to these cyber terrorists without repercussions.”Colonial Pipeline, headquartered in the state of Georgia, proactively shut down its operations on Friday after ransomware hackers broke into some of its networks, according to U.S. officials.“Colonial is currently working with its private cybersecurity consultants to assess potential damage and to determine when it is safe to bring the pipeline back online,” homeland security adviser and deputy national security adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall told reporters during a briefing prior to the president’s remarks.“While this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve, the Colonial operations team is executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach,” the company said in a FILE – The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building is pictured in Washington, Nov. 30, 2017.“The FBI confirms that the Darkside ransomware is responsible for the compromise of the Colonial Pipeline network,” said the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a statement midday Monday. “We continue to work with the company and our government partners on the investigation.”The FBI has previously advised against paying ransomware. White House officials on Monday said it was up to companies to make that decision and declined to say whether Colonial Pipeline had made a payment to the hackers.”Typically, that is a private sector decision, and the administration has not offered further advice at this time,” deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies Anne Neuberger told White House reporters. “Given the rise in ransomware, that is one area we are definitely looking at now to say what should be the government’s approach.”Some lawmakers have been calling for stronger protections of critical U.S. energy infrastructure and that has been mentioned as a priority by the Biden administration, which last month launched a new public-private initiative to enhance cybersecurity in the electricity sector.“And we’ll follow that with similar initiatives and natural gas pipelines, water and other sectors,” said Biden on Monday.The emergency declaration, issued by the Transportation Department, effective through at least June 8, calls for increasing alternative transportation routes in the United States for oil and gas and eased driver regulations for overtime hours and minimum sleep for carrying fuel in 17 states across southern and eastern states, as well as the District of Columbia.“We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation involving Colonial Pipeline,” Suzanne Lemieux, operations security and emergency response policy manager for the American Petroleum Institute, told VOA.“Cybersecurity is a top priority for our industry, and our members are engaged on a continuous basis with government agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration, Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Department of Energy in order to mitigate risk and fully understand the evolving threat landscape,” she added. Concerning speculation that there are links between the hackers and the Russian government, “we can assume anything we want to, which is part of the gamesmanship in cyberwar,” said Justin Pelletier, director of Rochester Institute of Technology’s Global Cybersecurity Institute Cyber Range and Training Center.“I think a better question to ask is who we can cross off the list. There are many beneficiaries of cyber sell-sword (mercenary) activity and probably everyone can think of several organizations that would like to see an America in decline,” Pelletier told VOA.According to Bryson Bort, senior fellow for cybersecurity and emerging threats at the nonprofit R Street public policy research organization, the malicious code used by Darkside “actively checks that the Russian language package isn’t loaded on a host before it ransoms the computer. Clearly, there is a reason the gang is doing that. Is it just to avoid local enforcement?”Bort, an adviser to the Army Cyber Institute, told VOA it is an open question whether Russian intelligence is using the cybercriminals as a proxy.“Considering this was the fourth U.S. company hit in the energy sector in the last six months by this group, it sure looks like a targeted attack to me,” he said.

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Robotic Kitchen May Revolutionize Home, Restaurant Cooking 

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A fully robotic kitchen with a robot chef that can cook thousands of dishes could be a gamechanger in homes and restaurants around the world. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.Producers: Julie Taboh, Adam Greenbaum   

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Ransomware Attack That Halted US Fuel Pipeline a ‘Criminal Act,’ Biden Says  

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A Russia-linked cyberattack targeting the largest U.S. fuel pipeline system is a “criminal act, obviously,” President Joe Biden said Monday.“The agencies across the government have acted quickly to mitigate any impact on our fuel supply,” the president said at the White House at the start of remarks about his economic agenda.Biden, responding to a reporter’s question after he concluded his prepared statement about whether there is any evidence of involvement of Russia’s government, replied: “I’m going to be meeting with President (Vladimir) Putin. And so far, there is no evidence based on — from our intelligence people that Russia is involved.”Biden added, however, with evidence that the ransomware actors are based in Russia, the government in Moscow has “some responsibility to deal with this.”Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., asks a question during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing, July 28, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.A member of the House Armed Services Committee, Arizona Democrat Ruben Gallego, said, “The Russian government cannot give refuge to these cyber terrorists without repercussions.”Colonial Pipeline, headquartered in the state of Georgia, proactively shut down its operations on Friday after ransomware hackers broke into some of its networks, according to U.S. officials.“Colonial is currently working with its private cybersecurity consultants to assess potential damage and to determine when it is safe to bring the pipeline back online,” homeland security adviser and deputy national security adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall told reporters during a briefing prior to the president’s remarks.“While this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve, the Colonial operations team is executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach,” the company said in a FILE – The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building is pictured in Washington, Nov. 30, 2017.“The FBI confirms that the Darkside ransomware is responsible for the compromise of the Colonial Pipeline network,” said the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a statement midday Monday. “We continue to work with the company and our government partners on the investigation.”The FBI has previously advised against paying ransomware. White House officials on Monday said it was up to companies to make that decision and declined to say whether Colonial Pipeline had made a payment to the hackers.”Typically, that is a private sector decision, and the administration has not offered further advice at this time,” deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies Anne Neuberger told White House reporters. “Given the rise in ransomware, that is one area we are definitely looking at now to say what should be the government’s approach.”Some lawmakers have been calling for stronger protections of critical U.S. energy infrastructure and that has been mentioned as a priority by the Biden administration, which last month launched a new public-private initiative to enhance cybersecurity in the electricity sector.“And we’ll follow that with similar initiatives and natural gas pipelines, water and other sectors,” said Biden on Monday.The emergency declaration, issued by the Transportation Department, effective through at least June 8, calls for increasing alternative transportation routes in the United States for oil and gas and eased driver regulations for overtime hours and minimum sleep for carrying fuel in 17 states across southern and eastern states, as well as the District of Columbia.“We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation involving Colonial Pipeline,” Suzanne Lemieux, operations security and emergency response policy manager for the American Petroleum Institute, told VOA.“Cybersecurity is a top priority for our industry, and our members are engaged on a continuous basis with government agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration, Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Department of Energy in order to mitigate risk and fully understand the evolving threat landscape,” she added. Concerning speculation that there are links between the hackers and the Russian government, “we can assume anything we want to, which is part of the gamesmanship in cyberwar,” said Justin Pelletier, director of Rochester Institute of Technology’s Global Cybersecurity Institute Cyber Range and Training Center.“I think a better question to ask is who we can cross off the list. There are many beneficiaries of cyber sell-sword (mercenary) activity and probably everyone can think of several organizations that would like to see an America in decline,” Pelletier told VOA.According to Bryson Bort, senior fellow for cybersecurity and emerging threats at the nonprofit R Street public policy research organization, the malicious code used by Darkside “actively checks that the Russian language package isn’t loaded on a host before it ransoms the computer. Clearly, there is a reason the gang is doing that. Is it just to avoid local enforcement?”Bort, an adviser to the Army Cyber Institute, told VOA it is an open question whether Russian intelligence is using the cybercriminals as a proxy.“Considering this was the fourth U.S. company hit in the energy sector in the last six months by this group, it sure looks like a targeted attack to me,” he said.

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Can Taiwan’s Silicon Shield Protect It against China’s Aggression?

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The global shortage of semiconductors, or microchips — the “brains” in all electronic devices, has heightened the geopolitical significance of Taiwan and its chip-making sector. The island is home to the world’s largest contract chipmaker: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC).Many describe Taiwan’s strength in microchips as its “silicon shield,” which can protect it against Chinese aggression.But others suspect the sector, coveted by China, may also trigger China to accelerate its efforts to take advantage of Taiwan’s tech prowess.‘Not let war happen’When asked to explain the shield, TSMC chairman Mark Liu told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” program last week that it means “the world all needs Taiwan’s high-tech industry support. So, they will not let the war happen in this region because it goes against interest of every country in the world.”While refusing to comment on whether the industry will keep Taiwan safe, Liu added that he hoped no war would occur in Taiwan. It is widely believed that any war fought in Taiwan could disrupt the global supply chains of microchips.More than 1 trillion chips are currently being produced annually. Industry watchers, including the National Bank of Canada estimated earlier that TSMC alone accounts for one-fifth of the world’s chip production and up to 90% of the supply of the most advanced chips.In an “extremely hypothetical scenario,” such a disruption in Taiwan’s chip production could cause $490 billion in annual losses for electronic device makers worldwide, according to estimates by the U.S.-based Semiconductor Industry Association last month.All shut downAmerican tech giants including Apple, major European auto makers and even Chinese companies would have to halt production in the event of a TSMC collapse, said Frank Huang, chairman of Taiwan’s third-largest chipmaker Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.That, he said, will make China think twice about using force against Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing views as a renegade province.“China likes [to]… threat [threaten] Taiwan. But realistically without Taiwan, they cannot move either. Their semiconductors also shut down. So, the problem is: can you take over Taiwan without [triggering] impact [on] semiconductors? That is not [going to] happen,” Huang told VOA.The term “silicon shield” was first coined by Craig Addison in late 2000, who argued in his book “Silicon Shield: Taiwan’s Protection Against Chinese Attack” that the island’s rise as the key supplier for the world’s digital economy would serve as “a deterrent against possible Chinese aggression.”FILE – A leaflet that asks employees to protect the company’s confidentiality is seen at a reception in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Aug. 31, 2018.The debate over such a deterrent has heated up now that the pandemic has seriously disrupted most supply chains. The U.S. has also placed restrictions on exports of chips and chip-making equipment using U.S. design and technology to China — a development that some observers also fear may end up provoking China to increase aggression toward Taiwan.But Darson Chiu, a research fellow at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER) in Taipei, disagreed, saying that he believes the world will stand behind Taiwan.“The world’s superpowers will view TSMC as a key driver behind the future global economic revival, which belongs to no one but the world. Hence the world will not tolerate China’s use of force to control TSMC,” Chiu told VOA over the phone.Double layer of protectionThe island’s dominance in chip-making has fueled the debate over its silicon shield, but the U.S. is more concerned that the shield may “have holes in it” and the technology is being used by China’s military, according to Alexander Neill, a former Shangri-La Dialogue senior fellow for Asia Pacific security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.An earlier Washington Post report alleged that a Chinese firm had used TSMC chips in the Chinese military’s development of hypersonic missiles. But the company denied the charges.The U.S. is also concerned about vulnerabilities caused by TSMC production being concentrated in Taiwan. The island’s water and electric supply shortages could disrupt production.“What the United States wants to do is to help TSMC diversify its production base so that there’s a double layer of protection. So, if the first shield is being penetrated, the second [reinforcement] shield is to nurture the chip production base in friends and ally countries including the United States,” Neill told VOA over the phone.Surging demandTSMC has planned to invest $100 billion in the next three years on new production facilities including a state-of-the-art wafer fabrication plant in the U.S. state of Arizona and expansions of its Nanjing, China-based fab to produce 28 nanometer chips for auto makers.The move aims to increase TSMC’s capacity, which is currently working at full capacity, to meet surging demand and support future growth in the global economy, TIER’s Chiu said.In a stock exchange filing last month, TSMC said it “is entering a period of higher growth as the multiyear megatrends of 5G and HPC (high performance computer) are expected to fuel strong demand for our semiconductor technologies in the next several years. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic also accelerates digitalization in every aspect.”But Powerchip’s Huang questions if overseas wafer fabs will be as cost effective as those based in Taiwan. He said that many fabs in the U.S. and Germany have proved to be too expensive to sustain.Expansion in ChinaFor years, China’s attempts to manufacture chips have failed since China lacks access to the intellectual property required for the process.Hence, TSMC’s expansion plan in its Nanjing plant is welcomed by many in China despite worries that the survival of homegrown chipmakers may be threatened by the Taiwanese chipmaker, according to Song Hong, assistant general director at the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.“28nm chips aren’t high-end. But mid- to low-end chips are in higher demand. So, I think this shows TSMC’s optimism in China’s future demand. It is in our hope to bolster homegrown chipmakers, but we also welcome competition,” Song told VOA.Song, however, shrugged off the geopolitical implications of Taiwan’s silicon shield, saying that China views Taiwanese issues as domestic affairs and will not be deterred from its goals by U.S. action. (This article originated in VOA’s Mandarin service.)

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Twitter to Point Out Mean Tweets Before They Are Sent

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Twitter wants to curb what the company calls “potentially harmful or offensive” tweets.  The social media company announced Wednesday it has released a feature that can detect a mean tweet and prompt a user to be sure they really want to send it. “People come to Twitter to talk about what’s happening, and sometimes conversations about things we care about can get intense, and people say things in the moment they might regret later,” the company said in a blog post. “That’s why in 2020, we tested prompts that encouraged people to pause and reconsider a potentially harmful or offensive reply before they hit send.” The prompt says: “Want to review this before tweeting?” Users can then decide whether to send, edit or delete the tweet. Twitter did not specify what would be considered “potentially harmful or offensive.” The company currently has a similar feature that asks users if they went to read an article before retweeting a link to the article. Twitter’s new mean tweet detector has been tested for the past year and will be rolled out soon to English-language Twitter. The company said that while testing, 34% of users, when prompted, either edited the offensive tweet or did not send it at all. Last week, Twitter stock plunged 10% on lower-than-expected user growth. 
 

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Facebook Removes Ukraine Political ‘Influence for Hire’ Network

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Facebook has taken down a network of hundreds of fake accounts and pages targeting people in Ukraine and linked to individuals previously sanctioned by the United States for efforts to interfere in U.S. elections, the company said Thursday.Facebook said the network managed a long-running deceptive campaign across multiple social media platforms and other websites, posing as independent news outlets and promoting favorable content about Ukrainian politicians, including activity that was likely for hire. The company said it started its probe after a tip from the FBI.Facebook attributed the activity to individuals and entities sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, including politician Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian lawmaker who was blacklisted by the U.S. government in September over accusations he tried to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election won by President Joe Biden. Facebook said it removed Derkach’s accounts in October 2020.Derkach told Reuters he would comment on Facebook’s investigation on Friday. Facebook also attributed the network to political consultants associated with Ukrainian politicians Oleh Kulinich and Volodymyr Groysman, Ukraine’s former prime minister. Kulinich did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Groysman could not immediately be reached for comment.Facebook said that as well as promoting these politicians, the network also pushed positive material about actors across the political spectrum, likely as a paid service. It said the activity it investigated began around 2015, was solely focused on Ukraine, and posted anti-Russia content.”You can really think of these operators as would-be influence mercenaries, renting out inauthentic online support in Ukrainian political circles,” Ben Nimmo, Facebook’s global influence operations threat intelligence lead, said on a call with reporters.Facebook’s investigation team said Ukraine, which has been among the top sources of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” that it removes from the site, is home to an increasing number of influence operations selling services.Facebook said it removed 363 pages, which were followed by about 2.37 million accounts, and 477 accounts from this network for violating its rules. The network also spent about $496,000 in Facebook and Instagram ads, Facebook said.

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With Trump Decision, Facebook Pushed to Make Better Rules for World Leaders

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The recent decision about Facebook and former President Donald Trump sends a signal to world leaders everywhere that to use social media, they have to play by a set of rules that are still forming. Tina Trinh has more.Produced by: Matt Dibble 

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