Apple details tools to help developers comply with new EU data regulations

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Apple on Friday unveiled a set of developer tools designed to keep app makers in line with the European Union’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation, a set of rules that grants users more control over their digital histories.
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Tim Cook wants ‘well-crafted’ privacy regulations after latest Facebook scandal

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Apple CEO Tim Cook, long an staunch advocate for consumer privacy, says that he supports the idea of tech companies facing regulations that specify just how they’re able to use customer data. Speaking at the China Development Forum in Beijing on Saturday, Cook was asked for his thoughts on what should happen in the aftermath of Facebook’s latest privacy fiasco, according to Bloomberg’s recap of his remarks.

“I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary,” he said. “The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life — from…

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls for Stronger Privacy Regulations Following ‘Dire’ Facebook Data Scandal

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Apple CEO Tim Cook attended the annual China Development Forum in Beijing on Saturday, during which he called for stronger data privacy regulations following the “dire” Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal (via Bloomberg). Last week, it was revealed that the social network let Cambridge Analytica amass data on 50 million Facebook users without their consent, in an effort to target messages to voters during the 2016 presidential election.

Photo of Tim Cook by Giulia Marchi via Bloomberg

On the topic, Cook called for “well-crafted regulation” to protect users:

“I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary,” Cook said after being asked if the use of data should be restricted in light of the Facebook incident. “The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life — from my own point of view it shouldn’t exist.”

Cook went on by stating that Apple has “worried for a number of years” that something like the recent Facebook data scandal might happen. “Unfortunately that prediction has come true more than once,” he said.

“We’ve worried for a number of years that people in many countries were giving up data probably without knowing fully what they were doing and that these detailed profiles that were being built of them, that one day something would occur and people would be incredibly offended by what had been done without them being aware of it,” he said. “Unfortunately that prediction has come true more than once.”

A #DeleteFacebook campaign arose quickly on Twitter following news of Cambridge Analytica’s actions, which WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton took part in. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made an official statement on the events this past week, saying that the company has “a responsibility to protect your data,” and that if it can’t “then we don’t deserve to serve you.” He continued, “We also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”

Repercussions have begun to hit Facebook, including a lawsuit from Facebook shareholder Fan Yuan, who alleged the company had some knowledge of Cambridge Analytica’s data siphoning and made “materially false and/or misleading” claims regarding Facebook’s handling of user data. The first step Facebook has taken to attempt to address the issue is a new tool at the top of the News Feed which will let people see which apps have their info and offer up an easy way to revoke permissions.

In other topics at the Beijing forum on Saturday, Tim Cook also briefly touched upon the recent decision by President Trump to place tariffs on Chinese goods. Although the details on the tariffs have yet to be finalized by the U.S. government, Cook said: “The countries that embrace openness do exceptional and the countries that don’t, don’t…It’s not a matter of carving things up between sides. I’m going to encourage that calm heads prevail.”

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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Changing Regulations Mean Genetically Modified Meat Could Soon Be on Your Plate

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Low-fat pigs? Chickens with cancer-fighting eggs?

It’s no longer surprising to hear that scientists have figured out how to alter animals in new, creative ways — that’s how precise genetic engineering has become.

But you also might have noticed that this news pretty much never goes beyond the laboratory. As of yet, there has only been a single genetically engineered animal that’s made it to the dinner plate (a salmon, in Canada). In the U.S., a complex regulatory process from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has hindered those who wanted to bring gene-edited (GE) livestock to market.

But if industry officials have their way, that won’t be the case much longer.

MIT Technology Review reports that gene editing companies and biotechnology lobbyists are trying to convince the Trump administration to move the regulation of GE animals to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If that happens, genetically modified meat might soon show up in grocery stores near you.

But why does the system have to change for us to eat this most modern of meat? And should we want it to?

Pigs, Cows, Chickens, and Drugs, Oh My

Today, a law called the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act gives the FDA the jurisdiction to regulate all genetically modified livestock. The agency does so using the same certification procedures required of drugs — “Altered genomic DNA in an animal that is intended to affect the structure or function of the body of the resulting animal meets the definition of a drug,” FDA spokesperson Juli Putnam said in an email to Futurism.

The FDA’s rules encompass all editing processes, from transgenic editing (in which genes from one organism are introduced into another) to gene editing (which includes more precise editing techniques like CRISPR that simply “snip” portions of DNA to remove, relocate, or duplicate a useful trait).

Many geneticists argue that the gene editing done on animals today is so sophisticated that its outcome is no different from targeted breeding, which has allowed farmers to produce animals with specific traits for centuries. But some scientists note that the regulations around these animals haven’t changed since the early 1980s, when the process was less precise and poorly understood.

Functionally, these regulations mean that researchers developing genetically modified livestock must be rigorously tested to show that their animals, and the products that come from them (like milk or eggs), are safe for humans to consume. Because animals are living organisms, they don’t affect the body as predictably as a chemical might, animal geneticists say. Plus, most research facilities don’t have the funds to prove they’re safe in spite of that variation.

Little wonder, then, that only one animal, the AquaBounty salmon, has ever made it through the FDA’s system. And that isn’t even available in the U.S. because congress can’t agree how to label it.

The USDA, on the other hand, already handles the regulation around GE plants. It does so with nuance, separating the requirement for transgenic plants and gene edited plants. And its rules do little to inhibit the sale and use of gene-edited crops.

Biotech companies are hoping that if the responsibility for gene-edited animals is shifted to the USDA, the agency might look at gene-edited livestock with a similarly liberal lens.

If they do, Tech Review reports that activist groups that oppose the sale of GMOs, such as the Center for Food Safety, are already prepared to fight it.

The Future of Food

It’s probably unlikely that GE animals will ever be looked at the same way as GE plants. Though the leading science suggests GE foods are safe to eat, anyone bringing an animal to market should still have to prove their gene change doesn’t produce any other unexpected effects in the final organism. After all, animals are much, much more complex than plants.

Regulators also have to think about biodiversity, especially for aquatic animals raised in or near the water. Special measures will need to be taken to ensure human-modified animals don’t escape and mate with native ones.

Cows are being genetically engineered not to grow horns, which are usually painfully removed to prevent injury to humans and other cows. Image credit: Hannah Walker Smith/Cornell Alliance for Science

Still, there are compelling arguments to be made for why we should genetically edit livestock to supply humans’ desire for meat. Genetic modifications can make it easier for animals to handle the intense heat of climate change, ensure fewer creatures die needlessly by giving them disease resistance, and reduce animal distress by eliminating body features that are often painfully removed on a farm (like cows’ horns or pigs’ tails). Gene editing, then, might not only make meat more sustainable — it would make it more ethical, too.

Since much of the world looks to the U.S. to take the first leap in new fields, doing so could start the proliferation of genetically modified animals to the places in the world that need it most.

The post Changing Regulations Mean Genetically Modified Meat Could Soon Be on Your Plate appeared first on Futurism.


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Bitcoin could face new regulations in the U.S. after top financial cops and lawmakers raise new fears about virtual currency

A hearing Tuesday in the Senate could be a preview of what’s to come.

Leading U.S. financial regulators expressed an uneasiness Tuesday with the rapid rise of bitcoin — and signaled that new regulation of virtual currency could be on the horizon.

For lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee, their hearing this morning elucidated a fresh sense that federal law may not be fully equipped to deal with a virtual currency that’s now valued at around $ 113 billion — not to mention the potential for theft and fraud and the arrival of so-called initial coin offerings, which are essentially fundraising rounds that rely on digital tokens.

In response, regulators at two key federal agencies — the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — sought to strike a delicate balance in their testimony to the Senate panel. They acknowledged there are gaps in consumer and investor protections but stressed their interest in sparing a new, innovative market from too much early regulation.

Still, Democrats and Republicans alike continued to return to the same question: Is a new law governing bitcoin buying, selling and enforcement necessary?

“We may be back with our friends from Treasury and the Fed to ask for additional legislation,” said Jay Clayton, the leader of the SEC, referring to the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.

To be sure, bitcoin isn’t totally unregulated. By definition, the SEC regulates all securities — including bitcoin in cases where the virtual currency doubles as an investment vehicle, such as a stock. At the CFTC, meanwhile, the agency determined back in 2015 that bitcoin qualifies as a “commodity” that it can monitor under federal law.

But they do face limits in their oversight, which the agencies’ leaders acknowledged Tuesday. Neither entity has oversight when it comes to so-called “spot markets,” for example, or hubs like Coinbase where consumers can buy and sell bitcoin directly. Those largely are regulated by the individual states, and in the eyes of some critics, perhaps not very effectively.

“The spot market for bitcoin is not a regulated marketplace,” said the CFTC’s leader, Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo. Federal enforcers can pursue “fraud and manipulation,” he said, “but we don’t have the ability to set the standards in those markets.”

For that to change, it would fall to Congress. While lawmakers on Tuesday didn’t offer any specific proposal to regulate bitcoin, many Democrats and Republicans came armed with a litany of concerns or criticisms about cryptocurrency — and the government’s ability to handle it.

Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown and Jack Reed, for example, expressed doubts the federal regulators have enough technologists on hand to grapple with the rise of bitcoin.

For GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, the fear is “where the bottom is” when it comes to the value of virtual currency, which has whipsawed over the last few months — and lost as much as half its value in just weeks. After trading as high as $ 20,000 last year, it was worth under $ 7,000 as the hearing came to a close.

To Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the cybersecurity of bitcoin platforms remains a challenge. His comments came on a day that South Korean officials alleged that North Korea is behind a major new theft of bitcoin.

Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly pressed regulators on what they were doing to help “retail” investors — average Americans who have seized on bitcoin mania. In response, the CFTC’s Giancarlo said his agency and others had sought to arm libraries — where bitcoin is among frequent searches — with information about the industry.

Fellow Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto raised the recent trend of companies adding “blockchain” to their names to squeeze out more market value. Federal officials shared her complaints.

And many expressed their doubts with initial coin offerings, or ICOs. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren sought to point out that none of the roughly $ 4 billion so far raised through ICOs had registered properly with the SEC, potentially depriving investors of information that might affect their decision making.

In recent weeks, the SEC has taken explicit aim at these ICOs, warning some and penalizing others. “Experience tells us that while some market participants may make fortunes, the risks to all investors are high. Caution is merited,” warned SEC and CFTC leaders in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last month.

On Tuesday, the agency’s leader, Clayton, stressed to the Senate: “We’ve made it clear what the law is.”

For now, though, committee leaders signaled they’d be interested in legislation that might address some of these ills. But Sen. Mike Crapo, the panel’s Republican chairman, suggested to the financial regulators who testified that they had to come to him with a proposal first.

“I would ask you to get back to me on recommendations … legislative system and whether we need to provide further clarification from Congress,” he said.

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Australia sets regulations for driverless vehicle systems

Road traffic authorities in Australia have received the regulations they must comply with to roll out intelligent transport systems (ITS)

ITS support driverless vehicles by enabling vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-person, and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. Today’s regulations mark a key milestone towards mass rollout of driverless vehicles in Australia.

"ITS are expected to make roads smarter, safer, and cleaner through the use of communications technologies," says ACMA acting chair James Cameron. "The new Class Licence will facilitate the rollout of the latest transportation communications technology, putting Australia on par with other nations adopting ITS."

The 5.9GHz band has been made available for ITS usage in Australia as part of the Radiocommunications (Intelligent Transport Systems) Class Licence 2017 regulations.

An ITS station can be operated by a party with a Class License on the condition that it’s operated on a frequency, or within a range of frequencies, greater than 5855 MHz and not greater than 5925 MHz.

The power output must not exceed a maximum EIRP of 23 dBm/MHz and it cannot be operated within 70kms of the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory. The station must also comply with ETSI Standard EN 302 571.

A key goal of the new regulations is to bring Australia in line with other major vehicle markets such as the United States and European Union. This regulatory alignment will aid with research and development, and the eventual rollout of driverless vehicles.

"Harmonising Australia's ITS arrangements with wider global developments means Australian motorists are more likely to enjoy the benefits of connected vehicles as they become available," ACMA said in a statement.

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US to Reverse Offshore Drilling Regulations, Leaving the Environment Vulnerable

Oil Drilling

7 years ago, the BP oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 crew members and releasing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

In 2016, the Obama administration released the final set of rules and regulations on offshore oil drilling in an attempt to prevent an event like the Deepwater Horizon disaster from happening again. Now, the Trump administration is trying to reverse those restrictions, as reported by The New York Times.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) — which was established in response to the 2010 oil spill — is now leading the charge on rolling back the Obama-era regulations. In a proposal drafted by the BSEE, the organization claims the current restrictions place “unnecessary burdens” on the drilling industry.

Fireboat crews attempting to extinguish the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Image Credit: U.S. Coast Guard
Fireboat crews attempting to extinguish the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Image Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

“By reducing the regulatory burden on industry, we are encouraging increased domestic oil and gas production while maintaining a high bar for safety and environmental sustainability,” Scott A. Angelle, director of the BSEE, said in a statement. Angelle went on to state that the current regulations were put in place based on the prior assumption that “only more rules” would make operations safer. Instead, Angelle suggests that it’s “not an either / or” situation and that the U.S. can simultaneously “increase domestic energy production and increase safety and environmental protection.”

Another Policy Reversal

While some groups like the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) support the move, saying they welcome the opportunity to “comment on this important regulation” and other policies currently in place, other organizations are against the reversal, claiming it will only invite disaster.

“Rolling back drilling safety standards while expanding offshore leasing is a recipe for disaster,” Miyoko Sakashita, director of the oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement as reported by The New York Times. “By tossing aside the lessons from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Trump is putting our coasts and wildlife at risk of more deadly oil spills. Reversing offshore safety rules isn’t just deregulation, it’s willful ignorance.”

U.S. Coast Guard collecting oil using a skimming boom. Image Credit: U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Coast Guard collecting oil using a skimming boom. Image Credit: U.S. Department of Defense

The Deepwater Horizon incident wasn’t the first of its kind. Nearly two years prior, in September 2008, BP suffered a similar accident in the Caucasus country of Azerbaijan that resulted in a blowout. In both cases, a “bad cement job” was said to be a key factor. To Sakashita’s point, both accidents occurred before proper regulations were created, and now serve as proof of what could happen if the current rules are removed.

Director Sakashita’s statement can also be applied to other reversals made by the Trump administration this year, such as the decision to continue the Keystone XL pipeline project after President Obama had halted it. Months after reversing the decision, the pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of oil, but that didn’t stop the approval of the pipeline’s expansion.

We’ll have to wait and see if the BSEE can deliver on their claim of increasing energy production while offering better protection to both employees and the environment. As the world shifts towards clean energy, the BSEE’s reversal may only be beneficial to the drilling and oil industries for a couple of years: a couple of weeks ago, the World Bank announced it would stop offering financial support for oil and gas exploration after 2019.

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San Francisco Approves Tight Regulations on Delivery Robots

Express Delivery

Delivery robots are still a rare sight in the U.S., but that might not be the case for much longer. In order to get ahead of the game, authorities in San Francisco have passed new regulations that will control their usage.

Companies will be limited to three robots each, only nine of which will be allowed to traverse the whole city. These limits were put in place by new rules enacted by San Francisco’s board of supervisors. Furthermore, the activity of these robots will be limited to industrial areas where there aren’t many people around.

The regulations also state that the machines are not permitted to travel at more than three miles per hour, and must be accompanied by a human supervisor at all times. Bob Doyle, a spokesman for the Association for Advancing Automation Association, compared these restrictions to the early days of automotive vehicles where cars had to be preceded by a person carrying a flag.

“To put such a strict limit on these types of autonomous delivery vehicles drastically slows down the process of testing and the potential for these being put into (use before) the general public,” Doyle told the San Francisco Chronicle.

If delivery robots are ever to enter widespread use, it’s vitally important that they have been tested at length, and in similar conditions to those that they’ll ultimately be working in. It’s being argued that these restrictions are short-sighted, as they could prevent companies from perfecting these machines through that kind of rigorous, real-world testing.

The original proposal submitted by supervisor Norman Yee set out to ban the robots outright. The ban was proposed to prevent the robots from overcrowding sidewalks, similar to previously proposed bans pertaining to Segways and bicycles.

Machines Among Us

Automation and artificial intelligence give various industries new opportunities when it comes to their workforce. This will change the job market for humans, but it’s also set to have a wider impact on society.

For instance, if a delivery robot causes an accident, who is to blame? Responsibility would likely fall to the company that owns it, but there isn’t the direct culpability that would apply to an individual. Without the proper means of compelling the owners of these robots to prioritize public safety, putting limitations on their usage might be the best idea.

San Francisco is something of an outlier when it comes to its restrictions of delivery robots. Elsewhere in California, including the Bay Area, Redwood City, San Carlos, Sunnyvale, and Concord, pilot programs have been approved. While further afield, other states, including Idaho, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, and Ohio, have all given their blessing for robots traversing city streets, too.

Integrating robots and other automated workers into our society will offer up all kinds of moral and ethical dilemmas. This technology stands to contribute a wide range of benefits to our society, but we’ll need to carefully plan the unleashing of robots in our cities if we want to walk peacefully beside them on the sidewalk.

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FCC to vote on removing Net Neutrality regulations

Net Neutrality is the idea that Internet service providers (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and so on) should treat all data the same. It has been a hot topic in the United States for years, especially after the FCC voted in 2015 to reclassify ISPs as Title II utilities, essentially making Net Neutrality law.

In January of this year, Ajit Varadaraj Pai was named the new chairman of the FCC by President Trump.

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