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US International Trade Commission Launches Apple Probe Over Patent Infringement Allegations 

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The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has opened a new investigation over an Aqua Connect statement which alleges that Apple has infringed on certain patents.  Of course, the announcement is still preliminary so we know very little more about the details, but we can extract that the lawsuit alleges Apple is guilty of several infringements.

According to the International Trade Commission, the agency opened the investigation after Aqua Connect Inc and Strategic Technology Partners of Orange California combined complaints, suing Apple in October over specific macOS features.  However, the international complaint apparently also appears to be much more encompassing; it could relate to select Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV products as well, though the exact models and features have not yet been revealed.

Indeed, Aqua Connect CEO Ronnie Exley explains, “Aqua Connect invented and built the first fully functional emote desktop and terminal server solution for Mac in 2008.  Initially, our product had Apple’s full support. But year’s later, Apple built our technology into its macOS and iOS operating systems without our permission. These lawsuits seek to stop Apple from continuing to user our technology in their macOS and iOS operating systems.”

The Aqua Connect complaint asks the International Trade Commission (ITC) to issue an exclusion order as well as a cease and desist order which would bar Apple from the import of its products into the US.

The ITC responds, “The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Aqua Connect, Inc., and Strategic Technology Partners, LLC, of Orange, CA, on October 10, 2017. The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain personal computers, mobile devices, digital media players, and microconsoles that infringe patents asserted by the complainants. The complainants request that the USITC issue a temporary exclusion order and a temporary cease and desist order based on a motion for temporary relief, and that the USITC ultimately issue a limited exclusion order and a cease and desist order.”

As you may or may not know, Apple is already under ITC investigation regarding patent infringement allegations from Qualcomm, though this appears to be quite different from the Aqua Connect lawsuit.

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Telegram App Protests As Apple Blocks Its Updates

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Since April 2018, Telegram messaging service has been facing challenges on updating its app following Russia’s order for Apple to block the app from its store. According to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Telegram poses dangers on the country’s security efforts particularly against the terrorism activities. Telegram has taken the matter to the courts.

Russia barred Telegram operations on its land after it allegedly declined to intercept its decryption keys for all its users’ communications to the security agencies cutting of over 40 million users in Russia. Roskimnadzor, Russia’s state regulator ordered Apple to block push notifications for Telegram users and to bar it from being used in the country.

User Rights To Privacy

According to Pavel Durov, founder of Telegram App, the company is firm on preserving the rights of its customers particularly in the trouble country like Russia. Recently, the company held protest rallies in Russia’s capital with demonstrators singing the anti-government slogans against what is called ‘internet censorship’. Apple declined to comment on the matter.

Unfortunately, though Telegram has only a small fraction of user base (7%) in Russia, Apple has blocked its updates for its users not only in Russian territory but across the entire world. Consequently, Telegram has been unable to comply with the ongoing General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for its EU users, which had a deadline of May 25, 2018. GDPR is the European Union regulation body that governs data protection and privacy for all citizens within the region.

Collaborating With Governments To Infringe on Users’ Privacy

Apple has been accused of helping governments to intercept internet users’ communications for malicious activities. Last year, Apple negotiated with the China’s government to remove apps from its App Store that blocked the security agencies from accessing users’ data through digital private networks. However, Apple has denied the allegations that it collaborates with governments but instead, it focuses on enhancing privacy and encrypted communication.

In 2016, Apple was taken to court in the US for refusing to assist the Federal Bureau of Investigation to access the encrypted messages after two attackers killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

According to the regulator, the messaging app has the capacity to enable terrorist activities in the country. The Russian government also partially blocked Gmail and Google Search after it alleged that the tech giant is allowing users to continue using the service of blocking the government from accessing the private conversations. Today, giant tech firms have been accused of supporting governments to violate people’s rights.

 

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Google’s URL Shortening Service To Be Ended

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Online search giant Google has announced that goo.gl, a URL shortening service, is being shut down beginning April 13 for new users. Existing users will however have one more year before the service is shuttered. The service was introduced in 2009 and during that time other similar services have cropped up and grown in popularity. Users who are interested in creating new short links will now have the option of using Firebase Dynamic Links besides other URL shorteners.

Shuttering the service will allow Google to focus on Firebase Dynamic Links, a service that lets users redirect to particular locations depending on suitability. According to Google compared to standard links Firebase Dynamic Links were better suited to surviving app installation and thus making it easier to find the required content. Firebase Dynamic Links also offer enhanced security. Two years ago reports emerged that shortened URLs possessed more security vulnerabilities compared to standard links.

Waymo’s valuation

This comes in the wake of an analyst at Bank of America indicating that Waymo, the autonomous car unit of Alphabet (Google’s parent), could now be valued as much as the biggest car manufacturers in the world.  According to Justin Post, the analyst at Bank of America, the biggest indication that the growth of Waymo was accelerating were the new partnerships the driverless car company had formed with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Jaguar Land Rover. Waymo has also formed partnerships with AutoNation, Intel and Lyft.

Last year in November Waymo made history by becoming the first firm to start operating vehicles that were completely autonomous on public roads. These cars in the firm’s Early Rider program didn’t have human back drivers sitting at the front ready to take over in case the driverless technology failed. Per Post the driverless cars of Waymo have now covered over four million miles on public roads.

Early Rider

“With the Early Rider test now underway in Phoenix, a pick-up in recent partnerships and supplier agreements, and Level 4 autonomous driving achieved in 10/17, momentum appears to be gaining steam with Waymo,” said Post.

According to Post, though it was difficult to determine the true earnings potential of Waymo, a sum-of-the-parts analysts that was based on a tech licensing and ride-sharing model gave the Alphabet unit a valuation of $41 billion. Going by Post’s estimate Waymo is almost valued as much as the Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford which boasts of $43 billion in market capitalization.

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Uber Could Sell Its Driverless Car Tech To Toyota 

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Reports indicate that Uber Technologies is considering selling its driverless car technology to Toyota. According to sources the two firms are in discussions to have the automated driving technology of Uber fitted in one of Toyota’s minivan models. The sources added that the chief executive officer of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, has held meetings with executives of the Japanese automaker.

Toyota is already developing its own driverless car technology but has indicated that it is willing to partner with other companies in order to hasten the speed at which the new mobility technologies are introduced into the market. Uber and Toyota already have a partnership on autonomous car and ride hailing systems.

Disruption coming

Across the globe tech firms and carmakers are racing to come up with autonomous vehicles as the traditional model of the personal transportation business which has involved individual car ownership stands to be disrupted.

Uber’s self-driving car efforts have been seen it test its prototypes in the U.S. The ride-hailing service has mainly used Volvo cars as well as some from Daimler. Earlier in the year Toyota indicated that it was partnering with Uber in developing autonomous car systems focusing on parcel delivery and ride hailing. Toyota has invested in Uber and also lease its cars to Uber drivers.

This comes at a time when Uber is experimenting with a service known as UberFlash in Hong Kong in a bid to win over Hong Kong’s disgruntled taxi drivers. The service matches users of Uber with either private cars or taxis. The UberFlash service has been well received in Bangkok, Thailand and Singapore and the ride-hailing service hopes to replicate the same in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong market

According to the director of research, economics and public policy at Uber, Damian Kassabgi, the UberFlash would be attractive to the taxi industry in the city state and it was a perfect example that demonstrated how Uber and taxis could co-exist in harmony.

“We are actively looking at Hong Kong to understand the taxi market and taxi companies. We’d be willing to partner with taxi companies in Hong Kong. This is something that we are actively doing at the moment,” said Kassabgi.

In Hong Kong Uber has struggled to make headway. The city state has a population of more than seven million which is served by approximately 18,000 licensed taxis operated by around 40,000 drivers. Taxi operators pay about $892,000 per license. Ride sharing in Hong Kong is illegal but Uber has around 30,000 drivers that have signed up to offer its ride-hailing service.

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