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April 30, 2016

Facebook Inc revealed that it spent $4.26 million on security for Mark Zuckerberg last year, its first disclosure of such costs, and the highest among companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index that have filed proxy statements for fiscal 2015.

The expense brings the total cost from 2013 to 2015 to $12.5 million, according to a regulatory filing. The cost was "to address safety concerns due to specific threats to his safety arising directly as a result of his position as our founder, chairman, and CEO," the company said in the filing. 
Zuckerberg is the world's eighth-richest person with $47 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Facebook spent $5.6 million for Zuckerberg's security in 2014 and $2.65 million in 2013. Last year's expense exceeds the $1.53 million Oracle Corp spent to protect executive chairman Larry Ellison in fiscal 2015 and Amazon.com Inc's $1.6 million for Jeff Bezos, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The figure also outstrips other famous executives. Berkshire Hathaway Inc paid $370,244 for personal and home security for billionaire Warren Buffett in 2015. Apple Inc spent $209,151 on Tim Cook.

Facebook made the disclosure this week after the US Securities and Exchange Commission in August questioned why the costs had never been listed in filings as a taxable perquisite. In response, Facebook argued that a "business oriented security concern" identified for Zuckerberg exempted it from having to report those expenses. After discussions with SEC staff, the company reversed its position, according to a filing. Facebook spokesman Jonathan Thaw declined to comment.


FB provides Zuckerberg with a home security system and guards who also protect his house in San Francisco's Mission District. The team is overseen by a former US Secret Service agent who protected President Barack Obama.


Security "should be a board of directors' first and foremost concern," especially at companies built around a central figure, said Peter Martin, chief executive of security consultancy Afimac Global.

That doesn't come cheap. Each around-the-clock assignment requires four full-time guards, which annually can cost more than $80,000 each, said Christopher Falkenberg, chief executive of New York-based Insite Security Inc. A security director can earn about $200,000 a year.

 

 

 


 

YouTube Wants You to See the World From Every Angle

April 21, 2016

YouTube on Monday announced the rollout of live-streaming 360-degree video and spatial audio, part of the company's push to boost its reach in the growing market for immersive video and virtual reality.

The company has provided support for 360-degree video for more than a year, but it has been working with content creators to push the technology even further to bring fans into live events when they cannot be there themselves, Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said.

"What excites me most about 360-degree storytelling is that it lets us open up the world's experiences to everyone," he said.

YouTube worked with VideoStitch and Two Big Ears to make their software compatible with 360-degree live-streams or spacial audio on YouTube, Mohan noted, adding that more will be available soon.

The technology also will be available at YouTube Space locations around the world, including New York, London, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, and Mumbai, India, he said.

Immersive Experiences

YouTube recognizes that the next great immersive experience will be fed by affordable 360-degree cameras, such as the Ricoh Theta S digital camera, as well as high-performance camera rigs for real-time feeds, said Kevin Krewell, senior analyst at Tirias Research.

"The 360 video transports the viewer into the scene and is going to be the center of immersive experiences at concerts special events breaking news, educational programs, corporate promotional videos, etc.," he told TechNewsWorld. "The experience would be best in a VR headset or Google cardboard, but even a flat display can allow panning around the scene for a more intimate experience."

Its announcement may be a bit early for market demand, but that will grow as the number of 360-degree cameras grows and more content becomes available, Krewell said.

YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl unveiled the company's 360-degree video strategy at CES earlier this year. The company entered a deal with GoPro to support 360-degree video content and 4K HDR, or high dynamic range video.

Competitive Field

While YouTube may be ahead of the game in live-streaming 360-degree video, an increasingly crowded field of social media companies is embracing virtual reality and live-streaming in a way that eventually will converge into the same competitive space, noted Susan Schreiner, analyst at C4 Trends.

"While YouTube might be the first with live-streaming, others like Facebook also have many of the pieces of this burgeoning ecosystem, from the cameras and the apps to Oculus Rift," she told TechNewsWorld.

Twitch has the VR apps and supports VR content, and Meerkat and Periscopelikely are working on developing their presence in VR as well, Schreiner noted.

"It will likely attract people who have heard about 360 but never actually experienced it," said Mike Jude, program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

"The bigger question is whether 360 will actually catch on," he told TechNewsWorld.

In many ways, 360 TV is little more than an improvement on 3D TV, which quickly became a niche market, Jude said. "YouTube may be able to generate a wider audience for 360, but it remains to be seen."

Google Calendar Offers Life-Coaching Goals Feature

April 19, 2016

Google last week rolled out Goals in Google Calendar, a feature designed to help users achieve their personal goals.

Users set a goal, such as working out more often, and answer relevant questions, such as how often they want to work out and the best time for them to do so. Calendar then will sift through their schedules and select the best time to allocate for the task.

Calendar uses artificial intelligence, so it will get better at scheduling the more often it's used, the company said.

 

 

"With this launch, Google is bringing machine intelligence to our calendar app to help users make the most of their time," Google spokesperson Brooks Hocog remarked.

Time Management

"Goals will find time for you and block it off," he told TechNewsWorld. "You'll also get reminder notifications."

Users can choose to defer the task to another time, which Google will find for them.

"Google learns your schedule based on your confirmation and deferment patterns, and will stick around to motivate you to achieve your goals," Hocog explained.

Users who are pressed for time are very likely to try out the feature, "especially if they're already using the Google Calendar app," he contended.

The purpose of Goals "is to help you spend more time on the things you care about, and so far we see compelling evidence that scheduling time on your calendar is the best way to do that," Hocog said. "And we want to make this as easy for the user as possible."

Hope Springs Eternal

"This sounds amazing since I'm always busy and want more time to work out," Leon McDaniels wrote in response to Google's blog post about the feature. "Can't wait to see it and try it."

"When can I use this?" asked Sly Shippy. "Honestly, it sounds like just what I need, as skill and zen building are important to me and often ignored. I don't see this yet in my Google calendar, though I have a Nexus 5."

Goals "could be an interesting feature, especially if they allow developers to tap into it for other devices and applications," said Jim McGregor, principal analyst atTirias Research. "Everything I do these days is electronic."

Planning for a goal is "sometimes the most difficult thing to do," he told TechNewsWorld. If Goals "is already on your phone and it helps you track your status, I think there are many people that would try it. I would."

Now You See It - No, You Don't

Goals wasn't available to all users immediately, some commenters noted.

"This doesn't seem available to my Google Calendar app yet," wrote Johnny Commenter. "I hate it when you announce something and then only give it to some markets. "

"Updated the Google Calendar app. But the 'goal' option is not showing," Akash Sarkar wrote.

Privacy Implications

"At what point does it cross over from being a helpmate to being a nuisance?" asked Laura DiDio, a research director at Strategy Analytics.

Privacy issues are a red flag, she told TechNewsWorld. "Sometimes it does get to be that you give [apps] too much information and they have too much power."

Facebook spied on people who shared private health information on several cancer-fighting organizations' websites, including the American Cancer Society, and used that data to generate profits, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

Some people prefer paper-based day timers "because they're nonvolatile and don't use a battery," and "I like the ability to ideate on it, [which] is hard to do in an electronic medium," said Mike Jude, a program manager atStratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

Process is more important than goals, he told TechNewsWorld.

"Goals can be limiting and inflexible," Jude said. "A process can deliver results over time that deliver goals." Also, a process "typically drives behavior in a more measurable way."

HP Debuts Thinnest Laptop Ever

April 13, 2016

 HP on Tuesday unveiled its latest challenger to Apple's laptops at the International Luxury Conference in Versailles, touting it as the thinnest laptop in the world.

At 10.4 mm, the HP Spectre's chassis is as thin as a triple-A battery, the company noted.

 

 

The Spectre is powered by Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and weighs in at 2.45 pounds. It has a 13.3-inch Gorilla glass display, and stereo speakers from Bang & Olufsen.

It provides up to 9 1/2 hours of battery life, according to HP.

The new line "carries some of the thin design and high-end finishing touches that HP introduced in its EliteBook Folio earlier this year," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

HP "is hoping that surpassing Apple in terms of thinness will spark notebook sales," he told TechNewsWorld.

 

HP Spectre

 

Thin Isn't Enough

That said, thinness "is simply one aspect driving product innovation and user satisfaction," King pointed out.

HP "also needs to develop an Apple-like cachet around its products as being must-haves for consumers," he said. Competitors, including Dell with the XPS 13 and Lenovo with its Yoga line, "have succeeded in such efforts over the past couple of years, which is to say that Apple isn't the only vendor HP needs to worry about."

Dell's XPS 13 "has been particularly effective in matching or surpassing features in the 12-inch MacBook," observed King. Dell "understands that thinness is just one aspect of laptop innovation and value, and has consistently delivered XPS 13 solutions with excellent or superior compute performance, energy efficiency and graphics."

Add in touchscreen capabilities -- "something Apple has resolutely avoided, though current rumors suggest a touch-enabled MacBook may be coming later this year -- and Dell's SPX 13 is arguably equal or superior to a similarly sized MacBook," he said.

Why Apple Rules Them All

Outstanding features may not be enough to knock Apple off its notebook throne.

"Apple's greatest advantage is their vertical integration," noted Linn Huang, a research director at IDC.

Competitors increasingly are copying Apple's design, and consumers "are thinking less about design today than they did two to three years ago, because the usage model has moved to the browser," he told TechNewsWorld.

"The more our consumer services transition to the cloud, the more the usage model gets stuck in the browser," Huang said, so "I'd expect that there'd be more homogeneity among products. Ultimately, if you're only using the browser at home, it doesn't really make too much of a difference whether you're using OS X or Chrome or Windows."

That being the case, Apple "has the lead, because OS X plays very nicely with iOS -- much better than iOS does with Windows or Chrome," he added.

Apple also offers a multiplicity of devices in the ultralight notebook class.

"We classify all Apple's MacBooks, including MacBook Pros, as ultraslim devices," Huang said. "While XPS and HP's product will gain a lot of ground, Apple will still be king in the thin and light segment, at least in the United States."

ALL you need to know about whatsapp's new end to end encryption policy

April 12, 2016

WhatsApp on Tuesday told its 1 billion users that their communications would be better protected from prying eyes with end-to-end encryption.

The company always has made data and communication security a priority, according to Jan Koum and Brian Acton, the founders of WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for US$19 billion in 2014.

"From now on when you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end to end encrypted by default, including group chats," they wrote in a blog post.

Signal Protocol

WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption is accomplished through the use of the Signal Protocol, developed by Open Whisper Systems.

The company has been working with WhatsApp for a year to integrate the technology with all the platforms WhatsApp works on, including chats, group chats, attachments, voice notes and voice calls across Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, Nokia S40, Nokia S60, BlackBerry and BB10.

During the transition period while users upgrade to the new version of WhatsApp, there will be some unencrypted text, also known as plaintext, on the system, said Moxie Marlinspike, a member of Open Whisper's management team.

"To make this transition as clear as possible," he said, "WhatsApp clients notify users when their chats become end to end encrypted."

User Alerts

Starting Tuesday, WhatsApp users began seeing notices on their conversation screens, as well as under a chat's preference screen, when an individual or group chat is end to end encrypted.

"Once a client recognizes a contact as being fully e2e capable, it will not permit transmitting plaintext to that contact, even if that contact were to downgrade to a version of the software that is not fully e2e capable. This prevents the server or a network attacker from being able to perform a downgrade attack," Marlinspike said.

The Signal Protocol has more than a billion monthly active users worldwide, he added.

"Over the next year," Marlinspike added, "we will continue to work with additional messengers to amplify the impact and scope of private communication."

Appropriate Response

More companies should emulate WhatsApp's attitude toward encryption, maintained Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst at IT-Harvest.

"It's the appropriate response of vendors of communication tools that need privacy," he told TechNewsWorld.

"It pushes the care and feeding of the encryption keys to the users. That offloads discovery and all the hassles with requests from law enforcement to decrypt captured data," Stiennon said.

"It's the only economically viable solution for anyone who does this," he added.

Conflicting Interests

Although WhatsApp recognized that end-to-end encryption can be a barrier to effective law enforcement, Koum and Acton defended the company's use of the technology, asserting that efforts to weaken encryption risk exposing users' information to abuse from cybercriminals and rogue countries.

"While WhatsApp is among the few communication platforms to build full end-to-end encryption that is on by default for everything you do, we expect that it will ultimately represent the future of personal communication," the pair added.

If that happens, however, confrontations between tech companies and law enforcement agencies likely will escalate.

"We're definitely going to see more incidents," said Matthew Green, a professor specializing in cryptography at Johns Hopkins University.

"Law enforcement is hugely dependent on wiretaps," he told TechNewsWorld. "Since we've only begun to see data encrypted, we're only at the beginning of this controversy."

Imperfect Protection

While end-to-end encryption is a strong measure to protect privacy, the messages of WhatsApp users still can be exposed in other ways, warned Cris Thomas, a strategist with Tenable Network Security.

"If you're using an unencrypted iCloud backup or someone has access to your Android device, your messages are still readable," he told TechNewsWorld.

End-to-end encryption is akin to transporting valuables in an armored car, Thomas said. "The messages while in transit are secure, but the endpoints are still vulnerable."

In addition, although WhatsApp can't decrypt the data on users' phones, it still has the metadata about their activity -- their phone numbers, who they messaged and when they message them.

"All of that is still subject to subpoena," Thomas said. "It's just the content that is now protected."

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