The International Energy Agency says Chinese car manufacturers are emerging as a major force in the global electric car market, with more than 50% of all electric cars on roads worldwide now produced in China. Spain is the second-largest vehicle manufacturer in Europe after Germany and its market has become a target for Chinese automakers. From Barcelona, Alfonso Beato has this report, narrated by Marcus Harton.
Amazon to Pay $31 Million in Privacy Violation Penalties for Alexa Voice Assistant, Ring Camera
By : ITnews -
Amazon agreed Wednesday to pay a $25 million civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations it violated a child privacy law and deceived parents by keeping for years kids’ voice and location data recorded by its popular Alexa voice assistant.
Separately, the company agreed to pay $5.8 million in customer refunds for alleged privacy violations involving its doorbell camera Ring.
The Alexa-related action orders Amazon to overhaul its data deletion practices and impose stricter, more transparent privacy measures. It also obliges the tech giant to delete certain data collected by its internet-connected digital assistant, which people use for everything from checking the weather to playing games and queueing up music.
“Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests violated COPPA (the Child Online Privacy Protection Act) and sacrificed privacy for profits,” Samuel Levine, the FCT consumer protection chief, said in a statement. The 1998 law is designed to shield children from online harms.
FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya said in a statement that “when parents asked Amazon to delete their kids’ Alexa voice data, the company did not delete all of it.”
The agency ordered the company to delete inactive child accounts as well as certain voice and geolocation data.
Amazon kept the kids’ data to refine its voice recognition algorithm, the artificial intelligence behind Alexa, which powers Echo and other smart speakers, Bedoya said. The FTC complaint sends a message to all tech companies who are “sprinting to do the same” amid fierce competition in developing AI datasets, he added.
“Nothing is more visceral to a parent than the sound of their child’s voice,” tweeted Bedoya, the father of two small children.
Amazon said last month that it has sold more than a half-billion Alexa-enabled devices globally and that use of the service increased 35% last year.
In the Ring case, the FTC says Amazon’s home security camera subsidiary let employees and contractors access consumers’ private videos and provided lax security practices that enabled hackers to take control of some accounts.
Amazon bought California-based Ring in 2018, and many of the violations alleged by the FTC predate the acquisition. Under the FTC’s order, Ring is required to pay $5.8 million that would be used for consumer refunds.
Amazon said it disagreed with the FTC’s claims on both Alexa and Ring and denied violating the law. But it said the settlements “put these matters behind us.”
“Our devices and services are built to protect customers’ privacy, and to provide customers with control over their experience,” the Seattle-based company said.
In addition to the fine in the Alexa case, the proposed order prohibits Amazon from using deleted geolocation and voice information to create or improve any data product. The order also requires Amazon to create a privacy program for its use of geolocation information.
The proposed orders must be approved by federal judges.
FTC commissioners had unanimously voted to file the charges against Amazon in both cases.
The semiconductor trade war between Washington and Beijing may ensnare Seoul as South Korea must decide between backing its closest ally or embracing a lucrative export opportunity presented by China, its top trading partner.
The decision will reveal how closely South Korea is aligned with the U.S., its second-largest export market, experts said.
The dilemma facing Seoul emerged after China announced that it was banning the use of U.S.-based Micron Technology’s broad range of computer memory and storage technologies.
Liu Pengyu, a Chinese Embassy spokesperson in Washington, told VOA’s Korean Service on May 24 that Beijing’s cybersecurity regulators had assessed that Micron’s chips “pose a major security risk to China’s key information infrastructure supply chain and impact China’s national security.”
The ban echoed that set by the U.S. on China’s Huawei Technologies in May 2019, when the Trump administration cited security concerns related to the company’s wireless networking equipment, especially those related to 5G. The Biden administration in November 2022 banned approvals of new telecommunications equipment from Huawei and ZTE because the products pose “an unacceptable risk” to U.S. national security.
U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, the Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, has called for South Korea to “act to prevent backfilling” the market gap left by Micron.
The U.S. has been trying to block China’s access to the technology needed to make advanced chips that can be used to modernize its military. Micron’s chips are used by Chinese industries that assemble consumer electronics such as smartphones. Although Beijing is funding the development of home-grown advanced chips such as those used in artificial intelligence applications, China’s chipmakers, for now, manufacture simpler products such as those used in home appliances.
Seoul’s decision on whether to dissuade its top chipmakers such as Samsung or SK Hynix from selling chips to China could indicate how closely South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is aligned with Washington.
“This would certainly be a litmus test to see if Seoul and other allies are willing to support Washington’s policies designed to slow China’s technology growth,” said Andrew Yeo, the SK-Korea Foundation chair in Korea Studies at Brookings Institution.
Robert Rapson, who served as charge d’affaires and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Seoul, 2018-2021, said, “This is the first real test of the Yoon administration’s policy of enhanced alignment with the U.S. on China.”
He continued, “In other words, will [South] Korea sacrifice core economic, commercial interests of its flagship high-tech companies in keeping with [Washington’s] policy and U.S. wishes?”
He added that Seoul has the right to seek “some credit or offset” from Washington if it blocks backfilling the Micron gap.
A business decision
A spokesperson for the South Korean Foreign Ministry told VOA’s Korean Service on Tuesday that the government “plans to continue efforts to protect the interest of our companies through cooperation with relevant agencies and engagements with diplomatic missions abroad.”
South Korea sent 55% of its semiconductor exports to China last year even as
its semiconductor exports have been in a steep decline since August 2022, according to a Bank of Korea report released on Tuesday, cited by Business Korea.
Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center’s Reimagining U.S. Grand Strategy Project, said “As the security environment in Northeast Asia has become fraught with North Korea’s provocative nuclear efforts and Chinese economic coercion, the U.S.-ROK alliance has become more vital to Seoul.” South Korea’s official name is the Republic of Korea (ROK).
“South Korea will [need to] sacrifice to a degree to sustain broad alignment with the U.S.,” Manning said. “But South Korea has its own interests so there are likely to be limits.”
Troy Stangarone, senior director at Korea Economic Institute, said, “While China might face short-term shortage in chips if Samsung and SK Hynix withheld capacity, the ultimate result would only be the further expansion of domestic Chinese semiconductor firms which undermine U.S. long-term goals and potentially the very firms the United States is working with to improve its own supply chains.”
Dennis Wilder, senior director for East Asia affairs at the White House’s National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, said, “This is a business decision, and it really should, in my view, be left to the South Korean companies to make this business decision.”
Wilder continued, “But it’s far more important for South Korea to align with the United States on the very high-end semiconductor chips and the attempts to keep things out of the hands of the Chinese military that can help modernize.”
Beijing’s ban came on the last day of the Group of Seven countries summit on May 19-21. The group agreed to de-risk the global economy and diversify trade away from China in an effort to counter its economic coercion. This is defined as “a threatened or actual imposition of economic costs by a state on a target with the objective of extracting a policy concession,” according to testimony by Bonnie Glaser, managing director, of the German Marshall Fund Indo-Pacific program, before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Saturday that Washington “firmly opposes” China’s ban on Micron. She made the remark at a press conference held after the meeting of the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) that China sees as a body aimed at countering its economic rise.
On Monday, an article in Chinese state-run media Global Times said it would be “natural” for South Korea’s chipmakers to export to fill the market void left by the Micron ban.
“There is no possibility for South Korea to replace its chips with other goods in its exports to China,” the report said.
And on Sunday, Bloomberg quoted an unidentified source familiar with the situation as saying South Korea will veer away from supplying chips to China.
South Korea’s exports to China in April were $9.52 billion while exports to the U.S. reached $9.18 billion, according to the Trade Ministry’s latest data. The gap between South Korea’s exports to China and the U.S. narrowed to just $340 million in April from $1.15 billion in January driven by a strong dollar and EV demand.
SpaceX’s Starlink, the satellite communications service started by billionaire Elon Musk, now has a Defense Department contract to buy those satellite services for Ukraine, the Pentagon said Thursday.
“We continue to work with a range of global partners to ensure Ukraine has the resilient satellite and communication capabilities they need. Satellite communications constitute a vital layer in Ukraine’s overall communications network and the department contracts with Starlink for services of this type,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
Starlink has been used by Ukrainian troops for a variety of efforts, including battlefield communications.
SpaceX, through private donations and under a separate contract with a U.S. foreign aid agency, has been providing Ukrainians and the country’s military with Starlink internet service, a fast-growing network of more than 4,000 satellites in low Earth orbit, since the beginning of the war in 2022.
The Pentagon contract is a boon for SpaceX after Musk, the company’s CEO, said in October it could not afford to indefinitely fund Starlink in Ukraine, an effort he said cost $20 million a month to maintain.
Russia has tried to cut off and jam internet services in Ukraine, including attempts to block Starlink in the region, though SpaceX has countered those attacks by hardening the service’s software.
The Pentagon did not disclose the terms of the contract, which Bloomberg reported earlier on Thursday, “for operational security reasons and due to the critical nature of these systems.”
The director of the leading U.S. cybersecurity agency has a message for scientists and top technology company officials who are warning that artificial intelligence could lead to the end of humankind: Take action.
“If you actually think that these capabilities can lead to extinction of humanity, well, let’s come together and do something about it,” the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Jen Easterly told an audience Wednesday.
“While we’re trying to put a regulatory framework in place, think about self-regulation,” she told an Axios News Shapers event in Washington. “Think about what you can do to slow this down.”
The comments by the CISA director come just a day after more than 350 researchers and technology executives issued a one-sentence warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence, or AI.
“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” they said in a post on the website for the Center for AI Safety.
Those signing onto the warning included the co-founder and CEO of OpenAI, the company behind Chat GPT, Microsoft’s chief technology officer, the CEO of Google’s AI research lab and Geoffrey Hinton, sometimes called “the godfather of artificial intelligence.”
Hinton, notably, quit his job at Google earlier in May to focus on warning others of the dangers of AI.
U.S. government officials, like CISA’s Easterly, have likewise been warning about the dangers posed by AI.
“AI will be the most powerful capability of our time,” Easterly told students at Vanderbilt University during a speech earlier this month.
“I believe it will also be the most powerful weapon of our time,” she added. “While one person will use this technology to plan a dinner party, another will use the capability to plan a cyberattack or a terrorist attack.”
Easterly has previously called for “smart regulation” of AI technology and products, warning that tech companies, as with other technologies, are too focused on getting AI products to market quickly and not paying enough attention to safety.
Earlier in May she said that CISA has held discussions with tech companies about a way forward for AI.
In April, CISA’s parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, launched its own initiative to take on the dangers posed by artificial intelligence.
“We must address the many ways in which artificial intelligence will drastically alter the threat landscape and augment the arsenal of tools we possess to succeed in the face of these threats,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at the time.your ad here
Disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes is in custody at a Texas prison where she could spend the next 11 years for overseeing a blood-testing hoax that became a parable about greed and hubris in Silicon Valley, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Holmes, 39, on Tuesday entered a federal women’s prison camp located in Bryan, Texas — where the federal judge who sentenced Holmes in November recommended she be incarcerated. The minimum-security facility is about 152 kilometers (about 94 miles) northwest of Houston, where Holmes grew up aspiring to become a technology visionary along the lines of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
As she begins her sentence, Holmes is leaving behind two young children — a son born in July 2021 a few weeks before the start of her trial and a 3-month old daughter who was conceived after a jury convicted her on four felony counts of fraud and conspiracy in January 2022.
Holmes has been free on bail since then, most recently living in the San Diego, California, area with the children’s father, William “Billy” Evans. The couple met in 2017 around the same time Holmes was under investigation for the collapse of Theranos, a startup she founded after dropping out of Stanford University when she was just 19.
Build up to startup
While she was building up Theranos, Holmes grew closer to Ramesh, “Sunny” Balwani, who would become her romantic partner as well as an investor and fellow executive in the Palo Alto, California, company.
Together, Holmes and Balwani promised Theranos would revolutionize health care with a technology that could quickly scan for diseases and other problems with a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick.
The hype surrounding that purported breakthrough helped Theranos raise nearly $1 billion from enthralled investors, assemble an influential board of directors that include former Presidential cabinet members George Shultz, Henry Kissinger and James Mattis and turned Holmes into a Silicon Valley sensation with a fortune valued at $4.5 billion on paper in 2014.
But it all blew up after serious dangerous flaws in Theranos’ technology were exposed in a series of explosive articles in The Wall Street Journal that Holmes and Balwani tried to thwart. Holmes and Balwani, who had been secretly living together while running Theranos, broke up after the revelations in the Journal and the company collapsed. In 2018, the U.S. Justice Department charged both with a litany of white-collar crimes in a case aimed at putting a stop to the Silicon Valley practice of overselling the capabilities of a still-developing technology — a technique that became known as “fake it ’til you make it.”
Holmes admitted making mistakes at Theranos, but steadfastly denied committing crimes during seven often-fascinating days of testimony on the witness stand during her trial. At one point, she told the jury about being sexually and emotionally abused by Balwani while he controlled her in ways that she said clouded her thinking. Balwani’s attorney steadfastly denied Holmes allegations, which was one of the key reasons they were tried separately.
Balwani, 57, was convicted on 12 felony counts of fraud and conspiracy in a trial that began two months after Holmes’ ended. He is serving a nearly 13-year sentence in a Southern California prison.
Maintaining she was treated unfairly during the trial, Holmes sought to remain free while she appeals her conviction. But that bid was rejected by U.S. District Judge Edward Davila, who presided over her trial, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving her no other avenue left to follow but the one that will take her to prison nearly 20 years after she founded Theranos.
Attorneys representing Holmes did not immediately respond when contacted by The Associated Press for statement on Tuesday.
650 women on 37 acres
Federal Prison Camp Bryan, a minimum-security prison camp encompasses about 37 acres of land and houses about 650 women — including “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jennifer Shah, who was sentenced earlier this year to 6 1/2 years in prison for defrauding thousands of people in a yearslong telemarketing scam.
Most federal prison camps don’t even have fences and house those the Bureau of Prisons considers to be the lowest security risk. The prison camps also often have minimal staffing and many of the incarcerated people work at prison jobs.
According to a 2016 FPC Bryan inmate handbook, those in the Texas facility who are eligible to work can earn between 12 cents and $1.15 per hour in their job assignments, which include food service roles and factory employment operated by Federal Prison Industries.
Federal prison camps were originally designed with low security to make operations easier and allow inmates tasked with performing work at the prison, such as landscaping and maintenance, to avoid repeatedly checking in and out of a main prison facility. But the lax security opened a gateway for contraband, such as drugs, cellphones and weapons. The limited security also led to a number of escapes from prison camps.
In November, a man incarcerated at another federal prison camp in Arizona pulled out a smuggled gun in a visitation area and tried to shoot his wife in the head. The gun jammed and no one was injured. But the incident exposed major security flaws at the facility and the agency’s director ordered a review of security at all federal prison camps around the U.S.
China sent three astronauts to its Tiangong space station on Tuesday, putting a civilian scientist into space for the first time as Beijing pursues plans to send a manned mission to the Moon by the end of the decade.
The world’s second-largest economy has invested billions of dollars in its military-run space program in a push to catch up with the United States and Russia.
The Shenzhou-16 crew took off atop a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 9:31 am (0131 GMT), AFP journalists and state TV showed.
Leading the mission is commander Jing Haipeng on his fourth extra-terrestrial trip, as well as engineer Zhu Yangzhu and Beihang University professor Gui Haichao, the first Chinese civilian in space.
The Tiangong is the crown jewel of China’s space program, which has also seen it land robotic rovers on Mars and the Moon and made it the third country to put humans in orbit.
The mission is the first to the Tiangong space station since it entered its “application and development” stage, Beijing said.
Once in orbit, the Shenzhou-16 will dock at the space station’s Tianhe core module, before the crew meet three colleagues from the previous manned Shenzhou-15 flight, who have been at the space station for six months and will return to Earth in the coming days.
The mission will “carry out large-scale, in-orbit experiments… in the study of novel quantum phenomena, high-precision space time-frequency systems, the verification of general relativity, and the origin of life,” CMSA spokesperson Lin Xiqiang told reporters on Monday.
The space station was resupplied with drinking water, clothing, food and propellant this month in preparation for Shenzhou-16’s arrival.
One expert told AFP that Tuesday’s flight represented “a regular crew rotation flight as one crew hands over to another”, but even that was significant.
“Accumulating depth of experience in human spaceflight operations is important and doesn’t involve new spectacular milestones all the time,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Plans for China’s “space dream” have been put into overdrive under President Xi Jinping.
China is planning to build a lunar base, and CMSA spokesman Lin reaffirmed on Monday Beijing’s plan to land a manned mission on the Moon by 2030.
“The overall goal is to achieve China’s first manned landing on the Moon by 2030 and carry out lunar scientific exploration and related technological experiments,” he said.
The final module of the T-shaped Tiangong — which means “heavenly palace” — successfully docked with the core structure last year.
The station carries several pieces of cutting-edge scientific equipment, state news agency Xinhua reported, including “the world’s first space-based cold atomic clock system”.
The Tiangong is expected to remain in low Earth orbit at between 400 and 450 kilometers above the planet for at least 10 years.
It is constantly crewed by rotating teams of three astronauts.
China has been effectively excluded from the International Space Station since 2011, when the United States banned NASA from engaging with the country — pushing Beijing to develop the Tiangong.
China’s space agency reiterated on Monday it is actively seeking international cooperation in the project.
China “is looking forward to and welcomes the participation of foreign astronauts in the country’s space station flight missions”, Lin said.
Beijing plans to send two manned space missions to the space station every year, according to the CMSA.
The next will be Shenzhou-17, which is expected to be launched in October.
The United States “won’t tolerate” China’s effective ban on purchases of Micron Technology MU.O memory chips and is working closely with allies to address such “economic coercion,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Saturday.
Raimondo told a news conference after a meeting of trade ministers in the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework talks that the U.S. “firmly opposes” China’s actions against Micron.
These “target a single U.S. company without any basis in fact, and we see it as plain and simple economic coercion and we won’t tolerate it, nor do we think it will be successful.”
China’s cyberspace regulator said May 21 that Micron, the biggest U.S. memory chip maker, had failed its network security review and that it would block operators of key infrastructure from buying from the company, prompting it to predict a revenue reduction.
The move came a day after leaders of the G7 industrial democracies agreed to new initiatives to push back against economic coercion by China — a decision noted by Raimondo.
“As we said at the G7 and as we have said consistently, we are closely engaging with partners addressing this specific challenge and all challenges related to China’s non-market practices.”
Raimondo also raised the Micron issue in a meeting Thursday with China’s Commerce Minister, Wang Wentao.
She also said the IPEF agreement on supply chains and other pillars of the talks would be consistent with U.S. investments in the $52 billion CHIPS Act to foster semiconductor production in the United States.
“The investments in the CHIPS Act are to strengthen and bolster our domestic production of semiconductors. Having said that, we welcome participation from companies that are in IPEF countries, you know, so we expect that companies from Japan, Korea, Singapore, etc, will participate in the CHIPS Act funding,” Raimondo said.
China and South Korea have agreed to strengthen dialog and cooperation on semiconductor industry supply chains, amid broader global concerns over chip supplies, sanctions and national security, China’s commerce minister said.
Wang Wentao met with South Korean Trade Minister Ahn Duk-geun on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Detroit, which ended Friday.
They exchanged views on maintaining the stability of the industrial supply chain and strengthening cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral fields, according to a statement from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce on Saturday.
Wang also said that China is willing to work with South Korea to deepen trade ties and investment cooperation.
However, a South Korean statement on the same meeting did not mention chips, instead saying the country’s trade minister had asked China to stabilize the supply of key raw materials — and asked for a predictable business environment for South Korean companies in China.
“The South Korean side expressed that communication is needed between working-level officials over all industries,” not just for semiconductors, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The source declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
South Korea is in the crosshairs of a tit-for-tat row between the United States and China over semiconductors.
China’s cyberspace regulator said last week that Micron had failed its network security review and that it would block operators of key infrastructure from buying from the company.
The U.S. has pushed for countries to limit China’s access to advanced chips, citing a host of reasons including national security.
About 40% South Korea’s chip exports go to China, according to trade ministry data, while U.S. technology and equipment are necessary for South Korean chipmakers Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix.
As concerns grow over increasingly powerful artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT, the nation’s financial watchdog says it’s working to ensure that companies follow the law when they’re using AI.
Already, automated systems and algorithms help determine credit ratings, loan terms, bank account fees, and other aspects of our financial lives. AI also affects hiring, housing and working conditions.
Ben Winters, senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said a joint statement on enforcement released by federal agencies last month was a positive first step.
“There’s this narrative that AI is entirely unregulated, which is not really true,” he said. “They’re saying, ‘Just because you use AI to make a decision, that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from responsibility regarding the impacts of that decision. This is our opinion on this. We’re watching.’”
In the past year, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau said it has fined banks over mismanaged automated systems that resulted in wrongful home foreclosures, car repossessions and lost benefit payments, after the institutions relied on new technology and faulty algorithms.
There will be no “AI exemptions” to consumer protection, regulators say, pointing to these enforcement actions as examples.
Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra said the agency has “already started some work to continue to muscle up internally when it comes to bringing on board data scientists, technologists and others to make sure we can confront these challenges” and that the agency is continuing to identify potentially illegal activity.
Representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Justice, as well as the CFPB, all say they’re directing resources and staff to take aim at new tech and identify negative ways it could affect consumers’ lives.
“One of the things we’re trying to make crystal clear is that if companies don’t even understand how their AI is making decisions, they can’t really use it,” Chopra said. “In other cases, we’re looking at how our fair lending laws are being adhered to when it comes to the use of all of this data.”
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act, for example, financial providers have a legal obligation to explain any adverse credit decision. Those regulations likewise apply to decisions made about housing and employment. Where AI make decisions in ways that are too opaque to explain, regulators say the algorithms shouldn’t be used.
“I think there was a sense that, ‘Oh, let’s just give it to the robots and there will be no more discrimination,’” Chopra said. “I think the learning is that that actually isn’t true at all. In some ways the bias is built into the data.”
EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said there will be enforcement against AI hiring technology that screens out job applicants with disabilities, for example, as well as so-called “bossware” that illegally surveils workers.
Burrows also described ways that algorithms might dictate how and when employees can work in ways that would violate existing law.
“If you need a break because you have a disability or perhaps you’re pregnant, you need a break,” she said. “The algorithm doesn’t necessarily take into account that accommodation. Those are things that we are looking closely at. … I want to be clear that while we recognize that the technology is evolving, the underlying message here is the laws still apply and we do have tools to enforce.”
OpenAI’s top lawyer, at a conference this month, suggested an industry-led approach to regulation.
“I think it first starts with trying to get to some kind of standards,” Jason Kwon, OpenAI’s general counsel, told a tech summit in Washington hosted by software industry group BSA. “Those could start with industry standards and some sort of coalescing around that. And decisions about whether or not to make those compulsory, and also then what’s the process for updating them, those things are probably fertile ground for more conversation.”
Sam Altman, the head of OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT, said government intervention “will be critical to mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful” AI systems, suggesting the formation of a U.S. or global agency to license and regulate the technology.
While there’s no immediate sign that Congress will craft sweeping new AI rules as European lawmakers are doing, societal concerns brought Altman and other tech CEOs to the White House this month to answer hard questions about the implications of these tools.
Global investment in clean energy production in 2023 will be significantly larger than investment in fossil fuel-based energy generation, and for the first time, more money will be invested in solar energy than in the oil sector, according to a report issued by the International Energy Agency on Thursday.
The report, World Energy Investment 2023, finds that globally, $2.8 trillion will be invested in energy in 2023, including production, transmission and storage. Of that amount, $1.7 trillion will be invested in clean technology, which the IEA defines as “renewables, electric vehicles, nuclear power, grids, storage, low-emissions fuels, efficiency improvements and heat pumps.”
The estimate for clean energy for 2023 reflects a 24% increase over that for 2021 in a sector expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future, as governments worldwide attempt to meet the internationally agreed-on target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Achieving that goal would allow the world to avoid some of the worst effects of global warming.
While the report shows that the road to a zero-carbon future is long, it also offers the possibility that key interim goals, including total investment targets for 2030, remain achievable.
“Clean energy is moving fast — faster than many people realize,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement accompanying the report. “This is clear in the investment trends, where clean technologies are pulling away from fossil fuels. For every dollar invested in fossil fuels, about 1.7 dollars are now going into clean energy. Five years ago, this ratio was 1-to-1. One shining example is investment in solar, which is set to overtake the amount of investment going into oil production for the first time.”
The report estimates that in 2023, total global investment in solar power technology will be $382 billion, compared with $371 billion invested in oil production. In 2013, the amount invested in oil production was $636 billion, five times larger than the $127 billion invested in solar.
No pandemic slowdown
Nat Bullard, an energy analyst and a senior contributor to BloombergNEF, which provides strategic research on the transition to a low-carbon economy, told VOA that the IEA report was clarifying after a period of complexity in the energy markets.
“We have had, in succession and overlapping, a pandemic, a supply chain crunch, inflation and a very, very large war all going on at once,” he said. “They’ve made long-term trends hard to see because you’ve had a lot of near-term variability.
“What the report highlights, and the IEA has generally been very clear, is that if you look on an evidence basis, during COVID we did not actually see any deceleration in interest in energy transition,” he said. “In the years after that, supply chain disruptions, high prices for hydrocarbons and big conflicts have actually encouraged investment.”
Not evenly distributed
China is far and away the largest single investor in clean energy, plunging $184 billion into the selector in 2022. Taken as a whole, the European Union invested $154 billion in clean energy in 2022.
The U.S. trailed both, with $97 billion invested last year. However, the amount spent by the U.S. in 2023 will likely be significantly larger thanks to passage of legislation last year containing funding for clean energy generation.
Rounding out the top five, Japan invested $28 billion in clean energy; India, $19 billion.
While rising investment in renewable power is good news in the climate-change fight, the IEA points out that it is heavily tilted toward large developed economies, with poorer countries and the Global South, in particular, seeing relatively little investment.
The entire continent of Africa, for example, saw just $10 billion in clean energy investment in 2022.
Electric vehicles and batteries
Two of the fastest-growing segments of the clean energy investment space are electric vehicles (EVs) and batteries that store power generated by clean energy technologies.
In 2023, the IEA estimates that $129 billion will be invested in electric vehicle technology, more than nine times the $14 billion invested just five years earlier. Battery storage will be the target of $37 billion in investment this year, over seven times the $5 billion invested in the sector in 2018.
In both segments, China is leading the way. In 2022, the entire world’s production capacity for lithium-ion batteries, the type most commonly used in EVs, stood at 1.57 terawatt hours. China accounted for 76% of that capacity. By 2030, according to the IEA, that capacity will have ballooned to 6.79 TWh, but China’s dominance will continue, accounting for 68% of the total.
Fossil fuels still growing
While renewables may be attracting more investment dollars than fossil fuels in 2023, the IEA reported that consumption of fossil fuels will continue to rise this year.
Meeting the net-zero goal in 2050 requires a slowing of investment in fossil fuels technology, according to the IEA. According to the report, more than $1 trillion will be invested in fossil fuels in 2023. To meet the agency’s benchmark for progress, that figure would have to be reduced by more than half by 2030.
Conversely, to remain on track, investment in clean energy must continue to grow. The agency estimates that to meet the benchmark for 2030, annual investment will have to grow from $1.7 trillion this year to $4.6 trillion in 2030.
To reach that goal, clean energy spending would have to grow by about 15% every year between now and 2030, somewhat higher than the 11.4% annual growth the sector has experienced over the past three years.
State-sponsored Chinese hackers have infiltrated critical U.S. infrastructure networks, the United States, its Western allies and Microsoft said Wednesday while warning that similar espionage attacks could be occurring globally.
Microsoft highlighted Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean with a vital military outpost, as one of the targets, but said “malicious” activity had also been detected elsewhere in the United States.
The stealthy attack — carried out by a China-sponsored actor dubbed “Volt Typhoon” since mid-2021 — enabled long-term espionage and was likely aimed at hampering the United States if there was conflict in the region, it said.
“Microsoft assesses with moderate confidence that this Volt Typhoon campaign is pursuing development of capabilities that could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises,” the statement said.
“In this campaign, the affected organizations span the communications, manufacturing, utility, transportation, construction, maritime, government, information technology, and education sectors.”
Microsoft’s statement coincided with an advisory released by U.S., Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and British authorities warning that the hacking was likely occurring globally.
“This activity affects networks across US critical infrastructure sectors, and the authoring agencies believe the actor could apply the same techniques against these and other sectors worldwide,” they said.
‘Living off the land’
The United States and its allies said the activities involved “living off the land” tactics, which take advantage of built-in network tools to blend in with normal Windows systems.
It warned that the hacking could then incorporate legitimate system administration commands that appear “benign”.
Microsoft said the Volt Typhoon attack tried to blend into normal network activity by routing traffic through compromised small office and home office network equipment, including routers, firewalls and VPN hardware.
“They have also been observed using custom versions of open-source tools,” Microsoft said.
Microsoft and the security agencies released guidelines for organizations to try to detect and counter the hacking.
“It’s what I would term a low and slow cyber activity,” said Alastair MacGibbon, chief strategy officer at Australia’s CyberCX and a former head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
“This is someone wearing a camouflage vest and carrying a sniper rifle. You don’t see them, they’re not there,” he told AFP.
“When you think about something that can really cause catastrophic harm, it is someone with intent who takes time to get into systems.”
Once inside, the cyber attackers can steal information, he said. “But it also gives you the ability to carry out destructive acts at a later stage.”
A number of other governments had found similar activity since the Volt Typhoon alert was issued, said Robert Potter, co-founder of Australian cybersecurity firm Internet 2.0.
“I am not sure how communications infrastructure would be at risk from these attacks because those networks are highly resilient and difficult to bring down for more than small intervals,” Potter told AFP.
“However, the ongoing threat from China-based APT (advanced persistent threat) groups is real.”
The director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Jen Easterly, said China had been stealing intellectual property and data worldwide for years.
“Today’s advisory, put out in conjunction with our U.S. and international partners, reflects how China is using highly sophisticated means to target our nation’s critical infrastructure,” Easterly said.
China offered no immediate response to the allegations. But it routinely denies carrying out state-sponsored cyber-attacks.
China in turn regularly accuses the United States of cyber espionage.
Analysis: China Steps Up Response to US Chip Moves but Economic Reality Limits How Far
By : ITnews -
Beijing’s restrictions on American chipmaker Micron in retaliation to sweeping US chip curbs mark a major step up in its response to Washington’s pressure and could open the door for further measures in the geopolitical standoff, analysts say.
But they warned President Xi Jinping’s ability to raise the stakes will be limited as he battles to re-energize the world’s number two economy while it struggles to recover from years of zero-Covid-imposed inertia.
China on Sunday banned the use of Micron’s chips in critical infrastructure projects, which Beijing said posed “major network security risks” that could affect “national security”.
Washington expressed “serious concerns” over the ruling that came just as leaders of the world’s seven richest nations (G7) signed a statement urging Beijing to end “economic coercion”.
The move marked a significant shift in China’s response to US measures that have targeted the country’s technology sector, with Gary Ng, a senior economist at Natixis who specializes in the global chip trade, calling it “a landmark case”.
He emphasized it was China’s first cybersecurity probe into a foreign company since tighter rules were announced in 2021, and a rare instance when the scope of such reviews was expanded to include national security concerns.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if regulators used these reviews as a tool for retaliation in future” when faced with other geopolitical issues, he said.
Emily Weinstein, a research fellow at Georgetown University specializing in the US-China tech rivalry, added that the definition of what fell under “critical information infrastructure” was very broad — ranging from online government services and defense to healthcare and water conservation.
“Technically that could mean that anything qualifies,” she said.
“China has consistently found national security or other reasons to create protectionist barriers” including mandatory technology transfer agreements, which require companies to store all data locally and requirements for foreign entities to have joint ventures with local partners in several sectors.
‘Fuel to this fire’
China began an investigation into Micron in late March, five months after the US unveiled sweeping curbs aimed at cutting off Beijing’s access to high-end chips, chipmaking equipment and software used to design semiconductors.
“This is clearly part of a tit-for-tat retaliation for what Beijing perceives as Washington’s support of Micron and the US semiconductor industry,” said Paul Triolo, a China tech expert at consultancy Albright Stonebridge.
Micron was singled out to make a political statement, Triolo said, adding that previous cybersecurity reviews of domestic firms, such as ride-hailing app Didi, focused on data instead of broadening the scope to include national security.
Washington has banned Chinese chipmakers including Micron rival Yangtze Memory Technologies.
The announcement came as the G7 nations said they would move to “de-risk, not decouple” from China, while Washington pressures allies to unite in restricting chip equipment exports to China.
“The strong statement from G7 may have added fuel to this fire,” Ng said.
However, Xi’s desire to combat what he sees as US hegemony will need to be balanced against the impact such measures would have on the economy.
According to analysts, Micron — one of the US’s largest memory chipmakers — was an easy target because its semiconductors could be replaced by products from South Korea’s SK Hynix and Samsung.
But restrictions against other US firms such as Intel and Qualcomm would be much harder to deal with because their technologies are used in consumer goods, including smartphones, that are made in the country and shipped abroad.
Betting on South Korea
“The approach of limiting US firms like Micron intends to send a signal that Beijing is willing to bear some pain as it contests with the US,” Ja Ian Chong, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, said.
“But Beijing is quite careful to limit costs to itself,” he said, according to Bloomberg News.
The ban will come down particularly hard on companies offering cloud services or data centers because they use hardware that requires high-end memory chips, according to Toby Zhu, an analyst at market research firm Canalys.
He told AFP that Micron’s consumer goods products are “completely replaceable” by South Korean and domestic memory chip suppliers.
And Triolo said Beijing was “betting on switching to South Korean suppliers”.
However, the White House last month urged South Korean chipmakers not to export to China to fill any gap left by a ban on US semiconductor imports.
The Netherlands and Japan have already announced their own restrictions on chip exports, following requests from Washington.
Ng added: “China has been quite cautious not to retaliate too much… because Beijing can’t ramp up domestic capacity quickly to match any shortfall.”
Microsoft Corp. said on Wednesday it had uncovered malicious activity by a state-sponsored actor based in China aimed at critical infrastructure organizations in Guam and the United States.
Microsoft said it assessed with “moderate confidence” that this Volt Typhoon campaign “is pursuing development of capabilities that could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises.”
Volt Typhoon has been active since mid-2021 and has targeted critical infrastructure organizations in Guam and elsewhere in the United States, the company said.
Guam is home to major U.S. military facilities, including the Andersen Air Force Base, which would be key to responding to any conflict in the Asia-Pacific region.
Microsoft said it had notified targeted or compromised customers and provided them with information.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Apple Inc on Tuesday said it has entered a multi-billion-dollar deal with chipmaker Broadcom Inc. to use chips made in the United States.
Under the multi-year deal, Broadcom will develop 5G radio frequency components with Apple that will be designed and built in several U.S. facilities, including Fort Collins, Colorado, where Broadcom has a major factory, Apple said.
Broadcom were up 2.2% after the announcement, hitting a record high. The chipmaker is already a major supplier of wireless components to Apple, with about one fifth of its revenue coming from the iPhone maker in its two most recent fiscal year.
Apple has been steadily diversifying its supply chains, building more products in India and Vietnam and saying that it will source chips from a new Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co plant under construction in Arizona.
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The two companies did not disclose the size of the deal, with Broadcom saying only that the new agreements require it to allocate Apple “sufficient manufacturing capacity and other resources to make these products.”
Broadcom and Apple previously had a three-year, $15 billion agreement that Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon said was set to expire in June. He said the development was positive for Broadcom, despite the fact that the two firms did not give a time frame for how long the work will last.
“It’s good that it removes that overhang,” Rasgon said. “Broadcom has existed over the years with a number of these long-term agreements with Apple. Sometimes they have them and sometimes they don’t.”
Apple said it will tap Broadcom for what are known as film bulk acoustic resonator (FBAR) chips. The FBAR chips are part of a radio-frequency system that helps iPhones and other Apple devices connect to mobile data networks.
“All of Apple’s products depend on technology engineered and built here in the United States, and we’ll continue to deepen our investments in the U.S. economy because we have an unshakable belief in America’s future,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.
Apple said it currently supports more than 1,100 jobs in Broadcom’s Fort Collins FBAR filter manufacturing facility.