VOA Science & Tech
Updated: 43 min 21 sec ago
The food industry uses plastic to wrap its products in many places around the world. Plastic manufacturers say that keeps produce and meat fresh longer, so less goes bad and is thrown away. But, according to a new European study, while the annual use of plastic packaging has grown since the 1950s, so has food waste. Faiza Elmasry has the story. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Recently, the world was stunned to learn that an island of mostly plastic trash, floating in the Pacific Ocean, grew to the size of France, Germany and Spain combined. Because plastics take centuries to decompose, could civilization someday choke in it? Scientists at Britain's University of Portsmouth say they may have found a way to speed up the decomposition of plastics. VOA's George Putic reports.
Facebook Inc’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg came under pressure from EU lawmakers on Wednesday to come to Europe and shed light on the data breach involving Cambridge Analytica that affected nearly three million Europeans. The world’s largest social network is under fire worldwide after information about nearly 87 million users wrongly ended up in the hands of the British political consultancy, a firm hired by Donald Trump for his 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani last week repeated his request to Zuckerberg to appear before the assembly, saying that sending a junior executive would not suffice. EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, who recently spoke to Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, said Zuckerberg should heed the lawmakers’ call. “This case is too important to treat as business as usual,” Jourova told an assembly of lawmakers. “I advised Sheryl Sandberg that Zuckerberg should accept the invitation from the European Parliament. (EU digital chief Andrius) Ansip refers to the invitation as a measure of rebuilding trust,” she said. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. Zuckerberg fielded 10 hours of questions over two days from nearly 100 U.S. lawmakers last week and emerged largely unscathed. He will meet Ansip in San Francisco on Tuesday. Another European lawmaker Sophia in’t Veld echoed the call from her colleagues, saying that the Facebook CEO should do them the same courtesy. “I think Zuckerberg would be well advised to appear at the Parliament out of respect for Europeans,” she said. Lawmaker Viviane Reding, the architect of the EU’s landmark privacy law which will come into effect on May 25, giving Europeans more control over their online data, said the right laws would bring back trust among users.
Iran's presidency has banned all government bodies from using foreign-based messaging apps to communicate with citizens, state media reported Wednesday, after economic protests organized through such apps shook the country earlier this year. Chief among those apps is Telegram, used by over 40 million Iranians for everything from benign conversations to commerce and political campaigning. Iranians using Telegram, which describes itself as an encrypted message service, helped spread the word about the protests in December and January. Telegram channels run on behalf of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri were already shut down Wednesday. A report on the website of Iran's state television broadcaster said the ban affected all public institutions. It was not clear if the ban applied to civil servants outside of work hours. The report did not elaborate on penalties for violating the ban. Last month, officials said Iran would block Telegram for reasons of national security in response to the protests, which saw 25 people killed and nearly 5,000 reportedly arrested. Authorities temporarily shut down Telegram during the protests, though many continued to access it through proxies and virtual private networks. The move against Telegram suggests Iran may try to introduce its own government-approved, or "halal," version of the messaging app, something long demanded by hard-liners. Already, Iran heavily restricts internet access and blocks social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Iran has said foreign messaging apps can get licenses from authorities to operate if they transfer their databases into the country. Privacy experts worry that could more easily expose users' private communications to government spying. Khamenei, however, has stressed that invading people's privacy is religiously forbidden. Iran's move also comes after a Russian court on Friday ordered Telegram to be blocked after the company refused to share its encryption data with authorities. Telegram CEO Pavel Durov responded to the ruling by writing on Twitter: "Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed."
The chief of the Russian communications watchdog acknowledged Wednesday that millions of unrelated IP addresses have been frozen in a so-far futile attempt to block a popular messaging app. Telegram, the messaging app that was ordered to be blocked last week, was still available to users in Russia despite authorities' frantic attempts to hit it by blocking other services. The row erupted after Telegram, which was developed by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, refused to hand its encryption keys to the intelligence agencies. The Russian government insists it needs them to pre-empt extremist attacks but Telegram dismissed the request as a breach of privacy. Alexander Zharov, chief of the Federal Communications Agency, said in an interview with the Izvestia daily published Wednesday that Russia is blocking 18 networks that are used by Amazon and Google and which host sites that they believe Telegram is using to circumvent the ban. Countless Russian businesses - from online language schools to car dealerships - reported that their web services were down because of the communication watchdog's moves to bloc networks. Internet experts estimate that Russian authorities have blocked about 16 million IP addresses since Monday, affecting millions of Russian users and businesses. In the interview, Zharov admitted that the authorities have been helplessly trying to block Telegram and had to shut down entire networks, some of which have over half a million IP addresses that are used by unrelated, "law-abiding companies," he said. Russia's leading daily Vedomosti in Wednesday's editorial likened the communications watchdog's battle against Telegram, affecting millions of users of other web-services, to warfare. "The large-scale indiscriminate blocking of foreign IP addresses in Russia in order to close the access to the messaging app Telegram is unprecedented and bears resemblance to carpet bombings," the editorial said. Zharov also indicated that Facebook could be the next target for the government if it refuses to comply with Russian law. Authorities previously insisted that Facebook store its Russian users' data in Russia but has not gone through with its threats to block Facebook if it refuses to comply. Zharov said authorities will check before the end of the year if the company is complying with its demands and warned that if it does not, "then, obviously, the issue of blocking will arise." Elsewhere in Moscow, a court on Wednesday sentenced a member of the punk collective Pussy Riot, who spent nearly two years in prison for a protest in Russia's main cathedral, to 100 hours of community work for a protest against the Telegram blocking. Maria Alekhina and a dozen activists were throwing paper planes outside the communications watchdog's office on Monday.
Since 2000, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave approval to the world's first robotic surgical system, almost 4,000 of these sophisticated machines have been deployed in operating suites around the world. Recognizing that the proficiency of the surgeons who use them can be subjective, a group of surgeons at the University of Southern California, in cooperation with the manufacturer Intuitive Research, is developing a system for more objective evaluation. VOA's George Putic reports.
Cambridge Analytica's ex-CEO, Alexander Nix, has refused to testify before the U.K. Parliament's media committee, citing British authorities' investigation into his former company's alleged misuse of data from millions of Facebook accounts in political campaigns. Committee Chairman Damian Collins announced Nix's decision a day before his scheduled appearance but flatly rejected the notion that he should be let off the hook, saying Nix hasn't been charged with a crime and there are no active legal proceedings against him. "There is therefore no legal reason why Mr. Nix cannot appear," Collins said in a statement. "The committee is minded to issue a formal summons for him to appear on a named day in the very near future." Nix gave evidence to the committee in February, but was recalled after former Cambridge Analytica staffer Christopher Wylie sparked a global debate over electronic privacy when he alleged the company used data from millions of Facebook accounts to help U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign. Wylie worked on Cambridge Analytica's "information operations" in 2014 and 2015. Wylie has also said the official campaign backing Britain's exit from the European Union had access to the Facebook data. Cambridge Analytica has previously said that none of the Facebook data it acquired from an academic researcher was used in the Trump campaign. The company also says it did no paid or unpaid work on the Brexit campaign. The company did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press on Tuesday. The Information Commissioner's Office said Tuesday that it had written to Nix to "invite him" to be interviewed by investigators. The office is investigating Facebook and 30 other organizations over their use of data and analytics. "Our investigation is looking at whether criminal and civil offences have been committed under the Data Protection Act," the office said in a statement. Nix's refusal to appear comes as the seriousness of the British inquiry becomes more evident. Facebook has said it directed Cambridge Analytica to delete all of the data harvested from user accounts as soon as it learned of the problem. But former Cambridge Analytica business development director Brittany Kaiser testified Tuesday that the U.S. tech giant didn't really try to verify Cambridge Analytica's assurances that it had done so. "I find it incredibly irresponsible that a company with as much money as Facebook ... had no due diligence mechanisms in place for protecting the data of U.K. citizens, U.S. citizens or their users in general," she said. Kaiser suggested that the number of individuals whose Facebook data was misused could be far higher than the 87 million acknowledged by the Silicon Valley giant. In an atmosphere where data abuse was rife, Kaiser told lawmakers she believed the leadership of the Leave.EU campaign had combined data from members of the U.K. Independence Party and customers from two insurance companies, Eldon Insurance and GoSkippy Insurance. The data was then sent the University of Mississippi for analysis. "If the personal data of U.K. citizens who just wanted to buy car insurance was used by GoSkippy and Eldon Insurance for political purposes, as may have been the case, people clearly did not opt in for their data to be used in this way by Leave.EU," she said in written testimony to the committee. Leave.EU's communications director, Andy Wigmore, called Kaiser's statements a "litany of lies." It is how the data was used that alarms some members of the committee and has captured the attention of the public. An expert on propaganda told the committee Monday that Cambridge Analytica used techniques developed by the Nazis to help Trump's presidential campaign, turning Muslims and immigrants into an "artificial enemy" to win support from fearful voters. University of Essex lecturer Emma Briant, who has for a decade studied the SCL Group - a conglomerate of companies, including Cambridge Analytica - interviewed company founder Nigel Oakes when she was doing research for a book. Oakes compared Trump's tactics to those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in singling out Jews for reprisals. "Hitler attacked the Jews, because ... the people didn't like the Jews," he said on tapes of the interview conducted with Briant. "He could just use them to . leverage an artificial enemy. Well that's exactly what Trump did. He leveraged a Muslim."
More than 100 parts for U.S. space agency NASA's deep-space capsule Orion will be made by 3-D printers, using technology that experts say will eventually become key to efforts to send humans to Mars. U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, 3-D printing specialist Stratasys, and engineering firm PADT have developed the parts using new materials that can withstand the extreme temperatures and chemical exposure of deep-space missions, Stratasys said Tuesday. "In space, for instance, materials will build up a charge. If that was to shock the electronics on a space craft, there could be significant damage," Scott Sevcik, Vice President Manufacturing Solutions at Stratasys told Reuters. 3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, has been used for making prototypes across a range of industries for many years, but is being increasingly eyed for scale production. The technology can help make light-weight parts made of plastics more quickly and cheaply than traditional assembly lines that require major investments into equipment. "But even more significant is that we have more freedom with the design ... parts can look more organic, more skeletal," Sevcik said. Stratasys' partner Lockheed Martin said the use of 3-D printing on the Orion project would also pay off at other parts of its business. "We look to apply benefits across our programs — missile defense, satellites, planetary probes, especially as we create more and more common products," said Brian Kaplun, additive manufacturing manager at Lockheed Martin Space. Orion is part of NASA's follow-up program to the now-retired space shuttles that will allow astronauts to travel beyond the International Space Station, which flies about 260 miles (420 km) above Earth. The agency's European counterpart, ESA, has suggested that moon rock and Mars dust could be used to 3-D print structures and tools, which could significantly reduce the cost of future space missions because less material would need to be brought along from Earth.
Microsoft, Facebook and more than 30 other global technology companies on Tuesday announced a joint pledge not to assist any government in offensive cyberattacks. The Cybersecurity Tech Accord, which vows to protect all customers from attacks regardless of geopolitical or criminal motive, follows a year that witnessed an unprecedented level of destructive cyberattacks, including the global WannaCry worm and the devastating NotPetya attack. "The devastating attacks from the past year demonstrate that cybersecurity is not just about what any single company can do but also about what we can all do together," Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement. "This tech sector accord will help us take a principled path toward more effective steps to work together and defend customers around the world." Smith, who helped lead efforts to organize the accord, was expected to discuss the alliance in a speech on Tuesday at the RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco. The accord also promised to establish new formal and informal partnerships within the industry and with security researchers to share threats and coordinate vulnerability disclosures. The pledge builds on an idea for a so-called Digital Geneva Convention Smith rolled out at least year's RSA conference, a proposal to create an international body to protect civilians from state-sponsored hacking. Countries, Smith said then, should develop global rules for cyberattacks similar to those established for armed conflict at the 1949 Geneva Convention that followed World War Two. In addition to Microsoft and Facebook, 32 other companies signed the pledge, including Cisco, Juniper Networks, Oracle, Nokia, SAP, Dell and cybersecurity firms Symantec, FireEye and Trend Micro. The list of companies does not include any from Russia, China, Iran or North Korea, widely viewed as the most active in launching destructive cyberattacks against their foes. Major U.S. technology companies Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Twitter also did not sign the pledge.
Technology companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook will be forced to hand over users' data to European law enforcement officials even when it is stored on servers outside the bloc, under a law proposed by the EU on Tuesday. The law would allow European prosecutors to force companies to turn over data such as emails, text messages and pictures stored online in another country, within 10 days or as little as six hours in urgent cases. The European Union executive says the proposed law, which would apply to data stored inside and outside the bloc, is necessary because current legal procedures between countries to obtain such electronic evidence can drag on for months. "Electronic evidence is increasingly important in criminal proceedings," said European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans. "We cannot allow criminals and terrorists to exploit modern and electronic communication technologies to hide their criminal actions and evade justice." Digital borders are a growing global issue in an era where big companies operate so-called cloud networks of giant data centers, which mean that an individual's data can reside anywhere. Technology companies have found themselves torn between protecting consumers' privacy while cooperating with law enforcement. The political pressure has intensified after Islamist-inspired attacks across Europe in recent years. The United States recently moved to address the same problem, passing a law making it clear that U.S. judges could issue warrants for data held abroad while giving companies an avenue to object if the request conflicts with foreign law. Prosecutors and police will have to ask a judge to approve their request for electronic evidence where it concerns more sensitive data, such as the actual content of messages, emails, pictures and videos. Fraught with complexity The proposal will apply only in cases where crimes carry a minimum jail sentence of three years. In cases of cyber crime there will be no minimum penalty requirement. Where companies find themselves in a conflict-of-law situation because the country where data is stored forbids them from handing it over to a foreign authority, they will be able to challenge the seizure request. However, such extraterritorial rules are fraught with complexity, legal and privacy experts warn. In the United States, for example, certain companies are prohibited from disclosing information to foreign governments, while in Europe consumers' data privacy is strictly protected and companies are restricted in how they can transfer data outside the bloc. "The Commission is proposing dangerous shortcuts to allow national authorities to obtain people's data directly from companies, basically turning them into judicial authorities," said Maryant Fernandez Perez, senior policy adviser at campaign group European Digital Rights. Ultimately, the Commission hopes to start talks with the United States on a deal to help law enforcement authorities to seize evidence held on each other's territories. "We always think it's useful to have an EU-U.S. coordinated approach instead of a French-U.S. approach, a Belgian-U.S. approach because that leads to fragmentation," a Commission official said.
Eleven-year-old Hayliee Tat traveled two-and-a-half hours with her family for a sneak preview of what the future looks like with robots in it. Their destination: the robotics open house at the University of Southern California (USC). The annual event draws mainly elementary and secondary school students from Los Angeles and beyond to spark their interest in robotics and computer science. “Not many girls and kids are in robotics,” said Tat, who was introduced to robotics, after a friend invited her to join a team that builds robots and competes with other teams through tasks the machines can perform. “To me, this is a great way to meet new people, learn more and just have your creativity flow out,” said Tat. Tat, however, is in the minority. There is an imbalance in the U.S. between the small number of computer science college graduates, and the number of available computing jobs, according to a study by global consulting firm Accenture and non-profit group Girls Who Code. Women make up only a small percentage of people who can compete for these jobs. The National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2015, less than 18 percent of women in the U.S. graduated with a computer science degree. The University of Southern California is trying to expose young people to robotics and computer science through the open house, where students can tour the research labs. “We feel that if the kids can actually see the robots, hear the PhD students and the faculty members talk about what their research is and why it’s important, how robots benefit society, we see through experience that the kids get really excited,” said Katie Mills, manager of the robotics open house. She also manages the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s K-12 STEM (science, technology engineering and math) outreach program called VAST: Viterbi Adopt-a-School, Adopt-a-Teacher. The aim is to make robotics exciting and relevant so a student will want to learn how to code. "Coding is like the necessary second language that everybody, especially this generation, is going to need. You know that there’s fewer people, especially women, majoring in computer science in college now than there were 30 years ago? And there are so many jobs,” said Mills. Not seeing the creative side of coding and not realizing there are real life applications in computer science may be reasons some women shy away from this degree. That was the case for Caitlyn Clabaugh, who was studying fine arts and never thought about computer science until she saw how relevant it is to helping people by applying creativity. “When there is a clear application to a real human usage, it sort of bridges the gap for me. I was interested in the arts. I was interested in all these things, then I found that I could create with computer science,” said Clabaugh, who is now a PhD candidate in computer science. She researches how social companion robots can help children with autism. “Definitely focusing on special needs is very special to me. I’ve struggled with dyslexia my entire life,” said Clabaugh. Another way to attract girls to computer science, said some academics, is by dispelling the myth that coding and computer science are lonely pursuits. Tat enjoys her robotics team because of the social element in building robots using the toy-building LEGO blocks. “I personally love LEGO, so I think it was really fun to build LEGO and not only do you build LEGO you can do a lot of other things and it will make you smarter and the next thing you know, you’ll have a lot of friends,” said Tat. Exposure to robotics and computer science before college is key, but not every school has the resources. “They don’t maybe have enough robotics equipment or maybe they have teachers that are a little uncomfortable teaching computer science,” said Mills. Through its VAST outreach program, the University of Southern California works with area schools, its teachers and students to try and fill the gap, in hopes of attracting more underrepresented students, including girls, to pursue computer science in college. “It’s like a fire. If you light a spark, it will go on forever,” said Tat.
In the United States less than 18 percent of the women who graduate from college major in computer science. The shortage of females with computer skills comes at a time when there are a lot of jobs available in computer science, a field that pays better than most. VOA's Elizabeth Lee looks at the cultural and other reasons for the shortage of women in this important area -- and what one university in Los Angeles is doing to inspire girls.
Toyota Motor Corp. plans to start selling U.S. vehicles that can talk to each other using short-range wireless technology in 2021, the Japanese automaker said on Monday, potentially preventing thousands of accidents annually. The U.S. Transportation Department must decide whether to adopt a pending proposal that would require all future vehicles to have the advanced technology. Toyota hopes to adopt the dedicated short-range communications systems in the United States across most of its lineup by the mid-2020s. Toyota said it hopes that by announcing its plans, other automakers will follow suit. The Obama administration in December 2016 proposed requiring the technology and giving automakers at least four years to comply. The proposal requires automakers to ensure all vehicles "speak the same language through a standard technology." Automakers were granted a block of spectrum in 1999 in the 5.9 GHz band for "vehicle-to-vehicle" and "vehicle to infrastructure" communications and have studied the technology for more than a decade, but it has gone largely unused. Some in Congress and at the Federal Communications Commission think it should be opened to other uses. In 2017, General Motors Co began offering vehicle-to-vehicle technologies on its Cadillac CTS model, but it is currently the only commercially available vehicle with the system. Talking vehicles, which have been tested in pilot projects and by U.S. carmakers for more than a decade, use dedicated short-range communications to transmit data up to 300 meters, including location, direction and speed, to nearby vehicles. The data is broadcast up to 10 times per second to nearby vehicles, which can identify risks and provide warnings to avoid imminent crashes, especially at intersections. Toyota has deployed the technology in Japan to more than 100,000 vehicles since 2015. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said last year the regulation could eventually cost between $135 and $300 per new vehicle, or up to $5 billion annually but could prevent up to 600,000 crashes and reduce costs by $71 billion annually when fully deployed. NHTSA said last year it has "not made any final decision" on requiring the technology, but no decision is expected before December. Last year, major automakers, state regulators and others urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to finalize standards for the technology and protect the spectrum that has been reserved, saying there is a need to expand deployment and uses of the traffic safety technology.
A British technology firm has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use biometric facial verification technology to improve border control, the first foreign firm to win such a contract in the United States. London-based iProov will develop technology to improve border controls at unmanned ports of entry with a verification system that uses the traveler’s cell phone. British trade minister Liam Fox said in a statement on Monday that the contract was “one example of our shared economic and security ties” with the United States. IProov said it was the first non-U.S. firm to be awarded a contract under the Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP), which is run by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate.
Russia began implementing a ban on popular instant messaging service Telegram in accordance with a court ruling after the app’s administrators refused to provide encrypted messages to Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB). Russia's state telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor said Monday that it had sent a notice to telecommunications operators in the country instructing them to block the service. "Roskomnadzor has received the ruling by the Tagansky District Court on restricting access in Russia to the web resources of the online information dissemination organizer, Telegram Messenger Limited Liability Partnership. In light of this, information on these online resources was sent to the operators on Monday, April 16, with regards to restricting access," the watchdog said, according to Russia's TASS news agency. Roskomnadzor had previously asked a Russian court to block the service for failing to comply with Russian regulations. Moscow's Tagansky District Court upheld the motion on April 13. Telegram, which was founded by a Russian entrepreneur, has repeatedly refused requests to give the FSB access to its users' encrypted messages. The service, ranked the world's ninth most popular messaging app with over 900 million users worldwide, argued that the request for encrypted messages was unconstitutional.
Farmers in the American South are upgrading their cattle to the 21st Century. With tech tools like AI (artificial intelligence) and Wi-Fi, they are now able to monitor the herd and keep tabs on the animals that drive their business. Arash Arabasadi reports.
Technology is being developed in Austin, Texas, to make cancer detection faster and tumor removal more precise. A device called the MasSpec Pen can detect cancer with just one touch, researchers said. “Well, it’s a game changer because I was doing a case the other day with a surgeon, and we had to wait an additional two hours because the current method takes that long,” said Aydin Zahedivash, medical student and co-creator of the MasSpec Pen. He says the pen can deliver results within 20 seconds and is much less invasive for the patient than the traditional method of diagnosis. No biopsy needed “That process usually will involve taking out some of the tissue, which means cutting it from a patient. Our technology can detect cancer inside of a tissue without cutting it or altering it,” Zahedivash said. During surgery, a drop of water on the pen pulls molecules from the tissue in question. An instrument called the mass spectrometer then analyzes the water with the molecules to determine whether cancer is present in the tissue. It adds precision to detecting the disease. In seconds, surgeons will know what part of the tissue to extract, how much to cut, and what not to touch so healthy tissue is not damaged. “We’ve done testing on human tissues that have been taken out of patients and those have shown 96 percent accuracy detecting cancer from non-cancer,” Zahedivash said. Rapid development New available technologies have allowed an interdisciplinary team to develop the MasSpec Pen in 2½ years. The team 3-D printed the prototype, allowing the creators to rapidly develop a design that worked. Zahedivash said within the year, the MasSpec Pen will be tested in surgery at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. There are also plans to test the technology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. The device would require approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before becoming widely available.
Rural communities in United States and elsewhere often use portable backup electricity generators in case of power outages. But these machines can be costly to run for longer times and require periodic attendance. A team from West Virginia University is developing a small, natural gas-powered generator that will be able to run for years. VOA's George Putic reports.
More trouble may be ahead for Facebook as the Philippine government said it is investigating the social media giant over reports information from more than a million users in the Philippines was breached by British data firm Cambridge Analytica. The Phliippines' National Privacy Commission, or NPC, said it sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to let him know the NPC is requiring that the company "submit a number of documents relevant to the case, to establish the scope and impact of the incident to Filipino data subjects." The privacy watchdog also said through its website it wants to determine whether there is unauthorized processing of personal data of Filipinos. The letter was dated April 11. A Facebook spokesperson tells the Reuters news agency the company is committed to protecting people's privacy and is engaged with the privacy watchdog. During U.S. congressional hearings this past week, Zuckerberg apologized for how Facebook has handled the uproar over online privacy and revelations the data breach allowed Cambridge Analytica to access the personal information of about 87 million Facebook users. As Zuckerberg sat through about 10 hours of questioning over two days, nearly 100 members of Congress expressed their anger over Facebook's data privacy controversy and delved into the social media platform's practices. And many legislators made it clear they did not think current U.S. laws were sufficient to protect users. "As has been noted by many people already, we've been relying on self-regulation in your industry for the most part," said Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado. "We're trying to explore what we can do to prevent further breaches." For Congress, the hearings proved to be an education in how internet companies handle user data and the legal protections for consumers. While Zuckerberg said many times that Facebook doesn't sell user data, congressional leaders wanted to know how 87 million people's data ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge or permission. "I think what we're getting to here is, who owns the virtual you? Who owns your presence online?" asked Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican. "Congresswoman, I believe that everyone owns their own content online," answered Zuckerberg. Shadow profiles? But can Facebook users see all the information that the social media platform has about them, including what it has picked up from outside firms? That is something congressional leaders probed in questions about "shadow profiles," information the social network has collected about people who do not have Facebook accounts. Zuckerberg maintained that Facebook collects this information for security reasons but congressional leaders wanted to know more about what non-Facebook users can do to find out what the company knows about them. New federal agency? In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission has taken the lead in overseeing internet firms and is investigating Facebook in the Cambridge Analytica case. Congressional leaders, however, pointed out the FTC cannot make new rules. They asked whether the FTC should be given new powers, or whether a new agency focused on privacy in the digital age should be created. "Would it be helpful if there was an entity clearly tasked with overseeing how consumer data is being collected, shared and used, and which could offer guidelines, at least guidelines for companies like yours to ensure your business practices are not in violation of the law?" Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-California), asked. "Something like a digital consumer protection agency?" "Congressman, I think it's an idea that deserves a lot of consideration," Zuckerberg replied. "But I think the details on this really matter." During the two days of hearings, congressional leaders repeatedly looked to Europe, where new regulation known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, governing people's digital lives, goes into effect May 25. Zuckerberg said the regulation would apply to people in the U.S. Zuckerberg said the company already has some of the new regulation's privacy controls in place; but, the GDPR requires the company to do a few more things, "and we're going to extend that to the world." A website dedicated to GDPR notes that organizations "in non-compliance may face heavy fines." Analysts note the controversy may lead to changes in how digital privacy issues are handled. "We saw during these hearings that many, many members of Congress are ready and willing to get to work on privacy legislation," said Natasha Duarte, a policy analyst at the Center for Democracy & Technology, an advocacy group focused on digital rights. "I think the details of what is the right legislation for the U.S. are very complex and we all need to come together and hammer it out." User privacy vs. monetized data Ideas such as an outside auditor who will be checking on Facebook's handling of user data will run into the business model of many internet firms that need data about people to offer them targeted ads. "Monetizing data, for better or worse, is the model free services rely on," she said. That tension was on display in questions from Rep. Anna Eshoo, (D-California), who counts Zuckerberg among her Palo Alto constituents. "Are you willing to change your business model in the interest of protecting individual privacy," she asked. In that instant, Zuckerberg demurred, saying he didn't understand what the congresswoman meant, but acknowledged that there likely would be more internet regulation. "The internet is growing in importance around the world and in people's lives," he said. "And I think it will be inevitable that there will need to be some regulation. So my position is not that there should be no regulation. But I think you have to be careful about the regulation you put in place." In light of the furor involving user data privacy, Facebook announced last month it was suspending Cambridge Analytica after finding such policies had been violated. Cambridge Analytica has counted U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign among its clients. Separately, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has denied reports in the local media that his own 2016 election campaign worked with Cambridge Analytica. Duterte was quoted as saying, "I might have lost with them."
Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg's compensation rose 53.5 percent to $8.9 million in 2017, a regulatory filing showed Friday, largely because of higher costs related to the 33-year old billionaire's personal security. About 83 percent of the compensation represented security-related expenses, while much of the rest was tied to Zuckerberg's personal usage of private aircraft. Zuckerberg's security expenses climbed to $7.3 million in 2017, compared with $4.9 million a year earlier. His base salary was unchanged at $1, while his total voting power at Facebook rose marginally to 59.9 percent. Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, which has consistently reported stronger-than-expected earnings over the past two years, has faced public outcry over its role in Russia's alleged influence over the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Earlier this week, Zuckerberg emerged largely unscathed after facing hours of questioning from U.S. lawmakers on how the personal information of several million Facebook users may have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.