Daimler and BMW Join Forces on Digital Services

Automakers Daimler and BMW have agreed to merge their transportation services businesses so they can expand offerings in ride-hailing apps, car-sharing, parking, and charging electric cars.

The two companies said Wednesday they aim to become a "leading provider" of new ways to get around cities, where more people will see cars as a service they use when needed.

Those businesses include car-sharing, an area where Stuttgart-based Daimler AG operates its car2go service and Munich-headquartered BMW AG has DriveNow. Customers use a smartphone app to find and unlock cars parked on city streets and use them for short periods when needed.

Also part of the deal is Daimler's moovel startup, which allows users to book and pay for trains, cars, taxis and rental bikes. BMW's digital parking service enables ticketless, cashless on-street parking and helps uses find spaces in garages.

The combined business would also offer charging services for battery-powered cars. So far, electric cars have only a small market share due to higher cost, limited range and lack of places to charge. Once electrics become as cheap or cheaper than conventional cars, their market share could expand quickly, and with it the demand for charging.

The 50-50 joint venture requires approval from regulators. The companies did not say what its name, headquarters, or annual revenue would be, or what executives would run it.

Auto companies are developing services businesses to fend off competition from industry outsiders such as Uber and Lyft. Volkswagen has set up services company Moia, aiming to develop and offer on-demand mobility; General Motors is operating its Maven car-sharing app.

"As pioneers in automotive engineering, we will not leave the task of shaping future urban mobility to others," Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said in a statement. "There will be more people than ever before without a car who will still want to be extremely...

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Trump Hates Amazon, and E-Commerce Giant’s Shares Tumble

President Trump has made it clear since his election that he has gripes with Amazon.com over the e-commerce giant's sales tax policies and its contract with the U.S. Postal Service for deliveries. And he hasn't been shy about his disgust for the Washington Post, the newspaper owned separately by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

But when a report Wednesday contended that Trump wants to "go after" Amazon, the company's stock fell sharply in good part because investors are a lot more skittish these days about highflying technology stocks and any new obstacle that might hinder Amazon's astonishing growth.

Before Wednesday's drop, Amazon's shares had soared more than 70% over the prior 12 months, a surge that more reflects Amazon's future growth prospects than its current size and earnings ability.

So investors were ready to cash out at least some of those big gains when the news site Axios.com reported that Trump was "obsessed" with somehow further regulating Amazon's business model.

"People are starting to get concerned about these valuations" for the shares of Amazon and other technology firms, said Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer of First American Trust in Santa Ana, which continues to hold shares of Amazon as part of the $1.1 billion of assets it manages.

Amazon's stock closed at $1,431.42 a share, a drop of $65.63, or 4.4%, after being down more than 7% during the day. That lopped $31.8 billion off the Seattle-based company's total stock market value, to $693 billion.

Wall Street "is now fearful that the long-awaited Trump vs. Amazon battle could finally be on the horizon," Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights, said in a note to clients Wednesday.

Amazon declined to comment.

Amazon is one of the so-called FANG stocks that lead the technology sector: Facebook Inc., Amazon, Netflix Inc. and Google, now part of Alphabet Inc.

The sector...

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Another Lawsuit: Will Facebook’s Woes Ever End?

It's been more than 10 days since the Cambridge Analytica scandal exploded, and Facebook is still stuck in its worst nightmare.

The latest blow: The Menlo Park-based social media giant is being sued by three users who downloaded the social media platform's messaging app Messenger on their Android phones.

The three users -- one of whom lives in California -- filed their suit Tuesday at the Northern District of California in San Francisco, alleging Facebook improperly collected their phone call and text message logs via Messenger and monetized the data for advertising purposes.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of Facebook admitting on Monday that it collected phone call and text message history -- but only at the permission of the user. Facebook said it never sold this data nor collected the content of text messages or calls.

"You may have seen some recent reports that Facebook has been logging people's call and SMS (text) history without their permission," said Facebook in a "Fact Check" blog post. "This is not the case."

The users write in their complaint that Facebook exploited a vulnerability found in the Facebook Messenger and Facebook Lite apps for Android. The apps included permission to gain access to the phone owner's contact list but they used it to collect logs of phone calls and text messages, according to the complaint.

Before the vulnerability was patched in October 2017, it was collecting phone call and text message metadata as early as 2012, when the Android "Jelly Bean" OS version was introduced, according to the technology news outlet Ars Technica.

The vulnerability went viral last week when a Twitter user, Dylan McKay, tweeted about his findings after downloading a data archive from Facebook. McKay said he found his entire call history with his partner's mother in his Facebook data.

The plaintiffs, who are seeking class action...

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WannaCry Virus Hits Boeing, But Attack Caused Little Damage

Boeing was hit Wednesday by the WannaCry computer virus, and after an initial scare within the company that vital airplane-production equipment might be brought down, company executives later offered assurances that the attack had been quashed with minimal damage.

Though news of the attack triggered widespread alarm within the company and among airline customers during the day, by evening Boeing was calling for calm.

"We've done a final assessment," said Linda Mills, the head of communications for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "The vulnerability was limited to a few machines. We deployed software patches. There was no interruption to the 777 jet program or any of our programs."

Earlier in the day, when the cyberattack struck, the reaction was anything but calm.

Mike VanderWel, chief engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplane production engineering, sent out an alarming alert about the virus calling for "All hands on deck."

"It is metastasizing rapidly out of North Charleston and I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down," VanderWel wrote, adding his concern that the virus could hit equipment used in functional tests of airplanes ready to roll out and potentially "spread to airplane software."

VanderWel's message said the attack required "a batterylike response," a reference to the 787 in-flight battery fires in 2013 that grounded the world's fleet of Dreamliners and led to an extraordinary three-month-long engineering effort to find a fix.

"We are on a call with just about every VP in Boeing," VanderWel's memo said.

It took until late Wednesday afternoon before Boeing issued a statement dialing back the fears.

"It took some time for us to go to our South Carolina operations, bring in our entire IT team and make sure we had the facts," Mills said.

Even then, the afternoon statement was short on detail.

"Our cybersecurity operations center detected a limited intrusion of malware that affected a small...

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China’s Defunct Tiangong 1 Space Lab Hurtling Toward Earth

China's defunct and reportedly out-of-control Tiangong 1 space station is expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere sometime this weekend. It poses only a slight risk to people and property on the ground, since most of the bus-size, 8.5-ton vehicle is expected to burn up on re-entry, although space agencies don't know exactly when or where that will happen.

Below are some questions and answers about the station, its re-entry and the past and future of China's ambitious space program.

What Will Happen and How Great Is the Danger?

The European Space Agency predicts the station will re-enter the atmosphere between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon -- an estimate it calls "highly variable," likely because the ever-changing shape of the upper atmosphere affects the speed of objects falling into it.

The Chinese space agency's latest estimate puts re-entry between Saturday and Wednesday.

Western space experts say they believe China has lost control of the station. China's chief space laboratory designer Zhu Zongpeng has denied Tiangong was out of control, but hasn't provided specifics on what, if anything, China is doing to guide the craft's re-entry.

Based on Tiangong 1's orbit, it will come to Earth somewhere between latitudes of 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south, or roughly somewhere over most of the United States, China, Africa, southern Europe, Australia and South America. Out of range are Russia, Canada and northern Europe.

Based on its size, only about 10 percent of the spacecraft will likely survive being burned up on re-entry, mainly its heavier components such as its engines. The chances of anyone person on Earth being hit by debris is considered less than one in a trillion.

Ren Guoqiang, China's defense ministry spokesman, told reporters Thursday that Beijing has been briefing the United Nations and the international community about Tiangong 1's re-entry through multiple channels.

How Common Is Man-Made Space...

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Next Retro-Phone Reboot Looks To Be the Palm Pre

It's 2009. Obama is now in the White House. Captain 'Sully' Sullenberger makes a successful crash landing on the Hudson River. Palm is still a phone maker, and it's seen as the main rival to the iPhone.

It's 2018. Obama is not in the White House. Nobody has landed on the Hudson. Palm might be making a return to shelves after years in the wilderness.

Well, that's the rumor from Android Police, who've spoken to a source familiar with the matter. Palm could be back as a smartphone brand - take a moment to drink that in.

TCL, the brand behind Alcatel and the recently-rebooted BlackBerry Mobile, is reported to be relaunching a Palm smartphone, in association with US network Verizon.

Wait... should we care?

OK, it's probably true that this news doesn't affect you much -- the Palm range of smartphones, running webOS, was more about the potential they offered to the phone world, rather than actually doing anything.

They were slick in the way they worked, the 'cards' system was smart, and the Pre was everyone's tip to be the phone that stopped the iPhone from gaining world domination.

While TCL rebooting the Palm brand isn't new information, this is the first we've heard about a possible phone.

There's no word on whether it is the Palm Pre that would be rebooted, but that would make sense -- the Pre was an incredibly well-made phone (fun fact: you could actually slice cheese with the keyboard, it was so sharp).

We'll await more information on this rumored new phone, but if you're a Palm fan looking longingly at the rebooted Nokia 3310, your time might be near...

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Chipmaker Nvidia Suspends Self-Driving Tests After Uber’s Fatal Crash

The fallout from the fatal crash involving an autonomous Uber vehicle continues. Nvidia, which supplies chips for Uber's self-driving cars, said it's temporarily suspending all of its self-driving tests on public roads to learn more about [the] crash in Arizona, a company spokesperson told Recode.

"The accident was tragic," Nvidia spokesperson Fazel Adabi said in a statement. "It's a reminder of how difficult SDC technology is and that it needs to be approached with extreme caution and the best safety technologies." SDC refers to self-driving cars.

Other self-driving car companies have also temporarily suspended their testing, including Toyota and nuTonomy, which is developing self-driving software. Uber halted all of its testing immediately after the crash.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey yesterday suspended Uber's self-driving tests in the state indefinitely. He sent a letter to Uber saying the company failed to comply with the expectation that public safety be the top priority for the companies that operate self-driving cars on Arizona roads.

"In the best interest of the people of my state, I have directed the Arizona Department of Transportation to suspend Uber's ability to test and operate autonomous vehicles on Arizona's public roadways," Ducey wrote in his letter. "Arizona will not tolerate any less than an unequivocal commitment to public safety."

It's a complete about-face for Ducey, who welcomed Uber into the state with open arms after the California Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the ride-hail company's vehicle registrations. The DMV said Uber did not properly register the vehicles as autonomous test cars.

In Arizona, Waymo continues to test and operate vehicles with and without safety drivers. Ducey has long been friendly to autonomous technology and issued an executive order to establish a self-driving vehicle oversight committee in 2015.

City of Boston officials have also temporarily suspended testing.

As companies and regulators alike respond to the self-driving-related pedestrian death...

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Baltimore: Ransomware Hobbled City’s Dispatch System

A ransomware attack hobbled Baltimore's 911 dispatch system over the weekend, a city official confirmed Wednesday, prompting a roughly 17-hour shutdown of automated emergency dispatching.

Earlier this week, Mayor Catherine Pugh's office didn't specify the nature of the cyberattack. But on late Wednesday afternoon, her chief information officer announced that it was caused by "ransomware perpetrators."

"We were able to successfully isolate the threat and ensure that no harm was done to other servers or systems across the city's network," said Johnson, who described it as a "limited breach."

But the cyberattack in Baltimore prompted a worrying shutdown of automated emergency dispatching from early Sunday into Monday and required the transition of the critical 911 service to manual mode.

"Anything that would disrupt the public's access to emergency services is very critical," said Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association, a Virginia-based organization focused on 911 issues.

Baltimore's difficulties came days after another ransomware cyberattack staggered the city of Atlanta's computer network.

Atlanta officials said their attack included the encryption of some city data and caused outages for numerous city applications, but it did not affect police and fire emergency response systems, water supply safety or the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. On Tuesday, Atlanta city employees were advised to turn on their computers and printers for the first time since the cyberattack hit the city's network last week.

In Baltimore, Johnson said the mid-Atlantic city's network was actually made vulnerable by an "internal change to the firewall" by a technician who was troubleshooting another issue within the automated dispatch system.

Johnson said that no personal data of any city resident was compromised.

Experts say that ransomware exploits known software vulnerabilities, and often organizations that fall victim to such attacks haven't done a thorough job of patching systems regularly.

Baltimore officials said they weren't aware of any specific ransom...

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Oracle Beats Google Big in Court; Debuts Admin-Free Database

Yesterday's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversing a jury decision on Google's use of Oracle's Java API packages "protects creators and consumers from the unlawful abuse of their rights," according to a statement from Oracle general counsel Dorian Daley.

However, advocates of fair use in copyright law say yesterday's ruling could cost Google $9 billion in damages as well as put a deep chill on future tech innovation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights organization, called the reversal "a surprising decision that should terrify software developers."

As Oracle yesterday welcomed the opportunity to revive its original 2010 complaint against Google, it also unveiled a new service that's the first based on its "self-driving" Oracle Autonomous Database. The Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud automates database administration and management tasks for enterprise customers, and is being positioned as a far cheaper alternative to Amazon Web Services, which dominates the "as-a-service" cloud market.

'Upholds Fundamental Principles'? or 'A Travesty'?

Since Oracle first filed suit against Google for using its Java application programming interfaces (APIs) in the development of the Android mobile operating system, the complaint has taken several twists and turns. In May 2012, a Northern California district court jury found there was no infringement, but that verdict was partially reversed and the case was sent back to the district court in May 2014. A second jury trial also found in favor of Google in May 2016, but that decision was reversed yesterday and the case remanded back to the district court.

"[W]e conclude that Google's use of the 37 Java API packages was not fair as a matter of law," the appeals court ruled yesterday. "We therefore reverse the district court's decisions denying Oracle's motions for JMOL [judgment as a matter of law] and remand...

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Zuckerberg Expected To Testify Before Congress After Data Leak Scandal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to testify before Congress about the company's privacy practices in coming weeks, according to a person familiar with the matter.

This person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Zuckerberg is aware there is intense pressure on him to testify, this person said.

Zuckerberg said last week in a CNN interview that he'd be "happy" to testify, but didn't commit to appear. Facebook is facing unprecedented scrutiny following reports that a data mining firm used ill-gotten data from tens of millions of its users to try to influence elections.

A spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Tuesday that the committee is working with Facebook to determine a day and time for Zuckerberg to testify.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg [pictured above] snubbed a summons from a British Parliamentary committee investigating the rise of fake news, offering to send senior Facebook executives instead.

This would be the first time Zuckerberg has ever testified before Congress. Last fall, the company sent its top lawyer to speak before Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Google and Twitter also sent lower-level executives to the three public hearings on the matter.

Separately, Facebook announced a privacy settings makeover on Wednesday. While the move is intended to prepare for tighter European privacy regulations going into effect in May, Facebook said that recent events "underscore their importance."

The changes won't affect Facebook's privacy policies or the types of data it gathers on users. But the company hopes its 2.2 billion users will have an easier time navigating its complex and often confusing privacy and security settings. Facebook says it also wants to give users a simpler way to access and download the data it collects on them.

Chris Cox, Facebook's chief product officer, called the new settings "the first of many...

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