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Tech News

EU agrees to data deal with Japan as US pact hangs in the balance

July 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Sylvain Sonnet

The EU and Japan have reached an agreement that will allow businesses in both regions to freely share and transfer data without additional safeguards or authorizations. The deal, which covers information such as credit card details and browsing habits, will help to fortify links between the EU and Japan, which recently signed the world’s largest free-trade agreement.

Strict EU data laws prevent companies from storing Europeans’ personal information on foreign servers unless the countries can guarantee a high level of privacy. Only 12 currently meet the standard, but parties involved in the new deal hope to set a precedent for future agreements. EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said that “by working together, we can shape the global standards for data protection and show common leadership in this important area.”

The EU had a similar deal with the US, named “Safe Harbor,” which underpinned billions of dollars of transatlantic trade, but this was struck down in 2015 by EU officials who felt the pact didn’t provide enough protection against US snooping. A new agreement, “Privacy Shield,” was hurriedly drawn up, but that’s now also under the spotlight.

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) wants to suspend Privacy Shield because it believes it lacks the necessary guarantees and safeguards. A group from the CCBE are currently in talks with US representatives on the matter in Washington, but if a suspension goes ahead the business world could be thrown into legal limbo. And of course, another collapsed data deal won’t do much to improve already tense relations between the two regions.

Tech News

After Facebook and Google, the EU tackles… daylight savings

July 6, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Brian Snyder / Reuters

After holding tech giants to account with fines and legislation, the European Commission (EC) sights are now trained on a new target. The commission is polling EU residents to figure out whether it’s time to reconsider daylight savings.

The public survey, available in all official EU languages, asks whether the Union should keep with current setup, or recast the rules for something more consistent throughout the year. For now, member states are obliged to switch to summertime on the last Sunday of March and to switch back to wintertime on the last Sunday of October, “ensuring a harmonized approach to the time switch within the single market.” While daylight savings is observed in the US and most of Europe, elsewhere, including the majority of Africa and Asia, do not.

There’ve been surveys in the past: In 2014, most EU states were fine with daylight savings. Some countries are less happy about it, however. Take Finland, which, given its northern position, sees bigger changes from summer to winter when it comes to hours of daylight. In summer, the sun doesn’t completely set for several weeks in some parts of the country, while the reverse happens in colder months. Conversely, the southernmost states see barely any change in daylight hours throughout the year.

The EC does a good job at spelling out some of the benefits and drawbacks here, and includes the inconclusive health benefits associated with shifting the hours to ensure more daylight during peoples’ typical workdays, and the marginal energy savings in an era where electricity is everywhere and mostly on.

The commission’s survey will run until August 16th — which is good, because the online poll is still down. If those polled want to discontinue the current bi-annual time changes and prohibit periodic switches, each member state would have to decide for itself whether to go for permanent summer or wintertime. (But at least you wouldn’t have to remember whether you had to put your clocks forward or backwards without googling it.)

Tech News

EU Parliament rejects controversial copyright bill

July 5, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Francois Lenoir / Reuters

After the EU Parliament’s legal affairs committee narrowly passed a bill that would require tech companies to monitor and filter internet content to protect copyrights, approval by the full governmental body was inevitable. Or so everyone thought. This morning, the EU Parliament rejected the new copyright reform bill. It will now be opened for further discussion and amendment by all 751 European lawmakers.

The Copyright Directive is first time the EU is updating its copyright laws since 2001; the idea was to bring copyright laws into the modern age, with the rise of internet sharing. The law was clearly intent on protecting copyright holders; Article 11 of the bill would have required websites to pay to link to news organizations or use article snippets, while Article 13 would have required tech companies to check uploaded submissions against copyrighted works. Many pronounced the latter to be the death of memes.

Digital rights groups, computer scientists, academics, organizations such as Wikipedia and even human rights groups were staunchly opposed to various parts of the bill. But this defeat doesn’t mean the EU Copyright Directive won’t eventually pass. It was defeated by 318 votes to 278, which means that representatives will debate, amend and then vote again on the bill in September. It’s possible that, at that time, it might pass with some of the most controversial provisions still intact. Only time will tell what will happen with this bill, but for now, it’s welcome news for its opponents.

Tech News

Waze can get you a roadside tow in Europe

July 3, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

AOL

Car trouble on the motorway is frustrating enough by itself, let alone if you don’t have a roadside assistance plan to ease your worries. Waze may soon help get you out of a jam, though. The Google-owned navigation app is teaming up with Allianz Partners on an in-app Roadside Help (SOS) button for European drivers. Tap it and a call center or digital platform will get in touch to help you with a breakdown or emergency, whether or not you have insurance or a roadside assistance policy. You shouldn’t have to frantically search for a towing company when all you want to do is get home.

You may want to plan your next road trip carefully if you’re counting on using the feature. At first, the Waze/Allianz connection will only be useful in Greece and Italy. The UK and other 18 countries (including most of mainland Europe as well as Ireland, Russia and Turkey) will have to wait until later in 2018. So long as you’re patient, though, you might not worry quite as much about pulling over to the road shoulder.

Tech News

Facebook says Cambridge Analytica may not have accessed EU user data

June 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Eric Gaillard / Reuters

Even after Cambridge Analytica shut down in early May, Facebook is still answering questions about the data it did (or didn’t) hand over to the firm. At a hearing with European Union lawmakers today, two executives from the social media titan said that to the best of their knowledge, no EU user’s information had been shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook couldn’t conclusively say so, as it still has to conduct an internal audit, which they’ll perform after the UK’s privacy watchdog finishes its own probe, according to Bloomberg. But based on the company’s analysis and testimony by Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, the researcher who handed user data over to Cambridge Analytica in the first place, Facebook’s early conclusion is that no European user’s info was included. That’s primarily because the firm only wanted American Facebook members to analyze for US political campaigns.

Facebook had previously notified 2.7 million European users that their data might have been accessed by Kogan’s app anyway, and the EU lawmakers at the hearing were reportedly frustrated with the social platform’s flip-flopping. This was the second in a series of hearings; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is planning to attend the next one on July 2nd.

Tech News

Samsung targets 100 percent renewable energy use by 2020

June 14, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

shutterstock

Samsung has announced plans to power its US, Europe and China operations entirely by renewable energy sources within two years. It’s already making good on its sustainability commitment in Korea, where the company is installing 42,000 square meters of solar panels in its Digital City, and is working on generating geothermal power at Pyeongtaek campus and Hwaseong campus by 2020.

It’s an ambitious but achievable goal, no doubt spurred by the environmental credentials its rivals already boast in this area. Apple says it’s now powered entirely by renewable energy, Google is offsetting all of its operational energy through wind and solar, and T-Mobile has already announced plans for 100 percent renewable energy by 2021. It makes financial sense, too, given reports that renewables will likely be cheaper than fossil fuels in just a couple of years’ time. Samsung has some catching up to do, but better late than never.

Tech News

Waymo wants to bring self-driving taxis to Europe

June 8, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Waymo

Waymo hasn’t quite launched its self-driving taxi service in Phoenix and San Francisco yet, but it’s already settings its sights on another continent. The Alphabet-owned company’s CEO, John Krafcik, has revealed that Waymo aims to make its way to Europe after launching in the US later this year. He made the announcement at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Turin, Italy, where he also said that if the company does enter the European market, it will likely be with the help of a partner.

He said during the event:

“There is an opportunity for us at Waymo to experiment here in Europe, with different products and maybe even with different go-to-market strategies. It’s possible we will take a very different approach here than we would in the U.S.”

Krafcik admitted that the Waymo brand wouldn’t be as strong in Europe, where there are already bunch of well-established automakers. Brand recognition could make or break its business across the pond, so its European autonomous taxi service might not carry the Waymo name at all. While he didn’t mention a possible timeline for the service’s launch in the continent, he did say that company officials had already been spending time there to study the policies and regulations relevant to their business, as well as to better understand how they differ from their counterparts in the US.

Just a couple of weeks ago, reports came out that Chrysler will supply the company with 62,000 Pacifica minivans loaded with its autonomous driving technology for its taxi network. Waymo will reportedly use all those vehicles in the US, and Krafcik didn’t say whether it’s also teaming up with Fiat Chrysler in Europe or whether it’s looking to team up with another brand altogether.

Tech News

Uber's electric bike-sharing service is launching in Europe

June 6, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Jump

In a continued push to expand beyond traditional taxi rides, Uber has announced plans to roll out its Jump bike rental service to cities in Europe. The company acquired bike-sharing platform Jump just a few months ago and was quick to offer the service in Washington DC and cities throughout California. Now it aims to launch in Berlin before the end of the summer, with other European cities to follow.

Speaking at the Noah tech conference in Berlin, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that “this is potentially a replacement for Uber trips so that we can be bigger than just cars, we can be about mobility within a city, and we can help resolve the traffic issue every city is facing.” In the US, customers can take 30-minute trips for $2 a ride on the electrically-assisted bikes. There’s no word on pricing yet for Europe.

Berlin is an interesting choice for a European launch. The German capital is already awash with bike-sharing companies such as OBike, Mobike and LimeBike. But the roll out, coupled with plans to launch UberGreen in the city later this year, is undoubtedly part of a wider move to get Berlin back on side after a slew of legal challenges — which have spread throughout Europe — in recent times. According to Khosrowshahi, these plans demonstrate a “new Uber” which wants to expand “through partnerships and dialogue.”

Tech News

Tesla pushes full international Model 3 launch to 2019

May 28, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Just because Tesla is delivering some Model 3 units outside the US doesn’t mean it’s ready for a full-scale international rollout. Elon Musk has revealed that launches for left-hand drive Model 3 variants in Asia and Europe are now expected in the first half of 2019, or months later than the the second half of 2018 target it mentioned when production began last July. And if you live in the UK or other countries where right-hand drive is the norm, you may have to wait longer — your Model 3 is “probably” arriving in the middle of 2019, Musk said.

You may have seen this coming. Tesla has spent months overcoming production challenges, and it’s only just getting to the point where its original end-of-2017 production goal (5,000 per week) is in sight. It likely wants to fulfill more of the backlog in its home market before venturing too far abroad. Electrek also suggested that Tesla is optimizing its production strategy to maximize the $7,500 federal tax credit in the US — it likely wants to hit that magic 200,000-car threshold (where the tax break starts to phase out) before the year is over, and that means focusing second quarter production on the US rather than courting international buyers.

The upshot: whenever a large-scale international launch takes place, Tesla will likely have the production capacity needed to deliver cars quickly, including performance variants and the fabled $35,000 ‘entry’ Model 3. Virtually all Model 3s shipped to date have hewed to a single configuration, and it wouldn’t be very fun to both wait longer than many customers and be forced to take a car that’s not quite to your liking.

Model 3 was designed for min engineering & tooling change for RHD. Note left/right symmetry. LHD for Europe & Asia first half of next year. RHD probably middle of next year.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 25, 2018