Annual Energy Conference Showcases New Technologies

At this week’s three-day Energy Innovation Summit, organized annually by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA-e for short, experts, entrepreneurs, investors and government officials shared ideas, research results and experiences about challenges facing the generation, transformation, distribution and storage of all forms of energy. VOA’s George Putic gives an overview.



Facebook Cuts Ties with Cambridge Analytica Over Data Privacy

Facebook Inc. on Friday said it was suspending political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked for President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, after finding data privacy policies had been violated.

Facebook said in a statement that it suspended Cambridge Analytica and its parent group Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) after receiving reports that they did not delete information about Facebook users that had been inappropriately shared.

Cambridge Analytica was not immediately available for comment. Facebook did not mention the Trump campaign or any political campaigns in its statement, attributed to company Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal.

“We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior,” Facebook said, adding that it was continuing to investigate the claims.

Cruz, Trump campaigns

Cambridge Analytica worked for the failed presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and then for the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. On its website, it says it “provided the Donald J. Trump for President campaign with the expertise and insights that helped win the White House.”

Brad Parscale, who ran Trump’s digital ad operation in 2016 and is his 2020 campaign manager, declined to comment Friday.

In past interviews with Reuters, Parscale has said that Cambridge Analytica played a minor role as a contractor in the 2016 Trump campaign, and that the campaign used voter data from a Republican-affiliated organization rather than Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook’s Grewal said the company was taking the unusual step of announcing the suspension “given the public prominence” of Cambridge Analytica and its parent organization.

No ads, administering pages

The suspension means Cambridge Analytica and SCL cannot buy ads on the world’s largest social media network or administer pages belonging to clients, Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook vice president, said in a Twitter post.

Trump’s campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 and paid it more than $6.2 million, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Cambridge Analytica says it uses “behavioral microtargeting,” or combining analysis of people’s personalities with demographics, to predict and influence mass behavior. It says it has data on 220 million Americans, two-thirds of the U.S. population.

It has worked on other campaigns in the United States and other countries, and it is funded by Robert Mercer, a prominent supporter of politically conservative groups. Facebook in its statement described a rocky relationship with Cambridge Analytica and two individuals going back to 2015.

Professor’s app

That year, Facebook said, it learned that University of Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan lied to the company and violated its policies by sharing data that he acquired with a so-called “research app” that used Facebook’s login system.

Kogan was not immediately available for comment.

The app was downloaded by about 270,000 people. Facebook said that Kogan gained access to profile and other information “in a legitimate way” but “he did not subsequently abide by our rules” when he passed the data to SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies.

Eunoia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook said it cut ties to Kogan’s app when it learned of the violation in 2015, and asked for certification from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed.

Although all certified that they had destroyed the data, Facebook said that it received reports in the past several days that “not all data was deleted,” prompting the suspension announced Friday.



Steve Jobs Pre-Apple Job Application Fetches $174,000 at Auction

A one-page job application filled out by Steve Jobs more than four decades ago that reflected the Apple founder’s technology aspirations sold for $174,000 at a U.S. auction, more than three times its presale estimate.

An Internet entrepreneur from England was the winning bidder, Boston-based auction house RR Auction said on Friday, but the buyer wished to remain anonymous.

The application dated 1973, complete with spelling and punctuation errors, had been expected to fetch about $50,000.

The sale price reached on Thursday was $174,757, the auction house said.

The form lists his name as “Steven jobs” and address as “reed college,” the Portland, Oregon, college he attended briefly. Next to “Phone:” he wrote “none.”

Under a section titled “Special Abilities,” Jobs wrote “tech or design engineer. digital.—f rom Bay near Hewitt-Packard,” a reference to pioneering California technology company Hewlett-Packard and the San Francisco Bay area.

The document does not state what position or company the application was intended for. Jobs and friend Steve Wozniak founded Apple about three years later.

RR Auction said the high price reflected the continuing influence of Jobs, who died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 56.

“There are many collectors who have earned disposable income over the last few decades using Apple technology, and we expect similarly strong results on related material in the future,”

Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction, said in a statement.

Other highlights from the online auction included an Apple Mac OS X technical manual signed by Jobs in 2001 that sold for $41,806 and a rare signed newspaper clipping from 2008 featuring an image of Jobs speaking at the Apple Developers Conference that sold for $26,950.



France to Fine Google, Apple Amid Broader Transatlantic Spat

France added more kindling to a growing commercial dispute between Europe and the United States, announcing Wednesday it would sue American tech giants Google and Apple over allegedly abusive business practices.

After peanut butter, cranberries and bourbon, Google and Apple are the latest American icons in Europe’s crosshairs. Speaking to French radio Wednesday, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire accused the two U.S. companies of unilaterally imposing prices and other terms on French startups.

Google and Apple may be powerful, Le Maire said, but they should not be able to treat French startups and developers the way they currently do.

France has taken legal action against the companies before. But this latest dispute comes amid a potential trade war, as Washington prepares to slap tariffs against steel and aluminum imports.

The European Union has vowed countermeasures on products such as peanut butter if the bloc is not exempted from the U.S. measures, which may take effect next week. But European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told the EU Parliament Wednesday she hopes that will not happen.

“As long as the measures have not entered into force, we hope to avoid a significant trade dispute,” she said. “The root problem, as many of you have said, is overcapacity in steel and aluminum sectors.”

Malmstrom said the European Union and the United States should instead work together to end unfair subsidies by some countries and level the trading field.

France has a mixed relationship with U.S. internet companies — both encouraging them to invest here, but also to pay more EU taxes — as it tries to build its home-grown industry.

Last year, it also threatened fines against Amazon for allegedly abusing its dominant position with suppliers. French justice has yet to rule on the case.