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Tesla driver says car was in autopilot when it crashed at 60mph | Technology

Tesla driver says car was in autopilot when it crashed at 60mph | Technology


The driver of a Tesla car that failed to stop at a red light and collided with a firetruck told investigators that the vehicle was operating on “autopilot” mode when it crashed, police said.

A Tesla Model S was traveling at 60mph when it collided with the emergency vehicle in South Jordan, Utah, on Friday, causing minor injuries to both drivers, officials said Monday. The Tesla driver’s claim that the car was using the autopilot technology has raised fresh questions about the electric car company’s semi-autonomous system, which is supposed to assist drivers in navigating the road.

The exact cause of the crash, which left the driver with a broken ankle, remains unknown, with Tesla saying it did not yet have the car’s data and could not comment on whether autopilot was engaged. South Jordan police also said the 28-year-old driver “admitted that she was looking at her phone prior to the collision” and that witnesses said the car did not brake or take any action to avoid the crash.

“As a reminder for drivers of semi-autonomous vehicles, it is the driver’s responsibility to stay alert, drive safely, and be in control of the vehicle at all times,” the police department said in a statement.


The scene of the crash in Utah. Photograph: Courtesy of the South Jordan police department

While driverless technology is expected to make the roads significantly safer by reducing human error and crashes, companies like Tesla are currently in a transition period that some experts say has created unique risks. That’s because semi-autonomous features, research has shown, can lull drivers into a false sense of security and make it hard for them to remain alert and intervene as needed.

Tesla has faced backlash for its decision to brand the technology “autopilot”, given that the drivers are expected not to depend on the feature to keep them safe.

After a Tesla autopilot crash in March resulted in the driver’s death, the company issued a series of lengthy statements blaming the victim for “not paying attention”.

On Monday, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk complained about an article on the Utah crash, writing on Twitter: “It’s super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage.”

He also wrote that it was “actually amazing” the collision at 60mph only resulted in a broken ankle: “An impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death.”

Musk has on numerous occasions forcefully chastised journalists investigating Tesla crashes, arguing that the unflattering news coverage was dissuading people from using the technology and thus “killing people” in the process. After Tesla recently labeled an award-winning news outlet an “extremist organization”, some critics compared the company’s hyperbolic denouncements of the press to the anti-media strategy of president Donald Trump.





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Tesla posts record $710m net loss as it struggles to produce Model 3 cars | Technology

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Tesla posted a record $709.6m net loss in the first quarter and burned through $745.3m in cash while struggling to crank out large numbers of its Model 3 mass-market electric car.

The loss and cash burn announced Wednesday raised questions about the company’s future and whether it would be able to pay all of its bills by early next year without more borrowing or another round of stock sales.

During a sometimes-testy conference call with analysts, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, conceded that criticism was valid but said it was “quite likely” the company would make money and have positive cash flow in the third quarter.

“It’s high time we became profitable,” said Musk, who also promised restructuring this month to achieve profit goals. “The truth is you’re not a real company until you are, frankly. That’s our focus right now.”

When asked by an analyst on a conference call about all-important reservations for the Model 3, Musk cut him off, calling questions dry and “not cool”. He then allowed multiple questions from a person via YouTube.

Tesla said its net loss amounted to $4.19 per share. Excluding one-time expenses such as stock-based compensation, the company lost $3.35 per share. Revenue grew by 26% from a year ago to $3.4bn.

The giant loss in a critical quarter for the 15-year-old company fell short of Wall Street estimates. Analysts polled by FactSet expected an adjusted loss of $3.54 per share. Revenue, however, exceeded estimates of $3.28bn.

In April, Tesla said it would not need to return to markets for more capital because it expected to generate cash from sales of the Model 3. But it has had trouble getting them out the door to several hundred thousand people who put down $1,000 deposits to order one.

Moody’s Investor Service downgraded Tesla’s debt into junk territory back in March, warning at the time that Tesla didn’t have cash to cover $3.7bn for normal operations, capital expenses and debt that come due early next year. At the end of last year the company had a total of $9.5bn in long-term debt.

“The negative outlook reflects the likelihood that Tesla will have to undertake a large, near-term capital raise in order to refund maturing obligations and avoid a liquidity shortfall,” Moody’s wrote in a note to investors.

Tesla has had only two profitable quarters in its nearly eight years as a public company.

The key to raising cash to cover expenses is production of the Model 3 mass-market electric car, which starts at $35,000 but can easily top $50,000 with options.

Musk said the restructuring would involve getting rid of third-party contractors that have grown out of control. “We’re going to scrub barnacles on that front,” he said.
He admitted that Tesla made a mistake by adding too much automation too quickly at the factory.

The plant has missed Musk’s forecasts by a wide mark. When production started last summer he promised to build 20,000 Model 3s during the month of December. Instead, Tesla made only 2,425 during the entire fourth quarter.

Then Tesla forecast 10,000 Model 3s per month at the end of the first quarter. As it turned out, just under 9,800 were assembled from January through March, Tesla said in April. The Fremont, California factory was shut down for four or five days last month to clear production bottlenecks, Tesla said.

The company, which also makes solar panels, predicted in April that production would climb rapidly through the second quarter and reach about 5,000 vehicles per week – which would return Tesla to its originally promised 20,000 per month rate – around the end of June. It predicted high sales and strong cash flow in the third quarter. “As a result Tesla does not require an equity or debt raise this year, apart from standard credit lines,” the company said.

The Model 3 is the most important piece of Tesla’s plan to become a mainstream automaker. At one point it had more than 500,000 potential buyers on a waiting list. But in April the company conceded that some had canceled, although it refused to give numbers. Tesla said reservations “remained stable” through the first quarter.



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Artificial intelligence, robots and a human touch | Letters | Technology

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Elon Musk’s comment that humans are underrated (Humans replace robots at flagging Tesla plant, 17 April) doesn’t come as much of a surprise, even though his company is at the forefront of the technological revolution. Across industries, CEOs are wrestling with the balance between humans and increasingly cost-effective and advanced robots and artificial intelligence. However, as Mr Musk has discovered, the complexity of getting a machine to cover every possibility results in a large web of interconnected elements that can overcomplicate the underlying problem. This is why so many organisations fail when they try to automate everything they do. Three key mistakes I see time and again in these situations are missing the data basics, applying the wrong strategy, and losing the human touch.

There are some clear cases where automation works well: low value, high repetition tasks or even complex ones where additional data will give a better outcome, for example, using medical-grade scanners on mechanical components to identify faults not visible to the human eye. But humans are better at reacting to unlikely, extreme, or unpredictable edge cases, for example being aware that a music festival has relocated and extra cider needs to go to stores near the new venue rather than the previous location.

Regardless of industry, it’s only by maintaining a human touch – thinking and seeing the bigger picture – that automation and AI can add the most value to businesses.
Deborah O’Neill
Partner, Oliver Wyman

The House of Lords report (Cambridge Analytica scandal ‘highlights need for AI regulation’, theguardian.com, 16 March) outlining the UK’s potential to be a global leader in artificial intelligence – and its calls for governmental support of businesses in the field and education to equip people to work alongside AI in the jobs of the future – should be welcomed for two reasons. First, it recognises the potential of UK-based AI companies to benefit the economy. Supporting these fast-growing companies to ensure that they continue to scale – and eventually exit – here should be a strategic priority, particularly at a time when a new generation of fast-growth providers, such as Prowler.io and Benevolent AI in life sciences, and ThoughtRiver in legal tech, is emerging to build on an impressive track record of AI innovation in the UK, from Alan Turing to DeepMind.

Second, it acknowledges that AI can contribute significantly to businesses’ competitive advantage – a view that few too UK businesses seem to appreciate at a time when media coverage of the topic is dominated by scaremongering about job losses, security threats, ethics, and bias. It’s refreshing to see a more positive narrative about AI and the workplace starting to emerge. What we now need to see is more of from the business world is openness to the opportunities that AI creates in terms of continuing, and expanding on, the positivity of this report, and leadership in sharing their successes in this area that others can learn from.
Matt Meyer
CEO, Taylor Vinters

The announcement from the House of Lords that Britain must “lead the way” on the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) highlights the current climate of concern around the ways that AI could impact society, in particular, fears of weaponised AI used by militaries and other unethical usage. But there are many other applications where “ethical” AI is crucial – in making accurate medical diagnoses, for example. 

There is no doubt AI will transform how society operates, and that there is a need for improper use to be safeguarded against. However, creating ethical AI algorithms will take more than just an announcement. It will require far greater collaboration between governments, and industry and technology experts. By working with those that understand AI, regulators can put in place standards that protect us while ensuring AI can augment humans safely, so that we can still reap its full potential.
Dr Nick Lynch
The Pistoia Alliance

Join the debate – email [email protected]

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters



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Tesla factory to be investigated over safety concerns | Technology

Tesla factory to be investigated over safety concerns | Technology


Tesla is facing an investigation by Californian safety regulators into reports of serious injuries at its factory in Fremont, California, where it is struggling to scale up production of its Model 3 mass-market electric car.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration said on Wednesday it had begun an inspection on Tuesday, a day after the news website Reveal alleged that Tesla failed to disclose legally mandated reports on serious worker injuries, making its safety record appear better than it was.

A Tesla spokesperson said the Californian agency was required to investigate any claims, whether merited or not. They said: “We have never in the entire history of our company received a violation for inaccurate or incomplete injury record-keeping.”

The agency typically reviews an employer’s log of work-related injuries and illnesses to ensure serious injuries are reported directly to the administration within eight hours. Tesla said the injury rate at its Fremont factory, which it took over from General Motors and Toyota, was half what it was in the final years under its previous owners.



Robots assembly a Tesla Model S at the firm’s factory in Fremont, California. Photograph: Paul Sakuma/AP

But this is just the latest issue in what Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, described as “manufacturing hell”, as the company struggles to hit production targets for its crucial new car.

The firm has repeatedly failed to hit its weekly production targets of 2,500 Model 3 vehicles in the first quarter of 2018, and has been forced to halt production twice in three months, most recently this week. The difficulties have fostered doubt within the industry that Tesla will be able to hit its 5,000-a-week target in three months’ time, despite Musk saying the company was able to produce a steady stream of 2,000 vehicles a week at the factory.

The significant production shortfall of the Model 3 has delayed customer deliveries, which have stacked up from billions of dollars of orders. Musk said he was forced to take direct control of the production line at the beginning of April, working through the night and sleeping at the factory.

The technology entrepreneur admitted “excessive automation” had slowed production, saying a “crazy, complex network of conveyor belts” had not worked out. “Humans are underrated,” Musk said.



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Tesla halts Model 3 production as firm scrambles to improve automation | Technology

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Tesla has temporarily suspended its Model 3 assembly line as Elon Musk’s electric car firm struggles to deliver on targets.

The company said the move was a planned production pause of up to five days. It is the second time since February that Tesla has halted its production line for the Model 3 at its Fremont, California plant.

“These periods are used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates,” said a Tesla spokesperson.

The shutdown took Tesla staff at the plant by surprise, forcing them to use vacation days or stay at home without pay, according to reports from BuzzFeed.

Tesla suspended production of its Model 3 for four days in February in what the company said was planned work to improve automation and address bottlenecks. It warned of possibly more periods of downtime in coming months.

Car manufacturers typically stop or slow production of new models when ironing out problems with production. Tesla took shortcuts with testing of its production line in order to get to market more quickly, which some experts say have resulted in early manufacturing problems.

Musk recently admitted that “excessive automation” at the Tesla plant had contributed to what he calls “manufacturing hell” and had actually slowed down manufacturing of the crucial mass-market model.

“We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts … And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing,” Musk told CBS.

The electric car firm has repeatedly missed targets and is now trying to reach a production volume of 2,500 vehicles per week. Musk recently said Tesla was managing to make 2,000 Model 3s a week, but failed to assuage doubts about the company reaching its 5,000-a-week target in three months time.

Musk tweeted on Friday that Tesla would be profitable and cash flow positive in the third and fourth quarters, with no need to raise money.

Many analysts dispute this analysis, which hinges on a rapid rise in production of the Model 3 sedan. Delays and lower-than-expected volume have postponed revenue from cars being delivered to customers from reaching Tesla’s bottom line.



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Elon Musk drafts in humans after robots slow down Tesla Model 3 production | Technology

Elon Musk drafts in humans after robots slow down Tesla Model 3 production | Technology


Elon Musk has admitted that automation has been holding back Tesla’s Model 3 production and that humans, rather than machines, were the answer.

The electric car maker’s chief executive said that one of the reasons Tesla has struggled to reach promised production volumes was because of the company’s “excessive automation”.

Asked whether robots had slowed down production, rather than speeding it up, during a tour around Tesla’s factory by CBS, Musk replied: “Yes, they did … We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts … And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”

“Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated,” Musk added later.

The South African-born computer programmer and businessman is worth about $21bn (£15bn) today. He was catapulted into the ranks of the super-rich with the sale of PayPal to eBay, which netted him $165m

In 2002, he used $100m to found SpaceX, which aims to cut the cost of space travel through technology such as reusable rockets. One of Musk’s ultimate goals is to pioneer efforts to colonise Mars.

Musk became a major investor in electric car company Tesla in 2004 and took over the reins in 2008. Tesla has focused on building a vehicle with mass market appeal. Despite low sales, its stock market value overtook Ford last year.

Another ambitious Musk project is the Hyperloop, his vision of a super-fast underground transport system to whisk passengers between major US cities, such as LA and San Francisco, at hypersonic speed. He has called the idea a “cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table”. Critics say it is too impractical and expensive.

More recent ideas include OpenAI, a not-for-profit firm researching artificial intelligence, and Neuralink, a company exploring ways to connect the human brain with AI.


Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP

Caught in what Musk has called “manufacturing hell”, the electric car firm has failed to hit its weekly production target of 2,500 Model 3 vehicles in the first quarter of 2018, fostering doubt within the industry that Tesla will be able to hit its 5,000-a-week target in three months time.

The significant production shortfall has delayed crucial customer deliveries. Musk said he was forced to take direct control of the production line at the beginning of April, resorting to pulling all-nighters and sleeping at the factory.

“We were able to unlock some of the critical things that were holding us back from reaching 2,000 cars a week. But since then, we’ve continued to do 2,000 cars a week,” he said.

At the same time Tesla is facing negative publicity over a fatal crash of one of its Model X SUVs that was driving using the firm’s Autopilot mode, openly feuding with the US National Transportation Safety Board and attempting to suppress issues before media attention.





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Tesla email reveals company’s effort to silence an alleged victim with cash | Technology

Tesla email reveals company’s effort to silence an alleged victim with cash | Technology


Tesla had a clear message to DeWitt Lambert, a black employee alleging racial discrimination: take our money and stay quiet.

“In terms of settlement, we are willing to pay Mr. Lambert [redacted], but only if we are to resolve this matter before there is media attention, preferably within the next few hours,” the Tesla general counsel, Todd Maron, wrote to the worker’s lawyers last year. “If there is media attention first, there will be no deal.”

The message, which a lawyer shared with the Guardian this week, provides a stark illustration of what some say is Tesla’s aggressive legal and media strategy in the face of serious complaints and potential negative press. The controversial PR tactics of Elon Musk’s car company have been on full display this week as the corporation has worked to publicly blame the victim of a fatal crash involving its autonomous technology.

In the three weeks since the death of Walter Huang, 38, whose Tesla Model X crashed while in Autopilot mode in California, the company has repeatedly argued that the victim was at fault, not its nascent technology, and it has openly feuded with US investigators about the release of information.

The defensive statements amid the current tragedy and the settlement offer in Lambert’s labor dispute provide a window into the way Musk’s firm has tried to silence critics – or publicly attack them. It’s a familiar approach in Silicon Valley, where companies work to block bad publicity by keeping complaints out of court and resolving high-profile disputes behind closed doors.

But some say the tactics are particularly intense at Tesla, a firm that often receives fawning coverage from the tech press surrounding Musk’s ambitious projects and celebrity status.

Lambert, an electrician hired as a production associate in 2015, alleged in a harassment, retaliation and discrimination lawsuit that he was subject to “repeated racist epithets for months”, including “violent” rhetoric and attacks using the N-word. Last year, Tesla emphatically denied the claims in lengthy statements that sought to cast doubts on Lambert’s character and alleged that his lawyer was engaged in a “media blitz in an attempt to create a disingenuous narrative”.

Lambert’s attorney, Larry Organ, who has faced repeated criticisms from Tesla surrounding his civil rights litigation, shared the attorney’s settlement email with the Guardian as an example of the corporation’s efforts to stop bad press and silence workers with complaints.

The March 2017 email from Maron said if Lambert rejected the settlement and spoke out, “we will of course point out all of the facts in the attached document”. The document, according to Organ, attacked Lambert’s character.



Walter Huang, left, and his wife, Sevonne Huang. Photograph: Handout/Minami Tamaki LLP

Organ further said Tesla had offered to have Musk meet Lambert as part of a settlement.

“Tesla is a big corporation, and they feel like they can bully people,” Organ said in an interview.

“And shut them up with money,” added Navruz Avloni, another attorney representing Lambert.

A Tesla spokesperson did not deny the contents of the email, but alleged that Maron was responding to Organ’s “breathtaking” demand for money and threat to go public with a story.

Organ told the Guardian the offer they discussed was just under $1m: “It seems to me they put a fairly low value on stealing a man’s dignity.”

There are numerous examples of highly combative PR and legal strategies by Tesla in the wake of scandal.

This week, attorneys for Huang’s family alleged that Tesla’s Autopilot feature was “defective” and “likely caused Huang’s death” when the car collided into a median. Tesla, however, said it was Huang’s fault: “The crash happened on a clear day with several hundred feet of visibility ahead, which means that the only way for this accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road, despite the car providing multiple warnings to do so.”

Tesla’s statement expressed condolences to the relatives, who gave a television interview about their grief. But the company also said: “The reason that other families are not on TV is because their loved ones are still alive.”

On Thursday, Tesla also went after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a US agency that accused the company of improperly releasing information about the crash investigation.

“It’s been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they’re more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety,” Tesla said in a statement announcing it would make an “official complaint to Congress”.

Tesla has previously attacked the media in response to reporting on discrimination claims. After a female engineer shared her allegations of harassment with the Guardian, Tesla issued lengthy statements criticizing the woman and ultimately fired her, accusing her of pursuing a “miscarriage of justice”. Tesla has also vehemently denied her underlying claims. Musk has also been personally defensive about claims that his factory is unsafe for workers.

After the first fatal crash involving Autopilot in 2016 – when Tesla’s technology did not prevent a car from colliding with a large white truck – the company defended its product.

The family of that victim, Joshua Brown, eventually released a statement that said “Joshua loved his Tesla” and that the car was not at fault. Paul Grieco, an attorney for Brown family, said this week he couldn’t comment on whether Tesla paid money or had relatives sign any kind of confidentiality agreement. Tesla also declined to comment.

“The parties were able to resolve their disputes amicably,” Grieco said, later adding: “I cannot comment on any of the settlement terms.”



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NTSB ‘unhappy’ with Tesla for releasing information about fatal crash | Technology

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The National Transportation Safety Board is “unhappy” about Tesla’s decision to release information from an investigation of a fatal crash involving its Autopilot system.

A vehicle using the semi-autonomous system crashed into a concrete lane divider on Highway 101 in Mountain View, California, last week. The car’s driver, Wei Huang, a 38-year-old software engineer for Apple, was killed. The car burst into flames after the accident.

Tesla released a statement on its website that said data showed the driver did not have his hands on the wheel, as recommended, and received several warnings from the system before the crash.

The company said its Autopilot feature can keep speed, change lanes and self-park but requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, in order to be able to take control and avoid accidents. Autopilot does not prevent all accidents, Tesla said, but does make them less likely.

Tesla said the lane divider in the crash had been previously damaged and not repaired, worsening the impact of the car.

“No one knows about the accidents that didn’t happen,” the company added, “only the ones that did. The consequences of the public not using Autopilot, because of an inaccurate belief that it is less safe, would be extremely severe.”

Christopher T O’Neil, a spokesman for the NTSB, said that “in each of our investigations involving a Tesla vehicle, Tesla has been extremely cooperative on assisting with the vehicle data”.

But he added: “The NTSB is unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla.”

The NTSB said its next update would come in a preliminary report, which generally takes weeks.



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Tesla car that crashed and killed driver was running on Autopilot, firm says | Technology

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Tesla has said a car that crashed in California last week, killing its driver, was operating on Autopilot.

The 23 March crash on highway 101 in Mountain View is the latest accident to involve self-driving technology. Earlier this month, a self-driving Volvo SUV that was being tested by the ride-hailing service Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.

Federal investigators are looking into the California crash, as well a crash in January of a Tesla Model S that may have been operating under the Autopilot system.

In a blogpost, Tesla said the driver of the sport-utility Model X that crashed in Mountain View, 38-year-old Wei Huang, “had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision.

“The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider … but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.”

Tesla also said the concrete highway divider had previously been damaged, increasing its impact on the car. The vehicle also caught fire, though Tesla said no one was in the vehicle when that happened.

The company said its Autopilot feature can keep speed, change lanes and self-park but requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, in order to be able to take control and avoid accidents.

Autopilot does not prevent all accidents, Tesla said, but it does make them less likely.

“No one knows about the accidents that didn’t happen,” Tesla said, “only the ones that did. The consequences of the public not using Autopilot, because of an inaccurate belief that it is less safe, would be extremely severe.

“There are about 1.25 million automotive deaths worldwide. If the current safety level of a Tesla vehicle were to be applied, it would mean about 900,000 lives saved per year.”

The company added that it “care[s] deeply for and feel[s] indebted to those who chose to put their trust in us. However, we must also care about people now and in the future whose lives may be saved if they know that Autopilot improves safety.

“None of this changes how devastating an event like this is or how much we feel for our customer’s family and friends. We are incredibly sorry for their loss.”



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Markets nervous after tech shakeout and ahead of US GDP – business live | Business

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For all the gains seen in US markets over the past 18 months the bulk of these have been driven by tech stocks, and yesterday these tech stocks swooned quite sharply, reversing a good proportion of Monday’s gains, in the process dragging the S&P500 back down towards its 200 day moving average.

This rolling over in tech stocks looks set to weigh on European markets this morning, with a lower open as markets mull over the potential for uncertainty over a tech sector that could catch a cold as a result of Facebook’s woes around user data.

With the increasing focus on what is going with respect to how Facebook has managed its users personal data, it must surely be only a matter of time before attention turns to the rest of the tech sector, and how companies like Alphabet, Twitter, Microsoft and Apple to name a few, manage their own users personal data. If lawmakers do turn their attention to the rest of the sector, which seems likely, then it is hard not to see how other tech companies will escape scrutiny on how they use this user data, raising the prospect that we could uncover other practices that invite scrutiny.



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