TECHNOLOGY

Weekender

Map changes in disputed regions

DISPUTED regions are displayed differently around the world.
Google Maps tries to chart out the globe for more than a billion users around the world. But it’s not so simple when those people disagree on where the lines should be drawn.
So the search giant displays political borders differently depending on where a viewer is, according to a report Friday by The Washington Post.
For example, take Kashmir, the region India and Pakistan have fought over for more than 70 years. Maps viewers in Pakistan and elsewhere see the borders drawn as a dotted line, indicating a dispute. But in India, people see a solid line that shows the area as part of India, the report says. Other labels are different too. The body of water separating Japan and South Korea is widely displayed as the Sea of Japan. But in South Korea, it’s the East Sea.
The discrepancies give a glimpse at how Google and other Silicon Valley giants operate when confronted with political sensitivities related to world governments. The challenge of disputed regions isn’t a new problem — makers of printed maps have to deal with it, too — but the speed and connectedness of software can make the difference appear more jarring.
While working through those decisions, Google said it works with organizations such as the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN), and looks at treaties and armistices. The company acknowledged that it defers to local governments when it comes to borders.
“We remain neutral on issues of disputed regions and borders, and make every effort to objectively display the dispute in our maps using a dashed gray border line,” Ethan Russell, director of product management for Google Maps, said in a statement. “In countries where we have local versions of Google Maps, we follow local legislation when displaying names and borders.”
For more-sensitive border decisions, Google relies on a special team of employees called the “disputed regions team,” the Post said.
Given the scale of Google Maps, which turned 15 years old last week, the decisions aren’t trivial. In December, Google announced that Maps has captured more than 10 million miles of Street View imagery. The distance, Google said, would amount to circling the Earth more than 400 times. The company also said Google Earth, the search giant’s aerial mapping service, has a total of 36 million square-miles of satellite imagery for people to browse. With that collection, Google has mapped out the parts of the world where 98 per cent of people live. – CNET


Facebook boss urges tighter regulation

FACEBOOK boss Mark Zuckerberg has called for more regulation of harmful online content, saying it was not for companies like his to decide what counts as legitimate free speech.
Citing China, Zuckerberg also warned excessive control risked stifling individual expression.
He was speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
Social media giants like Facebook are under increasing pressure to stop the spread of false information.
Facebook in particular has been criticised for its policy on political advertising.

Facebook is under increasing pressure to curb the spread of disinformation online.

The company launched new policies for political advertising in the US in 2018 and globally the following year. These rules require political ads to display who had paid for them, and a copy of the ad is kept in a publicly-searchable database for seven years.
But this week Facebook said it would not include sponsored political posts by social media stars in its database. Posts by politicians are not are not always fact-checked as part of the company’s free speech policy either.
At the conference he said he supported regulation.
“We don’t want private companies making so many decisions about how to balance social equities without any more democratic process,” he said.
The Facebook founder urged governments to come up with a new regulatory system for social media, suggesting it should be a mix of existing rules for telecoms and media companies.
“In the absence of that kind of regulation we will continue doing our best,” he said.
“But I actually think on a lot of these questions that are trying to balance different social equities it is not just about coming up with the right answer, it is about coming up with an answer that society thinks is legitimate.”
Zuckerberg also admitted Facebook had been slow to recognise the development of co-ordinated online “information campaigns” by state actors like Russia.
He added that malevolent actors are also becoming better at covering their tracks by masking the IP addresses of users.
To tackle this, Zuckerberg said Facebook had a team of 35,000 people reviewing content and security on the platform. With assistance from AI, he said more than a million fake accounts are deleted every day.
“Our budget [for content review] is bigger today than the whole revenue of the company when we went public in 2012, when we had a billion users,” he said.
During his time in Europe, Zuckerberg is expected to meet politicians in Munich and Brussels to discuss data practices, regulation and tax reform.
Despite public backlash over issues like political advertising, Facebook says the number of users on its family of apps – Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram – continues to grow.
Earlier this month, Whatsapp announced that it is used by two billion people worldwide, more than a quarter of the world’s population. -BBC


Huawei labels US claims ‘utter nonsense’

HUAWEI has hit back at allegations that it has secret “back doors” into mobile networks around the world, labelling it as “complete and utter nonsense”.
US officials told the Wall Street Journal that Huawei had access to law enforcement tools for wiretap-style monitoring of calls.
It comes a day after the US department of Justice unveiled fresh charges against the company.
Huawei said the new indictment had “nothing to do with facts and reality”.
The Chinese company makes phones and other popular products – but also builds critical communications infrastructure.
The Wall Street Journal’s report this week was about “lawful interception” interfaces, which allow law enforcement with an appropriate court order to monitor communications.
The report alleged that Huawei had secretly given itself the ability to access those tools without mobile phone companies knowing.
Allegations are ‘a smokescreen’
John Suffolk, Huawei’s global cyber-security and privacy officer, told reporters the idea that Huawei had access to the special “lawful intercept” equipment was completely untrue – and that the company did not even make such devices.
“We have no access to this equipment, we don’t know what call or information is being intercepted, we don’t know when it is intercepted. All we do is provide one side of the box which is blind to what’s happening on the other side of the box,” he said.
He said that the devices were so sensitive that they were “watched like a hawk” by the mobile phone operators – often being placed in a special, secure room.
“I’m not aware of any operator who has said to Huawei, ‘come and sit in this room and see what’s going on,’” he said.
The allegations are “absolutely untrue” and “nothing but a smokescreen” to discredit the firm, he said.
He also criticised the Wall Street Journal directly, saying it seems “to be on a bit of a roll writing such articles.”
He said the report did not “conform to any logic or any level of analysis or research that anyone could have done”.
“I could not believe that someone could write such an ill-thought-out article,” he added.
Fresh criminal charges
On Thursday, the US Department of Justice announced new charges of racketeering and theft against Huawei, the latest escalation in a long-running feud.
It alleged the Chinese firm stole trade secrets using “fraud and deception”, and violated US trade sanctions by dealing with Iran and North Korea – something the company denies.
Huawei has had restrictions placed on US companies doing business with the Chinese firm. Huawei says it has, in turn, eliminated all US components from its 5G networking products.
Meng Wanzhou, the Chinese firm’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder, is still being held in Canada, where she is fighting extradition to the US.
Huawei’s position has been that it is being unfairly targeted because its success has threatened the dominance of American companies.
It has also consistently demanded that the US make public the evidence it says it has of wrongdoing.
“We’re not saying as a company we’re perfect,” Mr Suffolk said.
“We’re over 180,000 people operating in 180 countries… we must make some mistakes somewhere. So no one can claim to be perfect, but we just say: don’t hide it. Don’t be shy. Publish it. Let the world see it.”
5G deployment
Not everyone has been convinced by the US claims of impropriety.
In January, the UK decided to allow Huawei to have a limited role in the hardware used for the next generation of mobile networks, 5G.
That was despite objections from its military ally, the US, and – according to the disputed Wall street Journal report – the sharing of “hard evidence” with UK officials.
In Germany, a similar approach has been taken, with officials opting for a nuanced rule that bans untrustworthy companies from the 5G network – but not explicitly blocking Huawei’s involvement. The strategy has yet to be finalised.
And the European Union also followed the UK’s lead in setting its guidelines, deciding that “high-risk” vendors such as Huawei could be used by member states, in a limited and closely monitored way. – BBC

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