Connect with us

Tech

EBay to pay $3 million penalty over harassment of couple behind newsletter

EBay to pay $3 million penalty over harassment of couple behind newsletter

Published

on

EBay to pay $3 million penalty over harassment of couple behind newsletter

EBay has agreed to pay $3 million to resolve a U.S. criminal probe into a campaign by several of its employees to stalk and harass a Massachusetts couple whose online newsletter was viewed as critical of the e-commerce company.

Federal prosecutors in Boston said on Thursday that eBay had entered into a deferred prosecution agreement to resolve the case after seven former eBay workers admitted to participating in an extensive campaign in 2019 that involved sending the couple cockroaches, fly larvae and a bloody Halloween pig mask.

“The company’s employees and contractors involved in this campaign put the victims through pure hell, in a petrifying campaign aimed at silencing their reporting and protecting the eBay brand,” acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy said in a statement.

The San Jose, California-based company admitted to facts about its conduct and agreed to retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for three years and must make changes to its compliance program.

Advertisement

Charges would be dropped after three years if it complies with the deal. EBay CEO Jamie Iannone in a statement called his company’s conduct in 2019 “wrong and reprehensible,” and he said eBay was “committed to upholding high standards of conduct and ethics and to making things right with the Steiners.”

Prosecutors said senior executives deemed the Steiners’ newsletter critical of eBay, and in August 2019 then-Chief Executive Devin Wenig texted another executive that it was time to “take her down,” referring to Ina Steiner.

Wenig, a former Thomson Reuters executive who stepped down as eBay’s CEO in September 2019, was not charged, and his spokesman has said Wenig had “absolutely zero knowledge” of the actions eBay’s employees undertook. A spokesperson declined comment on Thursday.

Overseeing the harassment campaign was Jim Baugh, a former Central Intelligence Agency employee who at the time served as eBay’s senior director of safety and security. His lawyer has said he felt pressure to do something.

At Baugh’s direction, the Steiners received anonymous, harassing Twitter messages, bizarre emails, and disturbing home deliveries that included spiders, a funeral wreath and a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, prosecutors said.

Advertisement

In August 2019, Baugh and others traveled from California to Natick to surveil the Steiners and try to install a GPS tracking device on their car. The Steiners spotted them and contacted police, prompting the federal investigation.

Baugh was sentenced in September 2022 to 57 months in prison. Others in the case have received punishments ranging from home confinement to two years in prison.

The Steiners’ lawsuit remains pending and is set for trial in March 2025. In a statement, they said they are determined to “do whatever we possibly can to ensure that no corporation ever feels that the option exists for them to squash a person’s First Amendment rights.

“The victims were David and Ina Steiner, a married couple in Natick, Massachusetts, who produce the newsletter EcommerceBytes and have sued eBay over what they say was a relentless campaign by its employees to terrorize them.

The $3 million fine represents the maximum penalty prosecutors said they could seek after charging eBay with six counts of stalking, obstruction of justice and witness tampering for what they called its “absolutely horrific” criminal conduct. 

Advertisement

Tech

Europe sets benchmark for rest of the world with landmark AI laws

Europe sets benchmark for rest of the world with landmark AI laws

Published

on

By

Europe sets benchmark for rest of the world with landmark AI laws

 Europe’s landmark rules on artificial intelligence will enter into force next month after EU countries endorsed on Tuesday a political deal reached in December, setting a potential global benchmark for a technology used in business and everyday life.

The European Union’s AI Act is more comprehensive than the United States’ light-touch voluntary compliance approach while China’s approach aims to maintain social stability and state control. 

The vote by EU countries came two months after EU lawmakers backed the AI legislation drafted by the European Commission in 2021 after making a number of key changes.

Concerns about AI contributing to misinformation, fake news and copyrighted material have intensified globally in recent months amid the growing popularity of generative AI systems such as Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and Google’s chatbot Gemini.

Advertisement

“This landmark law, the first of its kind in the world, addresses a global technological challenge that also creates opportunities for our societies and economies,” Belgian digitisation minister Mathieu Michel said in a statement.

“With the AI Act, Europe emphasizes the importance of trust, transparency and accountability when dealing with new technologies while at the same time ensuring this fast-changing technology can flourish and boost European innovation,” he said.

The AI Act imposes strict transparency obligations on high-risk AI systems while such requirements for general-purpose AI models will be lighter.

It restricts governments’ use of real-time biometric surveillance in public spaces to cases of certain crimes, prevention of terrorist attacks and searches for people suspected of the most serious crimes.

The new legislation will have an impact beyond the 27-country bloc, said Patrick van Eecke at law firm Cooley.

Advertisement

“The Act will have global reach. Companies outside the EU who use EU customer data in their AI platforms will need to comply. Other countries and regions are likely to use the AI Act as a blueprint, just as they did with the GDPR,” he said, referring to EU privacy rules.

While the new legislation will apply in 2026, bans on the use of artificial intelligence in social scoring, predictive policing and untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage will kick in in six months once the new regulation enters into force.

Obligations for general purpose AI models will apply after 12 months and rules for AI systems embedded into regulated products in 36 months.

Fines for violations range from 7.5 million euros ($8.2 million) or 1.5% of turnover to 35 million euros or 7% of global turnover depending on the type of violations.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Tech

Microsoft promotes new tools for making AI software

Microsoft promotes new tools for making AI software

Published

on

By

Microsoft talked up new tools on Tuesday aimed at encouraging programmers to build AI-focused technology into Windows software as it races against Alphabet, Amazon and Apple to dominate the emerging field. At a developer conference in Seattle, Chief Executive Satya Nadella promoted new application programming interfaces, or APIs, that make it easier for developers to tap in to AI technology offered by Microsoft. The company said 1.8 million developers are now using Github Copilot, Microsoft's generative AI tool that helps computer programmers be more productive. "What stands out to me as I look back at this past year, is how you all as developers have taken all of these capabilities and are applying them, quite frankly, to change the world around us," Nadella said during his keynote address at the Build conference. Microsoft detailed new features for its Copilot AI software that helps business productivity applications such as email and its Teams video and text chat product. At its developer conference last week, Alphabet's Google unveiled a similar batch of AI tools to help people with office applications. Microsoft announced details of its new developer tools last week. Shares of Microsoft were up 1.2% at $430.67 on Tuesday afternoon after hitting a record high of $432.97 earlier in the session. Microsoft's stock has now gained 14% in 2024. Also aimed at developers, Microsoft said last Thursday it would offer its cloud computing customers a platform of AMD AI chips that will compete with Nvidia whose graphics processing units have become the gold standard for AI computing. The platform of AMD chips created by Microsoft uses networking technology made by Nvidia called Infiniband to string the processors together. OpenAI's new GPT4-o model, which runs on Microsoft's infrastructure, is 12 times cheaper for developers to use in their software than earlier versions of the technology, Microsoft's chief technology officer Kevin Scott said. Microsoft is the largest investor in OpenAI and uses some of the AI heavyweight's technology in its own products. On Monday, Microsoft debuted a line of Copilot+ personal computers with AI features such as software that lets users search through their past actions in nearly any software. The new computers feature Arm-based, processors made by Qualcomm.

 Microsoft talked up new tools on Tuesday aimed at encouraging programmers to build AI-focused technology into Windows software as it races against Alphabet, Amazon and Apple to dominate the emerging field.

At a developer conference in Seattle, Chief Executive Satya Nadella promoted new application programming interfaces, or APIs, that make it easier for developers to tap in to AI technology offered by Microsoft. 

The company said 1.8 million developers are now using Github Copilot, Microsoft’s generative AI tool that helps computer programmers be more productive.

“What stands out to me as I look back at this past year, is how you all as developers have taken all of these capabilities and are applying them, quite frankly, to change the world around us,” Nadella said during his keynote address at the Build conference.

Advertisement

Microsoft detailed new features for its Copilot AI software that helps business productivity applications such as email and its Teams video and text chat product.

At its developer conference last week, Alphabet’s Google unveiled a similar batch of AI tools to help people with office applications. Microsoft announced details of its new developer tools last week.

Shares of Microsoft were up 1.2% at $430.67 on Tuesday afternoon after hitting a record high of $432.97 earlier in the session. Microsoft’s stock has now gained 14% in 2024.

Also aimed at developers, Microsoft said last Thursday it would offer its cloud computing customers a platform of AMD AI chips that will compete with Nvidia whose graphics processing units have become the gold standard for AI computing.

The platform of AMD chips created by Microsoft uses networking technology made by Nvidia called Infiniband to string the processors together.

Advertisement

OpenAI’s new GPT4-o model, which runs on Microsoft’s infrastructure, is 12 times cheaper for developers to use in their software than earlier versions of the technology, Microsoft’s chief technology officer Kevin Scott said.

Microsoft is the largest investor in OpenAI and uses some of the AI heavyweight’s technology in its own products.

On Monday, Microsoft debuted a line of Copilot+ personal computers with AI features such as software that lets users search through their past actions in nearly any software. The new computers feature Arm-based, processors made by Qualcomm.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Tech

Explainer: What are AI PCs? How do they differ from traditional PC?

Explainer: What are AI PCs? How do they differ from traditional PC?

Published

on

By

Explainer: What are AI PCs? How do they differ from traditional PC?

The PC just got an AI makeover, raising hopes that the buzzy technology would help revive an industry that has been on a steady decline over the last few years.

Here’s everything we know about AI PCs:

WHAT DOES “AI PC” MEAN?

Manufacturers say these devices process data more swiftly than traditional PCs and can handle a greater volume of AI tasks directly on the device, including chatbots.

Advertisement

That means they do not have to rely on cloud data centers that currently power most AI applications, including OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

Some models can even support the training of AI models, a task that requires significant computing power and is typically performed on servers.

PC makers are hoping such features will help draw in buyers as more people lean on generative AI for everything from sending emails to planning vacations.

Research firm Canalys estimates AI PC shipments will surpass 100 million in 2025, constituting 40% of all PCs shipped. 

WHAT TECHNOLOGY IS USED IN AI PCS?

Advertisement

AI PCs come with specialized processors called neural processing units (NPUs) that handle the majority of on-device AI workloads.

These NPUs work in tandem with central processing units and graphics processors to manage complex tasks, deliver enhanced processing speeds and power applications such as AI assistants.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE AI PCS AVAILABLE ON THE MARKET?

Brands including Dell, HP, Samsung Electronics, Lenovo, Asus and Acer have unveiled new computers under Microsoft’s Copilot+ branding, which was announced on Monday.

Among these, Microsoft’s refreshed Surface Laptop and Surface Pro tablet are some of the most affordable Copilot+ devices, starting at $999.

Advertisement

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 6, expected to start at $1,699, stands as the priciest option based on the pricing disclosed by some manufacturers.

ARE THERE ANY CONCERNS?

A new flagship feature from Microsoft called “recall” has raised some privacy concerns. The Windows maker’s Copilot+ PCs “recall” capability within the AI assistant allows it to search and retrieve information on any past activity on the computer.

The recall feature tracks every action performed on the laptop from voice chats to web browsing, and creates a detailed history stored on the device. The user can then search this repository and go through past actions.

Some social media users have expressed fears that the feature could enable spying, while billionaire technologist Elon Musk compared it to “Black Mirror,” the Netflix series that explores the harmful effects of advanced technology.

Advertisement

The main concern with the feature is whether the data is stored on the device or centrally, International Data Corp analyst Ryan O’Leary said, adding that there would be “significant privacy risk” if Microsoft stored the data.

On the other hand, some experts say that managing more AI-related tasks directly on the device offers greater privacy.

Research from Forrester showed AI PCs could help avoid the use of personal data to train AI systems, as well as copyright and patent violations, making them preferable for enterprise use.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © GLOBAL TIMES PAKISTAN