Author: News Aggregate

FBI Asked Anew About San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are asking the FBI to explain what they called a “troubling” recent report that appears to show the agency failed to exhaust all technical possibilities before pushing Apple to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, on Friday sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, citing a report by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General that was published in March. Statements made by officials involved in the investigation “appear to indicate that the FBI was more interested in forcing Apple to comply than getting into the device,” the letter says. “It was not until the night before the FBI’s suit against Apple, which was predicted ‘on the notion that technical assistance from Apple was necessary to search the contents of the device,’ that the FBI first consulted the third-party vendor that it knew had nearly completed a solution,” the lawmakers also said. In December 2015, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot and killed 14 people at Farook’s workplace in San Bernardino. After the couple was killed in a shootout with police, Farook’s passcode-protected iPhone became the center of an encryption battle between the FBI and Apple, which refused to help unlock the phone — setting off a heated debate over privacy vs. national security. In...

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NASA Spacecraft Aims To Find and Map Mystery Planets

Calling all planets that orbit around bright, nearby stars: NASA’s new Tess spacecraft is looking to do a head count. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — Tess for short — is embarking Monday on a two-year quest to find and identify mystery worlds thought to be lurking in our cosmic backyard. The spacecraft aims to add thousands of exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system, to the galactic map for future study. Life might be out there, whether microbial or more advanced, and scientists say Tess and later missions will help answer the age-old question of whether we’re alone. “It is very exciting. … By human nature, we look for exploration and adventure, and this is an opportunity to see what’s next,” NASA’s Sandra Connelly, a science program director, said Sunday on the eve of launch. Tess is flying on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, scheduled to blast off at 6:32 p.m. Monday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Here’s a peek at little Tess and its creators’ big ambitions. SPACECRAFT: At 5 feet (1.5 meters), Tess is shorter than most adults and downright puny compared with most other spacecraft. The observatory is 4 feet across (1.2 meters), not counting the solar wings, which are folded for launch, and weighs just 800 pounds (362 kilograms). NASA says it’s somewhere between the size of a refrigerator and a stacked washer...

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Battle Over Online Sales Tax Heads to High Court

Sales Tax: $0. Online shoppers have gotten used to seeing that line on checkout screens before they click “purchase.” But a case before the Supreme Court could change that. At issue is a rule stemming from two, decades-old Supreme Court cases: If a business is shipping to a state where it doesn’t have an office, warehouse or other physical presence, it doesn’t have to collect the state’s sales tax. That means large retailers such as Apple, Macy’s, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from customers who buy from them online. But other online sellers, from 1-800 Contacts to home goods site Wayfair, can often sidestep charging the tax. More than 40 states are asking the Supreme Court to reconsider that rule in a case being argued Tuesday. They say they’re losing out on “billions of dollars in tax revenue each year, requiring cuts to critical government programs” and that their losses compound as online shopping grows. But small businesses that sell online say the complexity and expense of collecting taxes nationwide could drive them out of business. Large retailers want all businesses to “be playing by the same set of rules,” said Deborah White, the president of the litigation arm of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents more than 70 of America’s largest retailers. For years, the issue of whether out-of-state sellers...

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No, Facebook Is Not Eavesdropping on You Through Your Smartphone

It’s time to move on from everyone’s favorite Facebook conspiracy theory: No, Facebook is not listening to you through your phone’s microphone. This is a crowd favorite. When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress this week to discuss the company’s data collection and privacy policies, he was asked if Facebook was spying on people through their microphones twice: Once by Senator Gary Peters, D-Mich., on Tuesday, and once by Congressman Larry Bucshon, R-Ill., on Wednesday. Even those of us at Recode have been guilty of wondering whether or not Facebook is listening in. But it’s finally time to move on. Zuckerberg said it’s not true, not once, but twice, on the record, in front of Congress. His denial wasn’t even new. The company wrote a blog post back in 2016 explaining that it doesn’t do this. The post was helpfully titled, “Facebook Does Not Use Your Phone’s Microphone for Ads or News Feed Stories.” But while it may not be true, it’s interesting that this theory routinely comes up. The fact that Facebook’s ad targeting is, at times, so accurate that people assume the company must be spying on them is a great endorsement of Facebook ads. But it’s also a spooky reminder of how much Facebook must know about you and what you do in your daily life. And if you’re worried Facebook might be listening to...

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Ex-Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs May Still Lead Takeover Bid

Former Qualcomm Chairman Paul Jacobs is continuing his efforts to raise money to buy the San Diego cellular giant and take it private, two news outlets reported Thursday. Bloomberg and CNBC said Jacobs is in discussions with potential investors to see if he can raise enough capital to acquire the company. Both news organizations cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter. A representative for Jacobs declined to comment other than to say it’s early and his efforts to explore an acquisition of Qualcomm were already disclosed. Jacobs, former chief executive and chairman of Qualcomm, revealed earlier this year that he wanted to buy the company and take it private. He was removed from Qualcomm’s board of directors in March after informing fellow directors of his intentions. Jacobs’ move is considered a long shot by industry observers because of the massive amount of investment required to pull it off. Qualcomm’s board rejected a $117 billion offer from Broadcom earlier this year on the grounds that it undervalued the company given its long-term growth prospects. Broadcom’s hostile takeover attempt was eventually blocked by President Trump over national security concerns. Broadcom was based in Singapore at the time but earlier this month moved its headquarters to San Jose. According to Bloomberg, Jacobs, who owns less than 1 percent of Qualcomm, is in discussions with strategic investors, sovereign wealth funds and wealthy individuals...

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