FBI head helped Facebook defend encryption he’s now fighting – Latest News

FBI head helped Facebook defend encryption he's now fighting - Latest News

FBI head helped Facebook defend encryption he’s now fighting – Latest News

Christopher Wray, prior to becoming FBI director, argued on behalf of Facebook Inc in defense of encrypted communications as the company was being pressured by the U.S. Justice Department over the issue, according to a court filing and a person familiar with the case.

Wray’s work as a part of a team of attorneys about five years ago appears to be at odds with the international push by the Justice Department and U.S. allies to allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies to bypass encrypted communications.

Wray himself has been a very public part of that campaign, arguing that finding a way around encryption was key to the fight against terrorism and serious crime.

Only last month, Wray told a cybersecurity conference that internet companies were “increasingly shielding indispensable information about those threats from any form of lawful access -through warrant-proof encryption.”

Wray’s work for Facebook, which occurred when he was employed as a lawyer for law firm King & Spalding, has not been previously reported.

The FBI said Wray could not comment on the case.

“When he was an attorney in private practice, however, the Director represented his clients’ interests and advocated on their behalf,” the agency said in a statement.

“Like all other lawyers, his duty of loyalty was to his client, and he did not put his personal views ahead of his clients’ interests or allow them to affect the legal work he did for clients. Today, as Director of the FBI, his duty is to act in the best interests of the American people,” it said.

Alan Rozenshtein, a former U.S. Department of Justice lawyer who now teaches at the University of Minnesota, agreed with that assessment.

“I don’t think it’s anything untoward,” he said in a telephone interview. “There are plenty of attorneys who go from industry to government and argue against the very industry they were representing.”

He added that it might be a good thing that Wray “is not coming into this cold. He understands the perspective of the private sector.”

The 2015-2016 case that pitted WhatsApp against the government has also not previously been reported and remains shrouded in mystery.

Sparse details about the behind-the-scenes battle were released late Wednesday by Facebook in court filings related to a separate lawsuit against Israeli cyber arms dealer NSO Group.

In that case, being heard in California, Facebook has accused NSO of hacking its users through a now-fixed flaw in WhatsApp. NSO denies wrongdoing in that case.

The newly released documents argue that King & Spalding should not be allowed to represent NSO because the firm’s past representation of WhatsApp “necessarily involved the provision and exchange of WhatsApp’s highly confidential information.”

The documents do not specify what the past representation entailed – saying only that it occurred as WhatsApp was implementing its encryption protections and involved the government. A person familiar with the case said it involved an attempt by the U.S. Department of Justice to pressure WhatsApp over the use of encryption but did not provide further detail.

King & Spalding declined to comment.

In a statement, WhatsApp did not comment specifically on Wray’s past position on encryption but said that King & Spalding’s past work for WhatsApp poses “serious ethical concerns for their representation of NSO today.”

Facebook defies gravity but can’t deny reality: Tae Kim

Facebook defies gravity but can’t deny reality: Tae Kim

By: Bloomberg |

Published: April 30, 2020 1:56:41 pm


Facebook, Facebook earning, Facebook profit, Facebook COVID-19, Facebook Coronavirus, Facebook performance, Facebook profit, Facebook loss, WhatsApp, Instagram The company’s CFO David Wehner also added the ad industry contraction could be more severe going forward. (Image: Bloomberg)

Going in to Facebook Inc’s earnings on Wednesday, investors were braced for bad news — specifically, that advertising revenue had dried up as the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic forced customers to pull back on spending. Instead, they got a surprise. The social-media giant reported better-than-expected first-quarter financial results and gave an update for its business so far in April that was better than feared.

Facebook posted earnings per share of $1.71, in line with the Bloomberg consensus, while generating $17.74 billion of revenue in the quarter, slightly higher than the $17.27 billion average analyst estimate. Even more important, Facebook said that while it did experience a “steep decrease” in its ad sales last month, it saw “signs of stability” during the first few weeks April, with ad revenue about flat versus the prior year. Facebook management added on the earnings call they also saw relative strength from the company’s gaming, technology and e-commerce segments as those clients took advantage of lower ad prices. The stock rose about 9 per cent in post-market trading following the commentary.

As encouraging as this news was, the reality is that the internet ad recession sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic is likely only just beginning. Even management seemed to caution the environment may get worse. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the economic fallout from the coronavirus may last longer than people anticipate. The company’s CFO David Wehner also added the ad industry contraction could be more severe going forward. Consequently, Facebook didn’t provide any guidance for the second quarter and full year.

But while many analysts and investors were laser-focused on the current trajectory of Facebook’s ad business and how long a downturn is going to last, they should also keep an eye on the dramatic changes occurring in the current digital landscape. Netflix Inc CEO Reed Hastings has famously said he considered the streaming-video company’s true competition to be the other ways consumers spend their time, specifically citing activities such as sleep and the game Fortnite. So where are people spending their time now?

Also Read: Digital-ad downturn may complicate life for Google, Facebook

One easy way to find out is to look at the most popular apps in Apple Inc’s App Store. Video platform TikTok has been ranked first or second for much of this year, while Zoom Video Communications Inc’s video-conferencing app has taken hold of the No 1 spot since mid-March. Both apps are several places ahead of Facebook’s major apps such as Instagram, Messenger and Facebook, pointing to their rising relative engagement.

This certainly has Zuckerberg’s attention. In the past, the executive has been prescient in acquiring companies with apps that were getting traction with users. For example, Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for about $1 billion. Moreover, it purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014 and reportedly even tried to acquire Snap. In the current environment, where Facebook is facing antitrust scrutiny for its previous deals, purchasing the next rising star probably isn’t an option.

While TikTok has been popular over the past year as the viral short-video platform of choice, the story of the moment is the parabolic rise of video-conferencing pure-play Zoom. The company announced last week it surpassed 300 million daily participants, up from 200 million in March and 10 million at the end of last year.

Also Read: Lots of companies now want your video chats — even Facebook

And Zoom’s parabolic rise is unprecedented. Earlier this month, veteran internet analyst Mary Meeker said the company had a faster ramp than either Instagram or Fortnite, both of which took 2 years and 18 months, respectively, to reach 100 million users. Zoom achieved that milestone in less than three months.

With hundreds of million people — young and old — now spending hours a day on Zoom, it threatens all the tech giants. Google, Microsoft Corp and Facebook have all frantically announced new Zoom-like video-conferencing features over the past month for their competing-services, hoping to catch some of the magic. But it may be too late for the goliaths. Historically, when a best-of-breed category winner reaches a certain momentum, it isn’t easily dislodged.

Also Read: Reliance-Facebook deal opens up WhatsApp’s entire user base for Mukesh Ambani

And the biggest signal that Facebook may be worried? Last Friday, Zuckerberg did several one-on-one interviews with major media outlets to announce the roll-out of its latest Zoom-competing feature Messenger Rooms. The fact he’s going out of his way to promote it shows how seriously he is thinking about Zoom. As for ad revenue? It’s a sure thing he’s thinking about that, too.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Technology News, download Indian Express App.

How Facebook’s Reliance deal upends a $1 trillion digital arena

How Facebook’s Reliance deal upends a $1 trillion digital arena

By: Bloomberg |

Published: April 30, 2020 3:17:45 pm


Facebook, Reliance Jio, Facebook Reliance Jio deal, Facebook Jio, JioMart, WhatsApp, Jio WhatsApp Reliance and Facebook know a friction-less payments service is key to successful online commerce.

An innocuous WhatsApp “Hi” could end up transforming a $1 trillion industry.

Facebook Inc bought its way into India’s internet commerce sphere last week with a $5.7 billion investment in Reliance Industries Ltd, a sprawling conglomerate in everything from telecom to energy. They launched their first pilot within days, a program covering three Mumbai neighborhoods where consumers can send that monosyllabic greeting to a designated number, bringing up an in-chat interface through which they then browse a catalog of goods on Reliance’s Jiomart, place an order and arrange for pickup.

That in itself is novel to much of the rest of the world — shopping via a messaging platform. But in coming weeks, the pair are likely to add online payments — a simple move expected to create a potential leader in India’s frenetic digital payments arena.

The Silicon Valley social media giant and India’s largest corporation both serve around 400 million users in the country, and they’ve made it clear the first order of business is establishing a cashless system to anchor forays into internet commerce and mobile services. That alliance inserts a powerful new competitor into an arena already contested by Google, Walmart Inc, Amazon.com Inc and SoftBank Group Corp-backed local outfit Paytm. But none of them have the reach of WhatsApp, the nation’s most popular communications platform.

“This collaboration will bring hundreds of millions of Indians closer to online ordering and their first digital financial transactions,” said Nandan Nilekani, chairman of Infosys Ltd and an architect of government-backed biometric identity system Aadhaar, the starting point for online transactions. “Competition between players will fuel innovation on better features and newer solutions, further driving adoption.”

Also Read: Facebook surges after revenue holds up in midst of pandemic

WhatsApp, which began piloting a payments service two years ago to just a million users, still needs approval to roll out nationwide. It’s struggled to comply with stringent guidelines on localizing data — the pre-requisite to getting a go-ahead to roll out country-wide. The company’s also got a spotty record with the authorities, who pressed for years for a crackdown on fake news posts that have led to violence.

But Facebook has now secured a partner in billionaire Reliance founder Mukesh Ambani, who’s also keen to grab a slice of a fast-growing cashless payments market Credit Suisse estimates could be worth $1 trillion by 2023. Importantly, the popularity of digital finance has exploded globally alongside the rise of online shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic, and India’s government is keen to support its burgeoning tech industry as well as rejuvenate the economy. Narendra Modi’s endorsement is one reason India’s become a laboratory of sorts for innovations in spheres from internet finance to data agglomeration.

Also Read: Facebook defies gravity but can’t deny reality: Tae Kim

Reliance and Facebook know a friction-less payments service is key to successful online commerce — but so are mom and pop shops. JioMart and WhatsApp’s embryonic Mumbai service is intended to first get Indians accustomed to messaged transactions with local businesses known as kirana: the tiny neighborhood stores where most Indians buy daily essentials.

Even that modest start puts Facebook ahead of competitors like Paytm, Google Pay or Walmart’s PhonePe, who serve about 150 million digital payments users between them but have had limited luck courting kiranas. That’s why Ambani, Asia’s richest man, made it a point to call out those merchants in his video announcing the Facebook deal, saying his new Silicon Valley ally will help JioMart empower 30 million small stores.

Also Read: Digital-ad downturn may complicate life for Google, Facebook

While its own Jio Pay hasn’t quite made the same headway as its rivals, Reliance pioneered engagement with those businesses, adding them at a furious clip to JioMart’s network and — in what Ambani calls new commerce — helping them adopt technology for payments and sourcing.

“The next digital payments battleground is online to offline commerce,” said Vivek Belgavi, a Mumbai-based partner and fintech leader at consultancy PwC. “Every e-commerce player will want wallet share in the adjacent digital payments industry.”

As a social media platform, Whatsapp could also help people discover products — recommendations from friends play a pivotal role worldwide in online purchases.

Also Read: 267 million Facebook profiles sold on dark web for $540: How you can protect your account

But all that can happen only if Facebook and Reliance get a government green-light — and if they get along. The pair still face challenges in meshing two very different cultures and technology backbones, both of which have proven successful in their respective dominions.

There’s also the possibility regulators may decide the alliance is too powerful: Jio’s mobile telecom service leads the country with nearly 400 million users, while India is already Facebook’s single largest market.

“With the imminent arrival of the WhatsApp payment-Reliance combination into crowded digital payments, India is poised for a fresh round of intensive competition,” said Nilekani, who also helped develop the country’s digital transactions backbone, the Unified Payments Interface. “This is going to take digital payments to a new level.”

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Technology News, download Indian Express App.

WhatsApp Rolls Out Eight-Person Group Video Calls

WhatsApp Rolls Out Eight-Person Group Video Calls

Blow to video conferencing systems? Latest version of WhatsApp allows for eight-person video calling, and it is encrypted

WhatsApp users on iOS and Android devices are being advised to update to the latest version of the messaging app to take advantage of a new feature.

The Facebook-owned unit officially rolled out eight-person video calls for iOS and Android users globally this week.

The move now makes WhatsApp a viable alternative to the usual video chat apps such as Zoom, Meet and Skype, and is an important development for those looking for group calling in order to stay in touch with friends and family during the global Coronavirus pandemic.

whatsapp mobile

Group Calling

WhatsApp announced the raising of the WhatsApp call participant limit in a blog post on the matter on Tuesday.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many of us are isolated from friends and family,” said WhatsApp. “As a result, we see that people all over the world are turning to voice and video calling on WhatsApp more than ever before.”

“Group calling has been particularly useful and our users have asked to connect with more people at once,” the unit wrote. “Starting today, we’re doubling the number of participants you can have on a WhatsApp video or voice call from 4 to 8 people at a time.”

WhatsApp said that over the last month, people on average are spending over 15 billion minutes talking each day on WhatsApp calls, well above a typical day before the pandemic.

“And just like written messages, all those calls are protected with end-to-end encryption,” said WhatsApp. “We have built group calling in a way that makes it available for as many users as possible, including people on lower-end devices and slow network conditions.”

WhatsApp is also available on Facebook’s Portal devices, which “many users have told us has been a great way to share their living room with family during quarantine.”

In order to access the eight person group video callings, iOS and Android users will need to update to the latest version of WhatsApp.

To start a group video call chat, users should select ‘Calls’ from the bottom menu bar and click the call icon in the upper right corner of WhatsApp.

Tap ‘New Group Call’ above your contact list. Search or scroll through your contacts to add up to seven more call participants.

It is likely that the WhatsApp development will be a popular option for friends and families to stay in touch, whilst competitors such as Skype, Google Hangouts and Zoom will remain the preferred option for larger virtual gatherings or work-related meetings.

WhatsApp's latest Android beta update hints at how multi-device support may work - Latest News

WhatsApp’s latest Android beta update hints at how multi-device support may work – Latest News

Since last year, it has been known that WhatsApp is working on rolling out two device support for its platform. Several screenshots and reports by WABetaInfo during this time have shown the progress on this upcoming feature by the instant messaging app.

Now, in the latest Android beta version of the app, v2.20.143, the WABetaInfo has spotted that on the primary registration screen, the app asks users to switch to Wi-Fi. As per the screenshot, it says, “Without Wi-Fi, logging in may be slow, and may use a large amount of your data plan.”

Although the reason for the requirement of Wi-Fi hasn’t been stated for using the multi-device feature, the report says that it could be because WhatsApp needs to transfer data — including chat history — to the other device.

Besides this, the report also sheds some light on how the multi-device feature will work. As per the report, once this feature is rolled out and activated, all your devices that are logged in with that account will receive a message. Further, all the previous actions such as starring a message, archiving of chats will also be in sync across all devices.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp has doubled the number of participants in a group call — both video and audio. This means you can start a conversation with 7 other friends on WhatsApp either on voice or video. The feature was rolled out to both Android and iOS users with the growing dependence on video conferencing tools.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many of us are isolated from friends and family. As a result, we see that people all over the world are turning to voice and video calling on WhatsApp more than ever before. Over the last month, people on average are spending over 15 billion minutes talking each day on WhatsApp calls, well above a typical day before the pandemic,” said WhatsApp in a statement. WhatsApp also ensured that voice and video calls are end-to-end encrypted even with higher participant limits.