Convergence Plus
Friday, July 20, 2018
Microsoft urges regulation of facial recognition technology

MicrosoftMicrosoft’s chief legal officer yesterday called for regulation of facial recognition technology due to the risk to privacy and human rights.
Brad Smith made a case for a government initiative to lay out rules for proper use of facial recognition technology, with input from a bipartisan and expert commission.

Microsoft’s chief legal officer yesterday called for regulation of facial recognition technology due to the risk to privacy and human rights.
Brad Smith made a case for a government initiative to lay out rules for proper use of facial recognition technology, with input from a bipartisan and expert commission.

Facial recognition technology raises significant human rights and privacy concerns, Smith said in a blog post. “Imagine a government tracking everywhere you walked over the past month without your permission or knowledge,” he said. “Imagine a database of everyone who attended a political rally that constitutes the very essence of free speech.”

It could become possible for businesses to track visitors or customers, using what they see for decisions regarding credit scores, lending decisions, or employment opportunities without telling people. He said scenarios portrayed in fictional films such as “Minority Report”, “Enemy of the State”, and even the George Orwell dystopian classic “1984” are “on the verge of becoming possible”. “These issues heighten responsibility for tech companies that create these products,” Smith said. “In our view, they also call for thoughtful government regulation and for the development of norms around acceptable uses.”

Use and abuse
Microsoft and other tech companies have used facial recognition technology for years for tasks such as organizing digital photographs. But the ability of computers to recognize people’s faces is improving rapidly, along with the ubiquity of cameras and the power of computing hosted in the internet cloud to figure out identities in real time.

While the technology can be used for good, perhaps finding missing children or known terrorists, it can also be abused. “It may seem unusual for a company to ask for government regulation of its products, but there are many markets where thoughtful regulation contributes to a healthier dynamic for consumers and producers alike,” Smith said. “It seems especially important to pursue thoughtful government regulation of facial recognition technology, given its broad societal ramifications and potential for abuse.”

Concerns about misuse prompted Microsoft to “move deliberately” with facial recognition consulting or contracting, according to Smith. “This has led us to turn down some customer requests for deployments of this service where we’ve concluded that there are greater human rights risks,” Smith said. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

NIIT to train 20,000 students from South in IT, BFSI sectors

NIIT to train 20,000 students from South in IT, BFSI sectorsNIIT Ltd will train 20,000 students from four southern States, with employable skill sets in IT and Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) sectors.
The training will cover students from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka, according to a press release.
Over three years, the company said, prospective employees will be trained under Talent Pipeline as a Service (TPaaS), a strategic initiative to ensure skilled talent to global organisations to match the pace of expansion in today’s fast changing, uncertain business environment.

“The Talent Pipeline as a Service is our attempt to identify and groom the best Just-in-Time job ready talent for emerging roles in organisations,” said Sapnesh Lalla, Chief Executive Officer of NIIT Ltd.

NIIT will train around one lakh youth in three years from across the country through this initiative. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)
Facebook reveals data-sharing partnerships, ties to Chinese firms

Facebook reveals data-sharing partnerships, ties to Chinese firmsSocial network shared data with 52 firms, including Apple, Amazon, and Samsung
Press Trust of India Facebook has said it shared user data with 52 companies, including Chinese firms, weeks after it was reported that the social media giant formed data-sharing partnerships with cellphone makers, giving them access to details of users and their friends.

The social media giant’s acknowledgement came as a part of a more than 700-page document to the US House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The committee released the information publicly on Saturday, The Hill reported. Facebook yesterday revealed the partnerships shedding light on its behaviour related to customer data in the wake of a scandal involving the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, where data of 87 million people was improperly shared, it said. The list featured major tech companies such as Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry and Samsung. Other firms that featured on the list include Alibaba, Qualcomm and Pantech. But the list also includes four Chinese firms that US intelligence has flagged as national security threats — Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL.

Improving integrations
Facebook said it shared data with the companies in an effort to improve its integrations and user experience across platforms and devices, noting that its partnerships were established before smartphones running on Apple’s and Google’s high-powered operating systems were as ubiquitous as they are now, the report said.

“People went online using a wide variety of text-only phones, feature phones, and early smartphones with varying capabilities,” Facebook wrote.

“In that environment, the demand for internet services like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube outpaced our industry’s ability to build versions of our services that worked on every phone and operating system.”

Facebook said it has ended 38 of its 52 partnerships and will shut down those remaining by July.

It said in documents that its initial omission of the partnerships resulted because it had shifted its focus to data-sharing between apps created on its developer platform — the product area which had been implicated by Cambridge Analytica. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)
Draft Data Protection Bill ready, may be submitted this week

Draft Data Protection Bill ready, may be submitted this weekThe much-awaited data protection policy may soon come out as the recommendations on the draft Data Protection Bill are ready, and can be submitted to the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, any day within this week.
An expert Committee chaired by retired Supreme Court judge BN Srikrishna has prepared the recommendations. The Committee was set up in December to study various issues relating to data protection in India and make specific suggestions on principles to be considered for data protection and suggest a draft Data Protection Bill.

The objective was to ‘ensure growth of the digital economy while keeping personal data of citizens secure and protected.’
“The recommendations (on the draft policy) are ready and the Committee has asked a time from the Minister (Ravi Shankar Prasad) so that they can further discuss issues or clarifications, if any,” a senior government official told BusinessLine.
Sources close to the development said that if there are no further discussions, the draft may soon go to the Cabinet. The recommendations come at a time when there are a lot of issues and reports around data leakage, and harvesting of data of Indian citizens by social media sites.

The government has also recently said that it will not allow “fly-by-night” data mining firms to improperly harvest social media data of Indian citizens.

Facebook data leak
It has already slapped notices to the controversial, UK-based data mining firm Cambridge Analytica for improperly obtaining information from tens of millions of Facebook users globally, including in India and is awaiting its response.

The government sent another letter to Facebook on June 6, seeking explanation of the issue of data sharing without explicit consent through its platform.

According to experts, India needs a robust data protection policy so that such incidents do not occur in the future. A firm legal framework for data protection will be the foundation on which data-driven innovation and entrepreneurship can flourish in India.

According to the white paper on Data Protection Framework for India, fostering such innovation and entrepreneurship is essential if India is to lead its citizens and the world into a digital future committed to empowerment, experiment and equal access. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

New electronics policy soon: IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

New electronics policy soon: IT minister Ravi Shankar PrasadPrasad said that Common Service Centre have risen from 83,000 to 2, 91,000, while 89 BPOs have started operating in various states in a matter of 2.5 years.
The Digital India programme has transformed into a "mass movement" and the government will soon finalise a new electronics policy to build on the momentum, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said. It will also push ahead to meet the ambitious goal of increasing the size of India's digital economy to $1 trillion in the coming years. "We are soon going to finalise the new electronics policy whose sub-segment will be export-oriented initiatives in the field of electronics.

The idea is to make India a big hub of electronics manufacturing to serve domestic as well as outside markets," Prasad told PTI. In an interview, coinciding with the fourth anniversary of the Modi government, Prasad said the troika of 31 crore Jan Dhan accounts, 121 crore mobiles and biometroc identifier Aadhaar (dubbed JanDan-Aadhaar-Mobile or JAM trinity) for pushing welfare benefits and subsidies, have led to savings of Rs 90,000 crore.

"This is India for digital inclusion and if I juxtapose it on what Rajiv Gandhi had said about sending Re 1 from Delhi and 15 paise reaching on the ground ... in the Modi government Re 1 is sent and it reaches the bank account," Prasad said.

Highlighting the milestones on IT and electronics related initiatives, Prasad said that Common Service Centre have risen from 83,000 to 2,91,000, while 89 BPOs have started operating in various states in a matter of 2.5 years.

Production of mobile handsets in India too has seen an unprecedented growth, he said adding that almost 120 units manufacturing mobile handsets and components have been established in the country over the last three years.

"We will further accelerate this process and concretise the potential of India's digital economy to $1 trillion economy," Prasad said.

India is aspiring to become a $1 trillion digital economy in next few years, riding on opportunities in areas like IT and IT enabled services, e-commerce, electronics manufacturing, digital payments and cyber security.

"The common man has come to have a stake in the emerging digital ecosystem in the country," Prasad said underlining programs ranging from national scholarship portal to digital locker, and National Agriculture Market to eHospital. The government sees Digital India as being supported by "low cost technology" that is both developmental and inclusive, he added. (ETTelecom)

Digital exposure to help midsize IT companies post higher growth

Digital exposure to help midsize IT companies post higher growthMidsize Indian IT services companies may post steady growth on the back of higher digital technology exposure, especially at a time when large companies are projected to have cautious forecast, said analysts. While some of the mid-cap IT firms have registered strong growth in the past couple of quarters, analysts have said they would continue to see higher revenue growth fuelled by digital deals.

Mid-size companies in the engineering and R&D space are likely to continue to post higher growth.

“Higher digital (technology) exposure and less legacy (software maintenance, technology infrastructure management) services compared with the larger companies are really translating into higher growth,” said Apurva Prasad, IT analyst, HDFC Securities. Companies such as MindtreeNSE 0.64 %, Zensar garner more than one-third of their revenue from digital technology services.
Another key growth driver for these companies is the client metric.

Prasad said, while the large clients for the mid-cap IT companies are growing faster, large accounts or deals for bigger IT companies have seen enough technology disruption and many of them re-oriented technology spending to drive internal innovation.

“Large contracts for large companies are worth nearly $100-200 million unlike the large deals for mid-cap firms that are valued at $25-30 million.” “Mid-tier companies will report 2-3% constant currency revenue growth sequentially despite seasonal weakness. Growth will be buoyed with share gains in existing large clients and benefits of large deals signed in the past 6-9 months,” Kawaljeet Saluja, analyst with brokerage Kotak Institutional Equities, said in a report.

Companies such as Mindtree, NIIT Tech, Zensar and others are likely to see continued growth momentum with the exception of Persistent Systems, which had warned that a shortfall in intellectual property (IP) revenue would affect its growth and margins in the fourth quarter.

Brokerage Edelweiss Securities had noted that while a drop in IP revenue was expected because of seasonal weakness in IBM’s Alliance business, the $8-million miss is much higher than anticipated due to revenue ramp-down in one of its IP products. “Growth recovery in Mindtree (4.4% QoQ reported) and NITEC (3.4%) should continue; we expect a 4.4% QoQ decline for Persistent Systems post the recent business update citing a shortfall in IP revenues,” wrote Pankaj Kapoor and Akash Verma of JM Financial.

“The momentum is likely to remain strong in the ER&D space; we estimate organic US-dollar revenue growth of 2.3% and 6.9% for L&T Technology Services and Cyient,” Kapoor and Verma said. Shares of Mindtree, Zensar and HexawareNSE -0.80 % have risen over 20% in value over the past three months, in step with the overall rise in midcap stocks.

Analysts had said that the outlook for smaller, under-scale companies are bleak and said consolidation was the only cure. Since then, some of the companies have brought in PE backers — Zensar and Hexaware — or merged with others to create specialisation, as with KPIT and BirlaSoft. (Source: Economic Times)

Wi-Fi provider MarcaTel opens centre in Bengaluru

Wi-Fi provider MarcaTel opens centre in BengaluruMarcaTel, a provider of Wi-Fi connectivity in public spaces, has opened its first centre in Bengaluru and is planning to create 2,000 jobs this year. MarcaTel installs towers that allow Wi-Fi access in a fixed radius and also maintains these towers. It is a division of LaMarca Knowledge and Services, which has a tie-up with BLUETOWN India, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Denmark-based BLUETOWN. MarcaTel‘s solution comes with three antennas, a base transceiver station and a power supply unit.

“The centre would cater to the needs of South India,” said Narayanan Rajagopalan, President, LaMarca Group. MarcaTel has bagged four retail commercial orders from Karnataka.Further, the company plans to install 1,000 such towers this year, as the need for internet access goes up in urbal and rural areas. MarcaTel will hire people in sales, marketing, engineering and customer support functions. “We have opened a 50-seat call centre and plan to employ 200 there,” Rajagopalan added.

Wi-Fi networks use radio waves that are deployed within unlicensed spectrum over the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) and 5GHz frequency bands to connect to a wireless access point, which directly connects to the internet. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Income Tax panel refuses to stay Rs 110 crore tax demand on Flipkart

Income Tax panel refuses to stay Rs 110 crore tax demand on Flipkart An income tax panel refused to stay a demand of Rs 110 crore on Flipkart, India's largest online retailing platform, after it was asked to reclassify discounts and marketing spend as capital expenditure. This may have implications for rival Amazon, which faces a similar liability, and others.

The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) in Bengaluru asked Flipkart to deposit Rs 55 crore and provide bank guarantees to the tune of Rs 55 crore by February 28. While the tax assessed is for 2015-16, similar demands may be made for subsequent years. Hearings will continue after February 28.

Currently, companies categorise discounts and marketing costs as revenue expenses, while spending on factory construction is categorised as capital expenditure. If discounts are classified as capital expenditure, Flipkart, which otherwise incurs a loss, becomes a profit-making entity and liable to pay domestic taxes.

Taxi-hailing companies Uber and Ola follow a similar model of offering discounts to consumers, although there is no such tax demand on them.

The revenue authorities demanded taxes of about Rs 110 crore on an estimated profit of Rs 408 crore for the financial year 2015-16, when Flipkart originally reported a loss of Rs 796 crore. ETwas the first to report on the tax demand on September 2 and later the loss of an appeal to the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) on January 22.

Flipkart approached the appellate tribunal in February and pleaded that the tax demand be stayed because it would cause "financial hardships for the company". The tribunal refused its plea on the ground that prima facie, there was no financial hardship.

Flipkart didn't respond to queries. The issue involves money spent by ecommerce companies on marketing through deep discounts offered to consumers. Flipkart, Amazon and other ecommerce companies classify the discounts as marketing expenses and deduct it from revenue, thereby posting a loss and not being liable to pay tax.

"Discounts are a function of business and are given for various reasons including expansion of business and market conditions," said Ketan Dalal, managing partner at Katalyst Advisors.

"Categorising discounts as capital expenditure is inconsistent with business realities. Tax has to be paid on income and that is obviously post-discount." Experts expect similar tax demands on startups including Amazon, Ola, Uber and Snapdeal. The income tax department's stand is that and large marketing costs are part of brand building.

"These discounts, along with huge marketing and advertising expenses, are creating market intangibles for the company," a tax official said. "This means these are not costs, but capital for the company."

Some experts said ecommerce companies including Flipkart and Amazon are online marketplaces and brand loyalty is not a factor. The discounts offered on products that vendors sell online on Flipkart and Amazon are typically reimbursed by ecommerce companies.

"To say that discounts are capital expenditure since they result in enduring benefit may be a little farfetched," said Amit Maheshwari, partner at Ashok Maheshwary & Associates LLP. "In this industry, discounts are necessary to survive and typically do not result in any enduring benefit to these companies."

Earlier cases have set a precedent in this matter, with the courts holding that the tax department cannot put itself in the shoes of an industrialist in determining the quantum of an expense that needs to be incurred, said Sanjay Sanghvi, partner (tax) at law firm Khaitan & Co.

"If the tax department starts treating discounts or marketing spend as capital expenditure/brand building capex, then several other businesses using similar business strategies could also come under the tax cloud," Sanghvi said.

While the current tax demand is for 2015-16, a senior Flipkart executive said similar demands may be raised for other financial years. "We expect the tax department to maintain the same stand for financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18," he said.

Reclassifying discounts or marketing costs could alter the way companies record their income and expenses. (Source: Economic Times)

Facebook may have over 200 mn fake or duplicate accounts globally

Facebook may have over 200 mn fake or duplicate accounts globallyAs many as 200 million accounts on Facebook are either fake or duplicate as on end December 2017 and India is among the countries which have a high number of such accounts, the social networking site said.
“In the fourth quarter of 2017, we estimate that duplicate accounts may have represented approximately 10 per cent of our worldwide MAUs (Monthly Active Users),” Facebook said in its latest annual report. “We believe the percentage of duplicate accounts is meaningfully higher in developing markets such as India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, as compared to more developed markets,” the report said.

As of December 31, 2017, the social networking site had 2.13 billion MAUs, an increase of 14 per cent from December 31, 2016. Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.86 billion as of December 31, 2016 with six per cent or 114 million “duplicate accounts”.
Users in India, Indonesia, and Vietnam represented key sources of growth in 2017, relative to the same period in 2016, it said.
Worldwide Daily Active Users increased by 14 per cent to 1.40 billion on average during December 2017 from 1.23 billion during December 2016. “Users in India, Indonesia, and Brazil represented key sources of growth in DAUs during December 2017, relative to the same period in 2016,” Facebook said.

A duplicate account is one that a user maintains in addition to his or her principal account. While “false” accounts have been divided into two categories—user-misclassified accounts, where users have created personal profiles for a business, organisation, or non-human entity such as a pet and undesirable accounts—which represent user profiles that the site determine are intended to be used for purposes that violate FB’s terms of service, such as spamming. “The estimates of duplicate and false accounts are based on an internal review of a limited sample of accounts and we apply significant judgement in making this determination,” it explained.
The estimation of duplicate or false accounts may not accurately represent the actual number of such accounts and in particular, duplicate accounts are very difficult to measure at scale, and it is possible that the actual number of duplicate accounts may vary significantly from the estimates, it clarified. (Source:The HinduBusiness Line)

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