The great Indian data rush

India needs to be relevant in the new world, where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to play a central role.

There has been a lot of discussion around how Google, WhatsApp (Facebook), and Amazon are aggressively entering the Indian tech landscape. Is what they are doing ‘capital dumping’, where they pour money into their India operations and in the process wipe out homegrown startups that simply don’t have that kind of capital?

And, what about our data?

Data is the new oil, and are we simply allowing them to plunder our precious resource – in this case data around the user behaviour of our own citizens – and run away with it? Didn’t China create its fabled tech ecosystem by blocking western tech imperialism? We have been an open society so far, should we re-evaluate that?

These are fair questions and the answers to them are not that obvious. The right way to approach this conundrum is to ask ourselves, what is it that we hope to achieve? What is our objective?

The objective is simple. India needs to be relevant in the new world, where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to play a central role. This will not only be in core technology, but everywhere technology is used. Which means, in practically every aspect of our lives.

From home security cameras, to how your smartphone interprets your voice to healthcare diagnosis, to cyber warfare and security, AI will be everywhere before you know it.

Not being a player in AI means being irrelevant in technology

China recognises this, and has set itself the goal of becoming a world leader in AI and add $150 billion to its economy by 2030. And it’s well on its way to achieve the same.

It also turns out, that in order to build AI systems, one needs data. Lots of it. And in the next coming decades, the country which will be generating mountains of data is India. As smartphone penetration tears through the roof, India will likely have twice as many smartphones as US by 2020. But where is this data captured?

Therein lies the catch. All of this data is whizzing its way, outside India, to the data centres and AI/ML models of Google, Facebook (which owns WhatsApp) and Amazon. Where it is being accessed and crunched by top-notch engineering talent in their AI research teams and research labs.

In addition to US, Google has opened AI research labs in Toronto, Montreal, Paris, London and Beijing. Notice, India is not in that list.

These AI labs are breeding grounds for talent and they are the seeds from which sprout new ideas, entrepreneurs, and the next big innovations in the tech economy.

In order to achieve the objective of being an AI powerhouse, India needs to have world-class AI labs. The companies in the best position to open such centres of excellence are Google, Facebook, and Amazon themselves. So, just barring them from operating in the country accomplishes little.

Under normal circumstances, with a fully unencumbered flow of data, these giants will gather their data in India, and harness the power of data wherever their top talent teams are. This is to be expected from normal, shareholder value maximising, public companies.

We need to enact practical policies that will result in Google and Co. investing in creating AI research labs in India. Let’s look at what some of those policies can be:

  • Data generated in India should remain geographically in India: This means Indian data will need to be hosted in data centres residing in India and cannot be freely transferred outside.
  • Data manipulation is done within India: This will require engineering talent to be resident in India that develops core technologies on top of the data repository.
  • Derived intelligence can be shared: This will enable the learning from the data to be shared globally and included in the next-gen products. This is a necessary incentive for companies to invest in research within India as it will make the global products better.
  • Drive government spending to spur AI research: This can be in the form of sponsored research in colleges and as contracts to private companies.

From an enforcement point of view, the government should rely less on policing but more on honourable conduct of companies to follow the law around data. Just like tax compliance, these can be periodically audited but the expectation is everyone follows the law.

Providing restrictions on entry or doing business in India for any of these companies is counter-productive. The big valley giants have spent billions in developing their infrastructure, people and processes. When they enter India, their best practices enter with them too.

Consider Amazon in ecommerce. We cannot underestimate the massive impact entry of Amazon has made to the SMB ecosystem in India. By introducing competition, it has made all existing players more aggressive in their offerings and by bringing its years of experience and best practices to India, Amazon is making the entire SMB supply chain more transparent, trustworthy, and productive. This ultimately benefits everyone in the ecosystem.

Not only does it increase revenues for an SMB, but it also encourages more honest and hardworking people to join the marketplace and start selling online, ultimately driving employment.

Yes, Flipkart has also had a positive impact on the SMBs, but there is no denying that the scale and scope of ecommerce has greatly increased with Amazon entering the fray. You don’t hear of bricks being shipped instead of phones anymore, and that makes for a more professional SMB.

Similarly, Uber and Ola together have transformed urban transport, yet the pace of innovation would have been a lot slower, investment a lot lesser, and total employment smaller, had we restricted the entry of Uber.

India’s objective should be to be a key player in the world of AI, that is built on the foundation of a data-rich economy. And invite the best and brightest in the world to invest in it. Making prudent policies that are fair, non-discriminatory and practical, around how data generated inside India is used, are central to that effort. The time to act is now.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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Cyberwarfare is taking to the skies, aboard drones

Uber uses a master algorithm to determine how much money its drivers make—and women are ending up with less.

The gap: In a study released today of over 1.8 million drivers on the platform, women were found to earn $1.24 per hour less than men. Women also earned $130 less per week on average, in part because they tend to drive fewer hours.

The cause: The study, which was carried out by researchers at Stanford and Uber and has not undergone peer review, attributed the difference in pay to fact that male Uber drivers:

—Are more likely to drive in higher-paying locations

—Drive faster

—Take on trips with shorter distances to the rider

—Chose to drive longer trips

All of these are variables in the formula Uber uses to calculate driver wages, and the study showed they all tilted in men’s favor (the study claims men earn $21.28 an hour, on average). Women also have higher turnover on the platform, and more experienced drivers tend to get higher pay.

Though it wasn’t covered in the study, one reason women may avoid higher-paying areas is that they don’t feel safe—they may opt not to drive late at night in certain places, for instance, or stay away from neighborhoods that are considered dangerous.

Closing the gap: The study shows there’s a persistent disparity in pay by gender, and Uber may have a hard time fixing it. Stanford economist Rebecca Diamond, one of the paper’s coauthors, says the researchers considered recommending taking speed out of the equation, for example. But as she says, “both riders and drivers would prefer to arrive at the destination sooner.”

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Critical trends to watch in 2018

ANOTHER new year has dawned, and it’s time to preview what to expect in 2018.

The most obvious topic would be to anticipate how Donald Trump, the most unorthodox of American presidents, would continue to upset the world order. But more about that later.

Just as importantly as politics, we are now in the midst of several social trends that have important long-term effects. Some are on the verge of reaching a tipping point, where a trend becomes a critical and sometimes irreversible event. We may see some of that in 2018.

Who would have expected that 2017 would end with such an upsurge of the movement against sexual harassment? Like a tidal wave it swept away Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, film star Kevin Spacey, TV interviewer Charlie Rose and many other icons.

The #MeToo movement took years to gather steam, with the 1991 Anita Hill testimony against then US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas being a trailblazer. It paved the way over many years for other women to speak up until the tipping point was reached. So, in 2018, expect the momentum to continue, and in more countries.

Another issue that has been brewing is the rapid growth and effects of digital technology. Those enjoying the benefits of the smartphone, Google search, WhatsApp, Uber and online shopping usually sing its praises.

But the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It has many benefits but also serious downsides, and the debate is now picking up.

First, automation with artificial intelligence can make many jobs redundant. Uber displaced taxis, and will soon displace its drivers with driver-less cars.

The global alarm over job losses is resonating at home. An International Labour Organisation report warning that 54% of jobs in Malaysia are at high risk of being displaced by technology in the next 20 years was cited by Khazanah Research Institute in its own study last April. TalentCorp has estimated that 43% of jobs in Malaysia may potentially be lost to automation.

Second is a recent chorus of warnings, including by some of digital technology’s creators, that addiction and frequent use of the smartphone are making humans less intelligent and socially deficient.

Third is the loss of privacy as personal data collected from Internet use is collected by tech companies like Facebook and sold to advertisers.

Fourth is the threat of cyber-fraud and cyber-warfare as data from hacked devices can be used to empty bank accounts, steal information from governments and companies, and as part of warfare.

Fifth is the worsening of inequality and the digital divide as those countries and people with little access to digital devices, including small businesses, will be left behind.

The usual response to these points is that people and governments must be prepared to get the benefits and counter the ill effects. For example, laid-off workers should be retrained, companies taught to use e-commerce, and a tax can be imposed on using robots (an idea supported by Bill Gates).

But the technologies are moving ahead faster than policy makers’ capacity to keep track and come up with policies and regulations. Expect this debate to move from conference rooms to the public arena in 2018, as more technologies are introduced and more effects become evident.

On climate change, scientists frustrated by the lack of action will continue to raise the alarm that the situation is far worse than earlier predicted.

In fact, the tipping point may well have been reached already. On Dec 20, the United Nations stated that the Arctic has been forever changed by the rapidly warming climate. The Arctic continued in 2017 to warm at double the rate of the global temperature increase, resulting in the loss of sea ice.

These past three years have been the warmest on record. The target of limiting temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, a benchmark just two years ago by the UN’s top scientific climate panel and the Paris Agreement, seems outdated and a new target of 1.5°C could be adopted in 2018.

But it is much harder to meet this new target. Will political leaders and the public rise to the challenge, or will 2018 see a wider disconnect between what needs to be done, and a lack of the needed urgent response?

Another issue reaching tipping point is the continuing rise of antibiotic resistance, with bacteria mutating to render antibiotics increasingly ineffective to treat many diseases. There are global and national efforts to contain this crisis, but not enough, and there is little time left to act before millions die from once-treatable ailments.

Finally, back to Trump. His style and policies have been disruptive to the domestic and global order, but last year he seemed unconcerned about criticisms on this. So we can expect more of the same or even more shocking measures in 2018.

Opposition to his policies from foreign countries will not count for much. But there are many in the American establishment who consider him a threat to the American system.

Will 2018 see the opposition reach a tipping point to make a significant difference? It looks unlikely. But like many other things in 2018, nothing is reliably predictable.

  • Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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Autonomy Warfare

Cyber warfare gets a lot of press these days—if it isn’t the Chinese stealing millions of U.S. Federal personnel records, it’s the Russians breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters email, the North Koreans hacking Sony or unnamed hackers cracking Uber’s servers. You can’t open a website or change the channel without hearing about more cyber horrors, but are we really picking up on the whole cyber warfare game? Is there more to it than hackers in dark rooms stealing passwords and cracking into Wall Street servers? I think there is. I think our major adversaries are playing the long game and have a plan to not only dominate the digital world, but to use our own technology—and freedoms—against us. And it’s about to get worse as the world switches from human controlled operations to autonomy. Drones will see the first wave of what I call autonomy warfare.

The Superpowers

This new type of warfare is producing new types of superpowers. Just having nuclear weapons doesn’t get you into the new superpower club. Cyber capacity is the deciding factor. Countries with the best (and most) coders, the most extensive cyber production capability, the best cyber infrastructure and best regulatory environment are the new superpowers. Using these measures, the United States and People’s Republic of China are the sole cyber superpowers. True, the Commonwealth nations (particularly the UK and India), Western Europeans, Israelis and Russians are formidable cyber powers, but all lack the massive numbers of coders, computer engineers, available capital and, most importantly, cyber industrial capacity to be true cyber superpowers.

The United States remains the top superpower—for now. We became a cyber superpower much like we dominated the world back when military power and industrial capacity determined superpower status—by using American innovation to drive a free market economy largely free of government regulation. The fiercely competitive American market, not its government, drove nearly all the growth in America’s cyber power. True, the American military and intelligence community did make major breakthroughs—DARPA invented internet protocol messaging; up until the mid 1990s the world’s faster supercomputer title was a race between the U.S. National Security Agency and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (the two also contest who invented the computer). However, the free market left the government in the dust starting in the early 1980s. Mainframes were too bulky for American business, so Intel invented the microprocessor, Microsoft invented the operating system and IBM invented the personal computer. The internet may have worked for DARPA, but normal people could never access it until Mosaic improved on Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s “world wide web browser” and Cisco manufactured MIT’s “internet router” in massive numbers. Internet signals flashed over fiber optics invented by Corning Glass (based on British research). When cables became an encumbrance, internet traffic switched to Motorola’s “cellular phone” and then to “WiFi” built by AT&T (based on Australian research—I’m seeing a pattern here…).

What America didn’t do as they invented modern computing was to consider security from the start when developing these systems. To this day, Silicon Valley has successfully resisted most regulation, however sensible. As a result, we have an Internet that is impossible to secure and social media apps like Facebook that Russian intelligence can easily manipulate to spread propaganda.

How China Became a Superpower

American cyber achievements are impressive, but China started to catch up when cheap Chinese labor attracted the bulk of America’s cyber production capacity. China took a radically different approach from America in becoming a cyber superpower. Whereas the U.S. let the market guide cyber development, China used government guidance supported by their intelligence community to leapfrog ahead by outright stealing code, convincing American companies to manufacturer in China, strategically acquiring American cyber companies and using America’s own massive university system to train their computer scientists and engineers. Unlike America’s market based system, most moves made by China are government directed and supported by the full power of the state. China has done an impressive job of catching up with America in a short time.

China actively uses America’s free market system against the United States. Few American students could attend Chinese universities for cyber education (assuming they’d want to). According to the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of doctoral degrees in engineering and 53 percent of doctoral degrees in computer and information sciences went to foreigners in 2012-13. More than half of these foreign students were Chinese. Few countries on earth would have permitted the bulk of their chip and memory manufacturing to move to a foreign country (let alone an adversary country) because production costs were lower, but America did. Intel Corp is the last remaining company that has major chip manufacturing in America. The United States could never direct an American company to buy a foreign company to acquire technology to advance the American cyber industrial base, but China does it routinely. Remember that IBM personal computer invention I mentioned earlier? The Chinese company Lenovo now owns it.

The Road to the Cyber Wars

We’re about to see a replay of the early 21st Century cyber wars as the world switches to autonomous systems and drones will be the first battlefield. Again, this is a technology pioneered by the United States (and its close ally, Israel). Israel developed the first modern drone, the Scout, in the late 1970s and used it to massacre the Syrian Air Force over the Bekka Valley in 1983. A dual Israeli/American citizen developed the first beyond line of sight drone, the MQ-1, in the late 1990s and the U.S. Air Force used it to gut Al Qaida after 9/11. Northrup Grumman made the first nearly autonomous drone, the RQ-4 Global Hawk, in the early 2000s.

What America did NOT do is dominate the consumer and commercial drone market, largely because of their failure to provide sensible civil drone regulations. That hasn’t stopped China from dominating the limited markets where American regulations allow drones to fly. China’s DJI commands between 70 and 90% of the consumer/prosumer market in the U.S. China’s Yuneec is a distant second followed by France’s Parrot (all of which are manufactured in China). China is equally active in shaping the development of American drone regulations and standards. DJI is the co-chair of the FAA’s Drone Advisory Council and has been invited to every FAA drone aviation rulemaking committee convened so far. DJI is a reliable and active member of every major ASTM and RTCA drone standards committee. DJI also uses its considerable market influence to shape the American unmanned traffic management (UTM) system. American UTM providers know they can’t risk alienating DJI or they risk getting cut off from DJI’s systems.

If you think all this activity is merely economic, I suggest you re-read the paragraphs above on cyber warfare. Penetrating every aspect of America’s first autonomous systems is probably a major goal of the Chinese and a first shot in the autonomy wars.

The Threat to Security

Autonomous systems implemented badly are a major security risk to any country. Unlike manned systems, there are no humans in the loop and autonomous systems can be hacked and repurposed to do relatively passive tasks like espionage or active tasks like purposefully crashing. To use an example before the autonomous age, if the Nazis wanted to steal the RAF’s Spitfire design and manufacture it, they would have to steal hundreds of paper blueprints, spend months retooling factory presses and years manufacturing their ill-gotten analog aircraft. Pilot training would have taken years. Autonomous aircraft designs exist as CAD drawings that can be instantly transferred to manufacturing robots or 3-D printers. Pilot training isn’t an issue. Simply steal flight algorithms while hacking the CAD drawings. A modern adversary can hack their way into a first class autonomous Air Force in months or weeks—not years.

Or adversaries can cause havoc by re-purposing existing autonomous military and commercial drones. Autonomous drones are particularly vulnerable to autonomy warfare. Drones require a data link to function and their ground control stations are often connected to the Internet directly. Most commercial drones will connect with a UTM, introducing another attack vector for autonomy warfare. The Americans are once again minimally regulating drones to allow market forces maximum flexibility to drive innovation. Drones less than 55 lbs don’t require airworthiness standards and standards for larger drones are still in their infancy. America appears poised to repeat their mistakes from the early age of cyber warfare.

There is, however, considerable hope for drone security at the dawn of the autonomy age. There are large numbers of consumer drones in the U.S., but not large numbers of commercial drones—yet. The FAA decided not to impose security requirements on drones less than 55 lbs flown within visual line of sight, but they haven’t decided how to regulate large drones or small drones that fly beyond line of sight. UTM is in its infancy and it’s not too late to add viable security standards. Perhaps most importantly, the FAA hasn’t issued regulatory guidance for UAS remote identification, operations over people, beyond line of sight, large UAS or even autonomous operations themselves. There’s still time to put their foot down and recognize that industry will resist security regulation. There’s still time to recognize that China is playing the long game and will do what they can to shape our regulations to make it easier for them to win at autonomy warfare.

Will the FAA step up and recognize that cyber security is key to aviation safety in the autonomy age? Will they stand up to industry and write sensible security standards into airworthiness standards and regulations? They didn’t hesitate to dictate bird impact standards to airline manufacturers. Will they do the same for a much, much larger threat to aviation safety?

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Check out the Biggest Hacks of 2017

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2017 has been a year filled with major ups and downs in the digital world. While technology seems to be rocketing sky-high with various kinds of smartphones and smart-cars, it does not mean that these are happy times. This year has shown us how the same technology that gives us so much, takes away more than what we bargained for- our privacy. Therefore, we bring you the list of the biggest hacks of 2017 to make you aware of how technology not only gives power, but also cripples us.

biggest-hacks-of-2017

This year has shown us how the same technology that gives us so much, takes away more than what we bargained for- our privacy.

List of the Biggest Hacks of 2017

Shadow Brokers

The group: Shadow Brokers is a group that leaks gigabytes of NSA’s weaponized software exploits.

What was compromised? 300MB of materials was stolen from the National Security Agency (NSA). Leaks included vulnerabilities of Windows OS, along with Windows 8, Windows 2012, and a tool named Fuzzbunch that loads binaries into targeted networks.

Is it very bad? According to the Independent security experts, this particular data breach was the most damaging release of Shadow Brokers.

WannaCry

The Virus: This ransomware was used to lock down an infected computer’s files. People were asked to pay a ransom in order to get access to their files and folders.

How many victims? More than 200,000 people over 150 countries were victims.

Compromised places: Ukraine, Taiwan, and Russia. Apart from them, hospitals in U.K., universities in China and international firms like FedEx were also victim to this attack.

WikiLeaks Vault 7

What’s WikiLeaks? WikiLeaks is a “not-for-profit media organization,” launched for the purposes of distributing original documents from anonymous sources.

So what’s Vault 7? It’s a string of documents that gives a detail description about the activities of the CIA and their plans on electric surveillance and cyber warfare.

And what’s gonna be compromised? Web browsers that include Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera Software ASA, and Mozilla Firefox. Apart from that there are cars, smart TVs, and smartphones that work on iOS, Android and Microsoft which they might make use of.

Cloudbleed

What’s the Bug all about? It’s a security bug that affected the reverse proxies of Cloudflare. It was used to run past the buffer and retract memory containing private information.

What kind of data could be obtained? Personal information on the HTTP cookies, HTTP POST bodies, authentication tokens, and more of such sensitive data.

What’s more? The customer’s data was leaked out and would go to another Cloudfare customer who was in the server’s memory. Some data was also cached by a few search engines.

198 Million Voters record exposed

Wait, what? Around 198 million people’s voter records were stolen which included personal information as well as the voter’s profiling data.

Where was the Data stored? The data of the U.S. voters was stored in an Amazon S3 storage server called Deep Root Analytics which is owned by a Republican data analytics firm.

How big is it? It is considered to be the largest known exposure of voters information until now.

Freedom Hosting II

What’s the hack? With a single hack, around 20 per cent of the websites on the dark web were taken offline alongside the responsible publishing details of the administrators.

What’s the reason? The attack took place after one hacker claimed that a lot of the hacked websites hosted child pornography.

Imgur data breach

So what’s Imgur? Imgur is a popular image-sharing app. The data breach took place in 2014, but the reports were made public this year.

How big was it? The site revealed that around 1.7 million email addresses and passwords were lost by them in the breach.

Is it scary? Nope. It should be less of a concern because the site only collects mails ids and passwords. The statement suggested that the hackers could have decrypted the stolen credentials using brute force attack.

Uber hack

What’s Uber got into now? In October 2016, Uber’s data got hacked. Uber kept it under wraps until finally this November, they came out in the public.

How bad was it? Personal data of around 57 million customers and drivers was stolen.

Whoa! What’s more? Uber paid around $100,000 to the hackers to delete and get rid of the stolen data. They also requested them not to make it open to the public.

Deloitte hack

What’s the company about? The company is an accounting giant which has very influential and wealthy clients.

Who were caught in the loop? The U.S. Dept. of state, energy, defence, and homeland security, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Postal Service, Fifa, 3 airlines, 4 global banks, energy giants, pharmaceutical companies, car manufacturers, Deloitte’s U.S. staff and their communication with the clients, etc. Phew!

How did the hackers get so much? The hackers used the administrator’s account which gave them access to their complete list of database.

Equifax hack

Is it bad? Equifax is a consumer credit reporting agency that collects information of around 800 million individual consumers and millions of businesses worldwide.

What got stolen? It has been said that this is the worst data breach in the history of United States. Half of the U.S population’s Social Security numbers were stolen by the attackers.

That’s huge! It is being referred to as the mother of all hacks.

DaFont hack

What’s DaFont? It’s a well-known source for free fonts on the web. It offers 32,000 fonts for free.

Let’s talk numbers! A total of 699,464 users’ accounts and passwords were stolen. The hacker was able to crack over 98 per cent of the passwords. The breach was carried out by an unknown hacker.

How did he do it? He said that it was easy to get access as he made use of a ‘union-based SQL injection vulnerability in their software and cracked the hashed passwords, which were encrypted by deprecated MD5 algorithm.

And although the list goes on and on, we stop here by giving you the biggest hacks of 2017 that not only shook a country but ended up affecting the world as a whole. Nothing seems to be personal or private once a person starts making use of the internet. This year has shown us how technology takes away more from us than what it gives us in return.

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North Korea’s Cyber Capability

It has been confirmed that North Korean hackers stole US-South Korea military plans last year.

Editor’s Remarks: A South Korean lawmaker announced that the cyber attack, which occurred last year, led to North Korea obtaining copies of a plan hatched by the US and South Korea to take out Kim Jong-un. While North Korea is commonly thought of as technologically backward, the fact that the rogue state was able to access highly-classified documents reveals that they have a strong capacity for cyber warfare. Recent North Korean hacks having included attacks on bitcoin exchanges following the recent imposition of fresh UN sanctions upon the nation. Evidently, North Korea’s cyber potential has significantly improved in the four short years since the infamous attack on Sony for its production of “The Interview”.

Madrid Demands Clarity from Catalonia

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy declared that the regional government must decide whether or not to declare independence.

Editor’s Remarks: After Catalan President Carles Puigdemont suspended the region’s declaration of independence on Tuesday, Madrid has stated it requires clarity on the matter. Article 155 of the Spanish constitution gives Madrid the power to remove Catalonian autonomy and seize control of the region, though this has never before been exercised. It appears that Puigdemont has deliberately obfuscated his government’s official position, preferring to speak in ambiguous terms about independence in recent days, in order to avoid Rajoy from triggering Article 155 and plunging the nation deeper into a constitutional crisis.

Childhood Obesity up 1000% in 40 Years

A study by the World Health Organisation and Imperial College examined the BMI data for 31.5m children.

Editor’s Remarks: As economies have grown more affluent, the number of obese children has increased to 124m worldwide, meaning that the number of overweight children in the world is about to overtake the number of underweight ones. The world’s highest child obesity rates are found in Polynesia and Micronesia, while in the US has around 20% of girls and boys are obese. Meanwhile, obesity levels are significantly lower in western Europe, where around 7-10% of children are classed as obese.

Uber Puts its Cards on the Table

The beleaguered ride-hailing giant said it would ‘exert more control’ over drivers if UK law changed.

Editor’s Remarks: Following Uber’s ban in London, company representatives said that if the UK required its drivers to be classed as employees with benefits, sweeping internal changes would be made. The comments have been interpreted as a sign that Uber may alter its labour model in the UK following the recent regulatory scrutiny. As such, Uber could become more akin to a private-hire car service, which dictate where and when drivers operate. However, since many of Uber’s UK drivers say that the main boon of working for the company is flexibility, they might not welcome the suggestions.

Alibaba Sets aside $15bn for “Moonshots”

The Chinese e-commerce giant will double R&D to double down on artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing.

Editor’s Remarks: The company’s R&D spend will increase to $15bn over the next three years in order to drive its business through the development of next-generation technology. The new plans will add 100 scientists housed in cutting-edge research laboratories, where they will focus help Alibaba keep up with its rivals Tencent and Amazon, to its existing network of 25,000 engineers. Furthermore, the company’s renewed efforts reflect Chinese state policy, which sets out the ambition that the country should aspire to become a world leader in AI.

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Oracle gets targeted in gender-pay-gap lawsuit; Facebook’s Zuckerberg apologizes

Top of the Order:

Lawyer Up: Well, as if Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison didn’t have enough on his plate already…

Late Sunday, Ellison used the stage at the start of the Oracle OpenWorld conference to show off the company’s new Database 18c, a new, cloud-based database product that Ellison said will do whatever Amazon’s Web Services can do, but at less than half the cost of Amazon’s offerings. Ellison even went so far as to say that Oracle is in a state of “cyber warfare” with Amazon.

But, Amazon isn’t the only rival Oracle is having to face today.

Three female former engineers have filed suit against Oracle, charging the business-software giant with gender discrimination on the grounds that they were paid less than male co-workers in similar positions at the company. The lawsuit, filed by former engineers Rong Jewett, Sophy Wang and Xian Murray, was originally filed in San Mateo County Superior Court in June, then amended in late August.

Attorney James Finberg, of the San Francisco law firm Altshuler Berzon, is representing the plaintiffs. Finberg said he is seeking for the case to be elevated to class-action status.

“We’re in the discovery phase right now,” Finberg said in a telephone interview. He said he believes Oracle engaged in a “clear pattern” of behavior of paying female employees less than male counterparts.

“Oracle has known or should have known of this pay disparity between its female and male employees, yet Oracle has taken no action to equalize men and women’s pay for substantially equal or similar work,” the lawsuit said. “Oracle’s failure to pay female employees the same wage rates paid to male employees for substantially equal or similar work has been and is willful.”

Oracle didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the lawsuit. Whether the case receives class-action treatment remains to be seen. In the meantime, Oracle’s lawyers could be putting in some overtime down in Redwood City.

Middle Innings:

He’s Sorry: It looks like Yom Kippur, the period of atonement for Jewish people, had an effect on Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, who late Saturday posted on Facebook that he was sorry for “the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together.” Zuckerberg did not mention directly complaints about any role Facebook may have had in the spreading of “fake news” in the last year, but his apology also came as Facebook handed over 3,000 Russian-linked ads to Congress amid a probe of Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Bottom of the Lineup:

How Many Legs Left?: This year will be one for the books, to say the least, for former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Being forced to resign from the top job at the ride-sharing company he co-founded would have been enough of a black eye. Now, Kalanick is facing a vote from Uber’s board of directors, who on Tuesday are set to decide on measures designed to strip Kalanick of much of his remaining power as an Uber board member and shareholder.

Quote of the Day: “You take it on faith/You take it to the heart/The waiting/Is the hardest part.” — From “The Waiting” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Petty was reportedly near death Monday at the age of 66 after he was found unconscious and in full cardiac arrest at his Malibu home.

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7.31.17: Your morning briefing

Welcome to the PaymentsSource Morning Briefing, delivered daily. The information you need to start your day, including top headlines from PaymentsSource and around the Web:

Cards for cars: Uber and Lyft are both working on credit cards, reports Fox Business, with Uber’s likely to be in circulation by the fall. The news site had more information on Uber’s plans, reporting Barclaycard will be the issuer of a Visa-branded card. The card is expected to be co-branded, open, and usable for other kinds of purchases. Uber’s rival, Lyft, is also working on its own card, sources told Fox Business. While Uber has faced some controversy recently, it remains one of the most recognizable brands in the rapidly expanding “app economy” or mobile-driven businesses that rely on contract workers. This growth is attracting collaboration with more traditional companies. American Express, for example, has scored with its marketing partnership with Uber, a deal that Fox business reports has boosted Uber rides per card.

Bloomberg News

Biggest U.K. payments change in a half century: The U.K. Payment Strategy Forum has produced a plan to construct a new “National Payments Architecture,” reports Law360, which says it would be the most radical change to the national payment system since the 1960s. The forum’s mission is to plan an evolution that will encourage more competition and innovation in the British payments market, with plans in place to introduce new data standards, security and other measures to increase transaction speed. The organization will review feedback over the next six months and by the end of 2017 it will deliver a final blueprint for implementation. The U.K. Payment Strategy Forum was formed two years ago and has expanded to about 650 people representing organizations covering consumer groups, businesses, government agencies, payment system operators, payment service providers and financial technology companies.

Blockchain collaboration grows: The open source blockchain development consortium Hyperledger has been gradually adding members such as American Express over the past year, and more recently added 10 new organizations. The growth comes as the group introduces a new blockchain framework, Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 that’s part of the group’s goal of building blockchain uses for finance, banking, payments, Internet of Things, supply chain, manufacturing and technology. Its new members include ANNE, Beijing RZXT Technology Development, Capgemini Financial Services, New H3C Technologies, Revelry Labs, Smart Link Labs and TradeIX. Other new members joined as Associates, a category for nonprofits and government entities, including the Accord Project, Tecnalia Research & Innovation and the University of Luxembourg.

Amazon in a box: While Amazon is encroaching on traditional retail and supermarkets, it’s also attempting to improve its core businesses of e-commerce, fulfillment and delivery. Amazon has introduced a new delivery box for apartment buildings that will also accept packages from other companies, according to TechCrunch. Called The Hub, it’s an expansion of the existing Amazon Locker service, which provides delivery stations in public places and stores that are designed to make delivery more efficient, and are also being used to boost foot traffic in bank branches at BBVA. The apartment boxes could also be a competitive play against Walmart’s attempt to build a similar service in New York. Jet.com, Walmart’s e-commerce unit, is collaborating with Latch to deploy a delivery system for New York apartment buildings that don’t have doormen.

From the Web

Google’s new program to track shoppers sparks a federal privacy complaint

The Washington Post | Sun Jul 30, 2017 – A prominent privacy rights watchdog is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate a new Google advertising program that ties consumers’ online behavior to their purchases in brick-and-mortar stores. The legal complaint from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, to be filed with the FTC on Monday, alleges that Google is newly gaining access to a trove of highly sensitive information — the credit and debit card purchase records of the majority of U.S. consumers — without revealing how they got the information or giving consumers meaningful ways to opt out. Moreover, the group claims that the search giant is relying on a secretive technical method to protect the data — a method that should be audited by outsiders and is likely vulnerable to hacks or other data breaches.

Pushing globe into easy pay mode

China Daily | Mon Jul 31, 2017 – WeChat Pay expands internationally to catch up with, and possibly overtake, market leader Alipay. WeChat Pay, the mobile payment tool developed by internet major Tencent Holdings Ltd, is accelerating overseas expansion as it narrows the gap with first-mover Alipay in China’s red-hot digital payment arena. In its latest endeavor, the company has applied for a license in Malaysia to offer local payment services via the app. If it is approved, the license would allow local users to link their local bank accounts to WeChat Pay and make payment in the local currency, the Malaysian ringgit.

Mobile payments are in, cash and card nearly out

China Daily | Mon Jul 31, 2017 – According to market research firm Analysys, China’s third-party mobile payment providers accounted for transactions worth 18 trillion yuan ($2.66 trillion) in the first quarter of 2017, up about 47 percent quarter-on-quarter. Analysys estimates China’s mobile payment market will account for transactions worth 100 trillion yuan by 2019. “Growth of mobile payment tools is faster than that of any other payment models. The trend indicates that mobile payments will become the mainstream payment model across China in the near future,” said Zhou Yuedong, vice-president of the credit card division of ICBC, the country’s largest lender.

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Just because you think something isn’t broken doesn’t mean it’s not. In fact, it may be costing your company millions of dollars annually while running smoothly.

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Visa’s recent leading of a $25 million investment round in Marqeta is an unusual move for the card network, which has most recently focused its investments in merchant acquiring technology companies.

Starbucks reaches a new milestone: 30% of payments are mobile

Starbucks has hit a mobile payments milestone, with 30% of all U.S. transactions now coming through mobile, and to smooth operations surrounding its popular Mobile Order & Pay service, the company is introducing digital-ordering specialists at its busiest stores.

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A task force convened by the Federal Reserve has released its evaluations of 16 proposals to build a faster U.S. payment system. The plans were judged by the task force’s consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., based on how well they satisfied 36 criteria related to speed, security and other attributes.

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