Facebook to buy back additional $9 billion of shares

A picture illustration shows a Facebook logo reflected in a person’s eye, in Zenica, March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) will buy back an additional $9 billion of its shares, as it looks to pacify investors following a slump in its stock.

The social media giant’s shares, which have tumbled more than 22 percent this year, rose nearly 1 percent in extended trading.

The new program is in addition to a share buyback plan of up to $15 billion announced by the company last year.

Facebook is being investigated by lawmakers in Britain after consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked on Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential campaign, obtained personal data of 87 million Facebook users from a researcher.

Concerns over the social media giant’s practices, the role of political adverts and possible foreign interference in the 2016 Brexit vote and U.S. elections are among the topics being investigated by British and European regulators.

Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

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This Is the Most Riotously Insane Thing About the Massive Marriott Data Breach You're Likely to Hear

Not to worry, Yahoo, you still had the largest data breach in corporate history, at 3 billion records. But at 500 million, Marriott is a strong second, and maybe should be first.

That’s because of the nature of the data that went out the door for about 327 million of the people who had stayed at a Starwood property on or before September 10, 2018. (And starting in 2014, because that’s how long it’s been since someone first broke into the system.)

The data included some combination of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, Starwood Preferred Guest (“SPG”) account information, birth date, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, communication preferences, and passport number.

Passport number? Yup. They kept them on file. And an undisclosed number of encrypted payment card numbers, expirations dates, and maybe–Marriott’s really not quite sure–enough information to let someone crack the encryption.

Yes, this is really, really bad.

Oh, and TechCrunch also noted the the claim that Russian cybercriminals got into the Starwood servers. It can’t keep getting worse, right?

You know the answer.

Marriott’s promised email notifications to affected customers will come from a fake-ish looking email address, as TechCrunch noted, and one that could be easily spoofed by people who want to cause even more damage. In other words, beware of phishing hacks that stand on the back of Marriott’s efforts to address the terrible position it’s put so many customers into.

And now we come around to the latest insanity. As part of its response, Marriott set up a website that ultimately points you to a third party service that “monitors internet sites where personal information is shared and generates an alert to the consumer if evidence of the consumer’s personal information is found.”

The third party running the service, corporate investigations and risk management firm Kroll, of course is going to need information from you to see if it pops up on the dark web. Here is what they might want, directly from their website:

  • name, address, phone number, and e-mail address
  • date of birth, driver’s license number, social security number, passport number, and other similar information
  • copies of government-issued photo identification, Social Security card and/or utility bill(s), where applicable
  • credit card number and other financial account data, including your consumer credit file(s), as applicable
  • your responses to security questions; the information you provide in customer service correspondence; and general feedback

You’re going to have to cough up enough information to see if they can match it to anything on the dark web. You’ll have to trust that everything will be fine. Which is what you did with Marriott in the first place.

Fat lot of good that did almost half the country.

How does this keep happening? As I explained in a piece over at Vice Motherboard, it all comes down to economics. The ultimate penalties big companies pay are so infrequent and small in comparison to their revenues that it becomes something just as easy to ignore. The millions of dollars you may hear about as the cost of a data breach is significantly smaller than a rounding error in accounting to them.

Not that I’m suggesting Marriott is ignoring this. Just a comment on the general treatment of customer data security by large corporations.

The only hope is that government officials take enough heat from voters that they put significant fiscal punishment into place. I’d settle, at least in this case, for Marriott to pay the cost for all the people who might now need to obtain a new passport. That at least would be a start.

But there’s the other factor: consolidation. Marriott is the largest hotel operator in the world. If you’re traveling, there’s a good chance you’ll land in one of its properties. Unless, of course, you remember all this nonsense and intentionally stay elsewhere.

Even if you don’t get more points, you might at least keep your data secure.

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U.S. lawmakers make final push to win approval of self-driving car bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Key U.S. senators are making a last-ditch effort to win approval of a bill to speed the use of self-driving cars without human controls, but face an uphill battle on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. Capitol building is seen in Washington, U.S., February 8, 2018. REUTERS/ Leah Millis

Staff for Republican Senator John Thune and Democratic Senator Gary Peters circulated a draft of a revised bill aimed at breaking a legislative stalemate.

The pair have been working for more than a year to try to win approval of the bill by the Senate and have said they may try to attach the measure to a bill to fund U.S. government operations.

The U.S. House unanimously approved a measure in September 2017, but it has been stalled in the Senate for over a year. Automakers and congressional aides concede they face tough odds of getting approval in the final days before the current Congress adjourns.

A key sticking point has been whether the measure would limit the ability of companies to compel binding arbitration for consumers using autonomous vehicles. The aides’ draft limits the use of those clauses in death or serious injury crashes, while the bill that passed the House did not include the limitation.

The revised draft would require manufacturers to validate that self-driving cars can detect all road users – including pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

It would also require additional reports of potential safety issues involving vehicles that have systems like Tesla Inc’s Autopilot that handle some driving tasks.

Automakers say the bill is critical to advancing the technology that could save thousands of lives, but a group of safety advocates in a letter to lawmakers urged they not to move ahead with legislation in the final days of the current Congress.

“Rushing through a driverless vehicle bill that lacks fundamental safeguards will make our roads less safe and risks turning an already skeptical public even more against this technology,” the letter said.

Under the legislation, automakers would be able to win exemptions from safety rules that require human controls. States could set rules on registration, licensing, liability, insurance and safety inspections, but not set performance standards.

Automakers have been pushing for legislation as they try to move forward.

General Motors Co in January filed a petition with U.S. regulators seeking an exemption for the current rules to use vehicles without steering wheels and other human controls as part of a ride-sharing fleet it plans to deploy in 2019, but has receive no decision to date.

Alphabet Inc’s Waymo unit plans to launch a limited commercial autonomous ride-hailing service in Arizona by year-end.

In March, a self-driving Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian, while the backup safety driver was watching a video, police said. Uber suspended testing in the aftermath and some safety advocates said the crash showed the system was not safe enough to be tested on public roads.

Reporting by David Shepardson, editing by G Crosse

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