Data Sheet—After Thrashing the News Business, Google Seeks to Make Amends

We want our money back. In the aftermath of the controversy surrounding Cambridge Analytica, Facebook is being sued by investors over a share price slump that the plaintiffs claim is due to Facebook failing to responsibly safeguard user data. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly planning to address mounting criticism against his company during an all hands meeting on Friday, and possibly even before then.

Nixed. Cambridge Analytica has suspended its CEO, Alexander Nix, after undercover Channel 4 News reporters in the U.K. captured him on film making off-color remarks. The video shows Nix bragging about swaying the U.S. presidential election and suggesting that prospective clients entrap and extort political rivals.

Are you sure you want to delete… WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton piled onto the Facebook hate train, tweeting, “It is time. #deletefacebook.” Acton sold his messaging app to the social network operator for billions of dollars in 2014. He recently poured $50 million into a non-profit organization, the Signal Foundation, that aims to develop privacy enhancing technologies.

Guess who’s back? Back again? Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is back in the captain’s chair, this time at a real estate firm. On Tuesday, Kalanick announced his purchase of a controlling stake in a distressed company, City Storage Systems, for $150 million as well as his installation as CEO. “There are over $10 trillion in these real estate assets that will need to be repurposed for the digital era,” the boss wrote in a tweet.

Around the world in 880,000 days. Orbitz disclosed Tuesday that it suffered a security breach that impacts 880,000 payment cards. Attackers may have gotten their hands on customer information, including names, street and email addresses, and birthdays, from the travel booking website operator owned by Expedia. The company said records from purchases made between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 22, 2017 were at risk.

The tax man cometh. The European Commission released a proposal for a plan that would tax tech companies based on where their digital users are based, rather than merely where the companies are based. The plan proposes to take a 3% cut of turnover from the European operations of tech giants, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Estimated proceeds: about $6 billion.

Kind of a big deal. Salesforce has agreed to pay $6.5 billion in cash and stock for the business software company Mulesoft. The deal is poised to be the biggest acquisition in Salesforce’s history, and it comes a year after Mulesoft went public. Mulesoft’s products, which link corporate apps and data into unified IT systems, seem to pair nicely with Salesforce’s cloud offerings.

This White Tech Guy Has an Idea to Make Tech Less White

Bjorn Freeman-Benson is a little embarrassed by his 200-person engineering team: It’s overwhelmingly white, and it’s overwhelmingly male. He says he wants a more diverse staff for his digital product design company, InVision, but doesn’t get the applicants. “If I just have a bunch of young white men from Stanford, I’m not going to get a good result for my customers.”

Next month, two Latina engineers from Portland, Oregon, will join his team as full-time apprentices making $15 an hour, plus benefits. After three months, if all goes well, they’ll be hired full-time at full pay, as junior engineers.

InVision is one of three employers, along with Nike Inc. and MailChimp, trying to foster and hire a more diverse tech workforce through TalentPath, a new initiative from the coding school Treehouse and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, whose local chapters provide after-school programs to young people in diverse communities across the country. With the involvement of the clubs, its founders hope it can make more of a dent, albeit a small one, in tech’s diversity problem than their earlier efforts did.

Ryan Carson started Treehouse in 2011 believing, like many coding-school founders, that people don’t have to go to college to land high-paying tech jobs and that his school, by lowering the barrier to entry, could foster a meritocracy and bring diversity to tech. Seven years in, he realized he’d failed. Treehouse alone has trained over 80,000 people, but the tech world—including Treehouse itself, whose engineers are mostly white men—has remained stubbornly homogenous. “I had to admit that although we were helping tens of thousands of people get jobs, we weren’t helping change the equation for people that were black, Latinx or women,” Carson said.

TalentPath aims to bridge that gap by partnering with local Boys & Girls Clubs, which recruit members or alumni who might want tech jobs and also help them navigate the working world via financial literacy classes and weekly mentoring. A participating employer sponsors students to take nine-month, part-time, online coding courses—enabling people in school or working full time to participate—and guarantees those who graduate a three-month, full-time apprenticeship on its engineering team. It can then offer them jobs.

(Carson would not tell Bloomberg what companies pay per student, but he said it’s more than the $200 per month Treehouse charges for other boot camps. InVision said the program is about a third cheaper than using a recruiting firm.)

The first class of graduates started apprenticeships this month at InVision, Nike and Treehouse itself, which participated to diversify its own workforce. Mailchimp is sponsoring a class of 10 students in the program now.

“I didn’t think, because I was Hispanic, I could have a career in tech.”

Coding schools have made a number of prior efforts to get more people of color and women into tech, although it’s difficult to gauge their success. Many coding schools, including Treehouse, offer scholarships, some aimed at promoting diversity and some created in partnership with tech companies or sponsored by the likes of Aphabet Inc.’s Google. There are also a host of coding programs for women and people of color.

Yet diversity at tech companies hasn’t budged.

Employers bear much of the responsibility. Not all of them make the effort. Bias can cloud their hiring processes. Workplace discrimination can discourage applicants and push out qualified employees.

Tech executives often blame their companies’ overwhelming whiteness on what they call the pipeline problem—a lack of qualified engineers who aren’t white men. But they often overstate it. Black and Hispanic graduates with computer and mathematical science degrees, for instance, are much more likely than their white peers to be unemployed or working in unrelated jobs, according to 2013 data from the National Science Foundation.

Even the coding schools often touted as potential solutions haven’t generally managed to recruit or retain underrepresented talent effectively. They don’t always reach people who don’t know much about tech jobs; even when they do, they might not hold much appeal, said Colleen Showalter, the liaison between Treehouse and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland and previously the chapter’s director of development.

“It’s really difficult for the minority communities we serve to have trust with organizations that just come in and say, ‘You should do this,’” she said. “They don’t look like them, and they don’t have any affinity for them.” Better boot camps won’t suffice to get young black and Latino people into tech jobs, she added. “They need support, because the barriers in their lives are real.” Some don’t have computers at home; many don’t know anyone who works in tech.

“We weren’t helping change the equation for people that were black, Latinx or women.”

Coding boot camps still aren’t substitutes for college degrees, despite the ambitions of people such as Carson. Some coding schools have over-promised on jobs and skills; a number of graduates and employers alike told Bloomberg in 2016 that their training hadn’t sufficiently prepared them for the work they were seeking. Many companies, for all their talk of pipeline problems, remain reluctant to hire people without degrees or prior experience.

TalentPath aims at least to give this experience to young people of color via its apprenticeships. But its program is hard to stick with, and even that faces challenges when it comes to retention; only a third of the students who enrolled in the inaugural class completed the program. And ultimately, its success depends on employers—and whom they decide to hire.

When Carlos Salgado, 18, first heard about TalentPath from the Boys & Girls Club in Portland last year, he was skeptical. “I was a bit sketched out, because it seemed too good to be true. My parents were telling me it was fake,” he said. “I didn’t think, because I was Hispanic, I could have a career in tech.”

He graduated from the Javascript bootcamp this year, and he started an apprenticeship at Treehouse this month. Next he hopes to land a full-time job in tech.

Alphabet's 'Outline' Homebrew VPN Software Offers Open-Source, Easy Set-Up Privacy For the Masses

A virtual private network, that core privacy tool that encrypts your internet traffic and bounces it through a faraway server, has always presented a paradox: Sure, it helps you hide from some forms of surveillance, like your internet service provider’s snooping and eavesdroppers on your local network. But it leaves you vulnerable to a different, equally powerful spy: Whoever controls the VPN server you’re routing all your traffic through.

To help solve that quagmire, Jigsaw, the Alphabet-owned Google sibling that serves as a human rights-focused tech incubator, will now offer VPN software that you can easily set up on your own server—or at least, one you set up yourself, and control in the cloud. And unlike older homebrew VPN code, Jigsaw says it’s focused on making the setup and hosting of that server simple enough that even small, less savvy organizations or even individual users can do it in minutes.

Jigsaw says that the free DIY proxy software, called Outline, aims to provide an alternative to, on the one hand, stronger anonymity tools like Tor that slow down web browsing by bouncing connections through multiple encrypted hops around the world and, on the other hand, commercial VPNs that can be expensive, and also put users’ private information and internet history at risk.

“The core of the product is that people can run their own VPN,” says Santiago Andrigo, the Jigsaw product manager who led Outline’s development. “You get the reassurance that no one else has your data, and you can rest easier in that knowledge.”

Trust in Yourself

Any basic commercial VPN like Freedome, NordVPN or Private Internet Access encrypts all of your online traffic and routes it from your PC or smartphone through a server in a remote data center, and only then out to the open internet. The result is that any snoop or censor watching your local connection can only see your scrambled communications to that server, not the actual destinations of your browsing or the contents of your communications. But while most decent VPNs promise not to keep sensitive logs of users’ online histories, it’s hard for users to confirm that safeguard is actually in place. And many of the most proven privacy-conscious VPNs are too expensive for users in surveillance-heavy countries in the developing world. The result, for many, is that “your privacy is in someone else’s hands,” Andrigo says.

Outline’s setup integrates with cloud provider Digital Ocean to let the user choose which country their VPN server will be hosted in.

Outline, which will run on Windows and Android to start and Apple operating systems in the coming weeks, instead lets anyone set up their own VPN server on a virtual server either hosted on a cloud platform like Rackspace, Google Cloud Engine, or Amazon EC2, or on a physical server under their control. The program most seamlessly integrates with the cloud provider Digital Ocean, which Jigsaw recommends for the easiest setup experience. Choose that provider, which offers 500 gigabytes of traffic for $5 a month, and Outline integrates with its API to offer a menu of its available server locations from London to Bangalore.

Outline isn’t the only homebrew VPN available: Security researcher Dan Guido launched a similar project in late 2016. And Outline itself is based on the existing, open source VPN software ShadowSocks. But Outline has tried to distinguish itself with its simplicity: It lets users skip ShadowSocks’ normal technical setup that requires a series of complex server configurations and cryptographic key generation steps performed through command line instructions. Instead, Outline automates practically the entire installation: In a demo for WIRED, Andrigo set up a new VPN on a Digital Ocean server in Amsterdam in about half a dozen clicks and just a few minutes.

Once an Outline server is set up, the administrator of the VPN can generate secret keys for other users and share them via links. (Andrigo suggests sending those URLs via an encrypted messaging app like Signal to control who can access the server.) That account sharing should help make Outline an easy way to run a VPN for an entire organization, like a group of activists or journalists.

A Swedish NGO called Civil Rights Defenders, for instance, has been testing Outline since last fall with the group of sensitive internet users it works to protect, who include journalists, lawyers, and LGBT communities in 18 repressive regimes around the world. CRD program director Marcin Kaminski says he’s found it’s an easy way to set up a VPN that CRD itself controls. “We send a link to the user, and after three clicks they’re running it, and it’s more or less untraceable to their activities,” says Kaminski. But Outline is also designed to help even groups with much less technical know-how. Aside from its simple setup, it’s designed not to require much maintenance: A feature called Watchtower automatically checks for security updates and installs them.

Not Quite Anonymous

Even though it’s designed to be installed on a server the user controls, Jigsaw says that Outline is still set by default not to collect logs. And unlike other VPNs that make that promise, Outline’s code will be left open source on GitHub to allow anyone to check that assurance.

Outline’s management software, showing a VPN shared with two other users.


But like any VPN, Outline isn’t quite a privacy panacea. If Outline is set up on a cloud server, rather than in the user’s own data center or garage, a deceptive cloud provider might be able to log traffic coming from the server even without changing the code running on it, stripping away the user’s protection. It doesn’t provide the same degree of anonymity protections as Tor, which routes traffic through three hops rather than just one and also protects against attacks like browser fingerprinting. Jigsaw goes so far as to warn in its FAQ for Outline that the program is “not an anonymity tool”; it doesn’t prevent sites you visit from identifying you, so much as block surveillance on your network and provide a path to route around censorship filters.

Outline users also face the same risk that all VPNs face in countries like China and Iran: If local snoops are stymied by a VPN, they can simply track down the IP address of the server running it and block it. But Andrigo says Outline is designed so that its servers will at least be very difficult to detect and block en masse, even with a tool like China’s Great Firewall. It’s designed to connect with users from a randomized port on the server running it, and doesn’t respond to any scans or pings unless the user offers their unique key. Jigsaw says it’s committed to keeping up with the cat-and-mouse of evading the censors. “This is an ever-evolving game,” says Andrigo.

With any luck, though, Outline might just change the nature of that game. And instead of blocking a single commercial VPN and cutting off many thousands of users, censors may have to play whack-a-mole with thousands of servers set up to host just a few individuals’ traffic each. Make a custom path to the open internet easy enough for anyone to set up, in other words, and it could become far harder for the authorities to tear them all down.

VPN 101

Facebook Struggles to Respond to the Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Two weeks ago, Facebook learned that The New York Times, Guardian, and Observer were working on blockbuster stories based on interviews with a man named Christopher Wylie. The core of the tale was familiar but the details were new, and now the scandal was attached to a charismatic face with a top of pink hair. Four years ago, a slug of Facebook data on 50 million Americans was sucked down by a UK academic named Aleksandr Kogan, and wrongly sold to Cambridge Analytica. Wylie, who worked at the firm and has never talked publicly before, showed the newspapers a trove of emails and invoices to prove his allegations. Worse, Cambridge appears to have lied to Facebook about entirely deleting the data.

To Facebook, before the stories went live, the scandal appeared bad but manageable. The worst deeds had been done outside of Facebook and long ago. Plus like weather forecasters in the Caribbean, Facebook has been busy lately. Just in the past month, they’ve had to deal with scandals created by vacuous Friday tweets from an ad executive, porn, the darn Russian bots, angry politicians in Sri Lanka, and even the United Nations. All of those crises have passed with limited damage. And perhaps that’s why the company appears to have underestimated the power of the storm clouds moving in.

On Friday night, the company made its first move, jumping out in front of the news reports to publish its own blog post announcing that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica’s use of the platform. It also made one last stern appeal to ask The Guardian not to use the word “breach” in its story. The word, the company argued, was inaccurate. Data had been misused, but moats and walls had not been breached. The Guardian apparently did not find that argument sympathetic or persuasive. On Saturday its story appeared, “Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach.”

The crisis was familiar in a way: Facebook has burned its fingers on issues of data privacy frequently in its 14 year history. But this time it was different. The data leakage hadn’t helped Unilever sell mayonnaise. It appeared to have helped Donald Trump sell a political vision of division and antipathy. The news made it look as if Facebook’s data controls were lax and that its executives were indifferent. Around the world lawmakers, regulators, and Facebook users began asking very publicly how they could support a platform that didn’t do more to protect them. Soon, powerful politicians were chiming in and demanding to hear from Zuckerberg.

As the storm built over the weekend, Facebook’s executives, including Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, strategized and argued late into the night. They knew that the public was hammering them, but they also believed that the fault lay much more with Cambridge Analytica than with them. Still, there were four main questions that consumed them. How could they tighten up the system to make sure this didn’t happen again? What should they do about all the calls for Zuckerberg to testify? Should they sue Cambridge Analytica? And what could they do about psychologist Joseph Chancellor, who had helped found Kogan’s firm and who now worked, of all places, at Facebook?

By Monday, Facebook remained frozen, and Zuckerberg and Sandberg stayed silent. Then, late in the afternoon in Menlo Park, more bad news came. The New York Times reported that Alex Stamos, the company’s well-respected chief of security, had grown dissatisfied with the top of senior management and was planning to exit in a few months. Some people had known this for a while, but it was still a very bad look. You don’t want news about your head of data security bailing when you’re having a crisis about how to secure your data. And then news broke that Facebook had been denied in its efforts to get access to Cambridge Analytica’s servers. The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office, which had started an investigation, would handle that.

An all-hands meeting was called for Tuesday but for some reason it would be led by Facebook’s legal counsel not its leaders, both of whom have remained deafeningly silent. Meanwhile, the stock had collapsed, chopping $36 billion off the company’s market value on Monday. By mid-Tuesday morning, it had fallen 10 percent since the scandal broke. What the company expected to be a tough summer storm had turned into a Category 5 hurricane.

Walking in the Front Door

The story of how Kogan ended up with data on 50 million American Facebook users sounds like it should involve secret handshakes and black hats. But Kogan actually got his Facebook data by just walking in Facebook’s front door and asking for it. Like all technology platforms, Facebook encourages outside software developers to build applications to run inside it, just like Google does with its Android operating system and Apple does with iOS. And so in November 2013 Kogan, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, created an application developer account on Facebook and explained why he wanted access to Facebook’s data for a research project. He started work soon thereafter.

Kogan had created the most anodyne of tools for electoral manipulation: an app based on personality quizzes. Users signed up and answered a series of questions. Then the app would take those answers, mush them together with that person’s Facebook likes and declared interests, and spit out a profile that was supposed to know the test-taker better than he knew himself.

About 270,000 Americans participated. However what they didn’t know was that by agreeing to take the quiz and giving Facebook access to their data, they also granted access to many of their Facebook friends’ likes and interests as well. Users could turn off this setting, but it’s hard to turn off something you don’t know exists and that you couldn’t find if you did. Kogan, quickly ended up with data on roughly 50 million people.

About five months after Kogan began his research, Facebook announced that it was tightening its app review policies. For one: Developers couldn’t mine data from your friends anymore. The barn door was shut, but Facebook told all the horses already in the pasture that they had another year to run around. Kogan, then, got a year and a half to do his business. And when the stricter policies went into effect, Facebook promptly rejected version two of his app.

By then Kogan had already mined the data and sold it to Cambridge Analytica, violating his agreement with Facebook and revealing one of the strange asymmetries of this story. Facebook knows everything about its users—but in some ways it knows nothing about its developers. And so Facebook didn’t start to suspect that Kogan had misused its data until it read a blaring headline in The Guardian in December 2015: “Ted Cruz using firm that harvested data on millions of unwitting Facebook users.”

That story passed out of the cycle quickly though, swept away by news about the Iowa caucuses. And so while Facebook’s legal team might have been sweating at the end of 2015, outwardly Zuckerberg projected an air of total calm. His first public statement after the Guardian story broke was a Christmas note about all the books he’d read: “Reading has given me more perspective on a number of topics – from science to religion, from poverty to prosperity, from health to energy to social justice, from political philosophy to foreign policy, and from history to futuristic fiction.”

An Incomplete Response

When the 2015 Guardian story broke, Facebook immediately secured written assertions from Cambridge Analytica, Kogan, and Christopher Wylie that the data had been deleted. Lawyers on all sides started talking and by the early summer of 2016, Facebook had more substantial legal agreements with Kogan and Wylie certifying that the data had been deleted. Cambridge Analytica signed similar documents, but their paperwork wasn’t submitted until 2017. Facebook’s lawyers describe the process as a tortured and intense legal process. Wylie describes it as a pinkie promise. “All they asked me to do was tick a box on a form and post it back,” he told the Guardian.

Facebook’s stronger option would have been to insist on an audit of all of Cambridge Analytica’s machines. Did the data still exist, and had it been used at all? And in fact, according to the standard rules that developers agree to, Facebook reserves that right. “We can audit your app to ensure it is safe and does not violate our Terms. If requested, you must provide us with proof that your app complies with our terms,” the policy currently states, as it did then.

Kogan, too, may have merited closer scrutiny regardless, especially in the context of the 2016 presidential campaign. In addition to his University of Cambridge appointment, Kkogan was also an associate professor at St. Petersburg State University, and had accepted research grants from the Russian government.

Why didn’t Facebook conduct an audit—a decision that may go down as Facebook’s most crucial mistake? Perhaps because no audit can ever be completely persuasive. Even if no trace of data exists on a server, it could still have been stuck on a hard-drive and shoved in a closet. Facebook’s legal team also insists that an audit would have been time-consuming, and despite the rights granted in a developer contract would have required a court order. A third possible explanation is fear of accusations of political bias. Most of the senior employees at Facebook are Democrats who blanche at allegations that they would let politics seep into the platform.

Whatever the reason, Facebook trusted the signed documents from Cambridge Analytica. That June, of 2016, Facebook staff even went down to San Antonio to sit side by side with Trump campaign officials and the Cambridge Analytica consultants by their side.

To Facebook, the story seemed to go away. In the year following Trump’s victory, public interest advocates hammered Cambridge Analytica over its data practices, and other publications, particularly The Intercept, dug into its practices. But Facebook, according to executives at the company, never thought to double check if the data was gone until reporters began to call this winter. And then it was only after the story broke that Facebook considered serious action including suing Cambridge Analytica. A lawyer for the company, Paul Grewal, told Wired on Monday evening that “all options are on the table.”

What Comes Next

Of Facebook’s many problems, one of the most confusing appears to be figuring out what to do with Chancellor, who currently works with the VR team. He may know about the fate of the user data, but this weekend the company was debating how forcefully it could ask him since it could be considered a violation of rules protecting employees from being forced to give up trade secrets from previous jobs.

A harder question is when, and how exactly, Zuckerberg and Sandberg should emerge from their bunkers. Sandberg, in particular, has passed through the crucible of the past two years relatively unscathed. Zuckerberg’s name now trends on Twitter when crises hit, and this magazine put his bruised face on the cover. Even Stamos has taken heat during the outcry over the Russia investigation. And a small bevy of brave employees have waded out into the rushing rivers of Twitter, where they have generally been sucked below the surface or swept over waterfalls.

The last most vexing question is what to do to make Facebook data safer. For much of the past year, Facebook has been besieged by critics saying that it should make its data more open. It should let outsiders audit its data and peer around inside with a flashlight. But it was an excess of openness with developers—and opaque privacy practices—that got the company in trouble here. Facebook tightened up third-party access in 2015, meaning an exact replay of the Cambridge Analytica fiasco couldn’t happen today. But if the company decides to close down even further, then what happens to the researchers doing genuinely important work using the platform? How well can you vet intentions? A possible solution would be for Facebook to change its data retention policies. But doing so could undermine how the service fundamentally works, and make it far more difficult to catch malevolent actors—like Russian propaganda teams—after the fact.

User data is now the foundation of the internet. Every time you download an app, you give the developer access to bits of your personal information. Every time you engage with any technology company—Facebook, Google, Amazon, and so on—you help build their giant database of information. In exchange, you trust that they won’t do bad things with that data, because you want the services they offer.

Responding to a thread about how to fix the problem, Stamos tweeted, “I don’t think a digital utopia where everybody has privacy, anonymity and choice, but the bad guys are magically kept out, can exist.”

At its core, according to a former Facebook executive, the problem is really an existential one. The company is very good at dealing with things that happen frequently and have very low stakes. When mistakes happen, they move on. According to the executive, the philosophy of the company has long been “We’re trying to do good things. We’ll make mistakes. But people are good and the world is forgiving.”

If Facebook doesn’t find a satisfactory solution, it faces the unsavory prospect of heavy regulation. Already in the UK, the General Data Protection Regulation rule will give people much more insight and control over what data companies like Facebook take, and how it’s used. In the US, senators like Ron Wyden, Mark Warner, Amy Klobuchar, and others may have the appetite for similar legislation in the US, if Facebook’s privacy woes continue.

Facebook will hold its all-hands today, and hope for that inevitable moment when something horrible happens elsewhere and everyone’s attention turns. But it also knows that things might get worse, much worse. The nightmare scenario will come if the Cambridge Analytica story fully converges with the story of Russian meddling in American democracy: if it turns out that the Facebook data harvested by Cambridge Analytica ended up in the hands of Putin’s trolls.

At that point, Facebook will have to deal with yet another devastating asymmetry: data from a silly quiz app, created under obsolete rules, fueling a national security crisis. But those asymmetries are just part of the nature of Facebook today. The company has immense power, and it’s only begun to grapple with its immense responsibility. And the world isn’t as forgiving of Silicon Valley as it used to be.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

Global regulators to work on test bed for fintechs

LONDON (Reuters) – Regulators from across the world start work this week on a blueprint for a global “sandbox” or testing bed for new financial technology applications, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority said on Monday.

The logo of the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is seen at the agency’s headquarters in the Canary Wharf business district of London April 1, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Britain helped to spearhead sandboxes which allow fintech firms to test new apps on real customers, but under the close eye of regulators to avoid consumer harm.

Chris Woolard, the FCA’s executive director of strategy and competition, said the watchdog was now pushing ahead with trying to set up a global sandbox, given that many fintech firms and their business plans span borders.

“Later this week we start work with interested regulators, including colleagues across Europe, the U.S. and Far East, on a blueprint,” Woolard told the Innovate Finance conference in London.

“There’s real momentum behind this and we hope that before long the ambition of a global sandbox will be a reality.”

The FCA’s own sandbox, the first of its kind, has worked with 70 fintech firms, with 90 percent of firms in the first round of applications having gone to the market and finding it easier to raise money, Woolard said.

Britain wants to maintain its role as a major fintech center, but its planned departure from the European Union has spurred the EU with its vast single market to propose measures to attract fintech firms from London.

“Increasingly we’re hearing from firms a demand to operate globally, to grow at real scale and pace,” he said.

Although FCA has signed fintech cooperation agreements with regulators in eight jurisdictions, there is no joint sandbox program for firms to participate in.

“Such a project represents new territory. Breaking new ground requires an element of risk, not something, as I’ve said, that regulators are generally comfortable with,” Woolard said.

Regulators have to be realistic about what a global sandbox could look like, however.

“In some quarters, there could be an aspiration for global standards. The logic is clearly there, but my strong suspicion is that it would take 20 years to negotiate and in a fast-moving market would be 19 years and six months out of date when we got there,” Woolard said.

Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jason Neely

British prime minister very concerned by Facebook data abuse reports

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is very concerned by allegations that the British data firm Cambridge Analytica exploited data on millions of Facebook users without their authorization in election campaigns, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A picture illustration shows a Facebook logo reflected in a person’s eye, in Zenica, March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The chairman of parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee also alleged that Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Alexander Nix had “deliberately misled” his committee during testimony about its use of Facebook data two weeks ago.

The New York Times and the British Observer newspaper reported on Saturday that the political analytics firm had harvested private data on more than 50 million Facebook users to support Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign. (

Facebook said in a statement on Friday that it had learned in 2015 that a Cambridge University psychology professor had lied to the company and violated its policies by passing data to Cambridge Analytica from a psychology testing app he had built. Facebook said it suspended the firms and researchers involved.

“The allegations are clearly very concerning,” May’s spokesman told reporters on Monday. “It is essential that people can have confidence that their personal data will be protected and used in an appropriate way.”

Parliamentary committee chairman and Conservative lawmaker Damian Collins said on Sunday that Facebook had avoided answering straight questions from the committee about what it knew about the abuse of its users’ social media data by Cambridge Analytica.

“Someone has to take responsibility for this. It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to stop hiding behind his Facebook page,” Collins said in a statement.

He also said he would be contacting Nix to answer further questions raised by the media reports.

A 3D-printed Facebook logo are seen in front of displayed binary digits in this illustration taken, March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Cambridge Analytica and its CEO were not immediately available to comment.

Nix testified before the parliamentary committee on February 27 that Cambridge Analytica carried out advertising campaigns and conducted opt-in surveys on Facebook to collect data on users’ political attitudes on behalf of its campaign clients.

“We do not work with Facebook data, and we do not have Facebook data. We do use Facebook as a platform to advertise, as do all brands and most agencies, or all agencies, I should say,” Nix told the committee.

Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said over the weekend that it would be considering the potential new evidence as part its separate civil and criminal probe into whether Facebook user data had been abused in British elections.

Ten months ago, the ICO, Britain’s data protection watchdog, launched a probe into the use of personal data in British political campaigns.

It said over the weekend that it was already considering the nexus of connections between Cambridge Analytica, its parent Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) and Cambridge University professor Aleksandr Kogan, author of the testing app.

“Any criminal and civil enforcement actions arising from the investigation will be pursued vigorously,” said Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

European Union lawmakers will also investigate whether the data of more than 50 million Facebook users has been misused and whether the massive trawling of data included EU citizens, said Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament.

Facebook’s highest ranking executive in Europe, Vice President Nicola Mendelsohn, appeared on stage at the Advertising Week Europe conference in London to interview pop star Nicole Scherzinger, but declined to take questions from reporters.

Reporting by Eric Auchard, Elizabeth Piper, Andrew MacAskill in London, Alastair Macdonald and Foo Yun Chee in Brussels; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Desilu plans U.S. listing to complete Vonetize acquisition

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Desilu Studios plans to go public in the United States as a second stage of a proposed acquisition of Israeli technology start-up Vonetize.

The U.S. film studio famous for producing classic shows such as “I Love Lucy”, “Star Trek” and “The Untouchables” said on Friday that it had agreed a deal to take a controlling stake in Vonetize, the share price of which jumped 75 percent on Sunday.

Vonetize, whose technology enables over-the-top (OTT) live channel streaming and on-demand services, operates in 60 countries and has global partnerships with LG, Disney, Warner Brothers, Fox and Sony Universal among others.

Desilu said it had bought a 10 percent stake in cash from controlling shareholders at a company valuation of $50 million and received an option to buy a further 44 percent in the next 12 months.

Vonetize said on Sunday that Desilu would list in the United States to finance the deal for the rest of its proposed stake in the Israeli business.

Another route could be that Vonetize would dual-list on Nasdaq this year and then merge Desilu into that listing through a share-swap transaction, said Vonetize CEO Noam Josephides.

Some 40 percent of Vonetize’s shares are in free float.

Josephides said that Vonetize already has approval for a Nasdaq listing this year but a decision had yet to be reached.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by David Goodman

Stocks To Watch: Wake-Up Call For The IPO Market

Welcome to Seeking Alpha’s Stocks to Watch – a preview of key events scheduled for the next week. Follow this account and turn the e-mail alert on to receive this article in your inbox every Saturday morning.

The sleepy IPO market could get a jolt at the end of the week as Dropbox (Pending:DBX) is expected to price its IPO and begin trading. Dropbox is targeting a valuation of about $7.6B. A confidential slide released last week revealed that the company expects long-term gross margins as high as 76% to 78% and operating margins of 18% to 20%. The reception by investors to Dropbox’s public debut could be key for other tech IPO aspirants such as Spotify (Pending:SPOT), Lyft (Private:LYFT), Docusign (Private:ESIGN), 23andMe (Private:DNA), Adyen (Private:ADYEN) – as well what could be the blockbuster of the bunch in Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi’s (Private:XI) public debut. Zscalar’s (Pending:ZS) huge post-IPO pop yesterday showed that the investors are still keeping tabs on tech IPOs. Across the broader market, the FOMC meets next week and there’s at least some potential for a high-profile Trump cabinet exit. The FOMC meeting will include Chairman Jerome Powell’s highly-anticipated first presser, while in regard to the White House, there’s a consensus with analysts that National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster staying in place is a positive for equity markets. Before next week’s events fire off, there’s St. Patrick’s Day to enjoy today.

Notable earnings reports: Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) on March 19; FedEx (NYSE:FDX) and Lennar (NYSE:LEN) on March 20; General Mills (NYSE:GIS), PVH (NYSE:PVH), Five Below (NASDAQ:FIVE) and JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO) on March 21; Nike (NYSE:NKE) [with a potentially compelling conference call], Micron (NASDAQ:MU), Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) and Accenture (NYSE:ACN) on March 22; Finish Line (NASDAQ:FINL) on March 23. See Seeking Alpha’s Earnings Calendar for the complete list.

IPOs expected to price: Dropbox, Sunlands Online Education Group (Pending:STG) and PolyPid (Pending:POLY) on March 22.

Analyst quiet period expirations: Farmmi (FAMI) on March 21.

IPO lockup expirations: Best (NYSE:BSTI), Zai Lab (NASDAQ:ZLAB), Celcuity (NASDAQ:CELC), Krystal Biotech (NASDAQ:KRYS), (NYSE:DESP) on March 19; TDH (NASDAQ:PETZ) and Oasis Midstream Partners (NYSE:OMP) on March 20; Secco (NASDAQ:SECO) on March 21.

Tariff talk: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is due to testify on trade and tariffs before the House Ways and Means Committee on March 22. The usual suspects to watch for tariff-related swings include U.S. Steel (NYSE:X), AK Steel (NYSE:AKS), Nucor (NYSE:NUE), ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT), Steel Dynamics (NASDAQ:STLD), Worthington Industries (NYSE:WOR), Reliance Steel & Aluminum (NYSE:RS), Commercial Metals (NYSE:CMC), Kaiser Aluminum (NASDAQ:KALU), Cannon Exploration (OTC:CNEX) and Alcoa (NYSE:AA). Automakers General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Ford (NYSE:F) have also been sensitive to tariff news.

Telsey Advisory Group 10th Annual Spring Consumer Conference 2018: Senior management from a number of prominent consumer-facing companies will be at the event, including reps from Jack in the Box (NASDAQ:JACK), Ascena Retail (NASDAQ:ASNA), Chico’s FAS (NYSE:CHS), Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR), Deluxe (NYSE:DLX), Eldorado Resorts (NASDAQ:ERI), Everi (NYSE:EVRI), iPic Entertainment (NASDAQ:IPIC), Kohl’s (NYSE:KSS), Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), Macy’s (NYSE:M) and Texas Roadhouse (NASDAQ:TXRH).

M&A watch: The high-profile AT&T (NYSE:T) trial against the Department of Justice over the Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) merger begins on March 19. The latest odds from MoffettNathanson give AT&T a 50% chance of prevailing. While a decision isn’t expected for six to eight weeks, evidence presented on pay-TV prices and market competition could impact a variety of other media stocks.

Toy story: The toys sector is still reverberating from the bankruptcy of Toys “R” Us. Though the filing was highly anticipated, the exact path the retailer takes in winding down its stores and operations could greatly influence Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS), Mattel (NASDAQ:MAT), Funko (NASDAQ:FNKO) and JAKKS Pacific (NASDAQ:JAKK). As far as where those toy product sales go, Jefferies estimated that 40% would go to Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and 30% to Walmart (NYSE:WMT), while prior forecasts from analysts showed Target (NYSE:TGT) with a sizable grab due to its geographic overlap. Expect more number crunching on toy sales from analysts in the upcoming week.

FDA watch: BioMarin Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ:BMRN) and Asdendis Pharma (NASDAQ:ASND) are in the spotlight on March 22 as a FDA Pediatric Advisory Committee and Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee takes up discussion on “major objectives of a phase 3 drug development program” for the treatment of children with achondroplasia.

Analyst/investor day meetings: Entegris (NASDAQ:ENTG) on March 20; Electro Scientific Industries (NASDAQ:ESIO) on March 21.

Annual meetings Dr Pepper Snapple (NYSE:DPS) is hosting an investor event at the offices of Keurig. An overview on the combined company’s strategy is anticipated. Other notable meeting on the calendar include CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) on March 20 and Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) on March 21.

Box office: Disney’s (NYSE:DIS) Black Panther is expected to top Warner Bros.’ Tomb Raider starring Alicia Vikander to knock out its fifth straight week atop the box office charts. 20th Century Fox’s Avatar in 2009-2010 was the last film to pull off the impressive feat.

Barron’s mentions: Gap (NYSE:GPS) is identified as a stock that could run up 25% on the back of the Old Navy business, while investor concerns on Allergan (NYSE:AGN) are called overdone. In a piece on Broadcom (NASDAQ:AVGO) – Xilinx (NASDAQ:XLNX), Micron, Microchip Technology (NASDAQ:MCHP), Marvell Technology Group (NASDAQ:MRVL), Maxim Integrated Products (NASDAQ:MXIM) and Analog Devices (NASDAQ:ADI) all make the list of potential Plan B options for the company after the Trump Administration snub on Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). Randall Forsythe asks in a feature article if a Bear Stearns scenario could happen again? He reminds that the Senate bumped up the “too big to fail” classification on a financial institution to $250B from a prior level of $50B. His deja-vu scenario is a little hard to ignore.

Sources: EDGAR, Bloomberg, CNBC, and

Editor’s Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major U.S. exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

Musk Talks Tariffs, NYC Battles Traffic, and More Car News of the Week

In times of great upheaval, there’s bound to be a few question marks. How should the US respond to China’s protectionist car tariffs—and does it have the leverage to change anything about them? How will self-driving cars actually be manufactured, and how will old players make money off the new tech?

Plus, Waymo is really moving toward launching a driverless taxi service in Phoenix (but when?); New York inches toward a congestion charge that could clear up traffic (but how?); and reporter Jack Stewart highlights the bonkers concepts from the Geneva Motor Show (but how much?).

It was a week; let’s get you caught up.


Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • Sure, electric cars are mostly better for the environment. But what does “mostly” mean? Jack takes a look at a new analysis that maps the real miles-per-gallon output of your zippy ride by region. (The world is better off if you drive in California than Texas.)

  • Lyft and Magna team up to make self-driving cars. As transportation editor Alex Davies explains, the Canadian parts supplier gets data and an actual path to deployment. And Lyft gets manufacturing and automotive knowhow, plus connections with almost every player in the driving industry.

  • A Twitter convo between Donald Trump and Elon Musk prompts the question: Why is it so hard for American carmakers to sell their wares in China? And what can the US do about it? Jack runs the analysis and concludes that Tesla (and other EV-makers) will most likely continue to have a tough time there.

  • Waymo starts to put “early riders” in its totally driverless taxis, to prep for the launch of a commercial service in Phoenix, Arizona, sometime this year.

  • Via Jack, some inventive inspirations from the Geneva Motor Show, where headlights, tires, windscreen wipers, and even autonomous vehicle concepts got whole new looks.

  • New York City may finally, finally, be considering a plan to fight terrible traffic. But much easier said than done: The scheme is a complex exercise in behavioral economics, I report, and it’s very possible the city may get it wrong.

Excellent Engine Purchase of the Week

Some lucky attendee of the storied Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance walked away with this special 1962 Ferrari Tipo 128F Engine and Tipo 508E gearbox, originally installed in a Series II 250 GTE. With 240 brake horsepower, auction house Gooding & Co notes the setup is “ideal for museum display or as a spare.” Hope whoever spent $143,000 on this hunk enjoys it.

This 1962 Ferrari engine, just sold at auction, hasn’t run in a few decades, but makes for a nice source of spare parts or piece for your at-home museum.

James Lipman/Gooding & Company

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet.

  • Despite recent, very strenuous protestations to the contrary, it appears Uber is indeed on the precipice of selling its southeast Asian business to Grab. The San Francisco ride-hail company would reportedly exit the region for a stake in its rival.
  • Kitty Hawk, the flying car company funded by Google CEO Larry Page, will start testing airborne taxi services in New Zealand, with the goal of launching a commercial service in three years.
  • Bloomberg reports General Motors is readying to launch a peer-to-peer service this summer. Rent out your Chevy Cruze when you’re not using it!
  • Evelozcity, an electric car startup just out of stealth mode and run by a BMW and Faraday Future alum, aims to raise $1 billion. Its plot: Build a house for battery and electric drivetrain tech, and three “cabins” for it to live in—a commuter car, an autonomous ride-sharing car, and a small delivery vehicle.
  • In January, Elon Musk mused online that he’d like to build a Supercharger station with an “old school drive-in, roller skates & rock restaurant”. This week, Tesla filed a permit in Santa Monica for a Tesla restaurant and Supercharger. Dreams can come true—as long as Musk can deliver burgers fasters than Model 3s.
  • What happens to traffic when everyone uses a navigation app like Waze? Scientists are trying to figure it out.

In the Rearview

Essential Stories from WIRED’s canon

Ah, the halcyon days of 2017. Amid “flying car” news, check out this not-so-vintage interview from WIRED’s own Steven Levy. He pushes Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun on the logistical challenges of the longtime childhood dream.

Why a Co-Founder of UFC Is Launching a New MMA Startup

One can only imagine what it must feel like to have been a co-founder of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), launched in 1993, sold for just $2 million in 2001 and then sold again in 2016 for $4 billion. Campbell McLaren can speak to it. He created and executive produced the first 22 UFC pay-per-view events dating back to 1993.

And McLaren is interestingly not done trying to re-imagine and innovate the sport of fighting and mixed martial arts (MMA). He is building a platform called Combate Americas, an up-and-coming MMA league that has emerged as a premier Hispanic MMA franchise. Next month, McLaren and his partners will be hosting a major event for the startup league in Los Angeles at the Shine.

I recently spoke with McLaren about what it is like to do another startup in the MMA space, the parallels and differences from working with UFC and more.

What were some of the early challenges in creating with UFC?

McLaren: I think the biggest challenge in launching the UFC was getting the word out about this brand new, unique, compelling program. There was no social media, no Twitter back then. Betty White has a joke that I liken it to… ‘In my day, there was no Facebook only phone book.’

To a great extent we used phone books. We called every dojo gym in America to tell them about it and that their athletes should watch it. There wasn’t a network type of communication that would let us promote it. And it definitely wasn’t cost effective to do TV advertising. On top of all of that, the press was uninterested. That was another big challenge, which I solved by using controversy as the vehicle to create buzz.

How did you know when was the right time to leave the UFC to focus on new opportunities?

McLaren: I think when John McCain called me a ‘threat to Western Civilization,’ I saw the writing on the wall.

What made you believe that creating Combate Americas was the next important move in your professional life?

McLaren: Combate Americas struck me as potentially the biggest opportunity that I ever had, including launching the UFC. I saw that there was a huge group of sports fans that didn’t have anything to root for. Combate fit perfectly into the demographics of the US/Hispanic World. But, the more we got into it, the more we saw that in Spanish sports its soccer and nothing else. We quickly saw that we could become another avenue for Spanish sports fans, which is nearly 1 billion fans worldwide.

What did you learn from UFC that you will use (or not use) in running your new startup, Combate Americas?

McLaren: I learned that it’s hard to reinvent the wheel, which we really did at the UFC. It was a brand new sport that went through a lot of bumps. When I saw that Combate Americas was very uniquely positioned to pick up a big fan base quickly, instead of reinventing the rules or changing the format, we looked to the success of UFC. We looked to the success of boxing. And we looked to the global dominance of soccer. I said, ‘How can I incorporate the best of these?’

What that became was Combate’s great format to really using soccer and boxing rivalries – whether it’s Brazil v Argentina or Mexico v US or Puerto Rico v Mexico. We’re taking those rivalries and putting it together in a way that fans already understand the conflict, so that help brings it to a ‘new sport,’ for them. It’s really hard to start something. At the beginning of the UFC, I had no idea where the fight would take place and where to stage the action. Starting Combate let us focus on some other aspects of this; such as how do we bring in a new generation because our audience is 20 years younger than the UFC and how do we bring in a new group of fans.