Atlanta takes down water department website two weeks after cyber attack

(Reuters) – Atlanta took down its water department website indefinitely on Thursday, two weeks after a ransomware cyber attack tore through the city’s computer systems in one of the most disruptive hacks ever to strike a U.S. local government.

A view of Atlanta’s City Hall, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. March 31, 2018. REUTERS/Laila Kearney

“The Department of Watershed Management’s website … will be offline for server maintenance and updates until further notice,” the City of Atlanta wrote on Twitter.

Atlanta’s watershed department was among the operations hard-hit by the March 23 attack that continues to block access to databases, postpone municipal court dates and stifle the city’s ability to collect some payments for public services.

Employees with the water department said they were unable to turn on their work computers or gain wireless internet access for roughly a week after the attack, but they were instructed to report to their offices at City Hall anyway.

Many of the department’s systems have lumbered back to life in recent days, but there is still disruption, said one employee, who asked not to be identified.

“There’s definitely work not being done and there’s definitely bills not being able to be paid,” the employee said.

Hackers used a potent computer virus known as SamSam to encrypt large swaths of city data in the attack and demanded a payment of six bitcoins, worth $51,000 at the time, to release the information.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who took office in January, has declined to say whether the city was negotiating with the hackers.

City officials have not disclosed the extent to which its computer backup systems were corrupted or what type of data is unable to be recovered without paying the ransom.

A federal criminal investigation into the breach is under way.

Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Daniel Bases and Peter Cooney

Canada, B.C. in joint investigations of Facebook, AggregateIQ

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – The Canadian federal agency charged with protecting privacy rights of individuals said on Thursday that it, along with its counterpart in British Columbia, will jointly investigate Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Canadian data firm AggregateIQ, over an ongoing data sharing scandal.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook logo is seen at a start-up companies gathering at Paris’ Station F in Paris, France on January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said the probes, which broaden two existing investigations, will look at whether the companies broke federal and provincial personal privacy rules.

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past an empty office suite, which had until recently been used by Canadian data firm AggregateIQ, in a building in Victoria, B.C., Canada March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Light

Canada’s privacy commissioner launched an investigation of Facebook in March after the New York Times and London’s Observer newspaper broke news of the use of Facebook data by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook Canada said on Wednesday that more than 600,000 Canadians had their data “improperly shared” with Cambridge Analytica.

British Columbia’s privacy commissioner was separately investigating AggregateIQ over whether the Victoria-based company had broken provincial personal privacy rules for its role in the Brexit campaign.

The two agencies will now jointly investigate the companies, as they are subject to both federal and provincial personal privacy laws.

Reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver; Editing by Chris Reese and Richard Chang

Facebook says data leak hits 87 million users, widening privacy scandal

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Wednesday that the personal information of up to 87 million users may have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, up from a previous news media estimate of more than 50 million.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File photo

Most of the 87 million people whose data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, which worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, were in the United States, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer wrote in a blog post.

Facebook said it was taking steps to restrict the personal data available to third-party app developers. (bit.ly/2Ejpktb)

The world’s largest social media company has been hammered by investors and faces anger from users, advertisers and lawmakers after a series of scandals about fake news stories, election-meddling and privacy.

Last month, Facebook acknowledged that personal information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg will testify about the matter next week before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, the panel said on Wednesday.

Shares in Facebook were down 1.4 percent on Wednesday to $153.90. They are down more than 16 percent since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.

The previous estimate of more than 50 million Facebook users affected by the data leak came from two newspapers, the New York Times and London’s Observer, based on their investigations of Cambridge Analytica.

Schroepfer did not provide details of how Facebook came to determine its higher estimate, but he said Facebook would tell people if their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

A representative from Cambridge Analytica could not immediately be reached for comment.

The British-based consultancy has denied wrongdoing. It says it engaged a university professor “in good faith” to collect Facebook data in a manner similar to how other third-party app developers have harvested personal information.

The scandal has kicked off investigations by Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and by some 37 U.S. state attorneys general.

Nigeria’s government will investigate allegations of improper involvement by Cambridge Analytica in that country’s 2007 and 2015 elections, a presidency spokesman said on Monday.

Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Susan Thomas and Lisa Shumaker

Spotify shares attract all ages, not just Millennials

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The buzzy debut of Spotify Technology SA (SPOT.N) on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday drew retail investors across generations, not just the Millennials who make up the largest proportion of the music streaming service’s customer base, retail brokerages said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: The Spotify logo is displayed after the stock began selling as a direct listing on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, U.S., April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Spotify’s listing was hotly followed, as it went public via the unusual method of a direct listing, without selling new shares. There was demand for the stock, and shares ended up 12.9 percent on their first day of trade on the New York Stock Exchange. On Wednesday, the shares ended the day’s session at $145.87, down 2.1 percent from Tuesday’s close.

Social media platform Snap Inc’s (SNAP.N) high-profile IPO last year had been notable for being popular with Millennials, the primary user base for the company’s mobile app Snapchat. But though Millennials are also a key demographic for Spotify, the Swedish company’s listing did not draw disproportionate interest from that generation.

Demand was seen across age groups, according to brokerages Fidelity and TD Ameritrade.

“There’s good interest in it,” said J.J. Kinahan, TD Ameritrade’s chief market strategist, who is based in Chicago. “It’s pretty well split across age groups.”

Fidelity said among its customers, baby boomers were slightly more active in trading Spotify shares than Millennials or members of Generation X. Baby boomers made nearly one-third more trades than Millennials and 20 percent more trades than members of Generation X. A similar pattern holds for other tech IPOs, a Fidelity spokesman said.

Retail investor behavior indicated some caution about jumping in.

On StockTwits, a social media platform whose users are mostly retail investors, only 40 percent of members were bullish on Spotify ahead of the debut. Negative sentiment toward the IPO rose as the date approached and the expected trading price climbed, said Pierce Crosby, StockTwits director of business development, based in New York.

“Our community is as bearish as they’ve ever been (about Spotify),” Crosby said.

On the site, users posted messages expressing concerns about Spotify’s lack of profits and competition from companies such as Apple Inc (AAPL.O).

High-profile IPOs of companies associated with the tech sector have had a mixed track record in the past year. Shares of MuleSoft Inc (MULE.N) and Roku Inc (ROKU.O), which went public in March 2017 and September 2017, respectively, have climbed more than 100 percent since those companies’ IPOs. On the other hand, shares of Snap and Blue Apron Holdings Inc (APRN.N) have fallen below their IPO prices.

Individual investors who spoke with Reuters similarly expressed reservations about buying Spotify shares.

“I think a lot of similarly situated retail investors still view many of the VC-backed, marketplace tech companies as destined IPO flops,” said Layla Tabatabaie, an entrepreneur and advisor to tech startups who lives in New York.

Others said they would only consider buying the stock at a lower price.

“It’s certainly a strong company in regards to the service it offers,” said Jonathan Johnson, a relationship banker in Portland, Oregon. “I’d consider buying it but not at these (price) levels.”

Reporting by April Joyner; additional reporting by Sinéad Carew in New York; Editing by David Gregorio

Police in California respond to 'active shooter' at YouTube offices

SAN BRUNO, Calif. (Reuters) – A suspect opened fire at YouTube’s headquarters near San Francisco on Tuesday, sending employees scrambling into the street as at least four casualties were taken to local hospitals and witnesses described blood on the floor.

The scenes following a possible shooting at the headquarters of YouTube in San Bruno, California, U.S., April 3, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. GRAEME MACDONALD/via REUTERS

The shooter, a woman, was “down” at the scene, NBC News reported. Reuters could not immediately confirm that report.

Police in San Bruno warned people in a Twitter message to stay away from the address where YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google, is based.

“We are responding to an active shooter. Please stay away from Cherry Ave & Bay Hill Drive,” San Bruno police said on Twitter.

Officials are seen following a possible shooting at the headquarters of YouTube, in San Bruno, California, U.S., April 3, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. GRAEME MACDONALD/via REUTERS

Lisa Kim, a spokeswoman for Stanford Health Care, said the hospital was receiving between four to five patients from the shooting incident at the YouTube offices.

Employees who evacuated the YouTube office and nearby buildings huddled under trees in parking lots.

Slideshow (2 Images)

A YouTube product manager, Todd Sherman, described on his Twitter feed hearing people running, first thinking it was an earthquake before he was told that a person had a gun.

“At that point every new person I saw was a potential shooter. Someone else said that the person shot out the back doors and then shot themselves,” Sherman said on Twitter.

“I looked down and saw blood drips on the floor and stairs. Peaked around for threats and then we headed downstairs and out the front,” Sherman said.

Google told NBC news in a written statement that it was coordinating with local authorities.

“Customers said they heard what could have been gunshots when they were on their way here,” Natalie Mangiante, an employee at Big Mouth Burgers located near the YouTube building, said by phone. Mangiante said she did not see or notice anything.

Local television images showed YouTube employees walking out of the building with their hands raised.

Last month, YouTube announced it would ban content promoting the sale of guns and gun accessories as well as videos that teach how to make guns.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago and Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker

Shots fired at YouTube offices in California, casualties reported

SAN BRUNO, Calif. (Reuters) – A suspect opened fire at YouTube’s headquarters near San Francisco on Tuesday, sending employees scrambling into the street as at least four casualties were taken to local hospitals and witnesses described blood on the floor.

The scenes following a possible shooting at the headquarters of YouTube in San Bruno, California, U.S., April 3, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. GRAEME MACDONALD/via REUTERS

The shooter, a woman, was “down” at the scene, NBC News reported. Reuters could not immediately confirm that report.

Police in San Bruno warned people in a Twitter message to stay away from the address where YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google, is based.

“We are responding to an active shooter. Please stay away from Cherry Ave & Bay Hill Drive,” San Bruno police said on Twitter.

Officials are seen following a possible shooting at the headquarters of YouTube, in San Bruno, California, U.S., April 3, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. GRAEME MACDONALD/via REUTERS

Lisa Kim, a spokeswoman for Stanford Health Care, said the hospital was receiving between four to five patients from the shooting incident at the YouTube offices.

Employees who evacuated the YouTube office and nearby buildings huddled under trees in parking lots.

Slideshow (2 Images)

A YouTube product manager, Todd Sherman, described on his Twitter feed hearing people running, first thinking it was an earthquake before he was told that a person had a gun.

“At that point every new person I saw was a potential shooter. Someone else said that the person shot out the back doors and then shot themselves,” Sherman said on Twitter.

“I looked down and saw blood drips on the floor and stairs. Peaked around for threats and then we headed downstairs and out the front,” Sherman said.

Google told NBC news in a written statement that it was coordinating with local authorities.

“Customers said they heard what could have been gunshots when they were on their way here,” Natalie Mangiante, an employee at Big Mouth Burgers located near the YouTube building, said by phone. Mangiante said she did not see or notice anything.

Local television images showed YouTube employees walking out of the building with their hands raised.

Last month, YouTube announced it would ban content promoting the sale of guns and gun accessories as well as videos that teach how to make guns.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago and Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker

Apple plans to replace Intel chips in Macs with its: Bloomberg

(Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is planning to use its own chips in Mac computers beginning as early as 2020, replacing processors from Intel Corp (INTC.O), Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

FILE PHOTO: A man is reflected in a Apple store logo in San Francisco, California, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs/File Photo

Intel shares closed down 6.1 percent at $48.92, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq .IXIC ended down 2.7 percent.

The initiative, code-named Kalamata, is still in early developmental stages but is part of a bigger strategy to make Apple’s family of devices work more similarly and seamlessly together, according to the report.

Apple, which has used Intel chips in its computers since 2005, and the computer chipmaker both declined to comment.

The Mac plays a small part in Apple’s overall financial picture, with sales of 19.2 million units last year and accounting for 11 percent of Apple’s $229.2 billion in revenue for fiscal 2017.

But while the laptop and desktop computer market has been in a years-long slump amid the rise of smartphones and tablet computers, Mac sales rose 4 percent in 2017. The growth in Mac sales came even as PC sales declined slightly to 259.5 million units, the smallest drop since 2011, according to data from research firm IDC.

For its part, Intel still depends on PC sales for slightly more than half its revenue, though the company is aiming to make more of its money from growing markets like data centers. Intel does not disclose how much of its revenue comes from Apple, but reported its PC segment overall generated $34 billion in 2017, up 3.3 percent from the year before on the strength of higher sales of notebooks and high-end gaming computers.

But for the past several months, Intel has been dealing with the reputation fallout from the Spectre and Meltdown chip design flaws, which affected nearly every modern computing device.

While Apple’s reported move away from Intel would be a major shift for its Mac lineup, it follows years of increasing focus on designing its own chips for its devices. The company has been designing its own iPhone processors since the release of the iPhone 4 in 2010 and has steadily increased the amount of chip work it handles itself.

“We can push the envelope on innovation. We have better control over timing, over cost and over quality,” Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said of Apple’s chip efforts last year.

This year, Apple has spent hundreds of millions of dollars with suppliers of the 3-D sensor chips that power its facial recognition technology. Analysts believe those efforts have helped Apple prevent its smartphone competitors from coming up with matching features until at least next year.

Editing by Jonathan Oatis

Tesla: It Was The Driver's Fault

Introduction

Additional information has now been disclosed about the fatal accident that occurred earlier this week when a 2017 Tesla (TSLA) Model X crashed into an “exit divider” barrier. The location of the accident was at a major interchange in the San Francisco Bay area where southbound traffic on the major “north/south” highway on the San Francisco Peninsula (U.S. 101) can exit to the southwest (onto California Route 85) that then goes to Cupertino.

From long having been a San Francisco Bay area resident, I know the interchange well. When I initially heard what had happened, the crash also made no sense to me. It occurred in bright daylight, the exit ramp is clearly visible, and, due to the typical heavy traffic in the Bay Area, most drivers themselves have essentially become “automatons” by just automatically following other vehicles in an endless line of traffic. As such, what would have then caused a vehicle in such a situation to swerve into an exit ramp divider that separated the dividing lanes of traffic?

I immediately suspected a “confused” autopilot system that might have attempted to redirect the vehicle back into the originally traveled southbound lanes on U.S. 101 instead of continuing to the right on the exit ramp for Route 85. But, I had no other information at the time to provide any evidence for such a scenario but Tesla itself has now effectively provided such evidence.

There has also already been an excellent article on Seeking Alpha about the crash (by FundamentalSpeculation.IO) but Tesla, the gift that keeps on giving with its manipulative narratives about things, has now actually confirmed that the vehicle was using Autopilot at the time of the crash. As I will describe in the following, I also think that what went along with Tesla’s confirmation that the vehicle was using Autopilot is both appalling in its attempt to “spin the narrative” and further highlights the potential risks for investing in Tesla’s stock.

Tesla’s “Narrative” about the crash

A Reuter’s article provides what I believe is a very factual and straightforward account of Tesla’s comments about the crash. As the article reports, Tesla has confirmed that the vehicle was using Autopilot:

Tesla Inc said on Friday that a Tesla Model X involved a fatal crash in California last week had activated its Autopilot system

But, apparently in Tesla’s view, the crash was actually the fault of the driver:

Tesla also said vehicle logs from the accident showed no action had been taken by the driver soon before the crash and that he had received earlier warnings to put his hands on the wheel.

“The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken,” Tesla said.

As the Reuters article then describes, however:

The statement did not say why the Autopilot system apparently did not detect the concrete divider.

Tesla then did go on to reportedly say:

Tesla said late Friday that “Autopilot does not prevent all accidents – such a standard would be impossible – but it makes them much less likely to occur. It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists

But the Tesla narrative then goes further:

Tesla said that in the United States “there is one automotive fatality every 86 million miles across all vehicles from all manufacturers. For Tesla, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities, every 320 million miles in vehicles equipped with Autopilot hardware.”

As Tesla’s “disclosures” and “communications” are ever artful in the subtle use of words (sort of like the artful way Bill Clinton used words), we don’t really know from the statement above whether Autopilot was actually being used for all of those 320 million miles on those “Autopilot equipped vehicles”, or how it was being used, or since Tesla implies it has such good logs, for how many miles Autopilot had been deployed in all those miles.

In any case, however, with the recent Mountain View fatality, now that there have been two fatalities that we know of in the U.S., that statistic is now only half as good now as the apparently new statistic is one fatality every 160 million miles driven. Also, in case anyone has forgotten, there was another fatality in China from a vehicle being driven in Autopilot, and so the statistics are not as good as Tesla would have you believe.

A statistical digression…

Given my own view of the truthfulness of both Elon Musk’s and Tesla statements and comments about things from Bill Maurer’s excellent summary of such things , I am also not inclined to accept Tesla’s statistics about anything. I do have some suggestions, however, about what would make Tesla’s statistics be far more helpful and also some comments about manipulative those statistics are in any case.

The “baseline” presented by Tesla of “one automotive fatality every 86 million miles across all vehicles from all manufacturers” is from a driver and vehicle universe very different than that of the typical Tesla vehicle owner.

That universe would include a huge number of much less affluent vehicle drivers driving much older and possibly poorly maintained vehicles. The universe would also probably include a huge number of vehicles owners having far less education than the typical Tesla owner and while having less education would not necessarily be a contributing factor into more “accidents” occurring, I would guess that would possibly be the case. The overall universe would probably also include many different uses for vehicles other than what I would assume would be the primary uses of Tesla vehicles for either commuting or casual personal driving.

And so, I would like for Tesla to provide fatality statistics for a universe of drivers having similar demographics to Tesla owners and then let’s see how the statistics look. I would also like to see Tesla provide fatality statistics for a universe of vehicles similar to Tesla vehicles to see how those statistics would compare. Examples of other similar vehicles would include cars such as the Mercedes S Class, BMW 7 series, Lexus LS, etc. and also “high end” SUVs from such companies. Until Tesla is willing to provide more detailed statistics for both a similar demographic as its owners and for similar vehicles, none of Tesla’s statistics should have any credibility at all.

Tesla’s manipulative use of statistics

There is actually a far more important issue that I have with Tesla’s use of what I consider misleading statistics which is that such statistics are also used to “spin the narrative” that we should just blindly accept both anything Tesla is doing and the overall concept of “driving assistance” functions and then, evolving from that, “self-driving cars.” Implicit in the way that Tesla manipulates statistics is the patently false argument which is essentially that:

  • since people are going to die in auto accidents anyway, it is ok that some people die while using our systems while we are still developing them.

And, since Tesla would apparently hope for us to accept their view of “progress” – that we should turn a blind eye to what happens in the interim. Of course this is also similar to other aspects of Tesla – such as suggestions that investors should also turn a blind eye towards any scrutiny of Tesla’s truly horrendous financial characteristics (what else can you say about 14 years of losses and over $25 billion in financial obligations?) given all of the “progress” that the company would like for you to believe will be achieved.

In my opinion, Tesla’s narrative about “statistics” is actually just a cover-up for Tesla’s ongoing dysfunctional overall operations. There is no better example of that then what we are currently seeing from the very strange “Model 3 ramp-up.”

First of all, it was Elon Musk that announced that the vehicle was going to go into production in “July 2017” but so far there have apparently been barely 10,000 vehicles produced. Musk also said that “100,000 to 200,000 Model 3s were going to be produced in the second half of 2017” but less than 3,000 were actually produced. The other very odd thing about the Model 3 “ramp” is that all of this was not supposed to happen at all.

From the previous instance of “production hell” when the Model X was introduced and from all of Musk’s comments about how much was learned from that experience and that the Model 3 was “designed for manufacturing” – why can’t Tesla produce more of the vehicles? Such a failure also appears very odd in that Tesla has also now been manufacturing around 2,000 Model S and Model X vehicles for over 18 months now. As such, the Model 3 production ramp tells me that there are many things inside Tesla that are now yet widely known or appreciated that are severely dysfunctional.

With the very strange Model 3 introduction, however, there is at least a reasonable amount of public visibility into what is happening with that. Buried in huge amounts of software code for “driving assistance” and “self-driving vehicle” systems, there is unfortunately no visibility at all as to actually how well developed and tested any of those functions might be.

All we can wait for as data points are unfortunate individual statistics as the one that recently occurred in Mountain View, California. What is even more concerning about all of this is also the well-established practice of having its customers effectively being the “beta testers” of Tesla’s vehicles and developing systems.

Additional evidence of possible Autopilot failures

As Fundamental.IO also highlighted in his recent Tesla article, there was a local news report about the now deceased Tesla driver having supposedly describing to Tesla previously that his vehicle had swerved towards the exit ramp barrier during earlier trips along the same stretch of road. After having read many accounts (too many to link!) about Tesla drivers’ experiences with the erratic new “Enhanced Autopilot” (AP 2.0 or 2.5) introduced after Tesla no longer had access to Mobileye’s systems in 2016, that is why I immediately suspected that Autopilot was somehow confused by the diverging lanes at that particular exit.

Tesla, however, merely just offers up more statistics about how “85,000 trips” past that exit have occurred with other Tesla drivers without any other incidents. Regardless of all of those other statistics, in the event that happened this week – in broad daylight, in a vehicle driven by someone who travels the same stretch of road every day on his way to work, a person who reportedly had previously described to Tesla that his vehicle had other instances of “swerving” towards the same barrier – this driver’s Model X did inexplicably did swerve towards the barrier and make contact with it. This incident also follows an earlier in the year incident (but which fortunately didn’t result in fatalities) in which a Tesla vehicle on Autopilot plowed into the back of a fire truck (a hopefully visible vehicle or object!)

Tesla’s overall response and further risks for the stock

Tesla also mentions in its narrative about the current fatality that the driver had ignored “repeated warnings” from Autopilot to take control of the vehicle and re-engage the system.

I can’t wait for hungry “plaintiff’s bar” lawyers to quickly size up that statement as that to me is clear cut evidence that Tesla’s systems are still not properly developed or deployed. As such, that means that they are still very dangerous both to the drivers of its vehicles and any other vehicles on the road near a Tesla vehicle. Effectively what Tesla has admitted to is its own design flaws where probably after only one warning that was not responded to, that the automated systems should be disabled.

I also believe that the overall environment and public attitudes will start changing about how “technology” companies are operating as businesses. As I already commented on in another recent article (titled Facebook, Uber, and Tesla), I believe that there will start to be a growing backlash about how many companies are treating its customers as pawns in their out of control race to further dominate markets and increase revenue growth.

As we have also now seen from how quickly protests have grown from what is typically a pretty apolitical group (U.S. teenagers) about gun violence, there could also now start to be significant public backlash about possible “car violence” from poorly developed and implemented systems from any auto company. I would now expect there to start being far more controls and requirements about ongoing development projects and testing of such systems and vehicles. As such, I think such trends would be a very underappreciated risk for Tesla investors who seem to assume that every Elon Musk proclamation will come true.

I also continue to believe that at least 20 percent of Tesla’s market value is based on the view that Tesla has a “lead” in the development of such automated systems (which include crazed projections of huge revenues from a future “Tesla Network”). Although I believe that is clearly not the case in terms of Tesla’s actual and likely capabilities, if the development of such systems is much more heavily monitored, regulated, and controlled, that would result in companies with a much less consistent record of successfully developing and introducing products (just think of what has happened over the past few years with the Model X, Model 3, and AP 2.0 introductions) being put under much greater scrutiny. Since the ongoing Tesla narratives attempt to manage any scrutiny applied to the company, that also suggests that Tesla would feel very limited by a lot more scrutiny into its operations.

Another interesting data point this week about how complicated all such systems are to develop and safely deploy, there is also a fairly amusing anecdote about a “self-driving” car getting a ticket for not yielding to a pedestrian in a cross walk. Fortunately no pedestrians were killed in this instance but I believe this shows the complexity in trying to develop such systems.

Conclusion

Since this article also essentially discusses how much we should trust both Elon Musk’s and Tesla’s statements and announced development activities, I thought it would be appropriate to remind readers about another aggressively announced Tesla “feature” which you can see in the following video:

Tesla introducing battery swapping…

What is especially comical about this video are the number of deluded sycophants enthusiastically cheering and making comments like “all right, awesome, cool, wow!” etc. during the video (about something that then never happened!)

There is another comical part of the same presentation where at the start of the “introduction” (which occurred in 2013!), the first pitchman who appeared described the achievement of Tesla’s “first profitable quarter” and then promised that there would be “many more to come!” Another comical part of that video is that a Model X was also “introduced” at the same time (although it would then take three years before it sort of achieved volume production…sound familiar at all?).

What is not comical to me, however, is having what I view as Tesla’s poorly developed and implemented systems being randomly deployed out on our highways with essentially no oversight or visibility. As I have described about ongoing societal trends, I also believe such business practices are becoming much less acceptable to the general public.

Since Tesla so far has been very much supported by the unquestioning acceptance that what it is doing represents “progress” I also think any turn in such sentiments could have huge negative leverage for Tesla. For a severely unprofitable company that is also that is also very heavily leveraged financially (with over $10 billion of debt and an additional $15 billion of other financial obligations), such a sharp sentiment change about the company could also result very quickly in overall financial distress.

Disclosure: I am/we are short TSLA.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: This article expresses the author’s opinions and perspectives about various investment related topics. Since all statements in the article are represented as opinions, rather than facts, such opinions are not a recommendation to buy or sell a security. My own investment position described in the disclosures is not intended to provide investment advice or a recommendation of a specific investment strategy but is a required disclosure item by Seeking Alpha. My own investment position may have been initiated at very different price levels than current prices levels and so that is also why my disclosed position is definitely not intended as an investment recommendation. All investors should also do their own research before making any investment decision.

China’s Rogue Space Station Could Crash to the Earth Tonight

According to the latest projections, China’s Tiangong-1 space station is expected to fall to Earth between late Sunday and early Monday. That broad window reflects the bus-sized station’s chaotic descent from orbit since China’s space authorities lost control of it in 2016.

The timeline comes from the European Space Agency, and the nonprofit Aerospace Corp. German monitors have also reportedly observed the station “tumbling” through the sky.

The uncontrolled descent means it’s hard to know precisely where Tiangong-1 will fall, but experts agree there’s little reason for worry on the ground. The most recent projection, according to Space.com, has the station falling into the Pacific Ocean.

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Even if it heads towards land, the station is expected to substantially burn up when it hits the Earth’s atmosphere, leaving, by the estimate of Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, between 220 and 440 pounds of surviving debris. That debris, McDowell told LiveScience, will be spread over “hundreds of kilometers along the line of travel.” One estimate has the odds of getting hit by debris as 1 in 300 trillion.

Tiangong-1’s burnup is expected to produce an impressive light show wherever it re-enters the atmosphere, complete with fireballs formed by the station’s various sections. For those who want to keep a closer eye on the Chinese station over the next few hours, Space.com is hosting a tracking tool here.

Snapchat’s April Fools’ Gag Pokes Fun at Facebook’s Russian Bot Problem

Snap, Inc’s flagship Snapchat social media platform has rolled out a photo filter that highlights the recent stumbles of its biggest rival — Facebook.

The filter, spotted by The Verge, copies Facebook’s layout, color scheme and icons, but the text is styled after Cyrillic, the Russian alphabet. It’s actually still readable as English (similar to the faux-Cyrillic in the new comedy The Death of Stalin), and the filter’s real message is clear from the included “likes” — one from “your mom” and another from “a bot.”

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The subtext is clear – Facebook, Snap wants you to know, is dominated by old people and fraud. That plays into the already-deteriorating public perception of Facebook. Over the past two weeks, in response to rising panic about privacy, bots, and a host of related revelations, Facebook’s stock has declined as much as 15%. CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s personal fortune has dropped by more money than most humans could hope to see in a hundred lifetimes.

This is just the latest public clash between the rival companies. Facebook has blatantly copied an array of Snapchat features, most prominently photo filters and the disappearing videos known as Stories. On an earnings call last year, Snap, Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel compared Facebook to Yahoo!, which in the tech world, is about on par with insulting Mark Zuckerberg’s mother.

Reminding users of Facebook’s apparent abuse of their trust could help Snap compete. Snap’s gesture is reminiscent of PR clashes last year between Lyft and Uber, when Uber stumbled in its reaction to Donald Trump’s travel ban and Lyft made an extremely well-timed contribution to the ACLU. That, too, was a bit of retribution for prior misbehavior — much as Facebook has stolen concepts from Snapchat, Uber had actively worked to undermine Lyft.

Lyft’s move (along with plenty of unforced errors by Uber) has helped Lyft take huge bites out of its opponent’s market share.

Snap’s attack is riding a wave of calls to delete Facebook, just as Lyft leveraged a boycott of Uber. While switching from Facebook to Snapchat isn’t quite the same thing, similar logic does hold — for digital platforms, what you stand for can matter nearly as much as the service you provide.