Nobody else in Silicon Valley has such absolute power over a technology giant.
Mark Zuckerberg is the co-founder, chief executive, board chairman and majority shareholder of Facebook, the most-populated social network in the world.
For years, few considered this a problem. But then, things started going rather badly.
“I know that we don’t exactly have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly,” Mr Zuckerberg said on stage this week at the firm’s annual developers’ conference in San Jose.
He smiled, awkwardly, but the audience was not laughing – because that reputation has left users upset, politicians seething, regulators plotting and investors on edge.
There are now growing calls for Mr Zuckerberg to look hard at whether he is capable of effectively holding all of the many positions under his name.
And, as the US rolls into its next election cycle, a desire to look tough on Silicon Valley has US presidential candidates calling for Mr Zuckerberg’s power to be heavily diluted, whether he wants it to be or not.
Behind closed doors, Facebook and the US Federal Trade Commission are deep into negotiations. The FTC is understood to be planning a record-breaking fine, and Facebook, it told investors last week, has set aside at least $3bn to pay it. The question is: what else might the regulator demand?
“I think Facebook has consistently, aggressively violated consumer privacy,” Ashkan Soltani, former chief technologist at the FTC, told the BBC. He said he felt Facebook saw it as a necessary, affordable risk to take in order to build its business as quickly as it did.
“It’s akin to double parking – being comfortable with the fines of a parking ticket, because you make more on say, a package delivery. I think the company has prioritised growth at any cost.”
As a result of this prevailing sentiment, the FTC is under considerable pressure to concoct a punishment that represents more than what would amount to a financial slap on the wrist. Even if the fine is as high as $5bn, as Facebook has said it might be, that would still only equate to one third of what it earned in the first three months of this year alone.
According to reports in the Washington Post and Politico, the key detail to look out for in the FTC’s judgement will be about additional oversight.
Politico reported on Wednesday that the FTC is considering a ruling that would demand Facebook appoint a government-approved privacy official at the company, and elevate “privacy-minded” executives to the highest levels at the firm. The report also said Mr Zuckerberg would be specifically appointed as the individual responsible for applying these changes, a move designed to make him personally liable for any failings to do so.
And then there’s the question of pressure from the firm’s investors. While the share price has rallied since the significant drops seen during the immediate fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there are calls for Mark Zuckerberg to consider whether holding the position of both chief executive and chairman is simply too tall an order – particularly at a company in crisis.
A group of investors is calling for Mr Zuckerberg to be replaced with an independent chairperson, citing the firm’s recent troubles as ample motivation for the move. The vote doesn’t stand a chance of passing, as Mr Zuckerberg personally controls the majority of votes – but those in support say that just serves to underline their point.
The vote, then, is being seen as an opportunity to give Mr Zuckerberg some food for thought on his roles, said Jonas Kron from Trillium Asset Management, which is leading the move.
“I think he should be seriously thinking about [stepping down],” Mr Kron told the BBC.
“He has examples in Larry Page at Alphabet and Bill Gates at Microsoft of what it can look like for a founder not to be the chairman of the board.
“I realise that it may not be an easy step to take, but it’s an important step that would be to his benefit, to his shareholders’ benefit, to employees… and to the users and the communities around the world that use Facebook every day.”
Facebook declined to offer comment for this story, other than to point the BBC in the direction of its official response to the shareholders’ proposal.
It said, in part: “We believe that our current board structure is in the best interests of our stockholders. Therefore, our board of directors recommends that our stockholders vote against this proposal.”
In simpler times, back in 2015, Mark Zuckerberg had just had his first child with wife Priscilla Chan, and at the same time announced his intention to gradually step away from the day-to-day running of Facebook.
With these issues swirling, that transition might need to happen sooner than Mr Zuckerberg would have hoped.
Source: BBC News
Re-register Your SIM Cards By June 2020 – Gov’t Orders Ghanaians
The Communications Ministry has directed that owners of SIM cards of various networks in the country re-register them by June 2020.
The directive, according to the ministry, is to fight fraud and other crimes in the country.
The sector minister, Ursula Owusu Ekuful who made this known during the ministry’s turn at the regular Meet-the-press session said the re-registration window will be opened from January 2020 to June 2020.
She cautioned that persons who fail to comply with the directive will have their SIMs deactivated.
“It is quite clear that the current SIM card registration regime is deficient and fraught with many challenges, defeating the purpose of the SIM registration regulations. Mindful of this, cabinet earlier this year directed the Minister for Communications to instruct all telecommunication companies to fully comply with the law governing sim card acquisition which requires the presentation of a valid ID document prior to registration,” the minister said on Monday.
“The ministry has consulted all relevant stakeholders and hereby announces that from 1st January 2020, we would all be required to re-register our SIM cards. Any SIM card which is not registered will be deactivated by June 2020, giving a six-month time frame for this exercise. We entreat all citizens, residents and visitors to cooperate with us to ensure the success of this exercise for our collective security,” she added.
The early part of this year saw the Communications Ministry pledging to rectify all shortfalls that come with SIM card registration in the country.
The Ministry in a statement instructed all stakeholders including telecommunication companies to ensure strict compliance with the SIM registration and activation processes in line with the relevant statutory provisions.
Mobile users were also urged to confirm the status and details of their registration by dialing *400# on their mobile handsets and following up with their respective mobile networks to correct errors in the registration detail.
The use of wrongly registered SIM cards to perpetrate cyber crimes and other forms of fraud in the country has been on the ascendancy.
Despite efforts to deal with the problem, the situation has persisted.
Uber Begins The Pilot Phase Of Its Boat Service In Nigeria.
Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)As part of its expansion plans into Africa, global ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies launched a pilot test of their taxi boat service on Friday in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial hub.
To attract customers who want to avoid the city's frequently congested roads, Uber will operate a two-week pilot phase of the boat service in conjunction with the Lagos State Water Authority (LASWA) and local boat operators, Texas Connection Ferries.
"We are aware of the man hours and productivity that are lost every day due to vehicular traffic in Lagos state and are looking at ways to provide commuters with an easy and affordable way to get in and out of the city's business districts," said Lola Kassim, Uber's general manager for West Africa, in a statement.
The launch of the UberBOAT service comes four months after Uber's global head of business development, Brookes Entwistle, said the company was looking to gain more ground on the continent.
The service will be available only on weekdays for the next two weeks and will cost 500 naira ($1.30) per trip. The boats will move four times during the day between the Ikorodu Ferry Terminal, northeast of Lagos, and the Falomo Cowries Terminal, according to the Uber statement.
Lagos has an estimated population of about 22 million people and counting, more than double London or New York's tally. One study said commuters in Lagos an average of 30 hours a week stuck in traffic.
Its large population combined with frequent traffic congestion has made it important to develop new modes of transport like UberBOAT, said Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a statement.
"The last couple of years have seen the Lagos State Government commit to building up infrastructure that supports multi-modal transportation, which includes water transport," he said. "We collaborated with Uber on this because of the shared vision to utilize the waterways more as a means of decongesting the city," he said in the statement.
This is not Uber's first service outside vehicle ride-sharing. In January, it launched taxi boats in Mumbai, India.
Facebook Researchers Use Maths For Better Translations.
Designers of machine translation tools still mostly rely on dictionaries to make a foreign language understandable.
But now there is a new way: numbers.
Facebook researchers say rendering words into figures and exploiting mathematical similarities between languages is a promising avenue -- even if a universal communicator a la Star Trek remains a distant dream.
Powerful automatic translation is a big priority for internet giants. Allowing as many people as possible worldwide to communicate is not just an altruistic goal, but also good business.
Facebook, Google and Microsoft as well as Russia's Yandex, China's Baidu and others are constantly seeking to improve their translation tools.
Facebook has artificial intelligence experts on the job at one of its research labs in Paris.
Up to 200 languages are currently used on Facebook, said Antoine Bordes, European co-director of fundamental AI research for the social network.
Automatic translation is currently based on having large databases of identical texts in both languages to work from. But for many language pairs there just aren't enough such parallel texts.
That's why researchers have been looking for another method, like the system developed by Facebook which creates a mathematical representation for words.
Each word becomes a "vector" in a space of several hundred dimensions. Words that have close associations in the spoken language also find themselves close to each other in this vector space.
- From Basque to Amazonian? -
"For example, if you take the words 'cat' and 'dog', semantically, they are words that describe a similar thing, so they will be extremely close together physically" in the vector space, said Guillaume Lample, one of the system's designers.
"If you take words like Madrid, London, Paris, which are European capital cities, it's the same idea."
These language maps can then be linked to one another using algorithms -- at first roughly, but eventually becoming more refined, until entire phrases can be matched without too many errors.
Lample said results are already promising.
For the language pair of English-Romanian, Facebook's current machine translation system is "equal or maybe a bit worse" than the word vector system, said Lample.
But for the rarer language pair of English-Urdu, where Facebook's traditional system doesn't have many bilingual texts to reference, the word vector system is already superior, he said.
But could the method allow translation from, say, Basque into the language of an Amazonian tribe?
In theory, yes, said Lample, but in practice a large body of written texts are needed to map the language, something lacking in Amazonian tribal languages.
"If you have just tens of thousands of phrases, it won't work. You need several hundreds of thousands," he said.
- 'Holy Grail' -
Experts at France's CNRS national scientific centre said the approach Lample has taken for Facebook could produce useful results, even if it doesn't result in perfect translations.
Thierry Poibeau of CNRS's Lattice laboratory, which also does research into machine translation, called the word vector approach "a conceptual revolution".
He said "translating without parallel data" -- dictionaries or versions of the same documents in both languages -- "is something of the Holy Grail" of machine translation.
"But the question is what level of performance can be expected" from the word vector method, said Poibeau.
The method "can give an idea of the original text" but the capability for a good translation every time remains unproven.
Francois Yvon, a researcher at CNRS's Computer Science Laboratory for Mechanics and Engineering Sciences, said "the linking of languages is much more difficult" when they are far removed from one another.
"The manner of denoting concepts in Chinese is completely different from French," he added.
However even imperfect translations can be useful, said Yvon, and could prove sufficient to track hate speech, a major priority for Facebook.
“Unused Mobile Data Should Not Expire. – Mrs. Ursula Owusu To Telcos
The Ministry of Communications wants mobile network operators (MNO) in Ghana to desist from allowing all unused data and voice bundles purchased by subscribers from expiring.
In a new directive issued by the Ministry to the network operators, it said, "all unused data and voice bundles purchased by subscribers do not expire and must be rolled over with the next recharge."
The directive was contained in a letter dated October 9, 2019, signed by the Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu Ekuful and addressed to the Director-General of the National Communications Authority (NCA), Mr Joe Anokye with a copy to the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of MTN and Vodafone as well as the two Deputy Ministers of Communication, Mr George Nenyi Andah and Mr Vincent Sowah-Odotei.
The letter, a copy of which has been by Graphic Online states that the move was following a series of meetings held between the Ministry, NCA and the MNOs.
The letter explained that the directive was coming as a result of the increase in the Communication Service Tax (CST) from 6% to 9% and the subsequent decision by the MNOs to pass the entire burden of CST to subscribers contrary to a previous arrangement.
"We must emphasise that the fact that CST was increased from the existing rate of 6% to 9% effective 4th September 2019. The tax has been in existence since 2008 and was increased to provide revenue for cybersecurity initiatives to protect the digital infrastructure and policies being used by both the public and private sector."
The letter stated that, "At the series of meetings held between the Ministry of Communications, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and the NCA on 7th and 8th October, 2019, we were informed that prior to 4th September 2019, MNOs had not been passing on the CST to subscribers but had decided to take advantage of the 3% increase to pass on the entire tax to subscribers. This has effectively increased their profit margin at the expense of subscribers."
It said all efforts to get them [MNOs) to revert to the September 2019 situation has failed as they "literally exact their pound of flesh from their consumers."
The Ministry explained that to help minimise the negative impact of the current mode of deduction of the CST, it has therefore directed that "CST should be treated the same way VAT, NHIL, GETFund levy and all other taxes and levies imposed on entities doing business in Ghana are treated."
It said the "extraordinary upfront deduction of CST and notification of same to subscribers must stop with immediate effect."
"All unused data and voice bundles purchased by subscribers do not expire and must be rolled over with the next recharge."
"MNOs will be subjected to strict compliance with existing Quality of Service (QoS) standard to ensure value for the subscribers' money in accordance with their license obligations," it added.
The letter indicated that the directives were to take immediate effect.