MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s communications watchdog threatened on Thursday to block access to popular VPN-services which allow users to gain access to websites which have been outlawed by Moscow.
Russia has introduced tougher internet laws, requiring search engines to delete some results, messaging services to share encryption keys with security services and social networks to store users’ personal data on servers within the country.
But VPN (virtual private network) services can allow users to establish secure internet connections and reach websites which have been banned or blocked.
Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor said it had asked the owners of 10 VPN services to join a state IT system that contains a registry of banned websites.
If the VPN services link to the system, their users would not be able to reach websites which had been blocked or be able to use the banned Telegram messenger service.
The internet censor said that it had sent notifications to NordVPN, Hide My Ass!, Hola VPN, Openvpn, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, Kaspersky Secure Connection and VPN Unlimited, giving them a month to reply.
“In the cases of non-compliance with the obligations stipulated by the law, Roskomnadzor may decide to restrict access to a VPN service,” the watchdog said in a statement.
Reporting by Anton Zverev. Writing by Andrey Kuzmin; Editing by Alexander Smith
BERLIN (Reuters) – German used-car dealing platform Auto1 said it could seek a public offering in future but a 2018 cash infusion from Japan’s Softbank means it has no immediate need for extra funding of its European growth plans.
FILE PHOTO: A worker loads a second hand car on a car transporter truck at the Auto1.com company grounds in Zoerbig, Germany January 28, 2017.REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch /File Photo
Last year’s Softbank’s deal valued Berlin-based Auto1 at 2.9 billion euros ($3.27 billion), making it one of Germany’s top so-called tech unicorns.
It is virtually unknown to consumers except through its used car buying arm Wir Kaufen dein Auto (We Buy Your Car) in Germany and similar names elsewhere. It operates from Finland to Romania to Portugal, 30 countries in all.
Revenues rose by 32 percent to 2.9 billion euros last year, and although it is profitable in Germany, investments in other markets have led to a loss on group level.
“Currently, an initial public offering is not a topic for us,” Auto1 co-founder Christian Bertermann told Reuters, adding this could change in future.
Auto1 buys cars using its vehicle pricing database to calculate an offer within minutes and then sells the vehicles on to one of its roughly 35,000 dealerships for a commission.
Its platforms helped 540,000 vehicles change hands in 2018.
The company will now also start a retail platform to compete with Scout24’s Autoscout unit or Ebay’s Mobile.de offering, Bertermann said.
He confirmed a Reuters report about Auto1’s talks with Scout24 about an acquisition of Autoscout, adding that these would not lead to a takeover.
Scout24 in February agreed to be acquired by buyout groups Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone.
Auto1 was set up in Berlin by entrepreneur Christian Bertermann after having trouble selling two old cars owned by his grandmother, along with Koc, who previously worked at Rocket Internet-backed firms Zalando and Home24.
Reporting by Nadine Schimroszik,; Writing by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Alexandra Hudson
MUMBAI (Reuters) – Netflix Inc is testing a 250 rupee ($3.63) monthly subscription for mobile devices in India, the video streaming giant said, aiming to boost its presence in a price-sensitive market where data consumption on smartphones is surging.
FILE PHOTO: The Netflix logo is seen on their office in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
California-based Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, ranging from 500 rupees to 800 rupees, but those are still expensive compared with similar offerings from rivals.
Amazon’s Prime service, which offers video streaming, music and faster shipping of purchases, is priced at 999 rupees a year while local rival Hotstar has a free service as well paid plans starting at 365 rupees a year.
Netflix’s test plan at 250 rupees a month gives users access to standard definition video on smartphones and tablets, a company spokesman said.
“We will be testing different options in select countries where members can, for example, watch Netflix on their mobile device for a lower price and subscribe in shorter increments of time,” he added.
Netflix’s Indian roster includes blockbuster originals such as “Sacred Games”, global superhits such as “Narcos” as well as Indian cinema. However, its premium pricing is seen by critics as a stumbling block to bulking up its Indian user base.
Chief Executive Reed Hastings told Reuters late last year that Netflix had no plans for cheaper prices in India, where it aims to win its next 100 million subscribers.
The company emphasized on Tuesday that the new plan is a test and the company might not roll out these specific plans beyond the tests.
Netflix’s strategy to launch the test for mobile devices in India comes against the backdrop of rising demand for smartphones in the world’s second-biggest mobile phone market with more than 1.1 billion wireless connections.
Aspirational buyers looking for bigger screens and better user experience are likely to spend more on their second or third smartphones, pushing up the average selling price by 18 percent from last year to $190, said Tarun Pathak of technology researcher Counterpoint.
Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by David Goodman
DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, plans to roll out a commercial 5G mobile network by June, partly using Huawei technology despite the United States’ concerns the Chinese telecom giant’s equipment could be used for spying.
FILE PHOTO: Logos of Huawei are pictured outside its shop in Beijing, China, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo
Washington has warned countries against using Chinese technology, saying Huawei could be used by Beijing to spy on the West. China has rejected the accusations.
VIVA Bahrain, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian state-controlled telecom STC, last month signed an agreement to use Huawei products in its 5G network, one of several Gulf telecoms firms working with the Chinese company.
“We have no concern at this stage as long as this technology is meeting our standards,” Bahrain’s Telecommunications Minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed told Reuters on Tuesday when asked about U.S. concerns over Huawei technology.
The U.S. embassy in Bahrain did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. Fifth Fleet uses its base in Bahrain, a Western-allied island state off the Saudi coast, to patrol several important shipping lanes, including near Iran.
Bahrain expects to be one of the first countries to make 5G available nationwide, Mohammed said, although he cautioned it would depend on handset and equipment availability.
Early movers like the United States, China, Japan and South Korea are just starting to roll out their 5G networks, but other regions, such as Europe, still years away and the first 5G phones are only likely to be released in the second half of this year.
Bahrain’s state controlled operator Batelco is working with Sweden’s Ericsson on its 5G network, while the country’s third telecom Zain Bahrain is yet to announce a technology provider.
No foreign company is restricted by the government from providing equipment for Bahrain’s 5G network, Mohammed said, adding that the mobile operators chose who they worked with.
Australia and New Zealand have stopped operators using Huawei equipment in their networks but the European Union is expected to ignore U.S. calls to ban the Chinese company, instead urging countries to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks.
Mohammed said the rollout of the 5G network was an “important milestone” for Bahrain, which is hoping investments in technology will help spur the economy which was hit hard by the drop in oil prices.
“It is something we are proud to have,” he said.
Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Kirsten Donovan
SEOUL (Reuters) – Shares of South Korean chip giants jumped on Thursday after U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology Inc forecast recovery in a memory market saddled with oversupply as device demand sags.
FILE PHOTO: Memory chip parts of U.S. memory chip maker MicronTechnology are pictured at their booth at an industrial fair in Frankfurt, Germany, July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
The world’s second-biggest memory chip maker, SK Hynix Inc, saw its shares surge nearly 7 percent by 0330 GMT, while technology giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd gained 4.3 percent.
Micron said on Wednesday it saw recovery in the memory chip market, after reporting quarterly profit that beat analyst estimates as cost control helped offset falling demand and prices.
“Micron’s projection on growing memory chip demand from data center operators set up a positive outlook for the memory chip industry, helping boost shares of South Korean chipmakers,” said analyst Seo Sang-young at Kiwoom Securities.
Analysts have been wary about prospects of the memory chip market due to lower demand for smartphones and slumping investment from data center companies.
“With its plan to cut production, it seems that Micron is determined to better control oversupply problems in the chip market,” said analyst Park Sung-soon at BNK Securities.
Tech research firm TrendForce in a report on Wednesday said it expects a only a slight decline in NAND flash chip sales in the second quarter as demand recovers from smartphones, computers and servers.
“Although it won’t cause an immediate reversal of the oversupply situation, it will have a positive effect on the market environment,” analyst Ben Yeh at DRAMeXchange, a Trendforce division, said in the report.
Both Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix said in their earnings conference calls in January that they expected sales of memory products to revive in the second half of the year.
Rising chip shares helped lift the broader KOSPI stock price index by 0.3 percent.
Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Christopher Cushing
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A Google executive offered new details on Wednesday about the company’s upcoming video game streaming service, telling Reuters that game makers may use competing cloud providers and must avoid some inappropriate content.
Google vice president and general manager Phil Harrison speaks during a Google keynote address announcing a new video gaming streaming service named Stadia that attempts to capitalize on the company’s cloud technology and global network of data centers, at the Gaming Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, unveiled Stadia on Tuesday, saying the service launching this year would make playing high-quality video games in an internet browser as easy as watching a movie on its YouTube service.
The game would operate on Google’s servers, receiving commands from a user’s controller and sending video streams to their screen. Player settings, leaderboards, matchmaking tools and other data related to the game would “not necessarily” have to reside on Google’s servers, Phil Harrison, a Google vice president, said in an interview.
Hosting the data elsewhere, however, could lead to slower loading times or less crisp streaming quality, he said.
“Obviously, we would want and incentivize the publisher to bring as much of their backend as possible” to Google servers, he said. “But Stadia can reach out to other public and private cloud services.”
The approach could limit Google’s revenue from Stadia. It has declined to comment on the business model for the new service, but attracting new customers to Google’s paid cloud computing program is one of Stadia’s aims.
If a game publisher was using Amazon for some tools, “the first thing I would do is introduce you to the Google Cloud team,” Harrison said.
In addition, Stadia will require games to follow content guidelines that build upon the system of Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a self-regulatory body, he said.
“We absolutely will not have A-O content,” Harrison said, referring to the ESRB’s moniker for the rare designation of a game as adult-only because of intense violence, pornography or real-money gambling.
He said Stadia’s guidelines would not be public.
Asked about growing public concerns about game addiction, Harrison said Stadia would empower parents with controls on “what you play, when you play and who you play with.”
Google views Stadia as connecting its various efforts in gaming, including selling them on its mobile app store, Harrison said. But game streaming, he said, is an opportunity to tackle among the most complex technical challenges around and potentially apply breakthroughs to other industries.
“We think we can grow a very significant games market vertical,” he said. “And by getting this right we can advance the state of the art of computing.”
FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Android mascot Bugdroid is seen in front of a Google logo in this illustration taken July 9, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Alphabet’s Google will prompt Android users to choose their preferred browsers and search apps, a senior Google executive said on Tuesday, as the company seeks to allay EU antitrust concerns and ward off fresh sanctions.
The European Commission last year handed Google a record 4.34 billion euro ($4.9 billion) fine for using the market power of its mobile software to block rivals in areas such as internet browsing.
By pre-installing its Chrome browser and Google search app on Android devices, Google had an unfair advantage over its rivals, EU enforcers said.
Google will now try to ensure that Android users are aware of browsers and search engines other than its own services, Kent Walker, senior vice-president of global affairs, said in a blog.
“In the coming months, via the Play Store, we’ll start asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use,” he wrote without providing details.
The company, which introduced a licensing fee for device makers to access its app marketplace after the EU sanction, does not plan to scrap the charge.
Google could be fined up to 5 percent of Alphabet’s average daily worldwide turnover if it fails to comply with the EU order to stop anti-competitive practices.
Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Goodman
PagerDuty took the next step forward to a planned IPO, joining a windfall of startups expected to go public this year. But the cloud-based software company’s debut will be an exception among the tech IPO wave—it’s one of the few enterprise companies run by a woman, CEO Jennifer Tejada.
Founded in 2009, San Francisco-based PagerDuty acts as a watchdog for technical issues. The operations management software identifies problems in real time and directs engineers to the root of the problem, an alert system that’s attracted 10,800 customers in 90 countries.
In 2018, PagerDuty scored unicorn status after a $90 million round led by T. Rowe Price Associates and Wellington Management. Its first nine months of revenue last year rose 48% from the period to $84 million. However, the company took a $34.5 million loss during that time,up $4.7 million from 2017. It didn’t reveal data on the full year.
The company’s institutional investors own more than half of its shares, including early investor, Andreessen Horowitz, which owns the largest share of the company at 18.4%, followed by Accel and Bessemer Venture Partners. PagerDuty’s cofounders, Baskar Puvanathasan, Andrew Miklas and Alex Solomon, each hold 7.1%.
PagerDuty landed a spot in the top 50 on the Forbes Cloud 100 list in 2017, just a year after Tejada took over as CEO. “It was a neat brand, even though it’s a small company,” Tejada told Forbes back in July 2016. Tejada owns over four million shares of the company.
(Reuters) – U.S. federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook Inc struck with some of the world’s largest technology companies, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the requests and without naming the companies.
Both companies are among the more than 150, including Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp, that have entered into partnerships with Facebook for access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users, according to the report.
Facebook is facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over its privacy practices, including ongoing investigations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and two state agencies in New York.
In addition to looking at the data deals, the probes focus on disclosures that the company shared the user data of 87 million people with Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm that worked with U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Facebook said it was cooperating with investigators in multiple federal probes, without addressing the grand jury inquiry specifically.
“We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we will continue to do so,” Facebook said in a statement.
Facebook has defended the data-sharing deals, first reported in December, saying none of the partnerships gave companies access to information without people’s permission.
A spokesman for the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, which The New York Times reported is overseeing the inquiry, said he could not confirm or deny the probe.
Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Katie Paul in San Francisco; Editing by Richard Chang and Leslie Adler