Monday, May 25, 2015

NASSCOM launches cybersecurity task force

NEW DELHI: National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and Data Security Council of India have launched NASSCOM Cyber Security Task Force. 

According to a statement from the trade body, the task force aims to build India as a global hub for providing cyber security solutions, developing cyber security R&D plan and develop a skilled workforce of cyber security experts. 

The task force members will include industry leaders across IT, BPM and internet, heads of user organizations like banks and telcos as well as representatives from the government and academia. 

Rajendra Pawar, Chairman, NIIT will chair this task force. The task force over a 12 week period will identify the key priorities and build the detailed action plan for the sector. 

NASSCOM says the vision of the task force is to build the cyber security industry in India from the 1% market share to 10% by 2025; a trained base of 1 million certified and skilled cyber security professionals and build 100+ successful security product companies from India. 

Rajendra Pawar, chair, NASSCOM Cyber Security Task Force and chairman, NIIT, said, "Securing the cyberspace has become an important priority for governments, businesses and citizens across the world. In line with the Prime Minister's vision of making India a cyber-security expert nation and his recent exhortation to the industry, we have created the cyber security task force. This task force aims to make India a global hub for providing cyber security solutions including cyber security products and services. The task force will focus on the four key pillars of Industry development, Policy enablement, Technology development and Skill development."

Like Microsoft in 2000s, has Google already peaked?

WASHINGTON: As Google faces an antitrust probe from European regulators, some analysts are questioning whether the California tech giant's dominance has already peaked. 

While Google remains one of the world's biggest companies with overwhelming dominance of internet search, its prospects are less rosy in a tech landscape rapidly shifting to mobile devices and social media, say some industry watchers. 

Debate heated up last year after a blog post titled "Peak Google" from technology analyst and consultant Ben Thompson, who argued that Google is losing momentum. 

Thompson said Google may be in the same boat as IBM in the 1980s and Microsoft around 2000 -- "a hugely profitable company bestride the tech industry that at the moment seems infallible, but that history will show to have peaked in dominance and relevancy." 

Google has for years been the leader in internet search and has turned advertising linked to those searches into a highly lucrative business. 

But its shares have struggled since hitting an all-time high in early 2014 and it has little to show for ventures in other areas: self-driving cars, Google Glass, internet balloons, healthcare, Google TV, mobile payments, home automation and its Google+ social network, among others. 

Even in online advertising, Thompson argues, Google is losing ground to rivals like Facebook which integrate ads in "the stream," sometimes called "native ads," in a different approach from that of Google. 

"All of the things that make Google great at search and search advertising... are skills that don't really translate to the more touchy-feely qualities that make a social service or content site compelling," he said. 

In the mobile world, its free Android operating system dominates the smartphone market -- another potential concern of EU regulators. But Google has failed to get a major revenue lift from Android. 

That's because on mobile devices, users spend most of their time using apps, which leave Google out of the picture. 

Roger Kay at Endpoint Technologies Associates said this shift cuts into Google's strength. 

Growing use of apps such as Yelp or Open Table takes away from Google's ability to search and deliver advertising for those queries, he noted. 

"Google's business model is very narrow. It's just a single pillar which is holding the company up," Kay told AFP. 

Google, which opens its developers conference on Thursday, is working to adapt to mobile, but it's not clear if it is too late. 

Data from research firm eMarketer shows Google's share of global digital ad dollars has held at around 31 percent over the past three years, while Facebook, Twitter and others have gained. 

For mobile ads, Google has seen its share drop to around 35 percent this year from 46 percent in 2013, losing to others such as Facebook and China's Alibaba and Baidu. 

"I wouldn't say Google is a sinking ship, but they are trying to plug a thousand leaks," says eMarketer analyst Jeremy Kressmann. 

Mobile is crucial because Google lacks access to user data on apps installed on Apple iOS devices, making it harder to deliver relevant, targeted messages, the analyst said. 

Facebook, says Kressmann, has better data glean from social network profiles and "likes" to get the best ads at the right time. 

"They know a lot more about who each Facebook user is, where they are located, so they can get more granular," he said. "It's very attractive to an advertiser to have that knowledge." 

While Google's free Android operating system has a market share of around 80%, the company gets little revenue from it. 

Android was designed as a way to feed users into other Google services, but it hasn't always been effective, says Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research. 

"In many ways Google is losing control over Android and losing a way to monetize it by using it as an entry into the Google ecosystem," Dawson said. 

Dawson noted that Google services are stripped out of Android for most Chinese smartphone users, and that other manufacturers such as Amazon have "forked" the Android system to direct users elsewhere. 

The shift to mobile has also fueled interest in new search companies which are trying to out-Google the leader for smartphone users. 

Investors have poured more than $100 million into venture-backed mobile search startups over the past three years, according to the research firm CB Insights. 

Some of these new firms such as Quixey, Swiftype, Wildcard and Vurb aim to help people search through the app world where Google lacks a presence. 

These firms use "deep linking, creating new ways to mimic web links by allowing users to go directly into different parts of a mobile app and gaining valuable data on where those users came from," CB Insights said. 

Kay argues that any effort by the EU to impose new business methods on Google could accelerate the trend which is eroding its dominance, similar to what happened with Microsoft during its antitrust battles. 

"If you put Google through a legal wringer it will be very timid," he said. 

But Dawson said Google may learn lessons from Microsoft, which is reinventing itself with new products and a different business model. 

"Google is a dynamic company and has the potential to make that transition more quickly and weather it better," he said.

Forget Google, EU now loves to hate Facebook

LONDON: One arm of the European Union is looking into whether Facebook and other tech companies unfairly favour their own services over those of rivals. At least five data protection watchdogs across the region are questioning Facebook's privacy settings.

And in a case that could have broad implications for many tech companies, the region's top court will issue a preliminary decision next month on whether Facebook can continue transferring user data between Europe and the United States.

Move over, Google. Facebook is the latest American tech giant that Europeans love to hate.

For decades, European policymakers have taken aim at America's giant tech businesses, trying to force them to play by European rules. In the past, Microsoft and Intel were found guilty of abusing their dominant positions to shut out rivals. Google has most recently been under the microscope, and it faces accusations that it unfairly promoted some of its search products over those of competitors.

In recent months, though, regulators' gazes have turned to Facebook, raising questions about whether the social network has learned from the mistakes of companies like Intel, Microsoft and Google when dealing with Europe's policymakers and its legal system. And as Facebook runs into an increasing number of regulatory hurdles here, the scrutiny could potentially distract the company from its ambitions of becoming a one-stop-shop for internet messaging, online publishing and digital advertising.

"Platforms like Facebook have grown quickly to become global forces," said Serafino Abate, a director at the Center on Regulation in Europe, a research organization in Brussels. "But with that size comes responsibility."

The scrutiny is mounting as the company's messaging and digital advertising services continue to spread globally. More than 1.4 billion people now use the social network, and hundreds of millions of people also rely on the company's mobile messaging services, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and its photo sharing service, Instagram.

Facebook's core business, its social networking service, is especially popular in Europe. The company has almost doubled its number of European users to the service, to around 260 million, since 2010. Facebook also has more users in Europe than in the United States, according to eMarketer, a research company.

Regulators in Europe, however, are especially focused on how the company collects and handles those users' data. The region has some of the world's toughest data protection rules, and policymakers from France, Germany and Belgium are investigating whether the social network broke Europe's laws after the company announced a new privacy policy this year.

If found to have breached the privacy rules, Facebook may face fines or demands that it change how the company handles people's data, though the social network says it complies with the region's data protection laws.

"Obviously, there are privacy issues," said Mathias Moulin, deputy director of enforcement at the French data protection regulator, who is overseeing the watchdog's review of the company's activities and who will meet other regulators at month's end to discuss the continuing investigations. "This is a global company. Facebook affects millions of people across Europe."

Taking a page from the playbooks of other US tech companies, the social network has not stood idle as regulators steadily lined up against it.

The company has hired a number of prominent former lawmakers and regulators, including Erika Mann, a former German member of the European Parliament. This month, the company also chose Kevin Martin, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to champion its cause in Washington, Brussels and beyond.

Facebook increased spending on lobbying 25%, to roughly $570,000, in 2013 compared with the previous year, according the latest figures available from the European Union's voluntary database of lobbying interests, which may not include all of Facebook's activities in the region.

"We expect scrutiny. We're not afraid of it," said Richard Allan, a former member of Parliament in Britain who has run Facebook's policy team in Europe for the past six years. "If you are the new kid on the block, there's always a reaction to that."

To get a sense of the European backlash against Facebook, you do not have to look much further than the experiences of Max Schrems, an Austrian law student who has led a vocal opposition to how the company collects and uses people's data from around the world.

Schrems, 27, recently said his concern about online data traces back at least to 2011 and a college class in California. In the class, he said, employees of several West Coast tech companies expressed open disdain for Europe's tough data protection rules, which enshrine a person's right to privacy as a fundamental human right.

After returning to Europe, he began a lengthy campaign against the type of data that Facebook collected on its users, including information on their physical locations.

To rein in the company's efforts, Schrems filed multiple complaints with the Irish data protection watchdog, which is responsible for policing the social network's activities in its international headquarters in Dublin. That led to a three-month audit of how Facebook collected data, and changes to the way the company obtained and used people's online information.

Unhappy with how Ireland's regulator managed his case, Schrems intensified his campaign.

He appealed to the country's highest court, which referred the case to the European Court of Justice, the region's top court. A preliminary decision is expected by the end of June on whether Facebook and other companies can continue transferring data between Europe and the United States.

Many US tech giants rely on moving online information between the regions to feed their business models, like personalized digital advertising. If the European court rules in favor of Schrems, those practices could be drastically curtailed.

Schrems also filed a separate Austrian class-action lawsuit against Facebook after collecting more than 75,000 online signatures. He said the company had violated Europe's privacy rules -- accusations Facebook strongly denies -- and his side could receive up to $14 million if he wins the case. A decision is not expected until at least early 2016.

"This is about limiting what Facebook can do with Europeans' data," said Schrems, who remains active on the social network despite his legal disputes. "How much should they be allowed to dig into the souls of their users? That's what we're fighting for."

Big European companies are also pushing for stronger oversight of Facebook, including the region's well-connected telecom industry.

After Facebook bought WhatsApp, the internet messaging service, last year for $19 billion, many of Europe's cellphone carriers lobbied hard for the region's antitrust regulators to review the deal. Carriers say that by combining WhatsApp with Facebook's own messaging service, the social network has a virtual monopoly over how people send messages on their smartphones.

Europe's antitrust authorities, however, eventually approved the takeover, and Facebook contends there are other internet messaging services that compete with its offerings.

Yet lawmakers are now looking into whether Facebook's messaging services should be regulated like those offered by traditional carriers. And industry executives say that as the social network starts to offer other services like phone calls through the company's many smartphone applications, Facebook should play by the same rules that apply to traditional mobile operators.

"We can't forever be living in a world where we compete with one arm tied behind our backs and they don't," Pierre Louette, deputy chief executive at Orange, the former French telecom monopoly, said in reference to Facebook. "Our two worlds are colliding. Now that the worlds have met, we're all competing for people's attention."