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Facebook Sued by District of Columbia Over Cambridge Analytica

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SAN FRANCISCO — The attorney general of the District of Columbia, Karl Racine, sued Facebook on Wednesday for allowing the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest the private data of tens of millions of the social network’s users.

It was a first step by a state attorney general to punish Facebook for privacy violations. “Facebook failed to protect the privacy of its users and deceived them about who had access to their data and how it was used,” Mr. Racine said in a statement.

Will Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president of state and local public policy, said in a statement, “We’re reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in D.C. and elsewhere.”

The Times and other news organizations reported in March that Cambridge Analytica, which was based in London, had improperly obtained the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica, which had ties to President Trump’s campaign, used the information to build psychographic profiles of American voters.

The reports prompted concerns among lawmakers and regulators in Europe and the United States about whether Facebook had a proper handle on the data of its more than 2.2 billion users worldwide. The revelations have spawned months of crisis for the Silicon Valley company, on top of other issues that the social network has faced, such as how it was manipulated by Russians to interfere in elections. Facebook’s top executives, including its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, have vowed to improve the site.

Even so, it will likely take many more months to resolve the fallout from Cambridge Analytica. In some places, regulators and lawmakers have moved swiftly. In Britain, Facebook was hit in July with the maximum possible fine of 500,000 pounds, or about $660,000, for the improper harvesting of its users’ data.

At the time, the Information Commissioner’s Office in Britain said that its inquiry had determined that “Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people’s information. It also found that the company failed to be transparent about how people’s data was harvested by others.”

In the United States, legal and regulatory action has been slower. Earlier this year, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. began investigating Cambridge Analytica, which is now defunct. In July, Facebook said it faced an expansion of federal investigations into its sharing of user data with Cambridge Analytica.

Several state attorney general offices have also announced investigations into Facebook because of Cambridge Analytica. In the lawsuit brought by Mr. Racine on Wednesday, he said the Facebook data of roughly half of the District of Columbia’s residents had been exposed by Cambridge Analytica’s harvesting. Mr. Racine also said the social media company misled people about the security of their data, and made it difficult to control privacy settings on the platform.

A new report by The Times on Tuesday, which laid out how Facebook had struck special data-sharing agreements with companies including Netflix and Spotify, may lead investigators to broaden the scope of their investigations.

In New York, where the state attorney general has been looking into Facebook, Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for the office, said the revelations by The Times reflect “the many unanswered questions to which New Yorkers deserve clear answers.”

An investigation by Barbara Underwood, the New York attorney general, “into the apparent misuse of Facebook user data is ongoing,” she added.

Mr. Racine also said the new report deserved scrutiny. In a statement, his office said the district would seek an injunction forcing Facebook to implement protocols that would safeguard people’s privacy, along with “seeking restitution for the consumers who have been hurt.”

Mr. Racine’s office has also conferred with other state attorneys general who are investigating Facebook. In a news conference, Mr. Racine said they could file a multistate lawsuit against the company.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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