Google’s self-driving car company escalates battle with Uber

A self-driving car company founded by Google is presenting new evidence to support allegations that a former manager stole technology sold to Uber to help the ride-hailing service build its own robot-powered vehicles.

Waymo, a project hatched by Google eight years ago, wove its tale of deceit in sworn statements filed Friday in a San Francisco federal court.

The documents try to make a case that former Waymo manager Anthony Levandowski conceived a scheme to heist key trade secrets before leaving the company early last year to launch an autonomous vehicle startup that he had been discussing with Uber.

It’s the latest salvo in a battle that started last month when Waymo sued Levandowski and Uber for alleged theft of the technology for “LiDAR,” an array of sensors that enable self-driving cars to see what’s around them so they can safely navigate roads. Experts say an effective LiDAR system typically takes years to develop.

After leaving Waymo, Levandowski started a self-driving truck company called Otto that Uber bought for $680 million to accelerate an expansion into autonomous vehicles.

Uber brushed off Waymo’s claims as “a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor.”

Waymo is mounting its attack with the help of one of Levandowski’s former colleagues, Pierre-Yves Droz, the leader of Waymo’s LiDAR project.

In a sworn statement, Droz said Levandowski confided in January 2016 that he planned to “replicate” Waymo’s technology at Otto. A Google forensics expert said he determined that Levandowski began downloading thousands of files containing Waymo’s trade secrets in December 2015, according to another sworn statement.

Levandowski had previously acknowledged to Droz that he began discussing self-driving cars with Uber in 2015, according to the documents. Levandowski, “told me that it would be nice to create a new self-driving car startup and that Uber would be interested in buying the team responsible for the LiDAR we were developing at Google,” Droz said in his declaration.

Then, again in January 2016, Levandowski said that he had been at Uber’s San Francisco headquarters seeking an investment in his startup, Droz said.

Waymo also filed papers seeking a court order to block Uber from using any of the technology that it believes Levandowski stole.

If a judge grants that request, it could force Uber to halt its current tests of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh and Phoenix. It’s unclear how much of the technology targeted in Waymo’s lawsuit is being used in the Uber self-driving cars that are currently picking up passengers in those cities.

Levandowski wasn’t alone in his alleged betrayal, according to Waymo.

Other sworn statements filed Friday identified two other former Waymo employees accused of stealing technology in July 2016 shortly before they joined Uber. They are: Sameer Kshirsagar, Waymo’s former global supply manager, and Radu Radutu, an engineer in Waymo’s LiDAR department.

The dispute between Waymo and Uber highlights the high stakes in the race to build self-driving cars that promise not only to revolutionise the way people get around but also the automobile industry. Waymo and Uber are two of the early leaders, while long-established car companies such as Ford, Toyota and General Motors are scrambling to catch up.

Waymo now operates as a subsidiary of Google’s corporate parent, Alphabet Inc.

Facebook says its data can’t be used for ‘surveillance’

Facebook is prohibiting developers from using the massive amount of data it collects on users for surveillance. This includes using such data to monitor activists and protesters.

The company said Monday that it is making an existing policy “explicit.” Facebook says it has already taken action against developers who created or marketed tools meant to be used for surveillance.

It says it wants to “be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply.”

Last fall, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained records that Facebook and its Instagram service provided user data access to Geofeedia, which develops a monitoring product marketed to law enforcement.

The ACLU said at the time that while both Instagram and Facebook cut off access after finding out about this, Facebook did not have a “public policy specifically prohibiting developers” from taking user data for surveillance.

The new prohibition states that developers — who get access to user data from Facebook to create apps — should protect “the information you receive from us against unauthorised access, use, or disclosure. For example, don’t use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.”

The ACLU report says the data the companies provided to Geofeedia included only public posts, not those that users restricted to just friends or in some other way.

But such access to Facebook data is still valuable to third parties because it would be very difficult to collect and comb through all the stuff on their own.

According to the ACLU, Facebook had provided Geofeedia with access to a data feed called the “Topic Feed API,” which is supposed to be a tool for advertisers.

But Geofeedia could use it to obtain a feed of public Facebook posts that mentioned a specific topic, place or event — for example, “monitor hashtags used by activists and allies, or target activist groups as ‘overt threats,'” Matt Cagle, attorney for the ACLU of Northern California, wrote last October.

Facebook terminated this access nearly a month earlier after being notified about it by the ACLU.

Kamran backs Sarfraz, willing to play as batsman

LAHORE: Ruling out any rivalry with ODI and T20 captain Sarfraz Ahmed, wicket-keeper/batsman Kam­ran Akmal who has made probables camp said on Tuesday that if selected he could even play as a batsman.

Talking to reporters here before the start of the training camp set up at the Gaddafi Stadium ahead of the West Indies tour, the long discarded Kamran said he had been focusing on his batting while stating that ODI skipper in Sarfraz was throwing up fine performances as a captain and as a player due to which no one could replace him.

“I will play as per the role given to me. You people might have observed that not only I have been focusing on my batting abilities but my batting has also improved over the last few years,” maintained the top-order batsman.

When asked there used to be a fierce rivalry between former wicket-keepers in Moin Khan and Rashid Latif, Kamran dispelled the impression stating that young wicket-keeper/batsman in Mohammad Rizwan also played along with Sarfraz before him.

“The performance I gave as a batsman both in the domestic circuit as well as in the PSL makes me a strong contender for a place in the national team,” he further said.

On the other hand, there are reports the team management is aware of the fact that induction of Kamran, who was declared PSL’s best batsman, best player and best wicket-keeper in presence of Quetta Gladiators’ wicket-keeper Sarfraz, into the national side will put the T20 and ODI skipper under pressure.

Asked there were reports that he had not passed the fitness test, Kamran while rejecting those reports stated: “I appeared in the fitness test on Tuesday and succeeded in meeting all fitness standards. Also, I think trainer Grant Luden is the best man to answer your question.

“Fitness has never been my problem as I hardly miss training,” Kamran claimed before stating that if selected his target would be to cement his place in the team by giving match-winning performance.

The top-order batsman said if he remained fit he could play for four to five years. “It is your fitness which prolongs your career. So if I remain fit I could play for four to five years,” he commented while stating that he was giving extra time to his fielding and batting in the training camp.

Meanwhile, left-arm fast bowler Rumman Raees Khan said he had his own style of celebration after claiming wicket, adding that it was good that some bowlers were copying him.

Rumman said he was happy that he had been invited to the probables camp after performing well in the domestic cricket and the PSL.

“The coaching staff laid more emphasis on fitness level which would help Pakistan cricket in the long run,” remarked the fast bowler who said he enjoyed his second stint with the Islamabad United.

“I learnt a lot from the experience of former fast bowler Wasim Akram and ex-Australian batsman Dean Jones during the PSL,” the pacer further said.

Meanwhile, chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq is likely to announce the Pakistan squad on Wednesday for the upcoming T20 and ODI series against the West Indies.

Dawn learnt that Inzamam is considering the option of naming the squad soon after or during the 50-over practice match at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2017

Pakistan: Minister proposes to make hijab mandatory in Punjab colleges

A senior Punjab government official proposed on Tuesday to make hijab mandatory for female students enrolled in the province’s colleges.

“We are leaving our religion behind, we are forgetting our culture and ethics. Hence, I have made the hijab compulsory for our women and sisters in colleges,” said Punjab Higher Education Minister Syed Raza Ali Gilani.

The minister added that it was his duty to take the step as it is “the duty of every Muslim”.

“I have also made a policy for it, if your attendance falls below 60pc then we will give 5pc attendance to those girls who wear a hijab,” added the higher education minister.

However, the policy is yet to implemented in the educational institutions of the province and has not been signed by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Govt Of The Punjab ✔@GovtOfPunjab

5% marks for Hijab students is absolutely WRONG news… Academic excellence only based on MERIT.. It’s clear policy of the Govt of Punjab.
6:54 AM – 14 Mar 2017

Media outlets had earlier reported the policy change will award extra marks to hijab wearing students.

However, the provincial government in a tweet earlier denied the change in policy and clarified academic excellence will only be based on merit and no other factor would be considered.

Civil society activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir also criticised the move in a series of tweets. He later said he was glad that the provincial government “believes in judging men and women on merit and not apparel”.