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    Despite rise in superbug cases, report finds rampant antibiotic use in pork industry

    Experts say that a loophole in food safety legislation passed under Obama is being exploited by pork producers

    Warnings about the dire risks of antibiotic resistance date back to 1945, when the scientist credited with discovering penicillin said that he feared an unknown day in the future “when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops.”

    As it turns out, antibiotics in the United States and other industrialized nations still require a doctor’s prescription, preventing “the ignorant man” as scientist Alexander Fleming described him, from picking up penicillin at the store and giving himself an incorrect dose. But for farm animals, that’s been a different story

    At animal feed stores, meat and poultry producers for decades have been able to purchase antibiotics in bulk that humans could only access for themselves with a doctor’s visit and a prescription. That scenario led some humans to apparently medicate themselves by shopping at PetSmart rather than seeing a doctor. But more importantly, it allowed farmers to medicate their herds cheaply and efficiently.

    On massive farms, animals that spent much of their lives in close-confinement and unsanitary conditions were given a cocktail of antibiotics on a routine basis to prevent diseases. Being fed antibiotics routinely also proved to make animals grow fatter more quickly.

    These two factors have made mass antibiotic usage an enormously popular practice on the corporate mega-farms that have come to characterize the American meat industry.  

    After decades of new and more frightening warnings from the public health community about the risks of antibiotic overuse -- namely, that wonder drugs like Penicillin could lose their effectiveness in the face of rare bacteria that have evolved to resist modern medicine -- the United States government finally decided to act.

    Under the Obama administration, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took what a former commissioner said was “the first significant step in dealing with this important public health concern in 20 years.”

    Rules that were introduced in 2013 and implemented in January 2017 required all farmers to obtain something like a prescription before dosing their herds with medically important antibiotic drugs, or antibiotics that are also used to treat illnesses in humans.

    Under the Obama administration’s 2017 rules, a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) signed by a licensed veterinarian must be presented at any feed store before a farmer can buy antibiotics for his livestock, ending the days of over-the-counter antibiotic sales at pet stores.

    Food safety groups at the time raised concerns that getting a VFD could turn out to be just as easy for major meat producers as buying antibiotics over-the-counter, but those concerns were waived away.

    “It’s a big shift from the current situation, in which animal producers can go to a local feed store and buy these medicines over the counter and there is no oversight at all,” the FDA’s then-commissioner Michael Taylor claimed at the time.

    Pork industry rejects findings

    Over a year later, however, a new report published by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) suggests that getting a VFD isn’t so difficult after all.

    Analyzing sales data of antibiotics to pork producers, the group determined that medically important antibiotics continue to be sold in roughly the same amount to pigs as they are to humans.

    Strictly comparing antibiotic sales in different livestock, the pork industry constitutes a significant chunk of sales (37 percent), the report says. When livestock sales and human sales are factored together, the NRDC found that 27 percent of all medically important antibiotics sold in the United States go straight to pigs.

    “The irresponsible use of antibiotics on pig farms has created ripe conditions for drug-resistant bacteria -- as well as the genes that foster resistance -- to multiply and spread from farms to people,” the report says.

    The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the lobbying arm of the pork industry, argues that the NRDC’s report is misleading because it is analyzing antibiotic sales rather than actual antibiotic usage.

    “While the 37 percent figure may be correct, sales aren’t ‘uses;’” an NPPC spokesman tells ConsumerAffairs via email.

    But even if that is true, advocacy groups say they sales remain one of the only few reliable options to track antibiotic usage in the meat industry. The NRDC report says that government data on the issue is scare, and “the lack of clear data unnecessarily hampers public and government efforts to reduce antibiotic overuse.”

    The pork industry also argues that pig and cow producers are unfairly judged because their animals live longer and are larger than other livestock, which they say make them more likely to get sick and require antibiotics

    “The US pork industry never has said it has no part to play in the efforts to combat the very real problem of antibiotic resistance, but food-animal producers seem to be the only segment being asked (mandated?) to address the problem,” the NPPC spokesman complains.

    Regulatory loopholes

    While the pork industry seems to claim that it is being unfairly targeted in the antibiotic resistance crisis and burdened by regulations, research suggests that the opposite is true. The industry actually faces very few mandates or barriers in obtaining antibiotics, according to Dr. David Wallinga, a public health researcher at the NRDC who authored the antibiotics report.

    Part of the problem, Wallinga says, is that those feed directives that were supposed to function as something like prescriptions for the meat industry are poorly regulated and ripe with loopholes.

    For example, he says it’s unclear under the Obama-era legislation whether the veterinarians who write the directives are required to write a new prescription every time, or whether the same prescription can be reused repeatedly for an unknown duration of time on an unknown number of animals.

    He also points out that a veterinarian who is employed by a meat producer is likely going to do whatever that company wants, regardless of whether it is in the public’s interest.

    "What constitutes veterinary oversight is a huge grey area,” Wallinga tells ConsumerAffairs. Ultimately, his report suggests that reform lies at the feet of major pork producers rather than government regulations.

    “Overuse of antibiotics occurs within a markedly changed U.S. pork industry dominated by larger, more specialized farms….these entities have the power to catalyze much-needed change in how antibiotics are used throughout the pork production chain,” the report concludes.

    The growing superbug epidemic

    A prime example of one such entity with the power to “catalyze much-needed change” would be Smithfield foods. The Virginia-based company, which is technically a subsidiary of a massive pork corporation that is based in China, remains the largest pork company in the United States.

    “Smithfield Foods employs staff veterinarians and utilizes contract veterinarians who prescribe any necessary medications,” a public relations agency that represents Smithfield Foods sent ConsumerAffairs in a prepared statement. The agency spokesman directed other specific questions to the “Antibiotics Policy” page on Smithfield’s website, which claims that the company uses antibiotics safely and judiciously.

    But researchers continue to uncover growing evidence of superbugs at farms and on food. Several years ago, Ohio researchers discovered what they said was an “extremely rare” superbug on a pig farm, and they said they had no idea how it could have arrived there.

    While the researchers stressed at the time that there was no evidence the superbug actually reached the food chain, public health researchers also continue to uncover evidence that other superbugs are already appearing on raw meat sold in grocery stores.

    On Thursday, the Environmental Working Group said that their own analysis of federal government data uncovered that 71 percent of pork chops sold in American grocery stores are contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The group said that was also true for 62 percent of beef samples, 79 percent of turkey samples, and 36 percent of chicken samples.

    Wallinga, the NRDC researcher, says that antibiotic usage on chicken farms has dropped in recent years because major producers like Perdue voluntarily decided to scale down its usage.

    "But the consumers have also stepped up and demanded chicken raised with fewer antibiotics,” he adds, leading industry giants to reconsider their ways. "By contrast we haven't seen that kind of leadership by either companies producing pork, or, with a few exceptions, by restaurants serving pork. "

    The World Health Organization has identified antibiotic-resistance as a growing public health threat, and researchers in Europe predict that if no action is taken to address this, superbugs will kill 10 million people worldwide each year by 2050.

    Warnings about the dire risks of antibiotic resistance date back to 1945, when the scientist credited with discove...
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      Oklahomans vote to legalize medical marijuana

      The measure would make the state one of the least restrictive in the nation for people seeking cannabis treatment

      Oklahoma became the thirtieth state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana on Tuesday after voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot initiative that would regulate and expand access to it.

      The initiative, called Question 788, won support from 57 percent of voters.

      The law allows for the possession of up to eight ounces of marijuana, possession of six mature plants, and possession of six seedlings or edibles, as long as patients have a medical license.

      The law also allows doctors to recommend marijuana as medicine, something that even Colorado’s state laws do not allow for, and says that there are “no qualifying conditions” to obtain medical weed, meaning that the doctor can use his own judgement.

      The law would also help decriminalize weed by letting people arrested with 1.5 ounces or less to say that they have a medical condition in hopes of reducing felony charges to a ticket.

      Measure still requires signature

      The measure passed despite intensive lobbying from faith-based and law enforcement groups, as well as a $500,000 campaign urging voters to say “no. “

      “Question 788 is a tremendous victory for patients and for access to medical cannabis,” Americans for Safe Access said in a statement.  

      Like other states with legal weed, residents will still need a license to possess and purchase medical marijuana in Oklahoma.

      The measure also still needs to be signed by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who seems hesitant to implement the measure as it is written. "As I mentioned in previous public comments, I believe, as well as many Oklahomans, this new law is written so loosely that it opens the door for basically recreational marijuana," Fallin said.

      State lawmakers who are opposed to marijuana legalization may try to add restrictions to the law before it is implemented.

      Problematic for gun owners

      Oklahoma is not the first “red” state to legalize medical weed. Galvanized by the opioid epidemic, a combination of marijuana business interests and grassroots organizers helped convince voters to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas in 2016, but officials only recently began dispensing permits for cultivators and dispensaries.

      While marijuana advocates are finding solid support in so-called “red” or conservative and rural states, local enthusiasts in states with high gun ownership rates may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

      Federal firearm and drug enforcement agencies say that it is illegal to be in possession of both a firearm and marijuana. In Oklahoma, just above 30 percent of the population owns a gun.

      Oklahoma became the thirtieth state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana on Tuesday after voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot initiative that w...
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      Crypto market takes a $9 billion hit

      Blame was pointed toward Bitcoin and Ether

      The Bitcoin bloodbath marches on, taking a dive to below the $6k mark – the first time it’s been this low since November 2017.

      According to the lookouts at CryptoCoinsNews (CCN), the low volume of Bitcoin and Ether -- the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain protocol -- are to blame. And the forecast is rockier than some would like.

      "At this rate, the bitcoin price could dip as low as $5,800 in the short-term, especially if the daily volume of BTC does not spike by a large margin in the next 24 to 48 hours," reported CCN.

      As of June 29, Bitcoin’s volume is still under the $4 billion mark and Ether’s volume is below $1.5 billion. While it’s higher than the volume of the day before, analysts are concerned that it’s not sufficient enough to push the crypto market up for the short-haul.

      Feast, famine, or funeral?

      "There's more blood to come," said Ran Neu-Ner, founder of OnChain Capital, host of CNBC’s "Crypto Trader," and someone who predicted Bitcoin’s tumble weeks ago.

      "Right now my money is on the market continuing to go down," Neu-Ner warns, estimating that there’s a 60+ percent chance the crypto market could become bearish versus a 16 percent chance of a bull market.

      "And a bear market means we're going to test $5,350" as the new low, the founder of OnChain Capita said.

      Bitcoin has been declared "dead" more than 300 times by financial savants ranging from Warren Buffett to the Washington Post who proclaimed "Bitcoin isn’t the future of money — it’s either a Ponzi scheme or a pyramid scheme."

      ConsumerAffairs recently reported the findings of economics scholars at the University of Texas who found that the enormity of Bitcoin’s peak value of $19,000 may have come at the hand of some artificial market manipulation.

      First, Russia. Now, Bitcoin?

      On Wednesday, cybersecurity expert Scott Dueweke, president of The Identity and Payments Association (IDPAY), testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that virtual currencies are the ideal tool for state actors and foreign parties to use in altering the U.S. political process.

      "Considering that a large percentage of global criminal hackers and many cybercriminals are Russian or speak Russian (it is estimated that 25% of Darknet content is Russian), and given Russia’s current state of tension with the United States and Europe, this development should be closely monitored," Dueweke warned in his prepared testimony.

      The Bitcoin bloodbath marches on, taking a dive to below the $6k mark – the first time it’s been this low since November 2017.According to the lookouts...
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      California passes strict new online privacy law

      The new law will give consumers in the Golden State sweeping control over their personal data

      On Thursday, California legislators passed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. Under the new law, the data-harvesting practices of Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Uber will be restricted and consumers will have control over their personal data.

      The new law gives consumers the right to know what information these big tech companies are collecting, as well as why they’re collecting it and where it’s being shared. Under the new law, consumers can also choose to bar tech companies from selling their data to third parties, including advertisers.

      The new privacy rules are set to take effect in 2020, but only in the state of California.

      "The state that pioneered the tech revolution is now, rightly, a pioneer in consumer privacy safeguards, and we expect many additional states to follow suit," James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, said in a statement.

      "Today was a huge win and gives consumer privacy advocates a blueprint for success. We look forward to working together with lawmakers across the nation to ensure robust data privacy protections for all Americans,” Steyer added.

      Online privacy protection

      News of the new legislation comes about a month after the European Union implemented strict new privacy rules known as General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.

      However, the Norwegian Consumer Council recently stepped forward with claims that tech firms such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft instituted changes to their user controls that only give consumers “the illusion” of privacy.

      The California Consumer Privacy Act has gotten the support of most privacy advocates, but some have pointed out that there are a few loopholes in the law that could cause problems. For example, the law would allow tech companies or ISPs to charge higher prices to consumers who opt out of having their data sold to third parties.

      "For the first time California is explicitly allowing 'pay for privacy' deals that are in direct contradiction to our privacy rights," Emily Rusch, executive director of the nonprofit California Public Interest Research Group, said in a statement.

      State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D), who supported the law, said paying for online privacy is a “dangerous and slippery slope.”

      California’s new law provides some of the toughest online protections in the country.

      “I think it’s going to set the standard across the country that legislatures across the country will look to adopt in their own states,” said state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D).

      On Thursday, California legislators passed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. Under the new law, the data-harvesting practices of Amazon, Faceboo...
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      Instagram releases new soundtrack option for Stories

      Users can now add music to their posts

      Instagram just released an update to its app that allows users to add songs -- from artists like Bruno Mars, Dua Lipa, Calvin Harris, or Guns N’ Roses -- to their Stories. The launch comes following Facebook’s new relationship with all major record labels and is expected to make the photo sharing app even more popular.

      The songs will be offered to users directly in the app and will play as background music to whatever picture or video they post to their Stories. Instagram also reported that new songs will be added to the app daily.

      Much like the Sticker feature in Instagram Stories, adding music will work in much the same way. Users can search for any song, artist, or genre, and then drag and drop the song of their choice from the Music “sticker,” and it will then be added to their post.

      The new Music feature will be available for both picture and video posts. Instagram also allows users to scan through the entire song to find the section they want to post in their Stories. Additionally, iOS users can switch to the Music shutter mode in the Stories camera to pick a song prior to taking a picture or video. When watching a Story that has a song, friends will be able to see the song’s title and artist and the song will play automatically.

      “Now you can add a soundtrack to your story that fits any moment and helps you express how you’re feeling,” Instagram writes.

      Instagram reported that artists with rights holders will be properly compensated for their music, though how those payments will work out is still unclear.

      Success of Stories

      This new update to Stories comes on the heels of a big announcement from Instagram.

      Just last week, the company revealed that the app has one billion monthly users. And today, it announced that there are 400 million daily Instagram Story users -- up from 300 million in November and 250 million last year.

      Instagram Stories have taken off recently, as the company continues to add new features, like SuperZoom, Highlights, and the ability to reshare public posts. The number of users utilizing Stories is currently growing six times faster than Snapchat’s whole app. Many believe Snapchat’s redesign -- which was received very poorly by users -- was partly the reason behind the company’s slowest growth rate ever last quarter.

      As for Stories’ new Music feature, it is currently available in select countries -- most likely where the company was able to get licenses for songs -- and it is expected to roll out to more locations soon.

      Instagram just released an update to its app that allows users to add songs -- from artists like Bruno Mars, Dua Lipa, Calvin Harris, or Guns N’ Roses -- t...
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      Adidas warns millions of U.S. customers of potential data breach

      The U.S. website is the likely culprit of the company’s data concerns

      On Thursday, Adidas reached out to millions of customers in the United States to warn them about a potential data breach that occurred within the company’s U.S. website. According to a company statement, Adidas is referring to the situation as a “potential data security incident.”

      “On June 26, Adidas became aware that an unauthorized party claims to have acquired limited data associated with certain Adidas customers,” the company said.

      Based on a preliminary investigation conducted by outside data security firms, the leaked data was limited in nature.

      “The limited data includes contact information, usernames, and encrypted passwords,” the statement said. “Adidas has no reason to believe that any credit card or fitness information of those consumers was impacted.”

      Cause for concern

      Adidas found out about the possible data breach on June 26, and though it informed customers right away, the company is still uncertain when the breach took place.

      “We are alerting certain customers who purchased on adidas.com/US about a potential data security incident,” a company spokeswoman told Bloomberg. “At this time, this is a few million consumers.”

      A data breach -- though not uncommon for major brands as of late -- does have the ability to tarnish the reputation of a company. Based on a recent study by KPMG, 55 percent of global consumers have decided against purchasing something from companies that have had issues with online privacy.

      Moreover, since 2017, several major brands have had issues with matters of data privacy, including Sears, Best Buy, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, and Under Armour -- among countless others. Most recently, Delta Airlines reported a cyber attack that released the payment information for thousands of customers.

      Despite this most recent incident, Adidas is looking to rectify the issue for consumers and is continuing to work to prevent future attacks on data privacy.

      “Adidas is committed to the privacy and security of its consumers’ personal data,” the statement said. “Adidas immediately began taking steps to determine the scope of the issue and to alert relevant customers.”

      On Thursday, Adidas reached out to millions of customers in the United States to warn them about a potential data breach that occurred within the company’s...
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      Chase's smartphone bank is being expanded nationwide

      Finn has been test-marketed in St. Louis since October

      JP Morgan Chase has rolled out its smartphone bank, Finn, on a nationwide basis after testing it in the St. Louis market since last fall.

      Chase stresses that Finn is not just an app, but a stand-alone bank. The company says it’s accessible through mobile devices and offers an array of tools designed to help users spend smarter and save more money.

      “Finn continues to evolve based on the meaningful feedback that we get from our customers,” said Melissa Feldsher, head of Finn by Chase. “We look forward to adding new features and experiences that our customers ask for as we continue to learn from them.”

      According to American Banker, a publication of the American Bankers Association, banks in general are grappling with how to alter traditional banking for a younger generation of consumers who prefer to do everything digitally.

      Possible trendsetter

      NerdWallet banking expert Kimberly Palmer says Finn could become a trendsetter for brick and mortar banks that are looking to get a foothold with younger consumers.

      "Millennials often want to go outside of traditional banks, which they tend to associate with high fees and low APRs,” Palmer said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “Digital banks, like Finn by Chase and Marcus by Goldman Sachs, are an attractive alternative.”

      Palmer says many older consumers might hesitate to do business with a bank lacking physical branches, but it's not an issue for a growing segment of younger consumers.

      “Since they generally live so much of their financial lives online anyway, moving to an all-digital bank isn’t that big of a jump," she said.

      Doing everything from your phone

      Chase says Finn enables customers to do all of their banking from their phone, such as opening an account, making a deposit, or sending money to friends. Finn has a debit card that allows transactions with no fee at more than 29,000 Chase and partner ATMs across the country.

      Finn will compete with other digital banks, such as Ally, that tend to have fewer fees and provide higher rates of interest on deposits. Citigroup, which has a brick and mortar presence in just six states, announced in March it will launch a digital banking service later this year.

      JP Morgan Chase has rolled out its smartphone bank, Finn, on a nationwide basis after testing it in the St. Louis market since last fall.Chase stresses...
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      Consumer group charges big tech of only giving 'the illusion' of privacy

      Norwegian Consumer Council calls out Facebook, Google, and Microsoft

      Just weeks after the European Union enacted sweeping new privacy rules, the Norwegian Consumer Council has issued a report questioning how Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are meeting these requirements.

      In a report entitled Deceived by Design, the group claims the U.S.-based tech firms have instituted changes to their user controls that appear to give consumers more power to protect their privacy, but in fact use default settings and “misleading” wording to accomplish the opposite.

      The report looked at the changes the tech companies made to their sites in April and May, in preparation for Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which recently went into effect. At the time, Facebook was also responding to harsh criticism it received after it revealed that some of its user data had been used for unauthorized political marketing purposes.

      Privacy-friendly settings hard to access

      As examples, the Norwegian report cites some cases of the most privacy-friendly settings being the hardest to access and choices being presented with only two options.

      For example, if a Facebook user disables facial recognition, they are told that Facebook will be unable to prevent someone from using their photo to impersonate them. The report said that is a not-too-subtle attempt to persuade Facebook users not to disable facial recognition.

      In statements to news outlets, the companies named in the report have reaffirmed their commitment to privacy. Google said it is constantly updating its controls in response to user experience tests. Facebook said it had “made its policies clearer, our privacy settings easier to find.” Microsoft said it is committed to GDPR compliance.

      'Vast array of design techniques'

      But the report suggests big technology firms, while giving users more control, take overt steps to try to influence those choices.

      “Providers of digital services use a vast array of user design techniques in order to nudge users toward clicking and choosing certain options,” the authors write. “This is not in itself a problem, but the use of exploitative design choices, or 'dark patterns,' is arguably an unethical attempt to push consumers toward choices that benefit the service provider.”

      The report concludes that the firms' attempts to influence consumer privacy choices cross the line, becoming techniques that could, in some cases, be “deceptive and manipulative.” For that reason, the report questions whether the firms are in actual compliance with Europe's tough, new privacy regulations.

      Just weeks after the European Union enacted sweeping new privacy rules, the Norwegian Consumer Council has issued a report questioning how Google, Facebook...
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      Inflation rises in May, but so do incomes

      An economist says a Commerce Department report shows a still-healthy economy

      Inflation ticked up in May, hitting the Federal Reserve's target of 2 percent for the first time since 2012. But in good news for consumers, a government report shows incomes rose even more.

      The Commerce Department reports the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index rose 0.2 percent last month on the heels of a similar gain in April. In the last 12 months, the PCE price index – which is closely monitored by the Fed – is up 2.3 percent.

      At the same time, consumers' incomes rose 0.4 percent in May, following a 0.2 percent gain in April. Wages were up 0.3 percent and the savings rate climbed to 3.2 percent.

      Healthy expansion

      Robert Frick, corporate economist with Navy Federal Credit Union, says the report paints a mostly upbeat picture.

      “Nothing in the Personal Income and Outlays report this morning casts doubt on the health of the expansion, or on the Fed's plan to raise interest rates two more times this year,” Frick said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “The good news for American workers is personal income increased as expected, so hope remains that wages— which have been eroded by inflation the last year — will rise above their current level and workers' purchasing power will increase.”

      Frick says the rise in inflation is no cause for concern because it is still at a relatively low rate. Besides, it is only now hitting the level the Fed has decided is healthy for a growing economy.

      Consumer spending was down

      “That consumer expenditures dipped is also not a cause for concern,” Frick said. “That is a particularly volatile figure, and if accurate reflects that consumers are channeling more towards savings, which has been bumping at historically low levels.”

      Consumers also spent less on their utility bills in May, since most areas of the country fell between the heating and air conditioning seasons last month. The savings likely contributed to the increase in savings.

      The report may quell rising concern on Wall Street in recent days that a potential recession is looming. Stocks have fallen in the last week as traders have fretted over the narrowing gap between the yield on the Treasury's two-year and 10-year bonds, a traditional sign of an economic slowdown.

      Inflation ticked up in May, hitting the Federal Reserve's target of 2 percent for the first time since 2012. But in good news for consumers, a government r...
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      Data breach may have exposed the personal information of 340 million people and businesses

      Financial information was not leaked, but a range of personal characteristics were compromised

      A database controlled by a Florida-based marketing and data aggregation company may have been compromised, exposing individual records on nearly 340 million people and businesses.

      Security researcher Vinny Troia found that nearly 2 terabytes of data were exposed, which includes records of 230 million consumers and 110 million businesses.

      "It seems like this is a database with pretty much every US citizen in it," Troia, founder of the New York-based security firm Night Lion Security, told Wired. “I don’t know where the data is coming from, but it’s one of the most comprehensive collections I’ve ever seen.”

      If these estimates are accurate, the leak would be even larger than the Equifax data breach of 2017, which exposed the personal data of around 145 million people.

      Highly personal information

      Although credit card information and Social Security numbers don’t appear to have been leaked, the alleged breach reportedly exposed highly personal information, including phone numbers, home addresses, email addresses.

      It also exposed more than 400 personal characteristics, including interests, habits, if the person owns a dog or cat, and the age and gender of the person’s children. Wired noted that in some cases, the information may have been inaccurate or outdated.  

      Despite the fact that no financial information was included, experts say that the wide range of personal data revealed could still make it possible for bad actors to create a more complete profile of individuals or help scammers steal identities.

      Troia said he informed Exactis and the FBI that he was able to access the database on the internet earlier this month. The data is no longer publicly accessible. Exactis has not yet confirmed the leak.

      A database controlled by a Florida-based marketing and data aggregation company may have been compromised, exposing individual records on nearly 340 millio...
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      Automakers say Trump’s proposed tariffs are likely to harm consumers

      Car companies say the legislation could raise prices and eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs

      A group of major foreign automakers have warned that President Trump’s intent to impose a 20 percent import tariff on all cars assembled in the European Union could result in a significant price hike of the average new car. The tariffs could also cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

      The two groups that issued the warning to the Trump Administration are the Association of Global Automakers -- which represents major automakers including Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, Hyundai, and more -- and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which includes BMW, Ford, General Motors, and ohers, Reuters reports.

      “The greatest threat to the U.S. automotive industry at this time is the possibility the administration will impose duties on imports in connection with this investigation,” wrote the Association of Global Automakers.

      Average price hike of $5,800

      On Tuesday, Trump said the 20 percent tariffs he threatened last week to impose on all imports of EU-assembled cars are coming soon.

      “We are finishing our study of Tariffs on cars from the E.U. in that they have long taken advantage of the U.S. in the form of Trade Barriers and Tariffs. In the end it will all even out - and it won’t take very long!” Trump tweeted.

      The tariffs threaten to tack on thousands to the typical cost of a new car, which is currently approximately $34,000. U.S. consumers would see a price hike of around $5,800 on a new car as a result of the tariffs, according to an analysis by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

      “Such duties would raise prices for American consumers, limit their choices, and suppress sales and U.S. production of vehicles,” the group said.

      Job losses and slowed technology development

      Members of the Association added that imposing tariffs would also result in the loss of auto jobs.

      “Rather than creating jobs, these tariffs would result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of American jobs producing and selling cars, SUVs, trucks and auto parts,” the group said.

      Further, the proposed tariffs would stymie the development of advanced safety features like autonomy and electrification, the group warned.

      "The increased costs associated with the proposed tariffs may result in diminishing the US' competitiveness in developing these advanced technologies," said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

      Secretary Wilbur Ross indicated that research into import tariffs on European cars is underway, according to Reuters. That research is expected to conclude by July.

      A group of major foreign automakers have warned that President Trump’s intent to impose a 20 percent import tariff on all cars assembled in the European Un...
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      Instagram releases new Lite app

      The new slimmed down version of the app will soon be available in several countries

      In an effort to bring Instagram to areas where mobile coverage is spotty or data is expensive, the social media company just released Instagram Lite -- a new version of the app that “takes up less space on your device, uses less data, and starts faster.”

      The app appeared today in the Google Play App Store without any official statement from the company. However, the official description in the App Store describes the app as “small” so that users can save space on their phone and download it quickly.

      According to TechCrunch, Instagram Lite takes up 1/55th of the space of the full app at just 573 KB compared to the 32-megabyte main app. The Lite version allows users to filter and post photos to their feeds, watch Stories, or browse the Explore page. However, it currently lacks the capabilities to share videos or Direct messages with friends.

      Instagram has yet to report if the Lite app will contain ads, as advertisements typically tend to use a lot of data.

      Benefits of the Lite app

      In creating a version of the app that is better suited for emerging markets, Instagram is addressing a number of common issues consumers are facing overseas.

      With the Lite app, users on older phones, phones with less storage, phones operating on slower network connections, or those who can’t afford big data packages can still utilize the features that one billion Instagram users have access to. Additionally, users won’t have to delete anything -- apps or photos -- off of their devices to download the Lite version, or spend tons of time waiting for it to download.

      Instagram Lite was released in testing phases in Mexico this week. As the year progresses, the app will become available in more countries and expand to include both messaging and video posting/sharing.

      “We are testing a new version of Instagram for Android that takes up less space on your device, uses less data, and starts faster,” the company said in a statement.

      The Lite trend

      Recently, many apps have adapted their software to produce new Lite versions.

      Earlier this month, Uber launched Uber Lite in India and boasted about its five-megabyte size and ability to connect users to rides in areas with little to no reception. Similar to Instagram’s new Lite app, Uber Lite is available only for Android users. Upon release, Uber Lite was only available in India, though the company reported that it was working to expand it to other countries.

      In 2015, Facebook launched a lite version of its app, and by 2017, boasted 200 million users. The success of that helped launch Messenger Lite this past April.

      In an effort to bring Instagram to areas where mobile coverage is spotty or data is expensive, the social media company just released Instagram Lite -- a n...
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