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By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft reveals details of requests filed by U.S. government to access customer data
by Usama Jawad
Microsoft has insisted on numerous occasions that it believes that organizations should play an active role in ensuring the privacy of their customers rather than simply relying on state legislature. Now, the company has revealed details of three instances where it fought for its customers' right to know that access to their data has been requested by the U.S. government.
Original gavel image via Brian Turner / Flickr Microsoft believes that its customers need to know when the government has requested access to their emails or other documents. As such, the company has challenged at least three secrecy orders in the past year in favor of its enterprise customers knowing about requests from law enforcement.
The first case was from a federal court in Maryland which prohibited it from informing the customer about an ongoing investigation. Microsoft challenged this decision in December 2019, with the case going in its favor in January 2020. The court documents were unsealed this week and can be viewed here. Although the organization's name has been redacted, the document reveals that while Microsoft initially complied to the government request, it later challenged that the counsel for the company in question needs to know about the order. However, the court strictly emphasized that if information is disclosed to individuals other than the counsel - especially the people being targeted in the investigation -, the whole operation would be jeopardized.
In the second case, there was a similar request from a federal court in New York, which Microsoft challenged in September 2020. The U.S. government agreed to inform the customer in October 2020 and the unsealed email related to this matter can be seen here. Once again, the customer in question has not been explicitly named.
The third case is an ongoing one which Microsoft has been fighting for the past two years. This also comes from another federal court in New York. Recently, the company has received legal support from various organizations and partners such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Associated Press, and The Washington Post, among others. This aid comes in the form of five amicus briefs - which are supporting documents through which the firms will be providing technical assistance and expertise to the court.
Microsoft went on to say that:
It is important to remember that these three cases highlighted by Microsoft are likely only some of the secrecy orders that the company has fought against. There are possibly other requests that the Redmond tech giant is not allowed to disclose as of yet because court orders for those have not yet been unsealed. Regardless, it does give a clear view that Microsoft is committed to ensuring the privacy of its customers and safeguarding their legal rights.
By Hamza Jawad
Microsoft Flight Simulator developer Q&A addresses top community questions and concerns
by Hamza Jawad
Image via Flubberzwans Last week, Microsoft unveiled its collaboration with blackshark.ai on its upcoming Flight Simulator title and provided an update on the SDK. The latest Feedback Snapshot iteration was also released, though as has been the case in recent weeks, it only made its way to Insiders.
With the final development update before Microsoft Flight Simulator's official PC release now having been posted, a bunch of new information has arrived through a developer Q&A session, along with more focused news on other deliverables.
For starters, the previously teased partnership with the International Online Flying Network VATSIM has now been fully detailed through a five-minute video. Connecting to the VATSIM experience will simply require opening the vPilot settings, and then providing the credentials, callsign, and aircraft type. Microsoft stated that, "[...] with day one support, Microsoft Flight Simulator users will be able to experience the same immersive experience as VATSIM has offered the flight sim community for 20 years."
Moving on, a developer Q&A session that was livestreamed on Twitch earlier today addressed top community concerns, including information on possible career mode options, pre-downloads, the Xbox release, and more. With regards to the former, Jorg Neumann, Head of Microsoft Flight Simulator, noted how gamers in the simulation genre were often already aware of how they meant to approach the provided sandbox, which is why the development team had specifically decided to opt out of making a career mode, keeping the game "a lot more open" and avoiding "arcadey missions".
As far as a pre-download is concerned, Martial Bossard, Lead Software Engineer for Asobo Studio, stated that although the core components will be available to download on day one, further modules will be downloadable only through a unified platform in the form of Azure PlayFab. Through this distinction, the developer is aiming to place much more emphasis on user control, allowing users to personally decide upon and choose the content they feel is necessary to download.
An Xbox release date is still nowhere in sight for now, though the community has been assured that similar Q&A sessions to address its concerns will be held every month. Information on further features that were touched upon, including planned availability for helicopters, licensed liveries, and more can be viewed in the full video above.
Finally, wrapping up this week's development update, a welcome surprise has arrived in the form of a Feedback Snapshot finally being showcased to the general public. Version 8.01 takes note of the fact that all of the top community questions have been answered - aside from a campaign mode query, which has now been addressed through the Q&A as well. Almost all of the Alpha issues are currently being addressed, while some of the top wishlisted capabilities including AI traffic, virtual reality, and seasons, are being worked upon as well
Microsoft Flight Simulator is set to be released on PC on August 18; it can be pre-ordered from Steam here, and the Microsoft Store here. The closed beta is going to end on August 17, 10 a.m. PST/ 1 p.m. EDT.
Uber announces help for New York restaurants and workers
by Paul Hill
Uber has announced that Uber Eats users located in New York will be able to contribute to their local restaurants during checkout in order to help them during the on-going COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent economic hardship. Every donation that is made will be matched by Uber who will pay into the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund up to a total of $5 million.
Uber's contributions will help the Relief Fund provide $500 grants to eligible restaurant workers including couriers working on apps like Uber Eats, who have been squeezed financially. Uber has confirmed that once it has experimented with the program in New York, it will expand it to cover the whole of the U.S., possibly as early as next week. Additionally, it wants to roll out the program to other countries where it serves customers.
Commenting on the news, Paul Barker, owner of Pauli’s North End in Boston, MA, and Uber Eats partner, said:
Earlier in the month, the firm revealed that it was scrapping the Delivery Fee for more than 100,000 independent restaurants across the U.S. and Canada on its Uber Eats platform. As a result, it has seen a significant increase in orders to independent restaurants since mid-March. It also revealed that restaurants looking to keep delivery orders coming have been signing up to the platform at ten times previous rates.
Uber launches ‘Make My Train' to alleviate commute stress
by Paul Hill
Uber has noted that people get stressed in the morning as they juggle various apps to plan their trip into work across different modes of transport. To assist commuters, Uber has launched ‘Make My Train’ which will show riders the train schedule of participating train stations and will allow them to select the train they want from within the Uber app. The data is sourced from real-time transit data so riders will know if there have been any delays.
Riders can choose how much time they want to havebefore the train leaves when they arrive at the station by and Uber will sort out the rest. Today, the feature will arrive on the U.S.’ largest commuter rail systems: the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in New York and Caltrain in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Using the feature is simple, just follow these steps:
Enter the station name as your destination Choose the train you want to take Select your target drop off time (or use the recommendation) Schedule a ride in the Uber app (except UberPOOL) and Uber will pick you up and get you to your station As governments around the world begin to encourage people to ditch their cars in favour of public transit as efforts are ramped up to tackle climate change, tools like ‘Make My Train’ will become more important in order to give people a seamless experience across transport types.
Uber has not issued a schedule for when 'Make My Train' will be rolled out to other areas.
Netflix is investing in a new production hub in New York
by João Carrasqueira
Image credit: Bloomberg Netflix is opening a new production hub in New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced (via TechCrunch). The hub will include an expanded office in Manhattan which will create 127 "high-paying" jobs in executive content, marketing, and production development by 2024. There will also be six sound stages in Brooklyn, which will be capable of holding thousands of production crew jobs in the next five years. In total, Netflix could be investing as much as $100 million in the city.
Netflix has been betting more and more on its original content, and for good reason. Apple recently announced its Apple TV+ subscription service, which is seeing huge investments from the Cupertino company to create original shows from well-known actors and producers, including Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, and more.
All the while, Disney, which has pulled some of its content from Netflix, has recently shared details of its own streaming service which will include some of the biggest shows and movies in the industry, including the Marvel universe and Star Wars. With what might well be the two biggest threats the service has faced, Netflix has more reason than ever to prepare to produce more content.
The move is good news for New York, too. Governor Cuomo had hoped to bring in new jobs with the opening of Amazon's second headquarters, but the deal faced heavy opposition and eventually fell through. While the 127 new jobs in Netflix's Manhattan office are a far cry from the 25,000 that were supposed to be brought by Amazon, the news will likely still be welcome, especially seeing as Netflix currently only employs 32 people in New York. To reward the creation of jobs, Empire State Development will be paying the firm $4 million in tax credits over the next ten years.