Showing posts with label Information Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Information Technology. Show all posts
It's the first pandemic of the smartphone era - and that means governments have access to new ways of tracking the spread of Covid-19.
On this week's , we find out about the apps that are monitoring people with the virus and look at whether they pose a long-term threat to civil liberties.
In South Korea, the authorities have created an app that lets them know whether people who should be in quarantine have broken the rules. In China, the Alipay Health Code app, created by e-commerce giant Alibaba, lets users know if they are allowed to leave home or use public transport. But according to analysis by the New York Times, signing up to the apps can mean handing over data about your location and identity to the police.
Researchers at Australia's Monash University have been looking at how countries are using tech to manage the virus.
"This is the first pandemic you can access with your smartphone," Prof Mark Andrejevic tells us. "And also the first one in which smartphones are being used to track people and monitor them and control their movements."
Of course, what we often fail to realise is that our smartphones and the services on them have been tracking us for years anyway.
If you are signed in to Google Maps, it may well have a complete record of everywhere you have been for years. If you use an iPhone and store your photos in the cloud, Apple will also have a good record of your movements and who you have interacted with.
But in some countries, governments have long wanted to get access to this kind of data - and now they have seized their chance.
In South Korea, they have gone even further than China in acquiring detailed information about people's movements during this health crisis. Their app tells users about people near them who have been infected, and where they have been.
And that has privacy implications - although the information is anonymised it may not be too difficult for either app users or the police to work out exactly who each flashing dot on the map turns out to be.
Once the system has been put in place, it could continue to be used after this crisis is over. "There's no reason why you couldn't use it for the annual flu season, for example," says Prof Andrejevic.
"I do think it's possible that we might find our concern about the use of information lowered by these moments where because of an exceptional circumstance, all of a sudden this data is being mobilised."
In the UK, representatives from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Palantir and other tech companies were summoned to Downing Street to be asked what they could contribute to the battle against the virus. The discussions centred around how they could provide data and expertise to help the National Health Service manage what could be a surge in demand.
There is no indication yet that the UK government is considering monitoring infected people via an app. But as the crisis deepens, all countries will face the same dilemma - how much of our privacy are we willing to sacrifice in the battle to keep us healthy?

An Unlikely Coronavirus Hero? Self-Driving Cars:

  • Neolix, a Chinese self-driving delivery startup, is using its self-driving vans to deliver medical supplies in Wuhan, as well as to disinfect roadways.
  • The company has received orders for 200 of its vans as demand surges.
  • As the benefits of these vans have become evident, the Chinese government said it's willing to subsidize up to 60 percent of the purchase price, according to Bloomberg.
  • Makers of autonomous vehicles have long been selling the benefits driver-free transportation. But it took a devastating global pandemic to provide a compelling, real-world example
    A Chinese self-driving delivery company called Neolix has been deploying fleets of its self-driving vans to transport medical supplies and food to areas of the country hit hardest by COVID-19, including the epidemic's epicenter in Wuhan. The small vans even have the capacity to disinfect city streets—now empty due to quarantine measures.
  • The company has booked over 200 orders for its vans over the last two months. Before that, only 125 units had been produced since manufacturing began in May 2019.
  • After seeing how useful autonomous technologies can be in the midst of a global health crisis, the Chinese government has even offered up a pretty attractive incentive for companies that would like to purchase and operate delivery vans: 60 percent off of the price tag. With that in mind, Neolix expects to manufacture and sell 1,000 vans by the end of the
  • While many self-driving vehicles are heavily restricted on busy roadways, Neolix's delivery vans can mostly navigate Chinese roads without battling the chaos of unpredictable motorists and pedestrians.
    While the U.S. does not have sweeping federal laws pertaining to self-driving vehicles and operation on public streets, companies like Waymo, Uber, and Argo AI have close relationships with city and state level governments where testing is conducted in states like California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida, among others.

    Nuro, a Mountain View, California-based company, develops delivery vehicles similar to the ones that Neolix offers. The company secured the first federal safety approval to operate self-driving vehicles that don't meet federal safety standards that apply to other cars and trucks that humans drive.
    The exemption, granted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in February, allows Nuro to temporarily test its vans at low speeds on Texas roadways for the next two years.
  • Given that the World Health Organization finally declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, roads will likely become less congested, giving self-driving cars an ample opportunity to prove their worth.
TikTok said Wednesday it plans to open a content moderation transparency center in its US office to address concerns over the security and privacy of its short video platform.
Why it matters: The Chinese-owned app faces increasing scrutiny from US lawmakers concerned about content censorship and the potential that personal information from its American users may be shared with the Chinese government.
  • TikTok has seen massive growth and has become particularly popular among teens. The app, together with its Chinese version Douyin, was downloaded more than 738 million times in 2019, making it the second most-downloaded app in the world.
  • The scrutiny it faces in the US bears similarities to what social app Grindr faced prior to its sale to US investors. Splitting TikTok off would deal a significant blow to parent company Bytedance’s valuation, the world’s most valuable startup, last valued at $78 billion in late 2018 according to marketing intelligence firm CB Insights.
Details: TikTok plans to set up a content moderation center in its Los Angeles office to show outside experts how the app moderates content on the platform, the company said in a statement Wednesday.
  • Experts will be able to observe how the company’s content moderators review videos uploaded to the platforms and identify potential violations, as well as see how user complaints are handled, according to the statement.
  • The center will open in early May. It will focus on TikTok’s content moderation in the initial phase and will be expanded to include insight into its source code, as well as efforts around data privacy and security, the company said.
  • The company also announced that it has hired cybersecurity veteran Roland Cloutier as its chief information security officer who will join the company in April. Cloutier was the chief security officer at payroll-services firm ADP, according to his Linkedin profile.
  • “Our landscape and industry is rapidly evolving, and we are aware that our systems, policies and practices are not flawless, which is why we are committed to constant improvement,” TikTok US General Manager Vanessa Pappas said in the statement.
Context: TikTok has stepped up efforts in recent months to address concerns over its alleged content censorship in the US and its ties to the Chinese government.
  • The company released in December its first-ever transparency report, saying that it did not receive any requests in the first half of 2019 for user information from the Chinese government including law enforcement agencies.
  • The Guardian reported in September that TikTok instructs its moderators to censor videos that are deemed politically sensitive by the Chinese government, citing leaked documents detailing the platform’s guidelines. The company said in November that the guidelines were retired in May.

There's a new report out on cyberattacks against the US. 
The US is at risk for cyberattacks both small and catastrophic, according to a report out Wednesday by a US congressional panel. After months of study, the bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission is calling for wide-ranging cybersecurity changes, including government reforms and better collaboration with the private sector.
"A major cyberattack on the nation's critical infrastructure and economic system would create chaos and lasting damage exceeding that wreaked by fires in California, floods in the Midwest, and hurricanes in the Southeast," read a letter from the organization's co-chairmen, Sen. Angus King of Maine and Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin.
The solution is to deter more attacks to begin with, the lawmakers said. That means encouraging better norms around the world, taking away easy targets in US infrastructure, and finding new ways to retaliate against hacks. To get there, the roughly 182-page report makes more 80 recommendations around a six core pillars. Among the recommendations are establishing a National Cyber Director and that Congress should pass a national data security and privacy protection law.
The report addresses ongoing concerns that the US is vulnerable to destabilizing cyberattacks. More than stealing data or spying on US businesses and government agencies, cyberattacks cause destruction. Ransomware, for example, can lock up valuable systems that keep hospitals or cities running, and often permanently destroys valuable data. Other attacks could take out utilities like electricity or water but would be limited to specific regions because the US has a fragmented system for delivering these services.
To deter these attacks, the US needs to build up resilience, the lawmakers said, or "the capacity to withstand and quickly recover from attacks that could cause harm or coerce, deter, restrain, or otherwise shape U.S. behavior."
The Cyberspace Solarium Commission was founded in 2019 to "develop a consensus on a strategic approach to defending the United States in cyberspace against cyber attacks of significant consequences," according to its website.
Fitness, wallpaper, and lost item-finding startups could have a big new competitor baked into everyone’s iPhones. Leaks of the code from iOS 14 that Apple is expected to reveal in June signal several new features and devices are on the way. Startups could be at risk due to Apple’s ability to integrate these additions at the iOS level, instantly gain an enormous install base and offer them for free or cheap, as long as they boost sales of its main money maker, the iPhone.
It’s unclear if all of these fresh finds will actually get official unveiling in June versus further down the line. But here’s a breakdown of what the iOS 14 code obtained by 9To5Mac’s Chance Miller shows and which startups could be impacted by Apple barging into their businesses:

Fitness – Codename: Seymour

Apple appears to be preparing a workout guide app for iOS, WatchOS and Apple TV that would let users download instructional video clips for doing different exercises. The app could potentially be called Fit or Fitness, according to MacRumors‘ Juli Clover, and offer help with stretching, core training, strength training, running, cycling, rowing, outdoor walking, dance and yoga. The Apple Watch appears to help track your progress through the workout routines.
The iOS Health app is already a popular way to track steps and other fitness goals. By using Health to personalize or promote a new Fitness feature, Apple has an easy path to a huge user base. Many people are afraid of weight and strength training because there’s a lot to learn about having proper form to avoid injury or embarrassment. Visual guides with videos shot from multiple angles could make sure you’re doing those push ups or bicep curls correctly.
Apple’s entrance into fitness could endanger startups like Future, which offer customized workout routines with video clips demonstrating how to do each exercise. The $11.5 million-funded Future  actually sends you an Apple Watch with its $150 per month service to track your progress while using visuals, sounds and vibrations to tell you when to switch exercises without having to look at your phone. By removing Future’s human personal trainers that text to nag you if you don’t work out, Apple could offer a simplified version of this startup’s app for free.
Apple Fitness could be even more trouble for less premium apps like Sweat  and Sworkit that provide basic visual guidance for workouts, or Aaptiv that’s restricted to just audio cues. Hardware startups like Peloton, which offers off-bike Beyond the Ride workouts with live or on-demand class, and Tempo’s giant 3D-sensing in-home screen for weight lifting, could also find casual customers picked off by a free or cheap alternative from Apple.
There’s no code indicating a payment mechanism, so Apple Fitness could be free. But it’s also easy to imagine Apple layering on a premium feature like remote personal training assistance from human experts or a wider array of exercises for a fee, tying into its increasing focus on services revenue.

AirTags – find your stuff

Apple appears to be getting closer to launching its long-awaited AirTags, based on iOS 14 code snippets. These small tracking tags could be attached to your wallet, keys, gadgets or other important or easily lost items, and then located using the iOS Find My app. AirTags may be powered by removable coin-shaped batteries, according to MacRumors.
Native integration with iOS could make AirTags super-easy to set up. They also could benefit from the ubiquity of Apple devices, as the company could let the crowd help find your stuff by allowing AirTags to piggyback on the connectivity of any of its phones, tablets or laptops to send you the missing item’s coordinates.
Most obviously, AirTags could become a powerful competitor to the vertical’s long-standing frontrunner, Tile. The $104 million-funded startup sells $20 to $35 tracking tags that locate devices from 150 to 400 feet away. It also sells a $30 per year subscription for free battery replacements and 30-day location history. Other players in the space include Chipolo, Orbit and MYNT.
But as we saw with the launch of AirPods, Apple’s design expertise and native iOS integrations can allow its products to leapfrog what’s in the market. If Air Tags get proprietary access to the iPhone’s Bluetooth and other connectivity hardware, and if they’re quicker to set up, Apple fans might jump from startups to these new devices. Apple also could develop a similar premium subscription for battery or full AirTag replacements, as well as bonus tracking features.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread with no signs of abating. Over 100,000 cases have been confirmed in almost 100 countries across the globe as of this writing. Some 4,000 deaths have been reported, 80% of which occurred in mainland China. 
Preventive measures taken by the public sector and by global industry are already having widespread effects. In the past several days, Italy has officially imposed a whole-country lockdown and in the U.S., epicenter states such as California and New York have declared emergency status while instituting lockdowns on high-risk districts such as New Rochelle. Last week, the OECD cut global economic growth projections by half, and the JPMorgan Global Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) fell to its lowest level since 2009. Numerous companies including Apple and Nvidia have reported underwhelming earnings in recent quarters and have proceeded to cut their earnings guidance for the foreseeable future.
These economic impacts are in part related to disruption in demand for goods, due to quarantines and travel restrictions. However, more nefariously, economic pundits have expressed concern for supply-side disruptions: including staff productivity losses, supply-chain dysfunction, and facility closures.
According to a Dun & Bradstreet whitepaper released this week, 94% of Fortune 1000 companies have key elements of their supply chain housed directly within the epicenter of the outbreak in China. Supply-side shocks are much more difficult for central banks to contain by moves such as interest-rate cuts or financial stimulus. These typically serve to catalyze demand (through increased cash or borrowing power), but do not directly alleviate the kind of production paralysis capable of hamstringing global commerce. 

How these preventive measures implicate startups

Startups are especially vulnerable to such supply-side disruptions, each of which is worth considering independently.

Decreases in staff productivity

Operating through lean organizational structures in which personnel often occupy cross-functional roles, decreases in staff productivity can create significant issues for interdependent activities at startups. The diversion of attention — due alternatively to the need to attend to personal needs (such as family caregiving, healthcare issues, or household concerns) or societal requirements (such as monitoring the development of the virus and state or federal reactions to it) — can make a cumulative impact over the days, weeks, and months of the outbreak.
The increased frequency of absences to attend to personal issues (such as individual healthcare or childcare amidst school closings) likewise presents a major challenge to fulfillment of contracts and other business obligations for startups.  survey conducted two weeks ago found that some 40% of companies had “stranded employees” facing some form of hurdle to commuting to the workplace. These figures are likely higher today.
Moreover, increased frequency of absences can be accompanied by heightened utilization of benefits (such as healthcare, sick leave, or family leave) in a short period, which startups may or may not have sufficient liquidity to support. These considerations around benefits are especially tenuous for startups in the gig economy, who may need to compensate affected employees regardless of their ability to perform tasks.

Supply-chain dysfunction

Turmoil in supply chains can bear significant consequences for startups across a diverse range of sectors, including technology and healthcare. This is especially the case given that these supply chains tend to be concentrated through only a selected group of vendors.
Since China is the world’s largest producer of industrial goods (in particular, basic parts), often at the world’s lowest prices, the widespread quarantines in the region are already proving debilitating: the number of bulk freight shipments has fallen over 70% since January and some 40% of China’s trucking capacity remains offline. And while American companies have sought to diversify away from China in recent years (partially due to political rhetoric), as the viral outbreaks spread to other major manufacturing countries (such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Mexico), supply chains for instrumental parts will likely face shortages, delays, and quality compromises.
In terms of services, startups often depend on regulatory, legal, and industrial collaborators for deliverables that are a prerequisite to their doing business. Disruptions in this “soft” supply chain capable of delaying essential credentialing, contracting, or data acquisition can prove incapacitating for startups. Furthermore, the proliferation of outsourcing (on the order of 14 million jobs in 2015) in service supply chains for critical tasks such as customer service and administrative workflows implies another dimension of vulnerability for service provision.
For either goods or services supply chains, to the extent that startups have relatively undiversified revenue streams — from a single or small group of contracts — these various forms of supply chain bottlenecks can be crippling (of basic fulfillment) in the short-run and compromising (of scaling and reputation) in the long-run.

Facility closures

Lastly, startups ought to consider the impact that closing and/or restricting their facilities can have on their performance.
Recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) include recommendations for employers to develop “infectious disease outbreak response plans” that may require office/factory closures. Already, employers across the US are preparing for “social distancing measures” that are, overnight, converting physical workforces into virtual ones.
With the acceleration of community spread leading to diffusion of the virus out beyond US urban centers effected thus far (namely, New York City and San Francisco), more and more startups residing in neighboring suburbs may face closing their workplace.

Steps stakeholders in startups can take to provide stability 

Taken together at face value, these supply-side considerations can seem overwhelming for startups already facing innumerable daily “fires” that need extinguishing. However, there are a variety of steps that CEOs, funders, and partners/clients of startups can take to inoculate themselves against the exogenous threat posed by coronavirus.
Startup CEOs ought to consider operational, organizational, and financial workarounds.
Operationally, they can take steps to prepare for a virtual workplace by establishing clear methods of digital communication and metrics to ensure productivity. They can also prepare for an “interrupted” workplace (in which employees require more time than usual for personal affairs and may be otherwise preoccupied) by embracing asynchronous workflows, laying out clear priorities for deliverables, and providing flexibility beyond standard office hours.
Organizationally, CEOs can cross-train employees and develop clear workflow protocols to insulate against staffing deficits that may arise. To fortify their organizational strategies, CEOs can identify weak points and/or major dependencies in their supply chains. In turn, they can seek to hedge against these where possible: either through delegation to additional firms or through integration internally.
Financially, to the extent possible, CEOs can shift their business models to prioritize revenue over growth in the short-run, ensuring liquidity against unexpected supply or demand shocks. This can be achieved through cost reduction or signing small-scale contracts (rather than “pursuing Moby Dick”). Alternatively, CEOs can consider raising anticipatory funding, even if in the ideal world they might defer a raise in pursuit of higher valuations.
Funders of startups are likewise well positioned to buffer against the fever state of startups. Providing leadership for early, anticipatory fundraising can support the stockpiling of dry powder to survive a prolonged siege by coronavirus (due, for example, to structural changes to the supply chain in the wake of the pandemic). It can also promote the creation of a war chest to allow startups to adapt under these abnormal circumstances.
Additionally, funders can leverage their expertise and networks to share learnings on dealing with similar challenges — therefore cultivating an ecosystem of resilience for potentially inexperienced leaders during the tumult associated with coronavirus.
Finally, partners and clients of startups have an important supporting role to play. It is very much in their own interest to ensure the vitality of startups upon which they depend: to avoid the costs of restructuring their own business models should a startup partner/vendor go defunct, and to empower their own innovation pipelines. As such, partner and client companies are well positioned renegotiate contractual terms to facilitate short-term flexibility while also ensuring long-term performance. Alternatively, they can redesign incentives and milestones in a way that can provide operational and financial security to startups for the time being without sacrificing the overall value expected in the more distant horizon.

Surviving coronavirus can bolster the immune systems of startups in the future

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to strain the capabilities of startups for the foreseeable future. Supply-side disruptions will present distinctive challenges to startups unlike those that typically crop up in a globalized economy. 
Nonetheless, through keen vigilance, rapid adaptation, and comprehensive contingency planning, startups can survive the impending stress test. And in so doing, like white blood cells after a severe infection, surviving startups can develop resistance against the subsequent challenges they will inevitably face in their lifetimes.
Google removes Iran's official COVID-19 detection app from the Play Store.
Google has removed today an Android app from the official Play Store that was developed by the Iranian government to test and keep track of COVID-19 (coronavirus) infections.
Before being removed from the Play Store, controversy surrounded the app, and several users accused the Iranian government of using the COVID-19 scare to trick citizens into installing the app and then collecting phone numbers and real-time geo-location data.
In hindsight of accusations, TNT has asked Lukas Stefanko, an Android malware researcher at ESET, to review the app for any malicious or spyware-like behavior.
"Based on the analysis of the app's APK, the app is not a malicious Trojan or spyware," Stefanko told TNT earlier today.
A Google spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the reasons the app was removed; however, sources familiar with Play Store policies told TNT the app was most likely taken down because of its misleading claims -- namely that it could detect COVID-19 infections, something that is impossible through an app.
Suspected COVID-19 patients are tested and confirmed as infected following a microbiological analysis of a throat swab.


The app, which is named AC19, was released last week and was made available through a dedicated website, the official Play Store, and other third-party app stores.
The app was released while Iran is in the midst of a national health crisis, with the country being one of the most impacted countries in the world by the novel COVID-19 coronavirus.
After it's release, Iran's Health Ministry sent a mass SMS message to all Iranians urging them to install the app to check potential COVID-19 symptoms.
The app would let users register using their phone number and then ask Iranians to answer a series of questions related to coronavirus symptoms.
The idea was to let Iranians determine if they had severe symptoms, in order to prevent citizens from needlessly flooding local hospitals.
However, the app would also request access to real-time geo-location details, which it would immediately upload to a remote backend.


Although access to this geo-location information was requested through a legitimate permission prompt that users had to agree, it was soon discovered that the app had been developed by a company that has previously built other apps for the Iranian regime.
The company, named Smart Land Strategy, previously built two Telegram clones named Gold Telegram and HotGram. Both apps were removed from the Play Store on accusations of secretly collecting user data, and reports at the time[1, 2, 3] claimed the apps were developed at the behest of Iranian intelligence agencies.
However, Stefanko said AC19 did not contain any suspicious behavior, and the app requested access to location data just like any regular Android app. Furthermore, being a health-related app, such a request wouldn't be out of place for this category of apps, Stefanko added.
It is very likely that the app was caught in the crackdown against COVID-19-related content. Many tech companies that run app stores and online advertising platforms -- like Apple, Facebook, and Google -- have recently begun cracking down on COVID-19-related content, especially the ones that pretend to offer detection services, fake cures, peddle conspiracy theorists, or other misleading content.
But even if the AC19 app was clean at the moment, in hindsight of Smart Land Strategy's ties to the previous Telegram clones, Iranian dissidents who requested we not name them in this article told TNT that the Iranian government could be using the current COVID-19 pandemic as a ruse to trick millions of Iranians into installing the app, collect their device and location details, and then install malware on their devices through a subsequent update.
What is certain at the time of writing is that millions of Iranians have already installed the app, and that the app's data is reaching Iranian government bodies.
According to a tweet shared today by MJ Azari Jahromi, Iran's Minister of Information and Communications Technology, the government has already collected location data points for more than four million Iranians with the help of the app.
Currently, while the app has been removed from the Play Store, the app is still being offered for download through the website and other third-party app stores.
New York City’s mayor also urged residents to work from home:
Amazon told employees in New York and New Jersey that they should work from home for the month of March if they can, TNT reports. The internet giant’s Audible audiobook division is located in Newark, New Jersey, and it has thousands of employees in New York City.
“We continue to work closely with public and private medical experts to ensure we are taking the right precautions as the situation continues to evolve,” an Amazon spokesperson told TNT. “This includes recommending that employees who are able to work from home in Seattle/Bellevue, the Bay Area, New York, New Jersey and the Lombardy region/Asti province of Italy do so through the end of March.”
Amazon told its warehouse workers and other employees late on Sunday that the company won’t count unpaid time off that employees take during March.
On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged city residents to work from home if possible. “For a business that can allow more employees to telecommute, we want you to do that,” he told reporters at a press conference. “We simply want to reduce the number of people on mass transit just to open up some more space.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Saturday as the number of coronavirus cases in the state continued to rise.
Last week, Amazon joined other tech giants with operations in Seattle, telling employees there to work from home until the end of March. Amazon confirmed on March 2nd that one of its Seattle-based employees was quarantined with the novel coronavirus. The company already restricted all nonessential domestic travel in response to the outbreak.
On Monday, Google said it would expand an earlier ban on visitors to its Washington office and restrict visitors to its offices in the San Francisco area and New York.
Taipei-based Foxconn, which is a key parts supplier for Apple, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, on Tuesday announced that its plants on mainland China would resume normal production by the end of the month. Numerous factories across China were forced to shut down in late January due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.
However, uncertainties remained, and the shutdown's impact on full year earnings was still unknown, company chairman Liu Young-Way said during an earnings call with investors.
There could be a significant, negative year-on-year impact for the company's core business segments, Liu warned and it was even possible the first quarter of 2020 would not be profitable.
The impact of the shutdown isn't limited to China, ground zero for the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
The coronavirus impact could hit global supply chains for all products in mid-March, and force thousands of companies to slow down or even temporarily shut assembly and manufacturing plants in Europe and the United StatesThe Harvard Business Review predicted last week.
The most vulnerable companies likely will be those that rely on China to supply key components, and it could take months or longer for supply chain problems to be resolved fully.
"There is a great intertwining with participants in the supply chain," said Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.
"Tech will be impacted more than other industries," he told TNT.
Health officials have reported more than 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, as of Friday. There have been 3,300 deaths, with about 300 outside mainland China. Thirteen of those were in Washington state. COVID-19 has been detected so far in at least 83 countries.

Break in the Supply Chain

Consumers around the world already are seeing empty shelves in retail stores, and products from China likely will be in high demand. Shortages will disproportionately affect the tech sector, as tech firms typically do not keep large inventories of parts on hand.
"The COVID-19 virus is impacting the global electronics supply chain," said Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.
"To keep costs low and make products as affordable as possible, every company in the supply chain has switched to a just-in-time production model, minimizing if not eliminating stockpiles," he told TNT.
"Most factories have supplies for only one day of production, as stockpiles are ultimately an inefficient use of capital," Entner said. "Factory space is better used to produce something rather than store something."
This approach works as long as factories remain staffed and products flow from one facility to another, but even a small a disruption in the supply chain can impact a company and with it the whole sector. This was seen in Japan after the 2011 earthquake, and it took years for some firms to recover fully. Some businesses were shuttered for good.
The truth is that the tech industry runs on such tight margins that an ample supply of parts wouldn't be a solution to the problem.
"Even if companies wanted, they simply don't have the storage capacity," explained Entner. "The bottom line is that factories are idle until supplies are rolling in."

Short-Term Problem

Consumers will have to wait for new products to arrive, which could be an issue in today's instant gratification society. Shoppers have become accustomed to products being a click away online.
"While there are disruptions currently in China-based manufacturing, I expect that situation will eventually be resolved," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
However, shortages could impact companies in other ways, including brand loyalty.
"Depending on the length of the disruption, companies could be severely disrupted," King told TNT.
That could be particularly true for Apple, which depends heavily on iPhone sales, warned King.
Xenophobic reactions -- even overreactions -- are a problem. Outlandish posts circulating online suggest that products from China could be spreading the virus. Health officials have stressed that the coronavirus could not be active long enough on a surface for it to be transmitted through touching a product that came from China, even from a coronavirus epicenter such as Guangdong or Zhejiang.
Despite this fact, the outbreak could make some companies reconsider business partnerships with some international firms, a move that isn't likely to help the supply chain issues.
"It isn't appropriate for companies to be wary of specific countries, but the coronavirus could lead many companies to develop relationships with manufacturers in multiple countries," added King.

Global Shutdown of Tech Events

The World Health Organization (WHO) has yet to declare the coronavirus a global pandemic, but the tech world has been very proactive in addressing the issue. So far, more than a dozen conferences and trade events have been canceled or postponed.
Among them are the Adobe Summit, Black Hat Asia 2020, Facebook F8 and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The latter is the largest event to be completely canceled, but some events are still being held online. In addition, Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies announced they were pulling out of the upcoming SXSW conference in Austin, Texas.
It isn't just in the tech world that events are being postponed or canceled -- or in some cases heavily modified. The National College Players Association has called upon the NCAA to even consider holding the upcoming March Madness basketball tournament in arenas without fans in attendance.
There's debate over whether such extreme measures actually are required.
"First of all, while the coronavirus has killed 3,000 people on a global scale, the CDC estimates that as many as 56,000 people die from the flu or flu-like illness each year. We need to get this in perspective," suggested technology industry entrepreneur and consultant Lon Safko.
"The worldwide panic over coronavirus has been exaggerated and has already caused significant actual damage to the global economy," he told Technewstechnologyz.
"Hotel reservations around the world are being canceled along with airline reservations, while restaurants in many destination cities are empty and conferences, expos, concerts, and many large public gatherings are being canceled at an alarming rate," Safko added.

Facebook, Twitter, Google rebel against Pakistan's new digital law

Through a group called the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), the digital giants wrote a scathing letter to Pakistan PM Imran Khan. AIC has called the rules 'vague and arbitrary in nature'

Digital media giants Facebook, Twitter and Google have threatened  to suspend services in Pakistan after Prime Minister Imran Khan's government gave approval to new social media regulations in the country.
Through a group called the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), the digital giants wrote a scathing letter to Pakistan PM Imran Khan. AIC has called the rules "vague and arbitrary in nature". The companies warned that "the rules as currently written would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses".
The Asia Internet Coalition is an industry association that promotes the understanding and resolution of internet policy issues in the Asia Pacific region.
"We are not against regulation of social media, and we acknowledge that Pakistan already has an extensive legislative framework governing online content. However, these rules fail to address crucial issues such as internationally recognized rights to individual expression and privacy," AIC added.
As per the new rules, Pakistan has made it mandatory for social media companies to open offices in Islamabad (capital of Pakistan). Besides, the country has instructed these digital giants to build data servers to store information and take down content upon identification of authorities.
Besides, through this new digital censorship law, authorities will be able to take action against its citizens if found guilty of targeting state institutions at home and abroad on social media.
Failure to comply with the government will result in hefty fines and possible termination of services.
"In case of failure to comply within 15 days, it would have the power to suspend their services or impose a fine worth up to 500 million Pakistani rupees".