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Russia: No, we don’t want to curb online freedoms – we want to protect internet



Russia opens case against Facebook and Twitter over data-localization law
Facebook and Twitter are in breach of laws requiring personal data to be kept on Russian soil, say the authorities.

The Russian government has denied claims by activists that its plan to make the Russian internet separable from the rest of the internet has anything to do with clamping down on online freedoms.

Legislation for the potential independence of the Russian internet space — the so-called Runet — was proposed at the end of last year. 

The idea, which is roughly analogous to China’s Great Firewall, is to be able to block outside content and keep Russian traffic within the country’s borders. A test of the idea’s viability is scheduled to take place on April 1.

Last weekend, as many as 15,000 protesters rallied in Moscow against the internet sovereignty law, which was cleared in February by the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament. An estimated 30 people were arrested before and during the rally.

The protests were spearheaded by the country’s Libertarian Party. According to an account by The Moscow Times, organizers and participants maintained that the legislation is designed to ease the way for censorship of the internet in Russia, and to make it harder for opposition figures to organize protests.

On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied these claims, arguing that “everyone is calling for internet freedom”.

“We cannot support their misunderstanding and deception that the passed bills are somehow aimed at limiting internet freedom,” Peskov told reporters, according to TASS news agency.

“On the contrary, they are designed to ensure [the] internet’s viability amid potential aggressive steps in cyberspace against our country.”

Regarding a televised interview with a protester who apparently claimed the Kremlin wants to be able to cut Russia off the rest of the internet with the press of a button, Peskov said: “This is absolutely a deception. However, this participant somehow is not afraid that someone overseas will press this button and disconnect him from the internet.”

SEE: Can Russian hackers be stopped? Here’s why it might take 20 years (TechRepublic cover story) | download the PDF version

The law has always been pitched as a defensive measure. It would involve the completion of a national Domain Name System (DNS), and the localization of all content that the Russian authorities are prepared to let people see, in the event of the plan being activated. 

Russian internet exchange points and internet service providers would be “required to ensure the possibility of centralized control over traffic, in the event of a threat”.

The aggressor in that scenario is most likely the US, which repeatedly cited Russia as an online aggressor in last year’s National Cyber Strategy — though there is no evidence to suggest the US is planning to cut any countries off the internet.

As for Peskov’s claim that “as far as internet freedom is concerned, the position of [the protesters] can be backed,” there is an awful lot of evidence to suggest that the Kremlin is no fan of the concept.

In recent years, Russian authorities have introduced draconian data-retention and data-localization laws, banned virtual private networks (VPNs), prosecuted many people for sharing “extremist” memes, told mobile operators to record which people are using which messaging apps, banned the messaging app Telegram for refusing to hand over encryption keys, cracked down on bloggers, and called on citizens to help scour the internet for content that should be blocked.

Previous and related coverage

Russia to disconnect from the internet as part of a planned test

Russia’s internet contingency plan gets closer to reality.

Russia: We’re suing Facebook, Twitter for snubbing law on storing users’ data locally

Facebook and Twitter are in breach of laws requiring personal data to be kept on Russian soil, say the authorities.

Russia: Now everyone who uses a messaging app must be identifiable

New decree means messaging services will have to check users’ registration data with their mobile operator.

Google warned: Your YouTube ads interfere with our elections, says Russia

Google has drawn the ire of Russian authorities for running opposition-paid adverts about upcoming protests.

Telegram starts to play nice with security agencies over user data, but not in Russia

Under Telegram’s new privacy policy, it could hand over user IP and phone details given the right court order.

Russian cyber spies busted by Netherlands ‘left behind evidence of many operations’

Equipment seized by Dutch intelligence points to Russia’s involvement in hacking incidents around the world.

Stop jailing people for likes and memes, says Russia’s biggest social network, which runs leading Russian social network Vkontakte, is calling for a change in the law.

Russia: We want volunteers to help us censor the internet

Russia’s interior minister says he wants citizens to scour the internet for banned material.

Russia’s ‘Big Brother’ data law now in force: Kremlin spies are the big winners

To help Russian security services, providers will now have to keep customers’ texts, calls, and chat logs in full.

Google, Amazon drawn into Telegram ban as Russia blocks millions of IP addresses

Russia’s quest to stop encrypted messaging app Telegram also blocks thousands of Amazon, Google addresses

Microsoft: We’ve just messed up Russian plans to attack US 2018 midterm elections

Claiming a win over Russian plans to hack US politicians, Microsoft unveils a new security service to detect attacks expected in the lead-up to the midterms.

What chief data officers can learn from Facebook about building better big data security practices TechRepublic

Here are four tips for improving big data governance strategies in light of the news about Cambridge Analytica’s harvesting of Facebook user profiles.

Wickr may have a workaround for Russia’s crackdown on encrypted chat CNET

A partnership with censorship-evading experts at Psiphon aims to keep the service going everywhere.

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Honda’s 2024 Prologue EV targets are difficult to believe



Honda is setting aggressive sales goals for its upcoming all-electric Prologue SUV, though limited availability and concerns around EV subsidies could hamper those ambitions. A collaboration with GM, the Honda Prologue will be based on the Ultium battery-electric platform, though isn’t expected to go on sale until 2024.

Honda has been fairly miserly with details about the SUV, though the general promise is a distinctly Honda-esque vehicle that distinguishes itself from GM models based on the EV platform. An Acura version will follow shortly after that. Beyond Prologue, meanwhile, the automaker plans more EVs using its own e-Architecture platform.

That’s still in development, but Honda needs to get it right. The automaker is aiming for 70,000 annual sales of the Prologue when it arrives in 2024; by 2030, though, it’s anticipating BEV sales of 500,000 each year. Come 2040, Honda insists, it should only be selling electric vehicles. That’s a huge jump from where Honda is today, without a single all-electric model on sale in the US.

Demand for electrified vehicles, Honda insists, has been solid. Vehicles like the CR-V Hybrid and Accord Hybrid have helped make the first half of 2021 its best so far for electrified models, the automaker claims.

Still, it’s fair to say that Honda’s electric transition hasn’t been a straightforward one. Expectations were high for the Clarity series, a broad range of electrified vehicles that included pure-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell models. All have since been discontinued, however, with questions in each case about the market competitiveness of each model.

In contrast, Honda has pushed ahead with regular hybrids: vehicles that combine combustion engines with battery-electric drive that is charged via excess ICE engine power or when the vehicle is braking. These can have a positive impact on fuel economy – the 2022 Insight, for example, is rated for up to 55 mpg in the city – but are far from zero-emissions.

Honda’s argument is that such hybrids offer drivers a reassuring taste of electrification. “We know customers who have a good experience with a hybrid vehicle are more likely to buy a battery electric vehicle in the future,” Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations at American Honda Motor Co., Inc, points out. “Our strategy is focused on introducing a higher percentage of hybrids in core models in the near term, making a committed effort to achieve higher volume leading to the introduction of our Honda Prologue.”

The 2024 Prologue, though, won’t be a golden bullet to Honda’s EV problem. For a start, it’s going to be limited in availability, at least to begin with: just California and the ZEV states. The automaker argues that those regions would comprise the bulk of sales anyway, and that a broader release will follow later on.

Honda’s stance that the buying public needs that sort of convincing is at odds with many of its rivals. GM itself has been pushing ahead with Ultium, with the Cadillac Lyriq already opening for reservations, the GMC Hummer EV over-subscribed, and the promise of a Chevrolet Silverado EV in the relatively near future. Ford, meanwhile, has been even more aggressive, with the Mustang Mach-E proving a hit in the electric crossover segment, and the F-150 Lightning bringing an all-EV version of the best-selling pickup to market in spring 2022.

Even Honda management has conceded that its roadmap may not be as forceful as is required. The European Green Deal, revealed in July, paves the way for zero-emissions-only sales of vehicles in the EU by 2035; that’s five years ahead of the transition on Honda’s all-electric timeline. In the US, it also sees worrying implications around the proposed changes for EV subsidies.

Where the current federal incentive for electric vehicles promises up to $7,500, new proposals could increase that to as much as $12,500. However, in order to qualify for the full amount, automakers would need to not only produce their EVs in the US, but in unionized factories. Honda ticks the first of those boxes, but not the second.

“As with other automakers, Honda’s initial zero emission vehicle sales goals of 40 percent by 2030 are contingent upon fair and equitable access to state and federal EV incentives intended to encourage American consumers to purchase electric vehicles,” the automaker said today. “Honda has urged Congress to ensure that all vehicles made in America are treated equally.”

Tesla – which also operates US factories, but without a union workforce – has also been critical about the possible update to the incentives system. Final changes for the US EV tax credits have not been confirmed at this point.

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Tesla kills Referral program on all vehicles



Tesla has announced that as of September 18, 2021, the referral program for all of its electric vehicles and solar panels has ended. Previously, the Referral program was a sales tool that Tesla used that gave those who referred buyers for Tesla vehicles or solar panels credits good for free Supercharging miles and opportunities to win an electric vehicle. The Referral program would also award users between $100 and $500 while giving those who referred buyers for solar products the opportunity to get Powerwall energy storage systems.

The elimination of the Referral program is happening globally, and the only product that is still eligible for the program is the Tesla Solar Roof. The referral award for that product is $500. For the Solar Roof, Tesla says that friends and family who order the product via the Referral link can earn $500 when they gain permission to operate.

The person who referred the Solar Roof buyer will receive $500 per referral. Tesla’s Referral program was a key sales tool to generate demand and sell its cars and other products because it relies on word-of-mouth. However, it is easy to imagine that it no longer needs the referral program to generate sales with the popularity of Tesla vehicles.

According to reports, some popular influencers were able to earn millions of miles of free Supercharging from the Referral program. Currently, Tesla is struggling to meet the demand for many of its vehicles, like many automakers. Interestingly, the message received by Referral program members indicates that the program has ended “until further notice.”

The “until further notice” statement seems to indicate there’s a chance the program could return in the future. Perhaps the program will return when Tesla has a new vehicle model it wants to promote. Reports have indicated that Tesla has its eyes on producing a smaller electric vehicle that could sell in the $25,000 range.

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Lotus Emira V6 First Edition starts at £75,995



Lotus has confirmed the specifications and pricing for its new sports car called the Emira V6 First Edition. Pricing for the car is £75,995. It features a supercharged 3.5-liter V6 engine making 400 horsepower and 420Nm of torque when fitted with the manual transmission or 430 Nm with the automatic.

The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, but there is an option for a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Lotus is offering the First Edition in six different colors, with additional colors coming next year. Buyers get several options packs as standard.

The First Edition cars will arrive next spring, with the four-cylinder powered First Edition landing next fall. The Lotus Emira is a mid-engine premium sports car. It promises dynamic performance with best-in-class ride and handling along with aerodynamics and a driver-focused experience.

The car uses a new lightweight bonded aluminum chassis. The First Edition uses 20-inch ultra-lightweight V-spoke forged alloy wheels that are diamond cut with a two-tone finish. Buyers can choose silver or gloss black wheels at no additional cost. First Edition buyers also get two-piece brake discs, and Lotus branded calipers. The six available colors include Seneca Blue, Magma Red, Hethel Yellow, Dark Verdant, Shadow Gray, and Nimbus Gray. All versions get LED lights all around, titanium exhaust finisher, heated power-folding door mirrors, and rear parking sensors.

Lotus fits the cars with the Lower Black Pack as standard. Buyers can choose from seven interior color choices at no cost, with options in leather or Alcantara. The car includes heated seats with 12-way adjustability, climate control, cruise control, and keyless entry. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported. Also standard are the Drivers Pack and Design Pack. Lotus also confirmed the entry-level Emira will launch sometime in 2023, priced starting at £59,995.

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