Netflix fends off criticism over Canada investment

(Reuters) – Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) said on Tuesday it had received formal approval to start a C$ 500 million production unit in Canada and sought to quell talk that it had asked for special tax benefits for investing in its first such unit outside the United States.

The maker of Emmy-winning shows such as The Crown and Black Mirror said last month it was in talks with the Canadian government for an investment over a minimum of five years.

That decision was part of a broad review under Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, which included plans to modernize funding programs and review copyright, broadcasting and telecommunications legislation.

The government did not tax Netflix as some had proposed, opening the streaming service provider to criticism in Canada. (bit.ly/2wLo4Ma)

Netflix said on Tuesday its Canadian investment was approved under the Investment Canada Act, and that no tax deals were part of the approval to launch its new Canadian presence. But is also said it was not paying sales tax in line with existing Canadian laws.

“Netflix follows tax laws everywhere we operate. Under Canadian law, foreign online services like Netflix aren’t required to collect and remit sales tax,” said Corie Wright, Netflix’s director of global public policy. (nflx.it/2yBTf11)

The company also said it would spend an additional C$ 25 million ($ 20 million) over five years toward “market development” in the country, hosting recruitment drives and cultural events to boost the local production community.

Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee; editing by Patrick Graham and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Former Equifax chief apologizes to Congress over hack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The former head of Equifax Inc (EFX.N) apologized repeatedly on Tuesday at a congressional hearing for the theft of millions of people’s personal data in a hacking breach, saying it took weeks for the credit bureau to understand the extent of the intrusion.

Richard Smith retired last week but the 57-year-old executive led the company over the time of the hack, which Equifax acknowledged in early September.

Late on Monday, Equifax said an independent review had increased the estimate of potentially affected U.S. consumers by 2.5 million to 145.5 million.

In March, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security alerted Equifax to an online gap in security but the company did nothing, said Smith.

“The vulnerability remained in an Equifax web application much longer than it should have,” Smith said. “I am here today to apologize to the American people myself.”

Equifax keeps a trove of consumer data for banks and other creditors who want to know whether a customer is likely to default.

Former Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss checks his watch as he and City of Pasadena Councilmember Steve Madison stand with Richard Smith, former chairman and CEO of Equifax Inc., prior to Smith’s testimony before House Energy and Commerce hearing on “Oversight of the Equifax Data Breach: Answers for Consumers” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Smith said both technology and human error opened the company’s system to the cyber hack, which has been a calamity for Equifax, costing it about a quarter of its stock market value and leading several top executives to depart.

A company employee failed to tell the information team a software vulnerability that hackers could exploit should be fixed, Smith said. Then, a later system scan did not uncover the weak point.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Smith said he was notified on July 31 that “suspicious activity had occurred,” after security personnel had already disabled the web application and shut down the hacking. He said he only learned in the middle of August the scope of the stolen data.

On Aug. 2, the company alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and retained a law firm and consulting firm to provide advice. Smith notified the board’s lead director on Aug. 22.

That timing could help lift suspicions that three executives who sold stock on the first two days of August illegally used insider knowledge of the hack. Smith said the three “honorable men” did not know about the breach at that time.

Smith deferred to the FBI on questions of whether the hack had been sponsored by a nation-state.

“It’s possible,” he said when asked if the hackers were from another country.

Writing by Lisa Lambert and Patrick Rucker; Editing by Clive McKeef and Bill Rigby

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Former Equifax chief will face questions from U.S. Congress over hack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers are due to question the former head of Equifax Inc (EFX.N) at a Tuesday hearing that could shed light on how hackers accessed the personal data of more than 140 million consumers.

Richard Smith retired last week but the 57-year-old executive will answer for the breach that the credit bureau acknowledged in early September.

Late Monday, Equifax said an independent review had boosted the number of potentially affected U.S. consumers by 2.5 million to 145.5 million.

In March, the U.S. Homeland Security Department alerted Equifax to an online gap in security but the company did nothing, said Smith.

“The vulnerability remained in an Equifax web application much longer than it should have,” Smith said in remarks prepared for delivery on Tuesday. “I am here today to apologize to the American people myself.”

Smith will face the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday but there will be three more such hearings this week.

Equifax keeps a trove of consumer data for banks and other creditors who want to know whether a customer is likely to default.

The cyber-hack has been a calamity for Equifax which has lost roughly a quarter of its stock market value and seen several top executives step down alongside Smith.

Smith’s replacement, Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., has also apologized for the hack and said the company will help customers freeze their credit records and monitor any misuse.

There has been a public outcry about the breech but no more than 3.0 percent of consumers have frozen their credit reports, according to research firm Gartner, Inc.

Smith said hackers tapped sensitive information between mid-May and late-July.

Security personnel noticed suspicious activity on July 29 and disabled web application a day later, ending the hacking, Smith said. He said he was alerted the following day, but was not aware of the scope of the stolen data.

On Aug. 2, the company alerted the FBI and retained a law firm and consulting firm to provide advice. Smith notified the board’s lead director on Aug. 22.

Patrick Rucker contributed from Washington; editing by Clive McKeef.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Uber reviews Asia business over bribery allegations in U.S.: Bloomberg

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL], which is the subject of a federal probe into whether it broke bribery laws, has started a review of its Asia operations and notified U.S. officials about payments made by staff in Indonesia, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the Bloomberg report was accurate.

Uber said in August it was cooperating with a preliminary investigation led by the U.S. Department of Justice into whether company managers violated U.S. laws against bribery of foreign officials, specifically the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Uber hired law firm O‘Melveny & Myers LLP to investigate how it obtained the medical records of an Indian woman who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014, Reuters reported in June.

O’Melveny & Myers is now examining records of foreign payments and interviewing employees, raising questions about why some potentially problematic business dealings were not disclosed sooner, Bloomberg said on Tuesday. bloom.bg/2xdk6PT

Attorneys are focused on suspicious activity in at least five Asian countries: China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea, Bloomberg said, adding that Uber’s law firm is reviewing financial arrangements tied to the Malaysian government that may have influenced lawmakers there.

Uber and the DoJ could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

EU Prepares to Raise Privacy Shield Over Data Transfers to US

European Union officials are set to give final approval to a new EU-U.S. data transfer agreement early next week, after member states gave their approval to an updated text on Friday.

Privacy Shield is intended to replace the Safe Harbor Agreement as a means to legalize the transfer of EU citizens’ personal information to the U.S. while still respecting EU privacy laws.

A new deal is needed because the Court of Justice of the EU invalidated the Safe Harbor Agreement last October, concerned that it provided Europeans with insufficient protection from state surveillance when companies exported their personal data to the U.S. for processing.

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