Posted Sep. 7, 2017 at 6:59 a.m.

Tech wrap: NC DOT adds drones; Russia'a Facebook election ads; Kohl's, Amazon partner; Intel $1B fine review

Published: 2017-09-07 06:59:12
Updated: 2017-09-07 06:59:12

Bulldog

In today's Bulldog wrapup of tech news:

  • 3-D mapping crash sites with drones may unblock roads faster
  • Facebook: Accounts from Russia bought ads during US campaign
  • Selling with the enemy? Kohl's to open in-store Amazon shops
  • EU top court orders reexamination of Intel antitrust fine

The details:

  • 3-D mapping crash sites with drones may unblock roads faster

Drone aircraft are beginning to hover over highway crashes in North Carolina as more law enforcement agencies use them to reopen the road in a fraction of the time needed previously.

The state Transportation Department said Wednesday it and the State Highway Patrol are studying drones that create 3-D models of crash scenes. DOT says a test of the technology cut the time for an accurate crash reconstruction from almost two hours to 25 minutes.

Drones are cheaper, easier and could be safer for law officers because they're not working on the highway. Law officers could need Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly drones.

The technology is being used by a few law enforcement agencies, including the Canadian city of Edmonton and Gwinnett County police near Atlanta.

  • Facebook: Accounts from Russia bought ads during US campaign

Hundreds of fake Facebook accounts, probably run from Russia, spent about $100,000 on ads aimed at stirring up divisive issues such as gun control and race relations during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the social network said Wednesday.

Although the number of ads is relatively small, the disclosure provides a more detailed peek into what investigators believe was a targeted effort by Russians to influence U.S. politics during the campaign, this time through social media.

The 470 accounts appeared to come from a notorious "troll farm," a St. Petersburg-based organization known for promoting pro-Russian government positions via fake accounts, according to two people familiar with the investigation. The people were granted anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation.

In all, the accounts purchased some 3,000 ads between June 2015 and May 2017. While the ads didn't specifically reference the election, a candidate or voting, they nevertheless allowed "divisive messages" to be amplified via the social media platform, the company's chief security officer, Alex Stamos, said in a statement.

Facebook has turned over its findings to federal authorities investigating Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is charged with overseeing Russian meddling in the U.S. election and any potential coordination with associates of President Donald Trump.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that Facebook briefed the panel's staff on Wednesday, but he still wants to know more.

"I have a lot more questions for Facebook, and I've got a lot of questions for Twitter," Warner said, noting that "we've got Twitter coming in." He did not say when a meeting with representatives from Twitter might occur other than "soon."

  • Selling with the enemy? Kohl's to open in-store Amazon shops

Amazon has long been blamed for the falling fortunes of department stores. Now, some of them are teaming up with the e-commerce giant.

Kohl's said Wednesday that it will open Amazon shops in 10 of its department stores that will sell Amazon Echos, Fire tablets and other gadgets. The deal comes just a few months after the owner of Sears and Kmart said it would sell its Kenmore-branded appliances on Amazon.com for the first time.

The partnership gives Kohl's a way to differentiate itself from rival department stores and lure in shoppers looking to buy electronics. For Amazon, it gets its devices in front of more people to touch and try them.

"It is a smart move for both companies," analysts at Jeffries said. "They always say you should keep your enemies closer."

Department stores have struggled as more people shop online or at discount stores. Kohl's, Macy's and Dillard's all reported a drop in a key sales figure last month for their latest quarters.

But despite the growth of online shopping, most retail transactions still take place in physical stores — and Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. doesn't seem to want to miss out. It has opened 11 bookstores in two years and recently bought grocer Whole Foods, allowing it to sell the Amazon Echo voice-activated device next to organic grapes and corn in its more than 460 stores.

  • EU top court orders reexamination of Intel antitrust fine

The European Union's top court on Wednesday sent back a case on a billion euro fine against chip maker Intel Corp. for further legal examination.

Wednesday's ruling had been eagerly awaited for its implications on the powers of the antitrust office of the EU. Now the case could be in limbo for months, if not years.

In 2009, the EU fined Intel Corp. a record 1.06 billion euros (currently worth $1.26 billion), saying the world's biggest computer chip maker used illegal sales tactics to shut out smaller rival AMD.

The EU's executive Commission says Intel broke EU competition law by exploiting its dominant position with a deliberate strategy to keep AMD out of the market that limited choice for millions of European consumers.

The European Court of Justice on Wednesday sent the case back to the lower General Court so it can examine more arguments from Intel.

For eight years, the U.S. chip giant has claimed that EU regulators made serious mistakes in levying the record fine for monopoly abuse and have called the fine "manifestly disproportionate."

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