On Tech Frontiers

‘An enormously valuable trove’: America’s race against Afghan data

American forces and diplomats rushed to destroy their own records on Afghan citizens as they departed, but the rapid takeover of Kabul left large stores of data open for exploitation inside Afghan businesses and government offices. That gives today’s technologically adept Taliban tools to target Afghans who worked with the U.S. or the deposed Afghan government with unprecedented precision, increasing the danger for those who don’t get out on evacuation flights.

Africa: What’s Up with WhatsApp?

When Kenyan entrepreneur Mugethi Gitau started a business making all-natural hair and skin products in 2016, she didn’t worry about how to manage orders and customers. She went to the messaging platform she uses for nearly all her communication: Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp. “WhatsApp is already there,” Gitau says. “So it's the easiest way to reach somebody.” WhatsApp’s ubiquity means it is intertwined with every aspect of business and personal life in Kenya. But for entrepreneurs like Gitau, the symbiotic relationship could be about to get a lot more complicated.

You Weren’t Born in 1905? Why People Lie to Facebook

WASHINGTON—When news of an enormous Facebook breach broke last month, Chris Wellens couldn’t help feeling a little smug. After all, nearly all the information the technology executive had given the social media giant was false. Consumers, wary of how their information is being used, lie about everything from names to birth dates to professions when companies ask for personal details online. Some are worried about identity theft, some just want to protect their privacy and some hope to fool adve

Artificial Intelligence Rules More of Your Life. Who Rules AI?

WASHINGTON—Technology companies are racing to get ahead of regulators to shape the future of artificial intelligence as it moves deeper into our daily lives. Companies are already working artificial intelligence, or AI, into their business models, but the technology remains controversial. So IBM Corp., Intel Corp. and associations representing Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit are seeking to set ethical standards, or a sort of code of conduct, through alliances with futurists, civil-rights activists and social scientists.

U.S. Companies Brace for Wider Scrutiny of Chinese Deals

WASHINGTON—Lawmakers are moving to stanch the flow of U.S. technology to foreign investors, creating potential problems for a number of American companies that have bet big on partnering with China. The Senate and House, with the backing of the White House, are working on bipartisan legislation to broaden the authority of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., a multi-agency body that has oversight of deals that could lead to the transfer of sensitive technology to rival countries.

New Law Targets Sex Trafficking. It Could Also Hit Online Dating

WASHINGTON—The booming business of online dating faces new risks from a law designed to prevent sex trafficking and prostitution. The law, which holds digital platforms responsible for encouraging such illicit behavior, is creating uncertainty about liability across social media. At least six sites known to be regularly used by prostitutes have shut down in the U.S. since the law went into effect, and some worry that could drive the pay-for-sex market to legitimate dating platforms.

Uber Battles Locals for Future of African Taxis

NAIROBI, Kenya—In the traffic-clogged, potholed streets of Kenya’s capital city, there is a battle waging for the future of the African taxi ride that is pitting local startups eager to become the “Uber of Kenya” against, well, Uber. The winner will help answer a question dogging those who work in technology in the developing world: whether chaotic, impoverished cities like Nairobi will create the tools that bring the “bottom billion” online, or if apps that have already taken off in the U.S. and Europe can be exported here.

How a Facebook Fakery Fooled Africa Reporters

As rebels fought last month to overthrow Gambia’s autocratic leader, reporters who cover Africa frantically called Gambian government landlines for comment, with no luck. But one source had the information they sought: a Facebook page for President Yahya Jammeh. “Rest assured that the Enemies of the People have been defeated,” it proclaimed. Unfortunately for the numerous media houses that cited the page, it was a fake—a parody...

Using Free Wi-Fi to Connect Africa's Unconnected

NAIROBI, Kenya—As young pitchmen shout to potential passengers over blaring music, a graffiti-covered private minibus fills up more quickly than the other dozen in the scrum. It has free Wi-Fi. The specially outfitted matatu, as the minibuses are known in Swahili, is part of an experiment by Safaricom Ltd. to connect Africa's unconnected, offering a glimpse of what it takes to bring some of the world's most price-sensitive users online.

Can You Guess What Africans Like to Tweet About Most?

The most discussed topic by Africans on Twitter? Soccer, according to an analysis of African tweets by a British media consultancy. Portland Communications Ltd. monitored tweets across the 20 biggest cities in Africa for the last three months of 2013. The five most active tweeting cities were all in South Africa and Egypt, with Johannesburg leading the group with 344,215 tweets during the period. This was the second Twitter snapshot by Portland. In 2012, the company looked at overall tweet vo

Afghans Turn To The Twitterverse For Election

KABUL (AP) – Afghans turned to the Twitterverse to share news of Taliban intimidation at the polls and voter turnout in the presidential election, even as the country was just trying to keep electricity running and attacks at bay. The memory of neighboring Iran's media crackdown during that country's vote is still fresh here, and orders from the Afghan government on the eve of the election to censor reports of violence during Thursday's voting suggested news on the ground could be thin.