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Microsoft Drops DOJ Lawsuit Over Data Requests

October 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft Corp said it plans to stop its lawsuit against the U.S. government after the Department of Justice (DOJ) changed data request rules on alerting internet users about agencies accessing their information.

The new policy limits the use of secrecy orders and calls for such orders to be issued for defined periods, Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in a blog post on Monday.

 “As a result of the issuance of this policy, we are taking steps to dismiss our lawsuit,” Smith said.

The company expects the changes to end the practice of indefinite secrecy orders.

The suit argued that the government’s actions were in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property, and the company’s First Amendment right to free speech.

The changes will ensure that secrecy order requests are “carefully and specifically tailored to the facts in the case,” Smith said.

“This is an important step for both privacy and free expression. It is an unequivocal win for our customers, and we’re pleased the DOJ (Department of Justice) has taken these steps to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans,” the statement said.

While Microsoft has agreed to drop its lawsuit, Smith said the company is renewing its call to Congress for the amendment of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which was adopted in 1986.

The DOJ did not respond to request for comment outside regular business hours.

 Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Trump administration’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling preventing federal prosecutors from obtaining emails stored in Microsoft computer servers in Dublin, Ireland in a drug trafficking investigation.

Government lawyers argued the lower court ruling threatened national security and public safety.

Amazon Gets Hit With Huge Tax Bill From The EU

October 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon has been informed that it must pay about 250 million euros ($294.38 million) in back taxes to Luxembourg, the latest U.S. tech company to be caught up in a European Union crackdown on unfair tax deals.

The fine was much lower than some sources close to the case had expected and is only a fraction of the 13 billion euros that Apple Inc was ordered to pay to Ireland last year.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who has other big U.S. tech companies in her sights, has taken a tough line on multinational companies’ approach to tax.

“Luxembourg gave illegal tax benefits to Amazon. As a result, almost three-quarters of Amazon’s profits were not taxed,” Vestager said.

Amazon said it was considering an appeal.

“We believe that Amazon did not receive any special treatment from Luxembourg and that we paid tax in full accordance with both Luxembourg and international tax law,” Amazon said in a statement after the announcement.

Though the EU has taken on several U.S. tech companies, both in antitrust and in tax avoidance cases, Vestager said that her approach was not biased against foreign companies

 “This is about competition in Europe, no matter your flag, no matter your ownership,” Vestager said.

She also welcomed the debate kicked off by French President Emmanuel Macron who called for more integrated corporate tax regimes in Europe, aiming to close the loopholes used to reduce tax bills.

The Commission said the exact amount of tax to be reclaimed from Amazon would still need to be calculated by Luxembourg authorities.

The 250 million euros is significantly less than the 400 million euros which sources close to the matter told Reuters a year ago was under consideration by Vestager.

The Commission said Luxembourg allowed Amazon to channel a significant portion of its profits to a holding company without paying tax. The holding company was allowed to do this because it held certain intellectual property rights.

“The Commission’s investigation showed that the level of the royalty payments, endorsed by the tax ruling, was inflated and did not reflect economic reality,” the Commission said in a statement.

Amazon, which employs 1,500 in the grand duchy, is one of the biggest employers in the country of half a million people. The U.S. company, which has a Europe-wide staff of some 50,000, in 2016 made a $2.4 billion profit on global revenues of $136 billion.

Facebook Focuses On Camera Shots With Latest Smartphone App Update

March 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Facebook Inc is giving the camera the spotlight on its smartphone app for the first time, urging users to take more pictures and edit them with digital stickers that show the influence of camera-friendly rival Snapchat.

With an update scheduled to take effect today, Facebook will allow users to get to the app’s camera with one swipe of their finger and then add visual details like a rainbow or a beard of glitter.

Users will be able to share a picture privately with a friend, rather than to the user’s entire list of friends, and add a picture to a gallery known as a “story,” similar to a feature on the Snapchat app.

Snapchat, owned by Snap Inc, popularized the sharing of digitally decorated photographs on social media, especially among teenagers, and exposed a weakness of Facebook as the companies battle for eyeballs and leisure time.

Snap, which went public this month, has recently emphasized its ambitions to build gadgets and has called itself a camera company rather than a social media firm.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network with some 1.86 billion users, denies it took its camera ideas from Snapchat and says it got them from Facebook users.

“Our goal here is to give people more to do on Facebook and that’s really been the main inspiration,” Connor Hayes, a Facebook product manager, said in a briefing with reporters.

In a glimpse of how the features could tie in with other businesses, one of the first camera effects will be the ability to morph someone in a photograph into a yellow, cartoon “Minion.” The latest Minion movie, “Despicable Me 3,” is due out in a few months from Comcast Corp’s NBC Universal.

Facebook has deals to license content from six film studios, as well as from two artists, said Kristen Spilman, design director at Facebook.

Another visual effect that can be added to pictures allows someone in a picture to “become a laser cat with super powers,” Spilman said.

The effects will vary by location. Spilman said that when Facebook tested the ability to add the phrase “LOL” – the acronym for “laugh out loud” – to a picture, users in Ireland were confused by what it meant.

Advertising Coalition Agree To Online Ads Standards

March 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A broad coalition of advertising trade groups, ad buyers and sellers from Western Europe and the United States are pushing the industry to stop using annoying online marketing formats that have given rise to use of ad-blockers.

The types of ads the coalition has identified as falling below standard include pop-up advertisements, auto-play video ads with sound, flashing animated ads and full-screen ads that mask underlying content from readers or viewers.

The explosion of ad-blocking tools has launched a prolonged debate within the advertising industry over whether to rein in abusive ad practices or simply freeze out consumers who use ad blocker and still expect access to premium content.

The Coalition for Better Ads said on Wednesday it was publishing the voluntary standards after a study in which more than 25,000 web surfers and mobile phone users rated ads.

They identified six types of desktop web ads and 12 types of mobile ads as falling beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability and called on advertisers to avoid them.

Matti Littunen, research analyst at Enders Analysis focusing on digital media, said the ad formats identified by the coalition “have already been discouraged for years by these bodies and yet are still commonplace.”

The coalition is made up of major advertising associations from Britain, France, Germany and the United States, online ad platforms Google and Facebook, advertisers such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever and news publishers including News Corp, Washington Post and Thomson Reuters, the corporate parent of Reuters News.

“This is an opportunity, with the breadth of our participation, to actually not only capture what the consumer doesn’t want but also to really educate and take action to make that a reality in the online experience,” said Chuck Curran, a lawyer for the coalition, on a call with reporters.

“It’s that measurement of the point where the consumer is not just dissatisfied with the ad experience but actually more likely to use ad blockers and this is what we capture with the better ads standards.”

Ad-blocking, which has surged steadily since 2013, covered 615 million computer or mobile devices in 2016, up 30 percent from a year ago, according to estimates from Dublin-based PageFair, a firm that helps advertisers find ways to overcome blockers. That’s 11 percent of the world’s online populatio

Google Must Turn Over Emails Stored Abroad, Says U.S. Judge

February 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has been ordered by a federal court in Pennsylvania to comply with search warrants and provide customer emails stored abroad, in a decision that is in sharp contrast to that of an appeals court in a similar case involving Microsoft.

Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Rueter of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Friday that the two warrants under the Stored Communications Act (SCA) for emails required by the government in two criminal investigations constituted neither a seizure nor a search of the targets’ data in a foreign country.

Transferring data electronically from a server in a foreign country to Google’s data center in California does not amount to a seizure because “there is no meaningful interference with the account holder’s possessory interest in the user data,” and Google’s algorithm in any case regularly transfers user data from one data center to another without the customer’s knowledge, Judge Rueter wrote.

He added that when Google produces the electronic data in accordance with the search warrants, and the government views it, the invasion of the account holder’s privacy — the searches — will take place in the U.S.

In the Microsoft case, which was cited by Google, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York quashed a warrant that would have required the company to disclose contents of emails stored on a server in Ireland. The court said in its opinion that the SCA under which the warrant was served “does not authorize courts to issue and enforce against U.S.‐based service providers warrants for the seizure of customer e‐mail content that is stored exclusively on foreign servers.”

The architecture of Google’s system that partitions user data into shards does not let the company establish with any certainty which foreign country’s sovereignty would be implicated when the company accesses the communications to produce it in response to a legal process, making it difficult for law enforcement to look for other means such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) between countries to get access to the data.

“Google admits that the location of the data could change from the time the Government applies for legal process to the time when the process is served upon Google,” the Judge wrote.

Will Apple Release Three New Tablets This Year?

January 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple has decided that the reason that people are not buying its tablets is because they don’t have enough over-priced versions available.

To fix this problem Apple is planning to release three more tablets which contain all the same features you can find in cheaper Chinese Tablets at half the price.

According to Digitimes Apple will release three new tablets for 2017, a 9.7-inch iPad, a 10.5-inch iPad, and an upgraded 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The 9.7-inch model expected to enter mass production in the first quarter followed by the other two in the second.

It is odd really as Apple was thought to want to kill off the 9.7 inch pad and replace it with the 10.5-inch iPad. However not it seems that it wants to make the 9.7-inch iPad become an entry-level device. It can then flog these to corrupt or stupid school managers who don’t know that they can save their schools cash by going elsewhere .

There will be a few supply changes too. Apple will also procure components from its secondary suppliers for its new 9.7-inch iPad and Korea-based Seoul Semiconductor will supply LED for the device instead of the existing 9.7-inch iPad’s supplier Nichia.

The 10.5-inch iPad and 12.9-inch iPad Pro will get an A10X processor, but that is pretty much anyone knows for now. Our guess is that it will look pretty much like a tablet, have a similar price tag and be even more ignored than the current batch.

Courtesy-Fud

Smartphone-based Bank Number26 Expanding

December 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

number26-bank-150x150Mobile phone only bank Number26 is now offering its services in 17 countries in the euro zone, expanding from a smaller core of European markets it entered a year ago, it said on Tuesday.

The Berlin-based company is backed by Li Ka-shing, one of Asia’s richest men and Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, along with other investors including Berlin’s Earlybird Ventures and Zurich-based Red Alpine.

The company, which received its own banking license from German financial regulator Bafin this year, offers online accounts for cash withdrawals, savings and insurance services that users manage on their mobile phones.

 It currently counts 200,000 customers in 8 countries.

Without the expense of branches or legacy computer infrastructure and by relying on selective outsourcing, mobile-first banks can challenge established banks by promising lower lending rates and higher rates on savings.

Established banks have responded by plowing more money into upgrading their own computer systems, rolling out mobile apps of their own, closing retail bank branches and investing in fintech startups.

N26, which first launched in 2015 in Germany and Austria, then moved into Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Ireland and Slovakia, is now adding the Benelux countries, the Baltics, Finland, Portugal and Slovenia.

“We have built Europe’s most modern mobile bank,” Number26 Chief Executive and co-founder Valentin Stalf said in a presentation at the TechCrunch Disrupt London conference.

“We are getting closer to building a truly European bank.”

Ireland To Join The Fight With Apple Against EU’s Tax Bill

November 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

apple-logo-150x150Ireland’s government plans to formally submit its appeal this week against the European Commission’s multi-billion-euro demand for back taxes from Apple, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has announced.

Ireland’s cabinet agreed in September to join the iPhone maker in appealing the Commission’s order that the U.S. tech giant pay up to 13 billion euros to Dublin after ruling the firm had received illegal state aid.

Dublin is seeking to protect a tax regime that has attracted many multinational employers. The European Commission decision has also angered Washington, which accuses it of trying to grab tax revenue that should go to the United States.

“The government fundamentally disagrees with the European Commission’s analysis and the decision left no choice but to take an appeal to the European Courts ,” Noonan told a European Parliament committee in Brussels.

 

Can Google Sell 4 Million Overpriced Pixels By Years End?

October 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-over-pixelAccording to new estimates from Digitimes Research, the recently announced Google Pixel smartphone is expected to reach 3 to 4 million shipments in the second half of this year, giving a 10 percent increase in HTC’s total smartphone shipments from the first half.

Google’s latest Pixel and Pixel XL devices come in 5-inch and 5.2-inch display sizes and feature a quad-core Snapdragon 821 processor, a 12.3-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front camera and look very similar to Apple’s iPhone from an aesthetic perspective. Pricing is also very similar, as the Pixel starts at $649 for 32GB and the Pixel XL starts at $769, while the iPhone 7 is also $649 for 32GB and the iPhone 7 Plus is $769 for 32GB.

Performance similar to Snapdragon 820 devices

Recently, the performance of the latest Snapdragon 821-powered flagship Android devices has become a recent site of investigation, When averaging the top eight Geekbench 4.0.1 scores sorted by multi-core performance, the results show the Pixel and Pixel XL receiving scores of around 1,603 single-core and 4,106 multi-core, still lower on average than the iPhone 6S (2,506 / 4,320). Meanwhile, the A10-powered iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus manage scores of around 3,473 single-core and 5,707 multi-core.

For the most part, the Pixel and Pixel XL seem more in line with the HTC 10 (1,745 / 3,961) and LG G5 (1,699 / 4,108), both of which feature the Snapdragon 820 with 2.15GHz high-performance cores and 1.6GHz power-efficient cores. The Snapdragon 821 features two 2.4GHz high-performance cores and two 2GHz power-efficient cores, meaning Google’s Pixel smartphones should be at least 10 percent faster than these devices, but this does not seem to be the case in this benchmarking utility for now.

Battery life is another story entirely, and this is where the Snapdragon 821 shows improvement over Snapdragon 820 devices including the previous Nexus 5X and 6P. Internet browsing over LTE improves by 60.2 percent over the Nexus 5X and 30 percent over the 6P, while talk time improves about 30 percent over the Nexus 5X and 13 percent over the 6P, according to a list compiled independently by Reddit user TyGamer125.

Pixel, Pixel XL will be 40 to 50 percent of HTC shipments

Meanwhile, Google’s launch of the HTC-manufactured Pixel smartphones is projected to increase HTC’s total handset shipments to around 6.5 and 7 million units by the end of the year, up from between 5.8 and 6.1 million units in the first half.

According to Luke Lin, a senior analyst at Digitimes Research, Pixel shipments should account for around 40 to 50 percent of HTC’s total smartphone shipments in the second half of this year.

Courtesy-Fud

Mytaxi, Hailo Merge To Take On Rival Uber

July 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Daimler’s mytaxi said it will merge with British competitor Hailo in an all-share deal, creating Europe’s largest smartphone-based taxi-hailing business.

Unlike U.S.-based ride hailing start-up Uber, which established itself to compete against taxi companies, the new company will operate using taxi firms.

It is the latest push by traditional carmakers to enter the taxi ride hailing services market dominated by Uber and other technology companies.

The companies declined to disclose financial terms.

“It’s a paper deal. Daimler will own 60 percent of the new entity and the stakeholders in Halio will own 40 percent,” said Halio CEO Andrew Pinnington, who will be chief executive of the combined company.

The merged entity, which will operate under the mytaxi brand, will have 70 million passengers and 100,000 registered taxi drivers in over 50 cities across nine countries in Europe, the companies said.

In similar deals this year, Volkswagen took a $300 million stake in Gett and General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft.

Hailo, which operates in Britain, Ireland and Spain, will combine with myTaxi, which is available in Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

The combined company will be headquartered in Hamburg, Germany.

MyTaxi founder Niclaus Mewes will take a seat on the supervisory board and in addition he will become managing director of Daimler Mobility Services GmbH.

 

Are Tablets Dead?

May 3, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

There more evidence that tablets were never the game-changer that Steve Jobs tried to peddle them as, and were just the keyboardless netbooks we said they were.

IDC siad that for the first quarter of 2016, overall worldwide tablet shipments fell to 39.6 million, a 14.7 percent drop from the same period a year ago,  However the only part of the segment which did ok were tablets with keyboards – or as we used to call them, netbooks.

IDC said that the decline of ordinary tablets was partly due to traditional first-quarter slumps but also a complete lack of interest on the part of customers.

Traditional tablets accounted for 87.6 percent of all tablet shipments. But tablets that come with detachable keyboards increased of more than 4.9 million units last quarter. That was a gain of 120 percent from the same period last year and an all-time high for tablets with detachable keyboards.

Tablets are dying because more people are buying big-screened phones as an alternative. You remember Fablets? They were what Steve Jobs claimed would never work because they prefered smaller smartphones or bigger tablets. In fact he was talking rubbish and was trying to keep his keyboardless netbook idea going.

IDC said that the newer tablets don’t offer enough new features to entice people to upgrade. After all tablets were always looking for an app which made them useful, which never arrived.

To counteract the downturn, more manufacturers are turning to tablets with detachable keyboards that can thus serve as laptops – on otherwords returning to the netbooks that the Tablets were said to replace.

“With the PC industry in decline, the detachable market stands to benefit as consumers and enterprises seek to replace their aging PCs with detachables,” IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani said in a statement.

Apple saw its shipments and market share drop but remained in first place. Apple’s latest 9.7-inch iPad Pro and the new 256GB storage option for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro are “healthy additions” to the lineup, IDC said. Samsung also saw its shipments and market share decline. Though the Samsung Galaxy Tab lineup is still popular, its detachable TabPro S is dead in the water thanks to its $900 price tag.

Amazon has found success with its starting-at-$49 Fire, showing that consumers will still buy bargain-priced tablets. Missing from the list was Microsoft in spite of the popularity of its Surface Pro products, which start at $900.

IDC said:

“The Surface line is great. But it’s tough to drive volume in the first quarter. Prices of Surface products are fairly high, but Microsoft is in the top five list for tablets with detachable keyboards. The top five for tablets as a whole is a tougher nut to crack given the large slate volumes compared to detachables.”

Courtesy-Fud

 

Box Unveils New Service That Allows Data To Be Stored Regionally

April 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Cloud storage provider Box Inc announced  a  new service that allows businesses in Europe and Asia to store data regionally, at a time when governments demand greater protection for their data in the backdrop of revelations about massive U.S. surveillance programs.

Box Zones, to be available next month, uses the cloud services of Amazon.com Inc and International Business Machines Corp to store its customers’ data across Germany, Ireland, Singapore and Japan, Box said on Tuesday.

The company, which serves about 57,000 customers including Unilever Plc and Home Depot Inc, has witnessed rising demand for its current add-on services such as KeySafe and Governance.

The European Union and the United States agreed on a Privacy Shield framework in February after two years of difficult talks aimed at ensuring that Europeans’ data transferred by companies across the Atlantic would be afforded the same level of protection as in Europe.

 

Symantec Has Some Flaws With SEP

March 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Symantec has warned of three serious vulnerabilities in its Endpoint Protection (SEP) software, and is advising users to update their systems.

The bugs affect all builds of the 12.1 version of the SEP software, with the first two flaws allowing authorised but low privilege users of the software to gain elevated and administrative access to the management console, which can be accessed either locally or through a web-based portal.

The third bug is in the sysplant driver and enables users to bypass the SEP’s security controls and run malware and other malicious code on a targeted client machines.

“Exploitation attempts of this type generally use known methods of trust exploitation requiring enticing a currently authenticated user to access a malicious link or open a malicious document in a context such as a website or in an email,” said the security firm.

There have been no recorded exploits of the flaws, so it would appear that Symantec has squashed the bugs before they became a real-world problem for its customers.

The first two bugs were discovered by security researcher Anatoly Katyushin from rival firm Kaspersky Labs, which is a little embarrassing. Discovery of the third bug was credited to the enSilo Research Team.

Symantec advises SEP users to update their software to the 12.1 RU6 MP4 version. It also recommends that users should take precautions and restrict remote access to the management console in order to prevent hackers from attacking client systems through the web portal.

While hackers can direct sophisticated malware at even the most robustly secured systems, exploiting flaws in software offers an easier route into machines and networks, providing hackers get in before the bugs are discovered and patched.

Recent examples can be seen with the discovery of iOS malware which threatens iPhones through an Apple DRM flaw, and an error on Code.org’s website which saw the emails of its volunteers exposed.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Apple Signs Up For Google Cloud Services

March 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc recently began using Google’s cloud service while it simultaneously builds its own data centers to reduce its reliance on third-party service providers, technology news website Re/code reported, citing sources familiar with the deal.

Apple currently also uses Amazon.com Inc’s and Microsoft Corp’s cloud services, but intends to end its reliance on all its rivals in the next few years, Re/code said.

The iPhone maker is spending between $400 million and $600 million on Google’s cloud services, tech magazine CRN reported, adding that it was unclear if the range was for an annual rate or a set amount of capacity.

CRN said Apple has also significantly reduced its reliance on Amazon since signing up with Google late last year.

Apple, Amazon and Alphabet Inc-owned Google could not be reached for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

Apple said last February that it would spend a combined $3.9 billion to build three data centers in Arizona, Ireland and Denmark. The Arizona facility is planned to be a command center to manage its other data centers.

Google has also been pushing to gain share in the fast-growing market. In November, the company appointed industry veteran Diane Greene to run its cloud business.

Last month, Google signed a deal to provide cloud services for online music streaming platform Spotify.

 

 

Microsoft’s Edge Showing Signs Of Life

March 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft’s Edge browser notched some gains in users and usage share last month, but the default browser of Windows 10 remained the choice of a minority of users — according to some sources, a very small minority.

Edge, the designated default browser for Windows 10, grew its user share — a measurement by American analytics vendor Net Applications that represents the portion of users worldwide who run a specific browser — by nearly five percentage points in February, climbing to 30.7% of those running the new OS. That’s up from 26% in January.

It was the first time since Windows 10’s July 2015 launch that Net Applications showed an increase in Edge’s share of Windows 10’s audience. Prior to February, Net Applications reported month-after-month of steady declines from the 36% user share it reported in August, the first full month after 10’s public debut.

Another source, the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) also portrayed an Edge increase, although it was smaller than Net Applications’ gain. DAP put Edge’s portion of the Windows 10 pool at 24.9%, a five-tenths of a percentage point increase over January.

DAP, which counts visits to more than 4,000 websites on over 400 different domains maintained by U.S. government agencies, is U.S.-centric, although some visitors access the sites from overseas.

StatCounter, an Irish metrics company, also put Edge’s U.S. usage share — a proxy for activity originating with a particular browser and thus a different measurement than either Net Applications’ or DAP’s — at slightly higher last month. For February, Edge’s U.S. share of all Windows 10 was 17.1%, a gain of three-tenths of a percentage point from the month before.

 

 

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