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Apple defeats $1bn case over iTunes

Written By andika jamanta on Rabu, 17 Desember 2014 | 23.58

16 December 2014 Last updated at 19:44

Apple has been found not guilty of engaging in anti-competitive behaviour by a jury in California.

The long-running suit focused on Apple's 2006 update to its iTunes software which meant only iPods could play music purchased from the store.

Consumers alleged this violated US antitrust laws, and sued for $350m (£222m) in damages.

The trial had featured emails sent by Apple founder Steve Jobs before his death in 2012.

The class action suit represented as many as 8 million iPod customers and 500 resellers, and could have cost Apple as much as $1bn, as anti-competition damage rewards are automatically tripled under US law.

'An issue'

Lawyers representing consumers and electronics retailers argued that Apple used its iTunes software to force buyers to use iPods instead of rival devices between 2006 and 2009. (The software was updated in 2009 to remove the restrictions.)

The lawyers argued this shut out other devices artificially inflated the price of iPods and used the emails from Mr Jobs to buttress this argument.

In one, sent in 2003, Mr Jobs worried about competition from Musicmatch, a software company, opening its own music store.

"We need to make sure that when Music Match launches their download music store they cannot use iPod," he wrote.

"Is this going to be an issue?"

However, the jurors sided with Apple, who argued the upgrade to its iTunes 7.0 software substantially improved the user experience, and thus was not subject to anti-competitive violations.

Earlier this year, Apple announced it would cease manufacturing the iPod Classic, one of the signature products that led Apple's revival under Mr Jobs.

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Microsoft rivals unite over data row

16 December 2014 Last updated at 11:44 By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News

Apple and eBay are among those supporting Microsoft's stand against handing over data stored in Ireland to the US government.

One year ago, prosecutors issued a warrant for emails stored by Microsoft in an Irish data centre, in connection with a drug-related investigation.

The tech giant refused to comply but was ordered by a judge to hand over the information in July.

Microsoft has now filed letters of support from a large number of allies.

These include tech firms Verizon, Amazon, Cisco and HP, as well as trade associations such as the US Chamber of Commerce, and Digital Rights Ireland.

Various news organisations such as CNN, the Guardian and the Washington Post are on board along with computer scientists from universities across the US including Harvard, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Earlier this year, New York judge James Francis said that a warrant for online information was the equivalent of a subpoena and had to be obeyed.

Privacy rights

The firm and its supporters argue that the centre in Dublin is outside US jurisdiction, while the prosecutors claim that as the data itself is accessible by the firm from within the US, this does not apply.

"We believe that when one government wants to obtain email that is stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects existing domestic and international laws," wrote Microsoft's Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs, in a blog post.

"In contrast, the US government's unilateral use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts both fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk."

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Ofcom names Sharon White as new boss

16 December 2014 Last updated at 14:32

Ofcom, the UK's telecoms regulator, has named senior Treasury official Sharon White as its new chief executive.

Ms White, who is currently second permanent secretary at the Treasury responsible for managing the UK's public finances, will take up her new post in late March.

She will replace Ed Richards, who will step down at the end of December, after being at the helm for eight years.

Her annual salary will be £275,000 a year, Ofcom said in a statement.

Ms White has spent 25 years working in the public sector and government, including spells in the British embassy in Washington DC, at the World Bank and as director general in the Department for International Development.

She is married to Robert Chote, the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which provides independent economic forecasts to the government.

"The Ofcom board is confident that Sharon will provide the leadership and vision to ensure Ofcom continues to promote a thriving communications sector in the UK that operates in the public interest," the regulator's chairman Patricia Hodgson said.

The announcement comes just a day after telecoms giant BT announced it was in talks to buy mobile operator EE, a deal expected to be scrutinised by Ofcom.

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Google threatened with £12m fine

16 December 2014 Last updated at 12:23

Google has been threatened with a fine of up to 15m euros (£12m) if it does not do a better job of protecting the privacy of Dutch citizens.

The threat was made by the Dutch data protection agency (DPA), which said Google had broken local laws governing what it could do with user data.

The search giant has been given until the end of February 2015 to change the way it handles personal data.

Google said it was "disappointed" by the Dutch data watchdog's statement.

"This has been ongoing since 2012, and we hope our patience will no longer be tested," Dutch DPA chairman Jacob Kohnstamm told Reuters.

Privacy change

The row has blown up over the way that Google combines data about what people do online in order to tailor adverts to their preferences.

Information about keywords in search queries, email messages, cookies, location data and video viewing habits are all used by Google to build up a profile on each of its millions of users.

Dutch laws said Google should tell people about this data-gathering activity and get permission from them before it was combined or analysed, said Mr Kohnstamm.

A Google representative said "We're disappointed with the Dutch data protection authority's order, especially as we have already made a number of changes to our privacy policy in response to their concerns.

"However, we've recently shared some proposals for further changes with the European privacy regulators group, and we look forward to discussing with them soon."

The Dutch DPA was one of a group of six European data regulators that looked at Google following changes made in early 2012 to unify its privacy policies around the world.

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Skype gets real-time translating tool

Skype Translate

Instant translation of foreign languages on Skype has moved a step closer.

Microsoft's launched a test version of the Skype Translator which decodes conversations in Spanish and English in real time.

It means that during video calls people who speak those languages will be able to talk freely.

Gurdeep Pall from Microsoft says it follows more than 10 years of investment.

"Skype Translator will open up endless possibilities for people around the world to connect, communicate and collaborate," he said.

"People will no longer be hindered by geography and language."

Demonstration of Skype translate at a conference by Microsoft

It's been trialled on school children in Mexico City and Tacoma in Washington, one classroom speaking Spanish and the other speaking English.

They played a game called Mystery Skype where pupils from one school asked questions to try to work out which part of the world the other school was in.

The Skype Translator service is available in English and Spanish but Microsoft says it will eventually be available in more languages.

There are more than 40 instant messaging languages available to customers who have signed up via the Skype Translator page and are using Windows 8.1.

According to Microsoft more than 300 million people use Skype each month, totalling more than 2 billion minutes of conversation a day.

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Lastminute.com sold in £76m deal

16 December 2014 Last updated at 18:10

Lastminute.com, the firm which came to fame at the height of the dot.com boom in 2000, has been sold to Swiss travel firm Bravofly Rumbo for $120m (£76m).

The online travel booking service, founded by Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman in October 1998, was sold by US tech firm Sabre Holdings.

Sabre said in August it was looking to sell Lastminute.com to focus on its other technology businesses.

It bought Lastminute.com in 2005 in a deal valuing the company at £577m.

The group was valued at £768m when it floated on the London stock exchange in 2000.

But within weeks its shares had fallen below their flotation price and it took three years to make a pre-tax profit.

Under the terms of this offer, Bravofly Rumbo will acquire all of Lastminute.com's main global operations in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

The deal is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year, following consultation with staff.

Fabio Cannavale, Chairman of Bravofly Rumbo Group, said the firm was a "perfect fit".

"Its business complements and expands our offering in Europe and, with its strong presence in the hotel and vacation sector, diversifies our product revenue streams," he added.

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Sony movie's NY premiere cancelled

17 December 2014 Last updated at 11:47
A security guard stands near a poster for The Interview

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Filmgoers in LA had some concerns but police said there was no cause for alarm

The New York premiere of The Interview, a comedy about the assassination of North Korea's president, has been cancelled amid threats from hackers.

A spokesman for the cinema chain due to host the screening said it had been shelved.

Hackers targeting Sony Pictures had threatened to attack US cinemas showing the studio's film.

They belong to the same group which has released emails and data stolen from Sony.

Calling themselves Guardians of Peace, the hackers mentioned the 9/11 attacks in a recent warning, claiming "the world will be full of fear".

"Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time," the hacker group wrote in a message on Tuesday.

"If your house is nearby, you'd better leave," they add. "Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment."

The Department of Homeland Security said there was "no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot" against cinemas, but noted it was still analysing messages from the group.

A spokesman for Landmark, the cinema chain due to host the New York premiere, confirmed the showing had been cancelled but gave no reason, Reuters news agency reported.

Executives from Sony had previously said they would not object if cinemas chose not to show The Interview.

Carmike Cinemas, which operates 278 venues across the country, has cancelled planned screenings, according to several news outlets.

Others have backed the movie. "If they play it, we'll show it," said Tom Stephenson, CEO of Look Cinemas.

"Sony has a right to make the movie, we have a right to play it and censorship in general is a bad thing."

The film's stars, James Franco and Seth Rogen, have also pulled out of several media appearances including appearances on the chat shows Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Embarrassing emails

Guardians of Peace have also released a new trove of Sony company data, calling it a "Christmas gift".

A cache of company emails, social security numbers and salary details had already been released.

On Tuesday, two former Sony Pictures employees sued the California company for not providing adequate security to prevent the computer breach.

The studio earlier attempted to limit the damage by contacting some US news outlets to block the publication of the emails.

Some of the emails released have contained embarrassing exchanges about some of Hollywood's biggest stars, among them Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Variety, the New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter were informed the studio "does not consent to your possession... dissemination, publication... or making any use of the stolen information".

North Korea has denied involvement in the attack, but has described it as a "righteous deed" that may have been carried out by its "supporters and sympathisers".

According to Variety's Andrew Wallenstein, however, publishing the stolen data is "problematic but necessary" because it "is in the public domain" and "unavoidable".

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Google considers data risk warnings

17 December 2014 Last updated at 12:01

Google is proposing to warn people their data is at risk every time they visit websites that do not use the "HTTPS" system.

Many sites have adopted the secure version of the basic web protocol to help safeguard data.

The proposal was made by the Google developers working on the search firm's Chrome browser.

Security experts broadly welcomed the proposal but said it could cause confusion initially.

Scrambled data

The proposal to mark HTTP connections as non-secure was made in a message posted to the Chrome development website by Google engineers working on the firm's browser.

If implemented, the developers wrote, the change would mean that a warning would pop-up when people visited a site that used only HTTP to notify them that such a connection "provides no data security".

Continue reading the main story

It will be a good thing for the whole web in the long run"

End Quote Paul Mutton Netcraft

The team said it was odd that browsers currently did nothing to warn people when their data was unprotected.

"The only situation in which web browsers are guaranteed not to warn users is precisely when there is no chance of security," they wrote.

HTTPS uses well-established cryptographic systems to scramble data as it travels from a user's computer to a website and back again.

The team said warnings were needed because it was known that cyber thieves and government agencies were abusing insecure connections to steal data or spy on people.

Rik Ferguson, a senior analyst at security firm Trend Micro, said warning people when they were using an insecure connection was "a good idea".

"People seem to make the assumption that communications such as HTTP and email are private to a degree when exactly the opposite is the case," he said.

Letting people know when their connection to a website is insecure could drive sites to adopt more secure protocols, he said.

Currently only about 33% of websites use HTTPS, according to statistics gathered by the Trustworthy Internet Movement which monitors the way sites use more secure browsing technologies.


Paul Mutton, a security analyst at web monitoring firm Netcraft, also welcomed the proposal, saying it was "bizarre" that an unencrypted HTTP connection gave rise to no warnings at all.

"In the short term, the biggest headache is likely to be faced by website operators who will feel forced to migrate unencrypted HTTP websites to encrypted HTTPS," he said. Many may resent the cost in time and money required to adopt the technology, he said, even though projects exist to make it easier and free for website administrators to use HTTPS.

"It will seem like a lot of hassle in the short term, but it will be a good thing for the whole web in the long run," he said.

The Google proposal was also floated on discussion boards for other browsers and received guarded support from the Mozilla team behind the Firefox browser and those involved with Opera.

Many large websites and services, including Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook and GMail, already use HTTPS by default. In addition, since September Google has prioritised HTTPS sites in its search rankings.

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Apple halts Russian online sales

17 December 2014 Last updated at 12:27

Technology giant Apple says it cannot sell products online in Russia because the rouble's value is too volatile for it to set prices.

The company stopped sales of its iPhones, iPads and other products in the country after a day in which the currency went into free-fall.

The rouble has lost more than 20% this week, despite a dramatic decision to raise interest rates from 10.5% to 17%.

By afternoon trade the rouble was flat with one dollar buying 68 roubles.

Continue reading the main story

Its all time low, set on Wednesday, saw one dollar buying as many as 79 roubles.

Apple last month increased its prices in Russia by 20% after the weakening rouble left products in the country cheaper than in the rest of Europe.

Russia's central bank said on Wednesday it had spent almost $2bn intervening in the currency market on Monday.

It has spent around $80bn trying to prop up its rouble this year, but despite that, the currency has lost more than half its value against the dollar since January, with cheaper oil and Western sanctions over its stance over Ukraine the chief factors.

Both of these have weakened the Russian economy.

Russia's central bank has pledged fresh further measures to try to stabilise its currency, with First Deputy Governor Sergei Shvetsov describing the situation as "critical".

Russian dolls for sale near Red Square, Moscow. 15 Dec 2014

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John Simpson asks if the currency crisis will affect Putin's popularity

The rouble's slide this week was prompted by fears that the US was considering a fresh set of sanctions against the country for its support for separatists in Ukraine.

Are you in Russia? Are you concerned about the value of the rouble? Email your comment to haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk

Have your say

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Jeans made to block wireless signals

17 December 2014 Last updated at 13:13

A pair of jeans containing material that blocks wireless signals is being developed in conjunction with anti-virus firm Norton.

The trousers are intended to stop thieves hacking into radio frequency identification (RFID) tagged passports or contactless payment cards.

According to security experts this type of theft is a growing problem.

The jeans are designed by online clothing company Betabrand and use a silver-based material to block signals.

They are due to go on sale in February.

Security software maker Norton teamed up with San Francisco-based Betabrand in October to make the jeans and a blazer. The jeans will retail at $151 (£96) and the blazer at $198.

Digital forensic firm Disklabs has used similar technology to make a wallet, which, like the Betabrand jeans, blocks RFID signals.

"There is technology readily available for anyone to snatch other people's credit and debit card data within seconds," said Disklabs boss Simon Steggles.

"These apps simply copy the card with all the information on it."

His firm also designs "faraday" bags which block mobile signals. Such bags are often used by police now to store mobile phones taken from suspects.

Last month the BBC reported that several police forces around the country had admitted that some mobile phones confiscated from suspects had been remotely wiped because they had not been stored in a secure way.

Wearable hacks

Ethical hacker Ken Munro is also acutely aware of the problem of RFID hacking. His firm, Pen Test Partners, has developed him a proof-of-concept RFID-blocking suit.

Made of cloth woven with metal fibres, the suit was not cheap to make but is washable.

"If we are not explicitly blocking these signals there are a lot of things that can go wrong, from stealing contactless payment card details to more life-threatening issues," he told the BBC.

He thinks the RFID jeans may not be a sufficient defence against hackers.

"The pockets are shielded but nothing else. Stuff in your pockets is easy to shield with a wallet or similar. Our suit is different - the entire thing is shielded."

This becomes important as more and more RFID technology, such as wearable insulin pumps or in-chest monitoring devices, becomes standard, he said.

"These are the devices where tampering or hacking over radio frequency could be life-threatening," he said.

"I'm not sure that medical device manufacturers have given enough thought to security."

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