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Robot portable printer secures cash

Written By andika jamanta on Rabu, 23 April 2014 | 23.58

23 April 2014 Last updated at 14:28 By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor

An Israeli start-up plans to release a printer early next year that is small enough to fit inside its owner's pocket but works with any-sized paper.

Zuta Labs is proceeding with the project after raising over $435,000 (£260,000) via a crowdfunding site.

Rather than feeding paper through a machine, the project fits an ink cartridge to a small robot that crawls over a document to create it.

However, its relatively slow speed may limit its appeal.

The current prototype can only print about one page per minute in greyscale and offers a significantly lower resolution than traditional desktop inkjets.

But the Jerusalem-based engineers said they hoped to make improvements before the first devices shipped to backers of the Kickstarter campaign in January.

"We can now order smaller and stronger engines to make it move faster," Tuvia Elbaum, the firm's chief marketing officer, told the BBC.

"The resolution is very low because we are using an old cartridge, but we are talking to several manufacturers to use smarter and newer versions of smaller cartridges."

Print and run

The Pocket Printer features several wheels in its base to let it turn and drive in different directions. The team says the final product will be controlled by a PC or smartphone via Bluetooth, but the current prototype still needs a wired connection.

The engineers plan to cover the internal mechanism with a smooth tear-shaped plastic skin, and said the device would be 10cm (3.9in) tall, 11.5cm (4.5in) wide, and weigh 300g (0.7lb).

"It's for someone who wants to print one, two or three pages on the go," added Mr Elbaum.

"A memo, a small contract, notes or even an e-ticket before a flight.

"Way further along the roadmap we want a colour version and we want it to print on different surfaces - people have asked for tiles, T-shirts and walls, which would require different types of ink."

He added that it was likely to cost $240 (£140) when it went on sale to the public in 2015.

Education opportunity

One observer suggested the firm should rethink its business strategy, bearing in mind other manufacturers already offered portable colour printers at lower prices, albeit ones that were more bulky and limited to certain paper sizes.

"I personally can't see an effective use case that you would have above and beyond what is already available - boarding passes and stuff like that are moving to the phone," said Stuart Miles, founder of gadget review site Pocket-lint.

"It reminds me of the turtle printers that were around for BBC Micro computers all those year ago, which you would program and off they'd go - and I think it would have more sense to target it at an education market."

Jason Fitzpatrick, director of the UK's Centre for Computing History, agreed with this analysis adding that schools were actively seeking modern equivalents to the Valiant Turtle and BBC Buggy to help them teach children how to use Raspberry Pi computers.

"When you can do a bit of programming and make it control something in the real world, everything sort of opens up," he said.

"Having another device that you could mess about with would be great.

"But you can already buy small printers that print things like business cards and labels, and there are other alternatives out there that fulfil mobile users' needs."


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Reddit revolt over censored posts

21 April 2014 Last updated at 15:59

Social news site Reddit has downgraded the status of its "technology" section after a censorship row.

The category is no longer a "default subreddit", meaning it stops being one of two dozen communities promoted to new account holders.

It follows a report by the Daily Dot that revealed headlines posted to the area had been secretly deleted if they featured certain words.

The subreddit's own moderators now acknowledge that this was a "disaster".

Reddit describes itself as "the front page of the internet".

Continue reading the main story

The moderation team lost focus of what they were there to do: moderate effectively"

End Quote Victoria Taylor Reddit spokeswoman

It had about 115 million unique visitors last month, according to its own data, and more than 6,500 active subreddit communities, all moderated by independent volunteers.

Members can submit links to articles to each community, for which they provide their own headlines.

Other members then up-vote or down-vote the links, which determines how prominently they feature both in each individual section and on a core list of the most popular posts. Users can also submit comments, leading to lively discussions.

The site is majority-owned by media group Conde Nast's parent Advance Publications, and has proven particularly popular with 18-30 year-old males.

This audience-profile closely matches that of many of the major tech blogs and, as such, articles that have attracted interest on the technology subreddit have helped drive traffic to these third-party sites.

However, the section will now be much less visible to people who have either not edited their "subscriptions" to include it or have visited Reddit without logging in.

After a similar action was taken against Reddit's "politics" community last year it experienced a steep decline in activity.

Reddit said that it had acted because the technology community's moderators had become distracted by "petty squabbles".

"We decided to remove /r/technology from the default list because the moderation team lost focus of what they were there to do: moderate effectively," the site's director of communications Victoria Taylor told the BBC.

"We're giving them time to see if we feel they can work together to resolve the issue.

"We might consider adding them back in the future if they can show us and the community that they can overcome these issues."

Banned words

The issue was brought to light by a Reddit user nicknamed Creq who posted a message to the site a week ago suggesting that 20 terms had been banned.

He said the list of censored words included: "National Security Agency", "GCHQ", "Anonymous", "anti-piracy", "Bitcoin", "Snowden" and "net neutrality".

It later became clear that other terms, including "EU Court", "startup" and "Assange" had also been blocked.

When the Daily Dot questioned one of the section's volunteer moderators about this, he confirmed that software was being used to automatically delete posts that featured "politicised" words in order to avoid the links making it to the core list of most popular topics.

The Daily Dot subsequently reflected that: "Many would argue those terms have an essential value to readers interested in technology, but the ban was never put up for discussion among the subreddit's millions of subscribers."

The news caused controversy with those users, prompting a U-turn.

"As many of you are aware the moderators of this subreddit have failed you," the volunteers wrote in a message to Reddit visitors over the weekend.

"While the intent of this system was, to the extent of my knowledge, not malicious it ended up being a disaster. We messed up, and we are sorry.

"The mods directly responsible for this system are no longer a part of the team and the new team is committed to maintaining a transparent style of moderation."

One of the changes taken, they added, was to allow the general population to view a configuration page that listed banned materials.

While links to pornography and petitions remain blocked, it reveals that most of the censored headline words can now be used again.

However, the move has failed to placate several of the subreddit's visitors who are now calling for a further two of the section's surviving moderators to resign.

"Please note that it's not the censorship the [Reddit] admins worry about," added the moderator of a censorship-themed subreddit.

"They've never spoken out against it.

"The problem is that there's zero transparency, zero accountability. That's the real story here."


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Airbnb in court over housing laws

22 April 2014 Last updated at 12:25

Airbnb, the website that allows homeowners to rent out properties online, is to appear in court in New York in a dispute over housing and hotel laws.

The New York attorney general has asked Airbnb to disclose information about its users who may be acting illegally by renting out their homes.

Airbnb says the laws in question were not meant to apply to people who occasionally rent out their properties.

It is challenging the request for data.

New York laws prevent homeowners renting out their entire homes for fewer than 30 days to prevent illegal hotels from operating. But according to reports, court documents filed by the attorney general say that more than 60% of Airbnb listings in New York City break that law.

The documents also show that some users were offering multiple properties for rent.

"Airbnb is simply looking out for its bottom line at the expense of a law that protects quality of life for building residents and safety for tourists," Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, said in a statement to Bloomberg.

Support homesharing

In a blog posted on the Airbnb website, the company's head of global public policy, David Hantman said: "The vast majority of our community members are regular New Yorkers just trying to make ends meet.

"Short-term rental laws were never meant to apply to New Yorkers occasionally renting out their own home."

Brian Chesky

Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.

Airbnb's chief executive Brian Chesky spoke to the BBC's Joe Lynam earlier this year about claims that his firm was breaking the law

The attorney general issued a subpoena last year to find out if Airbnb was being used by the operators of illegal hotels and whether users were paying the appropriate state tax.

The company has called the attorney general's request for data on its users a "government-sponsored fishing expedition" and is in court to challenge the subpoena.

It announced this weekend via another blog on its site that it had removed the accounts of users who had multiple listings on the site and that they would not be allowed to relist, although bookings already made would be honoured.

Last week the New York Post reported that apartments for rent on Airbnb in Manhattan were being used as temporary brothels. The company said it was co-operating with the police on the matter.

"The entire hospitality industry deals with issues like this, and we have zero tolerance for this activity," it said in a statement.

In Mexico, one hotel owner has listed all its rooms on Airbnb in place of a traditional booking system.

"Airbnb doesn't actually have a category for a hotel," said Stu Waddell. "I call myself a hotel. When I explain it, I say it's between a hostel and a boutique."

Airbnb's website explains that it is the responsibility of the homeowner to ensure they are not breaking any local laws or regulations.

"We are working with governments around the world to clarify these rules so that everyone has a clear understanding of what the laws are. In the meantime, please review your local laws before listing your space on Airbnb. By accepting our Terms of Service and activating a listing, you certify that you will follow your local laws and regulations."

Mr Hantman points out in his blog that other cities are changing their laws to "support homesharing".

"Hamburg, then Amsterdam, and now France have all changed their laws and to support homesharing. San Francisco might be next. Someday, New York will join them," he said.

It was recently reported that Airbnb had secured investment of $450m (£266m) which would value the home-sharing site at $10bn.


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'World's fastest' lift to be built

22 April 2014 Last updated at 13:50 By Dave Lee Technology reporter, BBC News

Hitachi has said it will install a lift capable of reaching speeds of 72km/h (45mph) into a skyscraper in Guangzhou, southern China.

The lift, the fastest in the world, would take 43 seconds to go from the first to 95th floor in the Guangzhou CTF Financial Centre, the company said.

The skyscraper is scheduled to be completed in 2016.

Currently, the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan holds the record for fastest lift - it can travel up to 60.6km/h.

Hitachi promised a "comfortable ride" even at high speeds in the new lift.

The lifts would prevent ear blockages, Hitachi said, by artificially altering air pressure in the car.

'Some pain'

Dr Gina Barney, an expert in lift technology, said protecting passengers from discomfort was a big challenge for high-speed lifts.

"When you're travelling that distance, you're going to get pressures on your ears changing," she told the BBC.

"That's probably the most significant problem with high-speed travel in buildings - people suffer some pain."

Hitachi said guiding "rollers" that adapted to warping caused by wind pressure would mean the ride remained smooth.

And brakes able to resist extreme heat would activate in the "unlikely" event of a malfunction.

The building will have in total 95 lifts, two of which will be operate at the ultra-high speed.

Twenty-eight "double-decker" lifts will also be installed into the building.

The Guangzhou CTF Financial Centre will house office, hotel and residential space.

Global race

If the Hitachi lift performs as well as the company has said, it will comfortably top the global chart for fastest lift.

Today's record is held in Taiwan, where passengers in the Taipei 101 building are flung from the fifth to the 89th floor in 37 seconds, a speed of 1,010m (3,313ft) per minute.

The Yokohama Landmark Tower in Japan moves its passengers at 750m per minute, while the world's tallest building, Dubai's Burj Khalifa, has a lift that moves at 600m per minute.

London's Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe, has lifts that move at 360m per minute.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC


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Russian social network founder fired

22 April 2014 Last updated at 16:46

The founder of Russia's most popular social network site says he has been fired and that allies of President Putin have taken over his site.

Pavel Durov who ran VKontakte had previously announced he was leaving the company but said he had withdrawn his resignation.

The company denied it had been withdrawn.

Mr Durov had previously refused requests from the Russian government to censor posts on his site.

In a statement Mr Durov said that he only found out about the loss of his job from press reports: "Today I was fired as general director of VKontakte. It's interesting that the shareholders didn't have the bravery to do this directly, and that I learned about my firing from the press.

"Today VKontakte goes under the complete control of Igor Sechin and Alisher Usmanov. Probably, in the Russian context, something like this was inevitable, but I'm happy we lasted seven and a half years. We did a lot. And part of what's been done can't be turned back."

Clean conscience

Mr Sechin is the chief executive of state-owned oil company Rosneft and was President Putin's former deputy chief of staff.

Mr Usmanov, who is the richest man in Russia according to Forbes, made his money in iron ore and steel and until recently held a stake in Facebook. He has a large shareholding in VKontakte via his internet company Mail.ru.

Mr Durov announced his resignation publicly on 1 April but two days later said it was an April Fool's joke.

The Russian news agency Interfax reported that Vkontakte said they had acted on Mr Durov's resignation letter of 21 March as he had not withdrawn it officially within an allowed one-month grace period.

In an interview with news site TechCrunch Mr Durov said he was no longer in Russia and had no plans to return.

"Unfortunately, the country is now incompatible with internet business at the moment.

"I'm afraid there is no going back [to the company], not after I publicly refused to co-operate with the authorities. They can't stand me," he said.

The site has more than 100 million users and had been subject to several government requests for information.

Mr Durov had been asked by the Russian authorities to hand over the details of Ukrainians who had used the site to create groups related to anti-government protests. He was also asked to close down a group that supported Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

He refused the request and said he sold his shares in the company so that he could continue "to make the right decisions".

"I have a clean conscience and ideals that I am willing to defend," he said in a post at the time.

Reports suggest that a replacement for Mr Durov will be elected at the next VKontakte board meeting.


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Google refunding buyers of fake app

22 April 2014 Last updated at 18:09

Google is refunding users who unsuspectingly bought a fake anti-virus app from its Play Store.

The Virus Shield app reached the number one ranking in the Play Store with over 10,000 downloads before it was removed.

The fake app was uncovered by news site Android Police, which looked at the app's code and discovered it did nothing.

As well as a full refund, users are being given credit to spend in the Play Store.

The app claimed to "prevent harmful apps from being installed on your device". But when Android Police tested the app, it discovered that when a user tapped on an icon to activate the "virus shield" all that happened was a new icon was displayed.

False claim

After the story was published, the fake app was removed from the Play Store. It had first appeared on the site on 28 March and was taken down on 6 April.

Google emailed users who had purchased the app, which cost $3.99 (£2.35), offering a full refund.

"We're reaching out to you because you recently purchased the 'Virus Shield' app on Google Play," the email said.

"This app made the false claim that it provided one-click virus protection; in reality, it did not.

"Google Play's policies strictly prohibit false claims like these, and in light of this, we're refunding you for your 'Virus Shield' purchase. You should see funds returned to your account within the next 14 days.

"Additionally we'd like to offer you $5 promotional credit, which can be used to purchase digital content on Google Play."

The developer of the app spoke to the Guardian after the app was removed from the Play Store and said that it had been a "foolish mistake" and that this version of the app had not been intended for release.

"The app version that was decompiled by Android Police was not intended to be released. It was an early placeholder that our user-interface designer created. There was a mix-up between the version that contained the anti-virus code for our app," said Jesse Carter.


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Future of the net debated in Brazil

23 April 2014 Last updated at 10:20 By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor

A meeting to determine how the internet should be governed is under way in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The country's president, Dilma Rousseff, organised the two-day NetMundial event following allegations the US National Security Agency (NSA) had monitored her phone and emails.

Last month the US announced plans to give up its oversight of the way net addresses are distributed.

But campaigners have warned the move could backfire.

The US currently determines who runs the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the body responsible for regulating the internet's codes and numbering systems.

Continue reading the main story

Analysis

Brazil's been hugely vocal in its criticism of the US - President Dilma Rousseff even cancelled a state visit to Washington last year, she was so incensed about US spying.

So, this week's discussions will be in light of what's seen by many countries - certainly here in Brazil - of an overbearing dominance by the US when it comes to internet oversight.

Information technology policy secretary Virgilio Almeida said last week that developing economies needed to have more of a role in internet governance.

Brazilians are very plugged in to the online community and feel strongly that they need more of a say - but these conversations taking place this week are just the start.

Any changes to how the internet is governed will take a long time to achieve.

But Washington now aims to pass the duty over to the "global multi-stakeholder community" by September 2015.

Human rights group Article 19 supports that idea, but said there were potential pitfalls.

"Part of the strength of the internet over the last couple of decades has been that the technical aspects have not had direct political or government interference," explained the group's executive director, Thomas Hughes, who is attending the event.

"The real nightmare situation would be the Balkanisation of the internet with governments changing technical standards to suit commercial interests, to remove interoperability between different countries or regions of the world, and to give them the ability to perform things like mass surveillance and the control of content."

Shared principles

About 850 government officials, academics, campaigners and technical experts, including web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee, are attending NetMundial.

The goal is to agree shared principles and highlight specific issues that could form the basis of later internet governance discussions.

Virgilio Almeida, Brazil's Secretary for Information Technology Policy and a computer science professor, is overseeing the event and has stressed the idea of shared responsibility.

"The internet is a collective construction and its governance process must also be built that way," he said.

Continue reading the main story

Internet bill of rights

Ahead of NetMundial's start, Brazil's Senate has unanimously passed the Marco Civil - a law that enshrines freedom of expression on the web, the right to privacy and the principle of net neutrality.

The legislation has been described as a digital bill of rights.

To get it passed the government had to drop a controversial proposal that would have required internet firms to store data about Brazilian users within the country's borders.

Google ,Twitter and Facebook had opposed the idea because of the costs it entailed.

Instead the bill now says such companies will be subject to local privacy laws even if the data involved in a case is held abroad.

The government, however, refused to cave in to telecom firms' demands that it drop a provision that bans them from charging customers higher fees to access data-hungry services.

The net neutrality rule means users should not have to pay internet service providers (ISPs) a surcharge to use video streaming sites and internet telephony apps.

A draft outcome document, based on various parties' suggestions, has been drawn up to focus debate.

The final text will not be binding, but it may still prove difficult to reach consensus.

China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan want the document to say follow-up deliberations should take place "within the United Nations framework".

But the US, Australia and several European nations have previously resisted the UN taking on management of the internet, saying responsibility should instead pass to a group that is not dominated by governments.

"The document should focus on promoting cooperation to deal with cybercrime and cyber-security instead of advancing controversial treaties or international agreements," said the US Department of State on Monday.

Meanwhile, several attendees have indicated they would be unhappy with the text being left deliberately vague.

"We found a degree of lack of coherence and incompleteness in the documents which render them less than authoritative," stated Saudi Arabian officials.

European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes agreed for more "concrete and actionable" goals.

The UK government has also called for some of the text to be amended, but added that the talks provided an opportunity to find "common ground".

"It is easy simply to call for change. It is much more difficult to develop a new and better model than the one which we have now," said Paul Blaker, who is representing the UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

"The United Kingdom hopes that the meeting in Sao Paulo will be able to make a positive and informed contribution and help to take this debate forward in a constructive way."

Human rights

Privacy campaigners have also raised concerns that the very topic that sparked the meeting - whistleblower Edward Snowden's release of documents detailing the activities of the NSA and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) - might end up being sidelined.

"The text does not spell out clearly that mass surveillance is inherently a disproportionate measure that violates human rights," the Electronic Frontier Foundation' Katitza Rodriguez told the BBC.

Alex Pirlot de Corbion, Privacy International's advocacy officer, added that it was still unclear how organisers intended to marshal the opinions of the 850 delegates taking part.

"It was a very reactionary decision from Brazil to organise this meeting - they'd been spied on by the US, and wanted to take the lead to make a point," she said.

"But I don't think anything new or creative or different is going to come out.

"It's great to have a consultation. But does that mean people will be involved in a decision-making process or will they just give comments on a document that might have already been finalised? I think it's really vague."


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NYPD Twitter campaign 'backfires'

23 April 2014 Last updated at 12:28

A plan by the New York Police Department to use Twitter to boost its image seems to have backfired.

Users were asked to tweet a photo of themselves with officers and add the hashtag #myNYPD as part of a social media campaign.

But instead of a steady stream of friendly photos, the hashtag was quickly adopted by users posting images of possible police aggression.

The NYPD said: "Twitter provides an open forum for uncensored exchange."

The original tweet was posted on the NYPD's Twitter feed on Tuesday. Featuring two smiling officers and a member of the public, it encouraged users to send in similar photos.

But while several people did so, the hashtag was also picked up by others who used it to identify tweets containing photos of the NYPD in more hostile situations.

By Wednesday, the hashtag had become one of Twitter's top trending terms.

One photo showed a man being pushed down on to a car bonnet. It was from March 2013 and followed protests in Brooklyn over the death of 16-year-old Kimani Gray who was shot by police.

The protest group Occupy Wall Street tweeted an image of an NYPD police officer advancing towards a crowd with a baton raised.

Many of the photos appeared to be taken by professional photographers at incidents in New York City rather than users' own images.

One from the Associated Press showing a man being held down on the floor by two officers appeared in several tweets.

The NYPD issued a statement on Tuesday evening in response to the activity: "The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community. Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city."

Other Twitter interactions that have backfired include US Airways posting an explicit photo in response to a customer's tweet and McDonald's using a hashtag to highlight its farmers that quickly got taken over by people sharing their bad experiences of the burger chain.


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Amazon and HBO sign streaming deal

23 April 2014 Last updated at 15:56

Customers of streaming service Amazon Prime in the US will be able to watch TV shows including The Sopranos and The Wire as part of a licensing agreement with subscription channel HBO.

Previous seasons of current shows like Girls and Veep will also be available around three years after first airing.

It is the first time HBO programming has been licensed to an online-only subscription streaming service.

The first batch of shows will be made available from 21 May.

Deadwood, Rome and Six Feet Under are among other titles that will be offered, alongside miniseries Band of Brothers, The Pacific and Parade's End.

Yet there is no mention in Amazon's official press release of fantasy series Game of Thrones, its current ratings smash.

"HBO has produced some of the most groundbreaking, beloved and award-winning shows in television history," said Brad Beale, Amazon's director of content acquisition.

"Now Prime members can enjoy a collection of great HBO shows on an unlimited basis."

"We are excited to have our programming made available to [Amazon's] vast customer base," said Charles Schreger, HBO's president of programming sales.

Glenn Whitehead, executive vice president of business and legal affairs, added: "We couldn't think of a better partner to entrust with this valuable collection."

A spokesman for Amazon said the new deal was only available to US customers of Prime Instant Video, the subscription-based part of Amazon's streaming and download service.

Before this deal HBO did not allow Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or other US streaming services access to its programmes, restricting them instead to its own HBO Go streaming service.

Go is likely to be offered by the end of 2014 on Amazon's Fire TV, an internet-connected system allowing consumers to stream content directly to their TVs.


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Tesco Broadband faces double fault

23 April 2014 Last updated at 16:19

Tesco's internet service has been hit by two separate problems that coincided, leaving some of its customers irate.

The company's email servers experienced an undisclosed fault that left some subscribers unable to send or receive messages.

Meanwhile an unrelated technical issue caused customer calls about the email glitch to go unanswered.

Users complained they could not get a response for more than a day.

Tesco has now set up a dedicated section on its site and is tweeting replies to individual subscribers.

A spokeswoman said the retailer had been aware of "intermittent" problems with its email service on Tuesday but the issue had become more "solid" on Wednesday morning.

"We are investigating the cause of the issue as a priority and already have a dedicated team on hand, who are working on repairs," she added.

"We have also received reports that some customers are having difficulties contacting our call support service.

"This appears to be caused by a technical problem from one of our communications partners. The issue has been identified and our partners are working to resolve this problem quickly."

A message on Tesco's help page indicated the email service had been restored at 15:00 BST -about 36 hours after the problem first started.

Frustrated customers

Several customers had contacted the BBC to complain about the issue earlier in the day.

Among them was one long-time subscriber from Sandhurst, Berkshire.

"I think it's poor that until they were pressed they didn't put anything up on their website," said Richard Whitbread.

"Certainly, yesterday I tried to give them details that you couldn't even ping their email server and all of that was ignored.

"It was only after I spoke to the PR department that they seemed to take it all rather more seriously."

Tesco said the email hitch was not limited to any specific part of the UK, and it believed "hundreds rather than thousands" had been affected, although it said the tally had yet to be confirmed.


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