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Facebook mobile app to offer free, limited Internet in Zambia
By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc is launching a mobile app that gives users in Zambia free access to a handful of online services on mobile phones, broadening an effort to boost Internet usage in underdeveloped countries. The Internet.org app will offer, in partnership with wireless operator Airtel , more than a dozen services including online encyclopedia Wikipedia, websites devoted to weather, job listings and health information, as well as Facebook's own social network and messaging service.
Internet privacy service Tor warns users it was attacked
By Joseph Menn and Jim Finkle BOSTON Reuters - Tor, the prominent system for protecting Internet privacy, said on Wednesday many of its users trying to reach hidden sites might have been identified by government-funded researchers. In a note on the nonprofit's website, Tor Project leader Roger Dingledine said the service had identified computers on its network that had been quietly altering Tor traffic for five months in an attempt to unmask users connecting to what are known as "hidden services." Dingledine said it was "likely" the attacking computers, which were removed on July 4, were operated on behalf of two researchers at the Software Engineering Institute, which is housed at Carnegie-Mellon University, but funded mainly by the U.S. Department of Defense.
U.S. regulator questions Verizon plan to slow data speeds for some
By Alina Selyukh WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. telecommunications regulator said on Wednesday he is "deeply troubled" by Verizon Communications Inc's plan to slow data downloads for some high-speed wireless customers remaining on the older unlimited data plans. Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless carrier, stopped offering unlimited data plans in 2012 and last week said it will begin slowing services for the top 5 percent of data users who are on such data plans in places where the network is experiencing high demand. "I am deeply troubled by your July 25, 2014 announcement that Verizon Wireless intends to slow down some customers' data speeds on your 4G LTE network starting in October 2014," Wheeler wrote in a letter to Verizon Wireless President and CEO Daniel Mead released by the FCC. "It is disturbing to me that Verizon Wireless would base its 'network management' on distinctions among its customers' data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology.
U.S. online jeweler Blue Nile experiments with brick and mortar
Diamond rings on display at Nordstrom's flagship Seattle store are not for sale. Shoppers can try them on, inspect the gems' quality up close, but to buy them requires a visit to Blue Nile's website. The arrangement is a departure of sorts for Blue Nile Inc, the company that pioneered the sale of jewelry online at steep discounts. "Now everyone is online," said Morningstar analyst Paul Swinand, shortly after dropping coverage of Blue Nile in June because his clients lacked interest.
Snapchat in financing talks with Alibaba at $10 billion valuation: Bloomberg
(Reuters) - Snapchat, an app that lets users send messages that disappear after a few seconds, is in talks with investors, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd [IPO-BABA.N], for financing that could value the company at $10 billion, Bloomberg reported. The terms of the funding may change, Bloomberg said, citing people with knowledge of the matter. Snapchat, popular with teenage users, turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook Inc last year, the Wall Street Journal reported in November. Facebook launched Slingshot, a similar smartphone app, on June 17.
OkCupid experiment may violate FTC rules on deceptive practices
OkCupid’s disclosure that the popular dating website intentionally misled couples about their suitability could open it up to a U.S. Federal Trade Commission inquiry, according to lawyers and experts in consumer-protection law. On Monday, President Christian Rudder disclosed in a blog post that OkCupid had conducted experiments on its users, including a test to see whether its assessment of their matchability led to successful dating.
Russia wants Apple, SAP to cooperate against foreign spying
By Maria Kiselyova MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has proposed that Apple Inc and SAP hand the government access to their source code to make sure their widely used products are not tools for spying on state institutions. The suggestion that two of the world's flagship technology companies disclose some of their most sensitive business secrets comes as the United States and Europe debate their most severe sanctions yet against Russia for its role in Ukraine. The European Union reached agreement on Tuesday on its first broad economic sanctions, marking a new phase in the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War. The Russian proposal was voiced last week when Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov met Apple's general manager in Russia, Peter Engrob Nielsen, and SAP's Russian managing director, Vyacheslav Orekhov, the Communications Ministry said in a statement.
Turkish women laugh online to protest deputy PM's remarks
Hundreds of Turkish women posted pictures of themselves laughing on Twitter on Wednesday to protest comments by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, who had urged women not to laugh in public to "protect moral values". Melda Onur, a lawmaker from the main opposition party CHP, said on Twitter that Arinc's comments portrayed laughing as a dishonourable act and left women exposed to violence. Arinc criticised the media on Wednesday for taking his comments out of context and focusing on a small part of his speech, in which he said he advised both men and women to adopt "ethical behaviours".
Turkish women protest against deputy PM's no laughing comments
Hundreds of Turkish women posted pictures of themselves laughing on Twitter on Wednesday to protest against comments by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc who had urged women not to laugh in public to "protect moral values". Melda Onur, a lawmaker from the main opposition party CHP said on Twitter Arinc's comments portrayed laughing as a dishonourable act and left women exposed to violence. Opponents accuse Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government of ruling in an increasingly authoritarian manner and meddling in people's private lives, which has long been a source of conflict between the country's secularists and Erdogan's conservative supporters.
Facebook to shut down Gifts service in latest e-commerce shift
By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc will shut its 2-year-old Gifts shop on Aug. 12, as the world's largest social network tests other ways to let consumers buy products on its website. "We'll be using everything we learned from Gifts to explore new ways to help businesses and developers drive sales on the web, on mobile, and directly on Facebook," the company said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. Facebook Gifts opened in 2012 as a way for users to buy gifts such as socks and teddy bears.
U.S. Senate bill proposes sweeping curbs on NSA surveillance
Senator Patrick Leahy introduced legislation on Tuesday to ban the U.S. government's bulk collection of Americans' telephone records and Internet data and narrow how much information it can seek in any particular search. The bill, which has White House backing, goes further than a version passed in May by the U.S. House of Representatives in reducing bulk collection and immediately drew warmer response from privacy advocates and technology companies. Revelations last year by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden prompted President Barack Obama to ask Congress in January to rein in the bulk collection and storage of records of millions of U.S. domestic telephone calls.
Netflix agrees to pay AT&T to ensure smooth video downloads
Video streaming service Netflix has agreed to pay U.S. broadband provider AT&T Inc to ensure smooth delivery of Netflix content to Internet users, the companies said on Tuesday. The announcement of the deal, struck in May, comes as Netflix has been waging a public campaign against such fees, which they present as tolls, and calling on the Federal Communications Commission to review the market. Having brokered this so-called interconnection agreement, AT&T and Netflix are now working to build out new network connections for Netflix content to be delivered directly to AT&T's servers "to improve the viewing experience for our mutual subscribers," the companies' representatives said.
Amazon says lower ebook prices benefit authors, publishers
(Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc, locked in a war with publisher Hachette Book Group over ebook prices, said its push for lower prices was good for authors, publishers and booksellers. Upset over its ebook prices, Amazon has delayed deliveries and cut discounts on some books published by Hachette, the fourth-largest U.S. book publisher, owned by France's Lagardere. In a blog post on the Amazon site authored by the "Amazon Books team", the ecommerce giant said e-books were very price sensitive. Amazon claims that pricing an e-book at $14.99 or $19.99 is too expensive and unjustifiable in most cases.
Man arrested in stabbing death of LA Clippers player's aunt
Police in California have arrested a man wanted for the fatal stabbing of the aunt of a Los Angeles Clippers player in a crime that drew national attention after the basketball star pleaded on social media for help in finding the suspect, authorities said on Tuesday. Michael Williams, 51, was arrested in Sacramento thanks to a citizen's tip, police said in tweet. Williams was wanted for the July 8 murder of his estranged wife, 48-year-old Tanganyika Williams, who is the aunt of Clippers forward Matt Barnes. Barnes took to social media last week, posting pictures of Michael Williams to his Instagram and Twitter accounts, asking anyone who had seen the man to call his family or the police with details.
Travel software provider Concur teams up with Airbnb, Uber
(Reuters) - Travel software provider Concur Technologies Inc said it added Airbnb Inc and Uber Technologies Inc to its network to improve business travel and streamline expenses. Shares of Concur, whose main consumer brand is TripIt, rose nearly 3 percent on Tuesday.
Always misplacing keys, wallet? Lost and found apps may help
By Natasha Baker TORONTO (Reuters) - Finding misplaced keys, wallets and purses could get easier with new apps that take the guess work out of trying to remember where they might be. “With all of the technology around us, it’s still crazy to think that we still lose our things,” said Nick Evans, chief executive office of Tile, based in San Mateo, California.
In rare move, Canada accuses Chinese of trying to hack government network
By David Ljunggren OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada on Tuesday took the unusual step of singling out Chinese hackers for attacking a key computer network and lodged a protest with Beijing, raising tensions at a time when Ottawa wants to boost oil sales to China. Officials said "a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor" had recently broken into the National Research Council. The council, the government's leading research body, works with major firms such as aircraft and train maker Bombardier Inc.. Canada has reported hacking incidents before but this was the first time it had singled out China. China is often cited as a suspect in various hacking attacks on companies in the United States and other nations.
U.S. GMO crop companies double down on anti-labeling efforts
One year after the launch of a social media effort to allay consumers' concerns about the safety of foods made from genetically modified crops, U.S. companies that develop GMOs have further committed to a multimillion-dollar campaign to defeat attempts to add GMO labels to such foods. "We are not going to sit down for that (labeling)," Cathleen Enright, spokeswoman for the effort, said in an interview. It is the mechanism that we can’t abide." Monsanto Co., Dow Chemical and other GMO crop backers last summer kicked off an interactive website, called GMO Answers, as the centerpiece of a broad effort to win over consumers. A speakers' tour and social media advertising are part of the effort.
Canada foreign minister protests to China over hacking attempt
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird protested to his Chinese counterpart on Tuesday about what he said was an attempt by China-sponsored hackers to break into a key computer system in Ottawa, a government official said. Baird had "a full and frank exchange of views" with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a meeting in Beijing, spokesman Adam Hodge said. Canada said "a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor" recently broke into computers at the National Research Council, the Canadian government's leading research and technology organization.
Internet users often unclear about their data use: U.S. watchdog
By Alina Selyukh WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. consumers often incorrectly estimate how much data they consume online and pay Internet providers for more downloading and uploading than they actually do, a U.S. government watchdog said in findings released on Tuesday. The observations were preliminary from the Government Accountability Office's review of the practice of usage-based pricing, in which consumers pay Internet service providers (ISPs) for a specific amount of data they agree to consume instead of a flat fee for unlimited data. In a study requested by California Representative Anna Eshoo, the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, found consumers often were unclear about what online activities consumed the most data and paid ISPs too much either for data they did not use or through overage fees for exceeding data caps. Most wireline ISPs told the GAO that usually only 1 percent to 2 percent of users exceeded their data caps.
OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers
By Sarah McBride SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on Monday, weeks after Facebook Inc admitted to misleading users in a psychological study. "When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are," co-founder Christian Rudder wrote in a blog post. "Even when they should be wrong for each other." Conversely, couples told they were bad matches, even when OkCupid's algorithm showed the opposite, were less likely to exchange four messages. Exchanging four messages is an OkCupid measure for gauging romantic interest.
U.S. social media asks: Who is that woman in black?
By Brendan O'Brien (Reuters) - A quiet woman wearing a flowing, black dress and mysteriously strolling along busy highways in parts of the U.S. Southeast and Midwest has the curious wondering who she is and spurred a social media site to document her trek. She has been dubbed the "Woman in Black," by TV stations, police and followers on the Web, including those on a Facebook page where she has been tracked on a nearly 500-mile journey with a black bag and walking stick in hand that has taken her from Ranger, Georgia, to Athens, Ohio, since July 18. Raymond Poles told Reuters he is the woman's brother, identifying her as Elizabeth Poles, 56, a U.S. Army veteran, mother of two children and a widow from Motts, Alabama. Elizabeth Poles had been receiving treatment at Veterans Affairs hospitals to deal with the deaths of her husband in 2008 and her father in 2009, he said.
Africa e-commerce firm expands to new markets
By Emma Thomasson BERLIN (Reuters) - Online retailer Jumia, a would-be African Amazon set up by German venture capital firm Rocket Internet, is expanding into three new markets - Uganda, Ghana and Cameroon, the company said on Monday. Jumia, which launched in 2012, already operates in Nigeria, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Egypt and Kenya, offering up to 100,000 different items for sale from its local warehouses. We are coming to markets which are not as mature in terms of Internet penetration and Internet savviness but still there is a big appetite for this service," Jumia co-founder Sacha Poignonnec told Reuters. Berlin-based Rocket Internet is bidding to create the largest Internet empire outside the United States and China, seeking to replicate the success of Amazon and Alibaba in markets such as Africa, Latin America and Russia.
Bitcoin catches on in tech-savvy Romania
By Luiza Ilie BUCHAREST (Reuters) - In a well-lit office with red window frames in downtown Bucharest, Romania's first bitcoin ATM attracts many who until it opened in May had to buy or sell the digital currency face-to-face or through wire transfers. The interest in bitcoin in Romania stands out in a region where national currencies are widely seen as poor substitutes for the euro. In the western town of Oradea, 370 miles (595 km) away from the capital, the first bitcoin exchange in the country has drawn more than 2,000 clients in the seven months since it opened, with transactions totaling 5.12 million lei ($1.57 million). Bitcoin is still an infant in Europe relative to the United States, where hundreds of start-ups backed by some Wall Street traders and venture capitalists have propelled consumer and media interest.
Amazon offers 3D printing to customize earrings, bobble head toys
By Deepa Seetharaman SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc will offer 3D printing services that allow customers to customize and build earrings, bobble head toys and other items from third-party sellers using a new personalization option on its website. Before it is printed by one of Amazon's sellers, users can customize a product like as a bobble head figure by changing its skin and eye color, hair style and outfit, Amazon said. "The customization is something we're keenly interested in," said Petra Schindler-Carter, director for Amazon marketplace sales, speaking in an interview. "We'll always look for new applications for that." Amazon, which has more than 240 million users, has expanded its marketplaces division to include new areas such as fine art and wine.
At least six dead in attacks on southern Yemen army posts
Militant attacks on two army outposts in southern Yemen killed at least eight people early on Sunday, local officials said, two months after the government said it had cleared that area of al Qaeda fighters in an offensive. Yemen, with help from the United States, is battling an insurgency by Islamist militants including members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has also planned attacks on international airliners and other foreign targets. The area of Mahfad in Abyan Province of southern Yemen was the scene of some heavy fighting in May between the army and militants in a government campaign to reclaim territory under effective AQAP control. AQAP and other militants have since then continued to stage attacks in Abyan and other provinces.
BuzzFeed writer Benny Johnson fired for plagiarism
(Reuters) - The news and entertainment website BuzzFeed has fired the writer Benny Johnson after its editors said they found he plagiarized others' work 41 times. BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith in a note late on Friday called writer Benny Johnson "a creative force" at his best, but said a review of more than 500 posts revealed dozens of instances where he copied sentences and phrases verbatim from other websites. Smith said the plagiarism on the seven-year-old site was brought to light this week by Twitter users.
Verizon to slow down speeds for some unlimited data subscribers
By Marina Lopes WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Verizon Communication Inc's high speed wireless customers who subscribe to the company's legacy unlimited data plans might experience slower speeds starting Oct. 1, the company said on Friday. Verizon will slow services for the top 5 percent of data users who are on unlimited plans in places where the network is experiencing high demand, the company announced on its website. The policy is currently in effect for unlimited subscribers on the 3G network, but will be expanded to its 4G, higher speed network in October. Verizon stopped offering unlimited data plans in 2012.
Facebook says SEC's IPO probe ends, extending WhatsApp closing date
(Reuters) - Facebook Inc said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dropped its probe into the social networking company over events surrounding its controversial initial public offering. In its quarterly report filed on Thursday, Facebook said the regulator in May "notified us that it had terminated its inquiry and that no enforcement action had been recommended by the SEC." Facebook shares began trading on May 18, 2012, but soon fell below their $38 per share offering price and had lost more than half their value by the middle of August, angering investors. Investors also complained they were not told just prior to the IPO that analysts at Facebook's investment banks were cutting their forecasts after learning of the company's internal projections for advertising revenue. The end of the SEC probe does not affect shareholder litigation against Facebook, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and many banks over the Menlo Park, California-based company's IPO.
Europe debates how far to push 'right to be forgotten'
By Leila Abboud and Julia Fioretti PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European regulators have not yet decided whether to try to force search engines such as Google and Microsoft's Bing to scrub results globally when people invoke their "right to be forgotten" in the region. Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin - who heads France's privacy watchdog and the WP29 group of EU national data protection authorities - said in an interview on Friday that no consensus had yet been reached on what she called a "complicated issue". The European Union's top court ruled in May that search engines must take down certain results shown under a search of a person's name if the information was "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant". Although the "right to be forgotten" existed as a concept in European law, the ruling marked the first time companies like Google have been asked to field such requests from the public.
Amazon's spending spree raises margin concerns
Amazon.com Inc's heavy investment in content and technology to fight off deep-pocketed rivals is proving to be more costly than many had expected, raising fears that operating earnings will be remain under pressure indefinitely. Amazon's shares fell 12 percent to $314.76 in early trading on Friday, wiping out about $18 billion from its market value. Amazon is engaged in "a massive ecosystem war" with Apple Inc, Google Inc and Microsoft Corp Macquarie Research analyst Ben Schachter said. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Holdings Group Ltd [IPO-BABA.N] also looms as a threat to Amazon as it expands in the U.S. market, Schachter and others say.
Chubby Checker, HP settle lawsuit over penis-measuring app
The singer Chubby Checker has settled a lawsuit in which he accused Hewlett-Packard Co of using his trademarked name without permission on a software app that purported to measure the size of a man's penis. HP denied liability in agreeing to settle with Checker, whose given name is Ernest Evans, but agreed not to make future use of his stage name, likeness or related trademarks. In his February 2013 lawsuit against HP and its Palm unit, the singer objected to HP having in October 2006 begun online sales of "The Chubby Checker" app, which purported to let women estimate the size of a man's genitals based on his shoe size. A federal judge last August let Checker pursue part of his case, saying one might infer that HP should have known that "the owner of the Chubby Checker mark would never have consented to license the mark for such a vulgar purpose." HP spokeswoman Sarah Pompei on Friday declined to elaborate on the settlement.
Ride app Uber gets respite in German city of Hamburg
Uber, whose smartphone app summons rides at the touch of a button, won a new lease of life in the German city of Hamburg on Friday when a court suspended a ban imposed by local regulators. Hamburg traffic authorities told Uber earlier this week to stop operating in the northern port city on the grounds that its drivers lacked passenger transport licenses, one of a number of challenges to the San Francisco-based company from regulators and traditional taxi services across the globe. Uber retaliated with a complaint against the ban and a Hamburg court on Friday allowed it to continue operations while the court deliberates on the merits of the case. Uber said in a statement on Friday it welcomed the court's decision.
Amazon spending more than $100 million on original content in third-quarter
By Deepa Seetharaman SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc is spending more than $100 million on original video content in the third quarter, considerably higher than its spending a year ago and in the second quarter, Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak said on Thursday. The largest U.S. online retailer, which also reported a larger-than-expected second-quarter loss Thursday, is beefing up its digital content. Szkutak told analysts during a call that members of Amazon's Prime membership program are increasingly streaming free videos online.
Amazon's heavy investing eats into bottom line, shares drop
By Deepa Seetharaman SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc posted a much larger-than-expected loss in the second quarter as it continues its rapid pace of investment in new businesses such as digital content and consumer electronics. Amazon's stock price has dropped 10 percent so far in 2014, with investors leery of betting on its long-term growth at the expense of little to no profit. Amazon is investing heavily in new businesses and hardware products, as it prepares to take on major tech rivals from Apple Inc and Google Inc to Netflix. Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak said Amazon had a "tremendous amount of opportunities" and its investments were "certainly impacting short-term results." The company is spending more than $100 million on original video content in the third quarter, a substantial increase compared to last year and the second quarter, Szkutak said.
Amazon's 'Fire' smartphone contains chips from Qualcomm, Samsung, NXP
By Noel Randewich SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc's new "Fire" smartphone contains chips from Qualcomm Inc, NXP Semiconductors NV, and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, according to repair and teardown specialists iFixit, which pried one open on Thursday. The Fire phone also houses chips from Synaptics Inc and Skyworks Solutions Inc, said the repair outfit, which made a name for itself taking apart devices like Apple Inc's iPhone and identifying its internal components.
Website lets donors pay Detroit residents' overdue water bills
By Aaron Foley DETROIT (Reuters) - Widespread water shutoffs in Detroit have led to the creation of a website that allows donors to anonymously pay the overdue bills of residents in the bankrupt city, a site organizer said on Thursday. Recent efforts by the cash-strapped municipal water authority to collect tens of millions of dollars in overdue bills has attracted international attention and critics say the disconnections are inhumane and unfair to the poor. The donor site, DetroitWaterProject.org, was born from a Twitter conversation between programmer Tiffani Bell of Fayetteville, North Carolina and designer Kristy Tillman of Boston who were concerned about the water issue, Bell said in an email. Customers with delinquent bills share their account information with the site, where they are matched with donors.
Zillow in talks to buy rival real-estate website Trulia: Source
(Reuters) - U.S. real estate website operator Zillow Inc Z.O is in advanced talks to buy smaller rival Trulia Inc TRLA.N, according to people familiar with the matter. Trulia shares jumped as much as 40.5 percent to $57 on Thursday, valuing the company at $2.10 billion, after Bloomberg News reported Zillow may reach a deal to buy the company as soon as next week. The stock ended up 32 percent at $53.74 on the New York Stock Exchange. The proposed acquisition would allow the company to corner a larger share of online spending on real estate listings and advertising.
Google under fire from regulators on EU privacy ruling
By Julia Fioretti BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google's GOOGL.O handling of "right to be forgotten" requests from European citizens came under fire by regulators after the search engine company restricted the removal of Internet links to European sites only, a person familiar with the matter said. Regulators quizzed Google over its decision to remove search results only from its European search engines such as google.co.uk, which means that anyone can easily access the same information by switching to the widely used google.com, said the source, who was present at the meeting. The European Union's top court in May ruled that people have a right to request that years-old personal information that is no longer relevant be removed from Internet search results. Google has so far approved more than half of roughly 90,000 incoming requests, sought additional information in about 15 percent of cases, and rejected around 30 percent of them, according to a source close to the company.
Facebook goes express to mega-cap status - now valued more than AT&T, Coke
By Chuck Mikolajczak NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the days after its infamously mishandled initial public offering in May 2012, it looked as if Facebook would struggle to become a must-own for fund managers. The gains represent a reversal of fortune for the social media company.