Archive for May 23rd, 2012

Galaxy S3 named bestseller pre-ordered phone

LONDON: Samsung’s new Galaxy S3 phone has become the fastest selling-pre-order phone of the year, according to Europe’s largest independent mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse.

The retailer confirmed that thousands of customers have pre-ordered the new flagship Google Android device, The Telegraph reports. Over 800 Carphone shops will stock the phone during its launch, which will go on sale on May 29 to those who have pre-ordered it.

Graham Stapleton, Chief Commercial Officer at Carphone Warehouse, claimed, “Pre-order demand for the new Galaxy S3 has surpassed expectations since the handset was first unveiled two weeks ago. The first 24 hours alone saw thousands placing their pre-order at Carphone Warehouse.”

Earlier this week, it was reported that nine million S3s had been pre-ordered by more than 100 carriers.

Korean Samsung is the biggest mobile phone company in the world, ahead of long-time number one Nokia, and also the biggest maker of smartphones ahead of Apple.

The Galaxy S3 that was unveiled at an international launch held at London have innovative new features such as eye tracking so that the screen stays on while a user is looking at it.

The S3 also has a 4.8″ display, one of the largest in the market, and the ability to automatically initiate a call to a contact onscreen when the phone is held up to its user’s face.

Samsung has also announced that the device will be the official phone of the London Olympics.

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Rumor: PlayStation All-Stars coming to PS Vita, SCEA resume says

We’ll be seeing more characters added to the PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale roster soon enough, and perhaps even see it heading to one additional platform. The LinkedIn profile of Robert Krekel – a sound designer at Sony Computer Entertainment America – suggests PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale may be coming to PlayStation Vita as well.

Krekel lists PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale as his current project, on both PlayStation 3 and Vita. We’ve inquired with Sony and will update if we hear more — but as you might expect, this falls firmly in the “rumors and speculation” category.

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A look at Motorola Mobility’s new regime

Google promptly reshuffled Motorola Mobility’s management Tuesday after completing its $12.5 billion acquisition of the device maker.

Longtime Google Inc. executive Dennis Woodside is replacing Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha as the company’s leader.

Google also is bringing in several new faces while retaining some familiar ones at Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.

Here’s a breakdown on Motorola Mobility’s regime under Google’s ownership:

— Woodside, the new CEO, spent the past three years as president of Google’s Americas region, which saw its annual revenue rise from $10.8 billion to $17.5 billion under his guidance. Most of that money came from online ads. Earlier in his Google career, Woodside oversaw Google’s expansion across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

— Vanessa Wittman is the new chief financial officer. She previously filled the same role at Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc., which sells insurance and business consulting services.

— Mark Randall will be the head of supply chain and operations. He is a former executive at another cellphone maker, Nokia, and at Amazon.com Inc., where he oversaw the supply chain for the Kindle e-reader and Kindle Fire tablet computer.

— Regina Dugan is running a newly created division focused on advanced technology and projects. She is the former director of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

— Gary Briggs will oversee the marketing of Motorola’s products. He directed marketing for Google’s Chrome Web browser and previously led marketing for eBay Inc.

— Scott Sullivan will lead the personnel department. He previously led the human resources department for credit- and debit-card processor Visa Inc.

— Iqbal Arshad will lead global product development. He helped Motorola introduce its first phones running on Google’s Android software.

— Mahesh Veerina will continue to lead Motorola’s software division.

— Jim Wicks will run the consumer experience design division. He helped design Motorola’s original Razr phone.

— Mark Shockley will oversee the “go-to-market.” He helped Motorola Mobility expand in Brazil and China.

— Scott Offer will lead the legal division. He played an instrumental role in the company’s spinoff from the old Motorola Inc. The other half, Motorola Solutions Inc., remains an independent company.

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Prices of Facebook stock since long-awaited IPO

Facebook Inc. began trading publicly on Friday following one of the most anticipated stock offerings in history. The initial public offering of stock priced at $38 on Thursday. It was at the top end of a projected range that Facebook had already increased just days earlier.

Although many investors had hoped for a big first-day pop, Facebook’s stock opened Friday at $42.05 and fluctuated between $45 and $38 throughout the day. It closed barely above its IPO price, at $38.23.

Here’s how Facebook’s stock has traded since the IPO:

— Friday: Closed at $38.23, up 0.6 percent from IPO price.

— Monday: Closed at $34.03, down 11 percent for the day, down 10 percent from IPO price

— Tuesday: Closed at $31, down 9 percent for the day, down 19 percent for the week, down 18 percent from IPO price

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Google’s data collection violates privacy, claim regulators

Secrets spilled across the computer screen.

After months of negotiation, Johannes Caspar, a German data protection official, forced Google to show him exactly what its Street View cars had been collecting from potentially millions of his fellow citizens. Snippets of emails, photographs, passwords, chat messages, postings on websites and social networks – all sorts of private Internet communications – were casually scooped up as the specially equipped cars photographed the world’s streets.

“It was one of the biggest violations of data protection laws that we had ever seen,” Caspar recently recalled about that long-sought viewing in late 2010. “We were very angry.”

Google might be one of the coolest and smartest companies of this or any era, but it also upsets a lot of people – competitors who argue it wields its tremendous weight unfairly, officials like Caspar who say it ignores local laws, privacy advocates who think it takes too much from its users. Just this week, European antitrust regulators gave the company an ultimatum to change its search business or face legal consequences. US regulators may not be far behind.

The high-stakes antitrust assault, which will play out this summer behind closed doors in Brussels, might be the beginning of a tough time for Google. A similar US case in the 1990s heralded the comeuppance of Microsoft, the most fearsome tech company of its day.

But never count Google out. It is superb at getting out of trouble. Just ask Caspar or any of his counterparts around the world who tried to hold Google accountable for what one of them, Australian Communication Minister Stephen Conroy, called “probably the single greatest breach in the history of privacy.”

The secret Street View data collection led to inquiries in at least a dozen countries, including four in the United States. But Google has yet to give a complete explanation of why the information was collected and who at the company knew about it. No regulator in the United States has seen the information that Google’s cars gathered from US citizens.

The tale of how Google escaped a full accounting for Street View illustrates not only how technology companies have outstripped the regulators but also their complicated relationship with their adoring customers.

Companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple supply new ways of communication, learning and entertainment, high-tech wizardry for the masses. They have custody of the raw material of hundreds of millions of lives – the intimate emails, the revealing photographs, searches for help or love or escape.

People willingly, at times eagerly, surrender this information. But there is a price: the loss of control, or even knowledge, of where that personal information is going and how it is being reshaped into an online identity that may resemble the real you or may not. Privacy laws and wiretapping statutes are of little guidance, because they have not kept pace with the lightning speed of technological progress.

Michael Copps, who last year ended a 10-year term as a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, said regulators were overwhelmed.

“The industry has gotten more powerful, the technology has gotten more pervasive, and it’s getting to the point where we can’t do too much about it,” he said.

Although Google thrives on information, it is close-mouthed about itself, as the Street View episode shows. When German regulators forced the company to admit that the cars were sweeping up unencrypted Internet data from wireless networks, the company blamed a programming mistake where an engineer’s experimental software was accidentally included in Street View. It stressed that the information was never intended for any Google products.

The FCC did not see it Google’s way, saying last month the engineer “intended to collect, store and review” the data “for possible use in other Google products.”

It also said the engineer shared his software code and a “design document” with other members of the Street View team. The data collection may have been misguided, the agency said, but it was not accidental.

Although the agency said it could find no violation of US law, it said the inquiry was inconclusive, because the engineer cited his Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. It fined Google $25,000 – for obstructing the investigation.

Google, which has repeatedly said it wants to put the episode behind it, declined to answer questions for this article.

“We don’t have much choice but to trust Google,” said Christian Sandvig, a researcher in communications technology and public policy at the University of Illinois. “We rely on them for everything.”

That reliance has built an impressive company – and a self-assurance that can be indistinguishable from arrogance.

“Google doesn’t seem to think it ever will be held accountable,” Sandvig said. “And to date it hasn’t been.”

When Street View was introduced in 2007, it elicited immediate objections in Europe, where privacy laws are tough. The Nazis used government data to systematically pursue Jews and other unwanted groups. The East German secret police, the Stasi, similarly controlled data to monitor perceived enemies.

“In the United States, privacy is a consumer business,” said Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority. “In Europe, it is a fundamental rights issue.”

Germany was a hotbed of protest. In Molfsee, a town of 4,800 people on the Baltic Sea, Deputy Mayor Reinhold Harwart organized a group of residents in a protest.

“The main feeling was: Who gives Google the right to do this?” Harwart, now 74, said in a recent interview. “We were outraged that Google would come in, invade our privacy and send the data back to America, where we had no idea what it would be used for.”

Google offered few clues. After French privacy regulators inspected a Street View car in early 2010, the company was forced to explain that the cars were collecting information about household’s Wi-Fi networks – in essence, how they connected to the Internet – to improve location-based services.

Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counselor, wrote in a blog post April 27, 2010, that the company had not previously revealed this part of Street View because, “We did not think it was necessary.”

But he said only technical information about networks was being collected, not the actual content sent out.

Still, German regulators, particularly Caspar, the data protection commissioner for Hamburg, were alarmed. Google, Caspar noted, had said nothing about collecting Wi-Fi data when negotiating permission for Street View.

Caspar wanted to inspect a Street View car. Google first said it didn’t know where they were, so it couldn’t produce them. Then, on May 3, it allowed a technical expert in Caspar’s office to see a vehicle. But the hard drive with the information on it was missing.

Faced with the Germans’ persistence, Google published a post, on May 14, 2010, saying it had been prompted to “re-examine everything we have been collecting.” It turned out that Google was collecting emails and other personal data after all.

For a company like Google, which thrives on data, more is always better.

“The Google privacy officers are going to look at this and say, ‘It’s not illegal, maybe no one is ever going to be the wiser, and meanwhile we’ll have stored the data away in some big database,”‘ said Helen Nissenbaum, a privacy expert at New York University. “We’re so enthralled with data, and the good it can bring, that we might overlook any problems.”

Caspar asked to see the hard drive. Google said handing it over could expose it to liability for violating German telecommunications law, which prohibits network operators and other data managers from disclosing the private communications of their clients.

This made no sense to Caspar, who explained that as data protection commissioner he was empowered to receive the data. Finally, in autumn 2010, the company yielded and gave Caspar the hard drive. By this point, Hamburg prosecutors had opened a criminal investigation.

Google was equally resistant with the US authorities.

Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general at the time, announced in late June 2010 that he and attorneys general from more than 30 other states had begun an investigation. Like the Europeans, they asked for the data. For months.

“Google resisted providing more information, even in the face of its acknowledgment that the collection was a mistake,” Blumenthal recalled in a recent interview.

Google argued that its data scooping was legal in the United States. But it told regulators it could not show them the data it collected, because to do so might be breaking privacy and wiretapping laws.

In December 2010, Blumenthal issued a civil investigative demand – the equivalent of a subpoena – and threatened further legal action if he did not get results. Then he became Connecticut’s junior senator and his successor, George Jepsen, took over.

No formal settlement was reached. Some of those who were involved in the case are mystified.

“I cannot think of a single other multistate case that just disappeared,” said one former state regulator who asked not to be named since he did not want to be seen as bashing his former colleagues. “Individual state investigations, yes. But to start up a multistate and not end it with at least a consent judgment or even some token resolution is very unusual.”

A Jepsen spokeswoman said the inquiry was still “active and ongoing.” Jepsen declined to be interviewed.

“The legal platform has not kept pace with the technology platform,” Blumenthal said. “So the investigative effort was done with less legal ammunition than might otherwise exist.”

The same was true of other challenges to Street View.

Citizens in several states filed suits against Google, saying the company had violated federal wiretapping laws through Street View. These suits were consolidated into a class action in San Francisco.

Google moved for dismissal, arguing that because it had picked up information only from unencrypted networks, it had not broken the law. In a significant loss, a federal judge said what the company was doing might be more akin to tapping a phone and allowed the suit to proceed. But he let Google appeal immediately, saying these were novel questions of law. The case may eventually end up in the US Supreme Court.

In Germany, Caspar has also ground to a stop. He is waiting for prosecutors to file the criminal charges. If they do not, he said he will file his own administrative charges.

As for the engineer at the center of the controversy, Marius Milner lives in Palo Alto, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley, and apparently still works for Google. (His garage door was open, displaying a black Miata convertible with a license plate holder featuring the famous phrase from the Google search page, “I’m feeling lucky.”)

During a brief conversation on his front porch, Milner declined to say anything.

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Facebook says users are owners of content

NEW DELHI: US-based Facebook Inc, accused of hosting allegedly objectionable content, on Tuesday told a court here that the content on its website Facebook is owned by its users while it is only an intermediary.

“Facebook Inc is an intermediary that acts as a host and permits its users to post their messages, photos, content and other information on http://www.facebook.com.

“The content on http://www.facebook.com is owned and controlled by users and Facebook Inc only acts as a host for such content on the Internet,” the company said in a written statement filed before the court of Administrative Civil Judge Praveen Singh.

The company filed the statement in a suit filed by Mufti Aijaz Arshad Quasmi against it and other websites like Google, Youtube for hosting alleged objectionable content.

It also said the users of the website are the necessary parties to the suit as they post content on the site and as such the suit is not maintainable for non-joining of necessary parties.

It said it only allows users to post their content and share it with other users and sets privacy controls to protect such content but does not sell the same.

“Facebook Inc is an intermediary and merely provides services by hosting content and is, therefore, protected under the Information Technology Act.

“The present suit is not maintainable as facebook Inc is not liable for any third party information, data or communication link made available or hosted on its website http://www.facebook.com,” it said in the statement.

It said the suit has been filed with a malafide intention.

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