Archive for the 'Tech' Category

11
Aug
10

Google Street View throws light on web privacy

NEWS
Google Street View throws light on web privacy

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Google’s online map feature has become a flash point for people worried about the erosion of privacy in the Internet Age.

Street View images at Google Maps sparked controversy from the outset of the project three years ago.

Google dispatched cars and tricycles rigged with cameras and satellite positioning gear to take pictures of what one might see on streets around the world and synched the images to its free online mapping service.

Some people complained that faces could be recognised in pictures, raising the potential that people caught in compromising situations, perhaps stepping out of an adult video store, would have such moments memorialised online.

Others expressed fears that numbers from licence plates could be used to figure out who parks or lives on certain streets.

People were soon accusing Street View vehicles of straying onto private roads or yards to snap pictures in violation of the California-based internet giant’s policies.

Google adapted to ameliorate concerns. It began blurring faces and car licence plate numbers in images.

This year the Street View controversy rocketed to a new level with the revelation by Google that electronics in its picture-taking vehicles captured data from wireless internet systems not secured by passwords.

Google basically had access to unencrypted email, video downloads, web browsing or other digital information passing through wireless routers in homes or businesses as its Street View vans went by, said John Verdi, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.

Google has apologised repeatedly for what it called an accidental data grab, but authorities in more than a dozen countries are investigating whether the company broke privacy laws.

South Korean police on Tuesday searched the offices of Google Korea as part of its probe, an officer said.

Police seized computer hard discs and other material. After analysing the material they plan to summon the company’s staff for questioning.

Efforts by governments to get the Street View data threaten to multiply damage to people’s privacy even if Google is true to its word that it has done nothing with the information.

‘Simply handing over the data to governments can be a very bad idea,’ said Electronic Frontier Foundation international rights director Katitza Rodriguez.

‘In some cases, the remedy can be worse than the disease.’

Countries could use the pretext of investigating Street View to mine Google data in ways that ‘might create risky situations for human rights activists, dissidents, or bloggers fighting for their rights,’ she added.

Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle theorised that Google might have intended to map locations of open wireless ‘hot spots’ as a potential service to users.

‘Telling people where they can get on the internet for free while they are out and about sounds to me like a typical Google thing to do,’ Enderle said. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me.’

Identity thieves might view a roster of open wireless zones the way burglars might look at a list of homes left unlocked, according to the analyst.

Google said it would allow Germans to block out their homes on Street View ahead of its launch in the country this year but privacy watchdogs were still not happy.

‘Google Street View is a great tool, for instance, for tourists to scope out the location that he or she wants to visit,’ Rodriguez said.

‘However, Google’s technology is too invasive, and goes too far. We expect some degree of anonymity while we are walking on the streets.’
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29
Jul
10

Adult industry sees iPorn potential in new iPhone

NEWS
Adult industry sees iPorn potential in new iPhone

Porn just got interactive: Now Apple iPhone 4 users can make video calls to X-rated stars with Face Time

Thursday, July 29, 2010

••• The adult industry is moving on the new iPhone, seeking models specifically for video sex chat on FaceTime.

So when Apple launched the iPhone 4 and its FaceTime video conference feature, it didn’t take long for adult-entertainment companies to develop video-sex chat services and start hiring workers through Craigslist.

With more than 3 million of the phones sold, the adult industry stands to make big money on this new way to reach out and touch someone – even if it puts Apple, which has always taken pains to keep its iPhone apps squeaky clean, in an awkward spot.

In at least five cities, Craigslist ads seek models specifically for video sex chat on FaceTime. Many of the ads even offer to throw in a free iPhone 4 for the new employees.

FaceTime lets people call another iPhone 4 user and have live video conversations over a Wi-Fi connection using the front-facing camera on the new model. In one TV ad, a soldier uses it to get a look at his faraway wife’s ultrasound pictures.

The adult industry wants its customers to share moments of an entirely different kind with its stars. And while the technology may be new, the idea is not. Porn providers have always been early adopters.

In the 1970s, the demand for explicit videos at home helped VCRs become widespread, and the industry was the first to embrace DVDs, too. Internet porn peddlers were some of the first to make wide use of streaming video and online credit card payments.
‘The first time someone created a camera there was someone who said, ‘Wouldn’t it be good for someone to take off their clothes in front of this camera? said Michael Gartenberg, vice-president at Interpret, a media research company.

And for years, cameras mounted on computers have helped connect people for racy online video sessions. But the portability and privacy of a cell phone makes FaceTime a new frontier for the industry.

‘A phone is such an intimate thing, you usually don’t lend it out or have someone else use it,’ said Quentin Boyer, a spokesman for Pink Visual, an adult production company.

Boyer said his company began planning for iPhone 4 video services almost as soon as the device hit stores. They should be ready in a matter of weeks. Boyer said the company will offer FaceTime sessions with some of the same women who appear in its videos – likely charging $5 or $6 a minute, payable by credit card.

‘It has a very personal feel – your mobile phone to hers,’ he said.

Online exhibitionism is only growing. Take Chatroulette, which randomly connects strangers for video chats. While the service isn’t explicitly sexual, it’s common for users to stumble upon people looking for more than just conversation.

So far, most online video sex chat services have let the customer see the performer, but not the other way around. FaceTime may change that.

‘We are seeing more and more that customers want to be watched as much as they want to watch,’ said Dan Hogue, owner of an adult chat company called CamWorld, which is planning FaceTime services.
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23
Jul
10

Tablet War Hots Up With Microsoft iPad Rival

NEWS
Tablet War Hots Up With Microsoft iPad Rival

Friday, July 23, 2010

••• Microsoft is taking on the iPad in the battle of the tablets as it announced plans to launch it own version later this year.

It is working in partnership with Hewlett-Packard whose executive vice president Todd Bradley said: ‘Slates are going to be an enormous category.

‘Our focus is working with still our largest software partner, Microsoft, to create a tablet, a slate, for the enterprise business.’

‘This is just in its infancy.’

Apple has sold more than three million iPads since it went on sale in April and Microsoft has been seeking to develop products that will tap into the lucrative market.

When the Microsoft tablet arrives on the shelves it may benefit from one key advantage over its Apple rival.

The HP tablet computer will be able to run Flash, the popular video software from Adobe which Apple has barred from the iPad.
The news comes as Microsoft revealed a record $4.52 billion profit with a fourth quarter revenue of more than $16 billion dollars.

The American tech company credited the strong sales figures to the successful launch of its latest-generation Office 2010 software and to continued strong demand for its new Windows 7 operating system.

The popularity of its Xbox 360 videogame consoles and Bing’s improving share of the Internet search market also contributed to the successful final quarter of its fiscal year.

Microsoft chief operating officer Kevin Turner said: ‘We look forward to continuing our product momentum this fall with the upcoming launches of Windows Phone 7 and Xbox Kinect.’
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23
Jul
10

Nokia Q2 profit falls 40 percent to $290 million

NEWS
Nokia Q2 profit falls 40 percent to $290 million

Friday, July 23, 2010

••• The world’s top mobile phone maker Nokia has reported a 40 percent plunge in second-quarter net profit to 227 million euros ($290 million) but maintained its earnings forecast for its key devices and services unit.

The Finnish company had slashed its second-quarter and full-year forecasts for its key devices and services unit last month, citing fierce competition.

From April to June, Nokia posted a net profit of 227 million euros ($290 million), down 40 percent from 380 million euros ($485.46 million) for the same quarter a year earlier.
Analyst expected a profit drop of 30 percent, according to estimates published in the Finnish press.

Nokia said its net sales were up 1.0 percent on a year-to-year basis to 10.0 billion euros ($2.77 billion), and that the sales in its devices and services unit were up 3.0 percent on a year-to-year basis, but down 2.0 year-to-year in constant currency.

Shares in company, which had recently plunged to their lowest level in 12 years, were up 1.43 percent to 7.09 euros on a Helsinki Stock Exchange up 0.9 percent shortly after the announcement.
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17
Jul
10

Apple in panic at iPhone 4 ‘antenna-gate’?

NEWS
Apple in panic at iPhone 4 ‘antenna-gate’?
Apple offers free iPhone 4 cases to appease users

Saturday, July 17, 2010

••• Apple Inc will give free protective cases to buyers of its latest iPhone to alleviate the so-called death grip problem.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs announced the giveaway on Friday during a news conference at its headquarters, even as the company denied the iPhone 4 has an antenna problem that needs fixing. The more than 3 million people who have bought the iPhone 4 and new buyers through September 30 will all be eligible.

People who purchased the $29 ‘Bumper’ cases will be refunded.

Jobs began the event by saying, ‘We’re not perfect,’ but was quick to point out no mobile phone is perfect. He played a video showing competing smartphones, including a BlackBerry from Research in Motion, losing signal strength when held in certain ways.

Phones usually have an antenna inside the body. In designing the iPhone 4, Apple took a gamble on a new design, using parts of the phone’s outer casing as the antenna. That saved space inside the tightly packed body, but means covering a spot on the lower left edge of the case blocks wireless signal.
Consumer Reports magazine said covering the spot with a case or even a piece of duct tape alleviates the problem. It refused to give the iPhone 4 its ‘recommended’ stamp of approval for this reason, and it had called on Apple on Monday to compensate buyers.

On Friday, in the company’s first remarks following the magazine’s report, Jobs said Apple was ‘stunned and upset and embarrassed’.

Jobs said the iPhone 4’s antenna issue isn’t widespread. He said just over five out of every thousand users have complained to Apple’s warranty service, and less than 2 percent have returned the device.

‘We’re not feeling right now that we have a giant problem we need to fix,’ Jobs said. ‘This has been blown so out of proportion that it’s incredible. I know it’s fun to have a story, but it’s less fun when you’re on the other end of it.’

Analysts have criticised Apple’s first responses to reports of reception problems as dismissive.

Jobs apologised to buyers who had less than perfect experiences. ‘We’re going to do whatever it takes to make them happy and if we can’t make them happy we’re going to give them a full refund and say we’re really sorry we inconvenienced you, and we’re going to do better next time.’

The refund applies even for those who have long-term contracts with AT&T Inc., the iPhone’s exclusive US wireless carrier.

Jobs, a cancer survivor, also addressed a question about his health on Friday.

‘I’m doing fine. I was even better earlier in the week (when) I was having a vacation in Hawaii, but I decided this was important enough to come back for,’ he said. ‘I’m doing great.’
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• Source(s): Apple Inc.
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12
Jul
10

Facebook Installs Panic Button For Children

NEWS
Facebook Installs Panic Button For Children

Monday, July 12, 2010

••• Young Facebook users will be able to report suspicious online behavior with the launch of a new ‘panic button’ targeting sex offenders.

Children can use the button to report abuse to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and Facebook.

The application will automatically appear on the homepage of every user aged between 13 and 18.

The launch follows months of negotiation between Facebook and CEOP, the government law enforcement agency tasked with tracking down online sex offenders.

CEOP called for the panic button to be installed in November but Facebook has resisted the idea.

Bebo became the first network to add the button, followed by MySpace while Facebook maintained that its own reporting systems were adequate.

However pressure mounted on Facebook following the rape and murder of Ashleigh Hall, 17.

Ashleigh was killed by a 33-year-old convicted sex offender, posing as a teenage boy, whom she met on Facebook.

Forty-four police chiefs in England, Wales and Scotland, signed a letter backing CEOP’s call for a panic button on every Facebook page.

Users will be able to bookmark the Click CEOP service or add it as an application to find information about online safety.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the CEOP Centre said: ‘Our dialogue with Facebook about adopting the Click CEOP button is well documented – today however is a good day for child protection.

‘We know from speaking to offenders that a visible deterrent could protect young people online.’

Facebook’s Joanna Shields added: ‘There is no single silver bullet to making the internet safer but by joining forces with CEOP we have developed a comprehensive solution which marries our expertise in technology with CEOP’s expertise in online safety.’

James Brokenshire, U.K. Minister for Crime Prevention said: ‘It’s a sad fact that we are now seeing more cases where sex offenders are using social networking sites to conceal their identities in order to contact children.’
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08
Jul
10

Toyota Recalling 138,874 Lexus Vehicles

NEWS
Toyota Recalling 138,874 Lexus Vehicles

Thursday, July 8, 2010

••• Toyota Motor Corp on Tuesday filed a recall of 138,874 luxury Lexus vehicles sold in the United States to fix faulty engines in the latest quality problem to afflict the world’s No. 1 automaker. The move follows a recall of over 90,000 Lexus and other vehicles in Japan over the same problem, which was filed with the Japanese transport ministry on Monday.

The Japanese automaker said flaws in valve springs, a crucial engine component, could make the vehicle stall while in motion. Toyota confirmed in a statement it plans to file paperwork with the government on the recall next week.

The recall affects certain GS, IS and LS vehicles from the 2006-2008 model years powered by 4.6 and 5.0 liter V8 engines and 3.5 liter V6 engines. No accidents or injuries have been reported. Vehicles from the 2009 and 2010 model years are not affected.

Toyota had announced in Japan that it would recall 270,000 Lexus vehicles around the world to address the engine stalling problems. The global recall affects seven luxury Lexus sedan models as well as the popular Crown sedan, sold primarily in Japan. Of the 270,000 recalled cars, some 180,000 were sold overseas, including the United States, and 90,000 in Japan.

The company has received about 200 complaints in Japan but no accidents were reported there or abroad, said Toyota spokesman Hideaki Homma. Some drivers told Toyota that engines made a strange noise.

The automaker was already scrambling to repair its reputation after 8.5 million vehicles were recalled beginning in October because of problems with sticking accelerator pedals and other issues. Toyota was slapped with a record $16.4 million fine in the United States for acting too slowly to recall vehicles with defects.

Japan’s major daily Asahi said Friday the latest recall of 270,000 vehicles could cost Toyota around $227 million. Toyota could not confirm the report, which gave no sources.

Subject to the recall in the United States, filed with the Department of Transportation, are 2006-2008 Lexus models, including the top-of-the-line LS460 sedan, IS350, GS460, GS450h and the LS600hL models. Toyota plans to recall 270,000 vehicles worldwide due to the defective engine valve springs.

Toyota said owners will be notified of the recall by mail and dealers will repair the engine’s valve springs at no charge. The company said owners can continue to drive their vehicles. If they notice vibration, unusual engine sounds or rough idling, they should bring the car to a dealer for service.

Lexus general manager Mark Templin told dealers in an e-mail that “we understand the frustration and embarrassment these recalls cause and appreciate your reassuring Lexus owners that there is nothing more important to us than their safety, satisfaction with our products and confidence in you and the brand.”

Toyota dealers have repaired millions of vehicles following the massive global recalls, but the automaker still faces more than 200 lawsuits tied to accidents, the lower resale value of Toyota vehicles, and the drop in the company’s stock.

Toyota said last week it will recall 17,000 Lexus luxury hybrids after testing showed that fuel can spill during a rear-end crash.

U.S. regulators were working with scientists from NASA to investigate what caused some of Toyota’s vehicles to suddenly accelerate. That review is expected to be completed by late August.

Officials were also investigating whether Toyota waited nearly a year in 2005 to recall trucks and SUVs in the U.S. with defective steering rods, a case that could lead to additional fines.

Customers who have any questions or concerns should contact their local Lexus dealer or Lexus Customer Satisfaction at 1-800-25LEXUS or 1-800-255-3987 or at www.lexus.com/recall.
• Customers who have any further questions are asked to visit www.lexus.ca or contact Lexus Canada at 1-800-265-3987.
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• Source(s): Toyota Motor Corporation
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