Five Tech Headlines to Start Your WeekendAugust 10, 2012 12:35 pm ·
It’s already been an eventful day in tech news, especially for a Friday. So, instead of choosing just one or two stories to focus on today, I figured I’d make it five. But don’t worry, they’re brief. I mean, it is almost the weekend after all.
FTC Settlement with Facebook Finalized
After announcing the settlement back in November, the Federal Trade Commission has officially approved its final settlement with Facebook over its privacy practices. As readers will recall, the social site was under scrutiny for deceiving users into believing that certain personal information (in this case, phone numbers and email addresses) would be kept private, only to see it share or made public on multiple occasions.
The finalized settlement, which officially brings the FTC investigation to a close, requires Facebook to “take several steps” toward making good on its promise not to let the problem arise again. These steps include gaining “express consent” from users before sharing or publicizing their information, implementing a “comprehensive privacy program,” and taking part in third-party “privacy audits” every two years. To incentivize compliance, the FTC says it will fine Facebook $16,000 each time it fails to uphold the agreement.
IBM Eyeing RIM Enterprise Services
A Bloomberg report on Friday reveals that IBM may be interested in acquiring the increasingly invisible Research In Motion’s most valuable asset. According to its sources, RIM’s enterprise services unit, which is ostensibly valued somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion, was central to an “informal approach” made by IBM. However, with the 2013 release of its BlackBerry 10 line of smartphones just around the corner, which are expected to hold the key to RIM’s fate, it is unlikely that any deal will be happening until then.
Then again, given Wall Street’s positive response to the idea, with RIM shares jumping nearly 9 percent at one point Friday morning, perhaps waiting isn’t the best idea.
Is Lenovo Working on a Windows RT Tablet?
Another story that has the tech blogosphere buzzing Friday morning is talk that China-based PC maker Lenovo may be working on a tablet that runs the ARM-based version of Microsoft’s much-anticipated Windows 8 operating system. According to their “people familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal says the Lenovo tablet will run on Windows RT, which actually provides a limited, app-centric version of Windows 8. Furthermore, the Joural’s sources are reporting that the new Lenovo tablet will be convertible like its Windows-8-running IdeaPad Yoga, which can be changed into a laptop with a simple flip of its attached keyboard.
If the rumors hold true, that would make three Lenovo tablets running on some version of Windows 8, given the company’s Wednesday announcement of the ThinkPad Tablet 2, which will run on Windows 8 Pro.
Safari Tracking Costs Google $22.5 Million
Apparently the FTC has been busy this week. In addition finalizing its agreement with Facebook, the agency also levied its largest penalty ever by fining Google $22.5 million for tracking user activity through a loophole in the Safari browser. Detected earlier this year by Stanford University researcher Jonathan Mayer, the Google tracking scheme involved the acquisition of temporary tracking cookies that are assigned to Safari users.
“The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order,” noted agency chair Jon Leibowitz. “No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place.”
Despite being a historic fine, $22.5 million is a drop in the bucket for a company like Google, which has plenty of cash in its coffers to pay the fee. Meanwhile, though unsurprisingly, the web giant still refuses to admit any wrongdoing in the matter.
Google to Copyright Violators: No Search for You
In an effort to give its searchers a “great experience,” Google announced an update to its search algorithm on Friday. “Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site.” Serving both as a means to promote legitimate, higher quality content with better rankings and to discourage internet piracy, Google’s update to its algorithm is just the latest and most severe attempt by the company to appease copyright holders, punishing alleged violators by making them “appear lower in [Google’s] search results.”
At the same time, Google insists that it is not attempting to play the role of copyright enforcer. Rather, the company framed the change as a way to “help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily.”
Then again, given the deluge of removal notices (more than 4 million URL removal requests in just the past month, according to Google) from copyright owners, it’s difficult not to see the adjustment at least partially as a gesture of appeasement. And considering RIAA CEO Cary Sherman’s delighted reaction to the Google update, it’s probably safe to say that is exactly how they’re taking it.