We’ve recommended Dropbox in so many features & how-to’s we’ve lost count. It’s an amazing service that just keeps getting better, but the company has found itself in hot water with the FTC over concerns of anti-competitive behavior related to its file encryption.
Hit the jump to find out what all the fuss is about.
After a preliminary investigation the FTC has decided to give Google a pass on the inadvertent collection of Street View Wi-Fi data. According to Forbes, no penalties are being announced, but the FTC did have some harsh words for the search giant. "... Google’s internal review processes – both prior to the initiation of the project to collect data about wireless access points and after its launch – were not adequate to discover that the software would be collecting payload data, which was not necessary to fulfill the project’s business purpose," the FTC statement read.
The issues stem from the discovery earlier this year by Google that their Street View cars were outfitted with software that was not just recording the SSID and locations of Wi-Fi networks, but was actually storing unencrypted data from those networks. Google made the situation known, and multiple governments began investigating. Google claimed they software's presence was a mistake, and has since stopped Wi-Fi data collection altogether.
It looks like the FTC was satisfied with steps Google has taken, but they may not get a pass from all countries where the data was collected. Do you think Google should have been punished in some way?
It is becoming very difficult to keep track of Google's growing multinational miseries following the infamous Wi-Fi debacle. Google's legal woes in the States seem to mirror its problems elsewhere, with the company facing eight lawsuits in different U.S. states and the Congress mulling “a hearing, at minimum.”
Sticklers for journalistic propriety have always frowned upon checkbook journalism, which is far more rampant now thanks to the internet. Thankfully for checkbook journalists though, their critics can do little more than protest. But buying a story is one thing, and flouting the law in doing so a totally different affair.
Last week, when Gizmodo proudly flaunted what it claimed to be a misplaced prototype of the next iPhone, it prompted many to question the legality of the way in which the phone was acquired – the blog’s editors avowedly paid $5000 for the misplaced phone. Under state law, a finder of goods who can determine the owner of lost property is under legal obligation to return it to its original owner, and the failure to do so makes him guilty of theft.
It has now emerged that cops investigating the matter raided Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's house on Friday and confiscated four computers and two servers. According to Jason Chen, cops bust into his house in his absence and were busy scouring the place for evidence when he and his wife arrived from dinner at around 9:45PM. The cops were carrying a search warrant issued by the Superior Court of the County of San Mateo, California.
Gawker Media COO Gaby Darbyshire believes that the search warrant against Gizmodo's editor contravened section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code, which states that “a publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication” can not be forced to make any disclosures with regards to the source of any information obtained by them in their official capacity.
The FTC was investigating the world’s four largest manufacturers of NAND flash memory: two in South Korea, one in Japan, and one in the United States. The four companies investigated are unnamed in the report, leaving us to wonder who they are. The report, however, does tell us the world’s four largest NAND flash memory manufacturers are Samsung and Hynix (in South Korea), Toshiba (in Japan), and SanDisk (in the United States). Perhaps it’s not such a mystery after all.
NAND flash memory, which is cheap to produce, is used in digital music players, digital campers, USB memory sticks, and the like. An over-production in the latter part of the decade lead to a downward spiral in prices, which some manufacturers are alleged to have perpetrated to gain market share. Manufacturers claim that pricing was more a factor of oversupply and technological advances, which the FTC seems to agree with, finding no evidence of price-fixing on the international level, and limited evidence of price-fixing on the domestic level.
More and more it seems that e-commerce differs little from a shell game. Both have the expressed purpose of taking away my money without giving me something tangible in return. It’s almost as if my having a dollar or two in my pocket, my bank account, or on my credit limit, is too much for someone to bear--they have to find a way to separate it from me. While a traditional shell game requires my explicit participation, e-commerce doesn’t, making the task all too easy.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has been conducting an investigation into the matter, and has turned its attention to the big credit card companies: American Express, MasterCard, and Visa. Why? Because of all the parties involved they were best positioned to detect the scam and, acting on their customers best interests, put an end to it.
Credit card companies are at the forefront of the complaint process. When something that shouldn’t appears on a bill, it’s the credit card company that gets the complaint. But, the credit card company also gets to ‘wet its beak’ on all of the action--so it charges both the consumer (fees and interest), and the merchant (a percentage) for each transaction processed. The $1.4 billion Webloyalty, Vertrue, and Affinion accumulated through their bogus practice may have been just enough for the big three to turn a blind eye, despite thousands of consumer complaints. This is what the Senate Committee wants to find out.
While this particular little racket may come to an end, its unlikely those involved will get more than a slap on the wrist. And, the big players will still be there, just as unconcerned about your welfare as before. The lesson here: always carefully check your monthly statement.
Verizon recently changed its policies regarding ETFs--it doubled them for new customers who opt for smartphones. Makes sense, given that Verizon’s initial subsidy of smartphones is greater--if a customer bails before their agreement is up Verizon would like to get its money back. David Pogue, at The New York Times, does the math and figures that at the end of a two-year contract there’s still $110 left on the ETF. He asks the obvious question: “Shouldn’t the fee go down to zero at the end of your contract?”
The FCC wants to know just how much information Verizon is divulging to new smartphone customers about the ETF: how it’s calculated; how much will be due at the end of the contract; and how can it be avoided. The FCC also wants clarification on how the ETF is prorated. Like Pogue they are curious about why any fee should remain at the end of a contract.
Verizon’s “Wireless Mobile Web” is also under scrutiny. Verizon hardwires access to its mobile wireless service to a phone button. Can’t be changed. Can’t be disabled. Users accidentally pressing the button wind up with a $1.99 charge on their monthly bill--even if they cancel the mobile web request immediately. Pogue relates from a Verizon insider that Verizon’s phones are designed with this ‘feature,’ and that some 87 million customers each month will accidentally hit the mobile web key. A little more math from Pogue reveals that to be $300 million per month of revenue from a simple mistake.
Like with ETFs, the FCC wants to know how Verizon’s mobile web service; how much information is given to customers about the service; what protections they receive; and why the heck can’t customers reprogram their phones to prevent this.
Sony Optiarc America, in particular, produces the Sony line of optical disk drives for DVD, CD, and Blu-ray media formats and is the focus of the investigation. Sony didn’t hint to which products are of interest, but if you like to follow the gossip circles (or have a bit of common-sense) it is likely something to do with Blu-ray.
Blu-ray’s prices have yet to see the traditional price declination expected from a hot technology that has been released over three years ago. In fact, prices have remained steady over that time despite HD-DVD disappearing from the picture.
Further, the technology hasn’t skyrocketed in popularity the way Sony expected and antitrust investigations are not likely to help that process along.
“Art has been a key part of Google’s success these past five years, offering unvarnished advice and vital counsel on every big issue and opportunity Google has faced,” Schmidt said, hailing Levinson’s contribution.
Russia’s state run anti-monopoly service has launched a formal investigation into Microsoft over cutbacks in the supply of Windows XP. The agency believes that Microsoft has violated antimonopoly legislation by intentionally limiting the stock of Windows XP to Russia in both retail, and OEM editions which come preinstalled on new PC’s. Analysts claim that Windows Vista continues to be available, while the ongoing demand for XP both by the public, and the government, remains unsatisfied.
Microsoft has yet to formally address the issue, but according to the Moscow regional office, nobody from the anti-monopoly service has tried to contact them. "We (have) always answered antimonopoly service questions in full and intend to continue this practice in future," Microsoft spokeswoman Marina Levina said by telephone. Full scale investigations by the antimonopoly service in Russia are rare, and Microsoft will be given more details by July 24th.
The accusations being made in Russia are drastically different than previous antitrust cases leveled by the EU and USA. In both these cases, the complaints were focused on software bundling for which it was fined $708 million in 2004 by the EU.
Could Microsoft be intentionally limiting Windows XP supply in Russia to help push Vista?