TIME Media & Technology

Apple: Your Data Is Safe With Us, China

Apple iPhone China
People wait outside an Apple store all night prior to the mainland release of iPhone 4S on January 12, 2012 in Beijing, China. ChinaFotoPress—Getty Images

Apple insisted Saturday that it does not pass on data collected from Chinese iPhone users to U.S. intelligence services

Apple on Saturday denied claims made on Chinese state media that its iPhone presents a security risk to customers by compromising location data.

“Apple does not track users’ locations – Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so,” Apple said on Saturday, the Financial Times reports.

A Friday report on CCTV, the widely influential Chinese state-owned broadcaster, warned that the iPhone could track users using its positioning technology, and “view the user’s home address, unit information and whereabouts.” The report also claimed that information could be passed to U.S. intelligence services.

In an explanation published on its homepage in China, Apple said it has “never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services,” the Financial Times reports.

Apple also said that users location services can only be accessed by the device’s owner when they enter their passcode.

[FT]

TIME media and technology

Microsoft Refuses U.S. Request to Hand Over Email Stored Abroad

The Microsoft Corp. logo at a launch event for the company's Windows 8.1 operating system in Tokyo, on Oct. 18, 2013.
The Microsoft Corp. logo at a launch event for the company's Windows 8.1 operating system in Tokyo, on Oct. 18, 2013. Kiyoshi Ota—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The tech giant said acceding to the U.S. request for an email from a data storage site in Dublin, Ireland would "violate international law and treaties, and reduce the privacy protection of everyone on the planet"

Microsoft is opposing a U.S. government request that would force the technology giant to hand over a customer’s email stored in an Ireland data center, the latest tech challenge of federal information requests after the Snowden disclosures.

The company said in a court filing made public Monday that the judicial order to hand over email stored in a data center in Dublin, Ireland “would violate international law and treaties, and reduce the privacy protection of everyone on the planet.”

Microsoft’s argument is partially based on the premise that the Fourth Amendment requires the government to specify the place to be searched. As the email is stored in Ireland, Microsoft said, the U.S. government would be violating the “territorial integrity of sovereign nations.”

The U.S. government’s ability to sweep up emails stored in data centers abroad would hurt Microsoft’s business, the company said, as well as other American companies.

Federal prosecutors argued in February that a court can order companies to release records, regardless of where the records are stored. A judge in April agreed, saying that a search for digital information occurs when information is exposed to possible human observation, “such as when it appears on a screen,” rather than when it is copied by the hard drive.

Microsoft’s latest challenge came in the last week and was first reported yesterday by the New York Times.

Tech companies like Microsoft have begun resisting the government’s efforts to obtain their data. Google is laying a fiberoptic cable under the world’s oceans which would allow it better protect its customers’ data, and is also encrypting more of its information, and companies are building data centers abroad.

Forrester Research has estimated that the potential lost sales for U.S. tech companies abroad hurt over the Snowden revelations could be as high as $180 billion, or 25 percent of industry revenue.

TIME Technology and Media

Netflix Will Stop Shaming Verizon on Streaming Speeds

Netflix Ends Messages Blaming Verizon
The logo of Netflix, the biggest driver of Internet bandwidth, is displayed on an iPhone. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Company still maintains that Verizon is to blame for slow buffering

Netflix said Monday it would stop displaying a message that blames Verizon for slow buffering speeds, five days after Verizon issued a cease and desist letter.

The streaming service still maintains that Internet providers are to blame for slow speeds. But the company said in a blog post that the “small scale test” in which it told consumers about that on screen will stop June 16 while Netflix evaluates “rolling it out more broadly.”

“Some broadband providers argue that our actions, and not theirs, are causing a degraded Netflix experience,” the company said. “Netflix does not purposely select congested routes. We pay some of the world’s largest transit networks to deliver Netflix video right to the front door of an ISP. Where the problem occurs is at that door — the interconnection point — when the broadband provider hasn’t provided enough capacity to accommodate the traffic their customer requested.”

Though Netflix inked a deal with Verizon to improve streaming speed in April, the public finger-pointing set off a public relations battle between the two companies. And Netflix published of an ISP Speed Index that lists Verizon delivering content at the lowest speeds in the U.S. Netflix says the Index is intended to inform users of their Internet speeds, but the messages that followed—“The Verizon network is crowded right now”—led Verizon to cry foul and dismiss it as a “PR stunt.”

“There is no basis for Netflix to assert that issues with respect to playback of any particular video session are attributable solely to the Verizon network,” Verizon said in the cease and desist letter. “As Netflix knows, there are many different factors that can affect traffic on the Internet.”

TIME media and technology

Comcast Urges Congress to Back Time Warner Cable Merger

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Examining the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger and the Impact on Consumers
From left: David Cohen, executive vice president of the Comcast Corporation, speaks with Arthur Minson Jr., executive vice president and CFO of the Time Warner Cable Inc., before the start of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 9, 2014. Michael Reynolds—EPA

The cable giant told lawmakers that a merger with Time Warner Cable would be good for customers and would not increase prices

Comcast on Wednesday sought to win over lawmakers reviewing its proposed $45-billion merger with Time Warner Cable, arguing to an audience without many vocal critics of the politically-connected cable giant that the corporate marriage would be good for consumers.

David Cohen, the company’s executive vice president, told a Senate panel that the merger would provide customers with faster broadband, greater network reliability and security, better in-home Wi-Fi, and greater Video On Demand choices. And he sought to reassure lawmakers worried that the merger—which would combine the top two cable providers and two of the top three broadband Internet providers—will not increase costs for consumers.

“I can make you and the members of this committee one absolute commitment, which is that there is nothing in this transaction that will cause anybody’s cable bills to go up,” Cohen said.

For an issue with such high stakes, the tone of the hearing was low key. Democratic senators were largely deferential to Cohen, a major Democratic donor and fundraiser for President Barack Obama’s campaigns who has also contributed to Republicans. Most Republicans seemed inclined to support the merger, which must be approved by the FCC and Justice Department, on free market grounds.

“Too often government intervention in such matters risks harming consumer welfare and innovation by protecting insufficient competitors from market forces,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said. “Regulators must be especially careful not to intervene unwisely in such technologically dynamic markets.”

Still, several lawmakers expressed concerns and reacted skeptically to claims that prices won’t rise, noting that 27 of the top 30 markets would be controlled by the new Comcast-Time Warner Cable behemoth. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was the most vocal opponent on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees antitrust issues and is reviewing the merger. Franken noted that Comcast argued for its 2010 acquisition of NBC Universal by pointing to Time Warner Cable as a fierce competitor.

“Comcast can’t have it both ways,” Franken said. “It can’t say that the existence of competition among distributors, including Time Warner Cable, was a reason to approve the NBC deal in 2010 and then turn around a few years a later and say the absence of competition with Time Warner Cable is a reason to approve this deal.”

The rate of cable-price increases was more than double the rate of inflation in the 15 years through 2012, according to Consumer Reports. Time Warner Cable was spun off from TIME parent company Time Warner in 2009.

The hearing got more lighthearted when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he’s a DirecTV subscriber and looking to switch.

“I’ve got problems with DirecTV when the weather’s bad,” said Graham of his dish service, “so I’m trying to revisit this.” A few minutes later, after a back-and-forth about how cable companies don’t compete with each other, Graham came back with a softball for Cohen: “So in my case, I wouldn’t be losing choice, the theory would be I could have a new choice with more services with the merger,” Graham said. “Is that correct?”

“I should let you take the witness stand,” Cohen replied. “Because that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say.”

TIME Companies

Uber Will Launch Courier Service in New York on Tuesday

Delivering packages by bike and on foot, UberRush will serve as an "Uber for things," according to general manager Josh Mohrer.

Uber, the popular driver-for-hire company that has made waves for the threat it poses to traditional taxi and limo companies, is setting its sights on a new frontier: courier service. On Tuesday, the app-based service will launch UberRush, through which users can hire foot or bike messengers to send packages from Manhattan to anywhere else in the city, according to CNBC.

Josh Mohrer, the general manager of UberNYC, told CNBC, “It’s an Uber for things.”

The new 24-hour, 7-day-a-week service will reportedly cost between $15 and $30 depending on how far the courier has to travel. Deliveries are expected to take less than an hour. Both senders and recipients will also be able to track their package’s progress within the new app. Uber did not tell CNBC how many couriers will be available though Mohrer said the company will “always have enough” people.

The startup, which launched in 2009 and now operates in more than 70 cities, began testing delivery services with Christmas trees, kittens and ice cream last year.

[CNBC]

TIME media and technology

Report: Yahoo Wants to Make Cable-Style TV Shows

The Davos World Economic Forum 2014
Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! Jason Alden—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Yahoo is reportedly looking to enter the online TV show arena as the online giant aims to schedule 10-episode, half-hour comedies with per-episode budgets ranging from $700,000 to a few million dollars

Yahoo is breaking into television with plans to order four Web series as the company plans to challenge high-end cable networks and streaming services like Netflix for ad dollars, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper cited anonymous sources saying the Internet giant is looking to provide alternatives to Google’s YouTube by reportedly aiming to schedule 10-episode, half hour comedies with per-episode budgets ranging from $700,000 to a few million dollars. The projects would be led by writers and directors with television experience.

The deals haven’t been finalized, but would be part of Yahoo’s plan to try to shift advertisers’ budgets to online. The company is reportedly looking at the same types of shows Netflix and Amazon are eyeing.

Under CEO Marissa Mayer, Yahoo has worked hard to improve its video content, striking partnerships with TV news journalist Katie Couric and former New York Times tech columnist David Pogue, as well entering talks to acquire online video service News Distribution Network Inc.

[WSJ]

TIME Companies

Mark Zuckerberg Made a Killing on Facebook Stock Last Year

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers a speech in the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Feb. 24, 2014 David Ramos—/Getty Images

The co-founder and CEO of the social network brought in $3.3 billion by exercising stock options in 2013, a year after he made $2.3 billion from selling shares. The company's stock has been on the rise over the last year thanks to stronger mobile ad sales

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a whopping $3.3 billion last year by exercising stock options for his shares in the social-networking company he co-founded, according to new documents.

The massive haul was revealed in regulatory documents filed Monday, the Associated Press reports. This after he made $2.3 billion from Facebook stock options in 2012, the year the company went public. The initial public offering was notoriously troubled, but the stock has performed well recently, more than doubling in value in the last year on the strength of mobile-ad sales.

Zuckerberg still owns Facebook shares worth about $25.7 billion.

[AP]

TIME media and technology

Facebook Eyes Using Drones to Deliver Internet

Facebook CEO Zuckerberg addresses the audience during a media event at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park
Robert Galbraith—Reuters

Mark Zuckerberg reveals a grand plan to bring Internet access to parts of the world that typically without it—through drones, satellites and lasers. Lofty as it sounds, its Connectivity Lab could become a major competitor with Google's Project Loon, which uses helium balloons to beam Internet to those below

Facebook is friending drones.

The social network’s founder Mark Zuckerberg revealed Thursday that the company’s ambitious plan to bring Internet access to the parts of the world without it will use drones to do. A year after announcing the Internet.org project, Zuckerberg said Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is making progress as it works to “build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the internet to everyone.” The project will do nothing less, he said, than “beam internet to people from the sky.”

“Over the past year, our work in the Philippines and Paraguay alone has doubled the number of people using mobile data with the operators we’ve partnered with, helping 3 million new people access the internet,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. “We’re going to continue building these partnerships, but connecting the whole world will require inventing new technology too.”

Facebook’s Connectivity Lab could become a major competitor with Google’s Project Loon, which is using helium balloons to beam Internet access down to people below. Reports recently surfaced that Facebook is mulling an acquisition of the drone company Titan Aerospace.

TIME media and technology

Apple and Comcast Eye Streaming Partnership

Two giants are considering teaming up at a time when net neutrality rules are in doubt

Apple is reportedly looking to team up with Comcast as part of its attempt to establish a stronger foothold in television.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, reports that the two companies could soon ink a partnership that would allow Apple’s set-top box Apple TV to stream large amounts of video content over Comcast’s broadband cables without worrying about a slowdown in speeds. The talks, which could still lead nowhere, come at a time when so-called net neutrality rules governing equal access to the Internet are in doubt, and as non-traditional content providers like Netflix are considering whether it’s worth securing dedicated lanes of service from Internet providers.

Apple TV has been slower to penetrate the market than Apple’s other products, but a deal with Comcast could potentially change that. Apple is the world’s most valuable company and Comcast is the country’s largest cable and Internet provider.

The deal being considered, the Journal reports, would allow Apple TV content to travel over the faster so-called “managed service” path that Comcast uses for on-demand products.

[WSJ]

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