TIME Google

Google Starts Scrubbing News Articles From Search After Court Ruling

'The ruling has created a stopwatch on free expression,' one British editor wrote

Raising concerns about censorship and the freedom of the press, articles from major British news outlets are beginning to be removed from some Google search results after a European court ruling began allowing citizens to request their personal histories to be scrubbed from search engines.

The Guardian and the BBC have both received takedown notices from Google, informing them that articles they have written about certain public figures will no longer appear in search results when users search for certain names because of the so-called “right to be forgotten.”

According to The Guardian, Google removed three articles about Dougie McDonald, a retired soccer referee who was forced to resign after a controversial penalty call in 2010. The articles can still be found through some Google searches, but they don’t appear when searching for McDonald’s name. Another article about French workers making art with post-it notes is being affected, as is another about a solicitor facing a fraud trial. It’s also become harder to search for a BBC blog post critical of former Merrill Lynch chairman Stan O’Neal and his actions before the 2008 global financial crisis.

It’s not clear who requested the removals, but it’s likely to have been someone either mentioned in the articles or whose names appeared in the articles’ comments sections. Generally, the results are only censored in search results for the name of the person who requested the takedown. That can make it possible to identify the name involved in the request, if not the identity of the requester.

The search changes that have already taken place illustrate the difficult balance Google and European regulators must strike to enforce the Right To Be Forgotten, which enshrines individual privacy online while sacrificing some elements of free speech. Several British journalists, including Guardian editor James Ball, have spoken out against what they view as a form of censorship.

“The Guardian, like the rest of the media, regularly writes about things people have done which might not be illegal but raise serious political, moral or ethical questions,” Guardian editor James Ball wrote in a post discussing the removals. “The ruling has created a stopwatch on free expression – our journalism can be found only until someone asks for it to be hidden.”

Google has already received more than 70,000 requests to scrub web pages from its search results since the ruling came down in May. That ruling says individuals can request search engines to remove information about them that’s no longer relevant or timely. The definition of “relevant” is, of course, subjective. That ambiguity has made Google an arbiter for what does and doesn’t deserve to remain readily accessible on the Internet — if Google refuses to comply with a takedown request, individuals have the right to litigate the issue in court, a process that could rack up huge legal fees for Google.

Google hasn’t disclosed how many requests it has approved or the guidelines it’s using to make approval decisions. “This is a new and evolving process for us,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We’ll continue to listen to feedback and will also work with data protection authorities and others as we comply with the ruling.”

For now, the removals only seem to affect the European versions of Google’s website. Searches on Google.com, the U.S.-based version of Google, still display the articles in question for all queries.

TIME Companies

Google’s Blocking an Email Because Goldman Sachs Asked It To

Goldman Sachs Google Email Mistake
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. signage is displayed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, U.S. Bloomberg/Getty Images

Google is blocking a user's access after Goldman accidentally sent a confidential message to the wrong person

Google is blocking a Gmail user from accessing a confidential message that was accidentally sent by a Goldman Sachs contractor, a Goldman spokesperson told Reuters Wednesday. The email, which contained privileged client information, was sent to a “@gmail.com” address instead of “@gs.com.”

The email snafu, which occurred on June 23, may have resulted in a “needless and massive” breach of privacy, Goldman told Reuters, leading the company to ask Google to block the message. A Goldman spokeswoman said Google complied with the investment bank’s request.

The e-mail, however, has not been deleted, an act which would require a court order, according to Google’s “incident response team.” Goldman accordingly filed a complaint on Friday in a New York state court in Manhattan.

“Emergency relief is necessary to avoid the risk of inflicting a needless and massive privacy violation upon Goldman Sachs’ clients, and to avoid the risk of unnecessary reputational damage to Goldman Sachs,” the financial firm stated in the court documents.

The contractor had been testing changes to the bank’s internal processes, Goldman said. The bank did not confirm how many clients were affected.

[Reuters]

TIME Security

How to Hunt a Chinese Hacker

Private security firm Crowdstrike says alleged hacker Chen Ping was an avid photographer. CrowdStrike Intelligence Report

The private firm CrowdStrike followed an alleged Chinese hacker's footprints and uncovered a detailed picture of a menace to U.S. businesses

There are many photographs of Chen Ping. In one, he’s scarfing down pastries at a birthday party. In another, the camera catches him mid-laugh, standing in front of an ivy-covered wall. Chen photographed his dorm room, too, with bottles of rice liquor splayed across a desk next to a potted plant, clothes hanging in the corner. In a garden, he took photos of his girlfriend, catching a pleasant smile.

The photos are curious because Chen was supposed to be one of the faceless warriors in an emerging global cyber-war, according to researchers at the Internet security firm CrowdStrike. But the 35-year-old former resident of Shanghai left a trail of clues and photographs that researchers say led back to a People’s Liberation Army headquarters, where a covert team of Chinese hackers has been attacking telecommunications and satellite companies in the U.S. for at least seven years. The CrowdStrike researchers nicknamed Chen’s hacking ring “Putter Panda.”

To the Chinese army, the hackers are known only as People’s Liberation Army Unit 61486 — a group that a U.S. government official confirmed in an interview with TIME was responsible for cyber-attacks on American companies. The group came to light in a recent New York Times story. And Project 2049, a nongovernmental think tank based in Arlington, Va., claimed in a 2011 report that Unit 61486 was involved in the interception of satellite communications, as well as the acquisition of research in satellite imagery. But it wasn’t until researchers at CrowdStrike tracked down the hacker called Chen that the world got an unprecedented inside look at one of China’s notorious cyber-attack units.

CrowdStrike is part of a fast-growing group of young companies including FireEye, Sourcefire, OpenDNS and others that are challenging more established players for a bigger claim to the $67 billion cyber-security industry. They’re doing that by tracking state-sponsored hackers like Unit 61486 and independent cyber-criminals alike, anticipating their attacks before they happen. According to research firm Gartner, the security-technology industry is expected to grow to $86 billion by 2016. As cyber-attacks from state-sponsored hackers simply become a cost of doing business for many American companies, security researchers are making money by stalking hackers through fiber-optic cables and web domains to their computers back home.

At CrowdStrike, a 20-person team of researchers used technology ranging from the cutting-edge to the prosaic to find Chen’s Shanghai office address, and then monitored him and his colleagues. Companies like CrowdStrike say they are the first line of defense for U.S. companies’ intellectual property. “This is like real-time warfare,” says George Kurtz, co-founder of CrowdStrike. “We’re able to see exactly what they’re trying to do, where they’re trying to go and able to stop them in their tracks.”

Digital Warfare

It’s become increasingly clear that the future of espionage will be played out through fiber-optic cables, web servers and other computer systems. Cyber-espionage costs U.S. companies $30 billion each year in lost intellectual property alone, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and that doesn’t include the cost of cleaning up and recovering information. The FBI notified 3,000 U.S. companies that they had been hacked in 2013 by cyber-criminals or Chinese state actors. “We remain concerned that Chinese authorities continue to use cyber-operations to steal information and intellectual property from U.S. entities for the purpose of giving Chinese companies a competitive advantage,” a senior administration official told TIME.

Cyber-attacks are not a one-way street, of course. The National Security Agency is believed to have developed powerful capabilities to strike foreign entities. The U.S. badly disrupted Iran’s nuclear program through targeted network attacks in 2009 and 2010, according to multiple reports at the time. And the Edward Snowden leaks revealed that the NSA is engaged in the surveillance of email and telecommunications around the world, with the primary aim of bolstering U.S. national security — rather than the bottom lines of U.S. companies.

But security experts say Chinese cyber-programs are broadly focused on disrupting foreign businesses, taking valuable intellectual property and sensitive bidding information that Chinese corporations can use to their advantage. After hacking American manufacturers and corporations, the PLA passes on information to Chinese state-owned enterprises, often for a fee, says Jim Lewis, the director of strategic technologies at CSIS and a former foreign-service officer with the Departments of State and Commerce. Chinese corporate hacking is a robust industry, not limited to stealing foreign commercial secrets but also involves Chinese companies trying to best each other. “The Chinese are far and away the global leaders in terms of commercial espionage,” says Lewis. “The PLA will steal the F-35 plans, but they’ll also steal paint formulas or soap formulas.”

By keeping tabs on hackers and publishing open reports, private security companies like CrowdStrike may also be playing a role in pushing the U.S. to prosecute hackers. Last year, security firm Mandiant identified a different Chinese army group, Unit 61398, that allegedly hacked a broad swath of U.S. companies. Then in May, the Justice Department made history by charging five individuals from Unit 61398 for hacking U.S. businesses. The Chinese government denied the Justice Department’s claims, calling the accusations of hacking “made up” in official statements. “China is a staunch defender of network security, and the Chinese government, military and associated personnel have never engaged in online theft of trade secrets,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said last month.

CrowdStrike had long been keeping tabs on Chen’s Unit 61486 for its customers, but it wasn’t until the Chinese government’s denials that the firm decided to publicize its findings. “We put out the report specifically based on the denials of the Chinese government after the Department of Justice indictment,” says Kurtz. “We kind of got fed up and said, O.K., here’s a totally separate group than the one that was focused on by the DOJ and here’s all the proof.” CrowdStrike says it alerted the U.S. government before it released its report.

Unit 61486 began exploiting vulnerabilities in Microsoft and Adobe coding as early as 2007, hacking satellite and telecommunications companies, says Adam Meyers, head of intelligence at CrowdStrike. “There was a massive number of targets and data that were hit,” Meyers says.

Following Chen’s Tracks

Meyers’ team at CrowdStrike compiled a startling amount of information about Chen Ping (who happens to have a very common name), the alleged member of Unit 61486. CrowdStrike first looked at remote web domains being used to direct and control malware on infected computers. The web domains had to be registered, and the team found that many of the domains were registered under the same email addresses. One registered at least a half-dozen of the website domain names; someone with another email address registered several as well.

The big find, however, was a certain “cpyy” — operating with two major email providers — who had registered a large number of the remote malware-control domains. The CrowdStrike team cast a wide net to find cpyy, trailing the nom de guerre to a personal blog by a registrant named Chen. Chen’s blog profile, all in Chinese, stated he was born on May 25, 1979, and that he worked for the “military/police.” Another cpyy blog listed the identical birthdate and noted that the user lived in Shanghai. The blog said, “Soldier’s duty is to defend the country, as long as our country is safe, our military is excellent.” Meyers’ team was fairly certain it was the same Chen, given that same handle appeared repeatedly, but they needed more evidence to connect him to the PLA.

Sifting through the public records that connected Chen’s online profiles, the team found photos he posted. He shot with a Nikon, CrowdStrike said. He had a Google Picasa album with some of the same pictures in his blog post. Photos captioned “me” showed a young man with a bemused smile, laughing in a tent with a friend, doing pull-ups in front of a group of soldiers and playing guitar in a field. He took artistic photographs of objects in what he called “office.” According to Meyers, the photos revealed Chen was not just one hacker acting alone: in one, PLA hats were stacked in the background, and another photo of satellite dishes in his album “office” indicated ties to army signals intelligence.

Intelligence reports traced Ping’s photographs of his office and matched them to satellite imagery of an army building in Shanghai, according to the CrowdStrike Intelligence Report. CrowdStrike Intelligence Report

Chen was sloppy. When he registered one of the malware-control web domains, he input a physical address that tied him to a Shanghai building near the massive satellite dishes from his photos, Meyers says. Close analysis of overhead satellite imagery linked all the buildings in Ping’s photos to the very same address. And the CrowdStrike team found a Chinese website that listed the same address as a PLA building for Ping’s unit, 61486.

That implicated Chen, the unit and by extension, the Chinese government, according to CrowdStrike. “These guys are human,” says Meyers. “Sometimes when you’re behind the keyboard and you walk away from it, you forget there are other people out there who are going to be looking for you.” (Chen did not respond to request for comment to his listed email addresses. China’s Foreign Ministry did not return requests for comment.)

Covering Up the Trail

When the Justice Department charged the five alleged Chinese hackers in May with stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies, it named the hackers in the indictment and published photos of them. To some observers it was not so much an attempt to prosecute the accused hackers, who would have to be extradited from China, but more of a clear message to the Chinese army: We know how to find you.

“Cyber-theft is real theft and we will hold state sponsored cyber-thieves accountable as we would any other transnational criminal organization that steals our goods and breaks our laws,” John Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said in a statement in May.

Experts say that going forward, the Chinese are likely to be more careful about leaving fingerprints behind in cyber-attacks.

Chen had been moved out of Shanghai to Kunming, Yunnan province, as early as 2011, CrowdStrike said, where according to Project 2049, the nongovernmental think tank, his army bureau (the 12th) has a facility. After Meyers’ team released its report, all the data that had been used to find Unit 61486 was scrubbed from the Internet, and Ping seemed to disappear. “They cleaned up all of his online presence real quick after that report came out,” Meyers says. “The next day, all of his sites were gone.”

TIME

Uber Gets Green Light in London After Massive Protests

Uber London
A London taxi driver speaks with Police Officers during a protest against a new smart phone app, 'Uber' on June 11, 2014 in London, England. Dan Kitwood—Getty Images

The ride-sharing service Uber has been given the green light by London's transport regulator, who ruled the company is legal

London’s transport regulator has said that car service startup Uber can legally operate in the British capital.

Transport for London (TfL) said Thursday that the ride-sharing service was free to continue working in London. The ruling comes in defiance of last month’s cab driver strikes held in the city and elsewhere across Europe in protest of Uber. Many cabbies argue that Uber, a San Francisco-based startup, was stealing business from them. They say Uber doesn’t follow local rules and doesn’t pay sufficient tax.

Uber, which lets customers book drivers via a smartphone app, says it’s an innovator in a rigidly conservative industry.

In a statement to the TfL board, Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport, which governs London’s above-ground transit options, noted that other cab companies have alleged Uber is not a licensed Private Hire Vehicle operator and that Uber cars come with taximeters, which are only allowed in black cabs under London law.

In response, Daniels said: “In relation to the way Uber operates in London, TfL is satisfied that based upon our understanding of the relationship between the passenger and Uber London, and between Uber London and Uber BV, registered in Holland, that it is operating lawfully.”

Daniels added that because Uber’s taximeters are smartphones, they “have no operational or physical connection with the vehicles, and [so] … are not taximeters within the meaning of the legislation.”

A British court is due to make a final ruling on whether Uber’s technology is the same as a taximeter. Their decision will be delayed while six legal cases brought by a taxi union against individual Uber drivers are heard.

 

TIME Smartphones

How to Get Great Fireworks Photos with Your Phone

Watching the July 4th fireworks has been a long-standing family tradition. But capturing the beautiful aerial displays can be hard if you stick with the auto settings on your smartphone, so try these simple tricks for fireworks photos you’ll want to keep.

1. Use a tripod

joby-griptight-gorillapod-286px
Joby

When you take picture of fireworks, your phone’s camera needs to hold the shutter open long enough to “see” the fireworks. The longer the shutter is open, the more susceptible your photo is to motion blur. So use a tripod to make sure there’s no movement. Joby’s GripTight Gorillapod, which can wrap around trees and poles or stand up on the ground, is a great option that fits most smartphones. Price: $29.95 on joby.com or $16.74 on Amazon.

2. Use the “landscape” mode

camera-plus-focux-lock-400px
The app for iOS lets you set and lock focus manually. Camera+

Your phone’s camera automatically tries to find an object on which to focus. And when presented with a black featureless sky, the camera doesn’t know what to do. By putting your camera in “landscape” mode, you’ll be presetting the focus to infinity and narrowing the lens opening, which keeps both near and far objects in focus.

If your smartphone’s camera app doesn’t have landscape mode, you’ll want to manually set the focus to infinity. There’s an infinity focus option with Shot Control ($2.99 in Google Play) for Android phones. For iPhones, you can use Camera+ ($1.99 in iTunes) and manually select and set a focal point in the distance.

If you have access to a camera, you’ll want to look for “fireworks” mode. Most point-and-shoot cameras have a button or dial with “SCN” or “Scene” on it. Otherwise you’ll find it under the “menu” button. When you put your camera in scene mode, a list of the available modes will pop up on screen. Select the one that looks like a spray of fireworks and/or says “fireworks.”

3. Turn off the flash

Turning your flash off will let your phone’s camera know that it only has available light to take a picture. This is important because the camera will then keep the shutter open long enough to capture the fireworks. The flash button is usually a separate button on the main camera app screen.

4. Turn down the ISO

High ISO will crank up the sensitivity of your phone’s camera so it can see details in the dark. However, the fireworks themselves are quite bright. So, to avoid overexposure and reduce noise, take your camera out of Auto ISO and change the setting to ISO 100 or even lower. The ISO setting is usually found under the main menu. You may have to put your camera in program mode to change this setting.

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME FindTheBest

4 Reasons Nobody Cares About Smartwatches

If you watched Google present Android Wear last week, you’d think the smartwatch was the hottest product on the market. What could be better than an intelligent timepiece that can take calls and understand voice commands?

It turns out nobody cares. At FindTheBest, we compared traffic and user engagement for dozens of product categories, from smartphones and laptops to printers and processors. The results? FindTheBest users are three times more likely to research fitness trackers than smartwatches, and over 40 times more likely to research smartphones. Even the godawful Bluetooth headset is more popular.

So we asked ourselves: why isn’t the smartwatch as popular as its wrist-based cousin, the fitness tracker? Why hasn’t the mainstream market bought in? Here are four reasons:

1. Smartwatches are too thick

According to WatchStation, the average case thickness for a standard wristwatch is between 8-12 mm, while anything in the 6-8 mm range is considered “thin.” Unfortunately, most smartwatches clock in north of 10 mm, making them seem more like clunky gadgets than sleek, sophisticated timepieces of the future. For a tech geek, this might seem like a petty complaint, but for the mass market, design and comfort beat specs and features any day (see Jobs, Steve).

 

Yes, the recent Sony SmartWatch 2 (9 mm), Samsung Gear Live (8.9 mm), and LG G Watch (9.9 mm) are thinner than most of their rivals—a promising trend for the industry. But you can’t disrupt a market when your product is about the same as existing options—you need something noticeably and undeniably better. Shave off another 3-5 mm and then we’ll talk.

2. Smartwatches are too expensive

For classic wristwatches, prices are either dirt cheap (ex: a $10 grocery store Casio) or criminally expensive (ex: a $20k Rolex). The problem? People tend to think about watches as one of these two things, and rarely anything in between. Smartwatch manufacturers have attempted to create a new price category altogether, where most models range from $100 to $250. It seems reasonable enough on paper, but regrettably, wealthy consumers don’t want Twitter updates and digital displays (smartwatches) as much as they want Swiss craftsmanship and family heirlooms (Rolexes). Meanwhile, average Joes won’t want to spend much more than they did on last year’s Casio.

 

Obviously, $10 is unreasonable for a smartwatch, but what about $50 to $99? If manufacturers can price these things more like Apple TVs and less like iPods, we might see a bump in mainstream adoption.

3. Smartwatches haven’t solved the battery life conundrum

Like prices for standard wristwatches, battery life on smartwatches is polarized. A few select models—like the Citizen Eco-Drive Proximity and ConnecteDevice Cookoo—can run for months without a single charge. Pretty much everything else will be lucky to survive a week. It gets even worse for the prettiest displays (like the LG G’s LCD screen or the Galaxy Gear’s AMOLED display), where you’ll need to plug in every night—in other words, a charging ritual no better than a smartphone’s.

The problem is that the more “smart” a watch is, the worse battery life it tends to have. Even with their months of battery life, the Citizen Eco-Drive and Cookoo are hardly smartwatches—they’re mostly analog timepieces with a couple of neat notification features. The 7-day-battery Pebble Steel is a little better, but it can’t compete feature-for-feature with the 1.5-day-battery Galaxy Gear.

 

 

In the end, smartwatch manufacturers need to rethink battery life entirely. They need to ask themselves how they can bake in all the same features without requiring customers to plug in night-after-night. If you’re not convinced this is a problem, consider that the best idea the industry has had yet is to “flick your wrist to turn on the backlight.” I mean seriously.

4. Smartwatches don’t have a compelling reason to exist

Quick: what is a smartwatch’s primary benefit, in just a few words? Voice-based texting? Safer driving? Taking calls without getting your phone out of your pocket or purse? Seeing a Facebook notification three seconds faster?

The smartwatch’s biggest issue is that it doesn’t solve any tangible problem. The first personal computers revolutionized productivity. The first MP3 players allowed people to store thousands of songs in one place. Smartphones let consumers take the Internet with them in their pocket. Even fitness trackers let people seamlessly track their exercise goals. Until the smartwatch proves it can do one thing really well—that it can solve one simple, common, necessary problem—the device will be nothing more than a hobby for geeks and an excuse for Samsung to make creepy ads. Time is ticking.

TIME Pentagon

The $100 Billion Helicopter Dogfight

The AVX entry in the Pentagon's $100 billion chopper competition. AVX

The original story of David and Goliath took place on the ground, and involved five smooth stones. But there’s a new airborne version of that ancient Biblical tale involving a pair of Davids battling three Goliaths—and a chance to land up to $100 billion in Pentagon business.

It’s all because the Army is looking to revamp its helicopter fleet over the coming decades, replacing thousands of its trusted UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache choppers with something that can fly heavier, faster and further: the trifecta of flight. The industry heavyweights—Bell Helicopter and a Boeing-Sikorsky team—are in the running.

But so are two pipsqueaks: AVX Aircraft and Karem Aircraft.

While Karem is offering a tilt-rotor design like the Bell-Boeing V-22 now being flown by the Marines, AVX’s entry is what’s called a compound coaxial helicopter. It has a pair of rotors spinning in opposite directions atop its carbon-fiber fuselage to lift it, and two ducted-fans at its rear end to push it.

The Army wants its next-gen chopper to be able to fly 265 mph (426 kph), 50% faster than a Black Hawk, and to travel 2,100 miles (3,400 km) from California to Hawaii on its own. And to be able to make that flight autonomously—with no pilot at the controls.

Both of the rotorcraft whippersnappers are run by aircraft heavyweights: AVX’s come from Bell, while Abe Karem is the engineer responsible for the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones, being built by another company.

These small bidders consist only of a relative handful of engineers and have no experience producing manned aircraft. But they seem to think of themselves more as designers and integrators who would buy the components they need from others, and perhaps team with a major partner for final assembly.

The U.S. military has upgraded its existing helicopter fleet for decades, but there is only so much improvement that can be bolted onto Reagan-era airframes. “We’ve never had the opportunity to start over fresh across [the Department of Defense] to bring a new fleet to bear that takes innovation into account,” the Army’s Dan Bailey said at a Tuesday briefing on the program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Army wants to buy up to 4,000 of the choppers beginning in the mid-2030s. It plans to narrow the four contenders down to perhaps two in about a month. If the Army scratches AVX and/or Karem from the program, they could team up with—or be bought by—one of the winners.

“It is thrilling to see how new ideas broad by a startup aircraft company, few people ever heard before, will stack-up against the arrogance of the U.S. defense establishment,” DefenceTalk.com said of AVX. “Competition cleans out inefficiency and incompetence, and the U.S. defense establishment is in need of it.”

There’s betting inside defense circles that the upstarts have scant chance against the combined clout and experience of Bell, Boeing and Sikorsky.

Of course, that’s how Chrysler, Ford and General Motors felt about newcomer Tesla, before Consumer Reports rated its battery-powered Model S the best car of the year in February.

TIME Amazon

Amazon to FTC: We’ve Done Enough to Stop Kids’ In-App Purchases

Amazon Kindle Fire
The new Amazon tablet called the Kindle Fire is displayed on September 28, 2011 in New York City. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

The online retailer says it'll defend itself in court over charges that it made in-app purchases too easy

Amazon plans to fight the Federal Trade Commission over in-app purchase policies, saying it’s done plenty to keep children from running amok with parents’ credit cards.

The FTC wants Amazon to agree to a consent order, similar to the one Apple entered earlier this year. According to the Wall Street Journal, the order would require password protection for every in-app purchase and a streamlined refund process. It could also involve fines and two decades of additional disclosures and record-keeping.

But in a response letter, published by The Next Web, Amazon said it’s ready to defend its approach in court. The retailer said it already offers prominent notice of in-app purchases and instant alerts to cardholders, and it has always offered refunds upon request. Amazon also pointed to its Kindle FreeTime service, a kid-friendly mode that blocks all purchases and lets parents select which apps their children can use. While Apple offers parental controls on its iOS devices, it doesn’t have a mode specifically for children like Amazon does.

“Pursuing litigation against a company whose practices were lawful from the outset and that already meet or exceed the requirements of the Apple consent order makes no sense, and is an unfortunate misallocation of the Commission’s resources,” Amazon said in its letter.

Amazon’s fighting words come a day after the FTC accused T-Mobile of allowing its customers to get hit with fraudulent “cramming” charges. T-Mobile said that complaint is without merit, as the company stopped allowing these charges last year, and is reaching out to offer refunds to affected customers.

[The Next Web]

TIME Google

Google Bans Porn Ads From Search Results

Updated July 2, 4:39 p.m.

Following an earlier announcement of the change, Google has begun banning pornographic ads from its search engine. As of Monday, the company now blocks explicit content from AdWords, the Google ad units that appear above users’ search results and across the Web, according to CNBC. Google now no longer accepts ads that promote “graphic sexual acts with intent to arouse.”

Google first announced the change to its advertising policy back in March. The new policy affects all countries. The company also bans ads promoting underage and non-consensual sexual content, as well prostitution and escort services. However, Google does allow ads for strip clubs and what it terms “adult and sexual dating sites.” The changes will not affect the organic results users see when conducting Google searches.

The search giant has made several moves recently to limit the amount of explicit content on its services. Earlier this year, the company issued new developer guidelines for the Google Play store that banned apps featuring erotic content.

[CNBC]

TIME National Security

Privacy Board Gives Approval to NSA Snooping

James Cole
Deputy Attorney General James Cole testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 5, 2014, before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on reforming the practice of bulk collection of telephone records by the National Security Agency and other government agencies. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

But highlights concerns about Americans getting caught in the surveillance net

The privacy oversight panel tasked with reviewing the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance activities says snooping on foreigners is legal and effective, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board ruled unanimously that Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the NSA uses to snoop on data centers located inside the U.S.—like Google, for instance—to collect the communications of foreigners “reasonably believed” to be outside the country, “has been subject to judicial oversight and extensive internal supervision.”

The panel found “no evidence of intentional abuse.” Instead, it was deemed “clearly authorized” by Congress, “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment and “an extremely valuable and effective intelligence tool.” The board added that the program “has led the government to identify previously unknown individuals who are involved in international terrorism, and it has played a key role in discovering and disrupting specific terrorist plots aimed at the United States and other countries.”

The program has been at the center of controversy over NSA documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden. The scope of this surveillance can potentially sweep up the communications of Americans, who can also be specifically targeted for surveillance if their communications yield information “about” a foreign target.

Tuesday’s report contrasts sharply with the panel’s earlier report that harshly scolded the agency and comes soon after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) slammed the intelligence community for what he called a “huge gap in oversight” of the “backdoor searches.” Wyden had been sent a letter from the Director of National Intelligence that detailed the communications collected by the program in 2013 and revealed the FBI uses the NSA data to conduct surveillance on Americans, though the agency reports it does not keep a record of how many.

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