Remember that pesky anti-trust suit that Apple faced over fixing eBook prices with publishers? Well if not, let me remind you. When Apple brought their eBook store to iOS they knew they were facing an uphill battle against Amazon. To counter this they worked out a deal with several publishers to fix prices at a certain level and also to guarantee that they got the best prices along with a few exclusive books. They were found guilty of this and are supposed to be making amends for it along with having a watchdog looking over their shoulders.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission approved Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp, which was announced in February. Before finalizing the transaction, companies will have to wait for approvals from other international regulators in countries where both companies operate. However, the FTC's approval did not come without warning and instructions related to the issue that stood out as the most contentious - the protection of user data.
Facebook is a company that we all love to hate and is one that none of us seem to be able to get away from. Much like Google Facebook has become so big that they feel they can do what they want with impunity; at least in regards to their users’ data. Over the last few years Facebook has come under fire for a number of things they have done with user information and even things they publicly said they wanted to do with user information. The latest one involves their attempts to use your information including picture, name, and other identifying information for… well anything they want.
In Mid-2011 it was revealed that many Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) devices were visible on the internet with a simple Google search. What was even more terrifying was that many of these devices still had the default username and password set and were visible in the search results. In 2009 someone with the same idea developed a search engine that was able to find connected devices as a service making it easier to find them and… exploit them. In January of 2012 a security flaw was found in the way that many (if not all) connected IP cameras operated. The flaw was originally found in a TRENDNet’s IP camera (a discontinued one) and it was a serious one.
Google has agreed to settle with the FTC over accusations that they bypassed security features in Safari to track users’ internet habits. Although Google often comments that they maintain the highest privacy and security standards for its users they have been repeatedly in the news for violations of privacy. Let’s face it, Google wants and needs data they really do not care so much about how they get it as long as they do. They have been in trouble over street view, Google Maps, Google Docs, Chrome, and now for tracking people when they specifically use features to prevent them from being tracked.
We have been saying for a number of years now, but the Patent System is broken. Now the FTC might be starting to agree with some of the sentiment that we have been hearing from many media outlets. In a very important move the FTC feels that the continued request for import and sales bans whenever there is a patent dispute is causing “substantial harm” to consumers.
In the very recent past the NSA and other governmental agencies have tried to show Anonymous as a terrorist organization. To do this they are using very basic definitions of the term; after all a terrorist uses fear to achieve their goals. However, if you can qualify Anonymous as a terrorist organization based on the loose definition and the fact that fear of them uncovering the truth has led to changes in many areas then you can also classify the MPAA, RIAA, NSA and other organizations as terrorist too.
The news has been buzzing with talk of Google’s new combined privacy policies and the impact they will have on the user’s personal information. This is due to the way that Google is moving to a combined user format and will allow for the sharing of user information between different platforms and services. Now, we agree that this is not a good thing and is something that Google needs to reverse their decision on, but there is something else at stake here. This is something that most publications have missed the boat on and one that I think even Google has not considered…
The online activist collective known as Anonymous has undergone a lot of changes in the years that is has been around. We have followed them and covered some of their highlights (and some of their blunder). They provide an interesting commentary on society and the internet. In a time when it has been commented that the media controls the information and governments are abusing their power, they almost act like a policing body. This is not to say that the activities of their members are always honest and forthright, in fact there are times when members of the collective do things that are appalling. However, we are seeing them bring some corporate and governmental practices into the open.
There are things that I find ironic but that seem to go unnoticed by many (mostly the press). Today I read an article that the FTC is looking into claims that Google might have put restrictions in place for manufacturers that make Android based smart phones. Now, I have no lover for Google. I think they do not care about people’s privacy, ignore laws and worse. However, to see the FTC starting to investigate them for antitrust issues is laughable when this same commission said there was no credible evidence that Apple was doing this. It is funny that the investigation appears to be looking into if Google is preventing the use of services such as mapping, navigation etc. other than their own on Android based phones. After all wasn’t it Apple that put a stipulation to app developers that they could not develop an app that reproduced core functions of the phone?
Then there was Steve Job’s rather public rant about never allowing flash on the iPhone, their arbitrary app approval process and many other items are even more conclusive. To me this illustrates that our federal regulators have no clue what is going on and only do what they are told by the person throwing the most cash around The Hill. Interestingly enough that used to be Michael Schmidt and Google, but now we see Google’s charm wearing off.
Still I am glad to see that the FTC is looking into some of the advertising and search practices that Google is participating in. For years it has pretty much been common knowledge that Google stacks some of the search results and their ad placement is something of a joke. Maybe some good will come of this, but they really need to stop turning a blind eye to companies like Apple and begin to actually do their jobs and protect the public from ALL companies that participate in this type of activity.
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