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Monthly Archives: November 2009

Aussie Kids Get Internet Panic Button

In Australia, children who are being bullied, harassed online will be able to call for help instantly using a "panic button" on their PCs. This is a plan being considered by the Australian Federal Government's cyber-safety working group. Parents would be offered a downloadable free "widget" for their children's computers and, if the kids ever encounter serious trouble online, clicking the button could connect them instantly to police or child protection groups. The panic button idea has also been gaining ground in Britain, while it is a definite future plan for the Australian government. Bebo, a popular social networking site, recently implemented a similar button on its website, offered for free to web companies by the British group Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop). But other sites like Facebook and MySpace have so far resisted Ceop's calls for... --

The FTC Finally Puts a Stop to the BlueHippo

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has had it with BlueHippo, which offers computers on layaway to consumers too poor to buy one outright. Buyers put up $99 to $124 in down payments, and then make regular payments of $36 to $88. After 13 of these payments have come in on time, the company claims it will send out a computer, while the payments continue until the machine is completely paid off. Unfortunately for BlueHippo, the FTC smelled a scam. People were simply not getting machines, and BlueHippo's "cancellation policy" required people to send in prepaid money orders first, even if their account contained enough money to cover the necessary fees, something not allowed under FTC consumer protection rules. In 2008, BlueHippo settled with the agency, however and under the terms of the deal, BlueHippo would pay... --

Entire Town’s Network Punished for One Download

The MPAA has just successfully shut down an entire town's municipal WiFi network because a single user was caught downloading a copyrighted movie. This gross example of collective punishment in Coshocton, OH, a practice actually outlawed in the Geneva Conventions, was emabarrassing in generous terms, but the MPAA's spokesman decided to cry poor, despite the studios bringing in record box-office and aftermarket numbers. Coshocton's IT Director, Mike LaVigne, said that the number of people who access the Internet using this specific connection varies widely, from approximately a dozen people a day to 100 during busy times, such as First Fridays and the Coshocton Canal Festival. It's also used by Coshocton County Sheriff's deputies who can park in the 300 block and complete traffic or incident reports without leaving their vehicle. Out-of-town business people can park and... --

Has Google Tried To Steal a Startup’s Idea?

Bills that would require organizations to notify consumers if their personal information has been compromised have been in the Senate for some time now, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved two of them on Thursday. Getting out of the Senate is a critical step toward the creation of a national data-breach notification bill, which is the ultimate goal. A variety of consumer advocacy groups, technology vendors, and privacy groups have long been calling for Congress to pass a comprehensive federal data-breach notification bill. Several of these have been introduced in both the House and the Senate in recent years, but none of them have made it to the president's desk as of yet. Each of bills from Thursday would mandate that organizations that store consumers' sensitive data must notify consumers if that data is breached. Senate... --

New Music Rec Machine Rivals Apple’s Genius

Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego have recently been pitting Apple's Genius music recommender program against their self-proclaimed, new and improved version, which is said to include an ignored sector of music, dubbed the 'long tail', in music recommendations. It's always been well known that radio suffers from a popularity bias, in which the most popular songs receive an inordinate amount of airtime, while less popular, sometimes better music is heard very rarely. In Apple's music recommender system, iTunes' Genius, this bias is magnified.  Genius uses “collaborative filtering” on purchase statistics from iTunes Store- they've sold over 6 billion tracks- in order to help people organize their music and discover songs and artists they've never heard based on similarity to a “seed” song that they have liked in the past. But an underground artist will... --

PayPal Releases APIs

At the inaugural PayPal X Innovate 2009 conference in San Francisco, the company officially announced the PayPal X program, to release APIs. This allows developers to integrate PayPal seamlessly into third-party applications, ultimately helping PayPal compete against similar online payment services. The new PayPal APIs allow developers to engage customers directly and within their own applications, where it has always been the custom to force users to visit the actual PayPal website. With the new system, customers who don't use PayPal can sign up for the service within the third-party application, able to begin making payments seamlessly and immediately. PayPal intends to make it simpler for developers to leverage its payment system, and hopefully for the company, make PayPal a sort of de facto currency for the Web. Another part of the goal is expanding the types of transactions PayPal is used for, including things like paying rent, or employee payroll. PayPal has been an... --

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