Google, EU Could Reach Settlement By Fall – But Some Complainants Skeptical About Search Giant’s Proposal

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The European Commission’s investigation into Google’s search practices could wrap up this fall if the group finds the search engine giant’s concessions acceptable.

The commission, the executive arm of the European Union, began probing Google’s methods after receiving a number of complaints from companies, including Microsoft, that say the technology firm uses its monopoly of the market to give its own products and services prominence over that of its competitors.

In an attempt to avoid  being fined by the EU, Google has since come forward with a settlement proposal — a proposal that must be approved by the commission.

EU anti-trust chief Joaquin Almunia told a Concurrences Journal conference the parties should be able to reach a consensus after the commission reconvenes from its summer break in August.

“We could have an accord after the summer vacations, if this all works,” he was quoted by Bloomberg. “That would be my favorite solution, but it doesn’t depend on me.”

Almunia is hopeful he can begin checking Google’s offer with rivals and customers “in the coming months”  — once officials conclude their scrutiny of the proposed settlement. If that procedure is concluded without any snags, the EU could make Google’s offer legally binding and forgo all fines, he told Bloomberg.

Although neither side has made public details of the proposed settlement, sources close to the issue told Reuters Google has offered to label its own services in search results to distinguish them from competitors’ services. It has also proposed fewer limitations on advertisers.

According to Reuters, at least some of those to lodge complaints against Google are skeptical the settlement will occur so soon.

“We will withhold judgment on Google’s proposals until we have seen them, but everything we have learned about Google makes us skeptical that it would volunteer truly effective remedies until it has been formally charged with infringement,” said Shivaun Raff CEO of complainant Foundem.

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Google, EU Could Reach Settlement By Fall

Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest Users’ Data in Hands of Hackers – Customer Support Service Zendesk Source of Security Breach

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Hackers have breached customer support service Zendesk, accessing the personal data, including e-mail addresses, of some Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest users.

Zendesk, the cloud-based customer support service used by the three social networks, has revealed it is that latest in a string of companies to be hit by hackers.

“We’ve become aware that a hacker accessed our system this week,” said Zendesk’s CEO Mikkel Svane in a blog post. “As soon as we learned of the attack, we patched the vulnerability and closed the access that the hacker had. Our ongoing investigation indicates that the hacker had access to the support information that three of our customers store on our system.

“We believe that the hacker downloaded e-mail addresses of users who contacted those three customers for support, as well as support e-mail subject lines. We notified our affected customers immediately and are working with them to assist in their response.”

Twitter said it is e-mailing “a small percentage” of users who “may have been affected by Zendesk’s breach. No passwords involved.”

Pinterest is sending the following advisory to affected users: “Unfortunately your name, e-mail address and subject line of your message were improperly accessed” during Zendesk’s security breach. Pinterest is urging it users to be on the lookout for fishy e-mail messages requesting their password.

Tumblr has also sent out an advisory to affected users: “The subject lines of your e-mails to Tumblr Support may have included the address of your blog which could potentially allow your blog to be unwillingly associated with your e-mail address.

“Any other information included in the subject lines of emails you’ve sent to Tumblr Support may be exposed,” the advisory said. “We’re working with law enforcement and Zendesk to better understand this attack.”

Zendeck, which services more than 20,000 clients, including large corporation such as Sears and Groupon, said an investigation revealed none of its other customers (or their users) were affected during the hack.

“We’re incredibly disappointed that this happened and are committed to doing everything we can to make certain it never happens again,” Svane said. “We’ve already taken steps to improve our procedures and will continue to build even more robust security systems. We will continue to diligently work with our affected customers to mitigate any impact.

Svane said the company is working with authorities “to bring anyone involved to justice” as well as to discover how the breach occurred.

The breach at Zendesk comes days after security firm Mandiant released a report that points a finger at a Chinese military unit as the source of at least 141 attacks against Western corporations and defense contactors.

Zendesk is one of many high profile hacks in recent weeks.  Facebook, Apple and Twitter have all been hacked this year due to flaws in Oracle’s Java software. A Java zero-day exploit allowed malware to access the computers of both Facebook and Apple employees. It has recently come to light that the breach of 250,000 Twitter users’ information is also linked to the zero-day exploit.

Twitter has been inundated with account hacks. The accounts of Burger King and Jeep were also targeted this week.

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Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest Users’ Data in Hands of Hackers

Technology News Briefs — Feb. 22, 2013

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Facebook Won’t Let 104-Year-Old Woman Enter Age

You can’t be more than 100 years old and use Facebook.

Whenever 104-year-old Facebook user Marguerite Joseph, of Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., tries to enter her date of birth — 1908 — on her profile, the social network simply won’t let her. Facebook, instead, insists Joseph must really mean 1928.

Marguerite Joseph

Marguerite Joseph

Joseph, who will be 105 in April and is legally blind, uses Facebook with the help of granddaughter Gail Marlow to stay in touch with her many family members.

Marlow, who responds to her grandmother’s messages every day, told Channel 4 in Detroit  whenever she tried to change the settings to 1908, Facebook “always came back with an unknown error message and would send us right back to a year she wasn’t born in.”

“I would love to see her real age on Facebook, I mean in April she’s going to be 105,” Marlow said. “It’s special.”

Facebook has since issued the following statement: “We’ve recently discovered an issue whereby some Facebook users may be unable to enter a birthday before 1910. We are working on a fix for this and we apologize for the inconvenience.”

Instagram Shuns BlackBerry 10 — For Now

Instagram will not be developing a version of its popular app for BlackBerry’s Z10 or Q10 — at least not any time soon.

“There will be no (native) Instagram for BB10 for now,” an unnamed source familiar with the matter told AllThingsD. “Frankly, I’m not sure there will ever be.”

Instagram is, however, working on a port of the Android version of the app, but it simply will not offer BlackBerry 10 users the same sort of experience as those developed on BlackBerry’s Cascades SDK. Port versions often operate lethargically and seem disconnected from the rest of the operating system.

Instagram’s decision is bad news for BlackBerry — the app is used by more than 90 million people monthly and may make some fans think twice about purchasing one of the company’s new Smartphones.

Facebook Blocks NBC.com After Hack

Facebook is blocking NBC.com after the site suffered a brief security breach Feb. 21.

Facebook users attempting to share links from NBC.com were receiving an error message that said the feature was not currently available. “An error occurred while processing this request. Please try again later,” said a message when users tried to post from www.nbc.com.

Users who clicked on a link received a different message: “This link has been reported as abusive.”

NBC.com and other NBC websites were breached by Redkit malware that also could have affected visitors who accessed the sites. NBC said no user information was compromised.

Other sites, including Google, are also warning users of potential security issues with NBC websites.

 

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Technology News Briefs — Feb. 22, 2013