Google’s Waze acquisition to face FTC antitrust review

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We told you previously that Google’s acquisition of mapping company Waze could be in trouble due to some questionable filing tactics and today Google confirmed that the purchase will indeed face an antirust review by the FTC (via The Wall Street Journal):

Google on Saturday confirmed that it has been contacted by lawyers from the Federal Trade Commission over the company’s $1.1 billion acquisition of the mobile navigation company Waze, which closed in mid-June.

The FTC would have to determine whether Waze would have become a head-to-head competitor with Google, whose Google Maps software is the dominant digital mapping and navigation service around the world, or whether there is any evidence, such as emails, that showed Google wanted to acquire the company only to keep it from rivals.

As noted by the WSJ, “Waze’s revenue was too low to trigger an automatic review by the agency,” but it is able to review the purchase after it’s closed.

When Google announced the acquisition earlier this month, it said Waze would continue to operate in Israel separate from the Google Maps team, but that Google would integrate its search technology into Waze products and possibly Waze’s timely road corrections and updates in Google Maps. The short term result of the review for Google, according to the report, is the “the FTC may have asked Google not to integrate with Waze” until the review is complete.  Read more

UK regulator orders Google to delete Street view data to avoid criminal charges

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Google’s run-ins with the law in Europe have not gone unnoticed. Earlier this week, the company was ordered to fix its privacy issues in France to avoid facing fines, and now a UK regulator is ordering the company to delete all remaining Street View data within 35 days to avoid facing criminal charges, the ICO reports. Should Google find any further data, then it must inform the ICO immediately.

Today’s enforcement notice strengthens the action already taken by our office, placing a legal requirement on Google to delete the remaining payload data identified last year within the next 35 days and immediately inform the ICO if any further disks are found. Failure to abide by the notice will be considered as contempt of court, which is a criminal offense.

Back in 2010, Google had reached an agreement with the IOC over the WiFi data its Street View cars had accidentally collected. Earlier this year, however, Google stated that had not deleted all the data the first time around, which the IOC was not pleased with. Should Google fail to delete the remaining data within the given time period, it will be hit with a criminal offense.  Read more

AOL launches Google Reader alternative, now in private beta; Digg Reader previewed

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Following Google’s decision to shut down Reader, many alternative RSS services have started popping up around the web. Today, AOL launched their own Reader service as a limited private beta. To get in, you’ll need to visit the AOL Reader page and enter your email address.

The service will presumably accept AOL and non-AOL addresses, but so far it doesn’t seem to provide any visual feedback or a confirmation email telling you whether you’ve been added to the beta pool when we tested with both Gmail and AOL addresses.

Additionally, Digg’s impending Reader product has gone into private beta. Gizmodo has a preview, and notes that the service, while still noted as a “beta, beta,” does a solid job of importing your feeds from Google Reader and presenting them in a nice, clean format:

Read more

Google introduces crisis map to aid in flood relief in India

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Google is once again leveraging its technology in the interest of aiding in humanitarian efforts. Yesterday the Mountain View company made a Person Finder available to provide a bridge for those affected by the floods in India, and today Google added a crisis map illustrating which areas were hit the hardest and noting points where attention is most needed.

This crisis map is only an early version aimed at providing quick information, such as, places affected, relief centers and road closures. As always, in times of such disaster, accurate information is hard to come by and our Crisis Response team has relied on scantily available information where available. For now, you’ll find the following information. We are hoping to add more as we go along.
  • Areas impacted by the floods
  • Relief centers and shelters
  • Medical Centers
  • Road closure information

Google encourages people to submit any information that could be helpful to uttarakhand-crisis@googlegroups.com to further support the mission to bring those affected by the floods in Uttarakhand back to stability. Read more

A first hands-on look at the S4 mini (video)

There’s obviously less to show here – it’s essentially a smaller, less powerful younger brother to the S4, but if – like me – you prefer your phones to be, well, phone-sized, this may well be the handset you’ve been waiting for. The poor Samsung rep said this was her first ever video demo, and it shows a little, but we can cut her some slack …

Read more about the S4 mini here. Read more

Quick hands-on demo of the Samsung S4 Galaxy Zoom Android compact camera (video)

Essentially an S4 mini married to a compact camera. With a 16MP CMOS sensor, it ought to solve the biggest problem with smartphone cameras – they are pretty hopeless in low-light conditions. With a sensitive sensor and optical image-stabilisation, this should give impressive results in bars, clubs and outdoors at night.

Read more about the Galaxy Zoom here. Read more

A quick hands-on demo of the Samsung NX interchangeable lens Android camera (video)

As a keen photographer, I use a DSLR for proper photography and my phone for snapshots. But in a world in which everything is connected, I do miss the ability to instantly share a photo from the DSLR. Here Samsung is attempting to bring the two worlds together. It’s not quite a DSLR, but with a 20MP CMOS sensor and a choice of 30 lenses, it ought to be a pretty capable camera – and with 4G on board, you can share photos instantly. It’s a very, very nice concept and I look forward to testing one.

Read more about the Samsung NX. Read more

Google Fiber creates thriving startup industry in Kansas City

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Ben Barreth, owner of the Homes for Hackers house

When Google first announced Fiber, thousands of cities jockeyed to be the first test location, but to many people’s dismay, Kansas City was eventually named the winner. For the past year, internet service in the area has been booming thanks to the network, which in turn has made it a popular area for startups and entrepreneurs, according to a new report from CNET. When Google announced Fiber, web designer and Kansas City local Ben Barreth bought a house in the startup district in hopes of being one of the first people to be connected to the network. In order to pay for the house, he started it up as the “Home for Hackers,” which he says is a place for startups and entrepreneurs to rent out a space to work and be connected the incredibly fast internet service. Read more

Google will face fines in France if it doesn’t fix privacy issues within 3 months

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Google has run into trouble with the French government yet again for its privacy tactics. According to a new report from Bloomberg, the company has three months to change its policy surrounding its users’ data to avoid being fined. Five other European countries will supposedly follow France’s actions by the end of July. The country says Google is violating its privacy laws because it “prevents individuals from knowing how their personal data may be used and from controlling such use.”

Google, of course, denies these allegations and said that its “privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services” and it has “engaged fully with the data protection authorities involved throughout this process and will continue to do so going forward.”

The French data protection watchdog ordered the company to spell out for users why it collects information “to understand practically the processing of their personal data,” better inform users of its privacy policy, and “define retention periods of personal data processed that do not exceed the period necessary for the purposes for which they are collected.” CNIL is also asking the owner of the Gmail messaging system to request users’ permission for “the potentially unlimited combination” of their data, ask users’ approval to collect their data with tools such as the “Doubleclick” and “Analytics” cookies, “+1” buttons or any other Google service on third-party websites, and “inform users and then obtain their consent in particular before storing cookies in their terminal.”

Google can be fined a maximum of 150,000 euros, or $198,000, and 300,000 euros in for a repeated offense. Spain, the U.K., and Germany are all expected to take action soon, as well. This all comes on the heels of five countries ordering for more information about Google Glass privacy yesterday.  Read more