Google and other tech companies deny PRISM surveillance claims, NSA says claims ‘inaccurate’ and not used domestically

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Claims made by The Washington Post that the National Security Agency was tapping into the servers of nine tech companies for details of user activity have been denied by Google and most of the other companies alleged to be involved.

Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data.

Similar denial statements have been issued by Apple, Dropbox, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook.

The Post published slides from what it said was a Powerpoint presentation detailing the top-secret program, in which it was implied that the companies listed were knowing participants …  Read more

Google reveals why it’s killing Google Reader

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With just over three weeks until Google officially puts its RSS service Google Reader out to pasture, the Mountain View company has decided to offer the widely respected product a few commemorative last words as it rests on its death bed.

Google News and Social Products Senior Director Richard Gringras told Wired.com that Google Reader represented an old model of news consumption in an age where news is being constantly consumed throughout the day.

“As a culture we have moved into a realm where the consumption of news is a near-constant process,” says Richard Gringras, Senior Director, News & Social Products at Google. “Users with smartphones and tablets are consuming news in bits and bites throughout the course of the day — replacing the old standard behaviors of news consumption over breakfast along with a leisurely read at the end of the day.”

No matter the reason for Google Reader’s demise, alternatives have made a timely bubble up to the surface leading up to Google’s July 1 deadline. Apps like Reeder that relied on Google Reader for backend syncing have since opened up support for alternatives like Feedly and Feed Wrangler (which we reviewed at launch). Read more

Samsung Galaxy S4 software update rolls out in Germany, addresses storage constraints and more

Last month we learned that Samsung could be reversing its decision to optimize the software running on its Galaxy S4 smartphone to address storage constraints, and today it looks like that update is shipping to end users (via SamMobile.com) and includes a few new features.

Users will be able to move apps to the SD Card freeing up native storage and can even shoot HRD (high dynamic range) video. The software update itself frees up 80MB of storage.

The update is currently available for Galaxy S4 users in Germany, and could require carrier approval before it shows up in the States, but its confirmation that Samsung is listening to user concerns.

Check out the full list of features below: Read more

Government officials call on Google, Samsung, Apple & others to secure smartphones following increasing thefts

Schneiderma-01After sending a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google, and others questioning if the companies could be doing more to prevent increasing thefts of smartphones, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has now scheduled a face to face meeting with the companies to discuss the issue.

NYDailyNews reports Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon will meet with representatives from Apple, Google, Motorola, Samsung and Microsoft at a June 13 “smartphone summit” in New York.

Schneiderman wants the same thing that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón has been pushing device makers on in recent months– a ‘kill switch’ that would render a device inoperable and discourage thefts of devices: Read more

Google Maps Engine API launches enabling custom maps for organizations

Google announced its Google Maps Engine API today (via TNW) enabling organizations and businesses to build custom maps based on Google’s Mapping platform.

The API provides direct access to Maps Engine for reading and editing spatial data hosted in the cloud. With the API, organizations can develop on any platform – web, Android, iOS and server-to-server – and build applications like store locators, crowdsourced maps or crisis-response maps. For example, FedEx.com uses the API to query its more than 50,000 retail locations and IRIS creates applications for utilities to track underground pipelines.

Previously, organizations had to rely on much more complex solutions for accomplishing custom mapping. Businesses interested in utilizing Google Maps-based tools can contact Google Maps for Business for inquiries. Read more

HTC One Mini appears confirmed by leaked photos

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We said a month ago that HTC was reportedly working on a smaller version of the HTC One, codenamed the M4. This story today appears confirmed, with leaked photos appearing on the Estonian site Forte, repeating the same specs we reported: a 720p display, 2Gb RAM, 16Gb storage and 4MP ‘Ultrapixel’ camera. More photos (which we’ve cleaned up a little as the originals were rather dark) after the break …
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ITC rules Apple violates Samsung patent, limited ban could apply to iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, 3G iPads

The United States Trade Agency has ruled that Apple has violated one of Samsung’s smartphone and tablet-related patents.

Under the modified constructions, the Commission has determined that Samsung has proven that the accused iPhone 4 (AT&T models); iPhone 3GS (AT&T models); iPhone 3 (AT&T models); iPad 3G (AT&T models); and iPad 2 3G (AT&T models) infringe the asserted claims of the ’348 patent. The Commission has further determined that the properly construed claims have not been proven by Apple to be invalid and that Samsung has proven that a domestic industry exists in the United States with respect to the ‘348 patent. The Commission has determined that Apple failed to prove an affirmative defense based on Samsung’s FRAND declarations.

Due to this ruled breach of Samsung’s patent, Apple could face limited bans on certain AT&T iPhone and iPad models. Some of the products named include: iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2 3G, and the original 3G-capable iPad.

Update: Apple has commented on the ruling to AllThingsD:

Read more

Google announces Web Designer, a new HTML5 content creation tool aimed at ad development … for now

Google announced its new HTML5 creation tool called Web Designer (via Tech Crunch) that it says will ship “in the coming months.”

Google Web Designer will empower creative professionals to create cutting-edge advertising as well as engaging web content like sites and applications – for free.

In its announcement, Google notes that “90% of multiple device owners switch between screens to complete tasks,” emphasizing the importance of HTML5 based content to reach users on mobile devices. Read more

Jay-Z possibly taking his marketing talents to Samsung with a deal upwards of 20 Million?

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Page Six from the New York Post is reporting that Jay-Z is close to signing an 8 figure deal with Samsung that could pay the rapper/entrepreneur upwards of $20 million.  The speculation is that Jay-Z will use this deal to “to develop some kind of new music-streaming service to promote his acts and music on mobile devices,” but he might just be making some commercials and doing some product placements.

It seems more likely that Jay-Z will be bringing his marketing prowess to Samsung who has been mounting a serious marketing push in recent years.  In fact, Samsung marketing expenditures even beat out Apple’s in 2012, $401 million to Apple’s $333 million, according to ad research and consulting firm Kantar Media.  This deal is coming hot on the heels of the release of Samsung’s new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4. Read more

Google prepares for first consumer Glass adoption by banning face recognition apps (until privacy protections can be enforced)

In a Google Plus remark, Google said that it would block all facial recognition apps from Google Glasses

Glass and Facial Recognition

When we started the Explorer Program nearly a year ago our goal was simple: we wanted to make people active participants in shaping the future of this technology ahead of a broader consumer launch.  We’ve been listening closely to you, and many have expressed both interest and concern around the possibilities of facial recognition in Glass. As Google has said for several years, we won’t add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place. With that in mind, we won’t be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time.

#IfIHadGlass winners are expected to begin receiving their Glass prototypes over the coming weeks. Clearly, this move is to help the new wave of  non-developers get along in a skeptical world. Read more