By Casey Sullivan (Reuters) - OkCupid’s disclosure that the popular dating website intentionally misled couples about their suitability could open it up to a U.S. Federal Trade Commission inquiry, according to lawyers and experts in consumer-protection law. On Monday, President Christian Rudder disclosed in a blog post that OKCupid had conducted experiments on its users, including a test to see whether its assessment of their matchability led to successful dating. "To test this, we took pairs of bad matches...and told them they were exceptionally good for each other," Rudder wrote. ...
By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc will shut its 2-year-old Gifts shop on Aug. 12, as the world's largest social network tests other ways to let consumers buy products on its website. "We'll be using everything we learned from Gifts to explore new ways to help businesses and developers drive sales on the web, on mobile, and directly on Facebook," the company said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. Facebook Gifts opened in 2012 as a way for users to buy gifts such as socks and teddy bears.
Senator Patrick Leahy introduced legislation on Tuesday to ban the U.S. government's bulk collection of Americans' telephone records and Internet data and narrow how much information it can seek in any particular search. The bill, which has White House backing, goes further than a version passed in May by the U.S. House of Representatives in reducing bulk collection and immediately drew warmer response from privacy advocates and technology companies. Revelations last year by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden prompted President Barack Obama to ask Congress in January to rein in the bulk collection and storage of records of millions of U.S. domestic telephone calls.
Video streaming service Netflix has agreed to pay U.S. broadband provider AT&T Inc to ensure smooth delivery of Netflix content to Internet users, the companies said on Tuesday. The announcement of the deal, struck in May, comes as Netflix has been waging a public campaign against such fees, which they present as tolls, and calling on the Federal Communications Commission to review the market. Having brokered this so-called interconnection agreement, AT&T and Netflix are now working to build out new network connections for Netflix content to be delivered directly to AT&T's servers "to improve the viewing experience for our mutual subscribers," the companies' representatives said.
(Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc, locked in a war with publisher Hachette Book Group over ebook prices, said its push for lower prices was good for authors, publishers and booksellers. Upset over its ebook prices, Amazon has delayed deliveries and cut discounts on some books published by Hachette, the fourth-largest U.S. book publisher, owned by France's Lagardere. In a blog post on the Amazon site authored by the "Amazon Books team", the ecommerce giant said e-books were very price sensitive. Amazon claims that pricing an e-book at $14.99 or $19.99 is too expensive and unjustifiable in most cases.
Police in California have arrested a man wanted for the fatal stabbing of the aunt of a Los Angeles Clippers player in a crime that drew national attention after the basketball star pleaded on social media for help in finding the suspect, authorities said on Tuesday. Michael Williams, 51, was arrested in Sacramento thanks to a citizen's tip, police said in tweet. Williams was wanted for the July 8 murder of his estranged wife, 48-year-old Tanganyika Williams, who is the aunt of Clippers forward Matt Barnes. Barnes took to social media last week, posting pictures of Michael Williams to his Instagram and Twitter accounts, asking anyone who had seen the man to call his family or the police with details.
(Reuters) - Travel software provider Concur Technologies Inc said it added Airbnb Inc and Uber Technologies Inc to its network to improve business travel and streamline expenses. Shares of Concur, whose main consumer brand is TripIt, rose nearly 3 percent on Tuesday.
By Natasha Baker TORONTO (Reuters) - Finding misplaced keys, wallets and purses could get easier with new apps that take the guess work out of trying to remember where they might be. “With all of the technology around us, it’s still crazy to think that we still lose our things,” said Nick Evans, chief executive office of Tile, based in San Mateo, California.
By David Ljunggren OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada on Tuesday took the unusual step of singling out Chinese hackers for attacking a key computer network and lodged a protest with Beijing, raising tensions at a time when Ottawa wants to boost oil sales to China. Officials said "a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor" had recently broken into the National Research Council. The council, the government's leading research body, works with major firms such as aircraft and train maker Bombardier Inc.. Canada has reported hacking incidents before but this was the first time it had singled out China. China is often cited as a suspect in various hacking attacks on companies in the United States and other nations.
One year after the launch of a social media effort to allay consumers' concerns about the safety of foods made from genetically modified crops, U.S. companies that develop GMOs have further committed to a multimillion-dollar campaign to defeat attempts to add GMO labels to such foods. "We are not going to sit down for that (labeling)," Cathleen Enright, spokeswoman for the effort, said in an interview. It is the mechanism that we can’t abide." Monsanto Co., Dow Chemical and other GMO crop backers last summer kicked off an interactive website, called GMO Answers, as the centerpiece of a broad effort to win over consumers. A speakers' tour and social media advertising are part of the effort.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird protested to his Chinese counterpart on Tuesday about what he said was an attempt by China-sponsored hackers to break into a key computer system in Ottawa, a government official said. Baird had "a full and frank exchange of views" with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a meeting in Beijing, spokesman Adam Hodge said. Canada said "a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor" recently broke into computers at the National Research Council, the Canadian government's leading research and technology organization.
By Alina Selyukh WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. consumers often incorrectly estimate how much data they consume online and pay Internet providers for more downloading and uploading than they actually do, a U.S. government watchdog said in findings released on Tuesday. The observations were preliminary from the Government Accountability Office's review of the practice of usage-based pricing, in which consumers pay Internet service providers (ISPs) for a specific amount of data they agree to consume instead of a flat fee for unlimited data. In a study requested by California Representative Anna Eshoo, the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, found consumers often were unclear about what online activities consumed the most data and paid ISPs too much either for data they did not use or through overage fees for exceeding data caps. Most wireline ISPs told the GAO that usually only 1 percent to 2 percent of users exceeded their data caps.
By Sarah McBride SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on Monday, weeks after Facebook Inc admitted to misleading users in a psychological study. "When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are," co-founder Christian Rudder wrote in a blog post. "Even when they should be wrong for each other." Conversely, couples told they were bad matches, even when OkCupid's algorithm showed the opposite, were less likely to exchange four messages. Exchanging four messages is an OkCupid measure for gauging romantic interest.
By Brendan O'Brien (Reuters) - A quiet woman wearing a flowing, black dress and mysteriously strolling along busy highways in parts of the U.S. Southeast and Midwest has the curious wondering who she is and spurred a social media site to document her trek. She has been dubbed the "Woman in Black," by TV stations, police and followers on the Web, including those on a Facebook page where she has been tracked on a nearly 500-mile journey with a black bag and walking stick in hand that has taken her from Ranger, Georgia, to Athens, Ohio, since July 18. Raymond Poles told Reuters he is the woman's brother, identifying her as Elizabeth Poles, 56, a U.S. Army veteran, mother of two children and a widow from Motts, Alabama. Elizabeth Poles had been receiving treatment at Veterans Affairs hospitals to deal with the deaths of her husband in 2008 and her father in 2009, he said.
By Emma Thomasson BERLIN (Reuters) - Online retailer Jumia, a would-be African Amazon set up by German venture capital firm Rocket Internet, is expanding into three new markets - Uganda, Ghana and Cameroon, the company said on Monday. Jumia, which launched in 2012, already operates in Nigeria, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Egypt and Kenya, offering up to 100,000 different items for sale from its local warehouses. We are coming to markets which are not as mature in terms of Internet penetration and Internet savviness but still there is a big appetite for this service," Jumia co-founder Sacha Poignonnec told Reuters. Berlin-based Rocket Internet is bidding to create the largest Internet empire outside the United States and China, seeking to replicate the success of Amazon and Alibaba in markets such as Africa, Latin America and Russia.
By Luiza Ilie BUCHAREST (Reuters) - In a well-lit office with red window frames in downtown Bucharest, Romania's first bitcoin ATM attracts many who until it opened in May had to buy or sell the digital currency face-to-face or through wire transfers. The interest in bitcoin in Romania stands out in a region where national currencies are widely seen as poor substitutes for the euro. In the western town of Oradea, 370 miles (595 km) away from the capital, the first bitcoin exchange in the country has drawn more than 2,000 clients in the seven months since it opened, with transactions totaling 5.12 million lei ($1.57 million). Bitcoin is still an infant in Europe relative to the United States, where hundreds of start-ups backed by some Wall Street traders and venture capitalists have propelled consumer and media interest.
By Deepa Seetharaman SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc will offer 3D printing services that allow customers to customize and build earrings, bobble head toys and other items from third-party sellers using a new personalization option on its website. Before it is printed by one of Amazon's sellers, users can customize a product like as a bobble head figure by changing its skin and eye color, hair style and outfit, Amazon said. "The customization is something we're keenly interested in," said Petra Schindler-Carter, director for Amazon marketplace sales, speaking in an interview. "We'll always look for new applications for that." Amazon, which has more than 240 million users, has expanded its marketplaces division to include new areas such as fine art and wine.
Militant attacks on two army outposts in southern Yemen killed at least eight people early on Sunday, local officials said, two months after the government said it had cleared that area of al Qaeda fighters in an offensive. Yemen, with help from the United States, is battling an insurgency by Islamist militants including members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has also planned attacks on international airliners and other foreign targets. The area of Mahfad in Abyan Province of southern Yemen was the scene of some heavy fighting in May between the army and militants in a government campaign to reclaim territory under effective AQAP control. AQAP and other militants have since then continued to stage attacks in Abyan and other provinces.
(Reuters) - The news and entertainment website BuzzFeed has fired the writer Benny Johnson after its editors said they found he plagiarized others' work 41 times. BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith in a note late on Friday called writer Benny Johnson "a creative force" at his best, but said a review of more than 500 posts revealed dozens of instances where he copied sentences and phrases verbatim from other websites. Smith said the plagiarism on the seven-year-old site was brought to light this week by Twitter users.
By Marina Lopes WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Verizon Communication Inc's high speed wireless customers who subscribe to the company's legacy unlimited data plans might experience slower speeds starting Oct. 1, the company said on Friday. Verizon will slow services for the top 5 percent of data users who are on unlimited plans in places where the network is experiencing high demand, the company announced on its website. The policy is currently in effect for unlimited subscribers on the 3G network, but will be expanded to its 4G, higher speed network in October. Verizon stopped offering unlimited data plans in 2012.
(Reuters) - Facebook Inc said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dropped its probe into the social networking company over events surrounding its controversial initial public offering. In its quarterly report filed on Thursday, Facebook said the regulator in May "notified us that it had terminated its inquiry and that no enforcement action had been recommended by the SEC." Facebook shares began trading on May 18, 2012, but soon fell below their $38 per share offering price and had lost more than half their value by the middle of August, angering investors. Investors also complained they were not told just prior to the IPO that analysts at Facebook's investment banks were cutting their forecasts after learning of the company's internal projections for advertising revenue. The end of the SEC probe does not affect shareholder litigation against Facebook, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and many banks over the Menlo Park, California-based company's IPO.
By Leila Abboud and Julia Fioretti PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European regulators have not yet decided whether to try to force search engines such as Google and Microsoft's Bing to scrub results globally when people invoke their "right to be forgotten" in the region. Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin - who heads France's privacy watchdog and the WP29 group of EU national data protection authorities - said in an interview on Friday that no consensus had yet been reached on what she called a "complicated issue". The European Union's top court ruled in May that search engines must take down certain results shown under a search of a person's name if the information was "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant". Although the "right to be forgotten" existed as a concept in European law, the ruling marked the first time companies like Google have been asked to field such requests from the public.
Amazon.com Inc's heavy investment in content and technology to fight off deep-pocketed rivals is proving to be more costly than many had expected, raising fears that operating earnings will be remain under pressure indefinitely. Amazon's shares fell 12 percent to $314.76 in early trading on Friday, wiping out about $18 billion from its market value. Amazon is engaged in "a massive ecosystem war" with Apple Inc, Google Inc and Microsoft Corp Macquarie Research analyst Ben Schachter said. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Holdings Group Ltd [IPO-BABA.N] also looms as a threat to Amazon as it expands in the U.S. market, Schachter and others say.
The singer Chubby Checker has settled a lawsuit in which he accused Hewlett-Packard Co of using his trademarked name without permission on a software app that purported to measure the size of a man's penis. HP denied liability in agreeing to settle with Checker, whose given name is Ernest Evans, but agreed not to make future use of his stage name, likeness or related trademarks. In his February 2013 lawsuit against HP and its Palm unit, the singer objected to HP having in October 2006 begun online sales of "The Chubby Checker" app, which purported to let women estimate the size of a man's genitals based on his shoe size. A federal judge last August let Checker pursue part of his case, saying one might infer that HP should have known that "the owner of the Chubby Checker mark would never have consented to license the mark for such a vulgar purpose." HP spokeswoman Sarah Pompei on Friday declined to elaborate on the settlement.
Uber, whose smartphone app summons rides at the touch of a button, won a new lease of life in the German city of Hamburg on Friday when a court suspended a ban imposed by local regulators. Hamburg traffic authorities told Uber earlier this week to stop operating in the northern port city on the grounds that its drivers lacked passenger transport licenses, one of a number of challenges to the San Francisco-based company from regulators and traditional taxi services across the globe. Uber retaliated with a complaint against the ban and a Hamburg court on Friday allowed it to continue operations while the court deliberates on the merits of the case. Uber said in a statement on Friday it welcomed the court's decision.
By Deepa Seetharaman SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc is spending more than $100 million on original video content in the third quarter, considerably higher than its spending a year ago and in the second quarter, Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak said on Thursday. The largest U.S. online retailer, which also reported a larger-than-expected second-quarter loss Thursday, is beefing up its digital content. Szkutak told analysts during a call that members of Amazon's Prime membership program are increasingly streaming free videos online.
By Deepa Seetharaman SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc posted a much larger-than-expected loss in the second quarter as it continues its rapid pace of investment in new businesses such as digital content and consumer electronics. Amazon's stock price has dropped 10 percent so far in 2014, with investors leery of betting on its long-term growth at the expense of little to no profit. Amazon is investing heavily in new businesses and hardware products, as it prepares to take on major tech rivals from Apple Inc and Google Inc to Netflix. Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak said Amazon had a "tremendous amount of opportunities" and its investments were "certainly impacting short-term results." The company is spending more than $100 million on original video content in the third quarter, a substantial increase compared to last year and the second quarter, Szkutak said.
By Noel Randewich SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc's new "Fire" smartphone contains chips from Qualcomm Inc, NXP Semiconductors NV, and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, according to repair and teardown specialists iFixit, which pried one open on Thursday. The Fire phone also houses chips from Synaptics Inc and Skyworks Solutions Inc, said the repair outfit, which made a name for itself taking apart devices like Apple Inc's iPhone and identifying its internal components.
By Aaron Foley DETROIT (Reuters) - Widespread water shutoffs in Detroit have led to the creation of a website that allows donors to anonymously pay the overdue bills of residents in the bankrupt city, a site organizer said on Thursday. Recent efforts by the cash-strapped municipal water authority to collect tens of millions of dollars in overdue bills has attracted international attention and critics say the disconnections are inhumane and unfair to the poor. The donor site, DetroitWaterProject.org, was born from a Twitter conversation between programmer Tiffani Bell of Fayetteville, North Carolina and designer Kristy Tillman of Boston who were concerned about the water issue, Bell said in an email. Customers with delinquent bills share their account information with the site, where they are matched with donors.
(Reuters) - U.S. real estate website operator Zillow Inc Z.O is in advanced talks to buy smaller rival Trulia Inc TRLA.N, according to people familiar with the matter. Trulia shares jumped as much as 40.5 percent to $57 on Thursday, valuing the company at $2.10 billion, after Bloomberg News reported Zillow may reach a deal to buy the company as soon as next week. The stock ended up 32 percent at $53.74 on the New York Stock Exchange. The proposed acquisition would allow the company to corner a larger share of online spending on real estate listings and advertising.
By Julia Fioretti BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google's GOOGL.O handling of "right to be forgotten" requests from European citizens came under fire by regulators after the search engine company restricted the removal of Internet links to European sites only, a person familiar with the matter said. Regulators quizzed Google over its decision to remove search results only from its European search engines such as google.co.uk, which means that anyone can easily access the same information by switching to the widely used google.com, said the source, who was present at the meeting. The European Union's top court in May ruled that people have a right to request that years-old personal information that is no longer relevant be removed from Internet search results. Google has so far approved more than half of roughly 90,000 incoming requests, sought additional information in about 15 percent of cases, and rejected around 30 percent of them, according to a source close to the company.
By Chuck Mikolajczak NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the days after its infamously mishandled initial public offering in May 2012, it looked as if Facebook would struggle to become a must-own for fund managers. The gains represent a reversal of fortune for the social media company.
(Story refiled to correct typographical error on third paragraph) (Reuters) - A Minnesota man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent. Duff Watson said he was flying from Denver to Minneapolis on Sunday and tried to board in a spot for frequent flyer privileges he held and take his sons, ages 6 and 9, with him, even though they had a later spot to board the plane. Watson replied that he had boarded early with them before and then sent out a tweet that read "RUDEST AGENT IN DENVER. Once at the gate, the agent said that unless the tweet was deleted, police would be called and the family would not be allowed back onboard.
Shares of Facebook Inc hit a record high on Thursday after a surge in mobile advertising revenue helped the world's No. 1 social network trounce analysts' expectations for quarterly profit and revenue. At that price, Facebook's market value is just short of $200 billion, putting the company in position to overtake IBM Corp as the fourth-largest U.S.-listed tech company. The top three are Apple Inc , Google Inc and Microsoft Corp . At $100, Facebook would be valued at more than $250 billion.
The European Central Bank said on Thursday its website had been hacked and some email addresses and other contact information stolen but insisted no market-sensitive data were affected. The hackers broke into a database storing details of people who had registered for ECB conferences, visits and other events, the bank said. "No internal systems or market sensitive data were compromised," the ECB said in a statement. The ECB is currently running a particularly sensitive review of the euro zone's top lenders, collecting streams of data to gauge whether banks have valued loans and other assets correctly, before it starts supervising them.
By Paul Carsten and Michael Martina BEIJING (Reuters) - China's antitrust regulator has confirmed that Qualcomm Inc, one of the world's biggest mobile chipmakers, has a monopoly, the state-run Securities Times newspaper reported on Thursday, as Qualcomm's chief executive held talks in China. The regulator, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), is investigating Qualcomm's local subsidiary after it said in February the U.S. chipmaker was suspected of overcharging and abusing its market position in wireless communication standards, allegations which could see it hit with record fines of more than $1 billion. The Securities Times report, based on unidentified sources it said were close to the NDRC, did not say whether the regulator had determined that Qualcomm had abused its monopoly.
By Joseph Menn SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Researchers have found a flaw that could expose the identities of people using a privacy-oriented operating system touted by Edward Snowden, just two days after widely used anonymity service Tor acknowledged a similar problem. The most recent finding concerns a complex, heavily encrypted networking program called the Invisible Internet Project, or I2P. Though a core purpose of I2P is to obscure the Internet Protocol addresses of its roughly 30,000 users, anyone who visits a booby-trapped website could have their true address revealed, making it likely that their name could be exposed as well, according to researchers at Exodus Intelligence. “People shouldn’t trust something wholeheartedly just because Snowden says,” Exodus Vice President Aaron Portnoy told Reuters.
Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill, speaking in Washington on Wednesday, expressed concern about the way apps on smartphones and mobile devices are siphoning sensitive health data, and how some of that information may then be shared with third parties. The debate around the gathering of consumer data is intensifying as Silicon Valley tech companies take a more active interest in mobile health. Apple Inc and Google Inc revealed new health-focused services for apps developers in recent months, dubbed Google Fit and HealthKit. Brill's comments followed a May report in which the FTC revealed the results of a study of mobile health-app developers, which found that a good portion collect consumer health data and give it to third-party entities.
(Reuters) - A player for the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers has taken to social media to ask for help in finding a man wanted for stabbing his aunt to death, generating new tips in the case, his family said on Wednesday. Clippers forward Matt Barnes posted pictures of Michael Williams, 51, to his Instagram and Twitter accounts on Tuesday, saying the man was wanted by police in the California capital in connection with the fatal stabbing of his aunt, Tanganyika Williams, 48. On Wednesday, Tanganyika Williams' adult son, David Williams Jr., said that since that message was published, the family has received multiple calls from people who said they had seen Michael Williams in stores around Sacramento. "There are going to be less and less places that this guy is going to have to hide," said David Williams, who is not related to the suspect by blood.
By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc's fast-growing mobile advertising business helped drive a 61 percent increase in revenue during the second quarter, beating Wall Street's financial targets and sending shares to a record-high in after-hours trading on Wednesday. Facebook now counts 1.5 million advertising customers and the company's ad business saw strong growth across all of its geographic regions, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. Investors bid up shares of Facebook roughly 5 percent to $75.13 in after-hours trading on Wednesday, giving the Internet company a roughly $190 billion valuation, putting it on par with IBM Corp. "It might be more expensive from a market cap perspective, but I don’t think anyone was expecting this level of profitability," JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey said. Facebook's operating margin expanded to 48 percent of revenue in the second quarter, up from 31 percent in the year-ago period.