By Dan Levine SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Uber drivers are entitled to class action status in litigation over whether they are independent contractors or employees, a key development in a case threatening Uber's business model and that of other hot startups dependent on similar service workers. Three drivers sued Uber in a federal court in San Francisco, contending they are employees and entitled to reimbursement for expenses, including gas and vehicle maintenance. The results of Uber's legal battle could reshape the sharing economy, which is built around Internet companies that serve as marketplaces matching people who provide a service with others looking to pay for it.
By Naline Malla, Ayla Jean Yackley, Marton Dunai and Aleksandar Vasovic BEIRUT/ISTANBUL/BUDAPEST/BELGRADE (Reuters) - Would-be refugees hoping to flee war in the Middle East are using Facebook as their compass for finding the people smugglers they hope will get them to a better life in Europe. The U.S.-based website and other social media that were once used to help mobilize the "Arab Spring" uprisings now host information services for those escaping the Syrian civil war and other conflicts in the region. In Facebook groups set up in Arabic, users post phone numbers of contacts they say can take refugees from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands or even further into Europe, a continent struggling to cope with the migration crisis.
By Eric Auchard TUEBINGEN (Reuters) - SAP unveiled a new product on Tuesday that promises to help businesses make sense of a deluge of real-world data from retail transactions, transport systems and social media, hoping to persuade customers to switch from rival database suppliers.SAP HANA Vora, as the database query software will be known, aims to give businesses greater insights into the vast volumes of data organizations are collecting from customer feedback, along with sensors installed in products, vehicles and networks. HANA Vora will work along with Apache Hadoop, an open source framework popular with serious software developers for handling huge sets of data, from government statistics to scientific results to shopping or credit data. "The new datasets that are emerging are going to have a profound impact on how a business is going to function, and what its options are," said SAP Chief Technology Officer Quentin Clark, who until last year was in charge of rival Microsoft Corp's data product business.
Facebook Inc's Instagram added new features on Tuesday allowing users to exchange messages in private and group conversations as the photo and video-sharing service aims to keep up with growing messaging service Snapchat. The upgrade by Instagram, which has more than 300 million users, is the latest move in the escalating battle for a young audience addicted to messaging with younger and hipper rival Snapchat, which has 100 million users and growing. The new features mean Instagram users can share pictures directly with one friend or a group of people and send back text responses or pictures, which Instagram hopes will make users want to stay on its mobile app or web site longer.
(Reuters) - Google Inc unveiled a redesign of its iconic logo on Tuesday, the fifth such modification since the search engine giant started in 1998, the company said in a blog post. The revamped logo, displayed as a Google Doodle on its homepage, spells 'Google' in a sans-serif typeface, similar to the one being used by Google's newly created holding company, Alphabet. The new brand identity "aims to make Google more accessible and useful to our users", the company said in a blog post explaining the logo.
Four percent of Iceland's population has joined a Facebook page seeking to have the country take in more people escaping the Syrian conflict, prompting the government to consider it. The government had earlier announced plans to take in 50 refugees from the Syrian conflict. Prime Minister Sigmund David Gunnlaugsson now says a special council comprised of several ministers will map Iceland's resources to see how many refugees could be taken and said the government now had no fixed number.
(Reuters) - LinkedIn Corp on Tuesday rolled out a revamped messaging service along the lines of modern chat apps, departing from its unpopular design that resembled email. LinkedIn, which operates the biggest social networking site for professionals, has started to roll out the new messaging service to English-language users accessing its platform via a desktop or through an app. LinkedIn plans to make the revamped messaging feature available in other languages in the coming weeks.
By Foo Yun Chee BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. law firm and class action specialist Hausfeld launched a platform on Tuesday to help pursue claims against Google, posing a potential headache for the world's No. 1 Internet search engine amid its regulatory troubles in Europe. Hausfeld has coordinated various high-profile class action cases, including for companies affected by an air cargo pricing cartel, investors impacted by currency-rigging by banks and firms fighting fees levied by MasterCard and Visa Europe. The law firm said the Google Redress & Integrity Platform (GRIP) is aimed at those affected by alleged anti-competitive behavior by Google in Europe.
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Bild tabloid publisher Axel Springer and Korean electronics group Samsung announced a partnership in mobile media including news. The two companies said on Tuesday they would collaborate to produce digital media exclusively for Samsung customers, beginning with a news platform in Germany and Poland that will be rolled out in other European markets next year. Newspaper publisher Springer, which owns several publications in Poland, now makes about two thirds of its sales and three quarters of its core profit from digital offerings. ...
By Arshad Mohammed, Matt Spetalnick and Mark Hosenball WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is considering sanctions against both Russian and Chinese individuals and companies for cyber attacks against U.S. commercial targets, several U.S. officials said on Monday. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no final decision had been made on imposing sanctions, which could strain relations with Russia further and, if they came soon, cast a pall over a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September. It did not mention Russia.
Hundreds of thousands of people signed up for infidelity website Ashley Madison in the last week, parent company Avid Life Media said on Monday, even after hackers leaked data about millions of its clients. "Recent media reports predicting the imminent demise of Ashley Madison are greatly exaggerated," the company said in a statement. "Despite having our business and customers attacked, we are growing." On Aug. 18, hackers who claimed to be unhappy with Avid Life's business practices released Ashley Madison customer data.
Images of Kanye West's face on Mount Rushmore and a potential White House takeover by the Kardashian reality TV clan fired up social media on Monday, a day after the rapper virtually hijacked a rambunctious MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) show as he declared he planned to run for U.S. president in 2020. West, who is married to Kim Kardashian, sparked dozens of satirical memes on social media after his rambling, 13-minute speech on Sunday - when he admitted he had "rolled up a little something earlier in the night - while accepting the Video Vanguard award for lifetime achievement. Although most viewers saw West's presidential declaration as a joke, a Maryland college student on Monday filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to set up a political action committee called Ready for Kanye.
As a marriage counselor years ago, Neil Clark Warren saw first-hand how incompatibility led to unhappy matches. "(The career market) is such a big market that we do expect it to grow faster than our core product," the octogenarian clinical psychologist and eHarmony CEO said in an interview. The market is dominated by Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp, owner of Match.com as well as other sites for the lovelorn.
The White House is considering applying sanctions against companies and individuals in China it believes have benefited from Chinese hacking of U.S. trade secrets, the Washington Post reported on Sunday. The newspaper, citing several unidentified Obama administration officials, said a final determination on whether to issue the sanctions was expected soon, possibly as early as the next two weeks. Suspicions that Chinese hackers were behind a series of data breaches in the United States have been an irritant in relations between the world's two largest economies as President Xi Jinping prepares to make his first visit to the United States next month.
(Reuters) - Major films such as Hunger Games: Catching Fire, World War Z, and Transformers: Age of Extinction will move to online video service Hulu from Netflix starting in October when cable network Epix switches streaming partners. Hulu and Epix said on Sunday they had signed a multi-year deal that would bring Epix films to Hulu from Oct. 1. Netflix Inc said earlier on Sunday it had decided not to renew its agreement with Epix when it expires at the end of September as it focuses more on original programming and exclusive rights to movies, and less on non-exclusive content.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - PayPal Holdings Inc , the e-commerce group trading sharply off its recent offering price, could rise 40 percent to $46 a share if it succeeds with investments tied to payments systems innovation, the Aug. 31 edition of Barron's said. Spun off in July by auctioneer eBay Inc , PayPal is now clear to do deals with big vendors like Staples and move into back office operations and other services, according to Barron's. PayPal shares last week traded at $34.60, or over $4 less than its offering price in July, Barron's said. ...
By Julia Fioretti , Brussels (Reuters) - - The European Commission will launch a study in September of the ride-hailing app Uber in an effort to settle legal disputes that have pitched the U.S. start-up against conventional taxis across Europe, three people familiar with the matter said on Friday. Since opening in Paris in 2011, San Francisco-based Uber has run into vehement opposition from taxi drivers, who complain it competes unfairly by bypassing local laws on licensing and safety. Uber has responded by submitting complaints to the European Commission against German and Spanish court bans, as well as a new French law on taxis.
By Nate Raymond NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Florida man accused of running an unlicensed bitcoin exchange and who is among five defendants linked to last summer's massive data breach at JPMorgan Chase & Co is in talks to resolve his criminal case, according to court papers filed Friday. In a court filing in federal court in Manhattan, a prosecutor said Yuri Lebedev, one of two men charged with operating the bitcoin exchange service, was in discussions "regarding a possible disposition of this case." The filing used language that is usually indicative of plea talks, though cases in some instances can be resolved with deferred prosecution agreements or with charges being dropped. Eun Young Choi, a prosecutor under Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara who made the submission, said negotiations were not yet complete and sought an extension until Sept. 28 for when a grand jury would need to indict Lebedev.
By Alastair Sharp TORONTO (Reuters) - The chief executive of infidelity website Ashley Madison's parent company Avid Life Media has left, just over a week after hackers leaked data about millions of its clients in a massive cyber assault. Avid Life said on Friday the departure of Noel Biderman was by "mutual agreement" and its existing senior management team would take over until a new CEO is appointed. On Aug. 18, hackers who claimed to be unhappy with its business practices released the Ashley Madison customer data, and police probing the breach said it had sparked extortion attempts and at least two unconfirmed suicides.
By Liisa Tuhkanen LONDON (Reuters) - The often touted but regularly delayed stock-market listing of Rovio, creator of the hugely popular "Angry Birds" mobile game, could be even more distant after this week's warning of lower earnings and a planned cull of more than a third of its staff. While the mobile games market as a whole is thriving and looks set to grow to more than $35 billion in 2017, according to research firm Newzoo, Rovio's woes typify the difficulty established players have in changing with the times. "They lost their moment ... You need to list when your games are working well," said Thomas Alzuyeta, analyst at Gilbert Dupont, noting a drop in interest in the game franchise that debuted in 2009.
By Erik Kirschbaum BERLIN (Reuters) - Facebook will have to abide by German laws banning racist sentiment even if it might be allowed in the United States under freedom of speech, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview with Reuters. Maas, who has accused Facebook of doing too little to thwart racist and hate posts on its social media platform, said that Germany has zero tolerance for such expression and expects the U.S.-based company to be more vigilant. "One thing is clear: if Facebook wants to do business in Germany, then it must abide by German laws," Maas told Reuters.
Russia's biggest mobile phone operator MTS said on Friday it had teamed up with Google Inc to help grow the use of mobile Internet and will get a share of the search site's advertising revenues in Russia. Under a strategic agreement, MTS will feature Google's voice search in its ad campaigns and retail stores, and a relevant application will be pre-installed on the main screen of Google's Android-based smartphones sold in the MTS retail chain. "MTS will share with Google the cost of mobile Internet promotion and get money from Google's search services under a revenue-sharing scheme," an MTS spokesman said.
By Simon Jessop and Ross Kerber LONDON/BOSTON (Reuters) - Investors are being poorly served by a haphazard approach from fund managers to the growing threat of cyber crime damaging the companies in which they invest, with a lack of clarity from the businesses themselves compounding the problem. Banks have led the way in developing cyber defenses and some top fund managers have ramped up pressure on companies to do more, but the broader picture is less encouraging. "I don't see any visible stand asset managers are taking, like they do on other social responsibility items," said Malcolm Harkins, information security chief at U.S. cyber security start-up Cylance Inc. The soft underbelly of companies outside the banking sector was exposed again this month when hackers leaked details of nearly 37 million clients of Ashley Madison.
By Ian Simpson WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The father of a Virginia journalist killed in an on-air shooting said on Thursday he would become a crusader for gun control, but analysts said there was little likelihood of legislation on the federal level any time soon, despite changes in some states. Two journalists, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward of Roanoke CBS affiliate WDBJ7, were shot during a live interview on Wednesday by a disgruntled former station employee who later killed himself. Parker's father, Andy Parker, urged state and federal lawmakers to take action on gun control, especially to keep firearms out of the hands of people who were mentally unstable.
Google Inc has rejected EU antitrust charges that it abused its market power, exposing the company to the risk of a hefty fine if it does not alter its business practices. The company's comments came after the European Commission in April accused it of distorting internet search results to favor its shopping service, harming both rivals and consumers. "Economic data spanning more than a decade, an array of documents and statements from complainants all confirm that product search is robustly competitive," Kent Walker, Google's general counsel, wrote in a blog on Thursday.
(Reuters) - Feeling hangry? Can't find a seat on the subway because of manspreading? Annoyed by people butt-dialing you? All three slang words officially joined OxfordDictionaries.com on Thursday in a quarterly update of popular phrases that also included Grexit (a potential Greek exit from the Eurozone) and brainfart (a momentary mental lapse). Manspreading was coined to describe men who take up extra room on public transport by sitting with their legs wide apart. Last year, New York City transport authorities launched a poster campaign on the subway in a bid to discourage it. ...
Malaysia will block websites attempting to spread information about a two-day rally due to be staged in three cities this weekend by a pro-democracy group demanding Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said in a post on its official Facebook page on Thursday that it would block websites that "promote, spread information and encourage people to participate" in the protest organized by the civil society group Bersih. Najib has been embroiled in a political storm amid allegations of graft and financial mismanagement at debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), whose advisory board he chairs.
While authorities said they had not determined a motive, perceived racism appeared to be a factor in the shootings, according to posts on social media attributed to the shooter and a fax that ABC News said had been sent by the gunman. Vester Flanagan, 41, who went on the air under the name Bryce Williams, was a former employee of WDBJ7 in Virginia, where both of the slain journalists worked.
By Gary Robertson MONETA, Va. (Reuters) - Two television journalists were shot to death during a live broadcast in Virginia on Wednesday, slain by a former employee of the TV station and who called himself a "powder keg" of anger over what he saw as racial discrimination at work and elsewhere in the United States. The suspect, 41-year-old Vester Flanagan, shot himself as police pursued him on a Virginia highway hours after the shooting. Flanagan, who was African-American, died later at a hospital, police said.
Hollywood studios are going to ever more creative lengths to attract attention in a jam-packed entertainment market where social media plays a key role in promoting content. For Matt Damon's October film "The Martian," in which an astronaut is stranded on Mars, 20th Century Fox Studios hosted a media day last week at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California just to promote a trailer. Journalists got a sneak peek at the first 50 minutes of the film, toured the lab and interviewed Damon at its Mission Control which is usually reserved for scientists working on operations such as landing the Curiosity rover on Mars in 2012.
By Brendan O'Brien and Letitia Stein (Reuters) - The suspected gunman in the shooting deaths of two television journalists in Virginia on Wednesday was a veteran anchorman with a history of workplace grievances who had previously sued a Florida station alleging discrimination because he was black. Vester Flanagan, 41, who went on the air under the name Bryce Williams, was a former employee of WDBJ7 in Virginia, where both of the slain journalists worked.
By Yasmeen Abutaleb SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc is testing a personal digital assistant called "M" within its Messenger service that can answer questions with live human help and perform tasks such as buying gifts online and booking restaurants. M is "powered by artificial intelligence that's trained and supervised by people," David Marcus, vice president of Messaging products, wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday. Rival services like Apple Inc's Siri, Google Inc's Google Now and Microsoft Corp's Cortana rely entirely on technology to answer questions.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Wednesday that President Barack Obama will "no doubt" raise concerns about China's cyber security behavior when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month. Obama will host Xi at the White House in September for a state visit. The United States has alleged Chinese hackers have stolen information from U.S. computer servers. (Reporting By Julia Edwards; Editing by Bill Trott)
By Adrian Croft BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona's new mayor is picking a fight with home rental websites as she tries to crack down on uncontrolled tourism that she fears could drive out poor residents and spoil the Catalan capital's charm. Ada Colau is threatening to fine firms like Airbnb and Booking.com if they market apartments from tourists without a number showing that they are on the Catalan tourism register. "Everybody must comply with the same game rules," Colau told Reuters in Barcelona's city hall.
By Eric Auchard FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Velostrata, a year-old start-up founded by a successful Israeli software entrepreneur, on Wednesday revealed plans to offer hybrid cloud software that lets organizations offload local business data more securely to public cloud services. In addition, Velostrara said it had raised $14 million in early stage, Series A funding from established venture financers Norwest Venture Partners and 83North, which previously operated as the Israeli arm of Greylock Partners. Velostrata said its software promises to remove barriers to adopting Internet-based storage by combining elements of lower-cost off-site cloud services with the control of keeping business data secured on local datacenters.
U.S. authorities on Tuesday announced the arrests of the chief executive officer and six employees of Rentboy.com for promoting prostitution through what prosecutors described as the largest online male escort service. Rentboy.com CEO Jeffrey Hurant and the employees were charged in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, as authorities moved to seize bank accounts holding $1.4 million and the website's domain name. During a midday operation, U.S. Homeland Security Department agents along with members of the New York Police Department could be seen carrying computers and boxes labeled evidence out of Rentboy.com's Manhattan offices.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy used her personal email for official business despite a State Department policy advising employees generally to avoid this, an internal audit released on Tuesday said. The State Department's Office of Inspector General made the finding in a routine report on the Tokyo embassy as the agency is under scrutiny for Hillary Clinton's use of a private email address and server when she was secretary of state. "Senior embassy staff, including the ambassador, used personal email accounts to send and receive messages containing official business," the report said, saying it found "instances when emails labeled 'sensitive but unclassified'" were sent and received on private email addresses.
By Katie Reilly NEW YORK (Reuters) - Retailers selling Caitlyn Jenner costumes for Halloween sparked a social media firestorm on Tuesday from critics who say the get-up insults transgender people and promotes stereotypes. Jenner, a former Olympic gold medalist and reality TV star known as Bruce, came out as transgender this year and introduced herself in a Vanity Fair cover story that earned international attention. A change.org petition launched on Monday is demanding that Spirit Halloween, a costume company with over 1,100 locations in the United States and Canada, stop producing and selling the costume, which includes a brunette wig, shiny white padded bustier and shorts resembling the outfit Jenner wore in the Vanity Fair cover photo.
The head of Fox News on Tuesday called on Donald Trump to apologize after a string of posts on Twitter lambasting Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, the latest in an ongoing flap between the network and the leading Republican presidential candidate. Kelly was one of the moderators at the network's recent Republican presidential debate, where Trump claimed she asked him unfair questions. On Monday night, Trump took to Twitter to say Kelly, who had just returned from vacation, was "off her game" and Fox's nightly news program was better without her.
By Noel Randewich SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Shares of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd fell 3 percent on Friday and were perilously close to breaking below the price set in the largest IPO in history as fears of a China-led global slowdown rattled investors. A potential move below $68 would make China's largest e-commerce firm the second high-profile tech company to fall below its IPO price this week after Twitter Inc on Thursday dropped below its 2013 IPO price. It would also be a potential embarrassment to founder Jack Ma and the underwriters who engineered Alibaba's market debut last September.