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(RAPID) The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the internet search and search advertising businesses of Yahoo! Inc. by Microsoft. The Commission concluded that the concentration would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it.
(BBC) Millions of European Internet Explorer (IE) users will have the option to choose an alternative browser from 1 March, Microsoft has announced. It follows a legal agreement between Microsoft and Europe's Competition Commission in December 2009. Microsoft committed to letting Windows PC users across Europe install the web browser of their choice, rather than having Microsoft IE as a default. See The Browser Choice Screen for Europe: What to Expect, When to Expect It by Dave Heiner, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel.
(BBC) The BBC Trust has been urged to block the corporation's plans to launch phone apps for its news and sport content. The Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) said that the corporation would "damage the nascent market" for apps. The group said that it would also raise the issues with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and MPs on the Media Select Committee. The BBC has said it plans to launch its first news app on the iPhone in April, followed by one for its sport content.
(The Australian) Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has demanded social networking giant Facebook detail how it will prevent cyber-vandalism in the wake of the defacing of an online memorial site for 12-year-old school stabbing victim Elliott Fletcher. Senator Conroy's blast came as Facebook, in its first public comments since Monday night's attack on the website, defended its reliance on users to report offensive material before taking action.
(Xinhua) The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has pledged fresh measures to fight offensive content transmitted by mobile phones and websites. China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, the country's three mobile carriers, have been required to examine the quality of their business partners. The MIIT also asked the Internet service providers to supervise the content of websites and close irregular websites.
(BBC) Bloggers told they have violated terms without further explanation, as years of archives are wiped off the internet. In what critics are calling "musicblogocide 2010", Google has deleted at least six popular music blogs that it claims violated copyright law. These sites, hosted by Google's Blogger and Blogspot services, received notices only after their sites - and years of archives - were wiped from the internet.
(European Public Policy Blog) Ever wondered what data Google's search engine collects and why we retain search logs for certain periods of time? Here's a hint: it's not to personalise advertising as many people wrongly assume. Our first ever Brussels Tech Talk was about this and other questions on online privacy, given that it was Data Protection Day. Dr Alma Whitten, Google's engineering lead for privacy, addressed a full room of policy makers and other interested stakeholders. Alma demonstrated how we harness the power of data to "learn from the good guys, fight the bad guys, and invent the future." You can watch the video of the talk, and follow along with her presentation.
(Press Release) The Privacy Commissioner of Canada announced an upcoming consultation with Canadians on privacy issues related to the online tracking, profiling and targeting of consumers by marketers and other businesses. This will be the first in a series of public consultations focused on emerging technological trends that are likely to have a significant impact on the privacy of Canadians. A second consultation on the privacy issues emerging from the growing movement toward cloud computing will be announced in the near future.
(RAPID) The European Commission has taken legal action against Italy for not respecting EU ePrivacy rules. According to EU law, subscribers who are included in a public subscriber directory must be informed about the objectives of the directory and consent to the use of their personal data contained therein for marketing purposes. As Italy failed to comply with this obligation, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice (the first step of an infringement proceeding).
(RAPID) Keynote Speech at the Data Protection Day by Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media, 28 January 2010, European Parliament, Brussels. See also Press Release
(BBC) The European Parliament has blocked a key agreement that allows the United States to monitor Europeans' bank transactions - angering Washington. The US called the decision a "setback for EU-US counter-terror co-operation". The vote was a rebuff to intensive US lobbying for EU help in counter-terrorism investigations. EU governments had negotiated a nine-month deal which would have allowed the US to continue accessing the Swift money transfer system.
(New York Times) Google moved quickly to contain a firestorm of criticism over Buzz, its new social network, taking the unusual step of announcing changes to the product over the weekend to address privacy problems. Google has decided to alter one of the most vehemently criticized features in Buzz: the ready-made circle of friends that Buzz gives new users based on their most frequent e-mail and chat contacts. Now, instead of automatically connecting people, Buzz merely suggests to new users a group of people that they may want to follow or want to be followed by. See also HOW TO: Integrate Facebook, Twitter, and Buzz into Your Gmail (Mashable), Buzz or Bust by Leslie Harris, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology, Google boss says 'nobody was harmed' by Buzz debacle (Guardian) and Google facing lawsuit over Buzz privacy in federal court (Ars Technica).
(Google Public Policy blog) Known as Data Privacy Day in North America and Data Protection Day in Europe, 28 January is meant to increase public awareness about privacy in the information age. To mark this occasion, on the Official Google Blog we've unveiled our Privacy Principles, which guide the decisions we make as we create products and services that offer transparency and control.
(ReadWriteWeb) by Sarah Perez. In December, Facebook made a series of bold and controversial changes regarding the nature of its users' privacy on the social networking site. Those of you who edited your privacy settings prior to December's change have nothing to worry about - that is, assuming you elected to keep your personalized settings when prompted by Facebook's "transition tool." The tool, a dialog box explaining the changes, appeared at the top of Facebook homepages this past month with its own selection of recommended settings. Unfortunately, most Facebook users likely opted for the recommended settings without really understanding what they were agreeing to. If you did so, you may now be surprised to find that you inadvertently gave Facebook the right to publicize your private information including status updates, photos, and shared links.
(BBC) Teaching unions are complaining that e-safety software is increasingly being used to keep track of their members. They say thousands of teachers are having their every mouse-click monitored, eroding trust. So-called spyware has increasingly been adopted by schools to tackle cyber-bullying and to stop pupils accessing unsuitable websites. Such software can record online activity by individuals, including web pages visited and messages sent. Leader of the NASUWT teachers' union Chris Keates says monitoring of teachers' computer use is common - and a symptom of "a growing culture of surveillance".
(Der Spiegel) The German Digital Library wants to make millions of books, films, images and audio recordings accessible online. More than 30,000 libraries, museums and archives are expected to contribute their digitized cultural artifacts. The idea, in part, is to compete with Google Books. But will it work?
(BBC) Web founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee has unveiled his latest venture for the UK government, which offers the public better access to official data. A new website, data.gov.uk, will offer reams of public sector data, ranging from traffic statistics to crime figures, for private or commercial use. The target is to kickstart a new wave of services that find novel ways to make use of the information. Sir Tim was hired by PM Gordon Brown in June 2009 to oversee the project.
(BBC) Google and Yahoo have joined two Australian organisations calling for a "rethink" of the country's controversial internet filter plans. The Australian government has announced proposals to introduce a mandatory filter which would block all RC (Refused Classification) content. The groups argue that the subjects covered by RC material are too wide-ranging for a blanket ban. They also warn that the filter will not "effectively protect children".
(New York Times) In 1920 the Hudson's Bay Company, which owed much of its early fortune to the trade in beaver pelts, began publishing a magazine for its 250th anniversary, The Beaver. This evolved into a respected magazine about Canadian history, and last week Canada's National History Society, the nonprofit group that now publishes it, decided that the Internet required the magazine to undergo a name change. To be more precise, the title was doomed by a vulgar alternative meaning that causes Web filters at schools and junk mail filters in e-mail programs to block access to material containing the magazine's name.
(Heise) Bundespräsident Horst Köhler hat das "Gesetz zur Bekämpfung von Kinderpornographie in Kommunikationsnetzen" unterzeichnet. Laut Mitteilung bestanden "keine durchgreifenden verfassungsrechtlichen Bedenken, die ihn an einer Ausfertigung gehindert hätten". Der Bundespräsident gehe davon aus, dass die Bundesregierung entsprechend ihrer Stellungnahme vom 4. Februar 2010 nunmehr "auf der Grundlage des Zugangserschwerungsgesetzes" Kinderpornographie im Internet effektiv und nachhaltig bekämpft. Siehe auch Justizministerin will Websperren vom Tisch haben. Das Justizministerium und das Innenressort hatten kürzlich eine Stellungnahme an das Staatsoberhaupt übermitteln lassen, wonach die Regierung "eine Gesetzesinitiative zur Löschung kinderpornographischer Inhalte im Internet beabsichtigt". Bis zum Inkrafttreten dieser Bestimmung werde sich Berlin "auf der Grundlage des Zugangserschwerungsgesetzes ausschließlich und intensiv für die Löschung derartiger Seiten einsetzen", heißt es in dem heise online vorliegenden Papier. Zugangssperren würden nicht vorgenommen, betonen die beiden Ministerien.
(Der Spiegel) A new bill to fight child pornography has been signed into law by Germany's president. There's only one problem: The government has decided it no longer wants it. They are now in the awkward position of relying on opposition help to repeal the legislation. It was supposed to be an initiative to stop child pornography on the Internet. But now the German government finds itself in a uniquely awkward situation after a bill which it no longer wanted was signed into law by the country's president. German President Horst Köhler signed the law after deciding that there were "no significant concerns" regarding the law's compatibility with the German constitution. The Access Impediment Law, as it is known, is aimed at combating child pornography and allows access to offensive Web sites to be blocked. However the German coalition government, which pairs Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives with the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, has decided it no longer wants the law, which was massively opposed by Internet users. Instead of blocking access to Web sites, it now wants to delete offensive Internet content instead.
(EDRI-gram) OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Media Freedom representative Miklos Haraszti asked the Turkish Government to change their Internet law in order to observe OSCE commitments and other international standards protecting freedom of expression. A survey analyzing Turkey's Internet Law has shown that the Turkish authorities were able to block the access to Internet of about 3700 websites. These sites included foreign websites such as YouTube, Geocities, DailyMotion and Google, blocked by court orders and administrative blocking orders issued by the Telecommunications Communication Presidency (TIB). The study also shows a lack of transparency in relation to the blocking orders issued either by the court or TIB and the fact that TIB has not made public the blocking statistics since May 2009. The OSCE representative considers that some of the reasons for blocking sites are "arbitrary and political, and therefore incompatible with OSCE's freedom of expression commitments."
(WebMD) Internet users who are compulsive about going online and have more social interactions in virtual worlds than the real one may be depressed, according to a new study. Some Internet users retreat from real-life interaction and opt for chat rooms and social networking sites, and this can have an adverse effect on mental health, researchers say in the Feb. 10 issue of Psychopathology. "This type of addictive surfing can have a serious impact on mental health," lead author Catriona Morrison, DPhil, of the University of Leeds, says in a news release. "The Internet now plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side."
(IGP) This is a comment Professor Wolfgang Kleinwachter made regarding the future of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). At the recent Geneva consultations of the IGF, there was a disagreement over whether the UN Secretary-General's recommendations on the continuation of the IGF should be delivered through the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) or the Committee on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) prior to the UN General Assembly receiving it to make a final decision. This seemingly obscure bureaucratic disagreement reflects a larger debate over how open and "multistakeholder" the IGF should be.
(Guardian) Thirty Facebook pages have been taken down because prisoners were using them to taunt their victims, Jack Straw, the justice secretary, has revealed. Straw was speaking after a meeting with victims' campaigners to discuss prisoners using social networking sites to hound families. The minister said the 30 offending pages brought to the attention of Facebook had been removed within 48 hours. He said he was "what we have to do is set up a better system with Facebook. "So essentially if they get a notice from us that this site is improper then all they have to do is not make a judgment about it, but press the delete button."
(SC Magazine) The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre is working with Microsoft to produce a version of Internet Explorer 8 that will give parents and children easy access to advice and information. The customised 'Click CEOP' browser has been developed by Microsoft to provide users with the opportunity to customise their browser so that they can get direct access to CEOP's advice pages. There they will see all issues covered from cyber bullying and viruses through to sexual abuse and inappropriate content - advice that is kept contemporary by signposting to and input from organisations such as Childline, the Internet Watch Foundation, Get Safe Online and Beatbullying. see also Government advice: Browse safely with Microsoft (BBC)
by Rory Cellan-Jones.
(Guardian) The debate over how to protect children from sexualisation intensified as David Cameron promised to clamp down on irresponsible advertising agencies, and the government indicated that it plans to tighten regulation of online adverts targeting children. Cameron announced that a Tory administration would withdraw all government advertising for three years from agencies that design adverts aggressively marketing their products to children. The Tories would ban the practice of peer-to-peer marketing techniques targeted at children, and also work with headteachers to terminate contracts between schools and vending machine firms. Ben Bradshaw, the culture secretary, and Ed Balls, the children's secretary, met the Advertising Standards Authority last month to impress upon the body the need to regulate advertising aimed at children on the internet. The committee of advertising practice is expected to announce next month that it will extend the ASA's remit to the internet.
(Net Family News) More than 33 billion online videos were watched during December and about a third of the them were on YouTube, according to comScore's latest figures. A 2008 study by Nielsen found that YouTube was 2-to-11-year-olds' No. 1 video viewing site (see this). So parents will probably be happy to know that YouTube now has its own filter for sexually explicit or violent content. "While no filter is 100% perfect, Safety Mode is another step in our ongoing desire to give you greater control over the content you see on the site," says the YouTube blog.
(ENISA) Instantly online-17 golden rules to combat online risks and for safer surfing mobile social networks The EU 'cyber security' Agency - ENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency) presents a new report on accessing social networks over mobile phones, Online as soon as it happens. The report points out the risks and threats of mobile social networking services, e.g. identity theft, corporate data leakage and reputation risks of mobile social networks. The report also gives 17 "golden rules" on how to combat these threats.
(CNET New.com) by Larry Magid. MTV's half-hour special, "Sexting In America: When Privates Go Public," is a good reminder for teens that taking and sending nude pictures is never a good idea. The program, which is aimed at teens, explores the consequences - to one's emotions, reputation, and legal standing - in posing for, taking, distributing, or forwarding nude pictures by cell phone or computer.
(BBC) Pupils given a greater degree of freedom to surf the internet at school are less vulnerable to online dangers in the long-term, inspectors say. "Managed" online systems were more successful than "locked" ones at safeguarding pupils' safety, they said. In a report, The safe use of new technologies, Ofsted said the area most in need of improvement was online safety training for teaching staff.
(Europa) On 9 February 2010, Safer Internet Day, the European Commission has presented the findings of an independent assessment of the implementation of the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU. Download the overall report and see how each signatory has implemented the Principles.
(RAPID) 50% of European teenagers give out personal information on the web - according to an EU study - which can remain online forever and can be seen by anybody. Today, Safer Internet Day, the European Commission is passing a message to teenagers: "Think before you post!" It welcomed actions to protect children using social networking websites taken by the 20 companies who signed the Safer Social Networking Principles last year. Most of these companies have empowered minors to tackle online risks by making it easier to change privacy settings, block users or delete unwanted comments and content. Yet more needs to be done to protect children online, the Commission says. Less than half of social networking companies (40%) make profiles of under-18 users visible only to their friends by default and only one third replied to user reports asking for help. See Think before you post! How to make social networking sites safer for children and teenagers? speech by Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media, Safer Internet Day Strasbourg, 9 February 2010. See also European Commission assesses social networking sites' approach to safety of under 18s and video clip.
(RAPID) The telecoms regulators of the 27 EU countries have met for the first time in Brussels as members of the new Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC). The new European telecoms regulator BEREC has been established following the adoption by the Council and Parliament of the new EU Telecoms rules in December 2009. See also speeches at the first meeting of the Board of Regulators of BEREC and the Management Committee of the Office 28 January 2010, Egmont Palace Brussels: The important role of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications by Neelie Kroes and Viviane Reding.
(Guardian) Eric Schmidt has stressed that Google's involvement in mobile is designed to make the operators money, not leave them out of pocket. Google chief executive Eric Schmidt has extended an olive branch to the mobile phone industry saying he is "not trying to run roughshod" over the operators or turn them into "dumb pipes" in the air. Speaking for the first time at Mobile World Congress, the industry's largest trade show, Schmidt faced angry questioning from some in the industry who fear that Google is piggybacking on their massive investment in infrastructure, through ventures such as its Android mobile phone platform, but giving them no return.
(Ars Technica) Magazines and newspapers may have some hope in getting consumers to pay for online content after all, though people trying to generate income by writing blog posts and making YouTube videos may not be so lucky. Media research firm Nielsen has found from its latest 52-country survey that there are indeed opportunities to make money on content, but users can be choosy about what kinds of things they're willing to pay for. The survey, which included more than 27,000 customers globally, found that consumers are (naturally) more inclined to keep already free things free. Still, things that people pay for offline - such as movies, music, and games - were the same things that people were most willing to pay for (or consider paying for) online.
(Networld World) The mobile device and infrastructure industries continued their familiar yet increasingly complex dance at this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona: Consumers and enterprises receive ever more devices to choose from, while carriers scramble to figure out how to support, deploy and make money off the mix.
(Observer) The European giants that pioneered the mobile telecoms industry are now stumbling in the wake of American and Asian rivals.
(mocoNews.net) Two dozen of the world's largest mobile-phone companies, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, NTT DoCoMo, Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile and Vodafone, are teaming up to create an "open international applications platform," which is in direct response to Apple's success with its own iPhone App Store. see Release. The announcement was made at Mobile World Congress. In addition to the 24 carriers, the GSMA and three device manufacturers - LG, Samsung and Sony Ericsson - are also supporting the initiative. All combined, the group reaches 3 billion subscribers worldwide, making it easily the largest app-store initiative. However, the task will also be exceedingly complicated because of the massive scope and technological barriers in uniting so many disparate platforms and operators.
(Twitpic) Safer Internet Day 2010 banner at the European Commission's Berlaymont building in Brussels.
(Economist) Online social networks are changing the way people communicate, work and play, and mostly for the better.
(Mashable) Google may have finally figured out social media, even if there have been some major slip-ups in the way. The implications of that realization could dramatically change social media as a tool and as an industry. It's becoming increasingly clear that Google didn't launch a small addition to Gmail - no, it has dropped a nuclear bomb whose fallout will permanently alter the social media landscape. Why? Why has it grown so rapidly? Why has it riled up such strong emotions on both sides? Are the privacy issues going to permanently damage Google? And most of all, what does Google Buzz mean for Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the social media world? For another point of view, see Will people leave Facebook for Buzz? Fat chance (CNET News) .
(Heise) Internetnutzer haben sich im Jahr 2009 häufiger wegen illegaler Inhalte im Netz bei der Beschwerdestelle des Verbandes der deutschen Internetwirtschaft gemeldet als im Vorjahr. Mit 5987 Beschwerden sei die Zahl um 19 Prozent gestiegen, teilte der Verband in Köln anlässlich des "Safer Internet Day" mit. Der Verband betreibt die Beschwerdestelle gemeinsam mit der Freiwilligen Selbstkontrolle Multimedia-Dienstanbieter. Hauptsächlich seien Hinweise auf kinderpornografische und ähnliche Inhalte gemeldet worden.
(BBC) Facebook dominates the lives of mobile internet users in the UK, according to figures from a mobile industry body. The social network accounts for nearly half of all the time people in the UK spend going online using their phones. The data, from the GSM Association (GSMA), showed that people in the UK spent around 2.2bn minutes browsing the social network during December alone.
(Guardian) More people are coming to US news sites via Facebook and other social networking sites such as Twitter - supplanting Google News, which had been one of the primary sources of readers, according to research by the metrics company Hitwise. During the past year, the proportion of traffic that Facebook sends to US media sites has tripled from around 1.2% to 3.52%, while that sent by Google News has remained roughly static, at around 1.4%.
(John Palfrey) Prof. Sahara Byrne, of the communications department at Cornell, studies responses to Internet safety techniques. She's interested in the "recipes for disaster," such as when parents love a given safety technique and kids hate it. She's a believer in psychological reactance theory: that when kids really don't like something, they're going to work hard to get around it. Her methods: an extensive Internet survey of 456 parents, with matched child pairs (10 - 17 years old). Asked parents how much they would support a particular tool and kids how they would feel if their parent adopted this strategy. Parents were asked more questions than the kids. A few of her findings from the matched pairs: - Surveillance of kids' online behavior by the technology/service provider is popular by parents and particularly disliked by kids. - User-child empowerment strategies were popular with both parents and kids. See video.
(IDG) Blogging is becoming a thing of the past for teens and young adults, who are now far more likely to keep in touch with friends on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, according to a new study Social Media and Young Adults by Pew Internet & American Life Project.
(Pew Internet) A survey of nearly 900 Internet stakeholders reveals fascinating new perspectives on the way the Internet is affecting human intelligence and the ways that information is being shared and rendered. The web-based survey gathered opinions from prominent scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers. It is the fourth in a series of Internet expert studies conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University and the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. In this report, we cover experts' thoughts on the following issues: Will Google make us stupid? Will the internet enhance or detract from reading, writing, and rendering of knowledge? Is the next wave of innovation in technology, gadgets, and applications pretty clear now, or will the most interesting developments between now and 2020 come "out of the blue"? Will the end-to-end principle of the internet still prevail in 10 years, or will there be more control of access to information? Will it be possible to be anonymous online or not by the end of the decade? See Overview of responses. see also presentation by Lee Rainie.
(New York Times) In a world where network neutrality has become a rallying cry for advocates of an unfettered Internet, Skype, the pioneer in low-cost and even free online calls, has become a prime example of the limits of wireless freedom. In the United States, Skype is blocked on mobile networks, and the service is available only on the Apple iPhone over Wi-Fi. In Europe, Skype is carried by the company 3 in Britain, Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Italy and Sweden. But many other cellular operators still block its calls, prohibit their customers from downloading Skype's software or outlaw the use of VoIP service in standard sales contracts. Most operators and network equipment makers still perceive Skype and other Internet phone call providers to be potential freeloaders, stealing their customers while they invest billions of dollars to build out and upgrade mobile networks.
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