Spam, scrams and scams - take your pick

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Microsoft vs Google, vs Microsoft, vs Microsoft?

Google and Microsoft met for a bit of legal jousting on Capitol Hill this week. The subject? Google's proposed $3.1bn merger with online ad firm DoubleClick.

Microsoft said the merger would hinder competition in the online ad market and endanger the privacy of people everywhere, while Google maintained that the deal would be good for everyone and would promote free speech.

But not all the top brass at MS got the memo, and just days later reports emerged of comments by Jean-Philippe Courtois, head of Microsoft International. He said we should put our trust in the regulators: "The question is not for Microsoft to have specific views... as in all markets, it is for the regulator to see if the competition is right."

Googling for privacy

Meanwhile, Google has proposed breaking up the information gathered on users of its services in order to better preserve their privacy. The company told the US Senate that it was investigating the measure after consultation with privacy groups.

Neither the Australian High Commission nor the German courts were impressed. The Aussies went on the offensive over Google's habit of serving sponsored links along with its search results, while the data protection authorities in Germany have written to EC competition heads about the proposed DoubleClick acquisition, concerned the deal will give Google unprecedented access to users' personal data.

Microsoft apes Google's aps

In a bid to spin its web-based version of Office into contention with rival internet behemoth Google, Microsoft has said it will begin accepting applications for beta testing its web apps later this year. Feeling the pressure perhaps? Unlike Google, MS says users must already own an offline version of the software before they can play.

Google grows its own

Meanwhile, Google has completed the integration of Postini into its corporate email service and more than doubled the capacity of inboxes to 25GB. The free Gmail inbox offered to webplebians remains at 3GB.

Yet more Google

Astonishingly, more news from Google, but less good this time. Speculation is mounting that the search giant could have been compromised. Watchers say a proliferation of rogue sites turning up in search results suggests the firm's security is not what it should be. Google says it is working on it, and has fixed many of the issues already.

See you in court

Thirty-year-old single mother of two Jammie Thomas is almost certainly wishing she hadn't said as much to the RIAA. Thomas appeared in court earlier this week to answer allegations that she illegally shared 1,702 songs on the Kazaa file-sharing network.

However, her peers were swayed by the arguments of the RIAA and found in its favour. Thomas has been fined $9,250 for each of the 24 songs the prosecution focused on for the case. The RIAA alleges she shared over 1,702 songs in all over the peer-to-peer network.

Fine times

Also facing fines are three men accused of forcing spyware onto more than 15 million computers. The trio has agreed to pay $330,000 and to to be monitored by federal authorities for up to eight years. A quick compare and contrast is left as an exercise for the reader.

Sue-ts you, sir

A (relatively) small Texas company has sued AOL, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, claiming that all four web giants have infringed its patent "for conducting business transactions over the internet".

Performance Pricing Inc filed suit last week in the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, insisting that four of the biggest names on the net are stepping on its patent with their ad technologies.

In anti we trust

The European Commission has launched an anti-trust investigation into chip maker Qualcomm. It is the third chip or memory competition case launched by the commission since July, and follows a recent commission competition court victory over Microsoft.

The case concerns accusations first made against Qualcomm by rival chip makers in 2005, when Nokia and others made a formal complaint to the commission, alleging that Qualcomm abused the fact that its technology was chosen for use in the technical standard used for third generation (3G) mobile phone technology.

Slap in the FaceBook

Facebook has wrestled control of the web address away from an Isle of Man-based firm that operates it as a revenue-raising link dump.

Manx outfit YOLAPT registered the domain on 3 October 2004, several months after Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg launched, but while it was still only available to a few US colleges.

Penguins out on a limb

An ARM, to be precise. The firm flexed its mobile muscle by revealing a fairly broad coalition focused on developing a version of Linux well-suited for future smart phones.

Partners include Marvell, MontaVista, Movial, Mozilla, Samsung and TI. The companies intend to craft an open source operating system, development package, and a browser that could could run on just about anything from a phone to ultra-mobile PCs.

Bidding on this item has ended

Skype co-founder and chief executive Niklas Zennstrom has quit his job managing the day-to-day running of the eBay-owned IP telephony outfit. He walks away with a share of a $530m profit-related pay off. In an SEC filing, also today, eBay said it would take a $1.43bn hit in charges relating to Skype in Q3.

Skype's founders say they are happy with the cash they've trousered, despite missing out on the huge payday they would've scored if the service was a bigger success. If Skype had hit profit targets, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom would have taken home three times as much bacon.

Staying with eBay, the firm also went on the offensive against wannabe Skype-alikes, deleting auctions that carried click-to-call buttons for VoIP rival Jajah.

Jajah released its embeddable buttons last week, and decided to take the provocative step of promoting a special version for eBay auctions. Businessweek claimed there had been a deal between the two to approve the buttons, but no such talks occurred.

Data retentive

UK telecoms firms must keep phone call logs for a year under legislation which came into force this week. But firms say it'll make little practical difference to them, since they already store this kind of data for billing purposes.

The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2007 are intended to ensure that security services have a reliable log of mobile and fixed-line phone calls to be used in investigations. They are also designed to ensure a uniform approach across the industry.

Fresh air in MySpace

Or is that just the sound of O2 offering customers access to their MySpace accounts, only eight months after Vodafone announced its exclusive with the Murdoch-owned portal. The telco says it is suspending data charges for November and December, after which the mobile operator suggests you take advantage of its "unlimited" data tariffs.

Navigating acquisitions

Nokia has jumped into the personal navigation business with the acquisition of Navteq for €5.7bn ($8.1bn). The Chicago-based navigation technology firm has about 3,000 employees based at 168 offices in 30 countries. The company will operate independently, providing existing customers with mapping information and continuing to run

Not one to be left out of a trend, Microsoft picked up shopping site Jellyfish. Jellyfish offers shoppers cashback for buying from its affiliate merchants, who can decide how much to pay the site by way of commission. As well as product searches, it runs reverse auctions in the style of a TV shopping channel, where the steeliest bidders can pick up a bargain.


The Security and Exchange Commission prompted smiles on Thursday, as it reviewed data showing stock-touting junk mail has dropped significantly since a tough anti-spam campaign kicked off in March.

Meanwhile, Symantec says spam related to financial services comprised 21 per cent of all junk mail in the first six months of this year, down from 30 per cent during the last six months of 2006. But it is not all good news: Overall, spam is up. It just isn't stock advice anymore.


More than $2.1bn in counterfeit cheques destined for the US have been seized and 77 arrests made in Netherlands, Nigeria, and Canada as part of an international crackdown on cheque fraud scams.

The full extent of the fraud is unknown, but scams in which fraudsters trick consumers into accepting phoney cheques or money orders and wiring some of the money in return are increasing at an alarming rate, according to the National Consumers League (NCL). TV and radio was full of discussion, including news that as many as one in 10 Brits falls victim to this kind of scam.

In related news, APACS reports that a doubling of overseas card fraud is pushing up industry losses even as domestic fraud decreases. The banking industry association says total credit card fraud losses increased by 26 per cent to £263.6m in the six months to June 2007, compared with £209m in the first half of 2006.


Questions are mounting over how Israeli planes were able to sneak past Syria's defences and bomb a "strategic target" in the country last month. Israeli F-15s and F-16s bombed a military construction site on 6 September. Earlier reports of the attack were confirmed this week when Israeli Army radio said Israeli planes had attacked a military target "deep inside Syria", quoting the military censor.

Blast from the past

Users of encryption technology can no longer refuse to reveal keys to UK authorities after amendments to the powers of the state to intercept communications took effect on Monday (1 Oct). The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) has had a clause activated which allows a person to be compelled to reveal a decryption key. Refusal can earn someone a five year jail term.

And finally...

James Blunt is, officially, a w*nker. We'll say no more. ®

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