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Google updates terms of service to clarify Gmail scanning stance

04/15, 8:44am

New paragraph specifically advises of content scanning on Google services

Google has updated its terms of service, adding an explanation for its content scanning efforts. The new paragraph, one of relatively few changes to the document, specifically notes that Google scans e-mails in order to provide "personally relevant product features," including "customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection."

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Facebook private message data scraping suit begins in Ontario

04/10, 10:33am

Suit alleges social network violated its own privacy policy in harvesting data

An Ontario, Canada class-action suit now underway alleges that Facebook has been scanning user's private messages without permission from users. Allegedly, the social network was using the data to grow advertising revenue, and was stopped in 2012 when an investigation found that the practice was widespread.

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Apple hires new top DC lobbyist, also creates new 'privacy counsel'

03/24, 11:06pm

Data protection specialist, former Senate staffer picked for top jobs

A former Senate staffer will take on the role of Apple's new top US government lobbyist in Washington DC, while a certified privacy professional with a background in healthcare, national security and social network privacy issues has been named to a new "privacy counsel" position within the company. Amber Cottle served as a staff director for an influential congressional committee, while Sabrina Ross as already begun her job overseeing the protection of customer data.

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Class action status for Google email privacy suit denied

03/19, 3:15pm

Judge Lucy Koh, of Apple versus Samsung fame, denies suit combination

US District Judge Lucy Koh has handed a partial victory to Google in a privacy suit against the search engine. In a Tuesday decision, the judge rued that a handful of lawsuits the company is facing may not be combined into a class-action suit, as the suits lack sufficient commonality. Based on the ruling, the myriad of filers must be heard individually or in smaller groups, escalating costs to the complainants.

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Judge rebuffs Feds' attempt to search mac.com email

03/19, 12:00am

Cites 'expectation of privacy' in email, says warrant was 'overly broad'

While specifics of the case have not been made public, a federal magistrate judge has issued an unusual rebuke to the US government over its request for a warrant to search the records of an unnamed @mac.com user. The request was rejected by the judge for being "overly broad" and because it "makes no effort to balance the law enforcement interests against the obvious expectation of privacy email account holders have in their communications."

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Report: confidential UK patient data uploaded to Google servers

03/03, 5:18pm

PA Consulting using data to generate interactive maps using patient info

Health Select Committee member Sarah Wollaston is looking into reports in Great Britain that the entire National Health Service patient database has been uploaded onto a series of Google servers. Aggravating the situation, the servers in question are located outside the UK. While the data is as secure as possible, the breach in procedure by PA Consulting raises questions of patient data security and confidentiality. The report comes in the wake of a NHS England revelation that it would delay its own data-mining service, among criticism of how it handles the data.

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Facebook changes privacy policy for deceased users' accounts

02/22, 2:15pm

Memorialized profiles to be remembered as-is

After a recent public call for Facebook to allow a family access to a deceased family member's "Look Back" video, the company has decided to re-evaluate how it deals with profiles left behind after death. In a statement from the company, new policy changes are outlined on how profiles are handled in their memorializing process. Accounts will now be left as-is instead of being restricted to a friends-only status.

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Google appeals fine, search page notice in French privacy fight

02/07, 7:28am

CNIL fine, 48-hour warning to users contested in court

Google is returning to court in France, to contest a fine and notification over its unified privacy policy. The €150,000 ($204,000) fine from France's National Commission on Computing and Freedom (CNIL) is being appealed by the search company, with an order to place a prominent notice to warn users about the ruling on Google.fr also being fought.

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Federal watchdog calls for end of NSA call log collection programs

01/23, 2:14pm

Collection programs such as Prism is illegal according to review board

An independent federal watchdog has decided that the National Security Agency's (NSA) phone call logging and collection activity is illegal. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board advises that the call log collection provided "minimal" benefits to current counter-terrorism operations and should be stopped, in a 238-page report set to be released today.

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Verizon transparency report shows 320K data requests, 1.5K phone taps

01/22, 12:58pm

Carrier receives over 1K national security letters

Amid increased scrutiny over privacy regulations, Verizon has released its first transparency report detailing the number and type of government requests for customer data. The carrier was asked to respond to over 320,000 requests from federal, state or local law-enforcement agencies in the US during 2013. Notably, nearly 1,500 of the requests resulted in wiretaps and between 1,000 and 2,000 National Security Letters were included in the numbers.

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Lavabit, Geeksphone plan Blackphone secure smartphone launch for MWC

01/15, 7:31am

Android-based Blackphone promises secure calls, messaging

The creator of a secure e-mail service is teaming up with a Firefox OS smartphone producer in order to create a privacy-oriented mobile phone. The Blackphone from Silent Circle and Geeksphone will be an Android-based device that is said to offer users secure phone calls, text messages, file transfers and storage, and video chat, all without compromising on user privacy.

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Hulu will face privacy lawsuit over Facebook viewing history sharing

12/23, 4:23pm

Judge rules Hulu must face privacy lawsuit

Hulu will have to face a class action lawsuit from users angered by the television streaming service's sharing of viewing histories with Facebook and business metrics company comScore. Reuters reported on Monday that U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler rejected Hulu's argument last week that the complainants in the case had suffered no actual wrong due to Hulu's actions. Instead of the case being dismissed, Hulu will now have to face the plaintiffs in court, with the case potentially resulting in damages of at least $2,500 per violation in addition to punitive damages.

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Google calls for dismissal of UK privacy lawsuit

12/16, 2:48pm

Search giant argues for California venue

Google is reportedly calling for a UK privacy lawsuit to be dismissed, arguing that the case should be heard in its home state of California, according to a Guardian report. The company has been sued by a group of users who accuse the company of illegally monitoring their online habits by circumventing security settings on the desktop and mobile versions of Apple's Safari browser.

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Briefly: iOS privacy app generates phone numbers, D&D for iOS debuts

10/19, 9:30am

RingMeMaybe app's disposable phone numbers ideal for dating, Craigslist

Mobile developers yourVirtualSIM has announced the release of its app RingMeMaybe, a program able to generate disposable US phone numbers for iOS devices. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, users can access unlimited numbers for anonymous communication, removing the need to publicly reveal primary phone numbers. Utilizing VoIP technology, anyone requiring temporary numbers -- such as those who may be casually dating, or buying and selling on Craigslist -- can do so for a flat rate of 99 cents per virtual number (the equivalent of '10 credits'). Each number can be generated within seconds, and remains attached to your primary number for one week, but can be extended with the addition of more credits. RingMeMaybe's VoIP feature also provides unlimited calling service for no additional fee. Users receive 20 free credits with their download, equating to two virtual phone numbers. RingMeMaybe is available from the App Store as a free download.

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Luxembourg investigates Skype involvement in NSA's PRISM program

10/11, 9:37am

Government considers banning information sharing

Luxembourg's data-protection commissioner has reportedly opened an investigation into connections between Skype and the National Security Agency's PRISM surveillance program, according to a Guardian report. The commissioner is said to be looking into potential violations of the country's data-protection and privacy laws, which could lead to fines or other sanctions.

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California ''Right to Know'' bill demands access for personal data

04/02, 9:05pm

Companies could be forced to hand over data

The California State Assembly is set to consider a new bill, the "Right to Know Act of 2013," that may force companies to disclose personal data. Supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the proposal (PDF) would require companies to provide copies of all data collected on its customers, including a list of third parties with which the personal data has been shared.

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Google director of privacy steps down after two years

04/02, 6:49am

Alma Whitten to be replaced by Lawrence You in coming months

Google's first Director of Privacy is stepping down from the role, after two and a half years in the job. Installed in the position after Google admitted to picking up Wi-Fi data through its Street View cars, Alma Whitten will continue as privacy director for a few more months until the transition to new team leader Lawrence You is complete, reports Forbes.

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Apple drops from top 20 'most trusted' companies for privacy

01/29, 6:41pm

Survey reveals contradictory attitudes on privacy, trust

The Ponemon Institute has issued its annual report ranking the most trusted companies on the issue of consumer privacy, and for the first time in three years Apple is not in the top 20, reports AppleInsider. The company had gotten as high as eighth place in 2009, but has steadily fallen in the ranking since then, entering 21st place in the latest report. The survey also revealed that American consumers have contradictory views on the issue of privacy, saying it is important but admitting to giving out sensitive information very freely.

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Revision to email search law approved by Judiciary Committee

11/29, 5:55pm

Proposal will come under full debate and vote in 2013 sessions

An amendment proposed in 2011 to require warrants for law enforcement to eavesdrop on email communications, modifying the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)from 1986 has been approved in a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee today. The unamended law allows law enforcement to swear an administrative subpoena after email had been read by the recipient to retrieve it from a server, declaring only that the information was relevant to an investigation, with no requirement to name the investigation. The amendment to the law will go before the House and Senate for debate and vote in 2013.

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EFF: new Ubuntu Linux release suffers from 'data leak'

10/30, 5:59pm

Search results transmitted to Amazon, Facebook, others by default

Web search settings in the latest Ubuntu 12.10 are to blame for what the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls a "data leak" and a privacy violation. Unless settings are altered, every time a search is performed for a document, application, or other file using the Dash feature, the search includes results from Amazon. Search results can also return advertisements sent unencrypted in the results, allowing for Wi-Fi or network sniffers to intercept and read the text.

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EU to tell Google to unravel privacy policy

10/15, 7:03pm

French data regulators say Google policy needs to change

The European Union will soon request that Google change its privacy policy to improve its protection of users' rights. This according to Reuters, which cites a letter from the EU's national data protection regulators to Google. The letter calls for Google to cease consolidating user information across its services, which include YouTube, Gmail, and Google+, and the regulators have provided "practical recommendations" for the search company to better protect its users' privacy rights.

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Google follows Brazilian order, blocks YouTube video

09/27, 7:56pm

Political video led to Google exec arrest

Google's Brazilian unit announced today that the company would be complying with a court order calling for Google to take down a YouTube video critical of a Brazilian mayoral candidate. The video had been the source of some conflict between the Brazilian court and the world's largest search engine, with the court ordering the arrest of a Google executive yesterday. Now, though, Reuters reports that Google will remove the video, though the company lamented it would not be afforded the opportunity to debate the free speech and expression implications of the controversy surrounding the order.

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Facebook to retain user searches in Activity Log

09/26, 12:41pm

User searches will be logged, but kept private, deletable

Facebook will be retaining and giving users access to a log of searches they make on the social network. The site announced today in a news post changes to its Activity Log, giving users the ability to review searches conducted on the site as well as their other activities on the site. The social network assures users that the data will remain private and that users will be able to remove searches at any time.

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Twitter relents, hands over Occupy user's data to court

09/14, 8:20pm

Turns over data, but asks it remain sealed pending appeal

On the last day before it would be assessed a fine, Twitter has agreed to hand over to authorities the data it had been withholding in a minor New York criminal case. According to The Washington Post, Twitter's capitulation is only partial, as the company is still appealing Judge Sciarrino's decision ruling that a Twitter user's tweets are public statements. The company has, though, turned over the subpoenaed information, even as it protests that the options facing the company were "unfair" and "unjust."

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Twitter must turn over protester's data or face fine

09/11, 9:12pm

Microblogging site faces contempt charge

The ongoing privacy battle between Twitter and New York's courts took another turn today, as New York State Supreme Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. ordered the microblogging site to turn over information on an Occupy Wall Street protestor's posts or suffer a fine. In announcing the ruling today, Sciarrino noted that a contempt charge was the only way the court had of bending Twitter to the court's ruling, noting that he could not "put Twitter or the little blue bird in jail." Bloomberg reports that Twitter has asked for more time, claiming that it has not had enough time to appeal the court's initial ruling -- from June 30 of this year -- that it must turn over the user's records.

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Google facing record $22.5 million fine over Safari privacy

07/10, 7:43am

Google to settle Safari privacy breach for $22.5 million

The FTC is set to hand Google a record $22.5 million fine for bypassing the privacy settings in Apple's Safari browser, reports the Wall Street Journal. The search and mobile giant is said to be close to settling the matter, although the deal still needs to be ratified by the full panel of FTC commissioners. If indeed Google agrees to settle the breach for the $22.5 million figure, it will represent the largest fine the FTC has handed to a single entity.

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US government top in content takedowns, user-data requests

06/21, 6:50pm

Report shows western democracies increasingly asking for censorship

Google has released the latest edition of its Transparency Report, which reveals those governments that have been asking the search giant to censor search results or to take down content from Google services. In a blog post on the Google Public Policy Blog, the company notes that the most recent figures point to a disturbing trend: a growing number of requests for content to be taken down come from Western democracies. In fact, the United States government was among the top entities approaching Google for such requests.

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FTC hands down first fines over social-media data collection

06/12, 6:46pm

Spokeo fined for improperly collecting and marketing data

The Federal Trade Commission has fined data collector Spokeo $800,000 in the commission's first case relating Internet and social-media data sold for employment screening purposes. In its investigation, the Commission alleged that Spokeo had violated federal law in compiling and selling information gleaned from social networking sites. As The New York Times reports, the $800,000 fine represents a civil settlement Spokeo reached with the Commission, though the company was not required to admit wrongdoing.

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Report: Google, Facebook biggest web trackers

06/12, 3:09pm

Net giants comprise all of the top five trackers

Google and Facebook are watching Internet users' movements across the web more than any other companies, according to a new analysis out from the makers of the Ghostery browser-privacy plug-in. The study used traffic data from more than a million users. It found that all of the top five trackers on the Internet were either Google- or Facebook-affiliated, with Twitter also making the top ten.

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Apple to help developers with new app-tracking tool

06/08, 5:11pm

New tool seeks to balance developer needs with privacy standards

Sources familiar with Apple's plans tell The Wall Street Journal that the company is preparing to release a new tracking tool for mobile app developers. The new tool, these sources claim, is aimed at striking a balance between developers' desire to gather targeting data on consumers and Apple's stated policy of protecting user privacy.

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White House opposes CISPA, wants privacy protections

04/18, 10:45am

White House NSC speaks out against CISPA

An Obama administration official has voiced concerns over the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which is scheduled for a House of Representatives vote next week. In a statement to The Hill, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden noted that such legislation must protect privacy while providing security provisions for critical infrastructure systems.

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Facebook expands downloadable archive information

04/12, 3:55pm

Facebook offers more downloadable user data

Facebook on Thursday detailed changes to its Download Your Information option that has been available since 2010. It has expanded the kind and amount of information users can download of their account history. Users can now get previous names, friend requests they've made, and the IP addresses they've logged in from.

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Girls Around Me stalking app defunded after controversy

04/05, 11:30pm

App may be revised to take criticism into account

The app that launched a firestorm of controversy because of its ability to aggregate publicly-available information about women into a profiling tool has been defunded after it was dropped from the App Store. The Russian company behind the application, i-Free, originally defended the program as a "dating aid," allowing users to learn about nearby women (or men) who have "checked in" using Foursquare or Facebook.

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Apple, Google to meet with Schumer over privacy concerns

03/05, 10:30pm

Senator believes they can fix problems themselves

New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer has reported that both Apple and Google have agreed to meet with him to discuss potential security risks posed by developer access to user data, and that his intention is to encourage the companies to "find a way on their own" to prevent iOS and Android apps from accessing private information without the users' knowledge. He told The New York Times that both companies were "open to the idea."

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EPIC files 'emergency appeal' to stop Google privacy change

02/28, 2:00am

Says FTC not enforcing its own consent order

Hoping for a last-chance shot at stopping -- at least temporarily -- the privacy policy changes Google plans to implement on March 1st, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has said it will appeal a court ruling that it has no standing in the FTC's ability to enforce a consent order against Google, TechCrunch reports. The group claims that Google has not complied with the consent order and that the FTC are ignoring this.

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Facebook says it's near true photo deletion years late

02/06, 5:00am

Facebook still grappling with user privacy

Facebook has said that it is getting nearer to releasing a newer system that will help to ensure that once a user deletes a photo, it is also deleted from its servers. Although the issue was first raised three years ago, Facebook user photos remain accessible, even after they have been deleted from a user’s profile, by way of the original URL. The company told Ars Technica last week that its older servers still "did not always delete images from content delivery networks in a reasonable period of time even though they were immediately removed from the site."

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Verizon sparks anger by going to opt-out user snooping

10/14, 5:35pm

Tracks sites visited, apps used and location

On Wednesday, Verizon advised its mobile subscribers that it was changing its privacy policy regarding web browsing. The wireless carrier will now collect information on the websites an individual visits, the apps being used and the user's location. It's possible to opt out, but that requires a visit to Verizon's website.

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FTC in talks with Adobe about Flash tracking cookies

12/04, 12:25am

Adobe cookies unaffected by standard controls

The FTC is taking an active interest in the way Adobe’s Flash installs its tracking cookies, according to a report. Privacy advocates have been arguing that the Adobe Flash Player, installed in up to 98 percent of PCs around the world, does not allow standard privacy controls to delete its Flash cookies. Critics argue that when users use privacy controls to stop cookies being set, or delete existing cookies, that this function works for all other apps and plug-ins except for Flash.

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Apps: VideoFlash Converter, SlidePad, MacPrivacy

03/30, 5:30pm

TimeTable, Safari 4 Buddy

  • VideoFlash Converter 2.4 ($40) allows the conversion of QuickTime compatible video files to either the Adobe Flash SWF or FLV format. The most popular formats are supported, including AVI, MOV, MPG, DivX and more. Version 2.4 includes a new Preview Pane that is displayed while flash movies are loaded from the web and a new rangebar style. [Download - 16.2MB]

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  • Google, Microsoft help found anti-censorship group

    10/29, 11:50am

    New anti-censorship group

    Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are among the founding members of a new anti-censorship group called the Global Network Initiative, reports indicate. The organization also has the backing of investor, human rights and press freedom groups, such as the Center for Democracy and Technology. The GNI is specifically aimed at forming a consistent approach to dealing with countries that block free speech on the Internet, such as China. Many governments around the world filter search results, or simply prevent citizens from accessing certain websites.

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    Bell Canada hit with class-action throttling lawsuit

    05/30, 12:50pm

    Bell Can. throttling suit

    Bell Canada is facing a class-action lawsuit as a result of its Internet access policies, an announcement reveals. A Quebec group called L'Union des consommateurs, along with Bell customer Myrna Raphael, are accusing Bell of false advertising, as a result of its practice of throttling traffic at peak hours. Raphael is said to have signed a three-year ADSL contract in 2006, partly on the basis of Bell's claim of "constant speed" at all times; by enabling throttling last fall, says Raphael, Bell broke its agreement.

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    First Look: Internet Cleanup 5.0

    02/09, 12:05pm

    Internet Cleanup 5.0

    The biggest danger to your computer is security; if you don’t protect your computer from malicious software or users, someone could steal important files and invade your privacy. To protect your privacy on your Macintosh, Smith Micro Software offers Internet Cleanup 5.0, which guards your personal data stored on your computer in three ways.

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    Internet Cleanup 5.0 adds 'Device Sentry'

    02/06, 10:30am

    Internet Cleanup 5.0

    Smith Micro Software today released Internet Cleanup 5.0 for Mac (site not updated), the latest revision of its privacy protection software. The update features 'Device Sentry,' a new option designed to stop 'pod-slurping' and other forms of data theft by preventing malicious users from mounting iPods or other external devices without authorization. Internet Cleanup 5.0 also offers a revised user interface, and full compatibility with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. The software is priced at $30, requiring Mac OS X 10.4.1 or later.

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    UPEK launches Protector Suite for Mac

    01/14, 6:35pm

    Protector Suite for Mac

    UPEK today at Macworld Expo launched Protector Suite for Mac, an application that allows Mac users to increase security and convenience with the swipe of a finger. Protector Suite for Mac, in combination with Eikon Digital Privacy Manager -- a USB-based peripheral fingerprint reader -- enables Mac users to swipe their finger instead of typing passwords to log into as well access password-protected websites and secure preferences. The latest revision offers support for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, and is due to ship in several languages in the first half of 2008 (pricing was unavailable).

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    Targus unveils laptop, LCD products at CES

    01/07, 11:05am

    Targus unveils at CES 2008

    Targus today unveiled a set of new laptop-centric products – the Velos Messenger bag, the Stow-N-Go mouse, the HeatDefense pad, Travel Power Outlets, and DEFCON privacy filters – as well as LCD mounting arms, and a mobile speaker system for MP3 players. The Velos Messenger bag comes in three color styles: chocolate with a chocolate-aqua strap, charcoal with black-lime green strap, and wheat with mushroom-orange strap. Laptops are fully cushioned from both sides, and are protected by a neoprene sleeve. Up to a 15.4-inch laptop can be used with the bag, and the extra removable strap can be exchanged with other Velos owners to make new color combinations. Targus will sell the Velos Messenger bag for $70, and it will be available in May.

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    Airlines planning to filter in-flight Internet

    12/26, 12:55pm

    Airline Internet filtering

    As airlines begin resuming in-flight Internet services, some have already decided to filter what passengers can do, writes the Associated Press. American Airlines -- confirming plans -- will be joined by Alaska Airlines in soon blocking access to VoIP services such as Skype, while companies such as Virgin America are currently contemplating a ban. The problem is that VoIP not only consumes large amounts of bandwidth, but may generate tremendous noise in a cabin from numerous ongoing conversations. Wi-Fi-enabled handsets could help circumvent the bandwidth concern.

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    No Canadian DMCA in 2007

    12/13, 4:50pm

    No Canadian DMCA in 2007

    The Canadian government will not debate the creation of DMCA-like legislation until at least 2008, writes legal expert Michael Geist. Amendments to the country's Copyright Act were expected for discussion in the House of Commons this month, but this can no longer happen, according to the press secretary for Industry Minister Jim Prentice. The bill will not be introduced tomorrow, and as parliament is breaking for the Christmas holidays after Friday, the soonest the legislation can be reintroduced is late January.

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