Breaking News For March 30, 2011

AT&T and T-Mobile proposed merger

In a follow up to our recent post on the AT&T duopoly, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, noted that cell phones are no longer a luxury but a necessity as more and more subscribers opt to forsake a land line in favor of only a mobil phone. This makes so much sense, especially for anyone on the move but since no one uses the home telephone, at least no one under 30, why have one? The problem is especially crucial to those on the East Coast as fewer choices are available:
“Attorney General Schneiderman stressed that he will closely scrutinize AT&T’s argument that the merger has the potential to produce some benefits, such as expanding the coverage of AT&T’s next generation broadband wireless network to rural areas in upstate New York that are underserved and have poor wired broadband connectivity. Supporters argue that the merger might improve broadband service for T-Mobile customers by fulfilling some of their spectrum needs through access to AT&T’s advanced network. The Attorney General’s review will weigh the benefits to New Yorkers against the anti-competitive risks posed to them.”
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Do no evil, or pay big time!

After issuing what we at NetHawk Interactive, Inc. think is the type of privacy policy members crave, across our network, it is interesting to note that Google in an unexpected move, marks the first time the FTC has accused a company of violating privacy rules spelled out under the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, but also because it is the first settlement requiring a company to institute a “comprehensive privacy program” as part of the agreement, according to the FTC. Though some of the FTC links aren’t working as I type this, here is the gist of the complaint:

“According to the FTC complaint, Google launched its Buzz social network through its Gmail web-based email product. Although Google led Gmail users to believe that they could choose whether or not they wanted to join the network, the options for declining or leaving the social network were ineffective. For users who joined the Buzz network, the controls for limiting the sharing of their personal information were confusing and difficult to find, the agency alleged.

“On the day Buzz was launched, Gmail users got a message announcing the new service and were given two options: “Sweet! Check out Buzz,” and “Nah, go to my inbox.” However, the FTC complaint alleged that some Gmail users who clicked on “Nah…” were nonetheless enrolled in certain features of the Google Buzz social network. For those Gmail users who clicked on “Sweet!,” the FTC alleges that they were not adequately informed that the identity of individuals they emailed most frequently would be made public by default. Google also offered a “Turn Off Buzz” option that did not fully remove the user from the social network.

“In response to the Buzz launch, Google received thousands of complaints from consumers who were concerned about public disclosure of their email contacts which included, in some cases, ex-spouses, patients, students, employers, or competitors. According to the FTC complaint, Google made certain changes to the Buzz product in response to those complaints.

“When Google launched Buzz, its privacy policy stated that “When you sign up for a particular service that requires registration, we ask you to provide personal information. If we use this information in a manner different than the purpose for which it was collected, then we will ask for your consent prior to such use.” The FTC complaint charges that Google violated its privacy policies by using information provided for Gmail for another purpose – social networking – without obtaining consumers’ permission in advance.

“The agency also alleges that by offering options like “Nah, go to my inbox,” and “Turn Off Buzz,” Google misrepresented that consumers who clicked on these options would not be enrolled in Buzz. In fact, they were enrolled in certain features of Buzz.”

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Music Lockers Double-edged Knife In The Back

Amazon announced yesterday their new Cloud Drive service, providing users with 5 GB of free remote storage for music, video, photos and documents. According to Amazon, users who purchase something from the company’s digital music store will get an additional 20 GB of storage free of charge for one year from the date of your purchase. The company of course is also providing users with paid storage options, ranging from $20 a year for 20GB, to $1,000 a year for 1,000 GB. The company also unveiled a Cloud player, allowing users to stream music from their storage locker to either a remote PC or an Android device. As you might expect, the record labels are already complaining that Amazon didn’t secure additional streaming licenses before launching the service.

Of course, also announced yesterday is AT&T’s new Terms of Service (TOS) outlining how much extra you will be paying for overage and that you will also be yanked from their service is you threaten or abuse their representatives. Don’t take this lightly, apparently, providers in their rush to lie about what they have to offer, are finding folks really unfriendly when they realize they’ve been duped.

Note that the last few days saw Amazon share price rise on this news, however, all is not rosy in Seattle. As you might expect, storing music does not sit well with those who own copyrights who fear their turf is being jeopardized. From Reuters we read, “Amazon’s Cloud Drive, announced on Tuesday, allows customers to store about 1,000 songs on the company’s Web servers for free instead of their own hard drives and play them over an Internet connection directly from Web browsers and on phones running Google Inc’s Android software.

“Sony Music, home to artists such as Shakira and Kings of Leon, was upset by Amazon’s decision to launch the service without new licenses for music streaming, said spokeswoman Liz Young.

“We hope that they’ll reach a new license deal,” Young said, “but we’re keeping all of our legal options open.”

“Amazon beat rivals Google and Apple Inc into the market for such “music locker” services, which are meant to appeal to consumers frustrated by the complexities of storing their favorite songs at work, home and on their smartphones. Apple and Google were expected to launch their services at the end of last year.”

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