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Privacy Protections Increase in Cloud Data

Senator Patrick Leahy authored an amendment to the 1986 law that will require our law enforcement officials to secure search warrants to gain access to cloud data and use the information in investigations. This is to address the growing concern in the lack of or limited cloud data privacy.

Cloud data is a growing trend in data storage that has started a few years back. It is basically an alternative to storing hard copies of your personal or office files. The data are sent to the “clouds” or a server that stores everything and it can be accessed anywhere with internet connection.

Those who want to retrieve all data stored in the cloud will need a unique password. However, there is still a looming concern on whether or not privacy is maintained especially when law enforcement is concerned.

Leahy’s amendment also wants to protect the geolocation data of the users that is usually saved in our mobile phones. Should it be approved, a warrant will be required to access data in electronic devices that track the location of the user.

The amendment follows Senate hearings with the makers of smarthphone operating system, specifically GOOG for Google, AAPL for Apple, and RIMM for Research in Motion. The hearings were conducted due to a recent discovery that Apple iPhones can store location data. These data are stored in a folder with minimal protection. In fact, law enforcers are already accessing these data during their investigations without any warrant.

The amendment will also cover email searches by police officers. Our current laws give law enforcement officials full access to emails that have been stored longer than 180 days in a remote server.

Posted in Business

Cisco Suspected to have Helped China in Tracking Falun Gong Followers

A number of Falun Gong spiritual followers have filed a lawsuit against Cisco while accusing them of helping the Chinese government track down, identify, and persecute their members. Cisco allegedly built specialized computer software that tracked their online activities.

Cisco responded to the lawsuit by denying the allegations and said they only sold China standard networking equipment. Furthermore, the company insisted that they did not provide the foreign government any special or customized technology.

The lawsuit was filed a week ago in San Francisco by the Human Rights Law Foundation based in Washington. The foundation worked hand-in-hand with several lawyers who represent the Falun Gong members who either live in China or in the US.

Cisco is the number one seller of computer networking devices all over the world. They also sell a variety of equipment in China.

The lawsuit filed against the company says that Cisco knowingly helped China design and operate a surveillance and censorship network called the “Golden Shield”. The Golden Shield is a system that Chinese security officials to track down and identify members of all banned groups in China, Faun Gong included. The captured members are allegedly subjected to human rights abuse such as torture and extrajudicial killing.

Cisco is firm in denying any linkage to the Chinese government. They said that the company builds tools which allow free exchange of information following global standards. In addition, they said that they sell in China the exact same merchandise they do here in the United States and all other countries.

Posted in Business

Annual Meetings in India Held Soon through Video Conferencing

The government of India on Friday allowed companies to hold their yearly general meetings through video conferencing. The facility provides wider extent of participation and cuts additional costs by those who attend board meetings.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs in India said in a statement that companies should send a notice to directors and shareholders regarding their availability to participate on video conferencing. They should also provide important information to facilitate their access to the available video conferencing facility.

This is part of the ministry’s Green Initiative Campaign for Corporate Governance. The ministry said that it is a follow-up to the requests they received from different companies to allow participation of shareholders in meetings through electronic mode.

MCA added that the secretary and chairman would have to protect the reliability of the meeting, warrant that proper facilities for video conferencing are used, and set-up the time of the meeting and make sure that no one else will attend the meeting other than the involved people.

The section 166 of the Companies Act, 1956 requires companies to hold their AGM meetings at its registered office or a location within the village, town or village where the company’s registered office is situated. Public companies should have at least five members personally present in the meeting while two members for other kinds of company.

Video conference facility allows people from two or more locations to participate in a meeting and directly communicate with each other. It is widely available in different countries such as Malaysia, Canada and the United States. Sources said final rules regarding video conferencing will be released by the MCA on the next few days.

Posted in Business

Sony Website Hit with Another Hacker Attack

Sony seems to be in for a real treat from internet savvy hackers as they receive another attack in their security system.

After the lock down and overhaul of the company’s online services following a hacker attack that left personal and credit card information of at least 100 million people in jeopardy, Sony is yet again under attack. Both the Sony homepage and their Japanese internet service department have been victimized.

Based on a warning from a major security firm, F-Secure, Sony’s website in Thailand was attacked by hackers and was used to trick visitors in to giving up their personal information to a non-existing Italian credit card company. The company has been notified of the fraudulent and unauthorized activities and they are currently taking action to solve and undo the problem.

Sony, however, faces a bigger and more serious problem in Japan. The company’s So-Net internet security system was reported to have been breached. The hackers reportedly took 100,000 Yen or around $1,200 of funds from account holders. The breach is now under thorough investigation but Sony already reported that they found no evidence that account holders’ personal information have been obtained by the hackers.

Investigators do not see tell-tale signs that the hackers from this attack are linked to the breach that affected the Sony Online Entertainment and PlayStation Network. The former just got back online Friday after a month’s worth of shutdown for a major system overhaul.

Sony is definitely under scrutiny as their customers begin to question their security system and whether or not they should continue giving the company their personal and credit card information.

Posted in Business, Featured News

Smartphone Application Allows Workers to Track Wages

Using a new smartphone application, workers can now track their wages themselves said the Department of Labor. Employers, however, fear that the new time sheet application released by the Department of Labor would only encourage more wage and hour lawsuits.

The smartphone application is called the DOL-Timesheet and it allows workers to calculate their own regular work hours, over pay, and break time to create their wages. Officials from the department said that the information generated by the application will be very valuable during disputes over pay and even during investigations run by the government whenever employers fail to keep accurate wage records.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said that the application empowers workers and helps them stand up for their labor rights when employers deny them of their hard-earned money.

The smartphone application is just one of the many efforts of the Obama administration to aggressively enforce wage and hour laws. The Department of Labor has recently hired additional 300 investigators to probe unpaid work time complaints, violation of the minimum wage law, and lack of overtime pay.

An employer-side labor lawyer, Gerald Maatman, said that the government has its eye on wage and hour compliance like never before. In 2010, the DOL began a program called “Bridge to Justice”. The program aims to connect workers who have not been accurately paid by their employers to private lawyers.

Now, employers are more concerned about wage and hour compliance due to the increasing litigation cases because of unpaid wages. Last year, almost 6,800 wage and hour suits were filed. Most of them were class or collective actions.

Posted in Business, Featured News

Wildfires Shuts Down Oil Facilities in Alberta

More than a third of a town in Alberta was destroyed by a wildfire on Monday, forcing oil facilities to shut off thousands of barrel outputs. Alberta is the biggest energy-producing province in Canada.

More than a dozen forest fires were triggered in Alberta during one of the driest weekend of the year. The forest fires forced the emergency evacuation of a couple communities such as Slave Lake, a town of at least 10,000 residents. Slave Lake is also the center of gas, oil, and forestry.

Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee of Slave Lake spoke to the media from a command center in the heart of the town. The mayor said that at present, a couple of public buildings and some houses. The town is now deserted, she said, except for the emergency personnel. She also added that in t he area, they can still feel the intense heat and a couple of areas are still on fire. They are, however, still trying to contain the fire.

Rob Harris, Alberta’s information officer, said that the two blazes that were driven by strong wind last Sunday converged in Slave Lake and it only made the situation even more difficult for them. Oil companies were also forced to shut down their facilities and halt production.

Penn West Petroleum Ltd, for example, had to shut at least 25,000 barrels of oil in their daily production in north-central Alberta due to the fire. Company’s chief executive, Bill Andrew, assured the public that their employees are safe; however, some of them lost their homes.

Spokesperson of Cenovous Energy Inc, Rhona DelFrari said that the company has ample storage capacity to continue pumping crude oil until today. She added that they are ready to stop their operations in their Pelican Lake oil field that produces around 22,000 barrels each day.

Posted in Featured News, Nation and World

Google Sued by French Publishers for Alleged Illegal Book Scanning

Three French publishers on Wednesday said that they were taking legal actions against Google, an American multinational corporation for Internet-based services and products, for illegally scanning thousands of their books for its online library.

The lawsuit was lodged by publishers Albin Michel, Flammarion and Gallimard at a court in Paris. A source from Gallimard’s legal division said Google has been ordered to appear in court. The publishers are also demanding €9.8 billion in damages.

According to a legal representative who refused to be named, the demanded money will serve as a payment for over 10,000 books that they alleged were digitally scanned by Google without any of their permission. The damages are based on a fixed tariff of €1,000 per scanned book, whose rights are owned by the publishers.

The publishers are suing Google for forgery. However, Google responded by saying they were surprised to receive the claim and insisted that they legally scanned the books. The company said they complied with the French laws and international copyrights. However, the company is then analyzing the issued summons.

In 2009, Google was also sued over the same issue by La Martiniere, another French publisher. A court also turned down a deal Google proposed to scan several American books in the United States.

Yet, Google was given a license by the second-biggest publisher in the world and the biggest in France, Hachette Livre, to scan its books.

Google has already scanned 12 million books for its worldwide library project, based on the publisher’s legal representative.

Posted in Business

A New iPhone Application Shows How Breast Implants Will Look

A plastic surgeon designed an application that more or less performs virtual plastic surgeries. The application will allow women who are curious about breast implants to give them a feel of how it is like to have a bigger cup size.

The free iTouch, iPhone, and iPad application dubbed as iAugment uses a 3D imaging technology to copy various implant sizes. Within seconds the users can see how they will look like if they had larger breasts.

Dr. Elizabeth Kinsley, a plastic surgeon based in New Orleans, said that the application she created aims to give people who are interested in getting breast implants a chance to visualize how they would look like should they get an implant. Moreover, it aims to help people decide what cup size best fits them.

The application is easy to use too. All you have to do is take a picture of yourself; it is best that you are in a bra, light-colored top, or bathing suit in your picture. Click on the breast area to highlight it then use the tool bar at the bottom of the screen to adjust your breast size.

For the user’s convenience, the application can link you to all the trusted plastic surgeons in your area. Moreover, you can upload the photo directly on your Facebook page and ask your friends for their opinion.

Posted in Health

Apple iPhone 5 Release May Be Delayed

Reports say that the much anticipated release of the celebrated iPhone 5 will be pushed back. Apple’s regular schedule of releasing new gadgets at the beginning of summer may be upset by the release of iPhone 4 under Verizon Wireless February of this year.

The company is facing a possible production problem due to shortages in the parts and components Apple imports from Japan. Several industries have been affected by the series of earthquakes and the huge tsunami that struck Japan barely two months ago. Traditionally, new iPhones are announced during the Apple’s June Worldwide Developers Conference.

On Wednesday, MacRumors published a statement allegedly from an employee of AT&T saying that Apple has informed them that they are not planning to release the new iPhone in June but a new version should be expected soon. Unfortunately, AT&T, as supposedly mentioned by one of their employees, was not given a fixed date.

AT&T refused to deny and neither confirm this rumor. David Siegel, AT&T spokesperson, said that the company will not comment on the issue as Apples’s policies prohibit them from commenting on any issue regarding their upcoming products and release dates.

Reuters has already cited three people who have “direct knowledge” of Apple and said that the iPhone 5 release will be pushed back to September in time for the new operating system – iOS 5.

However, Craig Mathias of the Farpoint Group refuses to believe all these rumors. He also said that Apple has since been extremely consistent with their release dates and will only believe the rumors when it actually happened.

Posted in Business

Wall Street Journal is Largest Daily Newspaper in U.S.

A new report says The Wall Street Journal is the largest daily newspaper in the United States. The Journal, which is owned by News Corporation, has an average daily circulation of more than 2.1 million published in New York City.

The national American newspaper, USA Today, ranks second with a total of 1.8 million average daily circulations based on the recent report released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. It has the largest increase in total average circulation since March 2008.

The New York Times ranks first in the Sunday newspaper category. It has an average circulation of 1.4 million while Los Angeles Times has 948,889, and ranks second.

The total average circulation is a new method that measures the publication’s paid and verified print, as well as digital editions. Paid and verified branded editions are also included in the total average circulation.

Previously, total average circulation is compared to previous periods. However, ABC advised not to make direct comparisons to earlier periods. A report from ABC says the top-line metric followed by the newspaper industry no longer exists. Thus, comparisons to earlier periods are not anymore significant because of the certain changes in the rule.

Meanwhile, Dayton Daily News has an average daily circulation of 94,709 and a Sunday average circulation of 144,226 Sunday. Middletown Journal, of Butler County, has a total weekday average circulation of 13, 794 while it has a Sunday average circulation of 16,252.

Clark County’s Springfield News-Sun has a Sunday average circulation of 26,273 and average weekday average of 19,634.

Posted in Business