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Amazon releases its first report on government requests for user data

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Following other US tech giants – including Google, Twitter, and Facebook, Amazon has released its first transparency report, revealing government requests for user information it received for the period January 1, 2015, through May 31, 2015.

As per the report, the e-commerce giant received 813 subpoenas and 25 search warrants during the period, and it responded fully to only 542 and 13 of them, respectively. In addition, the company also received 13 court orders, 0-249 national security requests, 132 non-US requests, and 1 removal request. Read more »

Massive hack compromises data of millions of US federal workers

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Hackers infiltrated the computers of the US Office of Personnel Management – which handles government security clearances and federal employee records – and compromised personal data (like Social Security numbers) of at least 4 million current and former federal employees, the Obama administration revealed yesterday.

The hack – which is said to have started late last year – was first spotted a couple of months back, and was confirmed in the beginning of May. It is believed to have originated from China, although it isn’t yet clear if it was state sponsored. Read more »

US reportedly launched a failed attempt to sabotage North Korea’s nuclear program with a Stuxnet variant

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Five years ago, the United States National Security Agency (NSA) carried out an unsuccessful attempt to destroy North Korea’s nuclear program with a version of the Stuxnet virus, according to a report from Reuters.

As per the report, the operation took place around the same time as the well-known Stuxnet attack that crippled Iran’s nuclear program. However, the NSA couldn’t access core systems that ran North Korea’s nuclear weapons program due to the country’s secrecy as well as the extreme isolation of its communications network, the report notes. Read more »

Microsoft’s first flagship store outside of North America to launch in Oz

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Microsoft has announced that it will launch a retail store in Australia, making it the first country outside of North America to have a flagship Microsoft store. The store will open in Sydney, and will be located in Westfield Sydney on Pitt Street Mall, which is just a few hundred meters from Apple’s flagship outlet.

“This will be much more than a store. It will embody the world class innovation that you have come to expect from Microsoft and be a space where consumers can visit and learn how to make the most of their technology,” said Microsoft Australia’s managing director Pip Marlow. Read more »

Google opens its first ever brick-and-mortar store in London

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Google has opened its first-ever brick-and-mortar store. Called the Google shop, the store (or “shop in shop” as the search giant is calling it) is located on London’s Tottenham Court Road, within a store belonging to UK’s largest consumer electronics retailer Currys PC World.

“The Google shop will offer customers the chance to sample Google’s range of Android phones and tablets, Chromebook laptops and Chromecasts and learn about how they work together, from one device to the next, to make users’ lives as seamless as possible,” the Mountain View, California-based company said in a press release. Read more »

Obama announces $100 million TechHire initiative to boost high-tech hiring

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The United States President Barack Obama has announced a new program aimed at getting more Americans rapidly trained for well-paying technology jobs. Dubbed TechHire, the initiative will see Obama administration providing $100 million in competitive grants to support innovative approaches aimed at helping low-skill individuals with childcare responsibilities, disabilities, and limited English proficiency, get training in the technology sector.

“America has about 5 million open jobs today, more than at any point since 2001. Over half a million of those job openings are in information technology fields like software development, network administration, and cybersecurity,” the White House said. “The average salary in a job that requires information technology (IT) skills – whether in manufacturing, advertising, retail or banking – is 50 percent higher than the average private-sector American job.” Read more »

Apple secretly working on an electric vehicle that looks like a minivan, says WSJ

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Hundreds of Apple employees are secretly working on an electric vehicle that apparently looks like a minivan in its current form, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Dubbed Titan, the year-old project is being headed by former Ford engineer Steve Zadesky who also helped the company create the iPod and iPhone.

The project would take several years to complete, and that’s assuming Apple decides to go through with it, something which isn’t certain as the company often develops prototypes for testing other products and technologies. Read more »

Twitter acquires ZipDial startup in its first buyout in India

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In an effort to expand its presence in India, Twitter has made it first acquisition in the country, gobbling up a Bengaluru-based startup ZipDial, which offers services like missed calls for user verification and alerts to its customers. Although the financial details of the deal were not revealed, a TechCrunch report pegs the monetary value at around $30-$40 million.

Founded in 2010, ZipDial assigns companies special phone numbers that they associate with their brands and use in their print or TV commercials. Users just have to make a missed call, one that disconnects before the other party answers, to these phone numbers following which they begin receiving inbound content and further engagement on their phone in real-time through voice, SMS or an app notification. Read more »

Apple, Google propose to settle antipoaching suit for $415 million

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A few days ago, there were reports that four Silicon Valley companies, including Apple and Google, have agreed to a new settlement aimed at resolving an antitrust class action lawsuit alleging they conspired to avoid poaching each anothers’ employees. Although there was no word on the settlement amount at that time, it is now being reported that the companies, which also include Adobe and Intel, have agreed to pay a total of $415 million to settle the dispute.

The proposed settlement, which is $90.5 million more than a previous deal that was rejected by a US judge, was revealed in a motion filed by the firms yesterday in US District Court in San Jose, California. Read more »

Sony makes a U-turn, says The Interview will be released on Christmas day

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Nearly a week after Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) canceled The Interview’s planned theatrical release after hackers threatened to attack theaters showing it, the studio has said that the Seth Rogen comedy will be released on Christmas Day.

“We are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech,” said SPE Chief Executive Michael Lynton, adding that the company never gave up on releasing the film, rather it was working to secure other platforms and more cinemas “so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.” Read more »

Samsung announces $2 billion share buyback

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Samsung has let the markets know that it wants to buy back $2 billion worth of its own shares. Specifically, the electronics giant will nab 1.65 million common shares and 250,000 preferred shares. The move represents its first share buyback since 2007, and the second biggest one ever.

The point of the buyback is reportedly for Samsung to stabilise its share price and boost value for its shareholders, who have been none too happy with the Korean company’s latest results, especially its falling profits. Read more »

Apple completely loses the plot, revokes Computer Bild magazine accreditation over #bendgate video

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Just when we thought that the whole #bendage thing was behind us, here comes Apple to reignite it all over again. The company has revoked the press accreditation of German magazine Computer Bild after it published a video of its editor-in-chief bending iPhone 6 Plus and then failing to do so with the Galaxy Note 3.

Now whether or not an €800 phone should bend like that or if you should apply such force to it is beyond the point here. What’s important is Apple’s reaction to the case. Read more »

Cameras in your car can tell when you’re on the phone

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The integration of cell phones and automobiles have now become a foregone conclusion, with even base models offering up instant bluetooth syncing, allowing drivers to make and take calls and even stream music through their automobile’s speakers.

But what if your car can tell when you’re using your phone while driving? A team from Santa Catarina University in Brazil have devised a way to do just that. Read more »

Crew members will have Nexus 7 tablets on Virgin America

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Nexus 7 tablets will now be on every Virgin America flight.

But don’t get too excited, because these Android slates will be for crew members only. Read more »

You can now ask follow up questions with Bing

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Although Bing’s far from being the king of the search engine roost, this hasn’t stopped Microsoft from adding features to try and lure users to use it to find what they’re looking for on the web.

The latest addition is giving users the ability to ask follow up questions in an attempt to narrow their searches even further. Read more »