Apple Could Be Fined Millions for Strict iPhone Marketing Contract

Did you ever look at a phone provider catalogue and think, where have I seen that advert before? If the phone in question is an iPhone then you may have noticed its prominent placement in the catalogue along with the near identical adverts in every single catalogue. There is a reason for this other than just marketing, and could get Apple fined up to €48.5 million for their strict iPhone marketing terms.

France’s country competition regulators have launched a complaint regarding Apple’s agreements, stating that they are actually illegal. Part of the terms and conditions is that carriers have to order a minimum number of iPhones, cover the cost of repairs for some of the phones and even pay for the ad’s used (including those used for in-store displays).

If this wasn’t enough Apple gains several legal benefits, such as being able to access and use some of the carriers patents and even use their branding as they see fit. The contract also allows Apple to void the contract without any prior notice, something that would scare anyone selling thousands of euros worth of equipment.

With Apple looking at renewable energy for their facilities, they may want to rethink their strategy when it comes to selling their devices as even if this court case is just in France, other countries may follow suit and start looking at stocking alternative products because of the contract they are being forced to sign.

New Jersey Could See Texting While Walking Made Illegal

We’ve all done it before. We want to get somewhere and suddenly our phone buzzes in our pocket, not wanting to seem rude we start texting back while walking along. This is done by hundreds, if not thousands, of people on a daily basis and I’ve got bad news if you live in New Jersey because this act could soon become illegal.

The “distracted walking” measure is being proposed by state assemblywoman, Pamela Lampitt, and could see anything that distracts you thanks to technology walking made illegal in New Jersey. It’s not the first time a law has targeted this issue, a bill that’s currently pending in Hawaii could see you fined $250 if you crossed the street with an electronic device in your hand, and this is just one of many proposed bills that could see people fined for being distracted from walking and moving in public while on their electric devices.

The law would see anyone who is caught walking while texting and stop people from walking near public roads with electronic communication devices in their hands. The punishment for this crime would be $50 or 15 days imprisonment, or even worse, both. This comes in at the same penalty as jaywalking and would see half the funds allocated to “safety education about the dangers of walking and texting”.

Is this too far? Some see it as the government trying to distract people from real issues but addressing small ones that could be fixed with better education regarding the dangers in the first place. Could the police catch you if you even broke the law? If you stopped and finished a text, could they still arrest you? We will have to see.

Google Fined by France Over Right to be Forgotten

Google have been handed a fine by the French data protection authorities as a result of them failing to conform to the ‘right to be forgotten’ as ordered.

In a decision made last year by the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL), Google would have to agree to requests made for the delisting of personal information, not just on its products under European domains, but across all Google properties. Previous to this, Google had been removing requested personal results from the European versions of its search engine, including google.co.uk and google.fr, excluding other instances of the site, such as google.com, which is still accessible from within Europe.

This breach of the ruling could have allowed CNIL to charge Google as much as €300,000, however, the French organization, in the end, settled on only a €100,000 fine.

The right to be forgotten has existed since 2014 when a European court ruling allowed Spaniard Mario Costeja González to erase online evidence of a court-ordered auction of his real estate to recover debts. Those hosting the information were allowed to keep it online, but Google was ordered to remove all reference to the articles from searches of Costeja González’ name. The spirit of the decision being that minor misdemeanors or embarrassments could be covered up, but not completely removed.

Google still refuse to conform with the ruling as closely as CNIL would like, with information hidden on worldwide services, but only for users in the same nation as the one who requested the removal. For example, a Spanish user would no longer be able to find references to the auction on any Google product, including google.com, but a user from another European nation would be able to get the results through any non-European Google domain.

With over 400,000 people having already invoked their right to be delisted in Europe, they would hope that their past acts could be forgotten by all, not just those of their nation. It is unclear as to whether CNIL will make any efforts for Google to more broadly delist people, but with a fine already levied against them, they may be more compliant should the cost get steeper.

Verizon Fined $1.35 Million by FCC Over ‘Supercookie’ Tracking

Everyone wants your browsing data, from the government to your ISP, for reasons ranging from tracking potential criminals to lucrative advertisement revenue. Now Verizon is settling with the FCC over their usage of an ad targeting technology known as ‘supercookie’, which tracks the sites visited by phones on their network. These supercookies allow ads to be better targeted for users on of the Verizon cell phone service, however, Verizon neglected to inform their users of the tracking and allow them to opt-out. This action has caused them to incur a fine of $1.35 million from the US Federal Communications Commission and force them to receive customer permission before sharing any tracking data with other companies and those inside its organization, including AOL.

Verizon’s usage of the supercookie tracking garnered a lot of negative feedback when it was introduced last year, causing the company to allow users to opt-out of the program. This move is forced even further by today’s settlement, limiting the data that can be shared even from customers that do not opt-out. This is a big change, as it addresses one of the main concerns with supercookies, which could allow websites to track users on a permanent basis, as it was impossible to disassociate a user from their supercookie on the Verizon network.

This settlement represents the FCC successfully defending the Open Internet Transparency Rule, only the second time that it has been done (the first being a fine against AT&T over unlimited data plans.) This ruling seems to allow for some level of tracking to be permitted, so long as there is transparency and the option to opt-out exist for the customer. “Consumers care about privacy and should have a say in how their personal information is used, especially when it comes to who knows what they’re doing online,” stated Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. It is clear that Verizon overstepped their bounds in this case, and we can only hope that other network providers will learn from this when considering the tracking and sharing of their users’ data.

Companies Face Criminal Charges for Notifying You of Spying

The government is at the heart of a major debate regarding your information and their attempts to gain access to them. With everything from encryption to the latest in a long stream of bad ideas, making companies who inform you when people are attempting to read your information pay criminal charges.

The Snoopers Charter, or by its proper name the Investigatory Powers Bill, would not only require sites to keep up to twelve months worth of your details, including your visited sites, but would also give government agencies access to this information, all while government officials have been requesting backdoor access to encrypted data that could be easily accessed by the authorities (not to mention any hacker who finds the backdoor).

A small side note on the bill states that the bill “will ensure that a communications service provider does not notify the subject of an investigation that a request has been made for their data unless expressly permitted to do so”. This means that companies would have to be told they can tell you, rather than being told to keep it a secret.

With companies like Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook and Google already alerting you when they believe your account is being spied upon, making it illegal for companies to warn you that people are delving into your personal life could quickly come back and cause issues, both legally and morally.

Image courtesy of Beta news

Patent Troll to Pay Legal Fees

Patents are legal pieces of documentation to say that you are the creator or mind behind an idea or design, they are kinda like copyright although they can be a wider range of things such as the concept behind a piece of technology, rather than the exact components and designs needed to implement it. More often than not we find that there are groups or companies seeking to use these documents to gain money where none is due, these groups of individuals are called “Patent Trolls”. In a first, a District Judge in the US has asked a group to pay the legal fees of various companies it sued.

The concept is simple, claim you have the rights to a patent for a design or idea and then request that they pay you for anything they might have used that design for, this is especially common with things like software.

Judge Rodney Gilstrap has stated that due to the exceptional circumstance of the case eDekka LLC should be made to pay the legal fees from the various companies it sued. eDekka used a patent to sue more than 200 companies in 160 separate cases, the basis from which was their use of a database which eDekka claims their patent would reduce the time needed to retrieve information, however, when they were pressed more they began to explain the technology as a teaching tool that would help improve people’s ability to program databases and the systems that use them.

With it being considered an easy win by many patent trolls tend to hope for an early payment or a long drawn of battle resulting in the opposition not being able to continue the case. Hopefully this will deter people from trying to claim others works in exchange for an early payday.

Image courtesy of Book Masters.

Online Pharmacy Fined £130,000 For Selling Customer Data

The online pharmacy company, Pharmacy 2U has been fined a hefty £130,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office for selling customers’ personal details to a marketing company without their consent. This contravened the Data Protection Act and signified a breach of trust between the pharmacy and its users. The company released a statement apologizing for their behavior which reads:

“This is a regrettable incident for which we sincerely apologise,”

“While we are grateful that the ICO recognise that our breach was not deliberate, we appreciate this was a serious matter.”

“As soon as the issue was brought to our attention, we stopped the trial selling of customer data and made sure that the information that had been passed on was securely destroyed,”  

“We have also confirmed that we will no longer sell customer data.” 

While the company is promising to never engage in data selling activities again, the damage has been done. Handing over people’s data without any consultation or agreement is unbelievable and illustrates how poorly personal information can be treated. Perhaps, the fine will prevent other companies from trying a similar tactic and ensuring that each person’s information is protected within the confines of the law. However, if companies can get away with it, this won’t change anytime soon.

PayPal Fined $25 Million For Credit Program

Who remembers the “bill me later” option for Paypal? Not many I’m willing to bet, it didn’t last too long, and now we know why. It’s going to cost PayPal $25 million in fines after it was found to have signed people up to the scheme under false advertisements and sometimes without their permission or knowledge.

The bill me later option was created as a credit system, that means that when you bought something under it, a credit service would pay for your purchase and then the user would pay them back. However, PayPal is said to have signed up people to the service without their permission or knowledge (some people were using the feature without even knowing they had accounts) and even sometimes forced users to select PayPal credit instead of using the normal credit or debit card billing methods.

PayPal is even accused of incurring late fees and interest charges by mishandling people’s bills and accounts. Under the complaint filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) some users weren’t aware of the accounts until they received statements stating late fees and interest charges, or in more severe cases calls from debt collection companies.

PayPal is now required to pay out $15m in reimbursements to consumers who were placed into the scheme or made purchases through it. A further $10m fine is to be paid to the CFPB Civil Penalty Fund, a fund set up to help pay out to victims when a company is unable to.

I was unfortunate to find this situation myself, after buying an item on eBay and being forced to select PayPal Credit (a scheme which at the time I didn’t even know existed) and then setting a date of a week later for the date of repayment. I did manage to find the pay early option through on the PayPal account page, after several minutes of searching through settings and records and was able to settle the payment within a matter of minutes. Looks like I was a lucky one.

Did you encounter the “bill me later” option? What is your experience with the option? Were you aware you were using a credit program that could bill you extra for payments missed?

Thank you The Verge and Consumer Finance for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of WikiMedia.

 

TripAdvisor Fined in Italy Due to Misleading Reviews

TripAdvisor has received a hefty fine from the Italian government for misleading reviews. The popular website must pay $611,842 to the The Italian Competition Authority. The authority said that the website failed to implement sufficient measures to prevent fake reviews while advertising the site as a source of “authentic and genuine” assessments from people who have actually visited the places in question.

“Our systems and procedures are extremely efficient in protecting consumers from a small minority of people who try to con our system.” – TripAdvisor.

Even though the ruling was the result of a lengthy investigation, TripAdvisor has declared that it will appeal the ruling. They currently have 3 months to implement changes to their website in accordance with the Italian regulators.

Source: BBC News Via: The Next Web

Former Apple Manager Gets 1 Year in Jail, $4.5 Million Fine for Leaking Apple Secrets

Paul Devine, formerly Apple’s Global Supply Manager, has received a year of jail time as well as a fine of $4.5 million for leaking the company’s secrets.

Devine leaked secret product plans to a number of accessory manufacturers in return for money. This comes after Devine pleaded guilty to  wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy over 3 years ago. Devine reportedly made $1 Million on the leaks, after working for Apple between 2005 and 2010. As MacRumors points out, it was initially suggested that Devine could receive up to 20 years in jail over his crime, so it’s intriguing that he received such a comparatively small sentence.

Source: MacRumors

Lawsuit Against iPod DRM Set to Collapse

The highly publicised trial against Apple this week, that accuses them of unfairly restricting competition by limiting iPods to use music only downloaded from the iTunes Store, is set to collapse according to the BBC.

Apparently, the plaintiffs in the case both purchased iPods after 2009, outside the 2006 – 2009 window that the case concerns. Apple’s lawyers made the discovery after checking the device’s serial numbers.

“I am concerned that I don’t have a plaintiff. That’s a problem,” Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said at the end of the trial’s third day of testimony in Oakland, California.”

The trial has been heavily covered in the news this week, most notably due to the allegation that Apple “removed music from people’s iPods” that was downloaded from rival services. Apple says that this was misconstrued, as the songs were only removed during software updates for security purposes. The company has also argued that the use of Digital Rights Management was a necessary evil, because it was the only way the music companies would give Apple their trust and was also seen as a way to hamper piracy.

If the trial is successful, Apple could have to pay up to $1 Billion in damages.

SourceL BBC News

EU Votes In Favor Of Breaking Up Google

The Euopean Parliament has voted in favour of ‘breaking up’ Google.

MEPs (Member of European Parliament) voted 384 to 174. The Parliament itself can’t break up Google directly, but the vote will place pressure on EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager to take action.

The motion, which was raised by Andreas Schwab, a German Christian Democrat, and Ramon Tremosa, a Spanish liberal, says that Google is operating unfairly, by using its estimated 90% share of the search engine market to promote its own products and services.

Select European countries, most notably Germany, have also shown displeasure with the way Google aggregates news content, without passing on revenues to the publisher.

While it’s believed the EU won’t exactly break up Google, they may receive a hefty fine. The BBC says that the previous EU competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, suggested that the only way to solve this problem, was to fine the company $5 Billion.

Source: The Telegraph, BBC News

Leave a Bad Review, Get Fined £100

A British couple have been ‘fined’ £100 after leaving a bad review on TripAdvisor about a hotel they visited.

Tony and Jan Jenkinson visited the hotel in Blackpool for one night and were unimpressed with their stay. Like many of us, they vented their frustration on TripAdvisor, only to find that £100 had later been taken from their credit card. It turned out that the hotel had been using the line “for every bad review left on any website, the group organiser will be charged a maximum £100 per review” in their small print, something the Jenkinson’s didn’t read.

It’s not yet clear if the hotel in question, the Broadway Hotel, has done this to any guests previously, but that still does not take away from this shocking tactic to prevent bad reviews. Trading Standards are investigating and have suggested that it may be illegal. Councillor John McCreesh, cabinet member for trading standards told the BBC, “Hotel owners should focus on getting their service right rather than shutting down aggrieved customers with threats and fines.”

Source: BBC News

Google Facing Possible $6bn Fine by the EU

$6 billion isn’t exactly pocket change, even for a company that apparently owns 25% of all internet traffic. Google’s recent fight with the European Union may end up costing them quite a large amount of coin, in total equal to 10% of their global revenue. Microsoft had a run in recently, but got off rather lightly in comparison with a $731 million debt owed.

The Guardian reported the ultimatum given to google on Tuesday:

“In a dramatic change of position, Joaquín Almunia, the EC’s competition commissioner, told the European parliament that unless Google altered its offer to settle complaints, it could face a “statement of objections”, the formal path towards a fine that could equate to 10% of the company’s global revenue, or about $6bn (£3.7bn).”

Almunia also stated:

“Microsoft was investigated [by the EC] for 16 years, which is four times as much as the Google investigation has taken, and there are more problems with Google than there were with Microsoft”

Controlling over 90% of search traffic that travels through Europe, it’s obvious that Google is a rather big deal globally. Alongside the fact that Google have been fighting this case since its opening in November 2010, the statements above by Almunia are vastly different to the position he took before summer. Originally Almunia was set to take Google’s third set of proposals and settle the case – however its been said that thanks to the recent change of light, companies who are part of the complaint are pleased with this progress.

Almunia informed MEP’s that this change in position is due to “new factual evidence” about the impact on rivals of the proposals. In response Google stated “we continue to work with the European commission to resolve their concerns”.

For any updates on progress or settlement of this case, keep checking eTeknix.

Image courtesy of The Telegraph