Facebook Fined In German Intellectual Property Dispute

This is a story that dates back to four years ago when a German court found that Facebook’s terms and conditions did not address the circumstances in which users intellectual property could be used by Facebook or even licensed to third parties. That still seems to be an issue as a regional court in Berlin found that Facebook still hasn’t changed their terms and conditions to properly reflect these concern and in return, they were slapped with a €100,000 fine.

The complaint was originally filed by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) and the court agreed that Facebooks terms and conditions weren’t clear on the issue. Naturally Facebook complied with the request, or at least partially. They did change the wording of the statement on intellectual property in the terms, but according to this new ruling, the message remained the same. Now Facebook has to write them a small check for the amount of hundred thousand Euros while they still need to change their wording and make it clear to the users when they give up their intellectual rights.

This ruling comes just a week after Mark Zuckerberg visited Berlin where he got the first ever Axel Springer Award for entrepreneurship and innovation. If timed better, he could have paid the fine before heading home again. Jokes aside, terms and conditions for software usage are, generally speaking, a nightmare for any user to navigate and understand. For the most part, they are written in ambiguous ways that benefit the creator rather than the user and in such lengths that barely anyone bothers to read it before they agree. This is a huge problem in my opinion and I hope that we’ll see more companies fined for bad practices in this area. Maybe one day we’ll actually understand what we agree to.

While the court’s ruling stated that the problem was with the wording, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We complied with the order to clarify a single provision in our terms concerning an IP license a while ago. The court felt we did not update our terms quickly enough and has issued a fine, which we will pay.”

I’m sure that this isn’t the last time that we hear about this issue.

German Court Rules Facebook’s ‘Friends Finder’ Unlawful

The highest court in Germany has ruled that Facebook’s ‘Friends Finder’ function is unlawful on the grounds that it scrapes the e-mail contacts of users in order to market the social media site to other users. The German Federal Court of Justice found that the feature – a complaint in a case brought against Facebook in 2010 by the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) – constituted advertising harassment, upholding a previous judgement from 2014.

A summary from the 2014 ruling [PDF] described the function of the ‘Friends Finder’ feature as “undue, harassing, and therefore illicit advertising as defined by the German Law against Unfair Competition,” and argued that “the Find Friends feature violates German privacy laws. After the user clicks the Find Friends button, Facebook processes and uses personal data for advertising purposes without informing the user or obtaining the user’s consent as required by law.”

“What the judgment means exactly for the current Friends Finder, we now have to find out,” Klaus Mueller, head of the VZBV, said (via Reuters). “In addition to Facebook, other services use this form of advertising to attract new users. They must now probably rethink.”

In a statement, a Facebook Germany spokesperson said that the company was still awaiting receipt of the formal decision and that it would examine the findings “to assess any impact on our services.”

Microsoft to Host Data in Germany to Protect it From US Spying

Microsoft has announced that it is to open a number of data centres in Germany, in partnership with T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom AG, to offer cloud storage to European customers away from the prying eyes of US intelligence programs. The data centres are expected to be live by the end of 2016 and serve customers within the European Union or member countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

“Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every individual on the planet to achieve more,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, said. “Our new datacenter regions in Germany, operated in partnership with Deutsche Telekom, will not only spur local innovation and growth, but offer customers choice and trust in how their data is handled and where it is stored.”

Microsoft assures customers that the quality of its cloud storage services – which have come under fire for false advertising following its withdrawal of unlimited data storage from OneDrive accounts due to “user abuse” – will not be affected, only where the data is stored.

“Microsoft is pioneering a new, unique, solution for customers in Germany and Europe. Now, customers who want local control of their data combined with Microsoft’s cloud services have a new option, and I anticipate it will be rapidly adopted,” Timotheus Hottges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, added.

Further Microsoft datacenters are planned for the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Netherlands.

Germany Promises 50Mbps Broadband

With a wide majority of the world using internet on a regular, if not every day, basis, we need to be aware of just how much we use the internet for. While most activities are mundane and almost ritualistic in how we do them each day. There are some which we take a lot of time to do, and can even be in their work life every day. With more and more people relying on the internet for everyday work related activities speed is essential (yes, we understand that you want that YouTube video to buffer a little faster too). Germany has decided that it will take the first step and states that it will promise all users 50Mbps broadband across the entire country.

The current highest download speed (on average) is South Korea with 23.6Mbps, with the average speed in the US only measuring at 11.9Mbps. With initial estimates putting 70% of Germany already connected to 50Mbps connections, the cost of upgrading everyone to this speed is expected to be rather small. It should be noted though that their current average speed is only 11Mbps, a value only slightly lower than the US’s and under half of the current world’s leaders average.

With the public being asked to provide 10% of the cost, with 90% being provided by a combination of German states (40%) and development projects (50%), users could soon see their internet speed jumping.

Thank you The Next Web for the information.

Image courtesy of Gecko And Fly.

Treason Investigation For Netzpolitik.org Paused In Germany

Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister taking part in Sundays demonstration in Berlin

Secrecy and news. These things are against odds in recent years with the public being aware of just how much we do not know courtesy of the Snowden leaks. In Germany, there is an investigation into the digital rights news site Netzpolitik.org, or rather two journalists, who are charged with treason.

Earlier this year Netzpolitik published two leaked documents detailing the plans by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution to expand surveillance of social networks. The head of the German intelligence services, Hans-Georg Massen, has defended the idea of bringing criminal charges to the sites writers. It should be noted that he is also the president fo the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

The investigation began with just those responsible for the leaks but was expanded to include Netzpolitik journalists. The idea of journalists being under investigation for treason caught wind and ended with a lot of people expressing their dislike of the matter, including Correctiv.rog who not only republished the leaked documents but then reported themselves to Germany’s prosecutor general.

With politicians such as Renate Künast (leading Green MP) calling the investigation a “humiliation of the rule of law”, the matter will only continue to gather favour and the public opinion and action will impact on the government’s decisions.

The trial is currently halted courtesy of the Prosecutor general, Harald range, who has stated that he will “await the results of an internal investigation into whether the journalists from the news platform netzpolitik.org had quoted from a classified intelligence report before deciding how to proceed.”

Thank you Ars Technica for the information.

Image courtesy of Sebaso.

 

100% Electric Big Rig Hits German Roads

This week, Europe’s first 100% electric tractor-trailer truck took to the roads in Germany, courtesy of car giant BMW. The 40-ton lorry can travel up to 62 miles per charge in an average of three or four hours and will transport vehicle components, including shock absorbers, springs, and steering systems, across two miles, seven times a day, within the city of Munich.

The vehicle was developed by BMW in conjunction with German automotive service provider the SCHERM Group, and is based on a model from Dutch truck manufacturer Terberg. The rig is advertised as “CO2-free, quiet and generates almost no fine particle pollution.” It will save up to 11.8 tons of carbon dioxide per year, compared to a standard diesel engine truck.

The quantity of greenhouse gasses emitted by goods transportation vehicles is set to surpass that of passenger vehicles on a global scale by 2030, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates that medium-to-heavy-duty vehicles account for around 25% of greenhouse gas emissions and oil use in the US, so efforts such as BMW’s electric truck to reduce CO2 effusions are very welcome.

Jürgen Maidl, head of logistics at BMW Group, said, “With this project we will gain valuable information on what will be possible with electric trucks in the future for city logistics.”

Thank you Think Progress for providing us with this information.

Internet Watershed For Saucy eBooks

Have you ever contemplated if governments, authorities, and anyone who debates, writes and passes laws around the world genuinely understands the notion of the Internet? Over the years Pepperidge Farms has wondered this and so have I. A variety of experts have defended politicians stating that after analysing the results, there seems to be a logic, common sense if you will.

This tall tale with which I am going to write is 100% factual, this has not been lifted from a Disney book but rather has been reported by a respected outlet within a European Country. Apparently, I am not making this up; the Youth Protection Authority within Germany has handed down a law stating that Saucy eBooks cannot be sold on the Internet by German resellers until the hours of 10pm – 6am. This effectively means a law states that a watershed must exist on the Internet with the aim of content only being available from a specific time.

These kinds of Adult eBooks which I am told exist, fall within German telemedia and therefore infringe upon the Youth Media Protection State Treaty, therefore any youth endangering eBooks, not my words, the words of Heise.de, IT News online website, or more factually, the words of Google Translate as I don’t speak German cannot be sold until 10pm at night.

These statements aimed at protecting Children have become more and more ludicrous, the notion of an Internet which upon command can be walled off for certain hours of the day is astonishing, it’s also not clear if this content will magically appear again at 10pm or not and if so, anyone who shouldn’t be viewing such content will just, erm, stay up past their bed time. Great firewall of China? No, what you really want is a great watershed wall of Germany, think Berlin wall that disappears at night.

Thank You heise.de for providing us with this information

Image Courtesy of Good E Reader

Tesla Model S Let Loose on Autobahn for 12 Minutes

Elon Musk, owner of Tesla the electric vehicle (EV) super giant, set out to build electric cars that could go fast and so far; he has delivered. Who can question the massive 691BHP from the Tesla P85D; well it works well on a drag strip or for short periods of time, but the Tesla has a problem that all batteries face when used for a while; heat.

The battery gets so hot during extended hard usage, that the car reduces power to protect the battery and other electrical systems. That’s not a good thing for testers, Top Gear reportedly hit this barrier during testing and there are numerous videos of Model S owners struggling on the Nurburgring.

Well this issue has been taken on board and has been ironed out, at least in Germany, where this Model S owner posted a video of him hitting 125MPH on the autobahn for around 12 minutes. I will warn you, the video is rather boring; he’s going in a relatively straight in for 12 minutes, what else do you expect?

Now 125MPH isn’t amazing; that’s around 90% of most ‘sporty’ hatchbacks top speed, so most cars can do this and for longer than 12 minutes. This is, however, the first step in EV’s that can compete with the big autobahn cruisers. Imagine future races being held with EV’s, OK you don’t have the sound; but I can live with that.

Thank you to EVObession for providing us with this information.

AdBlock Plus Ruled Legal by German Court

Despite being the life-blood of many websites, some internet users understandably find online ads annoying, especially when they are intrusive and impair their ability to engage with a site (for the record, all of eTeknix’s ads are tastefully placed, unobtrusive, and will bring you great wealth, long life, and the adoration of all the cats).

For such users, AdBlock Plus, the advertising blocking software, is like mana, but businesses that rely on revenue from web advertisements are understandably opposed to the application, with many challenging the legality of AdBlock Plus in court, the latest of which has failed. A group of advertisers took AdBlock Plus to court and, after a four-month trial, the Hamburg court has ruled that blocking advertisements is entirely legal.

The plaintiffs, German website operators Zeit Online and Handelsblatt, alleged that Eyeo, the parent company of AdBlcok Plus, were breaking the law by blocking adverts on their websites, since it circumvented their wishes. Had the court ruled in the plaintiff’s favour, the decision would have effectively killed AdBlock Plus, but the judge came down on the side of the users, maintaining that they were free to maintain control over how they enjoy a website.

Ben Williams of AdBlock Plus wrote of the decision on the company’s blog:

It may surprise readers of this blog to know that some advertiser groups believe blocking ads is illegal. They are upset that adblockers impede their multi-billion dollar business (or in this case, euros) of shoveling ads at you whether or not you like it or asked for it. In fact, a group of publishers in Hamburg, Germany was so upset that they actually took Adblock Plus to court.

Today, after a four-month trial, reasonable heads prevailed as the regional court in Hamburg ruled in our favor by declaring that ad blocking is, in fact, perfectly legal. I know, it’s restating the obvious. But it cost us lots of blood, sweat and tears nonetheless.

Thank you Beta News for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of AdBlock Plus.

One-Year-Old AI Robot Close to Becoming “Self-Aware”

This time last year, researchers at Bielefeld University in Germany uploaded a six-legged robot, nicknamed Hector, with a newly developed artificial intelligence software that gave it a simple form of consciousness, allowing the machine to learn to navigate an obstacle course.

Since then, the research team has been hard at work refining its AI technology, upgrading the software architecture to mimic the brain’s neural network, which is a significant step towards making Hector self-aware. The team is close to testing Hector’s software in advance of physical trials with the robot.

As Dr. Holk Cruse, Professor at the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University, explains, “What works in the computer simulation must then, in a second phase, be transferred over to the robot and tested on it.” CITEC are looking for “emergent” abilities within the software. In other words, learned behaviours that the AI is not programmed to perform. Cruse and his colleague, Dr. Malte Schilling, seem optimistic that Hector will demonstrate such traits.

“Emotions can be read from behaviour. For example, a person who is happy takes more risks and makes decisions faster than someone who is anxious,” Cruse says, expounding that, “Depending on its inner mental state, the system may adopt quick, but risky solutions, and at other times, it may take its time to search for a safer solution.”

“With the new software, Hector could observe its inner mental state – to a certain extent, its moods – and direct its actions using this information,” say Schilling. “What makes this unique, however, is that with our software expansion, the basic faculties are prepared so that Hector may also be able to assess the mental state of others. It may be able to sense other people’s intentions or expectations and act accordingly.”

Cruse adds, “the robot may then be able to ‘think’: what does this subject expect from me? And then it can orient its actions accordingly.”

Thank you Hearst Electronic Products for providing us with this information.

Germany to Get a Legal Uber Taxi Service Soon

Earlier this month a German court banned Uber from operating while using unlicensed cab drivers and set stiff fines for any violations of local transportation laws to reinforce the decision. The company’s German chief told the magazine Wirtschafts Woche (WiWo) that it is planning a new service that will fall in line with the law.

Uber will launch the new service by this summer, and under it, Uber drivers will hold commercial passenger transport licenses. The cost of the licenses will be paid for by Uber which will be between 100-200 euros, as stated by Uber’s Faben Nestman. Faben also said “We will also pay the 150 to 200 euros it would cost our partners to have the Chamber of Commerce license them as taxi companies.”

There is no word on if the new service will have a different name, though as of now it looks like it will UberX so as to fall in line with the company’s naming scheme.

Source: Reuters

Tim Cook Praises Snowden, Responds to Questions About Apple Car

In case you hadn’t noticed, Apple’s Tim Cook has been on a global tour recently, visiting many places in Europe, including Germany and the UK, as well as other countries such as Israel. In Germany, he sat down to talk with BILD, one of the country’s biggest newspapers. In that interview, cook made some interesting remarks on a variety of issues, most intriguing were about Edward Snowden and also those rumours about an Apple car!

As for Snowden, Cook effectively praised the former NSA contractor, who in 2013 leaked thousands of classified documents revealing details about the US government’s spying programme. Cook, who is frequently heard talking about privacy issues, likened Snowden’s efforts to Apple’s values.

“If Snowden did anything for us at all, then it was to get us to talk more about these things. [Apple’s] values have always been the same.”

It really is quite significant that the CEO of the world’s largest company has praised a man some call a traitor. Snowden is a fugitive in the eyes of the US, and for Cook to associate his company with him like that is a big deal.

Beyond privacy, Cook was also pressed on future products, namely an Apple car. Recently we’ve seen a flurry of rumours suggesting that the company is hard at work producing a vehicle. The Wall Street Journal published extensive details, saying that there is a ‘Project Titan’ underway at Apple, with at least 1,000 employees working on it.

“We are still secretive about our coming products. So if you ask me what we are working on I’m not going to answer this question.” Asked about the Apple car, he replied simply: “I have read the rumours. I can’t comment on it.”

Ahh, not exactly a revelation, but interesting that he didn’t outright deny such a project. If a car was completely out of the question, Cook may well have laughed it off.

Source: 9to5Mac

HoloBridge – London’s 1st Virtual Reality Arcade

Whether you are an Assassin’s Creed fan who wanted to experience something similar to the Animus or just want a truly unique adventure like you have never seen or experienced before, HoloBridge apparently is willing to help you out. The company is said to take full advantage of VR-glasses similar to the Oculus or Samsung Gear VR, and gadgets, like Cyberith or Virtuix Omni.

In the heart of vibrating Shoreditch you will find a cool place to meet up with your friends and try the latest technological developments in VR. We will offer the most exciting content to make your visit a breathtaking journey. Just book your ticket online, come to us and enjoy.

HoloBridge is the idea of German entrepreneur, Andreas Lohaus, who is said to be passionate about the emerging virtual revolution. His first encounter with VR devices was back in 2012, being one of the first backers of VR-devices, including Oculus Rift. After receiving and testing his first VR dev kit, he knew “this will be huge!” and has actively been connected to the VR scene in his hometown, Cologne, Germany.

While the HoloBridge team is said to start off with 10 VR Glasses and 2 Treadmills, they are also awaiting more feedback on which content and technologies would people like to see and toy around with.

More details about the project can be found on Indiegogo, where people can contribute a minimum of £5 towards the project’s budget (having the HoloBridge team send a special personalised Tweet to people who decide to contribute). Should you feel like spending more, the £199 perk will get your name and signature perpetuated on one of the VR Glasses showcased at HoloBridge. On top of that, the perk will also let you use the same device for free for the first 20 slots booked.

Source: Indiegogo

Let RAY, the Robot Valet, Park Your Car

Here’s a valet you won’t feel obliged to tip: RAY, the robot valet, has started parking cars for visitors of Dusseldorf Airport in Germany. RAY is an automated forklift truck that will lift your car and park it into pre-designated parking bays.

The machine was developed by Serva Transport, and is designed to help travellers who are in a hurry. Slots can be booked in advance via a smartphone app. The traveller then drops off their car at a designated area, books in on the touchscreen monitor, and RAY does the rest. When the traveller returns, the car is brought back to the designated area – RAY has access to flight itineraries, so knows when you’re due back at the airport – and the owner drives away.

Since the drivers enter and exit their vehicle at the designated area, there is no need to for door clearance when parking, which saves space, meaning that RAY can squeeze 249 cars into its parking area.

Source: CNN

HitchBOT, the Hitchhiking Robot, to Travel Across Germany

HitchBOT, the Canadian hitchhiking robot, is set for a road trip across Germany. Last year, HitchBOT thumbed its way around Canada, from Halifax to Victoria, talking and tweeting along the way.

Professor Frauke Zeller, HitchBOT’s co-creator and German national, is looking forward to the robot’s trek across her homeland, and the spirit of altruism she hopes it engenders, saying, “I think being helpful to something that needs help is something that is innate to everybody.”

Upon being given a ride, HitchBOT explains to the driver what its purpose is, and ask if it can be plugged in to charge its battery. The robot has built-in WiFi and GPS, so its progress can be tracked and the bot can post live updates to Twitter and Instagram.

In anticipation of the impending journey, HitchBOT tweeted on Monday:

HitchBOT’s German adventure begins on 13th February, and is expected to last for 10 days.

Source: The Star

German Chancellor Disputes Net Neutrality

The battle for net neutrality has spread across Europe and the US, with President Barack Obama throwing his support behind a free and open internet. But influential German Chancellor Angela Merkel has scoffed at the idea, voicing her approval for a two-tier internet, with a premium channel operating above standard traffic on the same network.

Merkel made the declaration during the Digitising Europe conference, run by the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communication. “An innovation-friendly internet means that there is a guaranteed reliability for special services,” she said. “These can only develop when predictable quality standards are available”. Merkel sees this special channel of the internet as supporting innovations in telemedicine and driverless cars, which would require transmission that is “reliable and always secure.” Then, with the disingenuous suggestion that this practicality is dictated by current technology, Merkel argued, “we can’t talk about net neutrality if the capacity to have it isn’t available.”

Though the European Parliament voted against two-tier internet back in April, German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine reports that the German government is still exploring the possibility of implementing some form of premium internet split service.

Source: Electronista

Real-life Minority Report: German Police Trial Software to Predict Crime Before it Happens

 

Steven Spielberg’s 2002 science fiction film Minority Report painted a future in which crimes can be predicted, and thus prevented, before they occur. The Pre-Crime police division used psychics called Precogs to name future criminals. Now, in yet another case of life imitating sci-fi art, German police are trialling a software system to detect patterns of criminal behaviour in order to predict future crimes.

The software is, in a knowing wink to Minority Report, known as the Pre-Crime Observation System (or Precobs), and uses data from crime location, time, and type to create trends and hotspots that help anticipate crimes before they happen. Precobs, developed by the Institute for Pattern-Based Prediction Technique in Oberhausen, is being trialled in the southern German state of Bavaria. Results so far are described “promising” by interior minister Joachim Herrmann .

Should the trail prove successful, the technology will be adopted by Berlin police, prior to a national roll-out.

Source: Nerdoholic

BMW and Tesla in “Talks”

Reuters reports that Elon Musk has been in talks with BMW over possible collaboration in the design of batteries and other components.

The talks have taken place between the Chief Executive of Tesla Elon Musk and BMW executives. Musk is supposedly interested in working with BMW on lightweight body parts and battery technologies.

“We are talking about whether we can collaborate in battery technology or charging stations,” Musk was quoted as saying in the interview.

Although, a spokesperson later said that the talks were “informal” and not indicative of an official collaboration between the two companies.

BMW has shown an increased interest in electric cars after recently releasing its first mass-produced EV, the BMW i3 full electric vehicle.

Source: Business Insider

Ebay Has Been down for 5 Hours!

The auction giant and marketplace Ebay has been down since around noon, with the first reports starting around 11:25 GMT. This is a really long outtake for a site like this and so far there hasn’t been much official wording. The problems seems to be centralized around the UK and German Ebay sites, but a few reports from the US as well.

Users are taking their anger out on the social media sites, and with good right. A lot of auctions are timed to end Sunday afternoon, and no one can bid on them with the site down.

I haven’t been able to login myself since the outtake started around noon and have been following it since. At times you get a slow redirect to the login screen, even though you just tried to load the main page. Otherwise the site is dead and unresponsive.

Image courtesy of downdetector

Amazon’s Fire Phone Finally Arrives in Europe

Our american readers have been able to get the Amazon Fire Phone for a while now but the rest of have had to wait. That wait is now over and it’s finally coming to Europe as well, at least to the U.K. and Germany for now. While the U.S. launch failed to generate any solid figures and sales are estimated around 35.000 units, the e-commerce giant is hoping to challenge the rivals of Apple, HTC, Samsung and Sony on the European market.

The Fire phone will launch on September 30th and cost 0.99 cents on a two year contract. In the U.S. the Fire phone is limited to AT&T’s customers and it will have similar carrier exclusives here. In the U.K. it will be O2 that carries it and in Germany it will be Deutsche Telekom. It will be available to purchase both in the respective retail stores, their online shops as well as on Amazon’s own website.

Early reviews of the smartphone were very mixed, and overall it didn’t get many good ones. The ideas for design and features were praised, but said to be unfinished and confusing. Something I’m sure to change. It’s already an improved and updated version we’ll get on the European market.

One of the thing many people don’t like about Amazon’s smart devices is the use of their own Android version and App store, without access to the usual Play store from Google. The Amazon store has grown to 240.000 apps by now, but that’s still only about a fifth of the 1.3 million apps the Play store has. While it isn’t always about the pure amount of apps, but also about having the right one, it comes down to the personal usage if it can deliver to your needs.

“We don’t focus on the total number of apps, it’s about having the right apps, the apps that customers really want,” said Cameron Janes. “Since we launched the Fire phone in the US, we’ve seen the volume of app submissions to the Amazon app store double.”

As a bonus on top of the cheap price, users will get unlimited Amazon cloud storage for backups and 32 GB storage in their phone. The screen has been praised high with it’s dynamic perspective that gives it a 3D look. This is achieved with four front facing cameras that track your heads position relative to the phone.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w95kwXy_MOY[/youtube]

The battery life has been improved upon as well and said to give around 10-15% more duration now. The Amazon OS will get an update to it’s speech recognition software upon launch to handle the different British accents it’ll have to deal with now.

Amazon hopes to target the users who already are living in the Amazon e-world with their Kindle Fire tablets and Kindle eBook readers. To sweeten the deal a free year of Amazon Prime subscription will be added.

Thank you TheGuardian for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Amazon.

Facebook Offline for a Short While

“My life is over” – Most 13-19 year olds throughout the world today. As of 1PM PST however, the popular social network is back online in all affected countries.

Today at 12:40pm PST, users from the US, UK, Germany, Thailand, Portugal and other smaller countries reported of a Facebook outage on both mobile and desktop connections. Thanks to Tech Crunch, we learned that this outage not only has a profound effect on our abilities to spread our political discontent and invite friends to parties – but Facebook’s profits are hit hard.

“With earnings of $2.91 billion in Q2 2014, Facebook theoretically loses about $22,453 for every minute it’s down around the globe. However, since this was pretty prime browsing time for Facebook’s key markets in the West, it was likely losing a lot more. The 20 minute outage could have cost it around a half million dollars.”

Facebook has promptly issued a statement about this outage, which was confirmed by website downtime trackers such as Downforeveryoneorjustme.

“Earlier today we encountered an error while making an infrastructure configuration change that briefly made it difficult for people to access Facebook. We immediately discovered the issue and fixed it, and everyone should now be able to connect. We apologize for the inconvenience and will thoroughly investigate this issue so we can learn from it and ensure that Facebook is there when people need it.”

Never fear, your favorite ‘time waster’ website is now back in action – we hope you enjoyed your 20 minutes of sunlight.

Image courtesy of The Next Web

US Embassy in Berlin Receives ‘Beamed’ Graffitti to Protest NSA Spying Activities

It looks like a German artist has used a different form of “graffiti” to protest the NSA early this morning in Berlin. Oliver Bienkowski, a self-proclaimed “guerilla marketing expert”, has used a powerful projector mounted in a cargo van and beamed it on the US Embassy. The image is said to have illustrated a silly portrait of US President, Barack Obama, and a message: “NSA in da House”.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AUgmiIuFeU[/youtube]

The United States Embassy in Berlin is said to be in a heavily police-patrolled area near the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate and due to this, the police have peacefully shut down the projection within minutes, according to the video below, posted online by the group of German artists.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K866FXjjvdo[/youtube]

It is said that this is not the first time Bienkowski used the side of a building to express his work and protest. Last year, he projected the words “United Stasi of America” on another building structure to protest against spying activities, having the past year not being a good one for US-German relations.

A series of uncovered information have pointed out the extent of NSA surveillance activities in Europe the past year. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had her phone under surveillance by the NSA and there are still concerns of widespread surveillance of internet activities which pass through US servers. A CIA chief in Berlin has even been expelled by the Germans last year as a sign of its displeasure with US spy activities in their country.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information
Videos courtesy of The Verge

Germany v Brazil World Cup Thrashing Broke Twitter Records

The Germany Vs Brazil Semi-final match in this year’s World Cup has certainly caught the attention of any football fan or anyone involved in football after their 7-1 thrashing against the home team a couple of days ago. The thrashing on the pitch was not the only top score to grab people’s attention as twitters servers also got a thrashing through a record-breaking 580,000 tweets per minute being sent around the world.

In a statement following the match, Twitter reported that the new record washed out the previous record which was set earlier this year during the Super Bowl which stood at 24.9m tweets. In comparison this match topped 35.6m tweets.

This new record has been great advertising for Twitter, showing that their growth is still going strong. Other events over the last few years that have stood out on twitter include Beyoncé’s half time performance during last year’s Super Bowl at 268,000 TMP (Tweets per minute), Miley Cyrus’ MTC VMA performance at 360,000 TMP and this year’s Brazil Vs Chile World Cup match, which during penalties topped out at 388,985 TMP.

Although some analysts say Twitter is a dying trend and social media such a Facebook is more popular, this record-breaking event has shown that this is far from the case. With the World Cup final now only a few days away, if Germany give their opponents yet another trashing there is a chance that we could see the current record being broken once again.

Source and Image courtesy: The Guardian

German Residents Got Sick Of Their Cruddy ISP, So Made Their Own!

We’ve all probably heard a few stories about people building their own internet networks in response to the failings of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as the example of farmers in Lancaster who built a 1 gigabit internet network after BT told them it would cost £10K to hook each home up individually. Now a new story has emerged from Löwenstedt in Germany where residents of a fairly small village have built their own fibre optic broadband network after the major ISPs simply couldn’t provide any reasonable internet service. The residents created the BBNG group, or Citizens Broadband Networking Company, to collect the funds necessary to build the fibre optic network. The five person company managed to raise more than €2.5 million by requiring a minimum €1000 contribution from each of the shareholders to the project, currently they have 925.  94% of households in Löwenstedt pledged to sign up for the project before it was even built, an impressive community spirit. The network was a built at a cost of €800,000 in March 2014 and the residents now receive interest by leasing it to German internet supplier TNG.

This case is apparently not uncommon in Germany where only 18% of the population have access to internet with speeds greater than 10 megabits per second according to consultancy firm Akamai. The lack of reliable and fast internet across many parts of rural and semi-rural Germany is all the more surprising considering the pledge by the German government to deliver at least 50 megabits per second internet networks to the majority of the population by 2018. Other villages in the same region have been trying to follow the success of Löwenstedt but have apparently found it difficult to achieve.

Source: The Local (de)

Image courtesy of Shz.de

Germany and France Looking To Create NSA-Free European Communications Networks

According to the German Chancellor’s weekly podcast she will be working with France to develop a European Communications Network that bypasses any American-based nodes that are vulnerable to NSA surveillance. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet French President Francois Hollande as she prepares to make a formal state visit and European privacy is expected to be high on the agenda. Since the emergence of the NSA scandal Germany have been one of the staunchest critics of the USA’s wide-reaching surveillance programs.

“Above all, we’ll talk about how European providers can offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send emails and other information across the Atlantic. Rather one could build up a communication network inside Europe.” Said Angela Merkel.

There has been much discussion within Europe about how the privacy of European citizens can be protected from the USA’s snooping. Several European nations have called for penalties to be levied against the USA in retaliation, such as weakening or cancelling of trade links. Germany has been pushing for a “no-spying” agreement with the USA but so far they’ve refused to get involved with discussions. All this has occurred while the USA has begun reforms of the NSA but so far the reforms have been nothing but superficial PR exercises that are designed to bring no significant changes, the NSA’s power still remains pervasive and unrestrained.

Image courtesy of the Telegraph (UK)

Worldwide Bitcoin Regulations Still Unclear, Law Library of Congress Survey Reports

There were many questions on how can the Bitcoin be taxed, having more and more countries coming up with different ways on how the cryptocurrency could be treated. While countries such as Germany do not consider Bitcoin a legal tender and cannot be considered as taxable income, Canada was pro-taxing Bitcoin incomes.

“At the moment, we’re studying Bitcoin and we have no plan to issue a regulation on it,” a spokesperson for the Bank of Indonesia told the Jakarta Globe in December.

Law Library of Congress has surveyed 40 jurisdictions and the European Union to see what laws have been implemented for the Bitcoin all around the world. They found that China has declared it illegal to use Bitcoin as a currency, while Brazil has successfully adopted and made regulations for it, having been adopted under Law No. 12,865. And while the U.S. is the place where most Bitcoin makers and users are, the New York State Department of Financial Services are said to be in talks to consider Bitcoin-specific regulations.

While we see most countries accepting or letting Bitcoin have its way for the moment ( and of course China that bans just about anything that looks democratic ), the U.S. might be preparing something to take a bite out of every profit made through Bitcoin, especially having more and more companies starting to accept cryptocurrency payments.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information