Valve Found Guilty of Breaking Australian Consumer Law

Valve is known for creating the popular digital sales platform Steam, which does everything hardware to regular sales on video games. One thing they’ve been keen to improve on for a while has been their refund policy, something which saw the original policy replaced with one that could offer full refunds to people who purchased a game on the platform. The problem is that the original policy wasn’t in place when the court case against Valve was raised, a case which has now ended with Valve being found guilty of breaking Consumer Law in Australia.

In the court case, that was started back in 2014 by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Valve was taken to court because it lacked a refund policy, something that is required by Australian consumer law. In their defence they stated that it doesn’t “officially” conduct business, instead offering a portal to video games through clients.

Overlooking the case, Justice Edelman stated that Valve was doing business in Australia and must, therefore, follow Australian law. This is the first time that the term “goods” has been applied to computer software in Australia, something that is bound to have far-reaching impacts in Australia in regards to their legal statement.

With a hearing set for the 15th April to see how much Valve will have to pay in “relief”, including the likely outcome that they will pay the ACCC’s legal fees, it would seem that initial attempts to resolve this matter and follow the law will still cost the company.

Microsoft Will Now Support Windows 7 and 8.1 For New Processors

Technology changes, that is an inevitable fact. As we produce more and more powerful designs and techniques we create new pieces of hardware and sometimes this causes trouble for those who aren’t quite ready to move on. Microsoft announced previously that those wanting to use the latest in Intel’s processors, the Skylake series, they would need to use Windows 10. It would appear they’ve changed their tone and are now looking to offer support for Windows 7 and 8.1 for the new processors.

The technical reasons provided was that offering support for the older operating systems would be too much given that the new system would be optimised for windows 10. Some people considered this as a push though for businesses to stop using the older operating systems and instead use Windows 10 if they wanted to get new equipment.

Microsoft has now recanted on that and will offer support for the older operating systems, offering companies the chance to upgrade to windows 10 at their own pace if they use Skylake devices. To help this the security updates for the older operating systems will also be addressed to PC’s running Skylake systems till January 14th, 2020 for Windows 7 users and January 10th 2023 for Windows 8.1 users.

Are you happy to hear about this? Are you looking at Skylake processors but would prefer to keep an older OS for the time being? You can see Microsofts tech blog outlining all the changes here.

YouTube Create Team to Deal With Takedown Mistakes

YouTube is known as much for its community content as it is for the paid content it wants to introduce. Community content can be anything from the cute cat playing piano video to an action packed music video featuring your favourite movie and video game clips, the latter of which don’t last long online sadly. The reason the video wouldn’t last long is due to the automated copyright system flagging even the smallest piece of content, ending up with videos being taken down for any reason provided. This is set to change with YouTube creating a team to deal with these takedown mistakes.

User created content is the backbone of YouTube and when people are finding their videos being removed, even though they have a genuine right to publish them, they would more likely to leave for one of YouTube’s rival services. The new team will have the purpose of “minimizing mistakes”, with the hopes that with fewer mistakes more content will be left on the site without any legal issues regarding their content.

Alongside the new team, there will also be some new initiatives rolled out in the coming months designed to “strengthen communications between creators and YouTube support”. Including increased transparency for the status of monetization claims, the features you’ll see coming seem to be focused on supporting and developing YouTube content creators as much as the service itself.

 

Microsoft Ends Unlimited OneDrive Storage Due to ‘User Abuse’

Microsoft’s cloud storage service has proved to be incredibly popular due to its unlimited data policy. However, reports from The Wall Street Journal suggest some users have taken advantage of the unlimited storage and forced Microsoft to cap the data to 1 Terabyte. Additionally, Microsoft decided to remove the 100GB and 200GB options and implement a basic 50GB tier for £1.99/$1.99 per month. On another note, the service’s free storage is now being cut from 15GB to 5GB.

Microsoft released a statement regarding the revised OneDrive policy and said:

“Since we started to roll out unlimited cloud storage to Office 365 consumer subscribers, a small number of users backed up numerous PCs and stored entire movie collections and DVR recordings. In some instances, this exceeded 75 [terabytes] per user or 14,000 times the average,”

Although, the rollout shouldn’t affect existing customers:

“If you are using more than 5 GB of free storage, you will continue to have access to all files for at least 12 months after these changes go into effect in early 2016. In addition, you can redeem a free one-year Office 365 Personal subscription (credit card required), which includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage.”

“Current customers of standalone OneDrive storage plans (such as a 100 or 200 GB plans) are not affected by these changes.”

This isn’t a surprising revelation as unlimited storage usually involves a fair usage policy. Microsoft’s was quite naive in offering truly uncapped storage and should have known how some users might behave. Although, I strongly believe if a company advertises unlimited storage, it shouldn’t restrict the amount of data allowed per month.

Netflix Offers Parental Leave – Paid For A Year

Employees are people, this fact is well-known, but often ignored by a lot of companies, ultimately this means that people don’t enjoy working where they are because they are just another cog in the machine. Once in a while though we get to write an article about a company who seem to care about their employees, and in this case Netflix are on the top of the list.

Both male and female staff will eventually face the challenges of parenting, and normally this comes with the side effect of messing up your work life. Either you leave, go on maternity leave for a little bit then come back as soon as possible, or keep working while booking off days as sick or holiday. Netflix, however, is doing a different route, they are instead offering new parents, male and female, a year of paternity (and maternity) leave; While this may sound like a good deal, it does come with some fine print.

Just kidding Netflix are the good guys, not only do you get a year off for the child’s first year and it comes fully paid. This means that as a dad or a mom, you can spend as much time with your child as you want. Even coming into work on occasion throughout the year and then going back onto leave afterward.

The added bonus, when you come back from leave you are guaranteed your job. Your job though doesn’t have to be the same one you left, it can be full-time or part-time depending on what you prefer now that you have a little one growing up.

The full details were announced in a blog post from the company, in which their chief talent officer, Tawni Cranz, stated “this new policy, combined with our unlimited time off, allows employees to be supported during the changes in their lives and return to work more focused and dedicated”.

A company which cares for its staff seems like more people could be looking at Netflix to lead the way in employee satisfaction.

Thank you Netflix for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Netflix Pr.

No Packing Heat With Your Cab To Go

Since its inception in early 2009, Uber prides itself on being at the forefront of both convenience and also cutting edge technology which has made the relatively mundane task of requesting a cab as simple as ordering a Mocha Choca Latte (I checked and as long as I don’t put “Ya Ya” at the end, this does not infringe a Lady Marmalade lyric) Anyway, by tapping an app to request a cab, Uber has expanded into 57 countries and has generated over 8 million users and counting.

But as a recent policy change shows, Uber would like its cab drivers and also customers to be more approachable and has subsequently placed a “No weapons policy” within the Legal section of its terms and conditions. This certainly differs from Uber’s previous stance which stated in April 2015 that it was fine to carry a firearm as long as the country or state law permits it.

So why has Uber had a sudden change of heart? Well as is often the case with an unexpected policy change, it’s more reactionary and is in response to an Uber driver who shot a man who was firing a pistol into a gathering of people in Chicago.

From a spectators point of view it’s interesting to see two very different worlds collide, one which is up to date tech and the other fairly primitive. Uber would have made this decision to avoid any potential incidents like the one in Chicago, but the effectiveness of this policy change may be questionable considering Uber cannot influence or monitor both drivers and customer’s actions.

Thank You Uber for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of misiongeek and BizPac

Geo-Blocking Could Become A Thing Of The Past

Geo-Blocking has been a hot topic in recent years, and even more so in recent years. The term is applied to the process by which certain digital media, most notably online videos are limited to certain countries based on where their IP says they are, but this may be set to change within Europe at least.

The EU commission is moving one step closer towards the idea of a unified digital market with recently purposed policies. Among the new policies are several sections that will not only put the end to geo-blocking within Europe but also will update copyright so that people can enjoy their music, films and digital games while abroad as if they were in their home country.

Typically in modern days companies, due to the laws of other countries, block watching or downloading certain things due to the local laws, most normally because the company the program belongs to doesn’t have permission to show the media in other countries, although this can also come down to the actual content being in breach of laws within the country in more extreme cases.

With the use of VPN’s (Virtual Private Network) on the rise, allowing people to pretend that they are in another country rather than the one they say they are from, more and more companies are either having to block VPN’s or find ways to share their products with the wider public. Netflix, one of the largest  media streaming services, has spoken out about this and instead of relying on VPN’s it has stated that it is seeking global deals allowing users from all around the world to watch their TV and Film’s in any country without any delays between releases.

Among the new plans are also steps for the EU to take piracy and illegal content online, while also looking at topics such as search engines behaviour and those of online companies to ensure fair use of the internet and remove any anticompetative natures that may have developed in recent years.

The final step in the EU policies purposed is new steps on topics such as e-health and the proposal of a “European Free Flow of Data Initiative”. With these steps in the next few years it could be possible to watch and download any of your digital media in any part of the EU without a delay between it being released in the UK or in Germany.

Thank you to the Inquirer and ZDNet for the information.

Installing Linux Will Void Your Warranty

Say what? Installing Linux on your computer will void the warranty of the hardware. Wow, that is a hard one and I don’t even know where to start without this turning into a complete rant. So let’s try to stay calm for the sake of the story.

So yes, installing Linux on your computer will void the warranty. At least if it is bought at Currys/PC World in the UK. This is what Roy Schestowitz found out about a week ago. His old desktop computer had died and he needed a replacement fast.

Ordering over the internet wasn’t an option as the system was needed now and there was no other computer store in his region. So he got into his car and drove to the only computer store in his area, Currys PC World, with the intention to buy what they had to offer and accept the price that it would cost. So far so good, this is a normal scenario many of us have been in.

Roy is a little bit upset in his blog post about the fact that Currys PC World sells all their systems with Windows 8, but that’s personal preference and something that easily can be replaced. At least that’s what any normal person would assume, format the hard disk or create a second partition and install whatever operating system you like. If you however do that on a PC bought at Currys, you’ll void any warranty on the system.

“After many chats with colourful language and even car analogies or other such arguments about the separability of hardware and software we decided we just couldn’t do business at PC World. The company is inherently GNU/Linux-hostile. Avoid Currys.”

Okay, I can understand if they don’t offer any technical assistance and support once you move away from the configuration it was sold with, but going as far as completely voiding the warranty seems a bit insane and as a very outdated policy.

As it turns out, this is a fact and was confirmed by multiple employees at multiple PC World stores according to the blogger. Once you install GNU/Linux, even if it is dual boot with Windows, the warranty wouldn’t cover any damage to the hardware. This even includes the keyboard, mouse, screen and so on. One employee Roy talked to regretted the situation, but defended the policy “because it is imposed from above”.

Update

After we published this article a lot of employees, both current and former, came out and denied these allegations. There was this policy 5-8 years ago, but it’s no more. Roy must have had the luck to run into one of the uninformed stores on this matter.

Thanks to Roy Schestowitz for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of RetailWeek

Apple Alter their Health App Privacy Policy

Apple has recently changed it’s privacy guidelines for developers wishing to utilize its own HealthKit framework. Some are taking this change as another sign that Apple’s iWatch release may be coming sooner rather than later. This update addresses how health apps handle user data when developed through HealthKit.

HealthKit is set for release with iOS8, being quoted on the official site as “An entirely new way to use your health and fitness information.” This service will act as a hub for all data tracked by third-party fitness and health applications – with this information then being passed to Apple’s Health App. The Health App analyzes and breaked down the data, presenting it to you in an easy to read format.

Mashable helped us understand what these new guidelines entail:

“…developers can’t “sell an end-user’s health information collected through the HealthKit API to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers,” developers can’t “sell an end-user’s health information collected through the HealthKit API to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers,” according to the report. What’s more, developers cannot use HealthKit’s API or its information “for any purpose other than providing health and/or fitness services.”

Once again, this privacy policy is being linked to the so-called impending release of the iWatch. HealthKit and the Health app are said to be a big part of the smartwatches functionality, acting as a ‘middle man’ to tie everything together – apps, phones, watches and services. As competitor products such as Fitbit and Jawbone are becoming a much more popular addition any ‘fitness freaks’ arsenal, it’s only logical that Apple want a part of this market share.

Alongside the growth of fitness technology devices themselves, Flurry Insights reported that fitness applications are growing 87% faster than any other app available on the store – alongside a massive 117% growth of apps downloaded as a whole.

Image courtesy of Tech Crunch

British Government Want to Build a ‘Super Database’ To Help Run the Country

Even with all its power, the UK government has admitted that it’s at a point where simple tasks, such as sharing information or data between two different departments, has become a burden. This is mostly due to the fact that there are a wide range of databases controlled by each government department.

However, the cabinet’s data sharing policy team came up with a plan back in April that would have all departments link all of their databases. This means that local authorities, emergency services, schools and even government departments would merge their databases into a single ‘super database’.

The resulting database then said to be able to handle huge amounts of data and provide more accurate information. Other benefits that might follow are said to include a saving of up to £37 billion in error, dump and fraud.

Another beneficial outcome from all of this is the government’s ability to understand a person’s life and help him with their money problems. For example, if an individual is in debt to various departments, the payment can then be structured and manageable on a low-income.

To be noted is that the policy is still just a proposal and the government is now looking for the people’s opinion in order to find out if they support the plan or not.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Engadget

Petition Urging Twitter To Rethink Blocking Policy

On Thursday Twitter changed their privacy policy, making it possible for blocked users to follow the blocker who in turn can no longer see any “Tweet” activity by the blockee. Since these changes rolled out an online petition  urging Twitter to rethink its new blocking policy has attracted over 600 signatures in less than an hour (current total at time of printing is 1,936). As soon as Twitter rolled out its changes Twitter users began to express their displeasure and worries about how this new change to policy could in fact help blocked users start stalking or could enable stalkers/trolls.

Twitter came out saying that “The new policy was implemented to discourage trolling, and that it had always been possible for anyone — even someone who was blocked — to see Tweets on any public feed/profile”. Although blocking someone on Twitter used to be an easy way to stop trolling or spamming, with this new policy change the blocking feature is now more like a “muting” feature. None of the blocked users Tweets will show up in the blockers feed, however according to Twitters new blocking policy they wrote “If your account is public blocking a user does not prevent that user from following you, interacting with your Tweets, or receiving your updates in their timeline”

In a statement from Twitter to CNET they said “That the new policy was actually meant to help people from being trolled by those they’ve blocked. What Twitter had found was that when someone blocked another person, the blockee would often be upset when they would discover it, and would go on to troll the blocker in other ways, often aggressively”. With this new policy change blockees have no idea that they have been blocked and those doing the blocking will no longer see any Twitter activity from the blockee that they are trying to avoid.

Yes many people are upset with this new policy change, however Twitter’s position is that even when someone was blocked there was no way to stop that person from seeing the blockers profile. To simplify Twitter is saying that even because logged-out users and people that have never even signed up to Twitter before can see public accounts, blocking did not previously keep anyone logged-out or non users from seeing someones public Tweets.

If your worried about you Twitter privacy feel free to sign the online petition here.

Thank you CNET for providing us with this information.

Iage courtesy of TechWeekEurope.

Google Glass Prohibits Sexually Explicit Content & Pornography Apps

According to an article on Mashables, sexually explicit content has been banned on Google glass

Everywhere on the internet we see sexually explicit content, including pornography. Should a company that provides a product or service be able to prevent the user from using the product how they want to use it? Google seems to think that they can do just that. Recently the first pornographic app reared its face on Google Glass, shortly after Google changed their policies for Google Platform Developer Policies, to prohibit apps that contain sexually explicit content.

“Content policies” section now reads: “We don’t allow Glassware content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Google has a zero-tolerance policy against child pornography. If we become aware of content with child pornography, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and delete the Google Accounts of those involved with the distribution.” as it reads in the “Content policies” in the first paragraph.

The app was most likely called Tits & Glass was designed to allow users to watch videos and see photographs. The developer behind this app is MiKandi who has produced over 7,000 adult apps. TitsAndGlass.com had a very strong following when it was released producing nearly 10,000 unique visitors in a day. It has been said that MiKandi was going to take it a step further allowing users to have “two-way adult interaction” though with the new policy preventing this type of content, the app has likely been placed on the back burner, MiKandi said that they will comply with the updated policies, and will be releasing a new app without the sexually explicit content.

Photo Courtesy of:

Paul Sakuma/AP – Google co-founder Sergey Brin demonstrates Google’s new Glass, the wearable internet glasses shown at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, June 27, 2012.

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