The order, announced by the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, stems largely from changes that Facebook made to the way it handled its users’ information in December 2009. The commission contended that Facebook, without warning its users or seeking consent, made public information that users had deemed to be private on their Facebook pages.
The order also said that Facebook, which has more than 800 million users worldwide, in some cases had allowed advertisers to glean personally identifiable information when a Facebook user clicked on an advertisement on his or her Facebook page. The company has long maintained that it does not share personal data with advertisers.
And the order said that Facebook had shared user information with outside application developers, contrary to representations made to its users. And even after a Facebook user deleted an account, according to the F.T.C., the company still allowed access to photos and videos.
All told, the commission listed eight complaints. It levied no fines and did not accuse Facebook of intentionally breaking the law. However, if Facebook violated the terms of the settlement in the future, it would be liable to pay a penalty of $16,000 a day for each count, the F.T.C. said.
Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, conceded in a lengthy blog post that the company had made “a bunch of mistakes,” but said it had already fixed several of the issues cited by the commission.
HTC’s Victory in FlashPoint Patent Case Upheld by Full ITC Panel
HTC Corp. (2498), the largest seller of smartphones in the U.S., won a patent-infringement case brought by FlashPoint Technology Inc. over digital-camera features.
The U.S. International Trade Commission backed a ruling from July that FlashPoint’s patent rights hadn’t been violated, and the agency denied the closely held licensing company’s request to halt sales of some HTC phones. Notice of the decision was posted online yesterday, and the full opinion will be made public after both companies get a chance to redact confidential information.
The dispute centered on technology related to how digital cameras work, including focus and flash settings, and automatic rotation of an image, according to Peterborough, New Hampshire- based FlashPoint’s complaint. An ITC judge in July said HTC phones that run Google Inc.’s Android system and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Windows Phone 7 weren’t infringing the patents.
The commission review centered on infringement of the patent covering the rotation of images and whether FlashPoint had met the agency’s requirements that the invention be in use in the U.S. The six-member commission has the power to block imports of products that violate U.S. patent rights.
LG Electronics Inc., RIM and Nokia had also been targeted by FlashPoint. They settled their cases before the July ruling.
HTC, which makes phones such as the Droid Incredible and EVO 4G that use Android, sold the most smartphones in the U.S. in the third quarter, according to market researcher Canalys.
FlashPoint, whose founders include former employees of Apple’s imaging business, said it developed its own digital operating system for cameras, and ceased research in 2007 to focus on licensing its patents.
The case is In the Matter of Certain Electronic Imaging Devices, Complaint 337-726, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).
European, Chinese Patent Offices to Speed Up Patent Translation
The European and Chinese patent agencies signed an accord that will speed up translations of patents in a bid to improve access to the offices’ information for researchers, scientists and inventors.
The European Patent Office and the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China agreed to cooperate to give access to a free Chinese-English translation service through the Internet by next year, according to a joint e-mailed statement yesterday.
“The agreement breaks new ground in the relationship between both regions in that it will bring the wealth of technology contained in patents to the fingertips of innovators on both sides, removing language as a delimiting factor,” said Benoit Battistelli, president of the Munich, Germany-based EPO.
The EPO isn’t part of the European Union and has 38 member countries. The EPO offers the closest thing currently available to an EU-wide patent.
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Campaign Against Fake Products Begun by Obama Administration
The Obama administration is starting a public education campaign to fight the purchase and sale of counterfeit and pirated products.
The campaign, announced at the White House yesterday, is aimed at highlighting the ways intellectual property theft, such as counterfeit pharmaceuticals and illegal Internet downloads, harm the economy and threaten consumer safety, according to a U.S. Justice Department statement.
“For far too long, the sale of counterfeit, defective, and dangerous goods has been perceived as business as usual,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a prepared statement. “But these and other IP crimes can destroy jobs, suppress innovation, and jeopardize the health and safety of consumers.”
The campaign will include radio and print ads, online videos, podcasts and a television public service announcement.
SAS Should Lose Extended Copyright Bid, EU Court Aide Says
SAS Institute Inc. should lose a bid at the European Union’s highest court to extend copyright protection to the functions of a computer program, an adviser to the EU court said.
While the source code, or method, used by a computer program to achieve a certain result can be protected, the result itself can’t, Advocate General Yves Bot of the EU Court of Justice said in a non-binding opinion yesterday. The Luxembourg- based court follows this advice in a majority of cases.
World Programming Ltd. infringed SAS’s copyright by developing a system that copied the company’s manuals, SAS told the EU court at a hearing in September. The case seeks to clarify the scope of copyright protection where software copies the functions of a competing program without access to its source code.
“To accept that a functionality of a computer program can be protected as such would amount to making it possible to monopolize ideas, to the detriment of technological progress and industrial development,” Bot said in the advisory opinion. He left it up to a national court to decide whether WPL, in copying functionalities of the SAS system, reproduced a “substantial part” of the elements that are SAS’s own creation.
It’s the first time the EU’s top court has been asked to define the scope of copyright protection for computer software. The High Court in London in 2010 referred the case to the EU tribunal for guidance on how to interpret the region’s software and copyright laws. The court said WPL’s system didn’t breach SAS’s copyright.
Rulings by the EU court usually follow within six months of an opinion.
The case is: C-406/10, SAS Institute Inc. v. World Programming Ltd.
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China Seizes 250,000 ‘Illegal’ Compact Discs, Xinhua Reports
Chinese police seized more than 250,000 illegally made compact discs from a legally registered plant in Guangdong province, Xinhua News Agency said, citing the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications.
Police detained four people and seized seven production lines on Sept. 26, and an employee of the plant involved in the production of the discs was captured in Hubei province on Nov. 1, the official news service said. It didn’t say what made the discs illegal.
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Smartphone App Rating System Proceeds Without Apple, Google
Mobile applications for smartphones and tablet computers may carry new ratings for violence and sexual content under a wireless industry-sponsored system awaiting backing from Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Google Inc.
Under the policy unveiled yesterday by CTIA-The Wireless Association, mobile apps for games and social networking will be rated for age-appropriate content on a five-point scale from “everyone” to “adults only.” The voluntary program will be operated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which has run similar ratings for computer and video games since 1994.
The app program is aimed at helping parents monitor children’s increasing use of wireless technology, an issue drawing lawmakers’ attention this year. About 52 percent of children ages 8 and under have access to mobile devices including smartphones and tablets, according to a survey of parents by San Francisco-based children’s advocacy group Common Sense Media.
“The mobile application rating system is easy for parents and consumers to understand while being simple, fast and free for developers,” Steve Largent, president of Washington-based CTIA, said at a news conference. He said the move helps avoid “unnecessary government regulation.”
Apple, maker of the iPhone and iPad, and Google, whose Android software is the most widely used mobile operating software in the U.S., aren’t taking part in the program and have their own ratings systems.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into Android Market’s rating system, which now works well globally,” Christopher Katsaros, a Google spokesman, said in an e-mail. “While we support other systems, we think it’s best for Android users and developers to stick with Android’s existing ratings.”
Tom Neumayr, an Apple spokesman, declined to comment. The Apple App Store currently offers 500,000 apps, while Google’s Android Market has more than 300,000.