Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
Uber to halt rides in Portland, Ore., until April; city to drop lawsuit

Just 10 days after the city of Portland, Ore., sued ride-sharing giant Uber, saying it was illegally operating in the city, the San Francisco company has agreed to cease operations there until the spring.

In a statement released Thursday, Uber said it will cease all rides in Portland on Dec. 21 to give city officials time to draft proper regulations for all private for-hire transportation services in the city.

In a separate statement, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said he has convened a task force that will create safety regulations for all ride services, including traditional taxi cabs as well as ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The task force is expected to bring its findings before Portland's City Council on April 9, Hales said.

"Uber is dedicated to curating and continuing a valuable and constructive relationship with Portland’s lawmakers, working to create a regulatory framework that works for everyone, not just us," the company said in its statement.

Portland filed a...

Read more
Will online privacy problems be solved by 2025? Experts respond in Pew study

As the boundaries between privacy and public information blur, policymakers and technology innovators will struggle to respond, according to a Pew Research Center study on the future of privacy released Thursday.

A survey of experts responded with a split opinion on whether politicians and the tech industry could create a “secure, popularly accepted, and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025 that allows for business innovation and monetization" while offering people accessible options for protecting their personal information.

About 55% of the 2,511 respondents said they did not believe an accepted privacy-rights infrastructure would exist in the next decade, while 45% said it would. But regardless of their thoughts on the future of privacy, many agreed that online life is public by nature.

“Almost everybody agrees this new environment is coming,” said Lee Rainie, co-author of the study. “About half say we will make accommodations and about half say it’s an inexorable blob that...

Read more
Internet authority ICANN says it was hacked

The Internet authority responsible the Web’s address system has been hacked, compromising employee emails and personal information.

The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, said Tuesday that it fell victim to a “spear phishing” attack in November. The hack involved emails crafted to look as though they came from the organization’s own domain.

Earlier this month, ICANN learned that the stolen employee credentials were used to access other systems aside from email, including the Centralized Zone Data System that grants access to private employee information. Hackers accessed employees’ names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and usernames. The digital thieves also found employee passwords, though that information was encrypted instead of saved as plain text, ICANN said.

“We are providing information about this incident publicly, not just because of our commitment to openness and transparency, but also because sharing of cybersecurity information helps all...

Read more
LivingSocial's new CEO eyes an experience-oriented future

Some big challenges lie ahead for LivingSocial, the online marketplace known for its daily deals and discounted prices on restaurants, spas and local activities. But that’s where the company’s new chief executive, Gautam Thakar, comes in. 

LivingSocial hit its fair share of roadblocks over the last couple years, including multiple changes in leadership. The Groupon competitor cut some 400 employees in 2012, after it took a loss of $566 million in the third quarter of that year because of poor acquisitions that dropped in value. It posted a net loss of $183 million for 2013; in October of that year, hackers stole the data of more than 50 million customers.  

Despite that, Thakar is optimistic about LivingSocial’s future. The site reports holiday sales have been strong this year, including an 83% jump in mobile application gross billings on Black Friday, followed by a 14% increase on Cyber Monday.

While he is still in the early stages of mapping out LivingSocial’s future, Thakar’s vision...

Read more
Uber plans to use biometrics and 'scientific analysis' to screen drivers

Uber, recently sued for allegedly making false claims about the safety of its ride-hailing service, Wednesday announced it had started a “global review” of its safety measures in November and says it plans to roll out new safety programs in 2015. But it’s unclear what those programs will be.

In a blog post titled “Our Commitment to Safety” and signed by Uber safety head Phillip Cardenas, the company said it would “build new safety programs and intensify others.” Among the initiatives mentioned are “research and development on biometrics and voice verification to build custom tools for enhanced driver screening,” and “using scientific analysis and technology to find solutions” to improve driver background checks.

When reached for comment about what the “scientific analysis” and “biometrics” technology entails, and whether the new safety procedures would include fingerprinting drivers, an Uber spokesperson referred The Times to Cardenas’ blog post.

This month, the Los Angeles and San...

Read more
External traffic to Spanish news sites drops after Google News' exit

Google News made its scheduled departure from Spain on Tuesday, the effects of which were felt within hours of the move, according to the Web analytics company Chartbeat.

The search engine giant shut down Google News in Spain in response to legislation that would charge news aggregators a fee for linking to or posting excerpts of content from local media outlets. Under the legislation, aggregators who failed to pay the Assn. of Editors of Spanish Dailies the undisclosed fee would face a 600,000-euro (about $750,000) fine.

“As Google News itself makes no money … this new approach is simply not sustainable,” Richard Gingras, the head of Google News, wrote in a blog post. 

Chartbeat doesn’t track every Spanish news website, but it does track about 50, ranging from small media outlets to the country’s largest newspapers. Looking at this data, it saw a sharp decline in traffic from external links within hours of Google News’ closure, as much as 10% to 15% compared with a similar day before...

Read more