Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
T-Mobile to pay $90 million to settle claims of wrongful charges

T-Mobile will pay at least $90 million in penalties and refunds as part of a settlement over its alleged practice of “mobile cramming,” or placing unauthorized third-party charges on customers’ cellphone bills, the Federal Communications Commission announced Friday.

The FCC has recently cracked down on the practice, which mostly involves premium text message services, taking up seven separate enforcement actions against carriers this year. The agency sued T-Mobile in July.

The settlement announced Friday was negotiated with T-Mobile, the FCC, the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

As part of the deal, T-Mobile will pay at least $67.5 million in refunds to customers and will be required to set up a free service that allows its existing customers to block all third-party charges on their phone bills.

The company also will pay a $4.5-million penalty to the FCC and $18 million to the state attorneys general, according to the...

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Apple 'deeply offended' by BBC report claiming poor working conditions

A senior Apple executive said he was “deeply offended” by the BBC’s allegations that Apple mistreats its workers in overseas factories.

Footage from an undercover BBC investigation, which aired Thursday, shows what the British broadcaster said were child laborers in Indonesia digging through mud pits for the tin used in phones and tablets. The report also shed light on the treatment of employees in factories of Apple supplier Pegatron near Shanghai, some of whom were seen sleeping at their workstations during their 12-hour shifts.

One undercover reporter was hired to make Apple computer parts, the BBC said, working 18 days in a row without reprieve.

"Like many of you, Tim [Chief Executive Tim Cook] and I were deeply offended by the suggestion that Apple would break a promise to the workers in our supply chain or mislead our customers in any way," Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations, wrote in an email to the staff.

The email, published by the Telegraph, reached...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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