Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
EU lawmakers consider urging Google to be split up

The European Union’s parliament is considering a proposal that pushes for Google’s dominant search engine business to be split from its other “commercial services,” according to media reports.

European lawmakers have long tussled with Google Inc., arguing that the Mountain View, Calif., company uses its powerful market share to promote its own services within search results over those of rivals.

A draft of the proposal — a finalized version of which is scheduled to be voted on next week — calls on the EU’s executive arm to  “consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services” of Google, according to Bloomberg.

Andreas Schwab, a German lawmaker who supports the proposal, told the Financial Times that “unbundling cannot be excluded.”

The draft says Google “immediately and unequivocally” must be kept from hurting competitors and says that search results should be what's best for consumers, "rather than best for Google,” Bloomberg reported.

The...

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Current immigration laws hamstring U.S. economy, tech industry says

The presidential orders on immigration Thursday night offered little relief to the nation’s technology industry, with company executives, venture capitalists and lobbyists expressing frustration that Congress hasn’t moved to improve the processes that would allow more highly skilled foreigners to live and work in the U.S.

Tech industry leaders have long complained about a skills gap in the U.S. workforce they say makes it difficult to fill technical positions. Their key concerns include the current cap on the number of H-1B work visas issued each year, the complicated and red tape-wrapped process of obtaining a green card, and the lack of a direct path from a student visa to a green card.

“The caps that are put on visas are a huge burden for us,” said Shan Sinha, co-founder and chief executive of Silicon Valley start-up Highfive. “We need to grow three times over this next year, and given that we have a shortage of qualified people here in the country and we can’t hire the people who are...

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Aereo files for bankruptcy protection

Aereo Inc., the online video streaming service backed by businessman and Television Hall of Fame member Barry Diller, filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday night, five months after an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling.

The service had allowed subscribers to watch, pause and record live TV on their computers. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the start-up violated copyright law because it was similar to a cable service, but wasn’t paying to transmit copyrighted material. The company argued that it was an antenna service and did not have to comply with copyright law.

The 6-3 decision in the case of ABC vs. Aereo was a blow to the company, forcing it to rethink its business model. Aereo suspended its services three days after the ruling, and earlier this month laid off most of its staff.

Aereo Chief Executive Chet Kanojia wrote on the company’s website on Friday that the ruling has created “regulatory and legal uncertainty,” and “without that clarity, the challenges have proven...

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Kindle Fire owners get free access to Washington Post

The Washington Post announced a new app on Thursday that gives Amazon Fire tablet users free online access to the paper.

Fire owners have free access to The Washington Post for six months, with no subscription required. Readers would then have to sign up to pay $1 for the next six months, and then they would pay a monthly fee. The monthly fee would likely cost about $3 to $5 per month, the Post said. 

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos purchased the newspaper for $250 million last year.

"Digital reading opens up so many possibilities for experimentation, and the Washington Post’s new app offers an immersive news-reading experience that we hope our customers find engaging and informative,” Russ Grandinetti, Kindle's senior vice president, said in a statement.

The new app, designed with tablet readers in mind, has two editions released at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern time. Readers will have access to high-resolution photos and graphics, a reading view for stories, photos and video and a bird's-eye...

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Where Paul McCartney, virtual reality and a 3D camera collide

Sir Paul McCartney is sitting less than five feet from me at a grand piano, singing his 1973 hit "Live and Let Die." When I turn my head to the right, his drummer is about six feet away. If I swivel 90 degrees, I can see the production crew hoisting cameras and running power cords behind the stage.

I’m on stage with McCartney and his band as he performs at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. Except, I’m not actually on stage. I’ve never even been to Candlestick Park. I’m sitting in a conference room in downtown San Francisco with an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset snugly fit around my head and a pair of headphones wrapped around my ears.

The concert snippet I’m watching was filmed earlier this year using a prototype 3D camera developed by Palo Alto-based company Jaunt. The camera is a strange-looking prism about the size of a toaster that has lenses on each of its faces. With this technology, it can film in 360-degree stereoscopic 3D. The camera doesn’t just capture scenes; it...

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Facebook bus drivers vote to join Teamsters union

The bus drivers who take Facebook employees to work in the morning and home again at day's end voted to unionize, the Teamsters union announced Wednesday.

The drivers work for Loop Transportation, a San Francisco company that contracts with Facebook, whose headquarters are in Menlo Park. They have complained of long days, split shifts and wages too low for them to buy homes near their jobs.

Eighty-seven drivers will be joining Teamsters Local 853, Bob Strelo, president of the local, told the Los Angeles Times. He said 43 drivers voted in favor of joining the union and 28 voted against it.

“We are pleased with the outcome and we hope this victory now gives us a foundation and a presence in the tech industry for future organizing,” Strelo said.

Loop Chief Executive Jeff Leonoudakis said his company respects the drivers’ decision. “Even though we don’t feel that our drivers’ interests are best served by union representation, our drivers have spoken,” he said in an emailed statement,...

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