November 30, 2011

Facebook settles FTC privacy complaint, agrees to ask users’ permission for changes - The Washington Post

Facebook has settled complaints by the Federal Trade Commission, which alleged the company allowed advertisers and others to access users’ personal information even though it promised to protect their privacy, the agency said Tuesday.

The settlement over eight counts of privacy violations will force the the social network to obtain consent from consumers before changing its privacy policies. It also will be subject to regular, independent reviews of its practices for 20 years.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm, which claims 800 million global users, will not face monetary penalties unless it violates the agreement in the future.

“Facebook is obligated to keep the promises about privacy that it makes to its hundreds of millions of users,” said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC. “Facebook’s innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy. The FTC action will ensure it will not.”

The settlement removes a weight on the company as it plans for a massive initial public offering for next year. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post Tuesday that the Web site has tried to protect users. But he conceded that the company needs to do more.

“I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes,” Zuckerberg said. “In particular, I think that a small number of high profile mistakes . . . have often overshadowed much of the good work we’ve done.”

Recent privacy settlements with Facebook and other titans of the Web, such as Google, show that protecting consumer data has become a major policy issue in Washington, some analysts said.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of Electronic Privacy Information Center, said, “2011 is the year the FTC took significant steps in privacy against the two biggest Internet companies in the world. It’s hard to ignore the implications for others in the industry.”

The FTC’s investigation partly stemmed from a complaint filed by the center in December 2009, when Facebook announced several changes that made some user profile information public.

The actions enraged users who complained that they were not given enough notice and that hiding their information from strangers became more difficult and confusing.

In its investigation, the agency found that when users clicked on ads, third-party marketers were able to collect the users’ information even though the company said that wasn’t possible, according to the FTC.

And those who left Facebook weren’t able to completely delete their data. As part of the settlement, Facebook agreed that 30 days after an account is deleted, no information will be available.

Members of Congress are contemplating new privacy laws intended to better protect users as they keep more of their information online.

“This action against Facebook is just the first step toward protecting consumer privacy,” said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) “Ultimately, I believe legislation is needed that empowers consumers to protect their personal information from companies surreptitiously collecting and using that personal information for profit.”

by Cecelia Kang Washington Post Nov 29, 2011

Facebook settles FTC privacy complaint, agrees to ask users’ permission for changes - The Washington Post

Tablets are the season's must-have -

Despite the gloomy economy, shoppers are expected to shell out for tablet computers this December.

The glossy-screened gadgets are the most-desired electronic devices this holiday season -- second only to clothing, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

The industry group expects U.S. consumers to spend an average of $246 on electronic gifts, including tablets.

The iPad is still expected to far outsell other tablets this year.

According to Gartner Inc., nearly 64million tablets will be sold worldwide by the end of the year.
Some 73percent of them will be iPads.

by Associated Press Nov 28, 2011

Tablets are the season's must-have -

November 27, 2011

Police try to shield radio communication

WASHINGTON - Police departments around the U.S. are working to shield their radio communications from the public as cheap, user-friendly technology has made it easy for anyone to use handheld devices to keep tabs on officers responding to crimes.

The practice of encryption has grown more common from Florida to New York and west to California, with law-enforcement officials saying they want to keep criminals from using officers' internal chatter to evade them. But journalists and neighborhood watchdogs say open communications ensure that the public receives information that can be vital to their safety as quickly as possible.

D.C. police moved to join the trend this fall after what Chief Cathy Lanier said were several incidents involving criminals and smartphones. Carjackers operating on Capitol Hill were believed to have been listening to emergency communications because they were only captured once police stopped broadcasting over the radio, she said.

"Whereas listeners used to be tied to stationary scanners, new technology has allowed people -- and especially criminals -- to listen to police communications on a smartphone from anywhere," Lanier testified at a D.C. Council committee hearing this month. "When a potential criminal can evade capture and learn, 'There's an app for that,' it's time to change our practices."

The transition has put police departments at odds with the news media, who say their newsgathering is impeded when they can't use scanners to monitor developing crimes and disasters. Journalists and scanner hobbyists argue that police departments already have the capability to communicate securely and should be able to adjust to the times without reverting to full encryption. And they say alert scanner listeners have even helped police solve crimes.

"If the police need to share sensitive information among themselves, they know how to do it," Phil Metlin, news director of WTTG-TV, in Washington, said at the council hearing. "Special encrypted channels have been around for a long time; so have cellphones."

It's impossible to quantify the scope of the problem or to determine if the threat from scanners is as legitimate as police maintain -- or merely a speculative fear. It's certainly not a new concern -- after all, hobbyists have for years used scanners to track the activities of their local police department from their kitchen tables.

David Schoenberger, a stay-at-home dad from Fredericksburg, Va., and scanner hobbyist, said he understands Lanier's concerns -- to a point.

"I think they do need to encrypt the sensitive talk groups, like the vice and narcotics, but I disagree strongly with encrypting the routine dispatch and patrol talk groups. I don't think that's right," he said. "I think the public has a right to monitor them and find out what's going on around them. They pay the salaries and everything."

There's no doubt that it's increasingly easy to listen in on police radios.

One iPhone app, Scanner 911, offers on its website the chance to "listen in while police, fire and EMS crews work day & night." Apple's iTunes' store advertises several similar apps.

Though iPhones don't directly pick up police signals, users can listen to nearly real-time audio from police dispatch channels through streaming services, said Matthew Blaze, director of the Distributed Systems Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania and a researcher of security and privacy in computing and communications systems.

The shift to encryption has occurred as departments replace old-fashioned analog radios with digital equipment that sends the voice signal over the air as a stream of bits and then reconstructs it into high-quality audio. Encrypted communication is generally only heard by listeners with an encryption key. Others might hear silence or garbled talk, depending on the receiver's technology.

The cost of encryption varies.

The Nassau County, N.Y., Police Department is in the final stages of a roughly $50 million emergency communications upgrade that includes encryption and interoperability with other law-enforcement agencies in the region, Inspector Edmund Horace said. Once the old system is taken down, Horace said, "you would not be able to discern what's being said on the air unless you had the proper equipment."

Still, full encryption is cumbersome, difficult to manage and relatively rare, especially among big-city police departments who'd naturally have a harder time keeping track of who has access to the encryption key, Blaze said.

The more individuals or neighboring police agencies with access, the greater the risk that the secrecy of the system could be compromised and the harder it becomes to ensure that everyone who needs access has it, Blaze said.

Relatively few local police departments are actually encrypted, Blaze said, though some cities have modern radio systems for dispatch that are difficult to monitor on inexpensive equipment.

However, the systems can be intercepted with higher-end scanners.

by Eric Tucker Associated Press Nov. 24, 2011 12:00 AM

Police try to shield radio communication

Bing search engine's ads to feature Rudolph

SAN FRANCISCO - Like Santa Claus on that one foggy Christmas Eve, Microsoft has summoned Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to guide some precious cargo -- a holiday marketing campaign for its Bing search engine.

The advertisements, debuting online and on TV this week, star Rudolph and other characters from the animated story about the most famous reindeer of all.

The campaign is part of Microsoft's attempt to trip up Google Inc., an Internet search rival as imposing as the Abominable Snowman was before Yukon Cornelius tamed the monster.

Google has been countering with its own emotional ads throughout the year. Most of Google's ads show snippets of its search engine and other products at work before swirling into the logo of the company's Chrome Web browser.

The dueling ads underscore the lucrative nature of search engines.

Although visitors pay nothing to use them, search engines generate billions of dollars a year in revenue from ads posted alongside the search results.

The holiday season is a particularly opportune time for search companies because that's when people do more searches to find gifts online, look for party supplies and plan nights out on the town. That means more people to show ads to. Advertisers also tend to be willing to pay more per ad because they know people are in a buying mode.

To capture that audience, Microsoft and Google are thinking outside the search box to promote their brands.

Although the text ads running alongside search results do a fine job of reeling in some customers, they still lack the broader, more visceral impact of a well-done television commercial, said Peter Daboll, chief executive of Ace Metrix, a firm that rates the effectiveness of ads.

"It's instructive that these companies who are all about the Internet and doing things in real time are actually doing these emotive ads on TV," Daboll said.

Search engines are particularly difficult to sell because the sophisticated technology required to make them work isn't something "you can touch or feel in a store, so you need to bring some emotion to it," said Sean Carver, Bing's advertising director. "The storytelling is important."

Microsoft Corp. licensed the rights to the characters from Rudolph's 47-year-old holiday special after convincing their owners that the Bing commercials would add an endearing chapter to the reindeer's story.

The rights to Rudolph and the rest of the cast are owned by the children of Robert L. May, who wrote the story in 1939 while working as a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store (May's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, later wrote the famous song).

Google embraces ads

Microsoft is far more experienced at marketing than Google.

For one thing, it's 23 years older than Google, which was founded in 1998.

More important, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were so contemptuous of traditional marketing campaigns that the company never bothered to advertise its search engine on national TV until the 2010 Super Bowl. Spending millions to be a part of TV's annual advertising extravaganza was so out of character that Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO at the time, heralded the Super Bowl ad with a post on Twitter that concluded "hell has indeed frozen over."

Since that breakthrough, Google has caught the advertising bug. Without breaking down its total ad budget, Google disclosed that it has spent $583 million more on television and other advertising during the first nine months of this year than it did at the same time last year.

The investment has won Google some respect in the advertising industry.

Google took five of the 10 top spots for most effective national TV ads that promote websites, based on Ace Metrix's study of viewer reactions to the commercials. Topping the list is an ad showing how a father used Google services such as Gmail to create an electronic journal of his daughter Sophie's life.

Three Bing ads also ranked in the 10 most effective, but the company also had two ads on the least effective list.

"There doesn't seem to be a very coherent creative pattern to the Bing ads," Daboll said. "It's kind of hit and miss."

Seeking high impact

There's no mistaking the common theme in the four Rudolph ads produced for the Bing promotion. The ads are all done in the same stop-motion puppet animation used in the original 1964 TV special. One features Bumble the Abominable Snowman using Bing to get ideas for a more fearsome roar. Another shows some of the characters turning to Bing for suggestions on a vacation that leads to a getaway on an island of misfit toys.

Microsoft has bought seven slots on national TV to run those four 30-second ads. The company is going for high impact rather than high frequency and is placing those ads during holiday-themed specials, starting with "The Simpsons" on the Fox network on Thanksgiving night and ending on Dec. 21 during "South Park" on the Comedy Channel. Microsoft isn't buying time during the Rudolph special, though, which CBS is broadcasting next Tuesday and Dec. 10.

The ads will be shown in more than 200 movie theaters before holiday films and will be available online beginning Wednesday.

Microsoft declined to say how much it's spending on the Rudolph campaign.

Aaron Lilly, a Microsoft executive who helps conceive Bing's promotions, came up with the idea to build holiday ads around the Rudolph story two years ago. It didn't happen then because the Aflac insurance company had already bought rights to the characters for that holiday season.

The ads will be a success for Microsoft if they help the company gain more ground and cut its losses in Internet search, an area that remains weak for Microsoft even after years of investing in better technology.

Although the Xbox video-game console and familiar software such as Windows and Office provide most of Microsoft's earnings, Bing remains a financial drain. The online division anchored by Bing has suffered operating losses totaling $7 billion since June 2008, when Microsoft introduced the latest overhaul of its search engine.

Google's share of the Internet search market has increased since Bing's debut, according to the research firm comScore. Google now processes about two out of three search requests in the U.S. and rakes in an even larger share of the revenue that rolls when people click on ads next to search results.

Bing's market share has climbed from about 9 percent in June 2008 to roughly 15 percent in October.

by Michael Liedtke Associated Press Nov. 24, 2011 06:44 PM

Bing search engine's ads to feature Rudolph

Best Buy trade-in program confusing

A Best Buy program to trade old electronic equipment in exchange for store gift cards may be giving brick-and-mortar consumers more headaches than rewards.

Each store appears to have its own rules about what it will take back, and the answer changes depending on who at the store is answering questions.

Best Buy advertises on its website that most stores will take back anything, from iPods, DVD players, computers, cellphones, game systems, cameras and other items, no matter where they were purchased.

Depending on the item and condition, that could translate to hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards for outdated equipment.

But the reality, at least in Arizona, is that most stores won't take back items without a receipt showing they were bought at Best Buy -- and even then there is no guarantee.

Best Buy officials, contacted through their public-relations staff, did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week.

The company also offers the trade-in program through its website,, and there is no indication that consumers have had any difficulty using it.

But calls or visits to Best Buy stores last week in Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and Casa Grande about the trade-in program resulted in a confusing host of answers. Managers and employees said the trade-in program works differently at each store.

Some employees say stores will take back everything from computer monitors to audio receivers to DVD players.

Other employees say they are restricted to what can be traded, demand original receipts, or insist that only merchandise purchased at Best Buy is eligible for the trade-in.

In addition, what customer-service representatives say on the phone might not be true inside the store.

Employees at three stores in Mesa said city ordinances prevent them from taking merchandise without receipts because of concerns that the items might be stolen. They directed customers to a Tempe store. But a manager there said she could not take back any item without a receipt.

Even with a receipt, the store manager said, the item must have been purchased from a Best Buy in order to be eligible for the trade-in program.

On its website, Best Buy says most electronics, no matter where they were purchased, can be traded at stores for a gift card on the spot.

"Most items can be taken to a Best Buy store for immediate evaluation and payment. If you have a Best Buy receipt, any store can help you," according to the site. "Most can also accept products not bought at Best Buy."

But store employees at a Best Buy in Phoenix said the store was authorized only to trade in laptops, cellphones and iPods.

A store employee in Casa Grande said her store could offer trade-ins only on video games.

Best Buy also offers its trade-in program online, where it provides estimates based on your description of the product.

For instance, a 64 gigabyte, fourth-generation iPod Touch might fetch up to $190 in gift cards. Best Buy supplies shipping labels.

Once shipped, a customer will have to wait up to 14 days for the gift card to arrive in the mail.

by Robert Anglen The Arizona Republic Nov. 24, 2011 06:42 PM

Best Buy trade-in program confusing

New twist in Facebook scam on seniors

Facebook not only connects family and friends around the globe, it also gives con artists a window into your life.

In a new twist on an old criminal theme, the Facebook social-networking site is being used to target senior citizens in what authorities call the "grandma scam."

The scam is as simple as it is insidious. Someone calls a senior citizen claiming to be a grandchild in desperate need of cash. It might involve an accident, an eviction or some other crisis. The Arizona version often often revolves around a Mexican jail and a plea for bail money.

Unlike in years past, where con artists relied primarily on cold calls to convince seniors to wire money, more sophisticated perpetrators are calling up Facebook to custom-tailor stories.

Names, photos, phone numbers, family histories and up-to-the minute accounts of daily movements are providing con artists with important tools that give their stories depth and believability. So now when an unsuspecting grandparent picks up the phone, their "grandchild" might know what they look like, who their parents are, where the family vacationed and other convincing details.

"It is an outrageous scam on grandparents and their love for their grandkids," Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said. "We are seeing a lot of police reports about it."

Horne says his office in the past few months has seen an upsurge in the number of Facebook grandma scams. Last week, he sent letters to 1,100 Western Union and other money-wire services facilities in the state urging caution.

The letters detail how the scam works, then asks wire-service employees to question senior citizens eager to send emergency cash.

"Even a simple question such as, 'Have you confirmed that (the 'loved one' calling for help) is really in need? You need to be sure for your own protection,' could make a significant difference," Horne said in the letter.

It's a warning Mesa grandparents Kathleen and Bob Denton wished someone had given them this year when they twice sent money to someone claiming to be their grandson.

"He said he was in jail in Mexico and needed money to get out," Kathleen Denton, 76, said. "He asked us to keep it to ourselves, and we sent him the money."

The fake grandson claimed he had been in an accident and had been arrested. And after the Dentons sent the first wire, they got a second call a few hours later. Now their "grandson" said he needed money to pay an attorney so he could leave Mexico.

"Yes, we sent even more cash," Kathleen Denton said. "It was just so natural, that's how they get you."

A component of the scam almost always involves a plea from the grandchild not to tell anyone what happened, especially parents. So the grandparents don't try to verify the information until long after the money has been sent.

The Dentons didn't make the call until two days later, on a Sunday, when they discovered that their grandson had never left the country and had been working the whole time.

Kathleen Denton said the money was immaterial compared with the worry they felt over the fate of the grandson.

"The money, that's one thing," she said. "But your grandson in a Mexican jail ..."

Despite the rise in reports of Facebook grandma scams, Horne said the cases are hard to track and even harder to prosecute. In many cases the grandparents are embarrassed about being tricked and don't some forward right away, if they come forward at all.

Horne says individuals should consider what information they post on Facebook and control privacy settings to limit who can view profiles. Horne said he would avoid posting frequent updates about daily activities to keep scam artists from knowing your movements.

His office also recommends that seniors contacted about sending money to a desperate grandchild:

Verify the family member's whereabouts.

Do not call the caller with the phone number that person provided.

Don't fill in the blanks for the caller. For instance, if the caller says, "This is your favorite grandson," ask "Which one?"

by Robert Anglen The Arizona Republic Nov. 22, 2011 12:00 AM

New twist in Facebook scam on seniors

November 22, 2011

BBC News - Hackers 'hit' US water treatment systems

Dripping taps
The alleged attack was made on a system that piped clean water to homes in Illinois

Hackers are alleged to have destroyed a pump used to pipe water to thousands of homes in a US city in Illinois.

Hackers with access to the utility's network are thought to have broken the pump by turning it on and off quickly.

The FBI and Department for Homeland Security (DHS) are investigating the incident as details emerge of what could be a separate second attack.

Experts said the news revealed a growing interest in critical infrastructure by cyber criminals.

Information about the 8 November incident came to light via the blog of Joe Weiss who advises utilities on how to protect hardware against attack.

Mr Weiss quoted from a short report by the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center which said hackers obtained access using stolen login names and passwords. These were taken from a company which writes control software for industrial systems.

The net address through which the attack was carried out was traced to Russia, according to Mr Weiss. The report said "glitches" in the remote access system for the pump had been noticed for months before the burn out, said Mr Weiss.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iran's nuclear programme has been slowed by a virus targeting industrial control systems
Peter Boogaard, A spokesman for the DHS, said it was gathering facts about the incident.

"At this time there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety," he said.

Industrial action
The comments by the DHS prompted a hacker using the handle "pr0f" to claim he had access to the control systems for a second US water utility.

He posted a document to the Pastebin website which purportedly contained links to screenshots of the internal control systems for a waste water treatment plant in South Houston.

The hacker's claims about their ability to penetrate the control systems have yet to be confirmed or denied by South Houston's Water and Sewer Department.

In an interview with the Threat Post website, Pr0f said the hack of the South Houston network barely deserved the name because only a three-character password had been used to protect the system.

The attacks are the latest in a series in which different hackers and groups have targeted so called Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. These specialised computer systems are used to control equipment used to filter water, mix chemicals, distribute power and route trains and trams.

One of the best known SCADA attacks involved the Stuxnet worm which caused problems for Iran.

There were reports that the malware crippled centrifuges used in the nation's uranium enrichment program. Iran denied the claims saying that it had caught the worm before it reached its intended target.

Earlier this year, security researchers who investigated ways to attack SCADA systems were persuaded to cancel a public talk about their findings because of the "serious physical, financial impact these issues could have on a worldwide basis".

Lani Kass, a former adviser to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff on security issues, said America had to start doing more work to understand attacks on critical infrastructure.

"The going in hypothesis is always that it's just an incident or coincidence," she said. "And if every incident is seen in isolation, it's hard - if not impossible - to discern a pattern or connect the dots."

"Failure to connect the dots led us to be surprised on 9/11," she said.

by BBC Nov 21, 2011

BBC News - Hackers 'hit' US water treatment systems

Facebook: images of porn, violence due to coordinated spam attack | ZDNet

Over the last few days, Facebook users have been experiencing a flood of links, videos, and images depicting pornography, acts of violence, self-mutilation, and bestiality. Facebook confirmed the NSFW problem with me this morning and now, this afternoon, is offering more details. In short, Facebook says it was hit by a coordinated spam attack leveraging a browser vulnerability.

Some members of the social network are complaining about violent and/or pornographic pictures showing up in their News Feeds without their knowledge that they have allegedly Liked. Others are being told by their friends that they are sending requests to click on links to videos, sending out bogus chat messages, or writing mass messages and tagged photos leading people to believe they are in the link. If you are affected by this, please see Facebook virus or account hacked? Here’s how to fix it.

We’ve seen this type of spam on Facebook before, but it’s coming in at a much faster pace, as if it was something planned in advance. According to the company, this spam attack all started with users being tricked into pasting and executing malicious JavaScript in their browser’s URL bar. I asked the company for details on the browser vulnerability; more specifically, I wanted to know which versions of which browsers were affected.

Palo Alto says it has been shutting down the malicious Pages and accounts that attempt to exploit this flaw and has been giving users guidance on how to protect themselves. Overall, the company claims it has managed to drastically reduce the rate of the attack, but wouldn’t elaborate with actual numbers.

“Protecting the people who use Facebook from spam and malicious content is a top priority for us, and we are always working to improve our systems to isolate and remove material that violates our terms,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “Recently, we experienced a coordinated spam attack that exploited a browser vulnerability. Our efforts have drastically limited the damage caused by this attack, and we are now in the process of investigating to identify those responsible.”

“During this spam attack users were tricked into pasting and executing malicious JavaScript in their browser URL bar causing them to unknowingly share this offensive content,” the spokesperson continued. “Our engineers have been working diligently on this self-XSS vulnerability in the browser. We’ve built enforcement mechanisms to quickly shut down the malicious Pages and accounts that attempt to exploit it. We have also been putting those affected through educational checkpoints so they know how to protect themselves. We’ve put in place backend measures to reduce the rate of these attacks and will continue to iterate on our defenses to find new ways to protect people.”

Users are unsurprisingly outraged, and as is typical with Facebook members, many are already threatening to close their accounts. I personally have not seen any such Facebook activity on my own profile, and neither have my friends. Still, although the service’s users complain about a lot of small things, this is not one of them. That being said, it’s still not known how many of the site’s 800 million active users are affected.

Some have blamed the hacktivist group Anonymous, which was rumored to be planning to take down the social network on November 5, for this attack. Three months ago, the larger collective group made a point to say it did not support such a takedown operation and in the end it did not take place: the service has remained operational all month.

Facebook is still up and running, but it has been exploited in a coordinated way. There is no proof that Anonymous is behind this flood of inappropriate images and links (normally such an attack would result in confirmation from Anonymous, in some shape or form), but it only takes a few members or ex-members to pull something like this off.

By Emil Protalinski ZDNet November 15, 2011, 12:28pm PST

Facebook: images of porn, violence due to coordinated spam attack | ZDNet

November 20, 2011

Players prefer Modern Warfare 3 over Battlefield 3, says Raptr report, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Xbox 360 News | GamesRadar

According to opinion data from social networking service Raptr, more players were excited about the launch of Battlefield 3, thought that DICE was a more innovative developer than Infinity Ward, and that the Battlefield franchise has had a bigger impact on the FPS genre than Call of Duty. That data comes from a survey of over 6,000 respondents. But when you break down the numbers comparing hours played from Raptr’s user base of over 10 million gamers, it looks like most players prefer Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to Battlefield 3.

The statistics in Raptr’s latest report reveal that Xbox 360 players spent 40% more time playing Modern Warfare 3 on launch day than they did playing Battlefield 3 when it launched. “The battle for dominance for the first-person shooter market in 2011 is clearly in Activision’s favor,” said Raptr CEO Dennis Fong. “EA made a valiant effort evangelizing its fan base and generating massive support around the launch of Battlefield 3. Given how well received the game was, EA has a powerful opportunity to take things further next year, though it’s clear at this point that Call of Duty is a phenomenon that is unrivaled.”

Here are the key findings from Raptr’s report on playtime tracking:

- Xbox 360 players logged 40% more launch-day playtime in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, averaging 6.19 hours compared to 4.45 hours of Battlefield 3
- During each game’s first week of launch, Xbox 360 players logged 17% more per-user playtime in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, averaging 20.45 hours compared to 17.37 hours of Battlefield 3
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 accumulated more total hours played in one week post-launch than Battlefield 3 has in three weeks post-launch
- 53% of Battlefield 3 players on Xbox 360 are also playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, compared to just 31% of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 players who also played Battlefield 3
- During the first week of launch, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 stole more playtime from Battlefield 3 than any other game
- For the first time ever for any franchise, three Call of Duty games were in the top 10 playtime charts on Raptr
Here are the results from the survey:
- 81% of respondents were more excited for the launch of Battlefield 3
- 92% of respondents consider DICE a more innovative developer than Infinity Ward
- 58% of respondents said the Battlefield franchise has had a bigger impact on the FPS genre
- 80% of respondents feel the Call of Duty franchise generates more hype through its marketing

The survey paints a picture of a showdown between mainstream Hollywood-style blockbuster Modern Warfare 3 – and the more important and innovative Battlefield 3. So you’d think that this would lead to more playtime logged for DICE’s big shooter. The difference between the results of the survey and the hours logged in Raptr’s playtime report could have something to do with the survey itself, which offered respondents a chance to win a high-end custom gaming PC. Since the Call of Duty franchise is now considered by many to be more of a console shooter than Battlefield, the difference between player opinion and actual playtime in the recent Raptr report seems to make more sense. You can check out GamesRadar’s David Houghton’s take on the Modern Warfare 3 vs Battlefield 3 showdown here, but which title do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!

November 13, 2011

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 makes $400m in 1st 24 hours of going on sale | Mail Online

A real blast: 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3' set a first-day sales record by generating $400million in sales in its first 24 hours in stores
By the third time around, it really shouldn't be a surprise.

The latest 'Call of Duty' video game set a first-day sales record this week, generating $400million in sales in its first 24 hours in stores. That breaks the record its predecessor set this time last year.

'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3' is the third game in the military shooter series to set such a record.

Last year, 'Call of Duty: Black Ops' raked in $360million in its first 24 hours on sale. 'Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2,' sold 4.7million copies in its first 24 hours to reap $310million.

The latest installment of the game from Activision Blizzard Inc. went on sale at midnight in more than 13,000 stores on Tuesday in North America and the U.K.

Activision said on Friday that the game sold 6.4million units in its first 24 hours.

A rival shooter game from Electronic Arts Inc., 'Battlefield 3,' meanwhile, sold 5million units in its first week in stores last month, making it the fastest-selling game in EA's history.

'We believe the launch of 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3' is the biggest entertainment launch of all time in any medium, and we achieved this record with sales from only two territories,' said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard.

'Other than 'Call of Duty,' there has never been another entertainment franchise that has set opening day records three years in a row.'

He added that total sales for the 'Call of Duty' franchise exceed worldwide box office takings for the hugely successful Star Wars and Lord of the Rings series.

Modern Warfare 3 smashed this year's previous release-day record of an entertainment product set by 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Part 2', which grossed $169million in its opening weekend, according to Box Office Mojo.

Since the release, Modern Warfare 3 players have broken the Xbox Live record for the number of users online at the same time, according to Microsoft.

The game, which is rated 18, takes up where Modern Warfare 2 left off, with special forces protagonists pursuing Vladimir Makarov, a Russian terrorist, in cities including London, Paris and New York.

The Call of Duty series has been running since 2003 and more than 100 million copies of its various titles have now been sold.

by Daily Mail Reporter Mail Online Nov 13, 2011

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 makes $400m in 1st 24 hours of going on sale | Mail Online

Expert: America's military vulnerable to cyberattacks

WASHINGTON - America's critical computer networks are so vulnerable to attack that it should deter U.S. leaders from going to war with other nations, a former top U.S. cybersecurity official said Monday.

Richard Clarke, a top adviser to three presidents, joined a number of U.S. military and civilian experts in offering a dire assessment of America's cybersecurity at a conference, saying the country simply can't protect its critical networks.

Clarke said that if he was advising the president, he would warn against attacking other countries because so many of them - including China, North Korea, Iran and Russia - could retaliate by launching devastating cyberattacks that could destroy power grids, banking networks or transportation systems.

The U.S. military, he said, is entirely dependent on computer systems and could end up in a future conflict in which troops trot out onto a battlefield "and nothing works."

Clarke said that a good national-security adviser would tell the president that the U.S. might be able to blow up a nuclear plant somewhere, or a terrorist-training center somewhere, but that a number of countries could strike back with a cyberattack.

"The entire us economic system could be crashed in retaliation ... because we can't defend it today," he said.

"I really don't know to what extent the weapon systems that have been developed over the last 10 years have been penetrated, to what extent the chips are compromised, to what extent the code is compromised.

"I can't assure you that as you go to war with a cybersecurity-conscious, cybersecurity-capable enemy that any of our stuff is going to work."

Clarke, along with Gen. Keith Alexander, who heads both the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, told the conference crowd that the U.S. needs to do a better job of eliminating network vulnerabilities and more aggressively seek out malware or viruses in American corporate, military and government systems.

But Clarke was more strident about pushing for broader government regulations to enforce such improvements, despite political reluctance.

The problems, he said, will not be fixed unless the government gets more involved.

He added that the U.S. also needs to make it clear to countries such as China that efforts to use computer-based attacks to steal high-tech American data will be punished.

by Lolita C. Baldor Associated Press Nov. 8, 2011 12:00 AM

Expert: America's military vulnerable to cyberattacks

November 6, 2011

Private domain names multiply

Scottsdale-based Internet domain registrar Inc. reached a milestone recently, announcing the registration of its 50millionth domain name since opening in 1997.

Go Daddy has vaulted to the top of the domain-registrar heap with the help of several innovations, perhaps the most significant among them being "private" domain registration.

Go Daddy invented and launched the concept of private registration in 2002 with the formation of an affiliate company called Domains By Proxy Inc. It has been hugely successful, and nearly every Go Daddy competitor has since copied the idea.

Private registration allows the registrant of an Internet domain, or Web address, to keep his or her name and contact information out of a searchable online directory known as the "Whois" directory.

Champions of free speech say private domain registration is important because it allows website authors to speak their minds without fear of retaliation. Privacy advocates support it, too, saying it helps reduce identity and domain theft.

But some critics say private domain registration's main value is providing a haven for anonymous trash-talkers and scam artists, particularly if their targets are regular people who can't afford an expensive attorney.

Others say companies such as Domains By Proxy hand over registrants' private information too readily when their Web content angers or offends someone.

Phoenix attorney Fredric Bellamy said private domain registrars could be shielding customers' identities more stubbornly but have opted not to because of potential legal costs.

"Most of these outfits, if they're hit with a valid subpoena, they could challenge it, but by and large they don't want to go that far," said Bellamy, a shareholder at Ryley Carlock & Applewhite and a director of the Arizona Technology Council.

Is Web privacy a right?

In 1998, a private, non-profit corporation called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, took over responsibility for registering Internet domain names from the U.S. government.

Among ICANN's rules for the registration of Internet domains, such as or, is that the registrants' names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses are to be kept on file in a public registry.

The registry can be searched by visiting the website of any domain registrar and selecting a Whois search.

When a domain is registered through a private registrar such as Domains By Proxy, a Whois lookup displays the registrar's information instead of the website's registrant.

Go Daddy deputy general counsel Nima Kelly said company founder Bob Parsons came up with the idea for private registration when a customer who didn't know her domain-registration information would be made public complained to the company.

A stalker had gotten her personal information by doing a Whois lookup on her website, Kelly said.

Parsons agreed to replace her contact information with Go Daddy's company information, Kelly said. Shortly thereafter, he came up with the idea for Domains By Proxy.

Parsons also developed the basic concepts for how private registration works, which have since been copied by dozens of competitors.

The private registrar becomes the Internet domain's legal owner, and it licenses the use of that domain to its customer. Kelly said there are strict terms of service and standard procedures for when and how the registrar's personal or company information is released in the event of a complaint or investigation.

"The overwhelming majority of people who use our service are law-abiding citizens who simply don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry to see their information," she said.

Domain names vs. trade names

There are many legitimate reasons why a business might want to register domain names privately, Kelly said, such as if the company wanted to reserve a domain for a new product but didn't yet want its competitors to know the product's name.

State governments historically have served as registrars and regulators of trade names, but none has extended that role to include domain names.

Domain names and trade names differ in a number of ways.

All trade-name registrants are publicly disclosed. In Arizona, the trade-name database is maintained by the Secretary of State's Office. But with the growth in popularity of private domain registration, many domain registrants have opted to keep their information private.

Generally, only businesses register trade names, but a large percentage of domain names are registered to private individuals for use as personal websites or blogs.

Another difference is that there can be multiple registrants of a single trade name in different industries or geographic regions, whereas each domain name can have just one registrant.

Consumers and criminals

Private domain registrars do a lot more than simply register Internet sites on behalf of their customers. They also provide a variety of services such as forwarding third-party e-mail inquiries to the registrants and handling complaints about privately registered sites.

Kelly said Domains By Proxy always cooperates with law-enforcement investigations and complies with court orders and subpoenas to release information about private registrants. At times it has been criticized for doing so, such as in 2003 when a website called was pursued by Walmart for offering an online tool that rearranged consumer-product bar codes uploaded by customers to alter the products' prices., which had billed itself as a mockery of, had been registered privately through Domains By Proxy, but when Walmart attorneys sent a letter demanding to know the registrant's information, the Go Daddy affiliate canceled's privacy agreement and gave up its creator's information, court documents show.

But when it's a consumer who wants a business registrant's information because he or she has been ripped off by a website, getting that information can be far more difficult, Bellamy said.

"You may have a hard time ever collecting your money," he said.

Still, Kelly said Domains By Proxy does respond to all complaints and doesn't simply tell consumers to go away.

"We have a variety of standard operating procedures that we follow based on the nature of the complaint," she said. "We would try to get the consumer and the registrant together to get them talking."

Arizona Attorney General's Office spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico said that the private-domain-registration issue may warrant further discussion at the policy level, but that in the meantime, it's up to consumers to do their homework before handing over payment information to any website.

"Make sure they are a legitimate, registered business," Rezzonico said.

by J. Craig Anderson The Arizona Republic Nov. 5, 2011 11:51 AM

Private domain names multiply

Groupon shares leap more than 50%

Groupon, the company that pioneered online group discounts, saw its stock soar more than 50% in its public debut Friday, showing strong demand for an Internet company whose business model is considered unsustainable by some analysts.

Groupon stock (GRPN) jumped more than $10 a share to almost $31 in early trading, which began about 10:45 a.m. ET.

Chicago-based Groupon sends out frequent emails to subscribers offering discount deals on anything from laser hair removal to weekend getaways. The company takes a cut of what people pay and gives the rest to the merchant.

Though it spawned many copycats after its 2008 launch, Groupon has the advantage of being first. This has meant brand recognition and investor demand, as evidenced by its sizzling public stock debut.

Groupon is selling 5.5% of its available shares. Though not unprecedented, that amount of publicly traded stock is below the so-called "float" for many prominent tech companies, such as Google and more recently LinkedIn.

On Thursday, the company priced its IPO at $20 a share. That was above its expected range of $16 to $18. The IPO valued Groupon at $13.3 billion and raised $700 million.

With Friday's stock price jump, Groupon's value rose to more than $18 billion.

Another Internet darling, professional networking service LinkedIn, saw its stock (LNKD) soar to $122.70 on its opening day in May after pricing at $45. Since then, the stock has settled lower but was still trading at almost $80 Friday.

Groupon's shares rose despite a decline in the broader market.

Investors were not surprised demand was so strong for the shares, despite months of skepticism over the company's financial prospects and accounting methods.

"It's a unique IPO," says Nick Einhorn of Renaissance Capital. "There's been a lot of controversy around it, but many people are interested in it."

- Questions about future profitability. Critics of Groupon suggest it's just a 2011 rerun of what happened with money-losing Internet companies of the late 1990s. Investors suffered huge losses as many of those dot-com firms' business models never worked and their stocks crashed, says Andrew Stoltmann of Stoltmann Law Offices.

Groupon lost $308.1 million during the nine months ended September, following a $456.3 million loss in 2010 and $6.9 million loss in 2009.

- Short-term focus of early buyers. If initial demand for Groupon's IPO is strong, that's mostly due to interest by individual investors who may be fans of the service or traders looking for a quick pop to sell into for a fast profit, says Francis Gaskins of

Moves in the stock also will be exaggerated in the short term because such a small slice of the company, roughly 5%, has been sold, Einhorn says.

- Ho-hum performance of recent Internet IPOs. There's no shortage of Internet companies that have had splashy IPOs only to see their stocks languish during the first few months of trading.

Active Network, a provider of online reservations for events, is down nearly 13% from its initial IPO price set in May. Demand Media, a provider of online content, is down 56% from its IPO in January.

The strong initial demand on shares of Groupon puts pressure on the company to defy the critics and perform, says John Fitzgibbon of IPOscoop. The initial IPO is "expected to go well," he says. "After that, the tape will tell the story."

by Associated Press Nov 4, 2011

Groupon shares leap more than 50%

The Associated Press: China to phase out energy-inefficient light bulbs

BEIJING (AP) — China announced Friday it will phase out incandescent light bulbs within five years in an attempt to make the world's most polluting nation more energy efficient.

China will ban imports and sales of 100-watt and higher incandescent bulbs from Oct. 1, 2012, the country's main planning agency said.

It will extend the ban to 60-watt and higher bulbs on Oct. 1, 2014, and to 15-watt and higher bulbs on Oct. 1, 2016. The time frame for the last step may be adjusted according to an evaluation in September 2016, the National Development and Reform Commission said.

State-run Xinhua News Agency quoted Xie Ji, deputy director of the commission's environmental protection department, as saying China is the world's largest producer of both energy-saving and incandescent bulbs.

Last year, China produced 3.85 billion incandescent light bulbs, and 1.07 billion were sold domestically, the agency said. Lighting is estimated to account for about 12 percent of China's total electricity use, it said. Xie said the potential for energy savings and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is huge.
The planning agency said China will save 48 billion kilowatt hours of power per year and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 48 million tons annually once the bulbs are phased out.

Several countries plan to phase out traditional light bulbs. The United States is to ban the making and sale of incandescent light bulbs beginning in 2012. The 27-nation European Union agreed in 2008 to phase out the bulbs by 2012. The most common replacements are fluorescent and LED lights.

by Associated Press Nov 4, 2011

The Associated Press: China to phase out energy-inefficient light bulbs

More employers using Internet videoconferencing in interviews

More job candidates are spending time in front of the camera.

Increasingly, employers are using Internet videoconferencing tools, such as Skype, to vet applicants for jobs. It helps save time and some recruiting costs, and hiring managers can size up more candidates face to face.

With video, companies can get an early first impression of key factors, such as a job seeker's personality and communication skills, which helps narrow the applicant pool. But candidates must make careful preparations to make sure that they make a good on-camera impression, hiring experts say.

Videoconferencing will probably never replace an in-person interview, said Jessica Coronado Perez, administrator of personnel affairs with the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. But it has been an effective tool, particularly now when it's common for the school to get a flood of responses to a job opening, she added.

"If you have 20 to 25 individuals who are competitive, what is the best use of an individual's time to find out if this is a good fit?" Perez said.

UA's Phoenix medical school has used videoconferencing in many ways, she added. It has been used to interview job candidates who live out of state and it has been used to allow Tucson school officials to participate when a job candidate visits the Phoenix campus for a face-to-face interview, she said.

Intel Corp. is exploring using video during interviews for hiring interns and recent college graduates, said Tiffany Peery, a virtual- and marketing-program manager at the company. Intel plans to record job candidates as they answer a set of interview questions. This way, managers can review the material when they have time. Also, the human-resources staff can use the videos to pitch the best candidates to several Intel teams, which are spread across the U.S.

"The plan is to increase the quality of our intern hires and help Intel narrow the candidate pool for recent college graduate hiring," Peery said, adding that the method could also help Intel save on travel costs because the company can prescreen candidates before flying them out.

Christine Savi, 42, used Skype on her smartphone in February to interview for an accreditation compliance position at UA's Phoenix medical school. She was working in Fort Worth, Texas, at the time.

Since Savi had used videoconferencing before, she said she was comfortable on camera. Savi tested Skype before she used it for the interview. When it was time for the meeting, she propped the phone up on her desk so she could talk hands-free.

Savi is a fan of the video interview because it is convenient and allows face-to face-interaction. But, she added, for some job seekers, the technology "may add one more layer of anxiety."

"You may worry if your end isn't working or if there is some technical difficulty on their end," Savi said. There are other issues that may crop up. During her interview, Savi talked to a panel of five people but could see only three on her screen because of the school's camera angle. Also, since her screen was small, she could see some gestures, but it was more difficult to for her to see subtle body language, she said.

Arizona State University has also used videoconferencing for job candidates.

Job hunters should make sure that they make a good impression before they get on camera, said Dan Klug, an assistant director who handles recruitment for the school's human-resources division. Applicants should make sure their handouts or presentation materials are sent to their prospective employer ahead of time, Klug said.


Test the equipment. Make sure that your microphone, camera and Internet connection work well. Avoid rooms with an echo.

Dress for the interview. Even though interviewers can see you only from the waist up, make sure that you look professional. Wear colors that look good on camera and avoid patterns that don't.

Remember the background. Keep family members, pets and children out of camera and microphone range. Make sure the room is quiet and the background behind you is tidy and not distracting.

Get proper lighting. Sit in a well-lit area so that it's easy for the interviewer to see you.

Look straight into the camera. Eye contact with interviewers is extremely important and it's easy to tell when someone participating in a video conference looks off camera. Also: avoid looking at your own image, if it is visible on your computer screen.

Rehearse. Do a mock video interview with a friend and ask him or her to critique you. If you can, record the session and look for ways to improve.

by Jahna Berry The Arizona Republic Nov. 4, 2011 12:00 AM

More employers using Internet videoconferencing in interviews

U.S.: Cyberspying by China, Russia a threat

WASHINGTON - Online industrial spying by China and Russia presents a growing threat to the U.S. economy and its national security, the top counterintelligence agency said Thursday, abandoning the caution American officials typically display when asked to name the countries they believe are most responsible for cyber-economic espionage.

Billions of dollars of trade secrets, technology and intellectual property are being siphoned each year from the computer systems of U.S. government agencies, corporations and research institutions to benefit the economies of China and other countries, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive said.

Its report to Congress was released Thursday morning.

The hackers come from many countries and range from foreign intelligence services to corporations to criminals, according to the report, "Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace." But it leaves no doubt as to who are the most intent on stealing secrets.

"Chinese actors are the world's most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage," the report states.

In addition, it says, "Russia's intelligence services are conducting a range of activities to collect economic information and technology from U.S. targets."

At a news conference accompanying the report's release, Robert Bryant, the national counterintelligence executive, called online spying "a quiet menace to our economy with notably big results."

"Trade secrets developed over thousands of working hours by our brightest minds are stolen in a split second and transferred to our competitors," Bryant said.

China and Russia have routinely denied such charges, and a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy expressed outrage at the report by the counterintelligence office, whose focus is intelligence threats to the United States.

"We are opposed to willfully making unwarranted allegations against China as firmly as our opposition to any forms of unlawful cyberspace activities," embassy spokesman Wang Baodong said in an e-mail.

A senior U.S. intelligence official, who conducted a media briefing about the report Wednesday on the condition of anonymity, said the government's unusual candor in naming particular countries was prompted by the severity of the threat.

"From a counterintelligence standpoint and the threat to our national economy, I think we have to suggest and say who we consider the foreign intelligence services and the countries that are doing the most harm," the official said.

The FBI alerted more than 100 U.S. companies in the past year that they had been hacked, officials said.

by Ellen Nakashima Washington Post Nov. 4, 2011 12:00 AM

U.S.: Cyberspying by China, Russia a threat

The Stingray: the cellphone tracker the government won't talk about | The Verge


The government has the ability to track cellphones using the portable device pictured above called the Stingray — it was recently revealed in a criminal case in Arizona, but the government doesn't want anyone to know how it works. When the judge in the case asked for more information about the Stingray in order to determine if its use requires a search warrant, the government filed a memo basically arguing both ways: it said Stingray use generally doesn't require a warrant, but concedes that one was required in this specific instance — a huge concession that could cost them the case, just so the Stingray's design and functionality remain a secret.

Although the government's lawyers are willing to tie themselves in knots trying to conceal the Stingray, we do have some information on how it works: experts told the WSJ that it mimics an actual cell tower pinging for a specific device, and the data can be used to triangulate a phone's location. It can be concealed in the back of a van and measure the distance to any type of cell phone from multiple locations — circles drawn from each point will intersect within 100 meters of the phone's location. Our FBI contact told us that tracking a cellphone normally requires a wireless provider's cooperation, which could take weeks to obtain — the Stingray simplifies investigations because cell towers aren't needed. We'll see what happens — if it comes down to keeping the Stingray a secret or allowing law enforcement to track anyone they want without a warrant, we suppose we prefer the first.

Judge rules against woman in fake Facebook-page case

MORRISTOWN, N.J. - A woman accused of impersonating her boyfriend on a fake Facebook page and posting inflammatory comments can be prosecuted for identity theft, a judge ruled Wednesday in a case that could have wider implications for cyber-speech.

Dana Thornton was indicted last year on one count of fourth-degree identity theft, a crime punishable by a maximum 18-month prison term upon conviction. Assistant Prosecutor Robert Schwartz said she created the Facebook page using photos and personal information about her ex-boyfriend, a police detective in northern New Jersey, and posted comments purported to be from him.

According to grand jury testimony recited in court Wednesday, among the comments posted on the page were that the ex-boyfriend, a narcotics detective, was "high all the time," had herpes and frequented prostitutes and escort services.

"I'm a sick piece of scum with a gun," Thornton allegedly wrote.

At issue is a New Jersey law that makes it illegal to impersonate someone "for the purpose of obtaining a benefit for himself or another or to injure or defraud another."

Attorney Richard Roberts, representing Thornton, attempted to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the law makes no mention of electronic communications. New Jersey's legislature is reviewing an amendment that would add that provision to the law; Roberts argued Wednesday that the mere fact that the law could be amended amounts to a tacit admission that the current one doesn't cover his client's alleged actions.

"How do you quantify the harm?" he asked. "There was no money involved. We live in the real world where words are thrown around all the time. How does that rise to the level of what is in this statute?"

State Superior Court Judge David Ironson disagreed and said the law was "clear and unambiguous."

"The fact that the means of committing the crime are not set forth in the statute doesn't lead to the conclusion that the defendant didn't commit the crime," he said.

Thornton didn't comment on the decision after the hearing. She is next due in court for a pretrial conference on Dec. 7.

The issue of online impersonation and cyber-bullying came to the forefront after a 13-year-old girl committed suicide in a St. Louis suburb in 2006. It was later revealed that she had been targeted online by a fictitious 13-year-old boy whose MySpace page had been created by the mother of a teenage girl. Prosecutors contended Lori Drew sought to humiliate the 13-year-old because she suspected the girl had spread rumors about Drew's teenage daughter.

Drew was convicted on three misdemeanor counts of accessing computers without authorization, but a federal judge in 2009 threw out the convictions.

There are no criminal cases in New Jersey that offer any precedents, Roberts said Wednesday.

Amending New Jersey's identity theft law could prompt a review of numerous other laws, said Megan Erickson, an Iowa-based attorney who blogs about social media and the law.

"If the legislature specifically references online conduct in one statute, should it take an inventory of how all others laws may apply in the context of the Internet and amend them as well?" she said.

Bradley Shear, a Bethesda, Md., lawyer who works on online issues, said he expects to see more cases like this one in the near future. The New Jersey case could be a difficult prosecution, he said, because of the way the state's law is written.

"This specific situation sounds like it may be better handled in civil rather than criminal court," he said. "It's very tough to say this is a violation of the law." It is, however, a violation of Facebook's terms of service, he said.

So far, only California and New York have laws specifically banning online identity theft. Shear said those states are leading the way largely because of the large number of celebrities who live in them. But he said such laws can get tricky to enforce because it's legally thorny when the alleged offender is out of state.

"There may need to be some national conversation in the future about the Internet," Shear said. "The Internet knows no jurisdictional boundaries."

Associated Press Nov. 2, 2011 05:15 PM

Judge rules against woman in fake Facebook-page case

Scottsdale merchants urged to reap benefits of social media

Mitch Woulfe is annoyed by what he sees when he searches on Facebook for "Old Town Scottsdale."

Instead of finding a page dedicated to the area's history, the Scottsdale Historical Museum, and a mix of shops and attractions, visitors see a page filled with web links to entertainment district bars like American Junkie, Shotgun Betty's and Pussycat Lounge.

Woulfe is president of the Old Town Merchants Association and owner of Del Sol of Scottsdale. He recognizes that social media hasn't been a priority in Old Town, and as a result Facebook users have no idea what the district is all about.

"It's hard to differentiate the areas of downtown Scottsdale and people get that really confused, especially the younger generation," he said. "They think of Old Town and they think of it as that's the place to go party, and that's not what Old Town is intended for."

The association has set up a new Facebook page that's geared toward giving more accurate information about the district.

"We call it 'Old Town Scottsdale - Historic'," Woulfe said. "It's in the infancy stage."

Dan Semenchuk, director of the Scottsdale Downtown Map and Directory, has been urging merchants across the downtown area to jump on the social media bandwagon. There's a whole world of people out there who could be patronizing their businesses if they could learn about them online, he said.

Semenchuk recently moderated a presentation for downtown business owners on the basics of social media.

"Social media is only one component of marketing and advertising, but it's a great way to get publicity without spending money," he said. "It's going to take time, but it's not going to cost you any money to get the exposure. The challenge is to get people thinking, shifting the mindset to 'yeah, I'm going to spend more time online, but I'm going to be so much further ahead'."

Social media refers to web-based networks that allow for the creation and exchange of user-generated content. In addition to Facebook, other widely used social media networks include Twitter, LinkedIn and Google.

"There's 800 million users," Semenchuk said. "It means that we're all connected with one another, and that's the key that downtown merchants need to embrace. They need to have an online presence and they need to commit to that online presence."

Top of mind

Jay Feitlinger is president of Stringcan Interactive, a Scottsdale-based online marketing and social media consulting firm. He said successful social media is less about posting coupons and promotions, and more about telling people why they should patronize your business.

"If you have a unique product or service, people are going to want to come if they're made aware if it," he said. "So, it's understanding what makes you unique and communicating that in a very effective way to the right kind of people. You'd be amazed how well it could work for you."

The trick is "being genuine, being human," Feitlinger said.

"It should not be a sales channel," he said. "It should be an engagement, relationship channel. Use it to learn about what your customers want and if you get negative feedback, try to understand why they're unhappy and leverage that to help improve your business."

Citizen Public House opened 10 months ago at Craftsman Court and Fifth Avenue. Andrew Fritz, operator-partner, said the restaurant has exceeded all expectations and much of that can be attributed to successful social media.

The key is taking the conversation beyond strictly business, he said.

"For instance, recently one of our employees had a birthday and we wrote on (Facebook) that he was celebrating and going out on the town, and we got over 20 comments within a couple of hours about that birthday, just wanting to wish him a happy birthday," Fritz said. "We almost got a bigger response from that than when we talk about the nightly features that we have coming out of the kitchen."

Updating your social media presence can be done quickly and is as easy as spending a few minutes on your smartphone, he said.

"I can take the 2,000 e-mail addresses that I have plus my 1,500 Facebook fans, plus my 1,000 Twitter followers and now I've got over 4,000 people that I'm reaching right away," Fritz said.


Original Red Dirt Shirt, which has been in Old Town for four years, recently opened a second downtown location on Fifth Avenue. The business sells dirt-dyed T-shirts and has a factory in Mesa.

The company does a significant amount of sales through its website but isn't very active in social media, said Roger Williams, general manager.

"We are on Facebook, but we're not using it too much," he said. "We probably could be doing more, but we're running just as fast as we can just doing our retail stores and manufacturing our products. It requires somebody to spend full time at it and who has knowledge of it, and right now in the company we just don't have that."

Businesses tend to think establishing and maintaining a social media presence takes a lot of time and effort, but it doesn't, Feitlinger said.

"It's easier than people think," he said. "It's just talking with people. I think people overly think it through, like, 'How does this work, it's really kind of scary and what's my privacy?' They worry about all this stuff and all this noise that they have honestly little control over sometimes. My advice strongly is just get into it, start playing with it, nothing's going to break."

5 easy steps

In a presentation to downtown Scottsdale businesses, digital strategist Jay Feitlinger offered five steps for businesses using social media:

1. Use social media first as a customer. Without that experience, it will be hard to leverage it for your business.

2. Set up Google Alerts, Google Reader and Twitter accounts.

3. Join LinkedIn Groups and Facebook fan pages of companies you are passionate about. Start commenting and posting questions.

4. Create your own plan. What is your goal for social media? Who is going to be responsible for it? Which social media network makes the most sense for your business?

5. Measure results. Use tools like Facebook Insights and Google Analytics to determine results against your goals.

by Edward Gately The Arizona Republic Nov. 2, 2011 08:57 AM

Scottsdale merchants urged to reap benefits of social media's picks for top gadget gifts

An Associated Press reporter demonstrates the camera on the Apple iPad 2 in San Francisco.
Associated Press An Associated Press reporter demonstrates the camera on the Apple iPad 2 in San Francisco.

As consumers cautiously creep out of the recession and into the 2011 holiday buying season, manufacturers are hoping their latest tech products will catch the eye of gift givers across the country., a division of USA TODAY, put hundreds of products through the rigors of its testing labs and publishes in-depth reviews of the latest in consumer electronics. Here is a list of some of Select Award winners for this year. To view all the 2011 winners, please visit

Camera of the year

Nikon D5100 (MSRP $849.95): The advent of the sub-$1,000 digital SLR has been great for amateur shooters looking to get more serious about photography. With image quality that can match (and at times exceed) more expensive cameras, the D5100 offers entry-level shooters great image quality in a lightweight, affordable package.

Best camera value

Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS (MSRP $179.99)

The Canon ELPH 100 HS is a near-perfect point-and-shoot specimen. It's incredibly fast, easy to use, and captures better pictures and video than the competition -- and certainly better than your smartphone. Canon manages to cram all that quality and usability into a $180 camera, which makes the 100 HS a great buy for the holidays.

Camcorder of the year

Canon Vixia HF G10 (MSRP $1,499.99)

The Canon HF G10 is a bold, powerful, camcorder that produced excellent HD video in all of our tests. Canon's decision to go with a brand-new image sensor paid off, producing crisp, clean video in bright light, while working wonders in low-light situations. Loaded with professional-grade controls and features, the HF G10 skirts the line between professional and consumer. The price tag, while steep, is justified.

Best budget camcorder

Samsung HMX-W200 (MSRP $159.99)

It's a rare occasion for a budget camcorder to truly impress us with good video performance, but that's exactly what happened when the Samsung HMX-W200 waltzed into our labs. Compared to other models in its price range, the W200 produced some of the sharpest video we've ever seen, and its results in low light conditions were equally as impressive. For a camcorder that retails for well under $200, the HMX-W200 is an excellent deal. It is compact, waterproof, records beautiful Full HD video, and is easy to use.

Television of the year

Samsung D7000 Plasma Series (MSRP $1,799.99 - $3,399.99)

If you're looking for the crème de la crème of HDTVs this year, look no further than the Samsung D7000 plasma series (available in 51-, 59-, and 64-inch sizes). When we're talking about TVs, screen quality comes first. There is no question that the D7000 delivers. Samsung's new Smart Hub is an elegant and easy way to watch streaming video. And the series supports active shutter 3-D glasses, though 3-D is actually the least compelling feature.

xBest 3-D television

Panasonic VT30 Plasma Series (MSRP $2,499.95 - $3,999.95)

We're still not sold on the whole 3-D craze, but some people must have the latest gadgets. If you're shopping with 3-D in mind, the Panasonic VT30 is the best in the business. Available in 55- and 65-inch models, it offers the most immersive experience with the least amount of "cross-talk," or bleed between the left and right eye. The VT30 is also an excellent 2-D television--which is what you'll actually be watching most of the time.

Headphones of the year

Audio Technica ATH-AD900 (MSRP $299.95)

The Audio Technica ATH-AD900 headphones offer balanced, accurate sound. A smart pick for modern audiophiles on a budget, these are some of the most comfortable headphones we've reviewed. With great marks across the board, these over-ear headphones strike the perfect balance of price, performance, and comfort.

Best travelers' headphones

Sennheiser IE 8i (MSRP $599.95)

With the ability to go anywhere and plug into just about anything, the Sennheiser IE 8i headphones offer some of the best travel options for globetrotters. Though many headphones we've reviewed include an adapter that allows you to listen to an in-flight movie, few of those block out as much noise as these, and few are this easy to carry around.

eReader of the year

Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G (MSRP $139.00)

It may not be the latest device by Amazon, but it is the best. Maybe we're just suckers for the ability to type on a full qwerty keyboard rather than a touch screen. With a clean and clear screen that works in a wide range of lighting conditions, and instant access to the world's largest eBook store, the Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G is our top eReader.

Tablet of the year

Apple iPad2 (MSRP $499.00 - $829.00)

Despite having half the memory of some of its Android competitors, the Apple iPad 2 has not only an impressive battery life, but a remarkable screen as well. Along with access to the largest app store, the iPad 2 has set the standard for offering connectivity with a dead-simple user interface. Despite the hefty price (especially for Apple's 3G models), the iPad 2 remains our pick of the year.

by - Nov. 1, 2011 09:59 AM's picks for top gadget gifts

Living | Squirmy toddler? There's an app for that | Seattle Times Newspaper

Frankie Thevenot, 3, plays with an ipad in his bedroom at his home in Metairie, La.

MIAMI — There's a new routine these days whenever Amber Mullaney goes out to eat at a restaurant. While waiting to be seated, she asks her husband to get the phone ready to hand over to their 2-year-old daughter, Tatum.

The phone — with its ability to stream episodes of Dora the Explorer — is a godsend, Mullaney says.

Attempts at going out without whipping out the gadget have been disastrous, the mom says. Her curious, independent toddler gets into everything. Salt shakers are fiddled with, drinks are spilled.

"She'll color for a little bit or talk with us for a little bit, but it's short-lived," Mullaney says. "It's miserable because all she wants to do is get out."

With the iPhone, however, Tatum sits quietly in the booth while her parents get to enjoy a meal.

Mullaney, a marketing manager for a technology company, sometimes wishes they could do without the phone because she doesn't want people to think they're using technology to shut their child up, but she also doesn't want to give up going out.

"Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do," she says.

Mullaney is in good company. About 40 percent of 2- to 4-year-olds (and 10 percent of kids younger than that) have used a smartphone, tablet or video iPod, according to a new study by the nonprofit group Common Sense Media. Roughly 1 in 5 parents surveyed said they give their children these devices to keep them occupied while running errands.

There are thousands of apps targeted specifically to babies and toddlers — interactive games that name body parts, for example, or sing nursery rhymes. It has become commonplace to see little ones flicking through photos on their parents' phones during church or playing games on a tablet during a bus, train or plane ride. Parents of newborns rave about an app that plays white noise, a womb-like whoosh that lulls screaming babies to sleep.

In fact, toy-maker Fisher Price has just released a new hard case for the iPhone and iPod touch, framed by a colorful rattle, which allows babies to play while promising protection from "dribbles, drool and unwanted call-making."

Denise Thevenot acknowledges that some people would look askance at the idea of giving a child a $600 device to play with — she had the same concerns initially. Then she discovered the sheer potential.

"The iPad is movies, books and games all wrapped in one nice package," says Thevenot, who works in the New Orleans tourism industry. The iPad, she says, keeps her 3-year-old son Frankie busy for hours. And, when needed, taking it away "is the greatest punishment. ... He loves it that much."

Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan is an unapologetic proponent of the trend.

"If you're raising children, you've got to raise them with the times," says Bhojwani-Dhawan, who lives in Silicon Valley and founded the family travel website "If adults are going all digital, how can we expect children to be left behind?"

Her 2 1/2-year-old, Karam, loves the GoodieWords app, which explains complex concepts like "shadow" and "electricity." Other favorites are a memory matching game with farm animals and a drawing program.

Bhojwani-Dhawan points out that Karam also has books, crayons and Legos. "It's not replacing any of these things; it's one more thing he's getting exposed to," she says.

Experts say balance is key.

"It's really important that children have a variety of tools to learn from. Technology gadgets can be one of those tools, but they shouldn't dominate, especially when we're talking about very young children," says Cheryl Rode, a clinical psychologist at the San Diego Center for Children, a nonprofit that provides mental health services.

"If kids are isolating themselves or if it's narrowing their range of interest in things — everything else is boring — those are big red flags," Rode says. "You want them to have the ability to find lots of different ways to engage themselves."

For public relations consultant Stacey Stark, one red flag was seeing her 1 1/2-year-old cry if she wasn't allowed to hold Stark's iPhone. Little Amalia has dropped the phone, leaving it with a small crack on the back. She has also called a colleague of Stark's and almost shot off an email to a client.

For all those reasons, Stark and her husband have started to cut back on how much they let Amalia and 4-year-old Cecelia use their phones and tablets.

"It became an issue. We're trying to make it go away," she says. "It was easy for it to become a crutch."

Since scaling back, Stark says, she has seen her daughters engage in more imaginative play. Still, there is a positive side to the technology, Stark says. She thinks Montessori reading and spelling apps have accelerated her older daughter's learning in those areas. "But," she adds, "it's such a delicate balance."

Wake Forest University psychology professor Deborah Best, who specializes in early childhood, agrees that children can benefit from programs that are age-appropriate and designed for learning.

But "interacting with devices certainly does not replace one-on-one, face-to-face interaction between children and parents, or children and peers," Best says. Those interactions, she says, help children learn such skills as reading emotions from facial expressions and taking turns in conversations.

Joan McCoy, a bookstore owner and grandmother of five in Seattle, worries that this new generation will lack some of those social skills.

When her son and daughter-in-law get together with other parents and their kids, they give the children mobile phones to play with, or the children bring along toy computers. "There is absolutely no conversation among them or with their parents. They are glued to the machine," McCoy says.

It's a different story when the youngsters, ages 2 through 7, are out with their grandmother. McCoy brings along books, sometimes ones with only pictures, and asks the kids what they think is going on and what they would do in a similar situation.

"They just talk and they're excited and they're engaged," McCoy says. "They never ask for my cellphone, which is amazing because when we go with the parents, that's the first thing they ask for."

McCoy acknowledges she has the luxury of being a grandparent and having the time to do these things. "It's harder. It takes more discipline, it takes more time, and it requires interacting with the child as opposed to the child being entertained on their own," she says.

Eileen Wolter, a writer in New Jersey, readily admits to taking the easier path with her 3- and 6-year-old sons: "I'm buying my kids' silence with an expensive toy."

When her in-laws get together for a family meal, iPhones get passed to five children. The adults talk while the kids play, their contribution to the discussion typically limited to announcing they have cleared another level on a game. When that happens, Wolter starts to think, "Eek!"

But then she says to herself, "Yeah, but we had a nice dinner."

By RASHA MADKOUR Associated Press Oct 31, 2011

Living | Squirmy toddler? There's an app for that | Seattle Times Newspaper


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