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Julie Brill, FTC Commissioner, is Concerned About Health Apps

posted Saturday Jul 26, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Julie Brill, FTC Commissioner, is Concerned About Health Apps

One of the biggest trends in mobile right now is health. The category ranges from wearable technology to being able to talk to your doctor via mobile app. It is the perfect intersection between mobile and wearables, so much so that one of the largest marketplaces at CES is health tech.

That marketplace may get more complicated if the Federal Trade Commission's Commissioner Julie Brill has her way. It turns out that she, like most of Washington, is afraid of change. Her biggest fear is that the use of data collected through health applications might be able to accurately assess reality.

Now I know what you're thinking, "Isn't that what the health related data is supposed to do?" To that I say, of course it is. Brill fears that the accurate analysis conducted on this data that we have willingly given to the application might lead to negative consequences.

Brill's example of what she is concerned about is from Target. Using sales information the store was able to predict the pregnancies of some of its female customers. Now this kind of analysis does not take a genius organization, nor does it require any health related to data. If you purchase on a Target credit card prenatal vitamins, Target can probably guess why you made the purchase.

Brill has taken it upon herself to lead the FCC's charge to review consumer privacy in this "new and scary" technology. She is particularly concerned with compliance with HIPAA regulations. I might have urged her to read the HIPAA regulations before she made these comments in public however, as they refer specifically to two medical offices transmitting information between one another. They do not at all regulate the transmission of information to or from a consumer.

Hopefully the FTC, which has no jurisdiction in this matter, will back off and leave the decisions on who someone decides to share information with up to the adults deciding to share that information.

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Google Lays Out $1 Billion for Twitch

posted Sunday Jul 20, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Google Lays Out $1 Billion for Twitch

Back in May, Variety reported that Google was in talks to buy Twitch for $1 billion. Well, as it would turn out, the rumors and reports are shaping up to be true. Google and YouTube are lining up to shell out over $1 billion for the up-and-coming video game streaming service.

As we've talked about in the past, Twitch has been doing exceptionally well as of late. Awards, records and overall success has come to the Justin.tv subsidiary and the company has been growing at a rapid pace. Google, on the other hand, really hasn't done much in the past couple of years and restrictions placed upon content creators have become more and more frustrating.

As of right now, we don't know very much about the deal or when it will all go down except that the contract signing in imminent. What is clear though is that initial Twitch investors will be making back a lot more than they put in, which should put smiles on many faces at the top of the ladder. No company has commented on the matter.

If you really think about it, the deal makes sense for both parties. YouTube has faced severe pressure from competitors like Twitch, Vimeo and DailyMotion, so simply acquiring one of the most successful brands shows that Twitch is obviously doing well, and that Google respected the brand enough to pick it up. YouTube's Live streaming service has not picked up enough steam to merit any threat to those offering live options either.

For Twitch, a lot of good can come out of this, too. Twitch has had less than stellar streaming and content requirements, with the most recent mishap being the PS4 Playroom debacle. But content creators have been able to use copyrighted music, in-game cut-scenes and other material all without punishment. YouTube Content ID system being implemented on Twitch streams could cure that problem.

Of course, there are those who are completely opposed to this acquisition, and their concerns are understandable. YouTube has been notorious for terrible buffering issues, false copyright claims and unwelcome changes. No amount of acquisitions would change those outstanding issues.

What do you think of all this? Is Twitch going to lose its luster and focus? We want to know in the comments section below.

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NVIDIA Lines Up Another Android Gaming Machine

posted Sunday Jul 20, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

NVIDIA Lines Up Another Android Gaming Machine

NVIDIA is slated to launch another gaming device based around Android. Luckily, it is nothing like its previous endeavor, SHIELD. Instead, the gaming company looks to create a machine that can connect to a computer's graphics card to juice up the device to be used with a TV or other monitor.

The Android-based gaming box will be able to broadcast PC games to a television or any other output with its built-in HDMI port. NVIDIA will also be offering an inexpensive controller to go along with the machine that has yet to be named.

A lot of analysts are skeptical about NVIDIA jumping into yet another gaming venture, considering how terrible the SHIELD did in the wild. Ed Barton, analyst for Ovum, a gaming industry consulting firm, said,

I think it's fair to say that Shield sold reasonably poorly. And if the new device requires your PC to have a relatively new NVIDIA GPU to make use of its abilities, that will really limit its addressable market.

As mentioned earlier, the new tiny PC-to-TV device will require a NVIDIA GeForce card, and a pretty high-end one at that. The computer will also require GeForce Experience System to be installed on the machine, which is pretty resource-intensive. For the device itself, the NVIDIA built Tegra K1 processor will be used as the brain inside the little beast.

I only question two things. First, can this new gaming machine really take off with consumers? Considering the bit of hurdle you have to jump through to get it going, I doubt it. Second, aren't we already saturated with Android gaming machines? From Ouya to the SHIELD, I don't think all of the devices combined even come close to the big three in the space today. Will this unnamed project just be another notch on the "failed to make Android a gaming system" list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Former Dictator Gets Feelings Hurt by Activision

posted Sunday Jul 20, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Former Dictator Gets Feelings Hurt by Activision

You are probably aware of Manuel Noriega, the former military dictator Panama from 1983 to 1989. In case you are not, here are his highlights. After the United States invaded Panama, Noriega was tried and sentenced on drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering. Those sentences ended with his theoretical release in 2007, but he was extradited to France to serve time for money laundering and murder. He was later released to Panama to serve a 20 year sentence, which is where he is today.

This brief history lesson, and list of charges against Noriega, serve as a bizarre backdrop to a lawsuit filed this week, filed by Noriega against Activision. The company, he claims, makes him out to be "a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state." Because of this, he believes his good name has been sullied by the company for the purposes of increasing game sales for Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

There are, of course, a couple of issues here. First, Activision did not need any gimmicks to increase sales of a Call of Duty title; they sell just fine on their own. Second, the type of person who purchases and plays a Call of Duty game likely does not know who Noriega is, nor do they care. Thirdly, did you read his Wikipedia page? It would appear that the list of charges he has filed against Activision for defamation are exactly the things that have kept him in various prisons since 1989.

Logic not withstanding, this suit is happening and Activision needs to prepare to defend itself against the defamation charges of a convicted criminal. Good thing he didn't use the words "the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes" to describe how they portrayed him. Wait, he did? This is going to be a fun case to follow!

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Google to Stop Listing Games as Free if They Contain In-App Purchases

posted Friday Jul 18, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Google to Stop Listing Games as Free if They Contain In-App Purchases

The European Commission has requested something of Google and the company complied. And no, they didn't ask Google to stop snooping on WiFi passwords. Instead, EU countries have had a lot of complaints about games containing in-app purchases being marked as "free" games. Per the Commission's request, Google will no longer list a game under free games if it has in-app transactions.

The European Commission says that children making in-app purchases are the root of the complaint, which we are all very familiar with. When the number of complaints became significant enough by EU countries, the Commission decided to make the request to Google. EU Commissioner for Consumer Policy Neven Mimica said,

This is the very first enforcement action of its kind in which the European Commission and national authorities joined forces. I am happy to see that it is delivering tangible results. This is significant for consumers. In particular, children must be better protected when playing online. The action also provides invaluable experience for the ongoing reflection on how to most effectively organise the enforcement of consumer rights in the Union. It has demonstrated that cooperation pays off and helps to improve the protection of consumers in all Member States.

Google said that it will comply with the guidelines set out by the EC and that by September, all apps will require verifying your identity and payment information prior to making a purchase. It should be noted that the EC requested Apple to make the changes, and the company chose to agree, but did not outline a timeframe on when the changes would occur. In fact, Apple said that it is implementing policies that secure these purchases "more than others" with things like the new iOS feature Ask to Buy. Interestingly enough, Apple blew right past the fact that it paid over $100 million in a lawsuit to consumers for this same exact thing.

For those curious, here are the guidelines the European Commission set forth.

1. Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;

2. Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;

3. Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers' explicit consent;

4. Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.

The goal here is to not mislead consumers, specifically parents, about the apps they are downloading. I guess in the long run that's kind of fair to the end-user. I'm curious if we'll see the same thing happen here in the States, too, especially considering the precedent Google is setting in Europe. As we mentioned last week, Amazon is under fire by the FTC about this identical issue. Perhaps we'll see more regulation and less perceived deception in the coming months from State-side developers as well.

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Russian Government Tries to Rewrite History on Wikipedia

posted Friday Jul 18, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Russian Government Tries to Rewrite History on Wikipedia

As the world recovers from the shock of the attack on the Malaysian passenger flight, the race to create the history of the event is already underway. Building on the @CongressEdits Wikipedia monitor software, @RuGovEdits detected an edit made to a Wikipedia article by the Russian government. Someone within the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK), the state-owned "news" agency, edited the Russian language article List of aircraft accidents in civil aviation.

The original text, as translated by Bing, read,

The aircraft (was) shot down by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people's Republic of China of missile launchers "Beech", which were obtained by terrorists from the Russian Federation.

The edited text, also translated by Bing, reads,

The plane (was) brought down (by) the Ukrainian military.

While the allure of being the first one to write history is strong, this shows strong evidence of the truth of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The technology and process could not have been imaginable to him, but the outcome certain was. Today, personal marketing is all about character assassination, or character protection, depending on which side you stand. In this case, it is character protection for the Russian government, who clearly do not want the world to associate them with this incident.

The problem here lies in the issue of truth over nonsense. There has been evidence of Russian involvement, even just in the supplying of the weapons, but the Russian government has denied all involvement, continuing to claim that the perpetrators acted alone. Here, they are going so far as to insist it, even online. Even though we may not know for sure what the truth is, we can be sure that the Russian government wants us to believe this as the truth, thanks to a little code from a socially conscious programmer.

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