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US Investigation of Dropbox Security Claims Urged

A complaint to the US Federal Trade Commission could place Dropbox, a popular online storage system under investigation. The complaint, brought by a doctoral student who had worked at the agency, alleges that Dropbox has deceived users about its security and encryption to gain competitive advantage. The company claims that the files users store using the service are totally encrypted such that its employees can’t access the files. According to Wired, Christopher Soghoian “published data last month showing that Dropbox could indeed see the contents of files, putting users at risk of government searches, rogue Dropbox employees, and even companies trying to bring mass copyright-infringement suits.” Dropbox has dismissed Soghoian’s allegations, telling Wired. “We believe this complaint is without merit, and raises old issues that were addressed in our blog post on April 21, 2011.” However, Soghoian says the statements the company made about its security have confused even experts and is asking the agency for several specific remedies, including having Dropbox offer refunds to its “Pro” account users. (SlashDot)(PC Pro)(Wired)(“How Dropbox sacrifices user privacy for cost savings,” Soghoian Blog)

Ford to use Google API for Creating Smarter, Efficient Cars

Ford Motor Co. plans to use the Google Prediction API to enable its cars to adapt to driver behavior. The API uses techniques such as pattern-matching and machine learning to make predictions.  Ford will use the API as well as cloud-based computing resources  to gather and process information from vehicles.  Cars can use the resulting encrypted driver profile to save energy based on past driving data or find the best route to a location based on previous trips. Ford presented an example of how the technology would work with a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle earlier this week as part of the Google I/O conference in San Francisco. Ford said the information will be used to program cars to adapt to a driver’s specific style. The software is still being developed using in-house data, but the company says that drivers would have to opt-in to use the technology, which Ford expects to be available after 2015. (PC World)(Wired)

LimeWire Settles Infringement Suit Out of Court

LimeWire, a now-defunct file sharing service, and the company’s founder Mark Gorton, agreed Thursday to pay record labels as well as the Recording Industry Association of America US$105 million to settle a copyright infringement suit. The defendants issued “no admission” of wrongdoing in the settlement according to attorneys. The case was being heard by a New York jury when the sides entered negotiations. The plaintiffs, a total of 13 record labels, originally sought US$1.4 billion in the case, which was originally filed in 2006. The suit contended that LimeWire violated copyright when it enabled its users to freely share and download music. The site was effectively closed in October 2010 following a court decision that prevented people from using the LimeWire program to exchange files. (Wall Street Journal)(BBC)

Organization Releases 2010 Global Software Piracy Figures

The Business Software Alliance has released its 2010 Global Software Piracy Study, which determined that pirated software use increased 14 percent globally in 2010. The organization says the commercial value for stolen software is a record US$59 billion. The organization says piracy is “completely out of control” in nations with emerging economies that are now among the fastest growing markets for technology. “The software industry is doing everything it can to promote legal software use. We need governments to step up their efforts on this issue by supporting public education efforts, enacting and enforcing strong intellectual property laws, and leading by example,” said Robert Holleyman, the organization’s president and chief executive officer. Another study on the issue, released by The Social Science Research Council, looked at music, film, and software piracy in emerging economies – primarily in Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico, and Bolivia. “The report argues that [copyright protection has] largely failed, and that the problem of piracy is better conceived as a failure of affordable access to media in legal markets.” The retail price of a legal copy of Microsoft Office, for example, is five to 10 times higher than in the US or Europe, relative to local income. The study also found that enforcement has  not affected the supply of pirated goods. (SlashDot)(“Media Piracy in Emerging Economies,” The Social Science Research Council)(Business Software Alliance)

Visa Announces Digital Wallet Project

Visa is creating a digital wallet technology designed to let customers pay for items online or with their mobile telephones without using their traditional bank cards. It is working with various US and international financial organizations -- Card Services for Credit Unions, Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank Group, and US Bank – on the technology. The digital wallet will store  customers' credit and debit card account information, both for Visa cards as well as other payment cards and accounts. Payments will be made using near-field communications (NFC), which allows  cardholders to wave their cards or phones in front of a scanner to pay for goods and services. The technology is available in other cards and is accepted by outlets such as drugstore chains and gas stations. Visa is also working with merchants on a “one click” purchasing option for online purchases. Competitors abound in this space, including American Express’s Serve platform; Isis, a joint venture of US wireless carriers; an NFC smartphone project spearheaded by Google, which is working with MasterCard and Citigroup; and Research in Motion, which is working on a trial for Bank of America customers with MasterCard. Visa plans to roll out the digital wallet in the US and Canada in the fall of 2011 and in other nations in 2012, according to the company. (redOrbit)(The Wall Street Journal)(Visa)

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