Foxconn under scrutiny again #thecircuit

Foxconn under scrutiny again: Foxconn, a Chinese company that manufacturers electronics for several prominent companies including Apple, is under scrutiny again after a New York Times report that the company is being accused of requiring vocational students to work at plants making components for Apple’s iPhone.

The company’s latest iPhone is expected to be introduced Wednesday, and the report says that worker advocacy groups told the Times that students are being forced to work at the plants by their teachers.

Apple has faced several waves of criticism over labor practices at Foxconn, ultimately prompting the company to join the Fair Labor Association and conduct audits of the factory conditions. The FLA looked at three Foxconn factories that make iPhone components and reported in June that Foxconn had revised its policies and procedures to limit the hours the interns work in the factories, and verified there were procedures in place to allow interns to join or leave the program freely. The FLA is continuing to look into the matter.

Amazon drops e-book prices: PaidContent reports that Amazon has begun discounting e-book titles published by HarperCollins, one of the three publishers that settled with the Department of Justice last week over accusations of price collusion.

An Amazon spokeswoman told the publication that the company is “happy to again be lowering prices” on some HarperCollins titles. New prices, the report said, have not appeared on titles from the other two companies in the settlement, Hachette and Simon & Schuster.

Judiciary to consider updates to privacy laws: On Monday, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced that the Senate Judiciary committee will consider updates to the Video Privacy Protection Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act this month. The laws, he said, need to be updated to reflect changes in technology.

“When Congress first enacted these laws almost three decades ago, e-mail was still a novelty and most Americans viewed movies at home on VHS tapes rented at their local video store,” Leahy said in a statement. “The explosion of cloud computing, social networking sites, video streaming and other new technologies in the years since require that Congress take action to bring our privacy laws into the digital age.” 

Toys ‘R’ Us releases kids tablet: Toys “R” Us announced Monday that it will release a tablet Oct. 21 called the Tabeo, which is meant for children 5 and older. The tablet will cost $150 and run Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android.

The release by the toy-retailing giant highlights the race to grab the attention and wallets of the youngest tech consumers who are quickly adopting smartphones and other gadgets, the Washington Post reported.

Six in 10 teens own a smartphone, a 20 percent jump from last year, according to a report released Monday by Nielsen, while the Federal Trade Commission is trying to rewrite privacy laws pertaining to children. Analysts say children are expected to drive tablet sales this holiday season, and consumers are expected to buy 180 million tablets in 2013, triple the number sold in 2011, according to Gartner.

Google Fiber: Google announced Sunday that it will be building high-speed Internet out for at least 180 of the 220 qualifying neighborhoods in Kansas City as part of its effort to roll out 1-gigabit connections.

The company declared the effort to be a complete success. “This number has blown us away — and it’s not even the final tally,” wrote Google Access General Manager Kevin Lo in a company blog post.

Google will announce the final list of neighborhoods Thursday, Lo wrote, as well as the order in which they’ll be constructed.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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