The Switchboard: Google got improper discounts on jet fuel, NASA says

December 12, 2013

(Mark Lennihan / AP)

Published every weekday, the Switchboard highlights five tech policy stories you need to read.

Google execs got discount on jet fuel, says NASA. "Top Google Inc. executives saved millions of dollars by flying their private jet fleet on discounted fuel purchased from the federal government that they weren’t entitled to buy, according to a new inspector general review released Wednesday," MarketWatch reports. "The report, by the inspector general of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said the Google executives only were authorized to buy the discounted fuel for government business, but instead for six years also were allowed to purchase it for private flights."

Bitcoin’s biggest bet: Andreessen Horowitz leads $25 million investment in Coinbase. Andreessen Horowitz has led a $25 million Series B investment in San Francisco-based Coinbase," according to AllThingsD, "in what may very well be the largest ever venture investment in a bitcoin-related company. ... Coinbase plays a few roles in this ecosystem. It is best known as a so-called bitcoin wallet, which bitcoin owners use to store the digital currency in the cloud so they don’t have to worry about safeguarding it from say, hackers, on their own computers. It says it currently holds more than 600,000 bitcoin wallets."

Samsung said to near E.U. antitrust settlement on patents. "Samsung's offer to settle a European Union antitrust investigation over key patents requires only minor changes to win approval from regulators, according to two people familiar with the case," Bloomberg reports. "Samsung, which has clashed with Apple Inc. over patents, may have to address concerns over how it will handle disputes over the technology, one of the people said. A settlement would end a probe that’s lasted nearly two years and would also avoid possible fines for the world’s biggest smartphone maker."

U.S. government nastygram shuts down one-man Bitcoin mint. Mike Caldwell turns digital money into actual coins — something Washington doesn't like, Wired reports. "According to FINCEN, Caldwell needs to rethink his business. 'They considered my activity to be money transmitting,' Caldwell says. And if you want to transmit money, you must first jump through a lot of state and federal regulatory hoops Caldwell hasn’t jumped through."

Former head of Google patent strategy appointed to run U.S. patent agency. "Michelle Lee, who until July was running Google's patent strategy, has been named the deputy director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, and will run the agency until a new director is appointed," according to Apple Insider.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post.
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Timothy B. Lee | December 11, 2013