The Washington Post

The Circuit: Google privacy suit, patent squabbles, E-Rate fraud

Google privacy suit: A federal court said Thursday that it would accelerate a lawsuit that aims to punish Google for alleged privacy violations, The Washington Post reported.

The U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia agreed to a request by plaintiffs The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) to speed the review of its lawsuit filed against the Federal Trade Commission earlier this week. In the suit, EPIC said Google’s planned privacy policy changes scheduled for March 1 will violate a settlement with the FTC.

The court on Thursday ordered the FTC to respond to EPIC’s complaint by Feb. 17. EPIC will then reply to those comments by Feb. 21.

In response to the suit, Google said: “We take privacy very seriously. We’re happy to engage in constructive conversations about our updated Privacy Policy but EPIC is wrong on the facts and the law.”

Companies will play nice with patent suits: Technology firms including companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google, are trying to tell regulators that their constant battles over intellectual property won’t have a negative effect on the industry, The Washington Post reported.

As the Justice Department prepares to rule on the proposed merger between Google and Motorola Mobility, the search giant has said that it will continue to license patents deemed essential to the industry under the same “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” (FRAND) terms that it always has.

“Since we announced our agreement to acquire Motorola Mobility last August, we’ve heard questions about whether Motorola Mobility’s standard-essential patents will continue to be licensed on FRAND terms once we’ve closed this transaction,” said Google in a statement. “The answer is simple: They will.”

E-Rate fraud: On Thursday, the Justice Department announced that it has sentenced the former owner of an Illinois technology company charged with attempting to defraud the federal E-Rate program to 30 months in jail.

E-Rate is the common name for the schools and libraries program administrated by the Universal Service Fund. It subsidizes the cost of telecommunications and computer networks to disadvantaged institutions. The woman charged with the conspiracy, Gloria Harper, is said to have bribed school officials and employees in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois and Louisiana to ensure that E-Rate contracts would be given to certain schools.

In a statement about the news, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said, “This successful prosecution reflects the collaborative efforts of the DOJ and FCC to protect E-rate from waste, fraud, and abuse, and to deter future misconduct.”

Google entertainment: Paperwork may not always be exciting, but a December Google filing with the Federal Communications Commission made a splash recently when it revealed that the Internet search giant had applied to test an “entertainment device.”

Or, to be more exact, 252 devices. The filing asked for permission to begin a six-month trial run of the device, starting Jan. 17, that connects to home WiFi networks and uses Bluetooth to connect with other home electronics. In a Thursday report, the Wall Street Journal cited sources “briefed on the company’s plans” who said that the mysterious Android-based device is a home-entertainment system that will stream music and possibly other digital media.

Broadband consumers: In a national survey of over 30,000 online customers, the consumer Web site Broadband Expert found that 94 percent of those surveyed think they pay too much for their broadband service. Not only that, they feel that they are overpaying by a significant margin — at least 26 to 50 percent more than they think is fair.

Customers also expressed confusion over how broadband plans are priced, saying that they would like to see clearer comparisons of different ISP plans, an easier way to find broadband service providers in their area and more independent customer reviews.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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