New app serves trove of personalized news

WaPo Labs launched its Social Reader news app in 2011 to much fanfare and hope that the development team — a part of The Washington Post Co. — had found a way to highlight quality news content on social networks. At first, things looked good: The service soared to more than 20 million users in its first year as it splashed notable articles that friends were reading across users’ Facebook news feeds.

Then Facebook changed its algorithm, and Social Reader started to fade.

So the team buckled down and began work on a new product. The result, called Trove, launched Wednesday for Apple devices and hopes to offer the best of curated news, social media and news personalization in one product.

The product marks a fresh start for the firm. WaPo Labs has been renamed Trove following the sale of The Washington Post and other holdings of The Washington Post Co. to founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos. Trove, Slate, Foreign Policy magazine and the social marketing firm SocialCode were not included in the sale. Those properties are a part of The Post’s former parent company, renamed Graham Holdings.

The new app relies on curation — from experts, friends and a bit of algorithmic magic — to serve up the news that’s most interesting to Trove users. The product’s greatest strength comes from that curation concept: Anyone can curate a topic, and anyone else can follow the lists of top articles, called Troves.

Topics can range from the broad — boxing, for example — to the very niche. Users can name their own Troves to reflect their passions. One famous curator at the launch, chef Spike Mendelsohn, is handpicking articles he likes on “Farm to Table,” for example.

Vijay Ravindran, Trove’s chief executive and chief digital officer of Graham Holdings, said Trove may be a better tool for news discovery than Twitter or Facebook, because it lets users more easily see what their friends and chosen experts are reading and commenting on without having to sift through anything.

— Hayley Tsukayama

Verizon notes rise in requests for data

Verizon said Wednesday that federal, state and local authorities asked it to hand over user data 321,545 times in 2013.

The company’s transparency report said the vast majority of requests, about 164,000, came from law enforcement subpoenas, followed by about 71,000 court orders. In 2013, Verizon fielded 7,800 requests for real-time information about a person’s outbound and inbound calls — but of those, only about 1,500 were actual wiretap requests leading to the surveillance of a call’s content.

The report also shows a growing government appetite for location data. Last year, the company saw 35,000 requests for such information. About 3,200 constituted “tower dumps,” or information on all the calls logged by a cell tower within a certain time frame. This information can be used to track a suspect’s movements and behavior. According to a congressional probe, law enforcement agencies made 9,000 tower-dump requests last year — meaning Verizon was the recipient of more than a third of them.

Verizon said that the number of overall requests it received last year was greater than the figure for 2012, although this is the first time the company has produced a transparency report.

Verizon is the second telecom operator to publish a transparency report, after the California-based network operator Credo Mobile. AT&T also has promised to release a transparency report but has not issued one.

— Brian Fung

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