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In Brief

There has been a lot of speculation over whether recent disclosures about America’s extensive spy programs will harm the country’s economic interests. Now, in one of the first concrete examples of economic fall-out, the Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T’s plans to make a bid for Vodafone have been set back indefinitely over growing European anger over the US telephone company’s role in collecting information.

Recent leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggest that both AT&T and Verizon, which has also been mulling a bid for Vodafone, have participated in an ongoing US program to collect and record call data in the U.S and abroad. New disclosures that the U.S. tapped the personal cell phone of the German Chancellor have added new fuel to the controversy.

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In Brief

Yarrr, that must hurt. Forbes reports that the FBI has located a new stash of 144,000 Bitcoins, currently worth about $28.5M, that belongs to the Dread Pirate Roberts, the mastermind of the online criminal bazaar Silk Road. The agency took down the site three weeks ago, and charged the Dread Pirate (aka 29-year-old Texan, Ross Ulbricht) for plotting to torture and kill an employee he believed had betrayed him. The FBI appears to have moved the seized pirate booty to its own Bitcoin wallet, but has not confirmed it will sell them for dollars. The new Bitcoin haul comes in addition to two other large Silk Road related seizures.

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In Brief

Shoppers are walking around with little homing devices in their pockets, better known as smartphones. Retailers like Nordstrom love the idea of using the phones to track your movement as you walk up and down their aisles as your activity provides valuable shopping data and a chance to offer coupons. But some people, including Sen. Al Franken, are less impressed with this idea and don’t want to be followed. Now, there is a proposed solution from the industry in the form of a code of conduct: participating companies say they will post a sign in stores to alert shoppers to the tracking and also provide a way for shoppers to opt out. Forbes has more details, including the helpful tip that you can avoid much of this in the first place by turning off your WiFi and Bluetooth.

On The Web

While technology has always outpaced the laws intended to regulate it, this tension has been especially pronounced during the shift from the analog to digital era. The Disco Project’s Ali Sternburg has a nice round-up of 15 flash-points that remind us how today’s Aereo is yesterday’s Betamax or MP3. Her list has some famous names (ie YouTube) but also some obscure ones — like iCraveTV and Veoh — that got wiped away in legal whirlpools.

In Brief

In August, Apple persuaded President Obama to veto a trade agency’s order that barred it from importing certain iPhones that had been found to infringe Samsung’s patents. The Korean company then called for the same favor, asking the White House to stop an import ban set for October 8 that targets its own products, but has come up short. The ban will now go into effect, but is unlikely to be a big issue for consumers as Apple’s complaint is from mid-2011, and does not affect newer Samsung products; the government shutdown may also affect the ban’s progress (check out the agency’s website right now). In the bigger picture, the import ban situation is primarily a reflection of an outdated agency with mission creep that is just one part of America’s dysfunctional patent system.

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