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The NSA may have found a way to monitor some credit card transactions, according to a Snowden-derived report from Germany’s Der Spiegel. The agency said in leaked documents that it found a way to access Visa transactions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but the financial services company denies the tapping of its networks. The report highlights an NSA financial database called Tracfin, into which SWIFT international transfer information also flows through the interception of “SWIFT printer traffic from numerous banks.”

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European competition chief Joaquin Almunia has reiterated his wish that his department examine Telefonica’s proposed takeover of KPN’s E-Plus, which would create Germany’s largest network by subscriber count. Almunia said a week ago that he doesn’t want to leave the case in the hands of the German national regulator due to Telefonica and KPN’s size and importance at the EU level. On Friday, he added that the Commission would “likely continue to assess [mergers such as O2/E-Plus] on the basis of national markets — at least for some time.”

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Vodafone is having trouble finding enough Kabel Deutschland shareholders willing to sell up. Reuters reports the British mobile giant has secured only around 20 percent of the German cable firm’s shares, and it needs 75 percent by midnight Wednesday or the deal is off. It could be shareholders are waiting until the last minute in case a rival offer comes in — either way, it’s a nailbiting finish for freshly flush Vodafone and its plans of pushing further into the European fixed-line market.

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Germany’s Der Spiegel reports that the U.S. National Security Agency can access user data such as contacts lists, SMS traffic and location from the leading phone platforms and — embarrassingly given its security reputation — email from BlackBerry. This latest Snowden revelation begs the question: is any mobile OS safe?

In Brief

It’s a common mistake: you mean to put a bunch of email recipients in the “bcc” field to hide their identity from other recipients, but instead you put them in the “cc” field. Oops — particularly when you’re ZTE trying to survey buyers of your Firefox OS phone. According to multiple people on Twitter, the Chinese handset maker managed on Friday to out the identities of hundreds of customers in this fashion. Hilariously, the email includes the line: “As always, we treat the issue of privacy with utmost seriousness — any personal information you have supplied us will remain confidential.”

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The NYT has published an interesting piece about the negotiations leading up to Microsoft’s takeover of Nokia’s handset business. Of particular note: Nokia’s insistence on hanging onto its Here business (the key to its future, in my opinion). And on the symbolism front: at one early meeting, Ballmer tripped over a coffee table and bloodied his brow.

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The New York Times continues the surveillance theme with a scoop about a project called Hemisphere, which involves the collection and long-term retention of phone metadata by AT&T in order to aid local and federal anti-drug law enforcement efforts. The length of the retention time (as much as 26 years) far outstrips anything the NSA is doing. It strikes me as notable that the biggest mass surveillance operations are being carried out in the name of unwinnable, unending wars, namely those on terror and drugs.

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