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In Brief

A Belgian magistrate has mulled blocking Apple’s websites there, according to local reports on Tuesday, as spotted by Tech.eu. This was as a result of the still-ongoing kerfuffle over Apple and warranties – although EU law says consumer goods should automatically come with a two-year warranty, and although Apple acknowledges as much on a webpage, the firm still advertises its gadgets as being covered by a one-year warranty and tries to upsell customers to a two-year AppleCare plan. The reports suggest the magistrate may have realized blocking Apple’s sites would mess with iTunes and other services, so is still considering his next move.

In Brief

Ask.fm now has 100 million registered users, the Latvia-based social network said on Monday. The service is apparently used in 150 countries and questions posted there – Ask.fm is kind of like Quora, only skewed more towards the teen demographic – now generate a billion answers a month. Bearing in mind that you don’t have to be registered to use it, Ask.fm also said it gets 190 million unique visitors each month. The 4-year-old service has unfortunately been associated with a number of teen suicides (though not always accurately) and the firm also used Monday’s announcement to promote its Safety Centre advice hub, stressing that it has recently improved cyber-bullying reporting mechanisms and boosted its moderator numbers.

In Brief

DueDil, a rather clever London-based outfit that uses open (and purchased) datasets to provide due diligence services, has raised another $17 million in a Series B round. The cash came from existing investors Notion Capital, Passion Capital and round leader Oak Investment Partners, and it comes on top of the $5m I reported on in April last year. In those 10 months, the “real-time decision intelligence” firm said, it has gained traction among most of the FTSE 100 companies. Customers can currently use the DueDil API to find out information about companies and directors in 22 countries, and the fresh capital injection should help spread that coverage.

In Brief

Just how accountable is the U.K.’s GCHQ spy agency, which has tapped the world’s communications infrastructure, hacked activists and snooped on webcam chats? Every time it’s challenged, GCHQ says it submits to “rigorous oversight” from the intelligence services commissioner and Parliament, but on Thursday Parliament’s home affairs select committee had to take the unusual step of ordering that commissioner to show up for questioning about the Snowden leaks. Sir Mark Waller, who is supposed to be a watchdog, refused to respond to the customary polite request for an appearance, and this is the first time during this government’s rule that the committee has had to order someone to show up.

In Brief

Google and Yandex, its main rival in Russia, have formed a partnership around real-time bidding for display advertising. The deal gives Google access to Yandex’s substantial ad inventory for the former Soviet states in which it operates, while Yandex’s ad clients can now bid for ads in the inventory of Google’s DoubleClick AdExchange partners. According to a blog post from the Russian firm, the two companies’ advertising pools in the region “don’t overlap much,” so both ad outfits will see a boost in inventory. Yandex reckons this “gives a new kick to competition,” as real-time bidding works better when there are more bidders and sellers.

In Brief

Orange, which has the largest stake in French online video portal Dailymotion, is reportedly in talks with Microsoft over a potential partnership. Regulators in France nixed a previous attempt to sell the service to Yahoo, but this doesn’t appear to be a sale attempt – according to the Wall Street Journal, Orange wants an “industrial” partnership with Microsoft that would leave the telco in charge while expanding Dailymotion further into the U.S. market. Orange CEO Stephane Richard told the publication that talks are ongoing, but a deal is no certainty.

In Brief

Google has bought London security startup spider.io, which deals in detecting ad fraud. Founder Douglas de Jager and his small team specialize in combating scams like hidden display ad inventory and click fraud botnets — swarms of computers that have been quietly co-opted by hackers to generate masses of click-throughs on website ads, driving revenue to the website owner without driving customers to the advertiser. Google said it will put the spider.io technology to use in its video and display ad products to give advertisers and publishers “a clearer, cleaner picture of what campaigns and media are truly delivering strong results.”

Citizen journalism
photo: Flickr / Petteri Sulonen

The value of social-media networks such as Twitter and Facebook becomes even more obvious during crises like the uprisings and anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine and Venezuela, where both have become a lifeline of real-time information for residents and expatriates alike Read more »

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