Russia set to pass Internet censorship bill

The Russian parliament was Wednesday set to vote into law a contentious
bill that activists fear will introduce Internet censorship by
blacklisting sites deemed as undesirable.

The amendments to an
existing information law are being promoted as a crackdown on child
pornography, creating a federal register that would rule out websites
carrying banned information and oblige site owners and providers to
close down the sites.

The Russian-language version of Wikipedia
went on strike the day earlier in protest at the bill. “Imagine a world
without free knowledge,” it said, blocking access to the site. The site
was back up on Wednesday.

The bill has been scheduled for approval
in second and third readings Wednesday after the initial reading last
Friday, with next to no debate or public discussion.

Russia’s
biggest search engine Yandex said the bill’s proposed methods to fight
pornography “create room for possible misuse and raise questions from
Internet users and company representatives.”

“Such decisions
cannot be taken hastily, the way it is happening now,” said the
statement signed by the company’s chief editor Yelena Kolmanovskaya. The
engine’s slogan “Everything will be found” had the word ‘everything’
crossed out on the main page on Wednesday.

An expert on Russia’s
security services, Andrei Soldatov, said the bill would introduce a
technical possibility of blocking foreign sites for the first time by
forcing Internet providers to install special equipment.

“Clearly,
it will be possible to use it not just against websites propagating
pornography; the government will be able to use these instruments any
way it wants,” he wrote on his website Agentura.ru.

“The
amendments can lead to introduction of censorship to Russian Internet,”
said Livejournal, a popular blogging platform frequently used by
opposition leaders for communicating with their audience.

Opposition
deputies on Wednesday decried what they said was a trend of introducing
restrictive bills at short notice and ramming them through without any
public discussion.

“We are turning the parliament into an
secretarial office that carries out somebody else’s wishes,” opposition
deputy Gennady Gudkov of the Just Russia party said at the hearings.

India launches fresh enquiry against Google

The Competition Commission of India has launched an enquiry against the
search engine Google for abuse of dominant position and anti-competitive
practices.

The competition watchdog has launched the enquiry on a complaint filed by consumer rights body CUTS International.

CUTS
International said in a statement Monday that its complaint against
Google followed global actions against the search engine giant for its
abusive practices.

CUTS International had filed the complaint
last month saying Google was abusing its dominant position in the Indian
market by indulging in anti-competitive practices in various ways.

The
consumer advocacy group has complained that Google was imposing unfair
and discriminatory conditions on customers and manipulating algorithmic
as well as paid search results by penalising certain websites and
advertisers.

The Competition Commission of India is already
investigating another complaint against Google by Bharat Matrimony.com.
The complaint is about discriminatory practices related to Bharat
Matrimony’s AdWords programme

21,300 Indians at risk of losing Internet on Monday

Nearly 3 lakh DNSChanger virus-hit computers, including over 20,000 in India, may lose Internet access from July 9, Web security company McAfee said today.

DNSChanger is a malware computer programme that redirect the Internet traffic to fake websites. (See: Internet blackout Monday: Check if your PC is infected)

A McAfee spokesperson said that according to the data provided by DNS Changer Working Group, India has the third highest number of DNS infections after the US and Italy.

The FBI will shut down servers associated with the DNSChanger malware on July 9. As a result, all computers infected with this threat are likely to no longer be able to access the Internet, the spokesperson said.

Last year, the FBI, as a part of ‘Operation Ghost Click’, took control of the servers used by the cybercriminals. FBI then replaced the rogue servers with temporary legitimate servers so as not to disrupt the web activities of those infected. However, these servers were allowed only till July 9, 2012.

McAfee has released a free tool to help consumers who machines have been infected by the DNSChanger trojan.

“By providing a free tool that walks them through the process, we are making it easy for consumers to fix their settings and stay connected,” Vincent Weafer, Senior Vice President, McAfee Labs said in a statement.

According to the data by DNS Changer Working Group (DCWG), there are nearly 300,000 infected systems globally, with a maximum of over 69,500 such system in the US. Italy with about 26,500 infected systems is at the second place, followed by India (21,300) and the UK (19,589).

DCWG is an independent group of security experts trying to stem out the DNS Changer malware.

Malware may knock thousands off Internet on July 9

The warnings about the Internet problem have been splashed across Facebook and Google. Internet service providers have sent notices, and the FBI set up a special website.

But tens of thousands may still lose their Internet service Monday unless they do a quick check of their computers for malware that could have taken over their machines more than a year ago.

Despite repeated alerts, the number of computers that probably are infected is more than 277,000 worldwide, down from about 360,000 in April. (See: Thousands may lose Internet in July – check if you are one) Of those still infected, the FBI believes that about 64,000 are in the United States.

Users whose computers are still infected Monday will lose their ability to go online, and they will have to call their service providers for help deleting the malware and reconnecting to the Internet.

The problem began when international hackers ran an online advertising scam to take control of more than 570,000 infected computers around the world. When the FBI went in to take down the hackers late last year, agents realized that if they turned off the malicious servers being used to control the computers, all the victims would lose their Internet service.

In a highly unusual move, the FBI set up a safety net. They brought in a private company to install two clean Internet servers to take over for the malicious servers so that people would not suddenly lose their Internet.

But that temporary system will be shut down at 12:01 a.m. EDT Monday, July 9.

Most victims don’t even know their computers have been infected, although the malicious software probably has slowed their Web surfing and disabled their antivirus software, making their machines more vulnerable to other problems.

But popular social networking sites and Internet providers have gotten more involved, reaching out to computer users to warn of the problem.

According to Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent, many Internet providers are ready for the problem and have plans to try to help their customers. Some, such as Comcast, already have reached out.

The company sent out notices and posted information on its website. Because the company can tell whether there is a problem with a customer’s Internet server, Comcast sent an email, letter or Internet notice to customers whose computers appeared to be affected.

Grasso said other Internet providers may come up with technical solutions that they will put in place Monday that will either correct the problem or provide information to customers when they call to say their Internet isn’t working. If the Internet providers correct the server problem, the Internet will work, but the malware will remain on victims’ computers and could pose future problems.

In addition to individual computer owners, about 50 Fortune 500 companies are still infected, Grasso said.

Both Facebook and Google created their own warning messages that showed up if someone using either site appeared to have an infected computer. Facebook users would get a message that says, “Your computer or network might be infected,” along with a link that users can click for more information.

Google users got a similar message, displayed at the top of a Google search results page. It also provides information on correcting the problem.

To check whether a computer is infected, users can visit a website run by the group brought in by the FBI: http://www.dcwg.org .

The site includes links to respected commercial sites that will run a quick check on the computer, and it also lays out detailed instructions if users want to actually check the computer themselves.

Edited by NDTV Staff

Google urges governments to share data for better disaster management

Google on Monday urged governments to get better at sharing information
to allow citizens and first responders to make better use of the
Internet during natural disasters.

At a conference in quake-prone
Japan, Rachel Whetstone, the firm’s senior vice president of public
policy and communications, said some countries hesitate over disclosing
data.

She said this prevents civil society from creating new services to help citizens in need.

“We
certainly have found access to data has enormously improved many of our
products, including maps,” she said at Google’s “Big Tent” conference,
designed to discuss issues related to the Internet and society.

Roughly
430 participants gathered for the first “Big Tent” in Asia, held in
this northern city, which was badly hit by the deadly earthquake and
tsunami in March 2011.

“We are still seeing quite a few
governments globally who are quite closed with their data. If we could
have… greater access to that data, I think we could do even more
amazing things,” Whetstone said.

Tokyo was criticised for not
publishing data it had as reactors at Fukushima went into meltdown,
spreading radiation over a large area and forcing tens of thousands of
people from their homes.

Public officials have said they were worried about sowing panic with information that was not readily understandable.

Engineers
at the Google event also complained how Japan initially released
radiation contamination data in PDF format, making it difficult for
scientists around the world to easily edit and analyse them.

The
global rush to access the data also caused the science ministry’s
servers to crash, prompting private IT firms and academics to scramble
to help disseminate the data in easy-to-use formats with English
translations.

“Scientists were very eager to attack this data if it could be organised,” Brian McClendon, Google vice president of technology.

Google strengthened its disaster response operations after Hurricane Katrina hit the southern United States in 2005.

The
IT giant offered “person finder” services in Japan to help reunite
families along Japan’s northern Pacific coasts which were hit by the
9.0-magnitude quake and subsequent deadly tsunami, triggering the
Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

It also actively mapped areas hit by the tsunami, publishing photos of communities before and after the natural disaster.

But useful data from governments around the world in crises are difficult to collect, McClendon said.

“One
of the challenges we have discovered in Katrina remains today, which is
open data and being able to get it and deploy it and lay it on top of
other data. It is what really makes a difference,” he said.

Masaakira
James Kondo, country manager for Twitter Japan, said he is now helping
the Japanese government draft new guidelines for releasing information
in crisis situations.

“There are not a lot of examples, where an
earthquake of this scale hit a high-income nation that has Internet
readily available,” Kondo said.

“The government probably was the single entity that lost the public trust the most,” he said.

The
chaos in Japan after the triple disaster was amplified by fear of
unknown health effects from the nuclear crisis, said Margareta
Wahlstrom, UN special representative for disaster risk reduction.

Experts
at the conference also stressed the importance of keeping a free flow
of information on the Internet, even if it risked possible distribution
of false information.

Meanwhile, consumers of information must
also be educated to maximise the benefit of IT in disasters, said
Wahlstrom of the United Nations.

“There is enormous work to do
with the users — communities, individuals, organisations, local
governments — about how to apply this data, and what to do with the
knowledge actually at their fingertips today,” she said.

Google announces cloud-computing service

Google has announced Compute Engine, a cloud-computing service that
allows businesses to run their applications on servers in the tech
giant’s data center.

“We’re introducing Google Compute Engine, an
infrastructure-as-a-service product that lets you run Linux Virtual
Machines on the same infrastructure that powers Google,” said Google in
its official blog Thursday.

According to the company, the economy
of scale and efficiency of its data centers can provide users 50 percent
more computing power than other leading cloud providers, reported
Xinhua.

Industry watchers said Google Compute Engine will compete
and challenge the leading position of Amazon Web Services, which was
launched in July, 2002.

Google has been building a huge amount of data centers to support its own services and applications over the last decade.

In
2008, it started to open up its infrastructure to outside developers
and businesses, launching services like Google App Engine to allow users
to build applications and websites, and store and analyze data on its
servers.

Also Thursday, Google introduced Chrome web browser for
Apple’s iOS platform, offline editing for Google Docs and retail selling
of Chromebooks at Best Buy.

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Google CEO says "nothing seriously wrong" – source

Google Inc Chief Executive Larry Page has reassured employees
about his health, but the company on Friday shed little additional light
on an unspecified condition affecting his voice that will sideline him
from two high-profile events in the coming weeks.

Page told employees
in an email on Thursday that there was “nothing seriously wrong with
me,” according to a source who had seen an internal staff memo.

The
39-year-old Google co-founder sat out his company’s annual
shareholders’ meeting on Thursday because he had “lost his voice,”
according to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who informed
attendees of the news at the start of the event.

The condition
will also cause Page to miss Google’s annual developer conference next
week as well as its quarterly results announcement next month.

Page
continues to run Google’s business, but has been asked to rest his
voice, according to a Google spokeswoman. The company declined further
comment on his condition.

The prolonged absence from the public
spotlight raises questions about his condition, and the company’s
obligation to disclose issues of concern to shareholders.

Corporate
governance experts say Google has met minimal disclosure requirements
but will face increasing pressure while Page remains out of sight.

On Friday, Google’s shares rose 1.1 percent to $571.48, lifted along with the rest of the Nasdaq.

“It
gets them over the first disclosure hurdle, that is they’ve alerted
shareholders to the fact he’s going to have this health effect,” said
James Post, a professor of management at Boston University who
specializes in corporate governance issues. “The tough questions still
lie ahead, and there will be continued pressure to keep answering those
tough questions.”

While many people, including senior business
executives, prefer to keep health matters private, public company CEOs
have responsibilities to a “wide set of constituents, some of whom have a
legitimate claim to know about material information,” said Post.

The issue came to the fore several years ago when Apple Inc
was criticized for being less than forthright about the health of CEO
Steve Jobs, who died in October after a long struggle with pancreatic
cancer.

“With the concerns over Steve Jobs, people are
quick to jump to a conclusion that may not be the right conclusion to
jump to,” said Needham company analyst Kerry Rice.

Page’s
health could be regarded as an especially significant issue because he,
along with Schmidt and co-founder Sergey Brin, have majority control of
the Internet company through special voting shares.

Wall Street
analysts mostly took the news of Page’s extended absence in stride,
though some expressed concern about the lack of information.

“It’s
the number one thing I’m concerned about today just because there’s so
little data available,” said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis.

JP Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth noted that Page has not posted any messages to his Google+ profile since May 25.

“We
have no specific reason to think there is anything more to Larry’s
condition, but we find it odd that the company would already rule him
out of the 2Q call, which is likely still a few weeks away,” Anmuth
wrote to clients late on Thursday.

“This could raise some questions among investors.”

Simon
Best, a head and neck surgery specialist at the Johns Hopkins Voice
Center, said most cases where a doctor might order a patient to rest
their voice involved either a vocal chord hemorrhage, or throat surgery
of some sort.

“We actually very rarely put people on complete
voice rest where they are not cleared to talk or allowed to talk,” West
said. “There are probably some practice differences between physicians
and whoever is treating him, but there are only two scenarios where we
put people on voice rest: if they’ve had vocal cord surgery, or if
they’ve had a vocal chord hemorrhage.”

Best, who has not treated
Page, said hemorrhages were easily treatable, but a wide variety of
conditions might necessitate surgery.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the details of Page’s internal memo on Friday.

During
the shareholder meeting on Thursday, Google’s Schmidt tried to lighten
the situation by relaying comments that co-founder Brin had made about
Page’s condition: Sergey “has said that this problem will make Larry a
better CEO because he’s going to have to choose his words very
carefully.”

Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012

Google CEO loses voice, skips shareholder meeting

Google Inc Chief Executive Larry Page sat out his company’s
annual shareholders’ meeting on Thursday due to an unspecified condition
affecting his voice that will sideline him from speaking engagements
for several weeks.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt told
shareholders at the company’s Mountain View headquarters that Page, who
replaced Schmidt as CEO in April 2011, had “lost his voice”.

Schmidt
said Page continues to run the company but he would also not speak at
the Google developer conference next week and at the company’s
second-quarter earnings results next month.

A Google spokesman said Page had been “asked to rest,” but would not provide more details on his condition.

Google
shareholders approved the creation of a special class of non-voting
shares at the meeting, and Google executives provided more details on
the recently completed $12.5 billion acquisition of smartphone maker
Motorola Mobility.

Patrick Pichette, Google’s finance chief, described Motorola as a “fantastic asset that needs to be reset and reprioritized.”

“Think of Google in a way as actually taking Motorola private,” he said, noting plans to “retool” many parts of Motorola.

Google,
the world’s No.1 Internet search engine, is moving aggressively to tap
new growth opportunities and to ensure it remains at the center of the
Web universe at a time when social networks and Internet-enabled mobile
devices have become increasingly popular with consumers.

The
Motorola acquisition provides Google with a trove of 17,000 patents –
much needed ammunition in the ongoing legal battles that have engulfed
the smartphone industry. But some investors have questioned Google’s
decision to enter the hardware business, a fiercely competitive market
with thin profit margins and in which Google has little experience.

Pichette
took issue with the “mythology” that Google doesn’t know the hardware
business, citing the company’s longstanding efforts assembling its own
computers for the datacenters that power its Web services.

He told
investors not to expect “full integration” with Motorola, which Google
has said it intends to operate as a separate business. “It is very
important, from the economics and its culture, that it stays on its own
battlefield,” he said.

Google executives also cited advances in
other Google initiatives, such as its Android mobile software and its
Chrome Web browser.

New shares approved
Page, along with
co-founder Sergey Brin and Schmidt, control a majority of the Internet
company through special shares that give them more voting power.

That capital structure, which has been emulated by the new generation of Web companies such as Facebook Inc and Zynga Inc , was also in the spotlight at Thursday’s meeting.

A
Google-proposed stock-split plan designed to preserve Page and Brin’s
majority control was passed with a majority of votes at the meeting.

Under the plan, shareholders will get one new share of non-voting “Class C” stock for each existing “Class A” share they own.

As
a result, Google will be able to issue new non-voting shares for
acquisitions and employee compensation without diluting the founders’
voting heft over the long term.

The price of Google’s current
Class A shares will be halved when the new Class C shares are issued and
listed on Nasdaq under a separate ticker. Google said the timing of the
split is uncertain, due to pending litigation, but it does not expect
it will occur before the fourth quarter.

A separate shareholder
proposal to make all shares of Google stock have equal voting power and
eliminate the special shares with 10-to-1 voting power did not garner a
majority of votes.

Google shares were up $1.34 at $566.55 in
after-hours trading on Thursday. Google’s shares are off roughly 15
percent from their 52-week high of $670.22, as investors worry about how
the shifting technology landscape will affect its core search
advertising business.

Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012