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Former Obama Campaign Manager To Lead Uber’s Political Crusade

After taking Obama to the White House in 2008, David Plouffe will lead Uber‘s campaign to bring its driving services to new cities.

Uber hired Obama’s former adviser and campaign manager to direct the company’s global policy and political activities, communications and branding efforts. The company has reportedly been looking to hire a top political strategist since earlier this summer as it aggressively challenges local regulations and the taxi industry in multiple cities.

“Over the years, what I’ve come to realize is that this controversy exists because we are in the middle of a political campaign and it turns out the candidate is Uber,” wrote founder Travis Kalanick in a blog. “Our opponent – the Big Taxi cartel – has used decades of political contributions and influence to restrict competition, reduce choice for consumers, and put a stranglehold on economic opportunity for its drivers.”

Earlier this month, Politico ran a story about repeated speculation that the former White House adviser would return as Obama’s chief of staff, billing Plouffe “the most popular guy in Washington.” He is  the most high profile-political insider the company has picked up in its recent push to make more regulatory hires. In May the company hired one of the top officials from the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission.

“We’re on an inexorable path of progress here,” Plouffe said in an interview with the New York Times. “Uber is making transportation safer. It’s providing jobs; it’s cutting down on drunk and distracted driving. I think the mission is really important.”

Plouffe was not the only top political strategist considered for the new position. In July, Re/code’s Kara Swisher reported Uber was in talks former White House press secretary Jay Carney and Howard Wolfson, who served as a strategist to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign.

Plouffe will start at Uber in September.

IMAGE BY Flickr USER Barack Obama UNDER CCPL LICENSE (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)

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A Russian hacking group has reportedly collected 1.2 billion usernames and passwords

The New York Times has a doozy of a security report today detailing what’s believed to be the largest collection of Internet identity theft. Based on research from security firm Hold Security, a Russian gang has compromised 420,000 websites in order to collect roughly 540 million unique email addresses.

To make matters worse, most of the affected websites still remain vulnerable, according to the Hold Security founder Alex Holden. A Times source did say that “some big companies” have been informed that their data is among the trove.

The criminal group is suspected of using the information to post spam to social networks. The gang is believed to be composed of “fewer than a dozen men in their 20s who know one another personally.”

The scale of data breaches has escalated at an alarming rate. Late last year, Target went public with a data breach that affected 40 million credit card accounts.

Russian Gang Said to Amass More Than a Billion Stolen Internet Credentials

Image credit: Simon Bratt / Shutterstock

Uber announces UberPool, a carpooling experiment with 40% lower prices than UberX

The US government suspects a new leaker has emerged after Snowden

Read more: A Russian hacking group has reportedly collected 1.2 billion usernames and passwords

Apple and Samsung agree to drop all patent disputes outside the US

Smartphone rivals Apple and Samsung have agreed to drop all existing litigation between them outside of the US market, reports the Financial Times.

The two companies, which occupy the top two slots based on global smartphone shipments, have been at war in the courtroom across numerous countries for the past few years. A joint statement from the two explains that all international disputes have been dropped, but the duo “are continuing to pursue the existing cases in US courts.” Importantly, no patent licensing deal has been agreed, the companies say.

Samsung was ordered to pay Apple more than $1 billion after losing a US patent lawsuit in 2012. Despite that result, there are ongoing appeals between the two in the US.

Apple and Samsung settle some patent disputes [Financial Times]

Thumbnail image via Africa Studio / Shutterstock

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Google Wallet Is Coming To Glass

Google Wallet is coming to Glass soon. According to a source close to the company, Google is currently testing a way for Glass users to send money to their friends through Wallet by simply using their voices to ask Glass to “send money.” The company is testing this service internally right now, but chances are it will launch to all Glass users in the near future.

To install the Wallet service on their devices, Glass users currently have to be signed in to a computer on Google’s corporate network. From there, they can install the Wallet glassware, and after setting the service up from there, they are ready to send money from Glass.

Given that Google has also rolled out a similar feature for Gmail users, it’s not a huge surprise that the company would also want to bring the ability to send money from Glass. The use cases, after all, are pretty much identical. Imagine you’re at a restaurant and you want to send your share of the bill to a friend. You simply ask Glass to “send money,” swipe through the interface a few times and you’re done (that’s assuming your friends let you wear your Glass while having dinner with you, of course).

By default, Google takes a 2.9 percent fee for these Wallet transactions or 30 cents — whichever is higher.

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Tumblr founder David Karp says Yahoo has ‘lived up to everything it promised’

It’s been almost one year since Yahoo announced that it had acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion, and David Karp, founder and head of Tumblr, says that its new owner has “lived up to everything they promised.”

Speaking in an interview with the New York Times, Karp said that Yahoo and its CEO Marissa Meyer have supported his business with additional resources — Tumblr’s roster has more than doubled to 220 staff — and have remained hands off. “We’re our own shop. We have our own leadership, and we’re doing things our own way,” Karp said.

Tumblr hosts a network of 180 million blogs, but still it is yet to find a way to monetize them successfully. The NYT article looks at how Tumblr is beginning to work with advertisers to set up blogs but, in the words of Karp, “the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been,” as Tumblr aims to generate significant revenue to justify its acquisition.

No Regrets for the Founder of Tumblr After Yahoo Sale [New York Times]

Image via Esther Vargas / Flickr, hat tip @hunterwalk

Uber rolls into New Zealand as it officially launches in Auckland

Smartphones: The silent killer of the Web as you know it

Read the rest here: Tumblr founder David Karp says Yahoo has ‘lived up to everything it promised’

Russian Square Clone 2can Raises $5M To Scale Up

Russian mobile payments startups 2can similar in operation to Square and iZettle (accepts payments from Visa and MasterCard cards through a mobile card reader connected to a smartphone) has raised a $5 million Series B round of funding led by InVenture Partners with participation by Almaz Capital Partners and ESN Group.

The cash will be used to integrate with leading Russian banks and accelerate the product.

The company claims that its revenue increased 500 times in 2013, with the number of transactions made through 2can terminals increasing 200 times over the same period – though with now actual figures these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

Launched in September 2012, 2can allows merchants to use iOS and Android smartphones or tablets as secure terminals for accepting card payments.

Sergey Azatyan, co-founder and managing partner of InVenture Partners says the penetration of POS terminals accepting card payments in Russia is now 5 times lower compared to Europe and 7 times lower than in USA, so there is plenty of growth to be had per the next few years.

The Series B round brings 2can’s total funding to $7.3 million. InVenture Partners led the previous investment round.

See the article here: Russian Square Clone 2can Raises $5M To Scale Up

Latest Snowden Allegations: NSA Hacks Huawei

The National Security Administration hacked Chinese networking giant Huawei and apparently gained access to the company’s source code, according to documents seen by The New York Times and the German publication Spiegel Online.

These latest leaked documents indicate that the NSA began an operation called “Shotgiant” against Huawei, the world’s second largest supplier of networking equipment behind U.S.-based Cisco Systems.

The U.S. has long been concerned that Huawei’s products were being used as a Trojan Horse enabling the Chinese government to spy on the networking company’s customers. Now, it appears that the U.S. government simply cut out the middleman in its own efforts to monitor the goings on around Huawei.

Not only did the U.S. security agency manage to intercept emails, but it also gained access to the company’s source code of specific products, according to the Spiegel report. That’s the crown jewels of any tech company — laid bare by America’s technology espionage apparatus.

Luckily for concerned netizens and corporations a spokeswoman for the U.S. assured the Times that any spying was only done for national security purposes.

“We do not give intelligence we collect to U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” White House spokesperson Caitlin M. Hayden told the Times. “Many countries cannot say the same.”

Meanwhile, the unintended comedy of the situation was not lost on Huawei, whose spokesman issued the following statement to Spiegel:

“If it is true, the irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us,” [said Bill Plummer, Huawei spokesman]. “If such espionage has been truly conducted, then it is known that the company is independent and has no unusual ties to any government and that knowledge should be relayed publicly to put an end to an era of mis- and disinformation.”

Link: Latest Snowden Allegations: NSA Hacks Huawei

An Algorithm Wrote The LA Times Story About The City’s Earthquake Aftershock Today

As reporters around the country scrambled to push out stories on early-morning earthquakes that awoke southern California, The LA Times had a machine write its piece. “This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author,” explained the news story, posted 20 minutes after the USGS registered a 2.7 aftershock that hit Westwood.

“Algorithms can help you find and report the news,” LA Times reporter Ben Welsh told Journalism.co.uk about a similar earthquake piece last year. “You can write code that will ask and answer the common questions that a reporter would ask when looking at that same dataset.”

As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, automation is increasingly coming after jobs that require higher-order thinking. Algorithmic journalism has been relatively limited to simple plug-in-play stories, such as sports scores, financial press releases, or natural events.

“That’s not to say that computer-generated stories will remain in the margins, limited to producing more and more Little League write-ups and formulaic earnings previews,” explained a blog post on the futurist, Ray Kurzweil’s, website. Google’s Eric Schmidt also warned a crowd at SXSW last week that robots will probably replace most jobs that aren’t related to “creativity and caring” — including reporters.

Perhaps most importantly, an algorithm doesn’t stop in the middle of a news story to hide under a desk:

Read more: An Algorithm Wrote The LA Times Story About The City’s Earthquake Aftershock Today

You can help search for Flight MH370 with Tomnod’s crowdsourced satellite image platform

Satellite firm DigitalGlobe is putting its Tomnod crowdsourcing platform to work in an effort to track down the whereabouts of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Volunteers are assigned a collection of satellite images to pore through and pin any possible clues or wreckage.

MH370 went missing late last week on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Officials have been stumped by the lack of evidence about what happened to the 777, which carried over 200 passengers.

Screen Shot 2014 03 11 at 1.45.41 PM 730x401 You can help search for Flight MH370 with Tomnod’s crowdsourced satellite image platform

DigitalGlobe said it will update its imagery with new data as more information emerges and the search radius changes.

Tomnod has roughly 25,000 people signed up to help out on the platform. The influx of helpers with this latest initiative has crashed the site at times since it was announced yesterday.

DigitalGlobe analysts will check areas of interest that users identify during the campaign. The company will then inform authorities of any possible findings.

Tomnod

Image credit: Thinkstock

Continued here: You can help search for Flight MH370 with Tomnod’s crowdsourced satellite image platform

CIA Accused Of Spying On Intelligence Committee

Senator Mark Udall has written a blistering letter to President Barack Obama, claiming he knew of the “unprecedented action” of CIA spying on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which had prepared a critical 6,000-page report of torture policies.

“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” wrote Senator Udall. “It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work — consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers — without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.”

After fallout from the New York Times exposé, more senators expressed measured outrage. Senator Patrick Leahy said he was “deeply concerned” about the reports.

According to the Times, “The action, which Mr. Udall did not describe, took place after C.I.A. officials came to suspect that congressional staff members had gained unauthorized access to agency documents during the course of the Intelligence Committee’s years-long investigation into the detention and interrogation program.”

Much of the report, and the agency’s response, is classified. The Guardian further notes that the CIA’s actions may have been illegal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the anti-hacker law normally applied to citizens.

Read the original NYT article here and Senator Udall’s letter here.

Read more: CIA Accused Of Spying On Intelligence Committee