Episode 189

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GLENN’S SHOWNOTES

Time travel possible, but only moving forwards, says Stephen Hawking

Hawking has publicly aired his second startling theory in two weeks, after last week claiming it was “entirely reasonable” to assume aliens existed.

Preparing for the debut of his Discovery documentary, Stephen Hawking’s Universe, which screens next week, Hawking said he believed humans could travel millions of years into the future and repopulate their devastated planet.

Hawking said once spaceships were built that could fly faster than the speed of light, a day on board would be equivalent to a year on Earth

he told the Daily Mail if he could go backwards he’d visit Marilyn Monroe in her prime or drop in on Galileo – but said as he got older, he cared less about what people thought of his theories.

“Time travel was once considered scientific heresy, and I used to avoid talking about it for fear of being labelled a crank,” he said in Stephen Hawking’s Universe.

“These days I’m not so cautious.”

Pirate Bay saved by political ally – Telco/ISP – Technology – News – iTnews.com.au
http://www.itnews.com.au/News/175112,pirate-bay-saved-by-political-ally.aspx
Pirate Bay saved by political ally

Sweden’s Pirate Party is now providing bandwidth for the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay after its previous internet service provider Cyber Bunker pulled the plug due to a court injunction obtained by US movie studios.

The Pirate Party’s leader, Rick Falk Vinge said that “providing bandwidth to a search engine and homepage is completely legal.”

Describing contact with The Pirate Bay as routine, Falk Vinge explained that on Tuesday morning the two organisations agreed that the party would provide bandwidth.

Search posse for ‘old’ breakdancers – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/04/29/2886076.htm
Search posse for ‘old’ breakdancers

Hobart City Council wants to track down the four dancers to act as special judges at state competition in July.

The idea was inspired by the discovery of footage on YouTube.

It shows the ‘Electro Shock’ dancers competing on the ABC’s Countdown program during the 1984 national breakdance competition.

Anyone with information should contact the council.

I do robot marries Japanese couple – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/05/17/2901781.htm
I do robot marries Japanese couple

The robot, called i-Fairy, is usually used in museums and exhibitions to direct visitors, but with the help of a flower headpiece and a new program, it pronounced Tomohiro Shibata and Satoko Inoue man and wife at a ceremony in Tokyo.

The event is being billed as the first ever wedding presided over by a robot, a fitting marriage for the couple who met through the machines.

The bride works for the company that makes the i-Fairy and her husband is a client.

Pizza parlours ‘using coffin wood for fuel’ – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/05/18/2902126.htm
Pizza parlours ‘using coffin wood for fuel’

Italian prosecutors believe pizza in the southern city of Naples may be baked in ovens lit with wood from coffins dug up in the local cemetery, Italian daily Il Giornale reported.

Borders releases $199 Kobo e-book reader
http://apcmag.com/borders-releases-199-kobo-e-book-reader.htm
Borders releases $199 Kobo e-book reader

Retail chain Borders today started selling the Kobo eReader device in Australia for $199 both through its stores and online, promising the Kobo platform for iPad as well.

Borders said the eReader can hold 1,000 eBooks and can also have its storage expanded with an additional SD memory card. However, unlike the Amazon Kindle, users will not be able to download eBooks directly to the device – they will need to sync it with their PC first.

Apple rejects wireless sync app for iPhone and iPad
http://apcmag.com/apple-rejects-wireless-sync-app-for-iphone-and-ipad.htm
Apple rejects wireless sync app for iPhone and iPad

App developer Greg Hughes submitted Wi-Fi Sync to the App Store and expected a positive response, explaining that his program “doesn’t violate anything in the developer agreement and doesn’t use any private APIs.”

As a result, Hughes has now listed Wi-Fi Sync on the Cydia app store for jailbroken iPhone and iPads.

Hughes says he is also working on a version of Wi-Fi Sync for Windows to be released in July, which will be provided as a free update to all customers.

Airline to use iPads for in-flight entertainment
http://apcmag.com/airline-to-use-ipads-for-in-flight-entertainment.htm
Airline to use iPads for in-flight entertainment

Bluebox says the service will launch “on an international carrier in July, and will be available to other airlines shortly afterwards.”

The scheme will install the iPad with a customised version of the company’s Bluebox in-flight entertainment software known as Bluebox Ai, which  it claims “leverages the power, flexibility and quality of the most advanced consumer device ever produced.”

Skype adds monthly subscription plans

The cost depends on which countries you need to call, and whether you’re content to dial only landline numbers or want to add mobiles into the mix

Playboy centrefold goes 3D

The centrefold picture in the June edition will be in 3D.
I don’t think we’ll be having 3D centrefolds in every issue.”

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner said he “wanted to create a 3D pictorial for the very first issue of Playboy, but didn’t have enough money to include the 3D glasses”.

Playmate

Kevin Rudd accused of artificially bolstering his Twitter following

KEVIN Rudd has been accused of artificially boosting his Twitter followers to make him appear more influential in cyberspace

an analysis by The Courier-Mail shows three-quarters are from overseas accounts, including more than 27,000 from Ecuador and almost 18,000 from Belarus.Several thousand followers of KevinRuddPM have dormant accounts or are advertising online services where you can buy followers

Prime Minister’s Twitter followers edge closer to 1 million

“The other interesting thing . . . is the number of people he is following – more than 200,000. It was the first real way to artificially boost your followers. Just follow everyone you can and at least 50 per cent will follow you back.”

Other internet experts have suggested the stellar growth of the PM’s account can be attributed to his account being one of 241 officially recommended by Twitter’s head office.

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German man fined for poor Wi-Fi security – Security – Technology – News – iTnews.com.au
http://www.itnews.com.au/News/174895,german-man-fined-for-poor-wi-fi-security.aspx
German man fined for poor Wi-Fi security

The German courts have ruled that internet users are responsible for the security of their connections.

The home owner demonstrated that he was on holiday at the time the download occurred, and the court cleared him of copyright infringement- but said the access point should have been password protected.

“Private users are obligated to check whether their wireless connection is adequately secured to the danger of unauthorised third parties abusing it to commit copyright violation,” the court in Karlsruhe said, according to the BBC.

WHO study inconclusive on phones and cancer – Hardware – Technology – News – iTnews.com.au
http://www.itnews.com.au/News/174972,who-study-inconclusive-on-phones-and-cancer.aspx
WHO study inconclusive on phones and cancer

Experts who studied almost 13,000 cell phone users over 10 years, hoping to find out whether the mobile devices cause brain tumours, said on Sunday their research gave no clear answer.

Conducted by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the study was the largest ever to look at possible links between mobile phones and brain cancer.

It threw up inconclusive results but researchers said suggestions of a possible link demanded deeper examination.

The study received 19.2 million euros (A$27.3 million) in funding, around 5.5 million euros of which came from industry sources. It analysed data from interviews with 2,708 people with a type of brain cancer called glioma and 2,409 with another type called meningioma, plus around 7,500 people with no cancer.

Participants were from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Britain

Manly Fast Ferry offers free WiFi – Networking – Technology – News – iTnews.com.au
http://www.itnews.com.au/News/174966,manly-fast-ferry-offers-free-wifi.aspx
Manly Fast Ferry offers free WiFi

Commuters on the privately-owned Manly Fast Ferry service can access free WiFi internet from today following a successful two week trial of the service.

The free WiFi service gives the private operator an edge over cheaper, slower ferry services provided by the NSW State Government-owned Sydney Ferries, which cancelled a trial of a similar service last year

Jobs intervened to get iPhone 4G back – Hardware – Technology – News – iTnews.com.au
http://www.itnews.com.au/News/174891,jobs-intervened-to-get-iphone-4g-back.aspx
Jobs intervened to get iPhone 4G back

Steve Jobs personally intervened in trying to get back a missing prototype of the iPhone 4G after it was sold to tech site Gizmodo by emailing editor Brian Lam, according to newly released police documents.

In an unusual step, the San Mateo County judge in the case has responded to media pressure by allowing documents including search warrants to be made public.

In the affidavit document, Detective Matthew Broad of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office describes how he was told by Apple senior vice president Bruce Sewell that Jobs emailed Gizmodo’s Lam, requesting he return the phone.

“Lam responded that he would return the iPhone on the condition that Apple provided him with a letter stating the iPhone belonged to Apple,” the document read.

The search warrant also reveals how Apple execs and their lawyer George Riley pressured police to investigate the case, maintaining that the cost of the loss was “huge”.

“Riley stated that the publication of the device and its features is immensely damaging to Apple,” Detective Broad wrote.

“By publishing details about the phone and its features, sales of current Apple products are hurt wherein people that would otherwise have purchased a currently existing Apple product would wait for the next item to be released thereby hurting overall sales and negatively affecting Apple’s earnings.”

Google admits harvesting Wi-Fi data with Street View cars – Security – Technology – News –
http://www.itnews.com.au/News/174894,google-admits-harvesting-wi-fi-data-with-street-view-cars.aspx
Google admits harvesting Wi-Fi data with Street View cars

it appeared for the last four years it had also been collecting payload data from open Wi-Fi points

In a blog posting Alan Eustace, senior vice president of Engineering and Research

“In 2006 an engineer working on an experimental Wi-Fi project wrote a piece of code that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast Wi-Fi data. A year later, when our mobile team started a project to collect basic Wi-Fi network data like SSID information and MAC addresses using Google’s Street View cars, they included that code in their software—although the project leaders did not want, and had no intention of using, payload data.”

He said Google had shut down the Street View fleet until it was sure the software had been removed and the company would bring in an independent third party to verify the code had been expunged and to check it had been fully deleted.

TechTerms.com - Computer and Technology Terms Defined and  Explained
When data is sent over the Internet, each unit transmitted includes both header information and the actual data being sent. The header identifies the source and destination of the packet, while the actual data is referred to as the payload. Because header information, or overhead data, is only used in the transmission process, it is stripped from the packet when it reaches its destination. Therefore, the payload is the only data received by the destination system.

Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy on line as The Social Network release draws near | News.com.au
http://www.news.com.au/technology/mark-zuckerbergs-privacy-on-line-as-the-social-network-release-draws-near/story-e6frfro0-1225867824057
Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy on line as The Social Network release draws near

A movie about his life due for release in October portrays the billionaire geek as a sex-mad “borderline-autistic” conniver, according to Times Online.

Zuckerberg is played by Zombieland’s Jesse Eisenberg, with Justin Timberlake starring alongside as Napster creator Sean Parker.

it contains plenty of uncomfortable moments for Zuckerberg, such as suggestions Parker preyed on the teenager’s sexual insecurity by helping him garner “groupies”.

Zuckerberg himself is faced with mounting animosity after tales of his blase attitude toward users emerge, including the release last week of a message exchange in which he calls users of the original network, TheFacebook, “dumb f..ks” for trusting him with their personal information.

It tells how Zuckerberg retreated to his Harvard University dorm after being dumped by his girlfriend Erica.

“You will go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a tech geek,” she tells him in the movie.

“I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true.

“It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”

Tax perk to fuel mad rush for iPad

TAXPAYERS eligible for up to 50 per cent in tax reductions for laptops could start a mad rush for Apple’s iPad.

According to the education tax refund guidelines, parents can receive refunds of up to $375 per primary school student and $750 per secondary school student for desktop computers and laptops, and for repair and running costs.

They can also claim the cost of establishing and maintaining home internet connections as well as printers and flash drives.

Software for educational purposes is also covered in the ETR, alongside other applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, databases, internet filters and antivirus software

NRL players caught in Facebook sting

Of the 240 players involved in the league’s junior competition, the Toyota Cup, several were set up by the AFP after officers faked profiles and befriended the young men online.

In the course of the drug, alcohol and cyber training, held in Sydney and Brisbane earlier this year, lecturers then stunned players by revealing they’d been tricked. It was a timely lesson, with legal experts urging Facebook to tighten privacy settings or face possible class action

While investigators say the onus remains on the individual to protect themselves and the information they make public, privacy lawyers warned the industry to clean up its act.

Changes made to Facebook’s default privacy settings have already exposed the company to a Californian class action, which was settled by the site and a handful of other companies for $10.3 million this year.

The lawsuit alleged Facebook had gathered information about users’ online activities before it even asked them whether they wanted that information to be made public.

How to stay safe on Facebook

1. Choose your online friends carefully. A person can pretend to be someone else

2. Don’t accept friend requests if you do not know who the person is

3. Keep personal details about yourself private

4. Do not use your real name, use a nickname instead, especially in websites where you do not know a lot of people

5. If you are a child, ask your parents or an adult you trust before you give your real name and personal details to people you meet on the internet

6. Make sure you have a private profi le

7. Make sure your password is secret

8. If you want to meet with someone you met online in person, always tell an adult you trust, like your parents or older siblings, and ask them to go with you

9. Arrange to meet them at daylight in a public place and let others know where you are going and who you are going to meet

10. Think carefully about what you write online and what information you reveal about yourself

Nona Belomesoff murder prompts Australian Facebook revolt

Queensland Police have issued an unprecedented warning to all teenagers to remove photos from the site after Sydney teen Nona Belomesoff was allegedly murdered by a stranger she met on Facebook.

The 18-year-old’s body was found in bushland near Campbelltown on Friday night and police have charged a 20-year-old man with her murder.

Det Supt Peter Crawford of Taskforce Argos, the unit which hunts online predators, said photos should be removed from public view.

Online protesters have started a “Quit Facebook” campaign which encourages users to close Facebook accounts by May 31.

The campaign focuses on the fact users have to change 50 different settings to stop the site from sharing private information with third parties.

Mr Vaile said the APF would lobby the Government to address Facebook privacy concerns.

More than fifteen consumer watchdog groups have already filed formal complaints to the US Federal Trade Commission.

Facebook has defended the new capabilities and says they are only used on review websites Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft’s new document sharing website docs.com

YouTube hit gives Nestle the finger – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/05/18/2902503.htm
YouTube hit gives Nestle the finger

A gory YouTube video has prompted food giant Nestle to stop buying palm oil from companies that destroy Indonesian rainforests.

The two-month-long campaign by Greenpeace harnessed social media, including Facebook and Twitter, but it was a YouTube advertisement that got everybody talking.

The video highlights the link between orangutan habitat destruction for palm oil and Nestle’s humble Kit Kat, showing an office worker reaching for the chocolate bar and opening it.

Instead of chocolate he finds a bloody orangutan finger, but proceeds to eat it anyway.

Some products sold by the food and drink giant, including Kit Kats, contain palm oil.

Yesterday Nestle announced that its palm oil providers would have to identify and exclude companies managing or owning plantations or farms linked to deforestation.

In a statement, Nestle said it had suspended all purchases from Indonesian company Sinar Mas after it “admitted to mistakes in the area of deforestation”.

Nestle tried to get Greenpeace’s video withdrawn from YouTube, but Mr Campbell says that only boosted the number of posts online worldwide.

“We ended up with 1.3 million views at last count of the video,” he said.

He says Greenpeace’s campaign led to Nestle’s swift policy change on palm oil.

“It was extraordinary to see the amount of support we got through Facebook and Twitter and all the other new media tools,” he said.

“We’re trying to shift the entire market by targeting the really big players.

“When you have companies of this stature and size realising that their practices are not acceptable and the people that they’re buying the palm oil are unacceptable suppliers, you’re having a pretty major knock-on effect.”

Justin Bieber falls out of Trending Topics

Twitter, obviously sick of seeing Bieber’s name dominate its Trending Topics, has changed the algorithm behind it so it … doesn’t.

The focus now will be on “most breaking” and “immediately popular” as opposed to “most popular”.

“The new algorithm identifies topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis, to help people discover the ‘most breaking’ breaking news from across the world,” the site claims in its Help section.

MARK’S SHOWNOTES

YouTube at five- 2 bn views a day

YouTube with 5 birthday candles

YouTube wants users to discover and shape the world through video

Video sharing website YouTube now gets more than two billion hits daily.

That’s nearly double the number of people who tune into the US’s three prime time TV stations combined, its owners Google have said.

The news comes as the site celebrates the day five years ago when the first beta version of YouTube was launched.

“I see this great growth opportunity in the online video market and we are positioning ourselves to be a leader,” co-founder Chad Hurley told BBC News.

“We are a stage and we give everyone in the world an opportunity to participate and that is being a video platform for creating a solution for people to not only upload and distribute their videos on a global basis but to find and share videos.”

He also said that while the two billion hits a day marked a real milestone “I feel we have much further to go.

From cat videos to political videos to “how to” videos to entertainment – that is YouTube

Chad Hurley, YouTube co-founder

“Two billion video streams is a large number but on average people are only spending 15 minutes a day on the site compared to five hours a day watching TV.

“I don’t think we could have ever planned or imagined we would get to the scale or the size we are today. We were mostly trying to create a video solution for ourselves based on our own frustrations. We are proud of what we have achieved so far but we have a lot of work ahead,” said Mr Hurley.

The site was bought by Google near the end of 2006 for $1.65bn. Just seven months ago it clocked up one billion downloads a day.

The early years

The slogan for YouTube is “Broadcast Yourself” which Mr Hurley said was a play on “be yourself and also captured in my mind the essence of the site which was to let people express themselves.”

The first person to express themselves on the platform was fellow co-founder Jawed Karim who posted a 19 seconds long video called “Me at the Zoo”. It was uploaded on April 23, 2005 and can still be viewed on the site.

The first video posted to YouTube: Co-founder Jawed Karim at the Zoo – Video courtesy of YouTube

Among the other videos that have made YouTube history is that of a wounded girl dying in front of a crowd during the Iranian election protests, a YouTube interview with President Barack Obama, Ronaldinho’s Nike advert and singer Susan Boyle’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent competition on TV.

“We wanted to create a level playing field that gave everyone that ability to be seen and heard,” said Mr Hurley.

“Maybe early on people only recognised us or explained YouTube by placing it in a box but there are so many people on our site and we receive so much content over a 24 hour period, it can’t be about one thing.

YouTube sign
December 2005 8 million videos watched a day
January 2008 10 hours of video uploaded every minute
October 2009 1 billion views per day
March 2010 24 hours of video uploaded every minute

“And so from cat videos to political videos to “how to” videos to entertainment – that is YouTube,” added Mr Hurley.

Today it hosts channels for everyone from Queen Elizabeth to the Pope and from President Barack Obama to the Iraqi government.

“YouTube really is a phenomenon and is very much part of popular culture,” said Catharine P Taylor, media blogger at news website BNET.com.

“It really is a game changer because it gives everybody a platform to broadcast from. There are many examples where an average citizen has become a big hit on YouTube and that is something that would have been impossible to contemplate five, six years ago.”

The future

In those early days the site was known for hosting pirated snippets of TV shows or movies. Even today material gets pulled from the site because of issues over copyright.

“They have made a lot of progress about weeding out illegal content,” said Allen Weiner senior vice president of research at Gartner.

the youtube page five years ago

YouTube’s front page was a very sparse looking one five years ago

“They are serious about it. Their future depends on it.”

As a result YouTube has been working hard to win over content makers as it modifies its service to stream professional films and cash in on a trend towards internet television.

Industry watchers have said YouTube could possibly become part of the Google “media cloud” where people can access films, books, magazines tv shows and other digitised content.

“YouTube is going to change in a lot of ways in the next few years,” Ryan Lawler of video site NewTeeVee.com told BBC News.

“I think we will see it on more devices and see it used more for live streaming. There are real opportunities for it to become a traditional content distributor like the cable channels. YouTube streams make up around 40% of all online video watched in the US, so there is massive scale there and lot of opportunity.”

Analysts have predicted that while the site has struggled to reach profitability since its creation, 2010 could be its year.

Bloomberg News pointed out that the biggest challenge facing YouTube advertising is what makes it so popular – its user generated content. Many advertisers are wary of placing adverts that might run next to videos that might also offend or upset the audience.

“Obviously we want to work with everyone and show the value we can bring on multiple levels. It could be as simple as marketing a movie or show to our users and driving those audiences to another place for the experience.

“We are trying to create opportunities for everyone and this is not just about making big deals with major networks,” said Mr Hurley.

Microsoft Hotmail upgrade targets Gmail and Yahoo

Screenshot of Windows Live Hotmail, Microsoft The refresh will mean some content is viewable on the e-mail inbox window

Microsoft is refreshing its free e-mail service Hotmail in an attempt to give it an edge over rival offerings from Yahoo and Google.

The update will mean documents sent via Hotmail can be viewed and edited via web versions of its Office software.

Other changes are designed to improve security by filtering spam and spotting phishing attacks.

Hotmail is the world’s biggest e-mail provider but faces increased competition, particulary in the US.

Figures from research firm Comscore show that Yahoo mail still dominates the free e-mail market in the US, with Microsoft in second place. Google’s Gmail service is quickly adding to its market share.

Video window

Walt Harp, one of the directors at Windows Live, said many of the changes were designed to help people get to grips with the huge amount of information flowing through inboxes.

“That’s where you manage your personal life, through your e-mail accounts,” he said.

Updates from social networks, videos and snaps from friends, shipping details for goods ordered via the web all pass through e-mail inboxes, he said.

For instance, he said, one-click filters will let people see messages from one source such as Facebook or web retailer Amazon. Microsoft is also introducing the ability to sort e-mails by conversation rather than individual messages.

The feature is already available in Gmail.

The refresh includes tools to quickly get to work on the extras, such as web links, pictures and videos, included in messages.

The Active View system will preview pictures at the top of a browser window rather than send users to a separate page or service. Microsoft said Flickr, YouTube and the US Postal Service wil be among its partners using this feature.

Most of the elements of the refresh will be available after the summer update. However, said Mr Harp, the tighter connection to its latest version of Office – launched last week – will not happen until the autumn of 2010.

The launch of Office 2010 was seen by many analysts as a direct response to Google, which offers its own suite of Office software – known as Docs – for free online.

Windows Live Hotmail is currently the world’s biggest e-mail provider. It claims to have more than 360 million members and it handles more than eight billion messages per day.

Flash creator wades into Apple debate

The co-creator of Flash media software has said it has a future, despite Apple’s attempts to kill it off.

The video and animation software owned by Adobe has been heavily criticised by Apple boss Steve Jobs.

Jonathan Gay told BBC News that Flash “will continue to be the dominant tool” for media on the internet.

He also said he thinks iPhone users will see “support for Flash…sometime in the next few years”.

Mr Gay, who is no longer involved with developing the video and animation software, helped to create the FutureSplash software that later became Flash, and describes himself as its “architect”.

Apple’s iPods and iPhones have proved hugely popular, and few doubt the technologies have helped to promote innovation in smartphones and portable music players.

But Apple founder Steve Jobs’s decision to challenge Flash, which is used to help distribute a vast array of media across the internet, has come under close scrutiny.

Continue reading the main story

Flash has not performed well on mobile devices … and is the number one reason Macs crash

Steve Jobs Apple CEO

In a letter posted on the Apple website, he argued that Flash had “one of the worst security records in 2009”, “has not performed well on mobile devices”, and “is the number one reason that Macs crash”.

Yet iPhone users browsing the web find it frustrating that video and other animated content distributed with Flash cannot be viewed.

Instead, they see an empty square where the content would be. This is because there is no so-called “plug-in” for Flash on the iPhone’s web browser, Safari.

Earlier this year, Adobe was busy creating software that would have helped iPhone App creators translate Flash website content for use on the iPhone.

But a recent change by Apple to the iPhone and iPad developer’s agreement effectively prevented developers from using the technology.

Profitable business

Jonathan Gay said: “Apple is building their tightly controlled application platform to push the mobile internet world to a model like traditional mobile phone and cable TV businesses, where there is a gatekeeper who controls the platform and gets a fee from all the transactions on the platform.”

“This would drive a very profitable business for Apple,” he said.

“Flash grew from the PC and Web era where players are free, run on lots of devices, and there are no gatekeepers controlling what developers could do with the platform.

“As a consumer, I’d much rather see the PC and web model move to mobile phones than the closed mobile phone world taking over rich applications on the mobile internet,” he added.

Mr Gay said that the current dispute has its roots in the early days of the iPhone, when Apple struck an important deal with Google, the parent company of YouTube.

The deal saw YouTube convert all of its content so it was compatible with a specialised iPhone YouTube application.

“[Steve Jobs’] ability to convince YouTube to do this for the original iPhone launch was a key driver for the iPhone’s initial success, and now he wants the rest of the web to follow”, he said.

Previously, YouTube had used Flash for distributing its own video.

Ironically, Mr Gay said that YouTube’s adoption of Flash had been the key to it becoming a widely used standard for video on the web.

“Much larger companies like Microsoft, Apple and Real Networks … were focused on … building businesses around their players and content delivery.

It is surprising to me that it’s taken so long for a big company like Apple to mount a visible challenge to Flash’s leadership role for video on the internet

Jonathan Gay Flash co-creator

“The YouTube guys then used Flash to decisively demonstrate that there was an opportunity for short video integrated well into a web page. Flash video took off from there.

“It is surprising to me that it’s taken so long for a big company like Apple to mount a visible challenge to Flash’s leadership role for video on the internet,” he said.

The future

Much emphasis as an alternative to Flash has been placed by Mr Jobs on the latest web standard, HTML5, which is currently undergoing development.

In an open letter on Apple’s website, Jobs said that HTML5 “lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash).

“HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member.”

He added that whilst Adobe says that “75% of video on the web is in Flash”, what they don’t say is that “almost all this video is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads.”

However, Mr Gay said that “HTML5 may be a good solution for building video websites like YouTube but it won’t be as rich a media platform as Flash is today.

“H.264 is not an open standard from my perspective.”

He explained that the Flash developers wanted to use H.264 when they first added video support to their software, “but the patent licensing fees would have cost around $5m (£3.5m) per year.”

He also said that “it would be a waste to orphan the enormous investment that has already been made in Flash content.”

He added: “I think that the more open approach of Google with Android will put competitive pressure on Apple to support the full web and we’ll see … support for Flash in Safari on the iPhone sometime in the next few years.”

Mr Gay is an iPhone user himself, and thinks “it’s a great device”, but is ready for a change.

“I would guess that my next phone will be an Android phone because I think the more open Google model will meet my needs and the needs of the carriers providing the phones better.”

In response to a request for further comment, Apple directed the BBC to the Steve Jobs letter referred to above, and restated its commitment to HTML5 as an “open web standard”.

Google admits wi-fi data collection blunder

Google has admitted that for the past three years it has wrongly collected information people have sent over unencrypted wi-fi networks.

The issue came to light after German authorities asked to audit the data the company’s Street View cars gathered as they took photos viewed on Google maps.

Google said during a review it found it had “been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open networks”.

The admission will increase concerns about potential privacy breaches.

These snippets could include parts of an email, text or photograph or even the website someone may be viewing.

In a blogpost Google said as soon as it became aware of the problem it grounded its Street View cars from collecting wi-fi information and segregated the data on its network.

It is now asking for a third party to review the software that caused the problem and examine precisely what data had been gathered.

“Maintaining people’s trust is crucial to everything we do, and in this case we fell short,” wrote Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research.

“The engineering team at Google works hard to earn your trust – and we are acutely aware that we failed badly here.”

‘Pushing the envelope’

Google said the problem dated back to 2006 when “an engineer working on an experimental wi-fi project wrote a piece of code that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast wi-fi data”.

That code was included in the software the Street View cars used and “quite simply, it was a mistake”, said Mr Eustace.

“This incident highlights just how publicly accessible, open, non-password protected wi-fi networks are today.”

Dan Kaminsky, director of penetration testing for security firm Ioactive, said there was no intent by Google.

“This information was leaking out and they picked it up. If you are going to broadcast your email on an open wi-fi, don’t be surprised if someone picks it up.”

John Simpson, from the Consumer Watchdog, told the BBC: “The problem is [Google] have a bunch of engineers who push the envelope and gather as much information as they can and don’t think about the ramifications of that.”

Dr Ian Brown, an expert on privacy and cyber security at the Oxford Internet Institute, told BBC News the wi-fi data collection was part of an idea to accurately map a user’s location on Google Map and Street View.

“The idea was to use to the different signals and strengths from wi-fi and phones to position a users – think of it as a sort of GPS.

“However, there are concerns in many countries that Google has broken numerous data protection and privacy laws by collecting this data and I expect a clutch of lawsuits to follow,” he said.

Google chief Eric Schmidt downplays wi-fi privacy row

Google has downplayed privacy fears after it was revealed that its Street View cars had been harvesting data from private wi-fi networks.

The search giant’s boss said that he hoped no one would be prosecuted.

Eric Schmidt said that there was “no, harm, no foul”, after the firm admitted that it had been collecting snippets of web activity from people’s wi-fi.

A US group has called for a Federal “probe”, whilst European countries are considering taking action.

“Who was harmed? Name the person,” Mr Schmidt said at the company’s annual Zeitgeist conference in Watford, UK.

When I suggested that the privacy issue was something of a crisis for the whole internet industry, Mr Schmidt smiled and indicated that I was indulging in journalistic hyperbole

Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent Read Rory’s thoughts in full

He admitted the incident had done more harm to the firm’s reputation than any single person.

In addition, he said, it was “highly unlikely” that any of the collected information was “useful” and that there appeared to “have been no use of that data”

“No one has taken it, done anything with it. It has not been given to anyone,” he said.

Google co-founder Larry Page said that it was important to distinguish between “worry versus harm” when it came to privacy online.

‘No excuse’

Last week, the search firm openly admitted that it had collected information people had sent over unencrypted wi-fi networks for the last three years.

The company was forced to make the admission after German authorities asked to audit data gathered by the firm’s Street View cars, which gather pictures around the world for use on Google maps.

Google Street View camera

In a blog post, Google said that the problem had been traced to 2006 when “an engineer working on an experimental wi-fi project wrote a piece of code that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast wi-fi data”.

Its inclusion in the street view cars was a “mistake” it said and had not been authorised.

But Mr Schmidt said he did not want to use the firm’s “engineers as an excuse”.

“They work for us,” he said. “If it is authorised then there is a reason for them to be doing it. If it is unauthorised, it is not authorised.”

He said that the firm would not say whether the engineers responsible had left the company for “numerous legal reasons”.

“We have very high attention on this matter internally,” he said.

Under orders

The firm’s actions are under increasing scrutiny around the world.

A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK said that Google had been responsible for the “unnecessary and excessive collection and storage of personal data”.

It said it took the matter “seriously” but would not take any action on the matter.

We’re not going to delete it unless we’re ordered to

Eric Schmidt Google

Its German counterpart has asked to see the data before it proceeds.

“Google’s data should be deleted only once they have been subject to a review, so that we get a picture which additional data were captured,” a spokesperson for the country’s National Information Commissioner told BBC News.

The Financial Times has reported that German prosecutors and the Czech data protection agency have launched investigations into the issue.

In the US, advocacy group the Consumer Watchdog has written to the Federal Trade Commission urging it to investigate Google.

“Google has demonstrated a history of pushing the envelope and then apologising when its overreach is discovered,” said John M Simpson, of the group.

“Given its recent record of privacy abuses, there is absolutely no reason to trust anything the Internet giant claims about its data collection policies.”

Google has asked a third party to review the software that caused the problem and examine the gathered data. But the Consumer Watchdog said this would be like ” getting to pick and pay the referees in a championship basketball game”.

“The Commission must determine what Google knew and when Google knew it. We urge you to launch an investigation immediately,” it said in a letter.

Google said it was contacting authorities in the 30 countries where it has Street View to determine what must be done with the data.

“We’re not going to delete it unless we’re ordered to,” said Mr Schmidt.

Best Buy plans May launch for video downloads

(Reuters) – Top electronics chain Best Buy will launch this month its planned online service CinemaNow that allows consumers to buy, rent and download movies and television shows.

Technology |  Film

The service will help Best Buy compete better with established online media players like Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc’s iTunes store as well as growing services like Netflix Inc and Wal-Mart’s recently acquired Vudu service.

The new digital video service, based on Sonic Solutions’ Roxio CinemaNow service, would be built into devices sold at its stores, ranging from television sets to Blu-ray disc players. It will also be available on an array of other devices from various manufacturers later this year.

Customers can also access it with their computers through the website (www.cinemanow.com), Best Buy said on Tuesday.

Best Buy, which had announced its deal with Sonic last November, already owns digital music service Napster Inc.

It expects to provide access to thousands of new movies, independent films, and older catalog movies, with some new titles available on the same day as the comparable DVD goes on sale.

Google buys Norwegian audio-video tech provider

(Reuters) – Google is buying Oslo-listed Global IP Solutions for $68 million to build its real-time audio and video Internet capabilities, the two companies said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

The friendly all-cash transaction values GIPS shares at 13 Norwegian crowns each, up 27.5 percent from Friday’s closing price of 10.20 crowns. Norwegian markets were closed on Monday.

“The Web is evolving quickly as a development platform, and real-time video and audio communication over the Internet are becoming important new tools for users,” Rian Liebenberg, Google’s Engineering Director, said in a statement.

The GIPS board recommended shareholders accept the offer and shareholders representing about half of the outstanding shares and votes in GIPS, including Kistefos Venture Capital AS and Kistefos Venture Capital II DA, have “irrevocably committed to accept the offer”, Google said.

“There is a good industrial rationale for the deal based on Google’s increased efforts in communication on its web solutions,” GIPS board chief and CEO of Kistefos Venture Capital, Ditlev de Vibe, told Reuters. “The price offered by Google is very good and the board can safely recommend it.”

Oslo-listed, San Francisco-based Global IP Solutions says it is a leader in voice and video processing technology for IP networks, with software in “over 800 million end-points”.

GIPS enables service providers, developers and hardware manufacturers to reduce network impairments such as delay, jitter and echo in real-time audio and video applications.

The offer price represents a premium of 54.6 percent compared to the adjusted volume weighted average market price for the last three months before the announcement, Google said.

Shares in GIPS were up 26.5 percent to 12.9 crowns at 0845 GMT on a slightly stronger Oslo bourse.

The offer will be fully funded by Google’s existing cash resources and the transaction is “not currently expected to require approval” from any competition authorities, Google said.

Its completion is subject to approval from the owners of 90 percent of GIPS shares or a waiver of the requirement by Google.

Facebook, mobile carriers offer free access to site

(Reuters) – Facebook has teamed up with 50 wireless operators to offer cellphone users a stripped-down version of the social networking site that can be accessed without incurring data charges.

Technology |  Media

The new site, dubbed 0.facebook.com, is a text-only version of Facebook’s flagship Internet site and is specially designed for mobile phones with limited bandwidth Internet connections.

The new site will be available beginning on Tuesday in 40 different countries, including Brazil, India, Indonesia and Turkey from a variety of carriers.

The new site comes as the world’s largest Internet social network continues to grow its base and looks for ways to increase the amount of time Web surfers spend using its service.

At the company’s annual developer’s conference last month, Facebook introduced new technology that allows third-party Web sites to integrate Facebook features directly.

Roughly one quarter of Facebook’s 400 million users access the site on mobile devices, according to the company.

But Facebook wants to make the service more accessible to cell phone users who do not own high-end smartphones such as Apple Inc’s iPhone, or phones based on Google Inc’s Android software.

“We are targeting people whose major barrier is they have little experience on the mobile Internet. They want to try it, they want something super simple, super fast. And they are potentially afraid of browsing costs,” said Henri Moissinac, who heads Facebook’s mobile business. “If you take an iPhone user in San Francisco, that’s not his problem.”

Among the carriers partnering with Facebook are Reliance and Videocon in India (with Tata Docomo coming soon), T-Mobile in Hungary and Vodafone in Greece.

Customers of the participating wireless operators will be able to access the new Facebook site without paying any wireless data charges, Facebook said.

The 0.facebook site offers the same capabilities as Facebook’s standard website, allowing members to view their news feed, comment on posts and send messages.

But 0.facebook will not feature any photos or videos — Web surfers can link to view photos and videos, although they will be charged standard wireless data fees by their carriers at that point.

Facebook is not paying the wireless operators any money to reimburse them for the free usage they provide and there are no financial terms to the partnerships, said Moissinac.

In addition to many so-called emerging economies in which 0.facebook will be offered, the site will be available in the United Kingdom, Finland and Hong Kong, among other places.

While the United States is not among the countries in which Facebook has operator deals, Moissinac said he hoped the site would eventually be available there as well.

Professional social networking booming

(Reuters) – Professional social networking companies are recovering well from the recession, boosted by a surge in members, and growth in fees from advertisers and recruiters.

Membership of professional social networks like LinkedIn and Viadeo has bloomed since late 2008 as tens of millions of consumers from around the world have sought to widen their “safety networks” fearing worsening economies.

“People spend less time on Facebook and more time on Viadeo during recession,” Dan Serfaty, chief executive of the world’s second largest professional social networking site Viadeo, said at the Reuters.

Professional sites seek to distance themselves from social networks like Facebook, taking a more sober approach and giving members more control over their profiles.

When economies have started to improve, advertisers and recruiters are returning to use the services, while continuing uncertainties over sustainability of the recovery and European economic problems are still boosting the take-up of services.

“It is almost a perfect mix, you have this underlying fear, but at the same time the economy is still growing, so business with recruiters, advertisers is exploding,” Serfaty said.

He said this perfect mix could not last for long as consumers’ continuing fears would hurt business growth.

“The professional social networking industry is recovering very well,” said Martin Olausson, director of digital media strategies unit at research firm Strategy Analytics.

“Because of the recession a lot of people have updated their resumes and increased their professional networking activities in the last year,” Olausson said.

Janel Landon, who runs a small public relations consulting firm in Chicago, joined LinkedIn in late 2008 when the recession started to bite. She spends an hour each morning on LinkedIn and other social networking sites and sees high value in them.

“It’s a learning tool as much as it is a place to make new acquaintances,” she said.

GLOBAL ROAMING DEAL ON HORIZON?

Viadeo CEO Serfaty said when the professional social networking market matures he expects key players to sign agreements which would enable access to other networks from within their own service.

“My bet is there will be a kind of roaming agreement at some point, like in the telecoms world,” Serfaty said, but added this would not happen any time soon.

“It’s too early, everybody is fighting for market share. You do it when market share has been established.”

LinkedIn said there are around 500 million professionals who could become its members. This compares with some 100 million members in professional social networks today. LinkedIn has more than 65 million members, compared with some 30 million members of Viadeo.

LinkedIn is among the Web’s fastest-growing social networking sites along with Facebook and Twitter, fueling speculation that it is positioning itself for an initial public offering.

An IPO “is not in the front of mind,” CEO Jeff Weiner told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in San Francisco.

At the last Viadeo board meeting, investors said unanimously it was not time to think about going public yet, Serfaty said, adding he would likely ask the board again in two years’ time.

LOOKING FOR BUYS, HIRES

LinkedIn is primarily looking for smaller deals that could provide important technology or talented staff.

Weiner said LinkedIn was growing its number of users fast enough that acquiring another social network was not necessary.

“The larger the network, in theory the more valuable the network. But we’re in a very strong organic trajectory right now,” Weiner said.

Viadeo’s Serfaty said he was actively looking for acquisitions to expand its business in its key markets of China, India and Latin America.

LinkedIn said it will have 900 employees by the end of the year, up from about 500 at the start of the year, while Viadeo aims to almost double its staff to 350 by the end of the year from around 200.

Yahoo buys user-generated publisher

(Reuters) – Yahoo said on Tuesday it has agreed to acquire the user-generated publishing company Associated Content to add more pages to attract advertisers.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Associated Content pays its 380,000 contributors a nominal fee to produce niche-related articles on thousands of topics like health, technology and travel.

With this deal, Yahoo is trying to capitalize on a deep trove of content created for very little money as traditional media companies struggle with the costs associated with producing news and features.

Newspapers, magazines and broadcasters have been downsizing their newsrooms on a severe drop in advertising revenue.

“We feel that a contributor-driven model is absolutely part of the future of media,” said Matthew Idema, vice president of local at Yahoo.

The idea is for Yahoo to broaden its content offerings as way to attract more advertisers.

Already the Internet company is producing its own material and has partnered with hundreds of newspapers and other traditional media companies to showcase their material.

Idema explained that Associated Content’s articles — mostly bite-sized pieces on subjects like how to turn back the clock on aging — will blend with other articles featured on Yahoo.

But with the Associated Content purchase, Yahoo does not have to split advertising revenue like it does with its other partners, nor does it have to pay large sums to produce it.

“It makes them a publisher, essentially,” said Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst with Outsell Research and author of the book Newsonomics. “Now they have a lot more content they can serve advertising against.”

Yahoo is in good company. AOL is trying to take advertising share by producing content — some of it provided by users with its Seed.com service.

AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong was an early investor in Associated Content while still an executive at Google Inc. His investment in Associated Content and AOL’s recent strategic moves to user-generated content had led to wide expectation that AOL would be the most-likely buyer of Associated Content.

Associated Content also competes with Demand Media — which is reported to be exploring an initial public offering — and The New York Times Co-owned About.com.

Google to fight government if AdMob deal blocked

(Reuters) – Google Inc Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said on Tuesday his company is prepared to fight the U.S. government “very hard” if regulators block the search leader’s acquisition of mobile advertising firm AdMob.

Schmidt said AdMob had been left at a “significant disadvantage” in competing with rivals like Apple Inc due to the hiatus as regulators have closely reviewed the $750 million acquisition, which was announced in November. He said he expects a decision in a few weeks.

In an interview with Reuters Insider, Schmidt was asked what Google would do in the event of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suing to block the deal.

“We’re likely to fight very hard,” he said. “It’s a very strategic acquisition for Google.”.

Google, which generates the majority of its profits from search advertising to Internet users on personal computers, sees its future on wireless phones and software. The company has its own mobile operating system called Android for a range of phones and this year also unveiled its own phone called the Nexus One.

The move to the mobile phone has put Google in more direct competition with Apple, whose successful iPhone has also been supported by a move into advertising with the acquisition of Quattro Wireless in January.

Apple recently changed the terms of service for iPhone application developers to restrict them to using Apple’s tool to build their programs and from sharing certain iPhone data with third parties.

Adobe Systems, the maker of Flash software, is one of the companies whose software can’t be used by these developers. Apple’s recent moves have attracted interest from the FTC, according to reports.

Schmidt said Apple’s changes in terms of services “discriminatory against other partners.”

Schmidt said he hoped the AdMob acquisition could be completed to allow it to compete with rivals like Apple.

“It would be better if the AdMob acquisition can be approved to see if Google can get a more competitive market on the iPhone platform.”

Schmidt, who was previously an Apple director, stepped down from Apple’s board last August when it became clear the two companies would be competing more directly in the wireless space.

He insisted that he and Apple CEO Steve Jobs remain good friends and that the two companies will remain both rivals and collaborators in different business areas.

“The relationship will continue to be complicated,” he said.

“Digital genome” safeguards dying data formats

SAANEN, Switzerland (Reuters Life!) – In a secret bunker deep in the Swiss Alps, European researchers on Tuesday deposited a “digital genome” that will provide the blueprint for future generations to read data stored using defunct technology.

Accompanied by burly security guards in black uniforms, scientists carried a time capsule through a labyrinth of tunnels and five security zones to a vault near the slopes of chic ski resort Gstaad.

The sealed box containing the key to unpick defunct digital formats will be locked away for the next quarter of a century behind a 3-1/2 tonne door strong enough to resist nuclear attack at the data storage facility, known as the Swiss Fort Knox.

“Einstein’s notebooks you can take down off the shelf and read them today. Roll forward 50 years and most of Stephen Hawking’s notes will likely only be stored digitally and we might not be able to access them all,” said the British Library’s Adam Farquhar, one of two computer scientists and archivists entrusted with transferring the capsule.

The capsule is the culmination of the four-year “Planets” project, which draws on the expertise of 16 European libraries, archives and research institutions, to preserve the world’s digital assets as hardware and software is superseded at a blistering pace.

“The time capsule being deposited inside Swiss Fort Knox contains the digital equivalent of the genetic code of different data formats, a ‘digital genome’,” said the grey-bearded Farquhar, coordinator of the 15 million-euro ($18.49 million) project.

“I can’t even read my own dissertation anymore except in paper form, because we didn’t have anything like this when I wrote it,” he said.

Around 100 GB of data — equivalent to 24 tonnes of books — has already been created for every single individual on the planet, ranging from holiday snaps to health records, project organizers said, adding this amounted to over 1 trillion CDs worth of data across the globe.

But as technological breakthroughs help people to live longer, the lifespan of technology gets shorter, meaning the European Union alone loses digital information worth at least 3 billion euros every year, they said.

Studies suggest common data storage formats like CDs and DVDs only last 20 years, while digital file formats have a life expectancy of just five to seven years. Hardware even less.

“Unlike hieroglyphics carved in stone or ink on parchment, digital data has a shelf life of years not millennia,” said Andreas Rauber, a professor at the University of Technology of Vienna, which is a partner in the project.

“Failure to implement adequate digital preservation measures now could cost us billions in the future,” Rauber said, adding that the project had made open-use software available online to enable people to decipher data stored in defunct formats.

Without supporting software and compatible operating systems, knowing what is on a disc, let alone reading the files will be impossible, Farquhar said.

The project hopes to preserve “data DNA,” the information and tools to access and read historical digital material and prevent digital memory loss into the next century.

“If we can nail the next 100 years, we figure we will be able to nail the next 100 years as well,” Farquhar said.

This could have uses for countless different organizations, from pharmaceutical companies trying to access test data decades from now or aerospace companies checking design details of planes built to fly for 30 or 40 years.

People will be puzzled at what they find when they open the time capsule, said Rauber.

“In 25 years people will be astonished to see how little time must pass to render data carriers unusable because they break or because you don’t have the devices anymore,” he said. “The second shock will probably be what fraction of the objects we can’t use or access in 25 years and that’s hard to predict.”

WHO study on mobile phone cancer risk ‘inconclusive’

Mobile phone user in London - file image

Mobile phone use has changed since the study began in 2000

The largest study to date on links between mobile phone use and certain types of brain cancer has proved inconclusive, researchers say.

The results indicate a possible health risk from heavy mobile phone use, said the World Health Organisation (WHO), which conducted the study.

But it said further research was needed for more conclusive answers.

The 10-year study of 13,000 people has been criticised because mobile phone companies provided 25% of the funding.

“The study doesn’t reveal an increased risk, but we can’t conclude that there is no risk because there are enough findings that suggest a possible risk,” the study’s chief author, Elisabeth Cardis, told AFP news agency.

Methodology questioned

The study looked at both healthy users of mobile phones and those with two types of brain cancer – glioma and miningioma tumours.

The heaviest phone users were reported to have a higher risk of both types of cancer but the researchers said “biases and errors” in the study prevented making a causal link.

Some data also suggested that overall, mobile phone users had a lower risk of brain cancer than people who do not use one.

But the researchers said problems with the study’s methodology meant the finding was unreliable.

The director of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which co-ordinated the study, said changing patterns of mobile phone use and lower emissions from handsets since the research began in 2000 meant further investigation into the phones and brain cancer was needed.

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says that some medical experts are already claiming the study is flawed – because instead of monitoring participants, it asked them to try to remember exactly how much and on which ear they had used their mobiles phones over the past ten years.

And questions have been raised over industry influence on the study, because mobile phone companies provided almost a quarter of the funding to carry it out.

A bigger study of the health effects of mobile phone use, involving 250,000 participants over 20-30 years, was launched in the UK last month.

Industry study shows brain tumour link to heavy mobile phone usage

A LONG-awaited international study of the health risks of mobile phones has linked extended mobile phone use to an increased risk of developing brain tumours.

The 10-year Interphone study, the world’s biggest study of the health effects of mobile phones, found while there was no increased risk of cancer overall, those in the top 10 per cent of phone use are up to 40 per cent more likely to develop glioma, a common type of brain cancer.

Just 30 minutes of mobile talk time daily was enough to put participants into the top 10 per cent category in the study, carried out in 13 countries, including Australia, and involving more than 5000 brain cancer patients worldwide.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which conducted the study and has repeatedly delayed its publication, summarised the findings by saying there were “suggestions of an increased risk of glioma, and much less so meningioma, in the highest decile (10 per cent) of cumulative call time, in subjects who reported phone use on the same side of the head as their tumour”.

It added “biases and errors limit the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn . . . and prevent a causal interpretation”.

But the finding – reported by British newspapers yesterday ahead of its official scheduled release this week – has nevertheless ignited controversy among cancer experts, neurologists and other scientists.

Australian neurosurgeons Charlie Teo and Vini Khurana said last night the findings were a concern. “Despite the study’s methodological limitations that biased it towards finding nothing, the heaviest users were found to be at significantly higher risk of glioma, which is consistent with our message,” Drs Teo and Khurana told The Australian.

“This (finding) does concern us, but it’s also an impetus to do two things: the mobile phone industry has to supply the actual hours logged, and we need to track brain tumour incidence in Australia.”

Other experts sought to reassure the public over the findings. IARC director Christopher Wild said an increased risk of brain cancer was “not established from the data from Interphone”.

“However, observations at the highest level of cumulative call time and the changing patterns of mobile phone use since the period studied by Interphone, particularly in young people, mean that further investigation of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk is merited,” Dr Wild said.

Although modern mobile phones have greatly reduced emissions the authors said phone use now was “much more prevalent and it is not unusual for young people to use mobile phones for an hour or more a day”.

Industry group the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association also emphasised the study found no increased risk overall, and its conclusion was “in line with the weight of scientific opinion, which has found no substantiated scientific evidence of any adverse health effects”.

The study’s authors said there was “reasonable doubt” about the credibility of some patients’ estimates of their phone use, which in 38 cases amounted to over five hours per day, and 12 hours or more per day in 10 cases. People with cancer were much more likely to report these very high usage rates than other study participants without cancer who were included as controls.

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