Lawmakers consider AT&T’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile

Top executives from AT&T and T-Mobile USA are facing off against top officials from Sprint Nextel and Cellular South on Capitol Hill as lawmakers consider whether AT&T’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile would produce better mobile service for consumers or crush competition in the wireless industry.

AT&T President and Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Wednesday that the combination would lead to fewer dropped and blocked calls and faster mobile Internet connections for subscribers by allowing AT&T and T-Mobile to combine their limited wireless spectrum holdings.

But Sprint Nextel Chief Executive Daniel Hesse warned that if federal regulators approve the deal, the wireless industry would regress to “a 1980s-style duopoly” dominated by AT&T and Verizon, with smaller carriers like Sprint struggling to compete. 

Facebook apps may have leaked millions of users’ personal data

Facebook apps may have inadvertently leaked the personal data of millions of Facebook users to third parties such as advertisers, according to the Web security firm Symantec.

Among the information that could have been accessed is data from user profiles, pictures and Facebook chats between users.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the Palo Alto, Calif., company has updated its application programming interface (or API) to remove the weaknesses in its platform that Symantec discovered.

“We appreciate Symantec raising this issue, and we worked with them to address it immediately,” Facebook said. “Unfortunately, their resulting report has a few inaccuracies. Specifically, we’ve conducted a thorough investigation which revealed no evidence of this issue resulting in a user’s private information being shared with unauthorized third parties.

Symantec found that the data leaks took place in the mistaken giveaway of “access tokens” to third parties in as many as 100,000 different applications as of April, Symantec researcher Nishant Doshi said.

“We estimate that over the years hundreds of thousands of applications may have inadvertently leaked millions of access tokens to third parties,” he said. “Access tokens are like ‘spare keys’ granted by you to the Facebook application. Applications can use these tokens or keys to perform certain actions on behalf of the user or to access the user’s profile. Each token or ‘spare key’ is associated with a select set of permissions, like reading your wall, accessing your friend’s profile, posting to your wall, etc.” 

Long-awaited laptops that run Google software go on sale in June

The first laptops running on a Google-designed software system will go on sale in the U.S. and six other countries next month.

The June 15 release date means the lightweight laptops will hit the market nearly two years after Google Inc. began working on an operating system based on its Chrome Web browser.

Samsung Electronics Co. and Acer Inc. are making the first Chromebooks. They will sell for $349 to $499 at Best Buy and Inc. in the U.S. The cheapest IPad sells for $499.

Acer’s Chromebook, at $349, will have an 11.6-inch screen display and up to six hours of battery life. Samsung’s version, selling for $429 to $499, will have a 12.1-inch screen and up to 8.5 hours of battery life. Both models will have keyboards but no hard drives for storage. The machines will be like computer terminals dependent on a connection to the Internet. The laptops come with 16 gigabytes of flash memory — the kind found in smartphones, tablets and some iPods. They have slots to plug in other storages device you buy separately. 

Facebook sharing sends readers to top news sites

Facebook is influencing what news gets read online as people use the Internet’s most popular hangout to share and recommend content.

That’s one of the key findings from a study on the flow of traffic to the Web’s 25 largest news destinations. The study was released by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Facebook was responsible for 3 percent of traffic to the 21 news sites that allowed data to be tracked, according to the study’s co-author, Amy Mitchell. Five of the sites studied got 6 percent to 8 percent of their readers from Facebook, which has more than 500 million users.

The referrals typically came from links posted by friends on Facebook’s social networking site or from the ubiquitous “like” buttons, which Facebook encourages other websites to place alongside their content.

The Facebook effect is small compared with Google’s clout. Google Inc.’s dominant search engine supplies about 30 percent of traffic to the top news sites, according to Pew.

But Facebook and other sharing tools are empowering people to rely on their online social circles to point out interesting content. By contrast, Google uses an automated formula to help people find news.

Meanwhile, news sites are getting less than 1 percent of their traffic from Twitter, even though it had about 175 million accounts last year. 

— From news service reports