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Chinese Web Giant to Reimburse for Search Scams

Baidu, a Chinese Web company and operator of the country’s top search engine, will reimburse users for scams carried out by websites that appear in its search results.

This is an extension of a scheme Baidu launched in May, when it promised to compensate consumers who were scammed — but only up to about US$800, and only if the scamming site had paid for placement on Baidu.

Now, however, the $800 cap has been lifted, and organic search results will be included as well.

There are some asterisks: Users must have been logged in when they clicked on the devious link, and users must also have proof that a fraudulent transaction occurred.

Baidu reported that its reimbursement program yielded 3,628 complaints over the past three months, leading to the removal of more than 1,500 sites from its search index.

[Source: Tech In Asia]

In Midst of Legal Battle, Encrypted Email Service Vanishes

Lavabit, an encrypted email service reportedly used by Edward Snowden during his leak-peddling expedition, has been shut down amid a legal battle.

Ladar Levison, owner of Texas-based Lavabit, posted a letter on the company’s website Thursday saying he risked being “complicit in crimes against the American people” unless he shut down the site. The decision was reportedly six weeks in the making; the first Snowden leaks were published about eight weeks ago.

Four weeks ago, at a news conference in a Moscow airport, a rep from Human Rights Watch said she had been communicating with Snowden via Lavabit.

Levison didn’t discuss many details, but did say that the whole ordeal taught him to “strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”

Also on Thursday, Jon Callas, cofounder of Silent Circle, announced via Twitter and in a blog post that Silent Circle had discontinued its own encrypted email service, Silent Mail. “We see the writing on the wall,” he wrote.

[Source: Reuters]

Bill Gates Underwhelmed by Google’s ‘Loon’ Program

Microsoft founder and serial philanthropist Bill Gates isn’t so impressed with Google’s “Project Loon,” which sends balloons high into the air to beam Internet signals down to underprivileged parts of the world.

“When you’re dying of malaria,” Gates said, “I’m not sure how it’ll help you” to see an Internet balloon in the sky.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working to eradicate malaria, and judging by Gates’ comments, he thinks that is a far more noble cause than connecting poor areas of the world.

Loon could be used for, among other things, communicating in the wake of a natural disaster, Google said.

[Source: Bloomberg, via PC Magazine]

BlackBerry Ponders Going Private

Beleaguered smartphone maker BlackBerry is thinking about going private in the hope of reversing what is now a years-long slide.

The company’s board is increasingly receptive to the idea that it would be easier to revive the company if it were private, said CEO Thorsten Heins.

BlackBerry’s shares have fallen nearly 20 percent this year, while the company’s slice of the global smartphone operating system market has dipped to about 3 percent, according to IDC.

In the next eight months, BlackBerry will reportedly be launching more devices that run on the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

[Source: The Guardian]

David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author ofThe Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out hisECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.

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