Target Reaches $67 Million Settlement with Visa over 2013 Data Breach
Target Corp. has reportedly agreed to pay as much as $67 million to banks that issue Visa credit cards in a settlement over a 2013 incident in which hackers stole personal information for millions of card holders. The agreement only covers Visa-related firms, and Target is working on a similar agreement with Mastercard-issuing firms. The size of the two agreements should approach the $100 million settlement paid out by Heartland Payment Systems over a similar breach in 2008. In all, the breach at Target exposed some 40 million credit and debit cardholders during the 2013 holiday shopping season.
US Housing Starts Surge to 8-Year High
The US Commerce Department reported Tuesday that housing starts surged to a near eight-year high in July as the world's largest economy continues to improve. According to the report, housing starts rose 0.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.21 million units. That's the fastest pace of groundbreaking on new homes since October 2007. That marks the fourth straight month in which starts were over the one million unit pace, and was the fastest pace for starts since October 2007. The pace also exceeded the consensus projection from a group of economists in a recent Bloomberg survey, which called for a pace of 1.19 million units. Combined with recent positive readings on jobs, retail sales and manufacturing, Tuesday's report helps paint a picture of a US economy that is finally approaching pre-recession health.
Google Reveals Major Restructuring Plan
Google surprised investors this week by revealing a bold new restructuring plan under which a new parent company called Alphabet Inc. will be created. As a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google will continue to run the search giant's most notable businesses, like search, Android and YouTube, while various other ventures will be organized separately under the Alphabet umbrella. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page will oversee Alphabet, while Sundar Pichai will be assigned the role of CEO at Google. Check out a letter Page sent to Google employees, informing them of the restructuring, below.
Volkswagen Passes Toyota as World's Number One Automaker
Germany's Volkswagen achieved a long-held goal in the first half of the year, surpassing Japan's Toyota as the world's largest automaker. According to figures released Tuesday, Volkswagen delivered a total of 5.04 million vehicles from January to June, edging out the 5.02 million vehicles Toyota sold in that time. Both companies are believed to be firmly ahead of General Motors, whose days atop the world carmaker list are far behind. Volkswagen, meanwhile, declined to brag about the achievement, choosing instead to focus on staying on top. The company's stated goal of being number one by 2018 is in reach, but it remains to be seen if it can avoid being passed by Toyota by the time the year ends.
Search for YouTube Videos on... Bing?
A common complaint among YouTube's most active users is that Google's search makes it annoying to search for musicians and their music. That's a pretty significant gripe when you consider that YouTube is now the Web's number one source for new music discovery. You would think that with all its knowledge and experience in searching the web, Google could find a better way to allow fans to find music, but the famed Google algorithm is designed to search the web for sources of information about a queried topic, not scour through videos for titles associated with a particular band. Turns out, however, that somebody else has been working on this problem, and appears to have a solution, though it's hard to believe who it is.
Internet Speeds Dropping, But Net Neutrality Won't Help
A set of FCC imposed net neutrality rules went into effect last month, aimed primarily at protecting Internet speeds across broadband and mobile networks. The Internet is slowing, however, yet it's not because mobile carriers are throttling customers with no-limit plans or broadband providers are selling preferred space for data hog companies that pay for the privilege. According to Web data tracker HTTP Archive, websites are growing in size, thus taking longer to load, all across the World Wide Web. The HTTP Archive report said that the average size for websites has increased 40 percent over the last two years, from 1.5 megabytes (MB) to 2.1 MB. The reasons for websites growing at this pace vary, but the impact is perpetual because when one website adds a specific type of content, rivals eventually follow suit and websites expand for companies in that entire industry.
Net Neutrality Rules Enacted as ISPs Fight to Overturn Them
The Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules officially went into effect on Friday, though there si still quite a bit of confusion as to what the rules actually do. The rules were published back on April 13th, but a two-month waiting period was observed before they went into effect. Several internet Service providers, including Verizon and AT&T, have filed an appeal, though it could take years before that action is eventually decided by the Supreme Court. The ISPs asked a judge to halt several sections of the rules until their appeal is resolved, but a court denied the request last week, on the same day the net neutrality rules were enacted.
Apple Goes Social to Differentiate New Streaming Service
Apple finally unveiled its new streaming service on Monday at its Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco. Dubbed Apple Music, the service will be available on multiple platforms on June 30th for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99 per month. In an effort to differentiate their product from rivals like Spotify and Rdio, Apple execs said that the service will be an all-in-one destination for music fans. In addition to providing instant access to all of the millions of titles on iTunes, the service also features a 24/7 radio broadcast and a platform for artists to communicate with fans. Called “Connect”, the communication feature excited some artists and music managers, who complain that there has not been a good social platform for music since the early days of MySpace. Within the Connect feature, artists will be able to have their own hubs featuring bios, pictures and videos of the artist, in addition to links to all of their songs and albums on iTunes. The pages appear pretty similar to profiles on Facebook or other social media outlets, except fans won't have to leave Apple Music to find out more about their favorite artists.
Dept. of Justice Sides with Oracle in Lawsuit Versus Google
Oracle scored a huge victory last week in its ongoing lawsuit against Google over the company's Android operating system. The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in the case last week which essentially confirms a lower court's ruling siding with Oracle. The brief also recommended that the Supreme Court not take up the case, effectively putting an end to the matter if the Supreme Court follows the DOJ recommendation. The nation's highest court had asked to take a look at the matter after a pair of lower courts issued opposing rulings, but the US Solicitor General is now asking the Supreme Court to hold off until the lower courts rule on Google's Fair Use argument.