Review Category : Top Stories

RadioShack Could Auction Personal Data for 117 Million Customers

Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) — RadioShack wants to auction off customer data for as many as 117 million customers as part of its bankruptcy proceedings, according to a legal filing tied to the Texas company’s bankruptcy case that attempts to block the data sale.

The Office of the Texas Attorney General has filed paperwork with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware handling the retailer’s case in which it objects to the sale of data covering names, email and mailing addresses, and purchases.

RadioShack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month, claiming more than $1.3 billion in liabilities and $1.2 billion in assets.

RadioShack, via email, declined to comment on the possible data sale — but privacy experts were not surprised a data sale was a possibility.

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Adi Kamdar, activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said it would come in an era when online start-ups rely on customer data as assets.

“It’s worrisome, though, if the data isn’t treated under a privacy policy similar to RadioShack’s when the customer information was first collected,” Kamdar said.

The Texas attorney general’s legal objection noted that RadioShack’s online privacy policy has disclaimers such as: “We will not sell or rent your personally identifiable information to anyone at this time.”

“RadioShack gave explicit assurance to its customers not to sell their personal data, and attempts to do so would not only be a direct violation of its own privacy policies, but also a violation of Texas law,” said Cynthia Meyer, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. “We will continue fighting to protect consumers’ personally identifiable information.”

Adam Levin, founder of IdentityTheft 911, hopes the Texas law and other similar state laws are enough to block the sale of the data.

“Customer information — including names, emails, phone numbers and addresses — is a valuable marketing toolkit that third parties should not be able to purchase,” Levin said. “Personal information collected by Radio Shack over the years is a valuable asset, but it should not be transferable, in this case.

“In light of the fact that RadioShack’s policy states that customer data cannot be sold to a third party, the bankruptcy court should stand up for consumer privacy,” Levin said.

In addition to the Texas attorney general’s objection, another factor might yet prevent the sale of the data.

Standard General, which has been discussed as a potential buyer of RadioShack, has been working with state authorities to ensure that, if they are the ultimate owner, all of RadioShack’s policies will stay intact and customer data will not be misused, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Levin hopes the sale of the data can be blocked, saying personal data presents security risks beyond just unwanted calls from marketers.

“If this data ends up in the hands of hackers, it can be used to launch phishing attacks, leaving customers exposed to malware by email, phone and text, in order to steal more personal and financial information,” Levin said.

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Germanwings Crash: American Mother-Daughter Pair Were on Board

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Two of the Americans on board the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday have been identified as a mother and daughter who were traveling together.

The mother has been identified as Yvonne Selke, who worked at the consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton, and the company has confirmed her identity to ABC News.

The second American victim was her daughter Emily Selke, who recently graduated from Drexel University.

“Our entire family is deeply saddened by the losses of Yvonne and Emily Selke,” the family said in a statement Wednesday. “Two wonderful, caring, amazing people who meant so much to so many. At this difficult time we respectfully ask for privacy and your prayers.”

“Booz Allen and our employees are mourning the sudden and shocking death of Yvonne Selke, an employee of nearly 23 years, and her daughter, Emily, in the Germanwings airliner crash in the French Alps this week,” Betty Thompson, an executive vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton, said in a statement.

“Yvonne was a wonderful co-worker and a dedicated employee who spent her career with the firm supporting the mission of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency,” Thompson said.

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo also offered condolences.

“Every death is a tragedy, but seldom does a death affect us all so directly and unexpectedly,” Cardillo said in a statement. “All of us offer our deepest condolences and will keep her family and her colleagues in our thoughts.”

The Selkes were two of the 150 people who died in the Tuesday morning crash.

There was a third American, yet to be identified, on board, according to the U.S. State Department.

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Audio File Recovered from Germanwings Black Box

ABC News(DIGNE, France) — The spokesman for the lead investigating agency said on Wednesday that they have recovered an audio file from the black box of the downed Germanwings flight but have not found the second black box from the Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps.

This comes after French Prime Minister Francois Hollande said at an earlier news conference that crews had found the exterior of the black box but not the module that contains the memory equipment, though the spokesman for the Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses (BEA) went on to deny any such discovery.

“We have not localized the black box,” said BEA Director Rémi Jouty. “We have not found any debris of the black box and in the history of air accidents we know about … [we] don’t remember any recorder broken into little pieces.”

When asked if they had ruled out the possibility of the crash being the result of a terrorist attack, he said the BEA is “not ruling out any hypothesis at this stage.”

Investigators have recovered an audio file from the first black box, the cockpit voice recorder, though no further details were revealed about whether or not voices are heard on the recording.

Jouty noted that it would take days for initial findings to be released, though it will be weeks before a full understanding is clear. But, he was able to weigh in and tentatively ruled several possible causes out based on the debris pattern.

“The area seems very big but the debris seems very small which is not at all consistent with an aircraft that exploded mid-air,” Jouty said.

“At the moment, there’s no information leading us to think that the weather conditions were particularly bad,” he said.

One of the problems facing investigators is the location of the crash site, as the area is very steep and unstable. Investigators and site crews have to be tied to one another when they are near the crash site to ensure their safety, Jouty said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann noted that two Americans were on board the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps Tuesday.

The U.S. State Department later confirmed that two Americans were on board.

“We are in contact with family members and we extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the 150 people on board,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “We are continuing to review our records to determine whether any other U.S. citizens might have been on board the flight.”

The Germanwings plane crashed Tuesday in the Alps in southern France with 150 people on board, including two babies, the airline said. Hollande said there were “apparently no survivors.”

Searchers returned to the crash scene on Wednesday, as France’s minister of the interior said a black box voice recorder from the plane is damaged. Even so, said the official, Bernard Cazeneuve, the information on the recorder should be retrievable.

The CEO of Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, said a full analysis of the voice recorder was expected to be done by Thursday. But Brice Robin, public prosecutor of Marseille, said on BFM TV that black box results could take several days.

The initial focus for the voice recorder investigators will be “on the human voices, the conversations,” followed by the cockpit sounds, France’s transport minister, Alain Vidalies, told Europe 1 radio Wednesday morning.

The flight data recorder has not been retrieved yet.

Police helicopter searches of the Germanwings Airbus crash site resumed Wednesday morning.

Xavier Roy, coordinator for French air rescue, told ABC News that no bodies are going to be taken from the mountain Wednesday, and that the investigation on site will take a week. Unlike other crash sites, Roy said, there isn’t much to find.

“When you go to a crash site you expect to recognize parts of an airplane.” he said. “Sadly, here you don’t see anything — just debris scattered all over.”

He added that this was a difficult area to search, as it is “nearly impossible to reach by foot,” making it challenging to get rescuers in and out of the area safely.

The top priorities now are locating bodies and the second black box, he said.

In addition to 72 Germans, 35 Spanish and two Americans on board, Winkelmann said there were two victims each from Australia, Argentina, Iran and Venezuela. One victim each came from Britain, the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Belgium and Israel, he said, adding that the list isn’t yet final because the company is still trying to contact relatives of 27 victims. Winkelmann added that in some cases, victims’ nationality weren’t clear because of possible dual citizenship.

Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy were scheduled to arrive at the crash staging area Wednesday.

The cause of the crash has not yet been determined, the Germanwings CEO said. Lufthansa called the crash “an accident.”

“Seeing the site of the accident was harrowing,” Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr tweeted Wednesday morning. “We are in deep mourning. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims.”

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How the New Kraft Heinz Co. Is About to Take Over Your Kitchen

PRNewsFoto/Kraft Foods Group(NEW YORK) — If you have Kool-Aid, Bagel Bites, Oscar Mayer or Planters products in your pantry, you’re already supporting the expected third-largest food company in North America.

Products like those are now part of the planned merger of Kraft Foods and Heinz to create the Kraft and Heinz Co., which the companies say would have a presence in nearly 100 percent of U.S. homes.

Kraft Heinz products would trail in North America only behind gigantic brands PepsiCo and Nestle. Already, Kraft alone has a 98 percent penetration in North American households, the companies say. And there are already more than 50 countries where Heinz products have the largest or second-largest market share.

Kraft Heinz, which would be the fifth-largest food company in the world, is expected to be headquartered in Pittsburgh, where Heinz is based, and Northfield, Illinois, where Kraft is headquartered.

The H.J. Heinz Co., which was founded by Henry Heinz in 1869, actually first sold bottled horseradish from a recipe from the founder’s mother. Ketchup followed in 1876.

Oscar Mayer is among the oldest of the Kraft brands. Oscar F. Mayer, an immigrant from Germany, leased a failing meat market in Chicago with the help of his brothers in 1883.

In the same city in 1903, James Lewis “J.L.” Kraft bought wholesale cheese and sold it to small stores. He incorporated J.L. Kraft & Bros. Co. with four brothers in 1909.

H.J. Heinz is buying Kraft Foods Group, pending Kraft shareholders’ approval, which split from Mondelez International in 2012. The combined company would have eight brands with annual sales of over $1 billion each, one of which includes Heinz ketchup, which sells over $650 million bottles globally in sales of more than $1.5 billion in more than 140 countries. Five Kraft Heinz Co. brands would have annual sales between $500 million and $1 billion.

The two companies would not only carry the Kraft and Heinz brands, but products from Lunchables, Velveeta, Oscar Mayer, Jell-O, Bagel Bites, Planters, Kool-Aid, Maxwell House, Philadelphia cream cheese, Lea & Perrins, Classico pasta sauces, TGI Fridays and Ore Ida.

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Romney on Emerging 2016 Field: I’m ‘Going to Be Aggressively Neutral’

ABC/ DONNA SVENNEVIK(WASHINGTON) — As the 2016 presidential race looms ahead, former Republican nominee Mitt Romney assessed the fresh crop of potential Republican nominees Tuesday, starting with newly-minted presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

“He is a person of very sound capability and I think you’re going to hear a lot from him,” Romney said of Cruz, who announced the launch of his campaign on Monday.

Romney said that he remembers Cruz speaking at the RNC in 2012 without notes and noted the Texas senator “spellbound the audience there.”

On his own 2016 endorsement, Romney said, “I’m going to be very, very aggressively neutral in this process.”

“I like Jeb Bush a lot. I think he’d be a terrific president. I like Marco Rubio. Scott Walker, I like a lot…Chris Christie, boy the guy tells the truth in your face if he disagrees with you.”

Asked if Christie can overcome low poll numbers, Romney said, “America loves a comeback, and Chris is poised to do that.”

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What Facebook Plans to Discuss at F8 Developer Conference

Facebook(SAN FRANCISCO) — Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, the spring board for some of the company’s biggest ideas, kicks off Wednesday in San Francisco.

Mark Zuckerberg is slated to open the two-day event with a keynote speech.

While the event focuses on creatives and developers instead of the site’s 1.39 billion users, it has been used in previous years to announce changes, including the social graph, timeline features and the like buttons now seen on many websites.

Facebook hasn’t said what news it will break at F8 this year, however, a glance at the conference schedule gives an idea of what themes will be in store for 2015.

Virtual reality will be huge as the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift gets closer to its goal of releasing gaming headsets to consumers. Only the developer’s version of Oculus are currently available.

A keynote on Thursday called “Why Virtual Reality Will Matter to You” will be hosted by Oculus’ chief scientist Michael Abrash.

The Facebook-backed Internet.org initiative to bring mobile connectivity to people in lesser developed countries has taken off over the past year, coming to countries spanning the globe, from Colombia to India.

“Building for the Next Billion” at F8 will take a look at how developers can help build experiences for people who are coming online for the first time.

Also expect to hear news from Facebook regarding its Messenger app, which Facebook announced last week would begin supporting peer to peer payments. Some reports have raised the possibility that Facebook may turn Messenger into a platform, opening it up to outside developers.

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Italian Police Arrest Three Suspected Recruiters for ISIS

iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) — Police in Italy have arrested three suspected members of an Islamic extremist cell believed to be recruiting jihadists for ISIS.

Two of the suspects were taken into custody in northern Italy Wednesday after authorities searched their property.

Police say one suspect — a 20-year-old Italian of Moroccan descent — is accused of posting 64 pages of pro-ISIS propaganda on the Internet. The document was posted on Facebook and other sites and was written in Italian — evidence, police say, of an attempt to recruit jihadists in Italy.

The two other suspects, an uncle and nephew, have Albanian citizenship. One lives in northern Italy and the other in Albania.

Police say all three were in touch with an ISIS fighter with links to Italy.

Wednesday’s arrests were the result of a long, covert operation, according to authorities.

Italy has been on high alert for terrorist attacks since ISIS threatened it would invade Rome in a video several months ago.

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J.J. Watt Restructures Deal to Free Up Cap Space

Scott Halleran/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Houston Texans All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt restructured his deal to free up cap space for this season, ESPN’s Field Yates reports.

Watt has agreed to turn $10 million roster bonus he was due into a signing bonus that allows Houston to have $8 million in cap space this year.

“Out of all the plays that he played, I had 120 plays that were either a TFL, a quarterback hit, a quarterback sack, a batted ball, an interception, a fumble recovery, a caused fumble,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said at the NFL Meetings on Tuesday. “On 120 plays, he did one of those seven things.”

O’Brien is looking forward to seeing what Watt can do in his fifth season in the league.

“He knows that he has no limit,” O’Brien continued. “His ability to come back and be an even better player, which probably sounds crazy to some people, it’s not crazy to us in Houston. We can’t wait to see him when he comes back.”

Watt had 20.5 sacks, 78 tackles, 50 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles and 10 blocked passes this season.

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Why Some Bees Are Now Carrying Backpack Trackers

Kew Gardens(LONDON) — Here’s the buzz about these crazy bee trackers: Ecologists at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London have suited up bumble bees with tiny metal trackers to map their behavior in hopes the data will help them understand why the insects are in decline.

Attaching something so small to a buzzing bee takes both patience and precision.

Kew Gardens

In order to suit up the bees, they were first chilled for 10 minutes to make them calmer. Using tweezers, researchers then carefully glued the trackers onto the bees’ backs using superglue.

Kew Gardens

The bee backpacks measure 4.8 millimeters by 8 millimeters. They include radio frequency identification tags that allow ecologists to detect bee behavior from as far as 1.2 meters from a detecting unit.

Each bee has a unique tag that allows researchers to monitor their behavior. The tag reports back to the detecting unit within its range.

“This piece of the puzzle, of bee behavior, is absolutely vital if we are to understand better why our bees are struggling and how we can reverse their decline,” Sarah Barlow, a scientist at Kew Gardens who tested the technology, said in a statement.

The technology, which was developed by Tumbling Dice Ltd., could be used after the trial to track the movements of other insects and how they interact with flora, fauna, crops and the world around us, scientists said.

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UPDATE: Power Restored For More Than 4,000 Findlay Residents

3/25/15 – 7:24 A.M.
Update – 11:45 A.M.

Power is back on for the thousands of Findlay residents who were left in the dark this morning.

More than 4,400 people on Findlay’s north and east sides lost power around 6:30 a.m. AEP officials said a substation problem apparently caused the outage and they would have power back on by noon.

The outage knocked out several traffic lights in the city. City officials remind you to treat those intersections like a four-way stop.

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