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Facebook lets users form groups and download data

Posted by arnon_k On October - 7 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Facebook is letting users form cozy cliques as part of a move to give people more control of their information at the world’s most popular online social network.

A “Groups” feature that lets Facebook members set up private online havens for clusters of family, co-workers, teammates, or others was unveiled Wednesday at the firm’s headquarters in the Californian city of Palo Alto.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg said that the “biggest problem” in online social networking is that people tend to divide their friends into separate circles that they interact with differently, such as co-workers or former school chums.

“Now, people can map out all the real world groups they have in a graph,” Zuckerberg said, referring to “Groups.”

“If we can do this, we can unlock a huge amount of sharing people want to do that they don’t do now because it’s too annoying or the privacy,” he said.

Groups are shared spaces in which people can communicate with tools including email lists and “group chat that is pretty killer,” he added.

“We think that what we have out of the box, version one, blows away everything else,” Zuckerberg said, referring to “groups” services offered by Internet stalwarts such as Yahoo! and Google.

Facebook also began rolling out a feature that will let people download all pictures, video, comments and other digital information they have uploaded to the social networking service.

“Download is really so you can have a copy of all your information,” Zuckerberg said. “You own your information. You should have control over it. You should be able to do whatever you want with it.”

A new “dashboard” feature to be rolled out in the coming days will let Facebook users see and manage what information in their accounts is accessed by third-party applications.

Explaining the new features, Forrester social computing analyst Augie Ray said “the dialogue during the past year that popped up over privacy issues may have caused people in Facebook to get nervous.

“What we are seeing today is a genuine desire to stop those concerns while at the same time really give people better control,” Ray said.

The new features are part of a drive to build Facebook into a “social platform” where people share and connect across the gamut of applications used to swap pictures, messages, videos and more online, according to Zuckerberg.

“We think social can be like the PC (personal computer) platform, giving people control of their information in different contexts,” he said.

“Groups” was built with the help of Hot Potato, a young New York City Internet firm that Facebook bought in August.

Hot Potato about nine months ago launched a social networking service that lets smartphone users “check-in” to let friends know what they are thinking, watching, playing, attending, listening to, or otherwise doing.

“Groups are about how we are living our lives today,” said Hot Potato founder and Facebook Groups leader Justin Shaffer. “We think this is going to change, fundamentally, how you use Facebook today.”

People forming Facebook Groups can make them open, closed, or secret.

Membership and content of open groups is public, while the content of closed groups can only be seen by members. Secret groups hide their membership and contents.

Analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley doubted that features Facebook started rolling out Wednesday would do much to ameliorate concerns about how safe personal data is in the online community.

“They are approaching a trust issue like you would a technology problem and patching the product,” Enderle said.

“They are turning people into mini data managers,” he continued. “But, if you don’t trust Facebook in the first place, why would you believe your Group is a contained area that Facebook won’t mine?”

Europe demands China budge on currency

Posted by arnon_k On October - 7 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

European Union leaders said Wednesday that they had urged Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to act to raise the value of China’s yuan currency, during a fractious summit in Brussels.

“We stressed that structural reforms in Europe and in China were essential, and highlighted the role of appropriate exchange rates,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said in joint remarks released at the end of talks that lasted under three hours.

“We underlined the importance of rebalancing global growth and reducing global imbalances,” the pair said, referring to concerns that an undervalued yuan skews trade flows in favour of cheap Chinese exports.

An EU source told AFP that the effort to get China to ease its policy of pegging the yuan to the US dollar, at a time when the euro has hit an eight-month high on currency markets, fell flat.

“We put our cards on the table,” the source said. “We heard each other out and managed to establish a dialogue of sorts in the economic sphere.

“But it was not an easy summit.”

Earlier, Wen had told a Europe-China business forum: “I say to Europe’s leaders — don’t join the chorus pressing (China) to revalue the yuan.”

A sharp yuan appreciation would “cause many Chinese companies to go bankrupt, casting people out of work … and creating social unrest,” Wen said.

The summit, which started an hour late, ended with Wen, due next in Rome for talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, left without meeting the Western media.

A planned press conference was cancelled when it became clear that time constraints and sharply diverging views on currency, trade, representation for emerging nations in global institutions, and human rights issues, dear to the EU’s heart, would not be bridged, the EU source added.

Van Rompuy and Barroso said that the EU also told Wen of “the need for a level playing field in China for our businesses,” including the “opening up of public procurement” — government contracts.

Europe has threatened to make it tougher for Chinese companies to win major contracts if it does not ease barriers.

Rompuy and Barroso also noted that on the issue of greater representation for emerging economies on global bodies such as the International Monetary Fund — something Beijing wants to see — more say came with added responsibilities.

“We underlined that enhanced representation should go hand in hand with enhanced responsibilities in global governance,” the two said.

Changes to board representation are likely to figure at the upcoming IMF annual meeting in Washington. The EU has offered reforms, including changes to its own seats, but attached a host of conditions in return.

Suthep to officially step down tomorrow

Posted by arnon_k On October - 7 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Deputy Prime Minister for security affairs Suthep Thaugsuban said on Thursday morning that he will submit his letter of resignation from the cabinet to the prime minister tomorrow.

“I will perform my duties for the last time today and will then submit my resignation letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva tomorrow, when he returns from attending the Asem summit in Belgium,” said Mr Suthep.

Mr Suthep will leave Bangkok for Surat Thani tonight and register as a candidate in the Oct 30 House by-election in Surat Thani’s constituency 1 on Friday, the last day for registration.

It has been speculated that Mr Suthep is running for a House seat so he would qualify to be prime minister if the Democrat Party is dissolved by the court for violating the election law. It is speculated he would take over leadership of the rank and file Democrat MPs, under a new party name, and attempt to reform the government coalition.

Mr Suthep, however, has denied he was preparing to become prime minister.

Pheu Thai-Gov’t fence-mending talks on track

Posted by arnon_k On September - 7 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

The five-point Pheu Thai plan for reconciliation with the government has remained on table, party deputy leader Plodprasop Suraswadi said on Tuesday, dismissing speculation about the plan aborted.

“Pheu Thai will not be discouraged nor call off the reconciliation just because someone in the government made offensive remarks,” he said.

The speculation about the collapse of fence-mending talks circulated after Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban voiced scepticism about the opposition’s sincerity by citing continuing attempts to undermine the monarchy.

This prompted a fiery denial from Pheu Thai leader Yongyuth Wichaidit.

Plodprasop said he was surprised by the Suthep-Yongyuth spat since the two had family ties and came from the same hometown, Surat Thani.

He insisted, however, that Yongyuth merely reacted to Suthep’s remarks in his personal capacity, which did not reflect on the party’s stand.

“The reconciliation plan has been endorsed by the Phue Thai executive board,” he said, adding his main opposition party is in the process of naming its representatives for fence-mending talks.