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'Searching staff emails would be time-consuming'

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Quotw This was the week when the details of Facebook's acquisition of revenueless app firm Instagram – for $1bn – emerged.

The social network's CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly negotiated Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom down from $2bn and agreed the deal from the comfort of his couch in his home in Palo Alto – purportedly without informing the board.

While it's somewhat comforting to think that no bankers, lawyers or other corporate types were used in the making of this deal, it also smacks somewhat of megalomania on the part of the young dot.com chiefs...

This was also the week when Oracle's case against Google alleging copyright and patent infringement over use of Java in the Android operating system – or, as it's better known, Larry v Larryfinally came to trial in the US.

Both CEO Larrys, Google's Page and Oracle's Ellison, took the stand in the opening days to argue their cases.

First to take the stand was Larry Ellison, who admitted that Oracle thought about entering the smartphone market itself by buying Palm or RIM.

I had an idea that we could compete with everyone in the smartphone business. It was an idea I wanted to explore. We explored it and decided it was a bad idea.

Ellison also defended Oracle's suit being about Java, which is supposed to be open source. He said Google should have taken a licence for Java just like others had done:

Just because something is open source, doesn't mean you can do whatever you want with it.

Google chief Larry Page was up next, facing close questioning about the allegation that the Chocolate Factory knew it was using Java without permission.

Page was faced with Oracle's prime exhibit: an email from Google engineer Tim Lindholm, who had been tasked with finding an alternative to Java to use in Android.

The choice part of the email read:

What we've actually been asked to do (by Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin]) is to investigate what technical alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome. We've been over a bunch of these, and think they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need.

Page took the time-honoured testimonial stance of temporary amnesia, claiming he didn't remember the email and didn't ask Lindholm to investigate.

He also claimed that Google had tried to reach a licensing agreement with Sun between 2005 and 2007, but the companies couldn't reach an arrangement:

We really wanted to use Sun's technology. It would have saved us a lot of time and trouble to use Sun's technology. When we weren't able to have our business partnership, we went down our own path.

Other litigation this week included the Parents v Apple suit in the US, which managed to evade the fruity firm's attempts to get it dismissed.

A judge has ruled that the suit against Apple, which is seeking damages over kids' unknowingly expensive in-app purchasing on their parents' credit cards, can go ahead.

Apple tried to get the case dismissed on the basis that it was the parents' own fault for giving their wee ones their iTunes' passwords, but the judge disagreed, calling the games in question "bait apps" that shouldn't be aimed at children:

Numerous gaming apps are offered for free, although many such games are designed to induce purchases of what Apple refers to as "In-App Purchases" or "In-App Content", ie, virtual supplies, ammunition, fruits and vegetables, cash and other fake "currency", etc within the game in order to play the game with any success.

These games are highly addictive, designed deliberately so, and tend to compel children playing them to purchase large quantities of Game Currency, amounting to as much as $100 per purchase or more.

Meanwhile, Google was also in hot water legally, but with the regulators rather than its users.

First, the Chocolate Factory was fined $25,000 for impeding the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigation of its Street View cars, which "accidentally" collected a load of data including emails and passwords from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.

The web behemoth copped to the data slurp itself, but apparently wasn't too hospitable when the FCC came to call to investigate further, the commission said:

Although a world leader in digital search capability, Google took the position that searching its employees' email 'would be a time-consuming and burdensome task'.

Google didn't get any time on the naughty step at all for the actual slurp, which the FCC said wasn't unlawful because the data wasn't encrypted.

But the search giant is also in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission, which is none too pleased with it bypassing the default privacy settings of Apple's Safari browser.

The fines it could face in that case would be substantial, not a piffling $25,000, as Google already has a we'll-do-better-on-privacy agreement with the commission.

And Google co-founder Sergey Brin wasn't exactly covering himself in glory this week either.

In a wide-ranging interview on open web access, Brin bitched about the walled gardens of Apple and Facebook, apparently calling them a threat to internet freedom. After his comments had been repeated all over the interwebs, Brin took to Google+ to correct the terrible misunderstanding.

After reassuring the world at large that he totally loved and respected Facebook and Apple, he kissed some butt:

I am writing this post on an iMac and using an Apple keyboard I have cherished for the past seven years. Likewise, Facebook has helped to connect hundreds of millions of people, has been a key tool for political expression and has been instrumental to the Arab Spring. Both have made key contributions to the free flow of information around the world.

As well as being in awe of Facebook and Apple, Brin also said in the original interview that he was terrified of the repressive power of China:

I am more worried than I have been in the past. It's scary. I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle. ®

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