As millions of people shop online for new insurance plans under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law, about 10 percent of applications to the main website are not being accurately transmitted, a government spokeswoman said on Friday. Last week, the White House wrapped up a five-week emergency effort to fix the most obvious of the website's technical problems and between midnight on Sunday and noon on Friday, government health officials said 3.7 million people visited. HealthCare.gov relays information about new customers in so-called "834" transaction forms to the private insurance companies that provide the health plans. "We believe nine of 10 transactions are being successfully transmitted," the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, spokeswoman Julie Bataille said at a news briefing.
Twitter Inc is tying up with a Singapore-based startup to make its 140-character messaging service available to users in emerging markets who have entry-level mobile phones which cannot access the Internet. U2opia Mobile, which has a similar tie-up with Facebook Inc, will launch its Twitter service in the first quarter of next year, Chief Executive and Co-founder Sumesh Menon told Reuters. Users will need to dial a simple code to get a feed of the popular trending topics on Twitter, he said. More than 11 million people use U2opia's Fonetwish service, which helps access Facebook and Google Talk on mobile without a data connection.
Royal Bank of Scotland said its banking platform was briefly attacked by hackers on Friday, causing problems for some customers trying to access online accounts, just days after a more serious technology crash. RBS said a surge in internet traffic directed at its NatWest website at about 1130 GMT was a deliberate attempt to disrupt its service. Banks typically do not comment on such events, but RBS released a statement to customers after a system crash on Monday left more than 1 million customers unable to withdraw cash or pay for goods. "Due to a surge in internet traffic directed at the NatWest website, customers experienced difficulties accessing some of our sites today ... at no time was there any risk to customers," RBS said.
By Keith Weir LONDON (Reuters) - Bookmakers are preparing for a tax avoidance crackdown on online gambling in Britain that will cost the industry 300 million pounds ($490 million) a year, putting a brake on the fastest growing part of their businesses. Many bookmakers have set up internet operations in territories such as Gibraltar, allowing them to sign up British gamblers while benefiting from benign local tax regimes. Britain's government, however, is taking a tough line on tax avoidance as it seeks to swell the Treasury's coffers, planning a 15 percent duty on bookmakers' online winnings from British-based customers from next December. That would bring the tax regime into line with the duties bookmakers pay on takings in betting shops and provide a rare example of taxation policy catching up with the internet age.
President Barack Obama said on Thursday he intends to propose National Security Agency reforms to reassure Americans that their privacy is not being violated by the agency. "Part of what we're trying to do over the next month or so is, having done an independent review and brought a whole bunch of folks, civil libertarians and lawyers and others to examine what's being done, I'll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA and to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence," Obama said in an interview on the MSNBC television program "Hardball with Chris Matthews." A steady drip of revelations of NSA snooping has raised widespread concern about the reach of the agency's operations and its ability to pry into the affairs of private individuals as well as the communications of foreign leaders. The information comes from documents made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Obama said he would not comment on details of NSA programs, but that while revelations of the agency's activities have raised legitimate concerns, some aspects have been exaggerated.
By Paul Carsten and Jane Lanhee Lee BEIJING (Reuters) - The website of China's biggest Internet video company Youku Tudou Inc was once a haven for illicit Hollywood blockbusters and hit South Korean soap operas, until it realised piracy really doesn't pay. Now the company that controls almost a third of China's booming online video market forks out more than a billion yuan ($164 million) a year on licenses so it can legally distribute movies and shows like "The Walking Dead", a strategy expected to result in its first ever quarterly net profit. And to protect this market share, Youku Tudou employs a dozen sleuths who scour the web for pirated content, highlighting how China's online video industry is courting higher advertising revenues and better relations with foreign media firms by cracking down on illegal content. "The biggest challenge is that there are more new ways to pirate video as the technology develops," Lu Changjun, the head of Youku Tudou's Internet police squad, told Reuters.
Microblogging site Twitter Inc named Marjorie Scardino, former chief executive of publishing company Pearson, to its board on Thursday following criticism that it lacked diversity in the top ranks of the company. The addition of Scardino, who is also a former CEO of The Economist Group and a former board member of phone maker Nokia, expands Twitter board to eight members. Twitter, which went public last month, was heavily criticized for its all-male board on the eve of its hugely successful public offering. Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo had previously publicly brushed off criticism on the lack of diversity and even got into a public debate on Twitter with Stanford University fellow Vivek Wadhwa on the issue.
China's central bank will closely monitor the development of Internet financial services to ensure companies do not cross any legal red lines, a senior central bank official said on Thursday. Internet financing and traditional banking services complement each other, Liu Shiyu, a vice central bank governor, said in a speech published on the central bank's website, www.pbc.gov.cn. "We will encourage internet financial innovations and tolerate mistakes. Financial scams have multiplied in China as individual wealth grows, while a lack of financial knowledge and education means many people do not know how to protect their money.
The competition between Microsoft and Google is stretching to the North Pole as the Internet search rivals vie to be top Santa tracker this Christmas. Google on Wednesday launched a google.com/santatracker website offering reindeer games, elf antics and updates on beloved gift-giver Kris Kringle as children worldwide count down to Christmas eve. "A team of Google engineers are working hard to track Santa's sleigh with the most advanced maps and holiday technology available," self-titled Elf Creative Director Sandy Russell said in a blog post. Google has crafted software to involve Android-powered devices and its Chrome web browsers in on the Claus tracking action.
Security experts have uncovered a trove of some 2 million stolen passwords to websites including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo from Internet users across the globe. Researchers with Trustwave's SpiderLabs said they discovered the credentials while investigating a server in the Netherlands that cyber criminals use to control a massive network of compromised computers known as the "Pony botnet." The company told Reuters on Wednesday that it has reported its findings to the largest of more than 90,000 websites and Internet service providers whose customers' credentials it had found on the server. The data includes more than 326,000 Facebook Inc accounts, some 60,000 Google Inc accounts, more than 59,000 Yahoo Inc accounts and nearly 22,000 Twitter Inc accounts, according to SpiderLabs.
A vote on a bill that would force Internet giants like Google and Facebook to keep Brazilians' information inside the country will be delayed until next year over disagreements about its content, a senior lawmaker told Reuters on Wednesday. The bill would give President Dilma Rousseff powers to order Internet companies to store users' data in local servers, a move seen as response to allegations that the United States spied on her communications and that of thousands of regular Brazilians. The delay is a temporary relief for Google and Facebook, which oppose a requirement they say would increase costs and erect unnecessary barriers in one of the world's largest Internet markets. The postponement of the vote stems from disagreements among government allies in Congress over the requirement and a "neutrality" clause that bars telecom companies from charging different rates for Internet speed.
By Julien Ponthus and Leila Abboud PARIS (Reuters) - Online video company Netflix met with the French president's staff on Tuesday to discuss a possible launch of its streaming service in Europe's third-largest market, in what would be a blow to traditional television companies. Netflix, which was created in the United States and is now available in 41 countries, has to-date focused on English-speaking markets in Europe such as Britain, the Netherlands, and the Nordics, although rumors of their arrival in France have been recurrent for years. "Netflix wanted information about the legal conditions that would affect its potential arrival in France," an official at the president's office said, adding that the executives were also visiting Germany and other European countries. Netflix sells monthly subscriptions that allow users to watch television series and movies via the Internet on their televisions, tablet computers and mobile phones.
By Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. insurers fear that a surge in enrollments on the revamped government-run healthcare website could create more problems for insurance companies already struggling with error-filled applications for coverage three weeks before a sign-up deadline. In what could become the next major headache for President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy, a group representing leading U.S. insurers said on Tuesday that technology fixes that will enable millions of people to sign on to HealthCare.gov have not fully addressed faulty data that the site has been sending these companies about their new enrollees. The problems include enrollment forms with erroneous personal information and duplicate or missing applications. The warning coincided with an effort by Obama to win back support for the healthcare overhaul after the website's disastrous October 1 debut sent his job approval ratings plummeting and threatened to damage fellow Democrats in next year's congressional elections.
Pop singer Miley Cyrus and the trial of boyfriend-killer Jodi Arias dominated Yahoo's online searches in 2013, the web search engine said on Tuesday, while rapper-producer duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis dominated music streams on Spotify. Cyrus, 21, generated the most overall searches on Yahoo this year, overtaking reality television personality Kim Kardashian, who topped the list last year. Cyrus has had an attention-filled 2013, in which she grabbed headlines for her breakup with actor-fiance Liam Hemsworth, danced provocatively on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards in August, and released her new album "Bangerz" in October.
Google Inc will lower prices on cloud services as the search giant gears up to take on Amazon.com Inc, International Business Machines Corp and Microsoft Corp in the fast-growing market of Internet services for corporations. In a Monday blogpost, Google outlined key features and pricing for "Compute Engine," part of a broader service that vies with Amazon's AWS in providing storage and computing power to corporate clients as in-house datacenters are gradually phased out. Google said the service was now "generally available," signaling that it meets internal standards and is ready for a wider rollout. "Google is positioned to become the next large player in cloud services, with a robust platform of application, platform and infrastructure services, competing for an increasing share of the IT spending pie." (Reporting by Edwin Chan;
(Reuters) - China Mobile Ltd, the world's largest mobile phone carrier, has quietly begun taking pre-orders for Apple Inc's iPhones, according to a report on Fortune.com. Apple, which needs to expand its footprint in China, its biggest market after the United States, is trying to offset slowing revenue growth in developed markets that are increasingly saturated and hyper-competitive. Apple fell to No. 7 in the second quarter in China, the world's largest mobile market, with 5 percent market share, losing ground not just to Samsung Electronics Co Ltd but also to local rivals Lenovo Group Ltd and ZTE Corp. Fortune's report, which could not be confirmed by Reuters, showed a screen grab from a reservation website that Fortune said was registered by a China Mobile subsidiary in southern China that began taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5c late on Monday.
Facebook is boosting its efforts to put more news in its News Feed. The world's biggest social network, cognizant of its growing importance for discovering news, said in a blog post on Monday that it is revising the way it delivers information to its billion-plus users. "People use Facebook to share and connect, including staying current on the latest news, whether it's about their favorite celebrity or what's happening in the world," said the blog post from Facebook engineering manager Varun Kacholia and software engineer Minwen Ji. "We've noticed that people enjoy seeing articles on Facebook, and so we're now paying closer attention to what makes for high quality content, and how often articles are clicked on from News Feed on mobile.
It was a year for "twerking," "selfies," and "cronuts" in Internet searching, right up there with Hollywood, pop and reality stars. Web users also were interested in subjects ranging from the "Zombie Apocalypse" to the troubled rollout of Obamacare, according to an annual review by Yahoo released Tuesday. For Americans, Miley Cyrus was the top search query on Yahoo -- inspired by the pop star's go at the butt-shaking dance called twerking. Yahoo's 2013 year in review released Tuesday said Cyrus dethroned reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who dropped to number two despite her highly publicized pregnancy, divorce and engagement.
By Poornima Gupta SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc has acquired social media search and analytics startup Topsy, an unusual purchase for a hardware-focused company that has made few forays into social networking. Apple confirmed the acquisition but would not say why it bought the company, which specializes in analyzing Twitter data and providing insights into current sentiment on a variety of topics. The Wall Street Journal, which reported the news earlier, cited people familiar with the deal as saying Apple paid over $200 million. "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said.
Apple Inc has acquired social media search and analytics startup Topsy, an unusual purchase for a hardware-focused company that has made few forays into social networking. Apple confirmed the acquisition but would not say why it bought the company, which specializes in analyzing Twitter data and providing insights into current sentiment on a variety of topics. The Wall Street Journal, which reported the news earlier, cited people familiar with the deal as saying Apple forked over more than $200 million. "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said.