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theEweekly Wrap: Patents, smartphones and Nein to tagging

Tagging VerbotenThe data protection authority in Germany has written to Facebook demanding that it stop gathering facial recognition of German citizens. The social network rolled out a facial recognition photo tagging feature in June 2011, causing something of a stir. This week, Johannes Caspar of the German government has threatened the site with a fine of £262,000 if the data is not deleted immediately. He said: "Should Facebook maintain the function, it must ensure that only data from persons who have declared consent to the storage of their biometric facial profiles be stored in the database."


The German authorities – and indeed Johannes Caspar – have taken a hard line on privacy in the past. In January, Google Analytics was banned in Germany over fears that tracking user activity was a breach of privacy. After a barrage of complaints, Google also abandoned the Street View project for Germany in April.


Smartphone nationOfcom has conducted its annual Communications Market Report, revealing how much time we all spend on which gadgets and websites. Television viewing, radio listening and internet browsing times are all up, while readership of news websites fell by 33 per cent compared with 2010. However, the most striking statistic is that a massive one in three adults in the UK now owns a smartphone.


The average amount of time spent browsing mobile sites has also increased, with Facebook revealed as the most visited site on mobile devices. The most popular device overall was – quelle surprise – the Apple iPhone, with 32 per cent of the adult population naming it as their preferred brand. Meanwhile, 37 per cent of adults and 60 per cent of teenagers described themselves as 'addicted' to their smartphone.


Patent powerGoogle shocked the tech world on Wednesday by releasing an official blog post that accuses its competitors of maliciously buying patents and charging Google to use them. The post, by senior vice president David Drummond, describes a "hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents".


The search giant alleges that Microsoft and Apple are teaming up to buy old Novell and Nortel patents, and imposing a fee for anyone who uses that technology. Patents are described as being "used as a weapon", apparently in an attempt to push up the price for handset manufacturers who want to use the Android OS. However, yesterday Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith tweeted: "Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no."

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