TPM News

Two members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Facebook had acted unfairly and deceptively when it inadvertently enabled mechanisms that allowed the company to track its users' activities across the Web even when they thought that they had logged out.

"As co-Chairs of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we believe that tracking user behavior without their consent or knowledge raises serious privacy concerns," wrote Reps. Joe Barton, (R-TX) and Ed Markey, (D-MA) in a letter the two sent to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz on Wednesday.

"When users log out of Facebook, they are under the expectation that Facebook is no longer monitoring their activities. We believe this impression should be the reality. Facebook users should not be tracked without their permission."

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the Kindle Fire Monday morning, announcing it would be available for pre-order online immediately. By Monday afternoon, the device had already climbed to the number one spot on the electronics bestseller list.

In fact, on the electronics "movers and shakers" list, which shows "the biggest gainers in sales rank compared to twenty-four hours ago," the Kindle Fire and various versions of the new Kindle Touch and new $87 Kindle all occupied the top eight spots by Monday afternoon.

Those results were hardly unexpected, given the immense hype and interest in the Kindle Fire. But the intriguing question remains: Is Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet good enough and different enough to be able to make a dent in the iPad's dominance of the tablet market?

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The Obama administration has taken its aggressive legal defense of the new health care law to a new level.

In an unexpected twist, the Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to swiftly overturn an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the law's mandate requiring people to buy insurance is unconstitutional -- the only Circuit Court to rule this way so far.

"[T]oday, the Obama Administration will ask the Supreme Court to hear this case, so that we can put these challenges to rest and continue moving forward implementing the law," wrote Stephanie Cutter, a senior Obama adviser, on the White House blog. "We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. We are confident the Supreme Court will agree."

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Well that didn't take long.

Media and telecom reform group Free Press on Wednesday fired the first salvo against the Federal Communications Commission for applying more lenient network non-discrimination rules to the wireless industry.

The group had in effect reiterated their opposition to the FCC's new rules last week when they made their formal debut. The group's Director of Public Policy Matt Wood had characterized the rules as "riddled with loopholes," in a public statement at the time.

"They don't do enough to stop the phone and cable companies from dividing the Internet into fast and slow lanes, and they fail to protect wireless users from discrimination that is already occurring in the marketplace and that will only get worse," he said.

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The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state, has released its report on the controversial April election for state Supreme Court -- where vote-counting problems in Waukesha County resulted in the announced discovery of un-tabulated votes, putting incumbent conservative Justice David Prosser ahead in the state Supreme Court race against his liberal-backed opponent JoAnne Kloppenburg. The report finds probable cause to believe that Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus (R) violated the laws and procedures for administering the count -- but that her actions were not willful, criminal misconduct.

Notably, the report concludes that Nickolaus could not have possibly manipulated vote totals, as some members of the public came to believe -- because the City of Brookfield, the center of the vote-counting controversy, had in fact independently reported its correct vote totals to local media sources on election night. However, Nickolaus may have violated the law requiring county clerks to post all detailed results that night, when she made the mistake in calculating the county's spreadsheet.

From the GAB's publicly released report:

As a result of the investigation, the G.A.B. has issued an order requiring Clerk Nickolaus to conform her conduct to law and take certain steps to ensure accountability and transparency in her Election Night reporting practices prior to the February 2012 spring primary. Those steps include releasing detailed results on Election Night, instead of only county-wide figures. Had Clerk Nickolaus reported all results separately on Election Night, her failure to include numbers from the City of Brookfield would have been apparent immediately, rather than the next morning when she discovered the problem.

"Your actions following the April 5, 2011 Spring election did not conform to the legal requirements imposed on county clerks," G.A.B. Chairperson Thomas H. Barland said in a letter to Clerk Nickolaus. "When one election official fails to act consistent with those responsibilities, steps must be taken to correct the failure in order to prevent it from recurring, and to restore public confidence and trust in the administration of elections."

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Updated: 5:55PM

Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old Massachusetts resident was arrested in an FBI sting on Wednesday after allegedly plotting to use large remote controlled model airplanes packed with C-4 plastic explosives to attack the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.

Ferdaus allegedly traveled to Washington, D.C. to take photos of his targets in May 2011, all while under FBI surveillance. The Northeastern University graduate allegedly began planning to commit "jihad" against the United States in early 2010 and obtained mobile phones that he modified to act as an electrical switch for an IED.

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If Google's brand and mission used to be all about search, it is now about "driving technology forward."
For about 45 minutes yesterday, Google CEO Larry Page spoke and answered questions at Google's Zeitgeist conference. Google recorded the talk and we've embedded it below.
It's a long video, but if you want better insight into the guy who's controlling one of tech's richest and most powerful companies, it's a good watch.
Page starts by talking about a hero of his: Nikola Tesla. He says Tesla was an amazing inventor, who eventually failed to build all the things he imagined because he didn't find a way to fund his work through commerce. Page says we could have had wireless power across continents already if Tesla hadn't failed.
Google, Page says, is a response to that failure. Its model is: invent wild thing that will help humanity, get them adopted by users, profit, and then use the corporate structure to keep inventing new things.

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So much for Rick Perry sticking to his guns. After taking hit after hit after hit for his comment at last Thursday's debate that Republicans who don't support his state's plan to offer in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants don't "have a heart," Perry folded Wednesday and apologized to the base whose feathers he ruffled.

"I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word and it was inappropriate," Perry told the right-wing site Newsmax.

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