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Today in Tech News Digest, General Mills backtracks, DPLA expands, Facebook targets ads, videophones celebrate birthday, HTC speculates on optical zoom, Google Trends emails, and Oculus Rift proves its worth.
General Mills Apologizes Over ToS Debacle
TIL General Mills had to take the word “strawberry” off packages for Strawberry Fruit Roll Ups because they don’t contain strawberries.
— Adam Clark Estes (@adamclarkestes) April 17, 2014
General Mills has backtracked on its revised Terms of Service which appeared to prohibit customers from suing the company after enjoying any kind of interaction. General Mills apologized, reverted to its old terms, and suggested its intentions were “misunderstood.”
As we reported on Friday (April 18), General Mills’ new ToS vaguely suggested that any interaction as insignificant as a Facebook Like meant users gave up their right to sue the company. There was even the suggestion that the ToS were so broad that even buying a product from General Mills was enough to prompt “forced arbitration.”
General Mills acted quickly to diffuse the situation, with a blog post genuflecting to its customers. The company maintains there was never any intention to ban people from suing, but the PR manager still felt the need to say “sorry we even started down this path.”
Perhaps the reporting was wrongheaded on this occasion, with the New York Times exaggerating the truth. Regardless, this shows how careful companies need to be when changing their Terms of Service, and how social media means a situation can all-too-quickly spiral out of control.
DPLA Announces New Partnerships
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has celebrated its one-year anniversary by announcing six new partnerships. As reported by Ars Technica, these partnerships will add content from the California Digital Library, the Connecticut Digital Archive, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the US Government Printing Office, Indiana Memory, and the Montana Memory Project.
The DPLA is designed to be a platform pulling together the archives from a range of libraries across North America. In addition to the new partners, the New York Public Library, which has been a partner since the beginning, is increasing the size of its DPLA archive from 14,000 to 1 million items.
Facebook’s Nearby Friends Used For Ads
There’s a new Facebook feature that allows you to find your friends nearby. I’m telling you this while I’m deactivating my account.
— Charlie (@_correctomundo) April 21, 2014
Users should be aware that utilizing Facebook’s new Nearby Friends feature means the social network will be tracking location histories and using them “for advertising or marketing.” Facebook isn’t doing so yet, but will be in the future.
The new Nearby Friends feature, which lets you track the location of your friends in real-time, is rolling out to iOS and Android over the next few weeks. But as TechCrunch discovered, this isn’t something that people who are worried about constantly being tracked will want to use. And surely no one wants to be tracked, do they?
Videophones Are 50 Years Old
This weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the first ever videophone, with April 20, 1964, being the date which Bell’s Model 1 Picturephone debuted at the World’s Fair in New York. Users had to sit perfectly still and pay the equivalent of $610 for a 15-minute conversation.
Little surprise then that it didn’t take off. Still, as the video embedded above shows, the concept inspired Stanley Kubrick to feature the technology in 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. Remember how far we’ve come the next time you inanely chat to someone on camera about nothing in particular.
HTC: Optical Zoom Coming To Smartphones
I’ve been playing around with the HTC One M8 for a few days, and I have to say, I haven’t looked at my iPhone 5 since.
— Daniel Perez (@xBBx) April 20, 2014
HTC is predicting that optical zoom will come to smartphones within two years. Speaking to Vodafone, HTC’s Symon Whitehorn suggests that the lack of optical zoom is what differentiates smartphone cameras from digital SLRs.
He said, “I think we’re looking at about 18 months to two years until that lens barrier begins breaking down and it becomes much harder to justify buying a dedicated camera outside of specialist or nostalgia reasons.”
This is, of course, merely a prediction, but it has to be assumed HTC is working on bringing optical zoom to its smartphones for Whitehorn to suggest such a thing. Let us know what you think of this development in the comments section below.
Email Notifications For Google Trends
Declining tech http://t.co/PH90HDZySV
— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) April 19, 2014
Google is now offering email notifications for Google Trends, which shows what people are searching for on the Web. You can subscribe to particular topics, track the trends across countries, or see what has been popular over a certain amount of time.
Oculus Rift Helps Dying Grandmother
And finally, Oculus Rift clearly has some uses beyond gaming, as proven by the way in which the virtual reality headset was used to help a housebound grandmother experience the outside world once more. There is no happy ending, unfortunately, but this is still a heartwarming use of future technology.
Tech News Digest… Breaking News Into Bite-Sized Chunks.
Image Credit: Hans Gerwitz via Flickr