Facebook suspends location-sharing feature after Italian copyright suit

Facebook logo. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 March 2017
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Facebook suspends location-sharing feature after Italian copyright suit

MILAN: Facebook Inc. has suspended its location-sharing feature in Italy after a Milan court ruled last year that the social networking giant had violated competition and copyright laws by effectively copying a similar app from a local start-up.
Italian software developer Business Competence filed a lawsuit in 2013, accusing Facebook’s Nearby feature of having copied its Faround application, which helps users locate Facebook friends in the vicinity.
A copy of the court’s ruling, issued on Aug. 1 last year but only made public by Business Competence on Monday, said that Facebook launched its Nearby feature only months after Faround was included in the social network’s app store in 2012.
The complaint alleged that the two applications were “extremely similar” in their functions and general set-up.
Facebook said it has discontinued offering what it now calls Nearby Places in Italy while it appeals against the court’s ruling. Facebook dropped what it called Places in 2011 but later revived similar features in Nearby, which also competes with products offered by Silicon Valley rivals Foursquare and Yelp.
The court ordered Facebook to suspend Nearby Places in Italy or pay fines of 5,000 euros per day for copyright infringement and unfair competition. It said that Facebook may have to pay further damages to be determined at a later stage.
The ruling is preliminary and a further hearing is scheduled for April 4.
Facebook sought to have the order put on hold while it awaited a ruling on the merits of the case, but its request was rejected by the court in December. It said on Monday that it is complying with the decision pending its appeal.
“We respectfully disagree with the decision. The claims were without merit,” a Facebook spokeswoman told Reuters in an e-mailed statement.
“We believe the order was wrongly decided, but we have respectfully complied with the order in the interim.”
Business Competence’s Faround app was launched in September 2012 and quickly gained popularity among Italian users.
Faround was the most downloaded new social networking app in the country during the week of Nov. 22, 2012, according to data from App Annie, a business that measures online traffic.
Downloads plunged the month after Facebook launched its own Nearby feature on Dec. 17 of that year.
“It was a big blow to us to see that we were losing everything we had invested (into Faround),” Business Competence Chief Executive Sara Colnago told Reuters, adding that it had cost the company 500,000 euros ($530,050) to develop the app.


Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

Updated 17 April 2018
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Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

  • Previous research has shown a new blood test has potential to detect eight different kinds of tumors before they spread
  • The research starts in April and will run until September

TOKYO: A Japanese firm is poised to carry out what it hailed as the world’s first experiment to test for cancer using urine samples, which would greatly facilitate screening for the deadly disease.
Engineering and IT conglomerate Hitachi developed the basic technology to detect breast or colon cancer from urine samples two years ago.
It will now begin testing the method using some 250 urine samples, to see if samples at room temperature are suitable for analysis, Hitachi spokesman Chiharu Odaira told AFP.
“If this method is put to practical use, it will be a lot easier for people to get a cancer test, as there will be no need to go to a medical organization for a blood test,” he said.
It is also intended to be used to detect paediatric cancers.
“That will be especially beneficial in testing for small children” who are often afraid of needles, added Odaira.
Research published earlier this year demonstrated that a new blood test has shown promise toward detecting eight different kinds of tumors before they spread elsewhere in the body.
Usual diagnostic methods for breast cancer consist of a mammogram followed by a biopsy if a risk is detected.
For colon cancer, screening is generally conducted via a stool test and a colonoscopy for patients at high risk.
The Hitachi technology centers around detecting waste materials inside urine samples that act as a “biomarker” — a naturally occurring substance by which a particular disease can be identified, the company said in a statement.
The procedure aims to improve the early detection of cancer, saving lives and reducing the medical and social cost to the country, Odaira explained.
The experiment will start this month until through September in cooperation with Nagoya University in central Japan.
“We aim to put the technology in use in the 2020s, although this depends on various things such as getting approval from the authorities,” Odaira said.