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ExtraBITS for 10 June 2013

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We have a handful of potent ExtraBITS this week, including the stunning claim that the U.S. National Security Agency has been partnering with the world’s biggest tech companies, including Apple, to spy on the world through an initiative called PRISM. That’s not Apple’s only problem, as it’s also on trial, accused of colluding with publishers to raise ebook prices. If your iPhone battery life is suffering, then another alleged PRISM collaborator, Facebook, may be to blame. Hopefully the NSA will update PRISM to be more power-efficient. In happier news, the Apple Store now repairs iPhone 5 screens for $149.

U.S. Reportedly Mining Data from Leading Internet Companies, Including Apple -- The Washington Post is reporting on a program code-named PRISM that provides the U.S. National Security Agency and FBI with direct back-door access to the servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies to record and analyze audio and video conversations, email messages, online documents, and connection logs in order to track foreign targets. The firms in question include Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple, with Dropbox “coming soon.” All deny knowledge of and involvement in PRISM. More details about PRISM will undoubtedly be forthcoming, but in the meantime, remember the dictum, “Don’t put anything on the Internet that you wouldn’t want on the front page of the New York Times.”

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Facebook for iOS Killing Battery Life -- If you’re having trouble keeping your iPhone charged, Facebook may be at fault. A German developer has discovered that the Facebook app’s misuse of background tasks is causing the app to run in the background all day, hogging the CPU and causing the battery to drain faster than normal. Until the bug is resolved, Facebook users can preserve battery life either by killing the app from the multitasking switcher after every use or by deleting the app and using the Facebook Web app within Safari.

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Apple Stores Now Replacing iPhone 5 Screens for $149 -- If you crack your iPhone 5 screen and didn’t think to purchase AppleCare+, you can now have your screen replaced in an Apple Store for $149. While third-party repair shops have offered this for years and may be less expensive, working with the Apple Store ensures an Apple-approved screen. Stephen Hackett, a former Apple Store Genius, managed to snag a picture of the special machine Geniuses are using to calibrate the new displays. “We’re bringing China to the Genius Room,” an anonymous Apple employee told him.

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Apple on Trial for Alleged Ebook Price Fixing -- Opening arguments have begun in the U.S. Department of Justice’s trial against Apple over the agency model of pricing, heralded by the iBookstore launch in 2010. The issue at stake is Apple working with all the major publishers to adopt a model where the publishers set the retail price of ebooks, instead of selling at wholesale to retailers, who then choose their own retail prices. However, things don’t look good for Apple, as Judge Denise Cote has already said, in a pre-trial hearing, “I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of ebooks.” Ironically, if the government wins, it may lead to less competition, as Amazon had previously set most ebook prices at $9.99, even if it meant selling at a loss, a move arguably designed to cement Amazon’s dominant position. Dan Moren of Macworld provides a solid overview of the case.

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