Taliban Spies Posing as Facebook Hotties
Today in international tech news: The Taliban are using "attractive women" on Facebook to lure soldiers into dangerous friendships. Also: China's top e-commerce outlet, Alibaba, taunts its domestic competition and sets its sights on Amazon and eBay; Microsoft tries to get in the EU's good graces; and the mother of detained Pirate Bay co-founder chides Swedish authorities.
Taliban insurgents are using photos of "attractive women" on Facebook to gather intelligence from coalition soldiers, according to The Daily Telegraph's Australia page.
The threat is such that Australian soldiers are being given pre-deployment briefings about Taliban using social media to dupe the opposition. Australia is reportedly also telling soldiers that geo-tagging -- the process of adding geographical information to updates -- poses a risk.
Social media's risks were reportedly detailed in a report that came out in March, but The Telegraph cites a source who says that safeguards have not been implemented.
Among the March findings were that military personnel had an "overt reliance" on social media's privacy settings. In addition, the report said that troops should be aware of fake social media profiles -- which is where the ladies come in. According to the report, the Taliban have used pictures of attractive women as their Facebook profile pictures, thereby suckering soldiers into online interactions
Alibaba Asserts E-Commerce Dominance
An executive for Alibaba, a hugely popular online shopping outlet in China, said that his company now has dominion over China's extremely competitive -- and extremely profitable -- e-commerce world.
According to a post from Tech In Asia, an Alibaba spokesman told media that its competition with main rival, 360Buy, "is over." He added he doesn't bother to look at 360Buy's offerings, and that he isn't sure if the outlet can even stay afloat.
The comments are noteworthy not just for their biting rhetoric, but also for the implications it could have on the world's biggest e-commerce market. China's business-to-consumer market was worth a reported US$124 billion in sales in 2011, a 53.7 percent increase from the previous year. And the sales explosion is plugging right along in 2012.
Alibaba has been the main benefactor, harnessing a 41.5 percent market share with its "Tmall" platform. 360Buy is No. 2 with a 15.5 percent share.
Alibaba, however, isn't just taunting its domestic competition: This year it expects to sell merchandise than Amazon and eBay combined, according to Reuters.
The Reuters article says that Alibaba is gunning for $473 billion in "annual transaction value" in the next five to seven years. An Alibaba exec said that the company already has roughly similar sales to Amazon and eBay, but that Alibaba is growing much faster, which will help them usurp the U.S. e-commerce giants in the coming years.
Microsoft To Introduce EU-Friendly Measures
Microsoft is set to roll out measures designed to satisfy the European Union's antitrust concerns, according to Reuters.
Microsoft ran afoul of the EU by not offering users a choice of different Web browsers such as Chrome and Firefox. The company then compounded the problem by failing to follow through -- at least failing in the EU's eyes -- on demands that it expand its Web browser offerings.
But according to Joaquin Almunia, the EU antitrust commissioner, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has assured the Union that the company will comply immediately.
Microsoft was also tagged with a $1 billion-plus fine from the EU stemming from a 2004 ruling that the company was not adequately sharing information with competitors.
Pirate Bay Mother Chides Swedish Authorities
Kristina Svartholm, the mother of The Pirate Bay cofounder Gottfrid Svartholm, criticized Swedish authorities for withholding information and for failing to act in her son's best interests, according to Torrent Freak.
Gottfrid was recently arrested in Cambodia and is now being sent back to his native Sweden, where he faces copyright infringement charges for founding the mega-popular Pirate Bay file-sharing site. Three other Pirate Bay cofounders are already serving time.
Kristina, whose comments were first reported, in Swedish, by DN.SE, said that she has not been told where her son is, what his health is or what will happen upon his return to Sweden.
Gottfrid's recent arrest is rumored to be related not to copyright, but to alleged cybercrimes.