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Apple Supplier Foxconn Shuts Plant After Workers Riot

Apple Supplier Foxconn Shuts Plant After Workers Riot

Today in international tech news: Foxconn closes a Chinese plant after workers riot following a fight between employees. Also: a Dutch teenager's birthday invitation goes viral on Facebook, resulting in 30,000 confirmed guests who got violent when the party didn't go down. Facebook suspends facial recognition in Europe, and Apple may have infringed on a patent -- not from Samsung, but from a Swiss railway company.

Foxconn Technology, the Taiwanese electronics maker typically linked with Apple products and workers' rights violations, said it closed a Chinese plant Monday following a fight between factory employees, according to The New York Times.

Foxconn said that several people from the Taiyuan plant, which employs nearly 80,000 people, were hospitalized and detained by police after what was described as a riot.

Photographs and video making the rounds on Chinese social media show riot police, busted windows and large groups of workers milling about, according to the Times.

The report cites a Foxconn spokesman who declined to say whether or not the facility in question produced products for Apple's iPhone 5, which went on sale last week.

Foxconn, employer of some 1.1 million Chinese workers, also supplies products for companies such as HP, Dell and Microsoft.

Fair or not, these kinds of reports are nothing new for Foxconn. The company has been profiled for its track record of worker suicides (and potential worker suicides), as well as violence among workers.

Viral Facebook Invite Sparks Riot

A Dutch teenager got about 4,950 more guests than she wanted at her birthday party.

According to The Telegraph, the birthday girl, Merthe Weusthuis, sent invitations to her Sweet 16 via Facebook. Alas, she failed to make the invites private.

The result: Some 240,000 people are believed to have laid eyes on the invitation -- if accurate, that's 1.5 percent of the Netherlands' population of 16 million -- and 30,000 people confirmed that they planned to attend. (The town in which the party would take place, Haren, has 18,000 residents.)

Compounding the problem: A campaign was reportedly launched to promote the shindig, which became known as "Project X Haren," named after the film Project X in which a trio of high school students throw a party that gets out of control. According to The Telegraph, scenes from the film were used to promote the party, as were T-shirts with Weusthuis' face.

That's where the story stops being fun. The 500 riot police who descended upon the city couldn't quell the 5,000 unwanted guests who showed up. The ensuing mayhem migrated to the city center, where shops were vandalized, journalists were attacked and a car was set on fire. The ruckus took five hours to get under control, by which point 34 people were arrested and six people were injured -- two seriously.

Something similar happened last year in Germany, when a teenager got some 1,500 well-wishers at her birthday party following an ill-fated Facebook invite.

Facebook Recognizes Facial Recognition Complaints

Heeding pressure from European lawmakers, Facebook suspended its facial recognition tool used to identify people in photos uploaded to the site.

According to the BBC, Facebook's decision to nix the service -- at least temporarily, and at least in Europe -- stems from a 2011 review by the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland, which is where Facebook's European operations are incorporated.

Facebook's director of policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa is quoted by the BBC saying that Facebook plans to reinstate the facial recognition feature, but with new guidelines. Last month, Germany's data commissioner bemoaned that the feature was enabled by default, thereby not giving users the choice of whether to activate it.

New Twist on Apple Copyright Cases

For those getting bored with the Samsung vs. Apple narrative, a fresh storyline has emerged.

The new Apple iOS 6 operating system could infringe on a trademark design for clocks at Swiss railway stations, according to Businessweek.

Citing the state-owned railway operator SBB, Business Week writes that the new iOS, released this month, includes a clock with the black and red hands of the SBB design, which dates back to 1944.

SBB has permitted use of the design under license, but Apple had no such license.

One huge difference between this and other Apple patent issues: An SBB spokesman said he expects the issue to be resolved within days.


Tech Trek is a blog that looks at tech news from around the world. David Vranicar is a freelance journalist. His ECT News Network archive, with links to articles and podcasts, is available here. You can email him at david.vranicar@newsroom.ectnews.com.



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