Germany Levies Max Fine Against Google; Max Fine Is Piddly
Today in international tech news: Germany claims Google orchestrated one of the biggest data thefts in history, but is only allowed to fine the company $190,000. Also: China looks to thwart "covert negotiations" by launching its own taxi-booking app; Japan's youngest-ever billionaire has lighter pockets; and Huawei lowers projections for one of its income streams.
Dramatic rhetoric, tiny fine.
German data regulators fined Google less than US$190,000 for collecting information from unsecured WiFi networks while it compiled data for Google Street View. The data scoop was, according to Germany's data chief, "one of the biggest known data protection violations in history."
The fine? Hardly the biggest in history.
Germany, ever leery of Google, could not levy a bigger punishment because of European regulations, which cap fines for accidental violations at about $195,000. This Street View mess was deemed accidental because it was reportedly a lone, rogue Google employee doing the snooping.
The regulator who claimed it was a historic data theft added that the amount of the fine was "totally inadequate."
Google deleted the information in question.
China to Regulate Taxi Apps
Beijing's municipal commission of transport is looking to create a unified platform for mobile taxi booking to weed out for-profit booking services.
Some 30 percent of Beijing cabbies are believed to use mobile booking apps. These apps, however, are sometimes equipped with functions that allow passengers to tip cabbies before even being picked up -- and, by extension, get a ride before would-be passengers with less dough.
The unified platform would reportedly operate much the way current ones do, but it would disallow pre-ride gratuities. The government-sanctioned app would also do away with service fees for bookings, which a spokesperson called "a covert negotiation of fees."
Young Japanese Billionaire Now Has Lighter Pockets
If you were ever going to feel for a billionaire...
Yoshikazu Tanaka became Japan's youngest billionaire when investors pumped money into Gree, an early maker of phone-based games. Tanaka's controlling stake in the company was valued at $4 billion.
Now, that number is $1.38 billion. Not that the 36-year-old is aching, but losing $2.6 billion has gotta hurt.
Tanaka's grave mistake, if it can be called that, was not seizing the smartphone craze. Gree still relies on the generation of handsets that preceded iPhones for more than half of its revenue.
The backward-looking business model will force the company to make its first annual profit decline.
Gree's stock is less than half what it was when it peaked in November 2011.
Japan's purchasing habits reflect Gree's plight. Today, 37 percent of all contracts are for smartphones; three years ago, it was just 3 percent. That number is expected to reach nearly 60 percent within two years, and 65 percent by March 2016, according to Tokyo's MM Research Institute.
Apple's App Store and Google Play are now the preferred domain of mobile games.
Huawei Lowers Target
Huawei Technologies expects its networking equipment sales targeted at enterprises to hit $10 billion by 2017 -- a huge number, to be sure, but lower than previous estimates.
Huawei, the world's No. 2 telecommunications equipment maker, has targeted $15 billion by 2017 as recently as last year.
Huawei's revenue is essentially three-pronged: equipment for telecom operators, handsets and tablets.
Huawei's device manufacturing figures to play a bigger and bigger role in the coming years, especially as trust in the company's telecom equipment erodes in the U.S., as well as in Australia and elsewhere. The company has partnered with Microsoft in an effort to penetrate the African smartphone market.