Wanted: a watchdog for the mobile medical app explosion

A smartphone app that rids you of acne. Another that monitors your heart rate 24-7. One that detects skin cancer by looking at your birthmarks. If they sound too good to be true, they may be. Patients today use a number of apps that purport to track and treat a panoply of ailments, a headache for regulators and patient safety advocates.

Now, the advent of wearable devices bristling with sophisticated biotracking sensors is stirring concern in the medical community about misdiagnoses that could have serious consequences for consumers.

Some are asking whether Apple and Google should do more to police their fast-growing app marketplaces.

"Most of the health apps out there are built by people with zero medical experience," said Paris Wallace, chief executive officer of Ovuline, a popular fertility app. Worse, many developers don't have the resources for legal counsel, Wallace said, and are more likely to make false claims to patients without seeking FDA clearance.

The Food and Drug Administration in 2013 published guidelines on the kinds of mobile apps it will supervise. But industry insiders fear the agency may get overwhelmed as apps mushroom.

"The FDA wasn't designed for post-market surveillance," said Jason Brooke, chief executive officer and general counsel at Vasoptic Medical, maker of a mobile diagnostic that competes with a number of unregulated apps. The FDA needs to act soon to ensure that developers will "comply on their own."

AT&T sees 20 percent cut in U-verse content costs after DirecTV merger

AT&T said it expects to cut programming costs for its U-verse television product by more than 20 percent with its $48.5 billion purchase of satellite television provider DirecTV - savings that will be the biggest portion of the deal's cost benefits.

The acquisition will also enable AT&T, the country's No. 2 wireless carrier, to offer a pay TV and wireless bundle to an additional 45 million US customers, the company said in a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing adds details to a bid that has boggled some analysts who see little benefit to the mobile carrier.

China’s State Media Urges “Severe Punishment” for US Tech Firms

Chinese state media lashed out at Google, Apple and other US technology companies, calling on Beijing “to punish severely the pawns” of the US government for monitoring China and stealing secrets. US companies such as Yahoo, Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Facebook threaten the cyber-security of China and its Internet users, said the People’s Daily on its microblog, in comments echoed on the front page of the English-language China Daily.

It is not clear what sparked this latest round of vitriol, nor what information the US firms are alleged to have stolen. But Chinese media have repeatedly attacked American tech companies for aiding the US government’s cyber espionage since US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden revealed widespread spying programs including PRISM. Under PRISM, the NSA seized data from companies such as Google and Apple, according to revelations made by Snowden in 2013.

Chinese state-owned firms have since begun dispensing with the services of US companies such as IBM, Oracle and Cisco in flavor of domestic technology. As a result, Snowden’s revelations may cost US companies billions of dollars, analysts say. “US companies including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc. are all coordinating with the PRISM program to monitor China,” the People’s Daily wrote. “To resist the naked Internet hegemony, we will draw up international regulations, and strengthen technology safeguards, but we will also severely punish the pawns of the villain."

Turkey lifts its ban on YouTube-agency

Turkey has lifted its ban on video-sharing website YouTube as material deemed insulting to Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk has been removed, Turkish state-run news agency Anatolian reported.

Ankara's general attorney ruled the site, blocked since May 2008, should be now freely accessible to Turkish users.

State of the art: Women call few of film's digital shots

It's too bad women can't computer-generate more of their own participation in the technical side of filmmaking. Digital animation and visual effects are so widespread today that studios can end up using them in nearly every shot. Yet as the trend grows, women may be lagging behind even more in the digital arts than they are in the film and tech industries generally. In tracking women in the film industry, San Diego State University professor Martha Lauzen found that they were "dramatically underrepresented" as visual effects supervisors.

Among the top 250 grossing films in the United States in 2013, women accounted for 5 percent of such positions -- below directors (6 percent), writers (10 percent) and producers (25 percent), according to Lauzen's study, "The Celluloid Ceiling." All 52 people honored in 2014 at the Scientific and Technical Awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were men.

The Academy's Visual Effects branch has 322 active members, and while it won't say how many are women, a Los Angeles Times investigation from 2012 put the number at 3 percent; their membership in the Academy overall is 23 percent. Many who spoke to Reuters agree that the problem lies in the workplace, not in any lack of appetite for the field.

But both men and women point to the toll of the industry's brutal hours. Many of the 52 men collecting the Academy's sci-tech awards in February thanked their spouses for putting up with their long days. At the visual effects houses, the regular workweek is around 50 hours, but there are often months of 70-80 hour weeks and even 100 hours in a film's final crunch time. Those demands can prove intolerable for women with children.

Deutsche Telekom Willing to Keep Stake in T-Mobile-Sprint Tie-Up

Kyodo news agency reported that Deutsche Telekom had agreed to a Softbank plan to buy T-Mobile. But sources familiar with the talks told Reuters that while the two sides are keen to get a deal done, a transaction was complicated, including the issue of getting regulatory approval.

Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG is willing to keep a minority stake in a deal to sell T-Mobile US to Japan’s Softbank, but other details such as price and financing remain to be worked out, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Softbank owns a majority of Sprint, the third largest US wireless carrier. Deutsche Telekom owns 67 percent of T-Mobile, which has a market value of $27.6 billion and is the fourth-largest US wireless carrier.

Iranian judge summons Facebook CEO for breach of privacy

A conservative Iranian court opened a case against instant messaging services WhatsApp and Instagram while also summoning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over complaints of privacy violation, state news agency ISNA reported.

The case underscores the growing struggle between moderate Iranian president Hassan Rouhani's drive to increase Internet freedoms and demands by the conservative judiciary for tighter controls. The Iranian court in the southern province of Fars opened the cases against the social networks after citizens complained of breaches of privacy.

"According to the court's ruling, the Zionist director of the company of Facebook, or his official attorney must appear in court to defend himself and pay for possible losses," said Ruhollah Momen-Nasab, an Iranian Internet official, according to state news agency ISNA, referring to Zuckerberg's Jewish background. Zuckerberg, whose company owns WhatsApp and Instagram, is unlikely to heed the summons.

US states probe eBay cyber attack as customers complain

EBay came under pressure over a massive hacking of customer data as three US states began investigating the e-commerce company's security practices.

Connecticut, Florida and Illinois said they are jointly investigating the matter.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman requested eBay provide free credit monitoring for everyone affected. Details about what happened are still unclear because eBay has provided few details about the attack. It is also unclear what legal authority states have over eBay's handling of the matter. The states' quick move shows that authorities are serious about holding companies accountable for securing data following high-profile breaches at other companies, including retailers Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels and credit monitoring bureau Experian.

The investigation by the states will focus on eBay's measures for securing data, circumstances that led to the breach and the company's response, said Jaclyn Falkowski, a spokeswoman for Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen.

Elderly may have trouble accessing online health records

Electronic medical records will let patients access their health information over the Internet, but a new study suggests some of the most vulnerable older Americans may be left behind.

While Internet use doubled among seniors in general over the past decade, researchers found, there was little growth among people with physical impairments -- suggesting a new digital divide could be forming. Functional impairments, including physical disabilities such as the loss of a sense or the ability to walk, make it difficult for people to live in their community, take care of personal finances and coordinate transportation.

“If you look at the subgroup of people functionally impaired, there was also a doubling (of Internet use) there but it was still remarkably low,” said the study's lead author, Dr S Ryan Greysen, from the University of California, San Francisco.

Verizon CEO says not interested in Dish, focus on online streaming

Verizon's CEO Lowell McAdam shot down rumors that the company was in potential merger talks with satellite operator Dish Network, days after rival AT&T announced plans to buy no 1. US satellite operator DirecTV.

"I know there are reports out there that we are talking to Dish. I can tell you now that is someone's fantasy. There were not, and there are not, discussions going on with Dish," McAdam told investors at the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference.

"I don't think owning a satellite company is something I'm interested in at this point," he said adding the company's focus was on over-the-top programming, meaning content utilized over a network, but not offered by a network operator.