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Supreme Court to review $548M judgment against Samsung for Apple patent infringement

The U.S. Supreme Court will review a judge’s decision to award Apple $548 million in damages from Samsung in a patent infringement case, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple had hoped the Supreme Court wouldn’t get involved, arguing that the lower court had appropriately assessed the fines. The Cupertino company also deemed the case “legally unexceptional” despite the high dollar amount involved. A federal appeals court upheld the awarded damages last December, but the Supreme Court will now hear Samsung’s appeal that the 1887 law cited is “outdated and too punitive for modern products such as a smartphone.” A jury ruled that basic design elements of certain Samsung smartphones were too close to Apple’s iPhone design, but Samsung argues that those design aspects don’t affect the functionality of the phone. [via Apple Insider]

Report: Apple experiencing ‘internal conflicts’ over use of customer data

Former Apple employees told Reuters that an admired and feared trio of employees internally known as “privacy czars” exercises extreme control over privacy standards set forth by CEO Tim Cook, sometimes standing in the way of profitable new expansions to the company’s business model. One of these “czars” is Jane Horvath, a lawyer who previously served as Google’s global privacy counsel, focuses on legal and regulatory requirements after being hired to formalize privacy practices in the wake of 2011’s “locationgate” scandal. She works alongside Guy Tribble, vice president of software technology and a member of the original Macintosh team who is venerated by other Apple employees for his ties to Steve Jobs. Tribble devotes substantial amounts of his time to working closely with engineers on privacy issues, as does rising Apple star Erik Neuenschwander, who has been known to review individual lines of code to ensure engineers are following through on privacy agreements.

Follow our live coverage of today’s Apple event

Be sure to follow @iLounge on Twitter for our live coverage and analysis of everything that happens on stage during Apple’s latest event today. We’re expecting to see the new 4” iPhone SE, a 9.7” version of the iPad Pro, and some new Apple Watch bands. Who knows what other surprises Apple may have in store? Following the event, we’ll have all the details on the company’s latest products here on iLounge.com, so check back regularly this afternoon. Apple’s “Let us loop you in” event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. EST), and it will be streaming live on Apple’s website and Apple TV’s Special Events channel.

Researchers exploit iMessage bug to decrypt photos and videos

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University discovered a bug in Apple’s iMessage software which allowed them to decrypt photos and video sent through the secure messaging service, The Washington Post reports. Apple says it partially addressed the problem with the release of iOS 9 last fall and will fully fix the issue with the release of iOS 9.3. “We appreciate the team of researchers that identified this bug and brought it to our attention so we could patch the vulnerability,” Apple said in a statement. “Security requires constant dedication and we’re grateful to have a community of developers and researchers who help us stay ahead.”

Airline passenger’s iPhone 6 catches fire mid-flight

The FAA and Alaska Airlines are investigating after a passenger’s iPhone 6 burst into flames during a flight, ABC News reports. Anna Crail claimed she was watching a movie on the phone when flames began shooting out of the device. “All of the sudden there was like 8-inch flames coming out of my phone,” Crail said. “And I flipped it off onto the ground and it got under someone’s seat, and the flames were just getting higher and a bunch of people stood up.”

Apple engineers may quit if ordered to unlock iPhone for FBI

Some employees at Apple may refuse or even quit if they are forced to unlock the San Bernardino iPhone, The New York Times reports. A number of Apple employees are said to be discussing their options if Apple is ordered by law enforcement authorities to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone in the current high-profile FBI case, with several suggesting they may even quit their high-paying jobs as opposed to undermining the security of the software that they designed. The New York Times interviewed several Apple employees, including engineers involved in the design and security of iOS, in addition to former security engineers and executives. Many of those interviewed echoed the arguments that Apple itself has made in its own legal documents — that their free speech is being impinged upon by an order to perform tasks that they would consider personally offensive. In Apple’s own final court brief, the company’s lawyers wrote that “Such conscription is fundamentally offensive to Apple’s core principles and would pose a severe threat to the autonomy of Apple and its engineers.” The interviews also shine a light on the internal culture of Apple, which reportedly retains the very anti-establishment views of its original co-founders, Jobs and Wozniak, something that venture capitalist and former Apple engineering manager Jean-Louis Gassée describes as “an independent culture and a rebellious one,” and adding that “if the government tries to compel testimony or action from these engineers, good luck with that.”

Apple releases Apple Events app on Apple TV for Monday’s event

In advance of Monday’s event, Apple has released its Apple Events channel as a standalone tvOS app for the new fourth-generation Apple TV. While the app doesn’t yet appear to be prominently featured on the tvOS App Store, it can be located via search, and provides functionality similar to the built-in app that automatically appeared on prior-generation Apple TVs.

With the new App Store model, Apple will presumably no longer be “pushing” the Apple Events app to the fourth-generationApple TV home screen — users will have to go and download it specifically if they want to watch Apple events live. Notably, prior generation Apple TV models do not appear to have the Apple Events channel available as of yet; it’s unclear whether Apple intends to exclude these devices from the stream, or whether the channel is simply yet to appear at some point before Monday’s event.

Apple denies receiving unfair tax breaks in Ireland

In testimony before a panel of European Union lawmakers, Apple argued that it pays all the taxes it owes in Ireland and doesn’t get unfair tax breaks there compared to other companies, Bloomberg reports. The company’s tax deal with Ireland has been under EU investigation since June 2014, over claims that the special arrangements “constituted illegal state support for the companies.” Cathy Kearney, a vice-president of the iPhone maker’s European operations in Cork, Ireland, said, “We feel that we’ve paid every cent of tax that is due in Ireland. We don’t feel that there has been state aid involved and I suppose we look forward to that outcome happening at the end of the day and being vindicated in that way. I would say that the Irish government also agrees with that view.”

Apple working on stronger, passcode-based iCloud encryption

Alongside redoubled efforts to strengthen iOS security, Apple is trying to make iCloud encryption so tough that the company won’t be able hand over information to law enforcement, but has concerns that such strong encryption could be a detriment to users who forget their passcodes, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple’s current iCloud backups are encrypted, but not tied to a user’s unique passcode, so authorities can access content users back up this way with relative ease. Over the years Apple has provided police with information tied to a variety of court cases, but after FBI demands that Apple build a way to crack a terrorist’s iPhone, the company is faced with the possibility that it could be asked to hack into its own security systems. Tim Cook has reportedly told colleagues that he continues to stand by Apple’s goals to encrypt everything stored on Apple devices and online services, including iCloud. So in response to FBI pressure, Apple wants to re-engineer the iCloud backups with encryption based on each user’s passcode, making the company unable to decrypt the data without the proper passcode. That would take the keys out of Apple’s hands when the government comes asking for information, but it would also leave users who forget their passcode without a viable option for retrieving their personal data, leaving Apple in something of a quandary over how far it’s willing to inconvenience users in order to make its products more secure. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple releases iOS 9.3 beta 7

Apple recently released the seventh beta for its upcoming iOS 9.3 update. The new beta was released to both developers and public beta testers. With an iOS 9.3 final public release expected to come as early as next week, it’s already surprising that Apple has released a seventh beta installment. Although the release notes are sparse, it’s safe to assume that this seventh beta predominantly includes bug fixes and minor optimizations to tighten up iOS 9.3 before its final release. Apple also released a seventh watchOS 2.2 beta to developers. Anything particularly noteworthy will be found in a future update of our Inside the betas piece.

Apple reaches deal to bring remixes, DJ mixes to Apple Music

Apple has made a deal with Dubset Media Holdings to bring remixes and DJ mixes featuring popular songs to Apple Music, Billboard reports. With the rise of electronic dance music, copyright issues have presented a major hurdle to bringing user generated mash-ups and hour-long mixes to streaming services. Dubset has solved that problem with a proprietary technology that analyzes a file and identifies recordings inside it to properly pay both record labels and music publishers for the song’s use.

Apple to testify about EU tax deals

Apple will testify tomorrow before European Union officials, defending the company’s tax deals in Europe as lawmakers increase pressure on multinationals to pay more taxes on local profits, Reuters reports. While the European Parliament tax committee holding the inquiry has no power to order changes, the hearing reflects growing discontent over large companies avoiding local tax liabilities. Google, McDonald’s and IKEA will also take part in the hearing, while Starbucks and Fiat turned down the invitation over on-going legal squabbles with the EU over taxation. Apple’s tax deal with Ireland is still under EU review, but the company has repeatedly stated that it complies with all EU tax rules.

Apple adding ‘native’ ads that look like articles to News app

A new Apple technical document shows that sponsored “native” ads which look like news stories are coming soon to your News app feed. The new ads “display directly in the content feeds, inline with News articles.” They’ll feature the same title, text excerpt and small image fields, with the only thing setting them apart from news content being the “Sponsored” tag at the bottom of the story. Apple says the new ads “are intended to blend in with their surroundings” and will be set to display in the same font used for news stories. The sponsor can include its name in the disclaimer at the bottom of the ad or opt out, leaving only the word “Sponsored” in the space below.

Apple SVP pledges to improve App Store category algorithms

Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller has pledged to look into complaints that contend certain Apple Store algorithms are broken. Schiller responded on Twitter after two developers sent him a screenshot illustrating how the company’s categories in Canada and other countries sort apps, piling apps with names beginning in a number at the top of the heap and stacking similarly-named apps together to push other legitimate apps out of the top spots. Screenshot++ developer Wesley Dyson told Schiller, “Rip-off apps should never be showcased by Apple,” which prompted Schiller’s response. [via 9to5Mac]

‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ takes on the Apple/FBI encryption battle

John Oliver — from HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver — has unleashed his satirical brand of humor on Apple’s fight with the FBI over cell phone encryption, spending the last half of this week’s show on the issue. After pointing out the simplified way that Apple’s critics portray the security issues at stake in the case, Oliver admits it sounds scary. But once he lays out Apple’s case for not wanting to create code that could used to hack all of its devices, Oliver concludes, “The FBI and its supporters can be weirdly dismissive of that issue in ways that indicate they either don’t fully understand how technology works or are pretending not to.” The segment lambasts the government’s use of the All Writs Act to compel the company’s cooperation and the idea that the code Apple makes to access the phone can be destroyed after a single use.

DOJ raises stakes in iPhone case, Apple chief counsel calls DOJ filing a ‘cheap shot’

The U.S. Justice Department has raised the stakes in the San Bernardino iPhone case with its latest filing (via The Verge), in which it describes Apple’s response to the court order as “rhetoric” that is “not only false, but also corrosive of the very institutions that are best able to safeguard our liberty and our rights,” accuses Apple of a “deliberate marketing decision to engineer its products so that the government cannot search them, even with a warrant,” and uses hyperbolic statements, such as claiming Apple has “deliberately raised technological barriers that now stand between a lawful warrant and an iPhone containing evidence related to the terrorist mass murder of 14 Americans.”

In addition, a footnote on page 22 of the brief, highlighted by ACLU principal technologist Christopher Soghoian, includes a thinly-veiled threat by the DOJ to simply seize Apple’s iOS source code and digital signatures if the company refuses to comply:

For the reasons discussed above, the FBI cannot itself modify the software on Farook’s iPhone without access to the source code and Apple’s private electronic signature. The government did not seek to compel Apple to turn those over because it believed such a request would be less palatable to Apple. If Apple would prefer that course, however, that may provide an alternative that requires less labor by Apple programmers.

Responding to the filing in an on-the-record conference call with reporters, Apple’s Chief Counsel, Bruce Sewell, called the DOJ’s latest filing a “cheap shot,” noting that it “reads like an indictment” and seeks to “vilify Apple” as having “deliberately made changes to block law enforcement.” Sewell went on to state, “In 30 years of practice, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a legal brief that was more intended to smear the other side with false accusations and innuendo, and less intended to focus on the real merits of the case” and called on both sides to be more civil.

Let’s at least treat one another with respect and get this case before the American people in a responsible way. We are going to court to exercise our legal rights. Everyone should beware, because it seems like disagreeing with the Department of Justice means you must be evil and anti-American. Nothing could be further from the truth.

[via Daring Fireball]

Apple officially announces March 21 event: ‘Let us loop you in’

Apple has sent out media invitations to its March 21 event. Instead of the larger venues in which Apple typically holds its media events, this event will be held in Cupertino at Apple’s 1 Infinite Loop campus, at the usual 10 a.m. Pacific (1 p.m. Eastern) start time. Apple is expected to debut the new four-inch iPhone SE, and a new 9.7-inch iPad which will likely include many of the same features — and the name — of the larger iPad Pro released last fall. New Apple Watch bands are also expected to be shown, and Apple will also likely announce a formal release for iOS 9.3, tvOS 9.2, and watchOS 2.2, all of which are currently in beta. Apple has also already setup a page where it will livestream the event, complete with a link to add the event to the Calendar app.

Apple’s Federighi officially debunks idea of quitting iOS apps to improve performance, battery life

Apple’s Senior VP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, has officially debunked the longstanding myth that users should quit background iOS apps in order to improve performance or save battery life, 9to5Mac reports. A 9to5Mac reader emailed Apple CEO Tim Cook asking the company for an official stance on whether this was necessary. The message was passed on to Federighi who responded with an uncategorical “no.”

While Apple’s own support documents and various iOS presentations over the years have pretty clearly implied that force-quitting apps should not be necessary except in cases where apps become unresponsive, there has been a persistent myth for years that force-quitting apps somehow improves the performance or battery life on iOS devices, perhaps due to the way that multitasking works on traditional Windows and OS X-based computers, not to mention Android devices. Further, even Apple’s own stance has not been entirely consistent at the lower levels, with iLounge’s own editors and readers encountering Genius Bar staff in Apple Stores who have recommended closing apps to “improve performance.” However, since the multitasking frameworks in iOS exercise an almost draconian control over background processes, most apps are actually suspended when in the background, using no CPU or battery power at all. While there are exceptions to this rule, these are usually obvious, such as navigation apps that use the actual GPS hardware (as opposed to mere “geo-fencing” apps that trigger location-based alerts), Voice-over-IP apps, and apps that play or record audio in the background. In many cases the user should be well aware that these apps are running, and are likely actively using them in some way.

Justice Department appeals pro-Apple encryption ruling

The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing last week’s court ruling that prevented the government from forcing Apple to unlock an iPhone, Reuters reports. The DOJ has submitted its arguments to a higher court after a magistrate judge in Brooklyn ruled the All Writs Act can’t justify asking Apple to help the government access an encrypted device. The new filing cites the ruling of a judge in California who found the All Writs Act an acceptable rationale for compelling Apple’s cooperation, pitting two lower courts against one another. While the cases are slightly different, the government’s use of the AWA to justify its position is the same, and Apple CEO Tim Cook said he is willing to take the California case all the way to the Supreme Court. The DOJ has at least a dozen more iPhones it wants cracked in a similar fashion, and FBI Director James Comey has publicly admitted that success in applying the AWA in any of these cases would be used as a precedent to justify similar legal requests moving forward.

Report: Apple CEO Cook attends GOP meeting on ‘how to stop Donald Trump’

Tim Cook was one of several technology CEOs who attended last weekend’s American Enterprise Institute World Forum, an annual gathering of top Republicans and influential business leaders that this year primarily focused on how to deal with Donald Trump, The Huffington Post reports. The secret meeting was closed to the press, but sources familiar with the discussions said leaders from Apple, Google, Tesla and other tech giants sat alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other prominent Republicans as political guru Karl Rove presented focus group findings about Trump exposing the business mogul’s weaknesses.

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