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Mobile Technology News, January 30, 2014

As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.

  • Xbox One rumors abound: March update, white console, and more
    Word has it that an update for Xbox One could be coming in weeks, the purported white version of the device is on the horizon, and there might be a version of the console without a Blu-ray drive.
  • Google sells Motorola unit to Lenovo
    Google announces the surprise sale of its Motorola Mobility unit, which it bought in 2012, to Chinese computer maker Lenovo for $2.91bn.
  • The 10 Commandments of Instagram: How to Be a Good Human When Sharing Photos
    Instagram rocks. I love it, and so do the youth I work with and study. The latest Pew survey says 18 percent of teens use the photo sharing service, which has about 150 million users. As I travel around the country speaking about social media and bullying, I hear about the many ways photo sharing can become an opportunity to disrespect people, start fights and make people feel excluded and small.

    It’s time for some guidelines on how to be a good human on Instagram. I came up with these with input from a bunch of kids, teens, parents and educators. I encourage you to talk about them with your kids and share them with teachers. Print this out and put it on the fridge. Following these Ten Commandments can help youth — heck, all of us — avoid drama online and be upstanding digital citizens.

    1. Thou shalt be the same decent person online that thou art offline. If you wouldn’t walk up to someone and say, “Your hair looks cray,” don’t type it, either.

    2. Thou shalt never judge someone’s appearance negatively in a comment, even as a joke.

    3. Thou shalt not post photos of people that they don’t know about, don’t want you to post, or might find embarrassing. If you are asked to remove a photo, do it immediately. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s funny.

    4. Thou shalt remember that JK can be just as hurtful online as it is offline — “OMG your vacation looks so boring haha” — and people are way less likely to think you were kidding when they can’t hear your tone of voice.

    5. Thou shalt realize that when you post something online, everyone sees it and it doesn’t go away. It’s like walking into a crowded cafeteria with a bullhorn and poster-size photo. Don’t want to do that? Kay.

    6. Thou shalt remember that everyone worries about getting likes. You matter more than the number of likes you get. Promise.

    7. Thou shalt not crop others out of photographs to exclude them, unless they are your Mom and you want to post a cool photo of yourself.

    8. Thou shalt never create anonymous handles or jack anyone else’s account. Untag yourself from rude photos or comment threads.

    9. If thou art in middle school or younger, keep your settings private and only accept follows from people you know.

    10. Thou shalt post photos that share body parts normally covered by bathing suits. However, thou shalt rock your selfies early and often, accept compliments without putting yourself down, and enjoy celebrating the fabulousness that is you.

    Did I leave something out? Send me your feedback here.

  • Intel to shutter its app store
    The chipmaker plans to shut down its AppUp store, a remnant of the short-lived Netbook era.
  • We Heart Local App Helps B.C. Support Province's Farmers
    B.C. farmers are making it easier than ever to shop local with the launch of a new app.

    We Heart Local, a free smartphone app from the BC Dairy Association and Buy Local. Eat Natural., helps you find grocery stores, restaurants, food trucks, and boutiques that carry B.C. products.

    “The We ♥ Local app connects you to all the awesome flavours of BC’s local food community – anytime, anywhere,” says the BC Dairy Association’s website. “Like having a local farmers’ market in your pocket, you can browse local recipes, discover what’s in season, and find businesses that offer locally produced products anywhere in BC.”

    There are various qualifications that an establishment must pass in order to be part of We Heart Local, including having at least five local menu items for restaurants and at least 10 per cent local produce for supermarkets.

    “We know that consumers are very enthusiastic about local food,” Reg Ens, executive director of the B.C. Agriculture Council, told The Vancouver Sun. “This is more of a demand-pull exercise that will show our producers where opportunities to sell more of their products are, especially when people start to use the app.”

    It can be downloaded through the iTunes app store.

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  • California Weighs Outlawing Warrantless Drone Surveillance
    By Sharon Bernstein
    SACRAMENTO, Calif., Jan 29 (Reuters) – Using drones to spy on Californians without a warrant could soon be outlawed under a bill making its way through the state legislature, tapping into public concern about unwarranted government intrusion into private lives.
    The bill, which passed the state assembly 59-5 on Wednesday with bipartisan support, would require police, fire and other investigative agencies to obtain a judge’s approval before using a drone to collect information about ordinary citizens.
    The measure comes even as California tries to entice companies to make and develop unmanned aircraft in the most populous U.S. state, where unemployment still lags the rest of the nation.
    “While we as a legislature and as a state try to attract the jobs in aviation, we also have to balance the growing concern about unmanned vehicles,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican Jeff Gorell, told Reuters.
    A Navy Reserve commander who served for about a year in Afghanistan, Gorell said he has relied on intelligence information from drones, and understands what they can do, for good or ill.
    “The drones can loiter for long periods of time with stealth-like capacity over homes or businesses or public areas,” said the assemblyman, who represents a suburb north of Los Angeles.
    He said he was concerned about the scope of intrusion that drones might enable, citing the possibility that public agencies could be tempted to use the heat-seeking capabilities of drones to locate – and ultimately fine – homeowners who use their fireplaces on smoggy days when open flames are prohibited by air quality regulations.
    His bill, Gorell said, would require a government agency to disclose plans to undertake that kind of surveillance. The bill would also make it illegal to outfit a drone with a weapon, or to use it as one.
    Furthermore, the law would require law enforcement agencies to discard any data they gather after six months, unless it is needed for an ongoing investigation.
    Law enforcement agencies would be allowed to use drones without warrants in some circumstances, however, including law enforcement emergencies such as a hostage situation, certain pursuits and while fighting fires.
    Police could also use them without a warrant to search for illegal marijuana farms hidden in some California forests, Gorell said. The bill must still be approved by the California Senate and signed by Governor Jerry Brown. (Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Ken Wills)
  • Two-month deadline for in-app fees
    Creators of mobile phone apps that sell in-app purchases are being given two months to comply with new guidelines issued by the Office of Fair Trading.
  • VIDEO: Reading the web in virtual reality
    BBC project brings web access to virtual reality worlds
  • Facebook's Plan For Artificial Intelligence: Transcribe Your Calls, Decipher Your Photos
    On Facebook’s earnings call Wednesday afternoon, Mark Zuckerberg offered a peek at the social network’s long-term plans for artificial intelligence. And just as we explained in November, Facebook hopes AI will help it more thoroughly understand the meaning of everything you share, from gauging your mood by the words in your status update, to picking out a Coke can in your photos.

    Facebook has been working to expand its artificial intelligence research lab, and last month appointed a renowned researcher with expertise in deep learning to oversee it. Deep learning is a sub-field within AI that focuses on training computers to make sense of the many messy, undefined and irregular types of data we humans generate, such as when we speak, write, photograph or film. (Teaching a computer to recognize a cat, for example, turns out to be an extremely difficult problem.)

    So what would Facebook do with deep learning capabilities? Get to know you much, much better by more effectively analyzing every item you share, according to Zuckerberg’s clues.

    “The goal really is just to try to understand how everything on Facebook is connected by understanding what the posts that people write mean and the content that’s in the photos and videos that people are sharing,” Zuckerberg explained to analysts and investors on the call. “The real value will be if we can understand the meaning of all the content that people are sharing, we can provide much more relevant experiences in everything we do.”

    Let’s try to unpack some of those generalities. In a sense, you can imagine a deep learning-enhanced Facebook as a jealous ex who stalks and overanalyzes your every online move. Instead of merely knowing you’d shared a photo, Facebook might be able to figure out that the snapshot showed a beach, along with a picture of your ex-boyfriend and that you two were smiling. When, a few days later, you post a status update, Facebook could perhaps analyze your phrasing to guess that you’re lonely and depressed. And before long, you might be seeing ads for dating sites, antidepressants and funny films.

    Zuckerberg also mentioned that AI could be used to transcribe the voice clips people share in Messenger, so people could receive them more easily.

    He acknowledged that these are “pretty big tasks in AI” that Facebook’s teams are working on, and noted it could be years before they’re fully formed. Within the next three years, Facebook will be focused on “building new experiences for sharing,” Zuckerberg said. Five years from now, he predicted, we should see Facebook’s AI work reshaping our experience.

  • A Forward-Looking Trade Agenda for the Digital Economy
    The world now invests nearly $4 trillion a year on information and communications technologies. This is propelling rapid evolution in the global economy, transforming everything from the way manufacturers manage their supply chains and retailers serve their customers, to the way doctors provide healthcare and police monitor crime statistics to improve public safety.

    2014-01-30-BSAdigitaltradeagendacover.jpg

  • MTV Figures Out The Rules Of Snapchatting A Crush
    Want to text your crush? WAIT! You should Snapchat them first.

    MTV hosted a panel of Millennials to try to understand Snapchat and discovered that the hip, new app is best used as a way to start texting with someone you want to make out with.

    We distilled MTV’s advice into a few crucial points:

    • The No. 1 rule of “Snapchat-iquette,” according to MTV is “Snapchat your crush first, text later. A group Snapchat is often an ice-breaker to one-on-one Snapchats, which are icebreakers to texting (where more ‘real’ conversation happens).”
    • Snapchat selfies are great, but they need to be switched up depending on who you’re sending to. Your best friend deserves a goofy one, while your crush needs a little extra thought, according to MTV’s panel. One 17-year-old named Kayla told MTV she would spend eight minutes getting ready send a Snap to her now-boyfriend.
    • No more than five Snaps a day, the MTV Millennials say.
    • And don’t open that Snap right away. “Definitely important if it’s your crush,” MTV says. We know you don’t want to seem too eager, right?

    Of course there are other rules, like not Snapping a ton of food pics, being careful about what you screenshot and finding the appropriate length of time for your Snap. But that’s more of a 200 level class.

  • Resurrect Shadow Detail In Your Photographs With the App InstaFlash
    2014-01-27-2.jpg

    Are the shadows in many of your images so dark it’s hard to see detail in them? Would you like to see more detail in shadows without making highlights overly bright? Who doesn’t have this problem? There’s a quick and easy cure. Use InstaFlash to bring shadow detail out into the open.

    InstaFlash simulates camera flash with software. InstaFlash isn’t a true camera flash. It won’t add more light to a scene and it won’t change the quality and position of shadows and highlights. (Nor will it blind your subjects.) Often, this is an advantage. It will make your images look more strongly illuminated, by making shadows lighter and revealing more of the details in them while affecting highlights very little or not at all.

    InstaFlash has its limits. It can’t invent detail where there is no detail; it can only enhance existing detail. InstaFlash isn’t an HDR app that blends the best detail from multiple exposures. Arguably, using an HDR app is the optimal way to solve this problem. But if you didn’t or couldn’t use an HDR app, InstaFlash can make many images look like you did. It may even do so without producing the other artifacts (haloing, noise, saturation shifts) that are so characteristic of many HDR apps.

    Of all the flash simulation apps, InstaFlash can produce the strongest results and unlike many of its competitors it generates results that are surprisingly free of digital artifacts, like haloing. Instead of tapping buttons for set amounts, InstaFlash’s interface uses a slider that allows you to precisely set its effects. InstaFlash offers additional image adjustments that are especially useful for compensating for other image qualities that have been adversely affected by lightening shadows, like Contrast and Saturation — so you won’t need to adjust InstaFlash’s results in another app to finish. One glaring omission is a brightness slider. Or is it? It’s equivalent can be found by unlocking the additional Pro features, which are an in-app purchase.

    Tools like Highlights, Light EQ, Exposure, Fill Light, Soft Light, and Tone EQ, Vignette, and Orton demonstrate this app’s concentration on and robust feature set for adjusting luminosity, yet it still offers additional tools for adjusting color (White Balance, Saturation, Vibrance, Color EQ, Split Toning, Color Splash) and detail (Sharpness, Denoise, Clarity, Focus, Skin Tone). InstaFlash’s toolset is so robust, you might be able to make all the adjustments you need to an image with this one app. And, InstaFlash complements other apps beautifully.

    Sure, you can find other apps that perform the same function, like iFlashReady, Flash, Photo Flash, Flash Hero, but only CameraFD can compete with InstaFlash’s results and then only with lesser challenges. InstaFlash is the best app to use to solve an essential image adjustment, getting great shadow detail.

    2014-01-27-1.jpg

    1 Original

    2014-01-27-2.jpg

    2 Shadows adjusted minimally

    2014-01-27-3.jpg

    3 Maximum lightening adjustment

    2014-01-27-4.jpg

    4 Shadows and highlights adjusted with Pro features

    2014-01-27-7_BeforeAfterNoise.jpg

    5 Lacking detail only noise will be revealed

    Follow John Paul Caponigro on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

    John Paul Caponigro is an environmental artist and author, who leads workshops, seminars, and lectures internationally. Learn more at www.johnpaulcaponigro.com.

  • Who Knew Interstellar War Could Look This Amazing?
    In the wee hours of Monday morning, an immense fight erupted over a space station. Lasers fired, vessels were obliterated and thousands upon thousands of dollars were lost. The melee took place in a simulated universe online, and a late rent payment triggered the whole thing.

    The battle unfolded in the massive multiplayer game “EVE Online.” According to PCGamesN, a coalition known as the Pandemic Legion had been paying in-game currency to use the station and the sector it was located in as a sort of base camp. But when their payment didn’t go through on time, rival coalition RUS promptly claimed the space station as its own.

    The fight that resulted escalated into the largest battle in the game’s 10-year history, destroying an estimated $200,000 worth of equipment that took months of gameplay to build, according to Fox News.

    Kids, this is why you should always pay your bills promptly.

    While details of the battle — and the larger war that it’s a part of — are so complex they look like gibberish to non-EVE players, it’s easy to see that this battle, however devastating it must have been for those involved, was absolutely gorgeous to look at.

    Images of the epic clash were posted on Imgur. Check a few of them out, below.


    This might put some of these other pictures in perspective. See those red and orange dots? Those are individual players.

    The Battle of B-R5RB: Eve Online

    $116,000+ worth of ships lost so far today in EVE Online, battle continues to rage on as of posting this.

    And for those of you who want to see those photos in action, here’s gameplay footage from the battle.

  • Giveaway: CM4 Slite case for iPhone 5c
    By now, those who got an iPhone 5c over the holidays might be considering getting a case to keep it safe if they haven’t done so already. There are plenty to choose from, but before deciding, take a look at the Slite Card Cases from CM4. MacNN has three to give away to our readers. Read on to find out more about this case and enter to win, you just might save yourself $30.

        



  • Those Ads You Hate Are Making Facebook A Lot Of Money

    NEW YORK (AP) — Mobile advertising accounted for more than half of Facebook’s total ad revenue in the final quarter of last year, a sign that the social network born a decade ago in the desktop computer era is succeeding in its goal of being “mobile first.”

    Facebook’s earnings and revenue handily surpassed Wall Street’s expectations for the third quarter in a row as it further expands the number of users and the amount of money it makes on mobile ads.

    “If 2012 was the year where we turned our core product into a mobile product, then 2013 was the year we where we turned our business into a mobile business,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call with analysts. “I expect 2014 will be the year where we begin to deliver new and engaging types of mobile experiences.”

    Facebook Inc. said Wednesday that it earned $523 million, or 20 cents per share, in the October-December quarter. That’s up from $64 million, or 3 cents per share, a year earlier. Adjusted earnings were $780 million, or 31 cents per share, in the latest quarter, 4 cents ahead of analysts’ estimates.

    Revenue grew 63 percent to $2.59 billion, from $1.59 billion. Analysts, on average, had expected revenue of $2.35 billion, according to FactSet.

    Facebook’s stock soared 12 percent in extended trading after the results came out.

    Facebook Inc., which turns 10 years old next week, had 1.23 billion monthly users worldwide at the end of 2013. Of those, 757 million signed in at least once a day, up 22 percent from a year earlier.

    Monthly mobile users stood at 945 million, up 39 percent. Daily mobile users grew 49 percent to 556 million.

    Fifty-three percent of Facebook’s ad revenue came from mobile during the quarter, up from 49 percent in the third quarter.

    Facebook continues to grow its share of the worldwide digital advertising and within that, mobile advertising market. It reaped nearly 6 percent of the world’s digital ad revenue in 2013, up from 4 percent in 2012, according to research firm eMarketer. Online search leader Google, meanwhile, accounted for a 32 percent share of the market in 2013.

    When it comes to mobile ad spending, Facebook accounted for an 18 percent share of the total amount companies spent in 2013, according to eMarketer. That’s up from 5 percent a year earlier.

    Facebook’s stock jumped $6.41 to $59.94 in extended trading. The stock had closed the regular trading session down $1.61, or 3 percent, at $53.53 before the earnings announcement.

    Through Wednesday’s close, the stock had gained 51 percent in the past six months, far more than the 6.4 percent increase for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, which the Menlo Park, Calif., company recently joined.

  • Ron Perlman Cast In Amazon's New TV Project, 'Hand Of God'
    Ron Perlman is leaving his biker days behind.

    Perlman, who formerly played Clay on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” is now headed to Amazon Studio’s latest project, according to Deadline.

    Plans are being finalized to begin filming the pilot for “Hand of God” for Amazon. Deadline reports that the series follows a powerful Judge (Perlman), whose personal life is anything but lawful, through a spiritual renaissance. (Read: heavenly visions and hearing voices via his sickly son.)

    The pilot will be directed by Marc Forster (“World War Z”), making “Hand of God” his first TV project.

  • Google Is Selling Motorola Unit For $3 Billion
    (Reuters) – Lenovo Group said on Wednesday it agreed to buy Google Inc’s Motorola handset division for $2.91 billion, in what is China’s largest-ever tech deal as Lenovo buys its way into a heavily competitive U.S. handset market dominated by Apple Inc.

    It is Lenovo’s second major deal on U.S. soil in a week as the Chinese electronics company angles to get a foothold in major global computing markets. Lenovo last week said it would buy IBM’s low-end server business for $2.3 billion.

    The deal ends Google’s short-lived foray into making consumer mobile devices and marks a pullback from its largest-ever acquisition. Google paid $12.5 billion for Motorola in 2012. Under this deal the search giant will keep the majority of Motorola’s mobile patents, considered its prize assets.

    Shares of Google climbed 2.6 percent to about $1,136 in after-hours trading. Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page said that Google would be best served by focusing on smartphone software rather than devices.

    Reuters reported the deal earlier on Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the deal.

    The purchase will give Lenovo a beach-head to compete against Apple and Samsung Electronics as well as increasingly aggressive Chinese smartphone makers in the highly lucrative U.S. arena.

    In 2005, Lenovo muscled its way into what was then the world’s largest PC market by buying IBM’s personal computer division. It has powered its way up the rankings of the global smartphone industry primarily through sales on its home turf but had considered a U.S. sortie of late.

    “Using Motorola, just as Lenovo used the IBM ThinkPad brand, to gain quick credibility and access to desirable markets and build critical mass makes a lot of sense,” said Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett.

    “But Motorola has not been shooting the lights out with designs or sales volumes in smartphones. So the value is simply in brand recognition to achieve market recognition faster – and to expand the design and marketing team with talent experienced at U.S. and Western markets.”

    RISE OF THE CHINESE

    The deal is subject to approval by both U.S. and Chinese authorities.

    Chinese companies faced the most scrutiny over their U.S. acquisitions in 2012, according to a report issued in December by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Analysts say political issues could cloud the Motorola sale, especially with Lenovo trying to seal the IBM deal at the same time.

    Lenovo will receive over 2,000 “patent assets” as part of the transaction, the companies said, but it remains unknown which will change hands and whether they might be subject to extra scrutiny from regulators.

    For Motorola, Lenovo will pay $660 million in cash, $750 million in Lenovo ordinary shares, and another $1.5 billion in the form of a three-year promissory note, Lenovo and Google said in a joint statement.

    “The acquisition of such an iconic brand, innovative product portfolio and incredibly talented global team will immediately make Lenovo a strong global competitor in smartphones,” Lenovo’s chief executive, Yang Yuanqing, said in a statement.

    In two years, China’s three biggest handset makers – Huawei, ZTE Corp and Lenovo – have vaulted into the top ranks of global smartphone charts, helped in part by their huge domestic market and spurring talk of a new force in the smartphone wars.

    Although Huawei and ZTE have made some inroads in the United States, where the Chinese companies continue to grapple with low brand awareness, perceptions of inferior quality and even security concerns. Lenovo has until now stayed out of the U.S. market.

    In the third quarter of last year, ZTE and Huawei accounted for 5.7 percent and 3 percent of all phones sold in the United States, respectively, trailing Apple’s 36.2 percent and Samsung’s 32.5 percent, according to research house IDC.

    Huawei declined to comment on the Lenovo deal on Wednesday. ZTE did not immediately offer comment.

    Globally, Lenovo ranked fifth in 2013 with a 4.5 percent market share, according to IDC. That’s up from 3.3 percent in 2012 and virtually nil a couple years before that.

    STEP BACK

    For Google, the sale represented a solution to a persistent headache as Motorola’s losses widened in recent quarters. It also showed Google is willing to step back from the handset arena and throw its weight behind device makers that propagate its Android software, Kantar analyst Carolina Milanesi said.

    “It all points to Google thinking in the short run that they’re better off betting on Samsung and keeping them close,” Milanesi said. “And of course now they’re enabling a second strong runner (Lenovo) in the Android ecosystem.”

    In 2012, analysts saw Google’s Motorola acquisition as primarily a way to secure the company’s trove of patents amid the technology sector’s increasing legal battles – rather than a bona fide push into the handset business.

    Many industry observers were surprised that Google did not immediately sell the hardware division after the deal closed, choosing instead to operate Motorola a separate company.

    It did sell Motorola’s cable television set-top box business to Arris Group Inc for $2.35 billion at the end of 2012.

    In a blog post on Wednesday, Google’s Page highlighted the strategic choice in selling the Motorola handset business.

    “The smartphone market is super competitive, and to thrive it helps to be all-in when it comes to making mobile devices,” Page wrote. “This move will enable Google to devote our energy to driving innovation across the Android ecosystem, for the benefit of smartphone users everywhere.”

    Lenovo is being advised by Credit Suisse Group while Lazard Ltd advised Google on the transaction.

    (Writing by Edwin Chan; Editing by Soyoung Kim, Chizu Nomiyama and Leslie Adler)

  • 'Collect The Reasons' Site Reminds Us Of How Wonderful Life Can Be
    A powerful website is reminding us of the wonder, love and beauty that exists in the world at all times.

    As its name suggests, “Collect the Reasons” — the brainchild of AGW, a Latvian digital agency — seeks to gather the many, many reasons that make life worth living: whether that’s seeking adventure or sharing special moments with those you love, eating a great meal or watching the sun rise.

    “CollectTheReasons.org is a site where we remember some of the reasons why we are here — on this beautiful planet,” the website reads. “Maybe it will help someone who had a tough day, or maybe make someone smile or laugh.”

    Here are a handful of the entries, posted from people all over the globe:

    (Story continues below)

    Andris Gangis, a spokesman for AGW, told The Huffington Post that though “Collect the Reasons” was launched a year ago, the site really took off a few days ago after it was discovered by users on Reddit.

    “In the last 3 days, the site has been visited about 20,000 times,” Gangis said in an email Tuesday, adding that he’s been “thrilled” by all the attention. “Hopefully we will get more people to write good, inspiring reasons and make world a bit happier.”

    Though it wasn’t originally conceived as a suicide prevention campaign, “Collect the Reasons” has been lauded for championing life and for giving hope to those who may need it.

    “As anyone who’s read YouTube comments knows, online anonymity often facilitates humanity at its worst. But the silver lining is that it lets us speak honestly about the skeletons in our closets. And even when our names aren’t attached to what we say, we feel less alone,” the Daily Dot wrote about the website.

    To add your reason to the growing list, go to “Collect The Reasons” here.

    Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

  • Eric Holder Addresses Surveillance Concerns, IRS Probe
    WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder sought to strike a conciliatory tone on the subject of surveillance Wednesday, defending the Obama administration’s methods to Congress at the same time he insisted that the government will safeguard Americans’ privacy.

    At the same time, he rebuffed requests by several Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who asked him to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea party and other conservative groups for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Opening a three-hour hearing, committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the government needs to set appropriate limits on when and how it can collect vast amounts of data on Americans.

    Leahy focused on the massive government collection of Americans’ phone data, an initiative disclosed by former National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Holder said the administration will gather a wide range of views about the controversial program before making any changes in it.

    Leahy is sponsoring a bipartisan reform bill to rein in the NSA’s bulk collection, analysis, and storage of the public’s electronic communications, a measure that goes far beyond anything the administration wants.

    In the IRS probe, no criminal charges have been brought and Republicans say the investigation’s credibility been destroyed because a career government lawyer looking into the matter was a donor to President Barack Obama’s campaign.

    Holder told Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that the criminal probe is ongoing and that there is no basis to conclude that appointment of a special prosecutor is necessary.

    “To me it’s a no-brainer” and someone from outside the Justice Department should oversee the probe, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

    On another surveillance issue, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said the Justice Department had not gone far enough in allowing the Internet’s leading companies to disclose a limited amount of data on national security orders the companies have received.

    The action was only a first step and there is a need for greater transparency, said Holder. He said the goal is a system that keeps the American people safe but provides a degree of assurance on the privacy front.

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