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    Samsung and HTC must be working off the same calendar. Both companies announced Thursday  that they'll release their next flagship phones on April 10. Pre-orders for the HTC One M9, Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge will open Friday.That poses a very difficult question for a very particular type of smartphone buyer: someone who's looking for a premium smartphone and wants that phone to run Google's Android system. The One M9 and the Galaxy S6 (and its sibling the S6 Edge, which has a screen that covers one edge of the phone) will probably vie for the title of the best Android phone you can buy.In past years, HTC has certainly seemed to be the underdog, putting out indisputably beautiful phones but failing to gain traction in the premium-smartphone market, which Samsung and Apple have dominated. Now, even Samsung is having trouble keeping up its growth in the upper end of the market. Both companies, therefore, have a lot riding on the success of their respective phones and need to offer their own unique features to woo the crucial customers they need.We'll have a full review of both phones in the coming weeks. But at first blush, there are a lot of similarities. All the phones run the latest version of Google's (GOOG) operating system, Android Lollipop. All embrace unibody design, giving them a sleek look and expensive feel that consumers have come to expect when forking over hundreds of dollars for a smartphone. And both HTC and Samsung have opted for screens in the five-inch range — landing the phones somewhere between the size of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.Samsung, in fact, has taken some of its more distinctive features out of the latest version of the Galaxy S6. It swapped out its normal plastic back for metal and ditched the much-touted ability to swap out for a spare battery. It also did away with the option to add your own expandable card for more storage, something that the HTC One still supports by way of a micro-SD card. (Up to 2 TB, anyway.)HTC's One M9 also boasts a slightly better set of cameras, with a front-facing "ultra pixel" camera designed for wide shots and a 20-MP rear-facing camera. Samsung, meanwhile, has a 5 MP front-facing camera and a 16 MP rear-facing camera but also has built-in software to take better shots in low light.Overall the differences that will probably have the greatest impact come not from the phones themselves but from the services offered by the companies that make them.In this case, Samsung may have the slight edge, with the broad range of services such as the upcoming Samsung Pay to offer consumers. On the flip side, HTC has been working to build out its portfolio of services, most recently with a sort of warranty program called "Uh-Oh Protection" that gives you one free phone replacement if you have to ditch your current model because of a cracked screen, water damage or a carrier switch.All carriers have yet to release their full pricing details. But we do know that the HTC One will cost $649 unlocked and will be on AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), Sprint (S) and T-Mobile — prices will vary based on the plan you pick. Samsung's Galaxy S6 will also be on all the major U.S. carriers — with a variety of pricing options — but will fall roughly in the same price range.




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    After nearly three years in Chapter 11 protection, Philip Falcone-backed LightSquared Inc. received court approval to exit bankruptcy on Thursday. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Shelley Chapman approved LightSquared's latest reorganization plan after the bankrupt wireless spectrum holding company reached settlements with Solus Alternative Asset Management LP and Cerberus Capital Management LP.

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    Latin American credits ended Thursday's session mixed after US Treasuries reversed earlier gains and oil prices jumped as much as 5% on fears of increased instability in the Middle East. While Brazil's five-year sovereign credit default swap closed flat at 280bp-290bp, bonds issued by the country's state-owned oil company Petrobras experienced another day of volatile trading.

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    The demise of RadioShack (RSHCQ) left techies with one less place to congregate and buy obscure batteries and soldering equipment. And if that wasn't bad enough, now the bankrupt company is trying to sell off the devotees' data.After filing for bankruptcy in early February, RadioShack (RSHCQ) is currently making its way through the painful process of  figuring out how creditors will be paid back -- auctioning off real estate and trademarks. Also on the list is more than 13 million e-mail addresses and 65 million customer names and physical addresses -- as well as potential information about customers shopping habits.How much that data could be worth to a buyer is still unclear, but the proposed sale is drawing protests from consumer advocates and raising potentially disturbing questions about how data about shoppers is handled.In the Internet Age, people leave a near constant trail of digital bread crumbs about their lives. And it's clear that data has value: The entire online advertising industry is based on collecting it. But what happens if a company that has amassed a huge trove of data on nearly every aspect of a person's life gets sold off for parts?Radio Shack declined to comment about its bankruptcy's process.The company was a pioneer in collecting customer data, said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "Radio Shack was the first company that routinely asked for phone numbers. The privacy policy was critical to maintain consumer confidence," he said.And in its privacy policy, RadioShack told customers that it wouldn't sell or rent their personally identifiable information to third parties -- which should make this a pretty clear issue, Rotenberg said.But as Bloomberg News noted, a Web site for Hilco Streambank, a company serving as an intermediary for RadioShack (RSHCQ) in the bankruptcy process, listed the retailer's "customer databases" as among the assets for sale. Hedge fund and RadioShack (RSHCQ) creditor Standard General won an auction for the companies assets, according to Bloomberg. But the deal must still be approved by a bankruptcy court in Delaware and is facing several challenges.The potential sale of customer information are among the terms being challenged, prompting complaints from the state of Texas and AT&T.AT&T (T) is arguing that some of the data that RadioShack (RSHCQ) is trying to sell actually belongs to the mobile phone giant. AT&T (T) worked with the retailer to market some of its phone and should not be able to auction off the information about those sales, the company says. The data should be destroyed, AT&T (T) says, otherwise it may fall into the hands of its competitors.The Texas challenge is broader: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is arguing that the sale would violate a state law that prohibits companies from selling data in ways that violates the company's own privacy policies.  Tennessee's Department of Commerce and Insurance joined in on that objection earlier this week.And the federal government's de facto privacy watchdog, the Federal Trade Commission, might also be interested. The agency declined to weigh in specifically on the RadioShack (RSHCQ) matter because it doesn't comment on areas of potential action, but it has intervened in bankruptcies involving the sale of customer data in the past.Back in 2000, after the dot-com bubble burst, the FTC sued to stop Toysmart.com from selling off customer data in violation of its privacy policy. In that case, the FTC said that data in question included names, addresses, billing information, shopping preferences and family profiles,  including the names and birth dates of children. The data was eventually destroyed. The FTC has also sent letters about proposed data sales in the bankruptcies of other companies, including Borders, XY Magazine, and ConnectEDU.In most cases, companies are caught violating their own privacy policies, said David Vladeck, the former director of FTC's consumer protection bureau.  "The agency's view is that whatever promises are made at the time of data collection would be binding on their successors even if it was a successor who simply bought assets at a bankruptcy auction," he said.So what would happen if one of the large tech companies fell into bankruptcy and tried to sell off customer data?Both Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB) have contemplated that possibility and leave open the possibility that customer data could be sold. (Neither company immediately responded to a request for comment for this story.In its privacy policy, Google (GOOG) says that if the company is "involved in a merger, acquisition or asset sale" it would continue to safeguard the confidentiality of its users. Users would be notified before their personal information ends up in new hands, the policy says.Facebook's data policy is a little more open-ended: "If the ownership or control of all or part of our Services or their assets changes, we may transfer your information to the new owner."Lisa Sotto, a managing partner focused on privacy and cybersecurity at law firm Hunton & Williams, said that this type of blanket provision is "very common." And since there's no general restriction on the ability to transfer data in the event of bankruptcy, these sort of public policies essentially become the law for each individual company, she said.Privacy advocates warn that this could leave consumers at risk since data collected about them is arguably the most valuable thing big tech companies have. "If a Google (GOOG) or a Facebook (FB) were to fail, its data would be worth a lot more than information collected by RadioShack," said Ed Mierzwinski, the head of the Consumer Program at U.S. PIRG. "We're constantly concerned that, particularly in the digital era, companies' business models rely on collecting and selling customer information."However, the FTC might be able to intervene even if a company has built-in data transfer language into their privacy policies, said Vladeck, by making the case that a sale of data is unfair to consumers. "Speaking hypothetically, if a social network company was selling part of its business, the FTC would surely look to ensure that consumers were protected from potentially harmful misuses of their data and would not look only to deception," he said.But while the FTC has ramped up its efforts to protect consumers' privacy from new digital threats, it largely intervenes on a case by case basis. So with consumers casually turning over data to many different online and mobile services, people may find they've lost control of a lot of information about themselves the next time a tech bubble bursts.




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    Engaging consumers is one of the toughest challenges for online retailers, but Zulily and Everlane are betting that Facebook's Messenger app will take them to the next level with customer service. On Wednesday, at Facebook's F8 conference, the social media giant announced that it would be expanding its chat app Messenger and let businesses leverage it to communicate with individual consumers.

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    Federal officials are discussing an end to the Federal Trade Commission's legal prohibition on regulating Internet providers and telecom companies — a move that could give Washington wider authority to police perceived abuses and consumer harms in an increasingly important part of the economy.If the idea moves forward, it could mean that both the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission would have the power to go after misbehaving carriers. It could also mean greater cooperation between the two agencies as the lines between telecommunications, business and entertainment continue to merge on broadband networks.Here's why the issue is so important: When the FCC last month decided to start regulating Internet providers more closely under net neutrality, it turned them into what the agency calls "common carriers." But the FTC's congressional charter carries an exemption for common carriers — a provision that effectively prevents the FTC from taking enforcement actions against such firms and reserves that right for the FCC.Senior FTC officials have complained that the FCC's new rules would put Internet providers out of their reach — and rob the FTC of the ability to protect consumers."If an entity is a common carrier providing common carrier services, we can't bring actions against them," said Republican FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen in September.The common carrier exemption has become a source of friction between the two agencies. And whether consumers are better off when Internet providers are policed by clear rules laid out by the FCC, or overseen on a case-by-case basis by the FTC, has been a core part of the wider net neutrality debate.Top officials from the FTC and FCC on Wednesday endorsed ending the "common carrier exemption" in the FTC's congressional charter. Asked by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) in a House Judiciary Committee hearing whether they would support congressional efforts to end the ban, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler — both Democrats — said they would."That idea is definitely worthy of review," Wheeler said. "We should work in tandem with the FTC. It's a great one-two punch.""There are slightly different tools in the FCC toolbox and in the FTC toolbox," McSweeny said, "which is why I support repealing the common carrier exemption in the Federal Trade Commission Act."Wheeler has also had separate conversations with McSweeny and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez on the issue, he said Thursday."I actually called [Ramirez] yesterday," Wheeler said. "She was in Berlin, and as I had also talked to Commissioner McSweeny to say, this is a topic that clearly is going to require congressional approval to get any changes."The FCC and FTC are currently working on how to cooperate more. In recent months, the two agencies have announced a number of enforcement actions together.This isn't the first time officials have considered ending the FTC ban on regulating common carriers. In 2003, then-FTC Chairman Timothy Muris told lawmakers that the exemption "dates from a period when telecommunications services were provided by government-authorized, highly regulated monopolies."But Republicans are warning that letting the FCC regulate the industry with rules on one hand and the FTC with antitrust lawsuits on the other could unnecessarily complicate things."What the [FCC's net neutrality] order does is take conduct the antitrust law generally presumes is pro-competitive," said FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright during the hearing, "and declares them illegal and anticompetitive in all circumstances."




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    Federal officials are discussing an end to the Federal Trade Commission's legal prohibition on regulating Internet providers and telecom companies — a move that could give Washington wider authority to police perceived abuses and consumer harms in an increasingly important part of the economy.If the idea moves forward, it could mean that both the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission would have the power to go after misbehaving carriers. It could also mean greater cooperation between the two agencies as the lines between telecommunications, business and entertainment continue to merge on broadband networks.Here's why the issue is so important: When the FCC last month decided to start regulating Internet providers more closely under net neutrality, it turned them into what the agency calls "common carriers." But the FTC's congressional charter carries an exemption for common carriers — a provision that effectively prevents the FTC from taking enforcement actions against such firms and reserves that right for the FCC.Senior FTC officials have complained that the FCC's new rules would put Internet providers out of their reach — and rob the FTC of the ability to protect consumers."If an entity is a common carrier providing common carrier services, we can't bring actions against them," said Republican FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen in September.The common carrier exemption has become a source of friction between the two agencies. And whether consumers are better off when Internet providers are policed by clear rules laid out by the FCC, or overseen on a case-by-case basis by the FTC, has been a core part of the wider net neutrality debate.Top officials from the FTC and FCC on Wednesday endorsed ending the "common carrier exemption" in the FTC's congressional charter. Asked by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) whether they would support congressional efforts to end the ban, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler — both Democrats — said they would."That idea is definitely worthy of review," Wheeler said. "We should work in tandem with the FTC. It's a great one-two punch.""There are slightly different tools in the FCC toolbox and in the FTC toolbox," McSweeny said, "which is why I support repealing the common carrier exemption in the Federal Trade Commission Act."Wheeler has also had separate conversations with McSweeny and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez on the issue, he said Thursday."I actually called [Ramirez] yesterday," Wheeler said. "She was in Berlin, and as I had also talked to Commissioner McSweeny to say, this is a topic that clearly is going to require congressional approval to get any changes."This isn't the first time officials have considered ending the FTC ban on regulating common carriers. In 2003, then-FTC Chairman Timothy Muris told lawmakers that the exemption "dates from a period when telecommunications services were provided by government-authorized, highly regulated monopolies."




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    Wireless venture LightSquared on Thursday concluded three years of litigation with creditors, securing U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval of a plan to end its Chapter 11 case and repay in full its largest creditor, Dish Network Corp Chairman Charles Ergen.

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    Salesforce.com Inc. Chief Executive Marc Benioff tweeted Thursday the cloud computing company is canceling "all programs that require our customers/employees to travel Indiana" in response to a bill signed into law earlier Thursday by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on religious objections. There has been concern the law would allow business owners to refuse services to gays.

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    Social networks are attracting more digital advertising dollars at the expense of search engines, according to the latest estimates from digital analytics firm eMarketer. In 2015, eMarketer forecasts that Facebook's (FB) digital display ad revenue will total $6.82 billion, around one-quarter of the total U.S. market. Must Read: Google's Dominance in Search Being Challenged by Mobile Apps.

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    Published every weekday, the Switchboard is your morning helping of hand-picked stories from the Switch team.Over the next few weeks, we’ll be switching things up with a new Switchboard feature we’re calling "On Our Radar.” If you hate it, tell us.Congress wants to open up vast troves of federal airwaves for your cell phone. The Post reports: “New legislation would offer federal agencies money in exchange for their wireless spectrum.”FTC denies report that agency ignored staff recommendation on Google (GOOG). "Three Federal Trade Commission members denied media reports that the agency essentially ignored a staff recommendation to sue Google (GOOG) during its 2012 investigation of the search giant’s practices,” Re/code reports.Congressman to FCC: 'You're playing God with the Internet' The Post writes: "It was a fairly sleepy congressional hearing, the last in a two-week marathon of appearances by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler before lawmakers to defend his agency's net neutrality rules. But then Louie Gohmert chimed in.”EU: Don’t use Facebook (FB) if you want to keep the NSA away from your data. "The European Commission admitted that the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor framework for transatlantic data transfers does not adequately protect EU citizens' data from US spying,” Ars Technica reports.FTC rules against Napster co-founder in Jerk.com case. "The site, jerk.com, said users could pay a $30 membership fee to have negative comments beneath their profiles altered or removed, but seldom made those changes even after the fee was paid."On Our Radar:DOWNLOAD: Twitter's version of Meerkat, Periscope. TRACK: A new, non-binding resolution proposed by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) on net neutrality and obtained by National Journal. Want more? Follow @TheSwitch and our reporters -- @kansasalps, @b_fung and @htsuka -- for the latest tech news throughout the day.




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     . Amazon (AMZN) is making its cloud storage services available to everyone, not just Amazon Prime members. Last year, Amazon (AMZN) launched free unlimited photo storage for Prime members on Cloud Drive. Must Read: Warren Buffett's Top 10 Stock Buys. The Unlimited Everything Plan includes photos, videos, movies, music, and documents.

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    Verizon Communications Inc may rely largely on advertising for revenue from its upcoming online video service, Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said in an interview. This could set the No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier apart from rival online video services such as Dish Network Corp's Sling TV and Sony Corp's PlayStation Vue, which offer traditional TV content with ads and collect subscription fees.

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    The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to drop Neustar Inc (NSR) in favor of Ericsson subsidiary Telcordia Technologies as a contractor that helps telephone carriers route calls and text messages. The exclusive government contract, which expires on June 30, accounts for about half of Neustar's (NSR) revenues.

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    Red Hat (RHT) shares hit a new 52-week-high on Thursday following the software company's better-than-expected quarterly results, despite foreign exchange troubles. Red Hat (RHT), of Raleigh, N.C., provides open source software to enterprise customers around the world. Must Read: Jim Cramer -- 19 Companies That Could Get Acquired in 2015. Revenue rose 16% from last year to $464 million.