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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

Dec. 19, 2012 at 6:55 PM   |   Comments

Instagram backtracks on photo policies

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Facing a storm of protest from users, photo-sharing app Instagram says new language appearing to give the company ownership of user images was misunderstood.

An update Monday to Instagram's terms of service said "a business or other entity may pay" Instagram for the use of user images and may do so "without any compensation to you."

The wording set off a storm on the Internet from angry users, causing Instagram to backtrack Tuesday and attempt an explanation on its corporate blog, CNN reported.

"The language we proposed ... raised questions about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement," Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote in a blog post. "We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we're going to remove the language that raised the question."

The intent of the new terms of service was "to communicate that we'd like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram," he wrote.

Many Instagram users were apparently not satisfied with the explanations and were abandoning the service, which is owned by Facebook.

Instaport, which offers a tool that lets users export, download and reclaim their Instagram images, was reporting high loads on its servers Tuesday.

"Our servers are very busy right now, so it may show you some errors," the company tweeted users. "Please try again later or tomorrow."


Study: Human hands evolved as weapons

SALT LAKE CITY, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Hands evolved not only for manual dexterity needed to use tools or create art but also so people could make fists and fight, University of Utah researchers say.

Humans have shorter palms and fingers than apes and longer, stronger, more flexible thumbs -- features long thought to have evolved to give humans the manual dexterity to make and use tools -- but "the proportions of our hands also allow us to make a fist," protecting delicate hand bones, muscles and ligaments during hand-to-hand combat, Utah biology Professor David Carrier said.

As our ancestors evolved, "an individual who could strike with a clenched fist could hit harder without injuring themselves, so they were better able to fight for mates and thus more likely to reproduce," he said in a university release Wednesday.

No ape hits with a clenched fist, the researchers said. Apes' elongated fingers and hands evolved so they could climb trees.

The human hand has apparently evolved for widely divergent uses, they said.

"It is arguably our most important anatomical weapon, used to threaten, beat and sometimes kill to resolve conflict," Carrier and study co-author Michael H. Morgan said in the Journal of Experimental Biology. "Yet it is also the part of our musculoskeletal system that crafts and uses delicate tools, plays musical instruments, produces art, conveys complex intentions and emotions, and nurtures.

"More than any other part of our anatomy, the hand represents the identity of Homo sapiens," they said. "Ultimately, the evolutionary significance of the human hand may lie in its remarkable ability to serve two seemingly incompatible but intrinsically human functions."


Mystery leak from gulf oil rig wreckage

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Coast says an "unidentified substance inconsistent with oil" is leaking from some areas of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig wreckage in the Gulf of Mexico.

However, no sources of leaking oil were identified during BP's recent weeklong mission to inspect the undersea wells and wreckage from the 2010 explosion and oil spill, the Coast Guard said.

The exact composition of the leaking substance and the rate of leakage are not yet known, CBS News reported Wednesday.

Because it is not thought to be oil it cannot be the source of recurring oil sheens recently observed in the area of the Deepwater Horizon, the Coast Guard, which oversaw BP's inspection, said.

"No apparent source of the surface sheen has been discovered by this effort," Capt. Duke Walker said of the inspection mission.

BP has collected samples of the leaking substance with remotely operated vehicles for further laboratory analysis while the oil sheen on the ocean's surface is being monitored by satellite, the Coast Guard said.

"Next steps are being considered as we await the lab results of the surface and subsurface samples and more detailed analysis of the video shot during the mission," Walker said.


FTC beefs up online protections for kids

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission says it's strengthening privacy protection for kids online and giving parents more control of children's Internet activities.

Final amendments to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule will give parents greater control over the personal information websites and online services may collect from children under 13, an FTC release said Wednesday.

The FTC initiated a review in 2010 to ensure the rule keeps up with changes in the way children use and access the Internet, especially with the increased use of mobile devices and social networking.

"The Commission takes seriously its mandate to protect children's online privacy in this ever-changing technological landscape," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. "I am confident that the amendments to the COPPA Rule strike the right balance between protecting innovation that will provide rich and engaging content for children, and ensuring that parents are informed and involved in their children's online activities."

The amendments expand the kinds of "personal information" that cannot be collected without parental notice and consent to include geolocation information, photographs and videos, the FTC said.

They also close a loophole that allowed kid-directed apps and websites to permit third parties to collect personal information from children through plug-ins without parental notice and consent, the commission said.

The amendments are set to go into effect July 1, 2013.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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