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Jonathan Fildes | 17:46 UK time, Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Apple iPhoneOn Tech Brief today: Facebook privacy, how the web is changing thanks to touch-screen devices and 10 things Hollywood thinks computers can do... but which they can't.

• The main story occupying the tech press at the moment is news that regulators are considering an anti-trust investigation into Apple after the tech firm mandated that its own programming tools had to be used to write applications for the iPad and iPhone. The story started with a piece in the New York Post which quotes an un-named source:

"Regulators, this person said, are days away from making a decision about which agency will launch the inquiry. It will focus on whether the policy, which took effect last month, kills competition by forcing programmers to choose between developing apps that can run only on Apple gizmos or come up with apps that are platform-neutral, and can be used on a variety of operating systems, such as those from rivals Google, Microsoft and Research In Motion."

• Although details are still vague, the tech press has gone to town on the story. Thomas Catan and Yukari Iwatani Kane at The Wall Street Journal report that the inquiry is also about Apple's new mobile advertising platform iAd:

"Apple's new language forbidding apps from transmitting analytical data could prevent ad networks from being able to effectively target ads, potentially giving Apple's new iAd mobile-advertising service an edge, executives at ad networks say."

Philip Elmer-DeWitt at Fortune looks at previous anti-trust cases involving Microsoft to ask who would win in a case between the US and Apple:

"To win a Sherman Antitrust case against Apple, the government would have to prove both that Apple's market share constitutes a monopoly - itself not illegal - and that it has abused that monopoly power in ways that damage its competition."

James Rowley and Arik Hesseldahl at Bloomberg say the inquiry has been prompted by a complaint from Adobe, which until recently created tools that allowed developers easily to create iPhone apps:

"Adobe says Apple is stifling competition by barring developers from using Adobe's products to create applications for iPhones and iPads, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss the case."

Writer John Naughton highlights an interview in MIT Technology Review with Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd about Facebook and privacy. Naughton calls Boyd "one of the sanest and best-informed observers of social networking". The article touches on themes highlighted recently by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in their post Facebook's Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline. From the interview:

"People started out with a sense that this is just for you and people in your college. Since then, it's become just for you and all your friends. It slowly opened up and in the process people lost a lot of awareness of what was happening with their data."

• Technology Review also has a fascinating piece by Erica Naone about how the web is changing due to the emergence of touch-screen devices:

"A lot of Web applications were written with a certain sequence of mouse actions in mind. An application might be coded so that it must see a mouse hovering over a button before that mouse is able to click on it. In this case, it's not simply that the mouse-over action doesn't work as expected - it's that the site actually can't register a click without it, meaning that the application breaks when used on a touch device."

Mashable has a short story about survey results that found that nearly half of parents add their children as friends on Facebook.

"Parents admitted that 'it can be awkward at times' when they follow their kids' Facebook updates, but think that it's probably worth it to keep tabs on them. Of course, savvy teens could easily exclude their parents from seeing potentially incriminating updates using Facebook's advanced privacy features."

• And finally, Slashdot picks up on a piece in Expert Reviews called "Top 10 things Hollywood thinks computers can do", which should have the suffix "but can't". It starts with "When systems go wrong, stuff starts to explode":

"When a computer crashes in real life it's often quite annoying, but spectacularly dull to watch. In films, when a computer goes wrong, it's very exciting and stuff starts to explode... Sparking and exploding control stations is our favourite. Thankfully this doesn't happen in real life - imagine your keyboard exploding just because Windows had crashed again."

If you want to suggest links or stories for Tech Brief, you can send them to @bbctechbrief on Twitter, tag them bbctechbrief on Delicious or e-mail them to

Links in full

Josh Kosman | New York Post | An antitrust app
Thomas Catan and Yukari Iwatani Kane | Wall Street Journal | Apple Draws Scrutiny
James Rowley and Arik Hesseldahl | Bloomberg | Adobe prompts probe
Erica Naone | MIT Technology Review | Facebook and privacy
Erica Naone | MIT Technology Review | Redesigning the web
Samuel Axon | Mashable | Parents and Facebook
Expert Reviews | Hollywood and computers

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