Google reaches settlement with FTC in Google Buzz privacy case

via BGR by Todd Haselton on 3/30/11

On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced it has reached a settlement with Google over its controversial Google Buzz social network. The FTC charged Google with using “deceptive tactics and [violating] its own privacy promises to consumers” when it launched Google Buzz — its Twitter-like social network — in 2010. The FTC’s proposed settlement will bar Google from “future privacy misrepresentations,” and requires that Google implement a comprehensive privacy program. The FTC has also called for regular, independent privacy audits during the next 20 years. “When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them,” said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FCC. “This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honor its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations.” The FTC argued that some Google users who declined to participate in Google Buzz were still enrolled in some features of the service. Similarly, it said that those who did decide to join Google Buzz were often confused on how to control the privacy settings.  This is not the only lawsuit that was brought against Google in relation to its Buzz service. In November 2010 Google was required to create an $8.5 million fund dedicated to “promoting privacy education on the web” as the result of a class action lawsuit.  Hit the jump for the full release. 

FTC Charges Deceptive Privacy Practices in Google’s Rollout of Its Buzz Social Network 

Google Agrees to Implement Comprehensive Privacy Program to Protect Consumer Data

Google Inc. has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers when it launched its social network, Google Buzz, in 2010. The agency alleges the practices violate the FTC Act. The proposed settlement bars the company from future privacy misrepresentations, requires it to implement a comprehensive privacy program, and calls for regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years. This is the first time an FTC settlement order has required a company to implement a comprehensive privacy program to protect the privacy of consumers’ information. In addition, this is the first time the FTC has alleged violations of the substantive privacy requirements of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, which provides a method for U.S. companies to transfer personal data lawfully from the European Union to the United States. 
“When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. “This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honor its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations.” 
According to the FTC complaint, Google launched its Buzz social network through its Gmail web-based email product. Although Google led Gmail users to believe that they could choose whether or not they wanted to join the network, the options for declining or leaving the social network were ineffective. For users who joined the Buzz network, the controls for limiting the sharing of their personal information were confusing and difficult to find, the agency alleged. 
On the day Buzz was launched, Gmail users got a message announcing the new service and were given two options: “Sweet! Check out Buzz,” and “Nah, go to my inbox.” However, the FTC complaint alleged that some Gmail users who clicked on “Nah…” were nonetheless enrolled in certain features of the Google Buzz social network. For those Gmail users who clicked on “Sweet!,” the FTC alleges that they were not adequately informed that the identity of individuals they emailed most frequently would be made public by default. Google also offered a “Turn Off Buzz” option that did not fully remove the user from the social network. 
In response to the Buzz launch, Google received thousands of complaints from consumers who were concerned about public disclosure of their email contacts which included, in some cases, ex-spouses, patients, students, employers, or competitors. According to the FTC complaint, Google made certain changes to the Buzz product in response to those complaints. 
When Google launched Buzz, its privacy policy stated that “When you sign up for a particular service that requires registration, we ask you to provide personal information. If we use this information in a manner different than the purpose for which it was collected, then we will ask for your consent prior to such use.” The FTC complaint charges that Google violated its privacy policies by using information provided for Gmail for another purpose – social networking – without obtaining consumers’ permission in advance. 
The agency also alleges that by offering options like “Nah, go to my inbox,” and “Turn Off Buzz,” Google misrepresented that consumers who clicked on these options would not be enrolled in Buzz. In fact, they were enrolled in certain features of Buzz. 
The complaint further alleges that a screen that asked consumers enrolling in Buzz, “How do you want to appear to others?” indicated that consumers could exercise control over what personal information would be made public. The FTC charged that Google failed to disclose adequately that consumers’ frequent email contacts would become public by default. 
Finally, the agency alleges that Google misrepresented that it was treating personal information from the European Union in accordance with the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor privacy framework. The framework is a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the European Commission. To participate, a company must self-certify annually to the Department of Commerce that it complies with a defined set of privacy principles. The complaint alleges that Google’s assertion that it adhered to the Safe Harbor principles was false because the company failed to give consumers notice and choice before using their information for a purpose different from that for which it was collected. 
The proposed settlement bars Google from misrepresenting the privacy or confidentiality of individuals’ information or misrepresenting compliance with the U.S.-E.U Safe Harbor or other privacy, security, or compliance programs. The settlement requires the company to obtain users’ consent before sharing their information with third parties if Google changes its products or services in a way that results in information sharing that is contrary to any privacy promises made when the user’s information was collected. The settlement further requires Google to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program, and it requires that for the next 20 years, the company have audits conducted by independent third parties every two years to assess its privacy and data protection practices. 
Google’s data practices in connection with its launch of Google Buzz were the subject of a complaint filed with the FTC by the Electronic Privacy Information Center shortly after the service was launched. 
The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and accept the consent agreement package containing the proposed consent order for public comment was 5-0. Commissioner Rosch concurs with accepting, subject to final approval, the consent order for the purpose of public comment. The reasons for his concurrence are described in a separate Statement. 
The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through May 1, 2011, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section. Comments in electronic form should be submitted using the following web link: and following the instructions on the web-based form. Comments in paper form should be mailed or delivered to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex D), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form near the end of the public comment period be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions. 

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the respondent has actually violated the law. A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the respondent that the law has been violated. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000. 

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. “Like” the FTC on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter.

Before You Change your DNS Server, Read this!

Public DNS services, like OpenDNS or Google DNS, may offer more reliable and faster lookups than the DNS server of your ISP but in some cases, you may get much better download speeds if you continue to stick to your ISP’s DNS server. Here’s why.

location of amazon cdn

You know about Content Delivery Networks like Amazon, Akamai, etc. that have data centers located across the globe and they serve content from the one that’s closest to you geographically. A site like Adobe hosts its files on Akamai so when you download that 1 GB Photoshop installer from, the file will be served to you from the Akamai data center that’s nearest to you. 
A CDN uses your computer’s IP Address to determine your current location and then redirects you to the server that’s nearest to you. However, if you use a public DNS service, the CDN may not get to know your accurate location as your IP address is masked by the public DNS Service. The CDN could therefore serve content from a server that’s not closest to you and hence it will take more time to download files. 
A recent story published in The Economist discusses this problem in much greater detail. 

Are CDNs serving you content through the shortest path? 

Considering the fact that all major websites – from Microsoft to CNN to YouTube – use CDNs for delivering content, it is important to know if your are getting served from the nearest located server. How do you find that out? 
Step 1: Download the Dig tool and run it against a domain (like 
C:\labnol>dig A 687 IN CNAME 20 IN A 20 IN A 
Once you have the IP Addresses, you can find the server’s physical location using this online tool. If you are in India and request a file through Adobe (Akamai CDN), it should be served from their data-center in Asia and not the one in North America. MY Malaysia Simpang Tiga TMnet Telekom Malaysia MY Malaysia Simpang Tiga TMnet Telekom Malaysia 
When I asked OpenDNS about this issue, their representative told me that it is something ‘fixable’ and that they’re working on a solution where the DNS Server itself passes on the client’s location to the CDN. Unless this happens, as Atul Chitnis rightly points out, non-ISP DNS services “kill the benefits of CDNs like Akamai.”
Digital Inspiration @labnol

Amazon Gives You 5 GB of Storage Space for Free

via Digital Inspiration Technology Blog by Amit on 3/29/11

Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon today unveiled a new storage service called Amazon Cloud Drive that gives you 5 GB of free online storage space to store your documents, photos, music and other files securely in the cloud. All you need is a free account to upload your files which you can then access from anywhere using a web browser. 

Amazon Cloud Drive is purely an online file storage solution and the only client that you can use to upload or download files from your Cloud Drive account is your web browser.
Thus, for example, if you plan to copy your entire My Documents folder from the computer to Amazon’s cloud, you’ll have to upload files manually from the browser, one by one. Or, to save time, you could zip the entire folder into a single file and upload it in one go as Cloud Drive supports files as large as 2 GB in size. (Dropbox has a file size limit of 300 MB). 

Amazon offers a handy desktop client that will scan your hard drive for music related files and will automatically put them to Cloud Drive – you then listen to your music from anywhere using the browser itself without having to download anything to that computer. Other than that, I think the Cloud Drive service is also good for manually backing up some of your really bulky files online – like those Outlook PSTs.

Pricing - Amazon Cloud Drive vs Amazon S3

Amazon S3 vs Amazon Cloud Drive 

There’s however one part about Cloud Drive that has surprised me a bit – the pricing structure. The service internally uses Amazon S3 for storage but if you compare the storage cost of these two services, you’ll find that Amazon S3 is nearly 80% more expensive than Cloud Drive. 

Amazon charges 14¢ per month per GB for S3 which converts to around $1.78 per year (including the 10¢ data transfer fee) while Cloud Drive is available for a flat $1 per GB per year with no transfer-in or transfer-out fees. S3 is one of the popular choices for online backup but going forward, Cloud Drive could be a more cost-efficient option.
Bonus Tip – Upgrade to 20 GB for less than $1 

All Amazon Cloud Drive users get 5 GB of free online storage space or you can pay $20 to upgrade to the 20 GB plan. 

There’s another option as well. Amazon will upgrade your storage to 20 GB if you buy any MP3 Album from them. Now there are quite a few music albums on that are available for less than $1 – buy any one and you’ll be upgraded to 20 GB. 

The only downside is that while Cloud Drive is available to everyone worldwide, Amazon’s music store is only for residents of the United States with a U.S. billing address.

Digital Inspiration @labnol

Motorola ATRIX 4G 4.1.57 update available, no AT&T HSUPA support yet

via BGR by Todd Haselton on 3/28/11

Software version 4.1.57 for the Motorola ATRIX 4G is now available. The 17MB file, issued by Motorola, adds a number of improvements but is not the expected AT&T update that includes HSUPA support. After downloading the update, Motorola says users should notice the following changes: 
  • Bluetooth: Improved multimedia experience with Bluetooth devices as well as the ability to use phone with additional headsets.
  • Fingerprint reader: Improved fingerprint reader performance.
  • Battery: Improved battery performance for longer battery life.
  • Screen: Display will turn off automatically now while charging directly on wall charger.
  • Phone stability: Improved stability resulting in fewer occurrences of touch unresponsiveness and/of programs quitting unexpectedly.
  • Car dock: Improved performance of car dock and 3.5mm jack.
It’s been reported that the update may cause some issues with those who have rooted their phones. ATT has said that the upcoming HSUPA software update, which should ratchet up upload speeds on the ATRIX 4G and Inspire 4G, will land in April. Hit the jump for instructions on installing software version 4.1.57 on your ATRIX 4G. 
[Via Engadget

Which Web Browser Do You Use?

via GeekSugar by GeekSugar on 3/29/11

Last week, Firefox 4 launched with a host of new features and was quickly downloaded by nearly 40 million people and counting. Google’s Chrome browser is only two years old, but is already packing a punch with its helpful shortcuts, plug-ins, and more. Safari and IE are classics, and they come preinstalled on Macs and PCs respectively.
I’ve been a Firefox supporter for years, but as Chrome grows in popularity, so does my use of it. What about you?
Which Web Browser Do You Use?
Google Chrome
Internet Explorer

Tweeting robots easily manipulate puny human social networks

via DVICE Atom Feed by Evan Ackerman on 3/23/11

Tweeting robots easily manipulate puny human social networks

Twitter, which already allows celebrities to communicate what they had for breakfast to an irrationally interested public, is now also a robot testing ground. A research project called Socialbot has recently shown that robots have no trouble creating, or destroying, social network communities with cleverly disguised fake tweets. 

All right, so, full disclosure: I have a Twitter account. I check this Twitter account daily. I occasionally twitter my own tweets (or whatever). And I even read tweets from robots. But I’m pretty sure that none of the people I follow are robots pretending to be humans, which is what happened with the Socialbots project.
Three teams competed to program autonomous pieces of twittering software with the aim of influencing the social connections of as many real humans as possible. It was an actual competition, too, for points, prestige, and eventually 500 bucks. Bots were awarded one point for every follower they got on Twitter, three points for every social response, and the teams stood to lose 15 points if Twitter ever said, “hey, you’re a robot!” and banned their account. 

One team decided to use Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, which is based on swarms of humans performing simple tasks for dirt cheap. So like, a bot would get a message on Twitter, post that message on Mechanical Turk, and ask (say) 25 different people to respond to it for (say) three cents each. The bot would then pick one response and use it, and there you go, you’ve got clueless humans talking to clueless humans. 

So how well did it work? From the team

Swarms of bots with statistically-predictable social outcomes could be built and used to actively sculpt and rewire the connections of social groups online consisting of thousands (or perhaps hundreds of thousands of users).” 

And that’s pretty much exactly what they’re planning to do next: 

These robot swarms are capable of disconnecting user groups too, so a fun game suggested by the project organizers would be to compete to have the first Twitter robot swarm to (say) effectively disrupt some group of activists. Fun! 

And no, I don’t see any possible way that any of this could possibly go wrong. Why, do you? 

Tim Hwang, via New Scientist

“The bots collectively generated close to 250 responses, and received mutual connections from close to half of the entire target set. [In] two weeks, the bots were able to heavily shape and distort the structure of the network. This included bringing people together not originally connected, and bringing together a community of activity around the bots themselves.

“We’re going to survey and identify two sites of 5,000-person unconnected Twitter communities, and over a six-to-twelve month period use waves of bots to thread and rivet those clusters together into a directly connected social bridge between those two formerly independent groups. The bot-driven social “scaffolding” will then be dropped away, completing the bridge, with swarms of bots being launched to maintain the superstructure as needed.”

Sprint app will lock down your phone while driving

via DVICE Atom Feed by Michael Trei on 3/24/11

Sprint app will lock down your phone while driving

Distracted driving is a serious problem, so lots of people are coming up with ways to stop you from using your phone while driving. The latest is Drive First for Sprint Android phones, which senses when the car is moving and locks down most of phone’s functions. 

Luckily it doesn’t completely disable everything. Up to three apps like GPS for example will still run, and three contacts (read parents) can still reach you while you’re on the move. Other calls and texts will be automatically redirected to voice mail, along with some kind of message about how busy you are driving.
My problem with this approach is how does the phone determine that you’re not riding in the passenger seat, or sitting on a bus? Until they can find a way to figure that out, I think most people will discover that this app is little more than an exercise in frustration. 
Drive First will be available in Q3 for $2 a month. Hey, nobody said being safe would be free.

How to make a nuclear reactor that can’t have a meltdown

via DVICE Atom Feed by Evan Ackerman on 3/16/11

How to make a nuclear reactor that can't have a meltdown

The word “meltdown” defines our worst fears about nuclear reactors, and with good reason: without complex and redundant cooling systems, reactors can run out of control, generating so much heat that they melt their own fuel, releasing massive amounts of radioactivity in the process. But a new generation of reactors promises to be much safer, even to the point where a meltdown is a physical impossibility.
Reactor Safety 
Generally, nuclear power plants rely on redundant safety systems, both active and passive, to prevent a meltdown in case of an accident like an earthquake or tsunami. Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is what’s called a light water reactor, or specifically a boiling water reactor, because the heat generated in the core of the reactor is used to boil water into steam, powering a turbine to generate electricity. 
Immediately after the earthquake, the reactor successfully shut down, meaning that control rods were inserted into the core to disrupt the nuclear reactions directly. However, there’s still a lot of heat contained in the core, which is still boiling water and making steam, which raises pressure in the reactor and makes things dangerous. To keep itself cool, the reactor depends on a continuous supply of water, and the problem is that the pumps to supply this water haven’t been functioning. This means that the reactor gets hotter, more water turns into steam, and the pressure inside increases (making it more difficult to pump water in), and eventually enough water gets turned into steam that the fuel rods themselves get exposed to air, which can cause them to melt. This may be what is currently happening at Fukushima Daiichi. 
The root of the problem at Fukushima Daiichi is that the reactor relies heavily on active safety systems, meaning that the safety systems don’t work well (or at all) without things like pumps and generators, which themselves rely on external power. More modern reactors (Fukushima Daiichi was built in 1970) try to incorporate passive safety systems. For example, some reactors suspend their control rods over the core on electromagnets with giant springs behind them, ensuring that the rods will shut the core down the instant power is lost. Other reactors have backup cooling systems that are just giant tanks of water on towers, and explosive valves can be used to pump water into the core using gravity. 
Even with passive safety systems, though, accidents can still cause reactors to overheat to the point of meltdown, especially in sustained disaster conditions like those in Japan. The next generation of nuclear reactors, called Gen IV reactors, promise to be significantly safer and more efficient while producing less hazardous waste than the current generation, and one design, called a pebble bed reactor, may even be incapable of having a meltdown at all.
The Pebble Bed


A pebble bed reactor (or PBR) doesn’t use long rods of fuel pellets like most reactors. Instead, it uses a bunch of fuel “pebbles,” which come in varying sizes, from slightly smaller than tennis balls down to marbles. The pebbles are made primarily of graphite, and contain up to nine grams of uranium dispersed in sand-size grains throughout the pebble. To start a reaction, all you have to do is pile a bunch of pebbles together in a container until you get a critical mass of them, and they begin heating up.


The core of a PBR contains about 380,000 pebbles, which cycle continuously in and out of the reactor. Every 30 seconds, a pebble drops out of the reactor and is inspected for damage and to make sure it’s still got enough fuel left inside. If so, it’s put back in the cycle, and if not, it’s pulled out and a fresh one is put in its place. On average, a single pebble will cycle through the reactor 10 or 15 times over a few years before being removed.


While a PBR is operating, helium is pumped through the spaces between the pebbles to carry away heat. The helium then flows through a turbine, and that’s where the electricity comes from. So far, a PBR isn’t that different from a conventional nuclear reactor: you put fuel in, it heats up, and you use that heat to produce electricity. What makes a PBR potentially unique, though, is that because of its design, it’s capable of passive, inherent safety that makes a meltdown physically impossible.


No Meltdowns 
Let’s just skip directly to the worst-case scenario, like in Japan, where failure of the coolant system caused the reactor to overheat uncontrollably. In terms of what would happen to a pebble bed reactor, this means that there’d no more helium coolant. So, okay, as you might expect, the reactor would start to get really, really hot. As nuclear fuel heats up, the uranium atoms start to move faster, making it harder for them to absorb extra neutrons and split, reducing the reactor’s power. This is what’s called negative feedback, and while it takes place in all reactors, the low fuel density of the pebbles magnifies it in a PBR. As the PBR continues to heat up, the negative feedback gets stronger and stronger until at about 1600 degrees Celsius, the core stabilizes at an “idle” temperature. This temperature is a solid 400 degrees short of what it would take to cause any damage to the fuel spheres or reactor vessel, which are made of a special kind of super strong graphite. 
The upshot of all this is that a pebble bed reactor can have the entirety of its supporting infrastructure power down, blow up, get flooded, get stolen, run out of gas, or otherwise fail, all while the entire staff is on vacation, and the only thing that happens is that the PBR will warm up to its idle temperature and… Stay warm. No meltdowns, no explosions, no radiation leaks. The reactor will just sit there and radiate the heat it produces until you cool it back down or take the fuel out. This scenario was tried once, in a prototype PBR in Germany: they shut off the coolant and removed the control rods and watched, and nothing bad happened. A later inspection of the reactor and fuel pebbles showed no damage. 
Of course, it’s important to understand that PBRs aren’t completely safe, and come with their own risks, including the potential for radioactive dust from pebbles rubbing against each other in the core and the difficulty of managing the circulation of the pebbles themselves. And PBRs still produce radiation, which is always dangerous, along with waste materials, although it’s worth mentioning that the waste is already contained inside the pebbles, rendering it much safer, and it’s so hard to get outof the pebbles that it’s useless as a weapon. But the point is that PBRs seem to be safe in a lot of ways that conventional nuclear reactors definitely aren’t.


The first PBR was built in Germany in the mid 60s. As an experimental reactor, it had some design issues, but even so, people working there only received about 1/5 as much radiation as they would if they were working at conventional plant. A follow-up was constructed, but it had some additional design issues and a few minor incidents (mostly related to human error) led to its closure in 1989.


Nuclear Future 
It’s definitely true that pebble bed reactors are, at this stage of their development, less familiar to the power industry than more conventional designs. They’re also more expensive to construct while having only about 1/30 the power density of other reactors. But China, at least, is optimistic about their potential, and already has one test PBR and is planning on building thirty more in the next ten years, and possibly hundreds more by 2050. Part of the reason that China likes PBRs (besides their safety) is that their high operating temperature can be used to efficiently crack steam into hydrogen, which can be piped off and used as an alternative fuel. 
Really, the worst part of the disaster in Japan, as far as the industry goes, is that it’s going to make it that much harder to convince the public that nuclear power can be safe, clean, and efficient. To put it in perspective, in 2008 Next Big Future calculated how many people are killed per terawatt-hour of electricity generated. On average, there are 161 fatalities related to energy generation from coal for each one of those terawatt-hours, which comprise a quarter of the energy we use on Earth. 36 people die per TWh of oil energy, which is 40% of our energy use. Nuclear power has a deaths per TWh rate of only 0.04 while producing 6% of our energy, which makes it about ten times safer than solar power once you take into account how many people fall off roofs while installing it, and twice as safe as hydro power. 
It’s certainly true that nuclear power comes with its own host of issues, from reactor safety all the way down the line to spent fuel storage. It’s also true that nuclear accidents are terrible, frightening things. But the fact is that nuclear power is a viable, and even a necessary, alternative to fossil fuels, especially as we start thinking about exploring and colonizing other planets. When we go to Mars for the first time, we’re not going to be relying on solar power. We’re going to have compact, safe, and clean nuclear power along with us, because that’s what makes sense. And it’s not just the future: by embracing new technology, we can have the safe and clean nuclear power of tomorrow, today. 
There’s lots more info on pebble bed reactors from Wikipedia, and you can check your facts at MIT. There’s also a detailed discussion of modern PBR safety in a 2009 Nuclear Engineering International article, with links to some PBR criticism as well, and a story on the Chinese PBR from Wired.

Cube made of 512 LEDs does 3D with calculus, not glasses

via Engadget by Tim Stevens on 3/21/11

Cube made of 512 LEDs does glasses-free 3D for real (video)

No goofy active shutter glasses, no headache-inducing parallax barrier screens, no optical trickery here. This is a pure 3D display — unfortunately done at a resolution of just 8 x 8 x 8. It’s a hand-built LED cube created by Nick Schulze, powered by Arduino, and driven largely by Matlab. Yes, Matlab, an application you probably deleted less than three minutes after signing off on your calculus final. We can’t help you find that installation disc again, but we can encourage you to enjoy the video of this 3D matrix of blinkenlights after the break, and you can get the full details on how to build your own at the other end of that source link. 

Analysts weigh in on Homefront’s potential profitability

Analysts weigh in on Homefront’s potential profitabilityvia Joystiq by Richard Mitchell on 3/21/11

Homefront has had an interesting ride so far. Touted as THQ’s most pre-ordered game in company history, it debuted to middling reviews (ours included), which seemingly triggered a massive decline in THQ’s stock price. Still, despite reviews, THQ announced over 375,000 units in first day sales. It’s also worth noting that both Amazon and Walmart knocked $20 off Homefront the day after it released, which probably aided sales as well. 
Whether or not Homefront proves profitable for THQ, well, that’s where analysts come in! Speaking to Benzinga, Wedbush Morgan’s Michael Pachter noted that THQ would need to move two million units to break even. In light of the need to move in excess of two million to yield a profit, Pachter called day one sales “a disappointing start,” adding that poor reviews could lead to stagnating sales moving forward. That said, Pachter does expect the title to at least break even. 
Bradley Safalow of PAA Research pins Homefront’s low review scores on its short single-player campaign. Had the campaign been two to three hours longer, said Safalow, “then it could have achieved a Metacritic of 80.” Safalow believes Homefront could bring in a “modest profit” for THQ, though he has much higher hopes for Saints Row: The Third.
Finally, Wall Street Strategies’ Brian Sozzi expects Homefront to meet THQ’s overall sales goals with the help of downloadable content. Like Safalow, Sozzi’s firm is also “optimistic” regarding Saints Row: The Third and Red Faction: Armageddon.