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Economy Briefs: Pennsylvania woman sues Google over Gmail privacy

- - Monday, December 10, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — A Pennsylvania woman has accused Google Inc. of illegal wiretapping for "intercepting" emails she sent to Gmail accounts and publishing content-related ads.

Her lawsuit echoes others filed across the country by class-action lawyers who say the practice violates wiretap laws in some states. They represent email users who do not have Gmail accounts and have therefore not signed the company's acceptance policy.

In court filings, Google has acknowledged that it routinely scans emails for spam and computer viruses, but it said that's permitted under federal wiretap laws.

WALL STREET

Four years in, $9 billion of Madoff assets seized

NEW YORK — Four years after Bernard Madoff's arrest for orchestrating a Ponzi scheme, a battalion of lawyers headed by David Sheehan have secured nearly $9.3 billion of the estimated $17.5 billion that thousands of investors put into the sham investment business.

In a recent interview, Mr. Sheehan said his team at the Manhattan law firm of BakerHostetler is hopeful it can recover at least $3 billion more, cutting investors' losses to about $5 billion. Of the money collected so far, about $3 billion has been approved for redistribution to victims through an ongoing claims process.

RESTAURANTS

After one-month slide, McDonald's rebounds

NEW YORK — McDonald's Corp. said Monday that a key sales figure rebounded in November as U.S. customers snapped up breakfast offerings and limited-time Cheddar Bacon Onion sandwiches offered by the world's biggest hamburger chain.

The increase follows a decline in October, the first drop in McDonald's key monthly sales gauge in nearly a decade.

PRIVACY

FTC probes whether apps improperly monitor children

The government is investigating whether software companies that make cellphone apps have violated the privacy rights of children by quietly collecting personal information from phones and sharing it with advertisers and data brokers, the Federal Trade Commission said Monday.

Such apps can capture a child's physical location, phone numbers of their friends and more.

Among 400 apps designed for children that were examined by the FTC, most failed to inform parents about the types of data the app could gather and who could access it, the report says.

PHILANTHROPY

Citing policy on gays, Merck ends Boy Scouts donations

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — Merck's charitable foundation has stopped giving money to the Boy Scouts of America.

The Merck Foundation says the Boy Scouts' exclusion of gays from its ranks and leadership positions conflicts with giving guidelines and the company's nondiscrimination policy.

The foundation says it will reconsider giving money to the Boy Scouts if it changes its policy on sexual orientation.

Merck & Co. Inc. is a pharmaceutical and health company based in Whitehouse Station, N.J.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.