Workshop teaches kids to hot-wire cars

It's the kind of skill normally picked up only on the street, but Machine Project, a nonprofit community space in Los Angeles, held a workshop covering the basics of lock mechanics.

"The Good Kids' Guide to Being a Bit Bad: Cars Edition" taught a group of children, aged 7 and up, the ins and outs of breaking into and hot-wiring cars. Instructors and writers Tom Jennings and Jason Torchinsky introduced the pint-sized students to the tools of this illicit trade, such as putty knives and coat hangers, and explained how they can be used to trigger locks … Read more

Apple execs must read Playboy for the articles

Links from Wednesday's episode of Loaded:

Facebook revises its update to prevent you from inadvertently sharing your phone number and address

Federal regulators approve the Comcast-NBC Universal deal

American Airlines is on the outs with online reservation sites

Sprint raises its monthly fee for smartphone users by $10

Starbucks expands its mobile phone payment system to all stores nationwide

Playboy claims to be bringing its entire archive of magazines uncensored to the iPad in March, mysteriously skirting Apple's no-nudity rule

Congress moves to outlaw 'mystery charges' for Web shoppers

Legislation that makes it illegal for Web merchants and so-called post-transaction marketers to charge credit cards without the card owners' say-so came closer to becoming law this week.

A bill known as the "Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act" passed on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate. The law will make it illegal to use "misleading post-transaction advertisements" and require marketers to clearly disclose the terms of their offers. Merchants and marketers must now "obtain billing information, including full credit or debit card numbers," directly from card holders. The legislation was the government's answer … Read more

Another e-tailer named in probe changes course

Another e-tailer criticized by federal lawmakers two weeks ago for profiting from "misleading" and "deceptive" marketing practices appears to be rethinking its position.

VistaPrint, an online printing company, announced Monday it has "terminated its contract" with Vertrue, a so-called post-transaction marketing company that has come under scrutiny along with competitors Affinion and Webloyalty. This summer, the U.S. Senate Commerce committee began looking into scores of consumer complaints about the marketers--some going back years.

VistaPrint said in a statement that the company's contract with Vertrue ends December 20.

The three Connecticut-based marketing firms … Read more

This holiday, who's looking out for online shoppers?

Web shoppers are in need of a digital-age Ralph Nader, the kind of firebrand consumer advocate who can focus public scorn on unscrupulous merchants.

Last week, the U.S. Senate Commerce committee revealed that some of the Web's best-known retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Hotwire, Yahoo, Pizza Hut, Travelocity, Fandango, and Victoria's Secret, were part of a dubious marketing operation designed to mislead their own customers.

Serious questions about who's policing e-commerce were raised after the Commerce committee issued a report detailing how three marketing firms, Affinion, Webloyalty, and Vertrue, generated $1.4 billion with the help … Read more

Hotwire teams up with TripIt

Travel discount site Hotwire announced on Wednesday that it has partnered with travel itinerary service TripIt to help its users organize and share their travel plans.

According to the company, users booking a trip through Hotwire will now be able to click an "Add to TripIt" button after completing their travel plans. Upon doing so, those plans are added to a TripIt itinerary.

TripIt, which is a main competitor to the recently acquired Dopplr, will also bring its premium "pro" package to the service. The feature, which costs $69 per year, monitors itineraries and sends mobile … Read more

Class action suit means Facebook's Beacon just won't go away

A class action lawsuit filed earlier this week targets Facebook and eight of the participants in Beacon, its ill-fated advertising product that shared information about third-party site activity with the social network. The set of 20 plaintiffs, mostly residents of Texas, filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Tuesday. Named as defendants are Facebook, as well as current or former Beacon participants Blockbuster, Fandango (owned by Comcast),, STA Travel, Zappos, Hotwire (owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp), and GameFly.

A Facebook representative told CNET News on Thursday that the company had … Read more