Posts Tagged ‘Internet

11
Aug
10

Google Street View throws light on web privacy

NEWS
Google Street View throws light on web privacy

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Google’s online map feature has become a flash point for people worried about the erosion of privacy in the Internet Age.

Street View images at Google Maps sparked controversy from the outset of the project three years ago.

Google dispatched cars and tricycles rigged with cameras and satellite positioning gear to take pictures of what one might see on streets around the world and synched the images to its free online mapping service.

Some people complained that faces could be recognised in pictures, raising the potential that people caught in compromising situations, perhaps stepping out of an adult video store, would have such moments memorialised online.

Others expressed fears that numbers from licence plates could be used to figure out who parks or lives on certain streets.

People were soon accusing Street View vehicles of straying onto private roads or yards to snap pictures in violation of the California-based internet giant’s policies.

Google adapted to ameliorate concerns. It began blurring faces and car licence plate numbers in images.

This year the Street View controversy rocketed to a new level with the revelation by Google that electronics in its picture-taking vehicles captured data from wireless internet systems not secured by passwords.

Google basically had access to unencrypted email, video downloads, web browsing or other digital information passing through wireless routers in homes or businesses as its Street View vans went by, said John Verdi, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.

Google has apologised repeatedly for what it called an accidental data grab, but authorities in more than a dozen countries are investigating whether the company broke privacy laws.

South Korean police on Tuesday searched the offices of Google Korea as part of its probe, an officer said.

Police seized computer hard discs and other material. After analysing the material they plan to summon the company’s staff for questioning.

Efforts by governments to get the Street View data threaten to multiply damage to people’s privacy even if Google is true to its word that it has done nothing with the information.

‘Simply handing over the data to governments can be a very bad idea,’ said Electronic Frontier Foundation international rights director Katitza Rodriguez.

‘In some cases, the remedy can be worse than the disease.’

Countries could use the pretext of investigating Street View to mine Google data in ways that ‘might create risky situations for human rights activists, dissidents, or bloggers fighting for their rights,’ she added.

Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle theorised that Google might have intended to map locations of open wireless ‘hot spots’ as a potential service to users.

‘Telling people where they can get on the internet for free while they are out and about sounds to me like a typical Google thing to do,’ Enderle said. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me.’

Identity thieves might view a roster of open wireless zones the way burglars might look at a list of homes left unlocked, according to the analyst.

Google said it would allow Germans to block out their homes on Street View ahead of its launch in the country this year but privacy watchdogs were still not happy.

‘Google Street View is a great tool, for instance, for tourists to scope out the location that he or she wants to visit,’ Rodriguez said.

‘However, Google’s technology is too invasive, and goes too far. We expect some degree of anonymity while we are walking on the streets.’
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05
Aug
10

Rupert Murdoch says Apple’s iPad is a ‘game-changer’ for news media

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Rupert Murdoch says Apple’s iPad is a ‘game-changer’ for news media

Thursday, August 05, 2010

••• Global media chief Rupert Murdoch says Apple’s iPad will be a ‘game changer’ for newspapers.

The chairman and chief executive of News Corporation said the iPad would allow publishers to attract new readers to their mastheads.

‘It’s a real game changer in the presentation of news,’ Mr. Murdoch said on Thursday during a conference call for the company’s full year profit results.

‘We will have young people reading newspapers. We will have different looking types of newspapers.’

News Corp owns newspapers in the U.S., U.K., Australia and elsewhere.

Mr. Murdoch said he expected to see hundreds of millions of these devices around the world.

‘There will be all sorts of things we can do with them,’ Mr. Murdoch said.

‘As they develop technologically, we have got to to develop our methods of presentation of news.’

News Corp chief operating officer Chase Carey said the iPad ‘really starts to deliver on the promise of multimedia’ for the first time.

In terms of charging for online content, The Times and Sunday Times newspapers in the U.K. started slugging users $1.59 (£1) a day, or $3.18 (£2) a week, to access their content online from the start of July.

Mr. Murdoch said there had been a positive response, but declined to say how many people had paid for subscriptions.

‘We have had a very encouraging number of people subscribing at a good price,’ he said.

‘But we think we are on the right strategy there and we think it’s going well.’

Mr. Murdoch also flagged changes to News Corp’s social networking portal MySpace, which he said was going through a major overhaul under a new management team.

‘It will look very, very different in a few months to what it’s looked for the last few years,’ Mr Murdoch said.

‘We are going to see it out for some time yet.’
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• Source(s): News Corporation
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04
Aug
10

News Corp. Posts $875 Million Profit as Ad Sales Rise

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News Corp. Posts $875 Million Profit as Ad Sales Rise

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

••• Media and entertainment giant News Corp. reported, Wednesday, that it has swung to profit in the fiscal fourth quarter on the back of strong performance from its television networks division which posted impressive ad sales.

News Corp. said its net profit in June quarter was $875 million or $0.33 per share as against loss of $203 million or $0.08 per share in the year ago period.

The company said its revenue moved up 5.7 percent to $8.11 billion.

Analysts, on average, had expected News Corp. to report profit of $0.20 per share on revenue on $7.87 billion.

However, operating profit, or sales minus the cost of goods sold and administrative expenses, slipped 1.7 percent year-on-year in June quarter to $932 million from $948 million.

The media conglomerate said its earnings were driven by strong performance put up by its television networks division, which accounted for more than half of its operating income.

Profits at domestic channels surged by 30 percent while international channels improved 40 percent. Overall, operating profit at cable television networks division, which include channels such as Fox News Channel and FX, surged 31 percent to $563 million on the back of advertising revenue which jumped 11 percent. The division also saw double-digit growth in revenue from fees paid by cable, satellite and fiber video providers.

Operating profit at News Corp.’s broadcast television division also surged 13 percent to $113 million on improved ad sales offsetting higher programming expenses at the company’s national broadcast network – Fox Broadcasting.

The group’s filmed entertainment division also did well but could not beat third quarter performance. Operating income in June quarter dropped 32 percent year-on-year to $137 million. In March quarter, profit stood at $497 million. At the time of announcing third quarter earnings, News Corp. had warned that one should not expect stellar performance from this division in the fourth quarter, largely due to an expected year-over-year decline in the film business due to the timing of releases.

The newspapers and information services division, which include the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch and Dow Jones, also reported 20 percent surge in profit to $115 million on higher ad revenue, though it was below Street estimates.

The company’s digital media division, which include social networking site MySpace, however, disappointed, reporting an operating loss of $174 million in the June quarter on lower search and advertising revenue. News Corp. said MySpace is set for a “major overhaul.”

News Corp.’s satellite TV division also disappointed, reporting a 37 percent slide in operating income to $97 million on the back of continued weakness at Sky Italia.

To reduce dependence on the economically sensitive advertisement-based revenue, News Corp. said it is beefing up its portfolio of subscription-based assets. In June, it said it has made a bid for the 61 percent stake of pay-TV operator British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSkyB) it doesn’t already own.

“The opportunity for us to expand the scale of our franchises is significant, including through taking advantage of the continual technological advances that will broaden the reach of our core content and distribution businesses,” News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said in a statement.

The company’s full-year results were more impressive.

News Corp. said its net profit in fiscal year 2010 was $2.5 billion, helped primarily by blockbuster movie “Avatar.” DVD sales of other films like “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” also bumped up its profits. In the prior year, News Corp. incurred a net loss of $3.4 billion, which included a one-time pre-tax impairment and other charges of $9.2 billion.

“These results underscore just how well positioned we are – fiscally, operationally and strategically – for further growth across all of our markets,” Murdoch said.

Shares of News Corp., which owns Dow Jones, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, MySpace and 20th Century Fox among other things, closed up 1.61 percent at $13.85. Following the financial results announcement, the company’s shares were up 3.25 percent in the after-market hours.
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• Source(s): News Corporation
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12
Jul
10

Facebook Installs Panic Button For Children

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Facebook Installs Panic Button For Children

Monday, July 12, 2010

••• Young Facebook users will be able to report suspicious online behavior with the launch of a new ‘panic button’ targeting sex offenders.

Children can use the button to report abuse to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and Facebook.

The application will automatically appear on the homepage of every user aged between 13 and 18.

The launch follows months of negotiation between Facebook and CEOP, the government law enforcement agency tasked with tracking down online sex offenders.

CEOP called for the panic button to be installed in November but Facebook has resisted the idea.

Bebo became the first network to add the button, followed by MySpace while Facebook maintained that its own reporting systems were adequate.

However pressure mounted on Facebook following the rape and murder of Ashleigh Hall, 17.

Ashleigh was killed by a 33-year-old convicted sex offender, posing as a teenage boy, whom she met on Facebook.

Forty-four police chiefs in England, Wales and Scotland, signed a letter backing CEOP’s call for a panic button on every Facebook page.

Users will be able to bookmark the Click CEOP service or add it as an application to find information about online safety.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the CEOP Centre said: ‘Our dialogue with Facebook about adopting the Click CEOP button is well documented – today however is a good day for child protection.

‘We know from speaking to offenders that a visible deterrent could protect young people online.’

Facebook’s Joanna Shields added: ‘There is no single silver bullet to making the internet safer but by joining forces with CEOP we have developed a comprehensive solution which marries our expertise in technology with CEOP’s expertise in online safety.’

James Brokenshire, U.K. Minister for Crime Prevention said: ‘It’s a sad fact that we are now seeing more cases where sex offenders are using social networking sites to conceal their identities in order to contact children.’
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08
Jul
10

Introducing the New YouTube Mobile Website

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Introducing the New YouTube Mobile Website

Thursday, July 8, 2010

••• YouTube has upgraded its mobile website to make it more convenient and appealing to watch videos on touch-screen devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Motorola Inc.’s Droid X.

The improvements unveiled Wednesday are designed to make it easier for smart phone users to navigate YouTube’s vast video library. The fine-tuning also enables YouTube’s mobile website to stream videos in higher resolution than clips served up through YouTube applications installed on smart phones.

There is still at least one significant problem to be worked out: YouTube says the mobile website encounters some bugs on the hot-selling iPhone 4 phone. Those issues are expected to be resolved within the next few weeks. Apple sells the iPhone 4 with a YouTube application already installed on it.
The new YouTube for mobile provides an updated navigation and UI for easier browsing. The home screen is similar to what you find in the Facebook iPhone app – there are rows of icons for different options such as Browse, Favorites, Playlists, Settings and Home. YouTube Mobile Product Manager Andrey Doronichev told us that the product is designed for touchscreen devices especially, which make up the vast majority of YouTube mobile video views.

The biggest and most important change comes in the form of HQ streams. If you’ve ever watched YouTube videos on the iPhone app, you know that the quality isn’t that great. That’s because it utilizes an old stream format for second generation networks. The new YouTube mobile site is designed for today’s networks though, including the HQ streaming option that’s currently available in the Android version of the YouTube app. There’s a huge quality difference when you watch videos in both formats.

YouTube, owned by Google Inc., is sprucing up its mobile website as part of its effort to create a “video operating system” that works on any gadget with a screen. Mobile phones are a particularly important target for YouTube. In five years, the site expects more people to be surfing the Web on mobile phones than on desktop computers.

As it stands now, YouTube says it’s showing more than 100 million videos per day on mobile devices. That’s roughly the same number of YouTube clips that were being watched on office and home computers when Google bought the site for $1.76 billion in late 2006. YouTube says people now watch more than 2 billion daily videos through all its distribution channels.
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• Source(s): YouTube, LLC
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07
Jul
10

Mozilla stokes Firefox 4 with first beta build

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Mozilla stokes Firefox 4 with first beta build

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

••• Mozilla released its web explorer Firefox 4‘s beta version Wednesday, PC World reported.

Firefox explorer, considered to be the largest rival of Microsoft Windows’ Internet Explorer, has upgraded to its newest version with multiple technologies in line with future Internet developing trend.

The beta version imitated Google chrome and a few other browsers by putting the tabs on top and providing webpage crash protection features.

Mozilla provides its Firefox users with versions used in operation system including Microsoft Windows, Apple’s Mac and the Linux OS.

The newly released beta version of Firefox is expected to widely compete with IE as the most popular Internet browser in the scientific arena.
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• Source(s): Mozilla Corporation
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07
Jul
10

Google’s China webpage licence under review

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Google’s China webpage licence under review

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

••• Google Inc’s application to renew its Chinese Website license (Internet Content Provider license) is currently under review, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said yesterday.

But the ministry didn’t give a deadline for the license review.

It was the Chinese regulator’s latest response regarding the fate of Google China, which recently stopped redirecting automatically web searchers on China’s mainland to its Hong Kong site and applied to renew its license in the world’s largest Internet market last month.

“Google’s annual check-in is under way but there’s no detailed deadline for the result because its submission is relatively late,” said ministry spokesperson Wang Lijian.

The ministry is the body responsible for renewing and reviewing Internet content provider licenses.

Google shut down its mainland-based search engine on March 22 and rerouted users to its Hong Kong site.

It stopped the automatic redirect because regulators told the company its Internet license would not be renewed if it kept it going.

“We re-applied for the license at the end of last month and we are waiting for the results now,” said Marsha Wang, Google China’s spokesperson.

At present, only “music,” “translate” and “shopping” links, in Chinese, appear on the Google China webpage.

Visitors to google.cn will also see a tab that says, in English, “We have moved to google.com.hk.”

Clicking on that takes users to the Chinese-language site in Hong Kong.

Google clearly doesn’t want to give up the Chinese market, with more than 300 million netizens on the mainland. On the other hand, it has said it does not want to subject its Web searches to what it considers censorship under Chinese law.
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28
Jun
10

Gov’t plans to double available wireless spectrum

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Gov’t plans to double available wireless spectrum

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Obama administration says it intends to nearly double the available amount of wireless communications spectrum over the next 10 years in an effort to keep up with the ever-growing demand for high-speed video and data transmission to cell phones, laptops and other mobile devices.

The White House said President Barack Obama will sign a presidential memorandum on Monday committing the federal government to auctioning off 500 megahertz of federal and commercial spectrum.

Revenue from the auctions would be spent on public safety, infrastructure investments and deficit reduction.

National Economic Council director Lawrence H Summers will explain the new policy in a speech on Monday at the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.

In an excerpt released by the White House, Summers said, ‘This initiative will catalyse private sector investment, contribute to economic growth and help to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.’

The administration said it hopes to encourage the spread of wireless broadband across the country, including rural areas.

The auction is intended, in part, to counter fears of a potential ‘spectrum crunch’ as smart phones and laptop computers become more popular and new wireless devices hit the market.
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22
Jun
10

U.K. police probing alleged Google privacy breach

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U.K. police probing alleged Google privacy breach

U.K. Police Investigating Alleged Google Privacy Breach Through Public Wi-Fi Networks

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

••• Britain has become the latest country to open an investigation into whether Google violated communication and privacy laws by mistakenly gathering data over public Wi-Fi networks.

London’s Metropolitan Police says it is looking into complaints that the search engine’s ‘Street View’ project picked up people’s online activities through unprotected networks.

It says it is determining what offences, if any, were committed.

Privacy International, a London-based privacy watchdog that filed the case with police, says it had received complaints from members of the public who feared their personal data could be at risk.

The French independent privacy watchdog CNIL said last week that Google, following a complaint, had handed over personal data sucked up by its technicians.

The attorney general of the U.S. state of Connecticut is also looking into whether Google broke the law.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced on Monday that his office will lead a multi-state probe of “Google’s deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy.”

“Street View cannot mean Complete View – invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications,” Blumenthal said.

Similar probes have begun in Germany, Australia and New Zealand, where police are investigating Google and some of the internet giant’s employees for collecting private information while they photographed streets for the Google Maps website.
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22
Jun
10

U.S. States step up ante against Google over wireless data

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U.S. States step up ante against Google over wireless data

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

••• The attorney general of a U.S. state is looking into whether Google broke the law by capturing people’s personal data from wireless networks.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced on Monday that his office will lead a multistate probe of “Google’s deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy,” which has drawn ire and scrutiny in an array of countries.

“Street View cannot mean Complete View – invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications,” Blumenthal said.

Similar probes have begun in U.K., Germany, Australia and New Zealand, where police are investigating Google and some of the internet giant’s employees for collecting private information while they photographed streets for the Google Maps website.

Blumenthal said people had a right to know what information Google gleaned, how it was done and why.

He also wanted the internet giant to detail what safeguards are in place to fix the situation.

“While we hope Google will continue to cooperate, its response so far raises as many questions as it answers,” Blumenthal said.

“Our investigation will consider whether laws may have been broken and whether changes to state and federal statutes may be necessary.”

Blumenthal has asked Google to explain how and when it learned its Street View bicycles and cars were capturing data from unencrypted wireless networks and why they recorded the quality of wireless networks they passed.
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17
Jun
10

AOL sells Bebo for scrap – and a $275 million tax break

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AOL sells Bebo for scrap – and a $275 million tax break

Thursday, June 17, 2010

••• AOL Inc is paring back its ambitions in online social networking, selling a website called Bebo that it bought a little more than two years ago for $.850 million. when AOL was still part of Time Warner Inc.
Bebo, which was launched in 2005, has failed to match the huge popularity of sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

It has been strong in foreign markets, though, including Britain.

AOL tried to take advantage of that to drive traffic to its other ad-supported web properties, but the site has been losing ground.

Worldwide, it had about 12.6 million users in April, less than half of the 26.9 million it had in the same month a year ago, according to comScore Inc.

In the U.S., Bebo was down to 4.9 million from 10.2 million a year earlier. In the same period, Facebook has grown to 121.8 million users in the US from 67.5 million.

AOL said in April it planned to shut Bebo or sell it. The company said on Wednesday the buyer is the private investment firm, Criterion Capital Partners LLC.

The California firm did not say how much it is paying, but analysts have speculated that the site would fetch just a small fraction of what AOL paid for it. In a note AOL CEO Tim Armstrong sent to employees on Thursday, he said the deal provides a ‘meaningful’ tax deduction for AOL.

AOL said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission it expects to log a tax benefit of $275 million to $325 million in the April-June quarter. The company also said it will assess whether it needs to write down the value of its business overall for the quarter.

In his note, Armstrong also said the sale would let Bebo users continue to use the service.

Criterion Capital Partners are specialists in facilitating growth plans and turnarounds and are well-placed to drive Bebo’s effort to strengthen its foothold within the highly competitive social networking arena,’ he wrote.

In April, AOL unloaded another service that it had acquired for more money. It agreed to sell its ICQ instant messaging business for $187.5 million in cash to Russian internet investor Digital Sky Technologies. In 1998, AOL, then known as America Online, paid at least $US287 million to buy Mirabilis, the Israeli company behind ICQ.

AOL shares fell 8 cents to $22.20 in afternoon trading.
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09
Jun
10

Google’s new search index Caffeine goes live

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Google’s new search index Caffeine goes live

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Internet giant Google has given its search engine capabilities a jolt with the launch of a new indexing system dubbed ‘Caffeine’.

The new system will process hundreds of thousands of pages simultaneously every second, and promises to serve content 70 percent fresher than the current algorithm, including material derived from real-time Web technologies, such as Twitter.
Google’s ‘Caffeine’ is understood to take up nearly 100 million gigabytes of storage in one database.

Previously, Google would assess a fraction of the Web each night, index it and push it out in its results.

With Caffeine, as Google crawls the Web and finds new information, it indexes it immediately.

The ‘Caffeine’ formula has slashed the average search response time to about half that of ‘old’ Google, and is geared to decipher complex keyword strings with greater ease – things that search engine experts say Microsoft really hit on when it released Bing.
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• The Official Google Blog: Our new search index: Caffeine
• Source(s): Google Inc. – Carrie Grimes, Software Engineer
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27
May
10

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces new privacy tools

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces new privacy tools
Your privacy is important to us!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Facebook on Wednesday overhauled its privacy controls to fend off mounting criticism that it is betraying the trust that has made it the world’s biggest online social-networking service.

‘It’s been a pretty intense few weeks for us, listening to all the feedback coming in from all the changes we’ve made,’ Facebook’s 26-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg said as he unveiled simplified privacy controls.

‘Our teams internally have been cranking for the last couple of weeks.’

Facebook unveiled a redesigned privacy settings page to provide a single control for content and ‘significantly reduce’ the amount of information that is always visible to everyone.

Facebook also said it is giving users more control over how outside applications or websites access information at the service.

‘This is a pretty big overhaul to the system we already have,’ Zuckerberg said while outlining the changes during a press briefing at the social network’s headquarters in the California city of Palo Alto.

‘Now we are making it so there is less information that has to be public. People want a simple way to control the way information is shared with third parties, so that is what we are doing.’

The revamped privacy controls will roll out in the coming days, according to Zuckerberg.

Facebook last month sparked criticism from U.S. privacy and consumer groups, U.S. lawmakers and the European Union by adding the ability for partner websites to incorporate data regarding members of the social-networking service.

Zuckerberg was adamant that Facebook does not give advertisers access to members’ personal information.
• Source(s): Facebook Inc.
Facebook Blog
Privacy Settings
Mark Zuckerberg on ‘Making Control Simple’

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22
May
10

Facebook preparing to make changes to privacy settings in response to criticism

NEWS
Facebook preparing to make changes to privacy settings in response to criticism

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Facebook on Saturday said it plans to simplify privacy controls at the popular social-networking service to appease critics.

‘We’ve spent the last couple of weeks listening to users and consulting with experts in California; Washington, DC, and around the world,’ Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in response to an AFP inquiry.

‘The messages we’ve received are pretty clear. Users appreciate having precise and comprehensive controls, but want them to be simpler and easier to use.’

Facebook contended that members like new programs rolled out at the California-based internet hotspot but want easy ways to opt out of sharing personal information with third-party applications or websites.

‘We’re listening to this input and incorporating it into innovations we hope to announce shortly,’ Noyes said.

Facebook has been under fire from U.S. privacy and consumer groups, U.S. lawmakers and the European Union over new features that critics claim compromise the privacy of its more than 400 million members.

The features introduced last month include the ability for partner websites to incorporate Facebook data, a move that would further expand the social network’s presence on the internet.
Four U.S. senators, in a letter to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, said they were worried that personal information about Facebook users is being made available to third party websites.

The senators also expressed concerns that ‘Facebook now obligates users to make publicly available certain parts of their profile that were previously private’.

Sharing personal information should be an ‘opt-in’ procedure in which a user specifically gives permission for data to be shared, privacy advocates argue.

Coming Facebook refinements are not expected to include a shift to an opt-in model.

Facebook vice president of global communications Elliot Schrage has been adamant that online privacy is taken very seriously at the company.

‘These new products and features are designed to enhance personalisation and promote social activity across the internet while continuing to give users unprecedented control over what information they share, when they want to share it, and with whom,’ Schrage said.

MySpace on May 17 announced plans to simplify its privacy settings as it seeks to differentiate itself from social network rival Facebook, which has eclipsed the News Corp-owned social networking service.

‘The last few weeks have been fraught with discussion around user privacy on social networks,’ MySpace co-president Mike Jones said in a blog post without directly mentioning Facebook by name.

‘While MySpace at its core is about discovery, self expression and sharing, we understand people might want the option of limiting the sharing of their information to a select group of friends,’ Jones said.
Jones said MySpace, which was bought by News Corp. in 2005 for $580 million, is ‘planning the launch of a simplified privacy setting for our user profiles.

‘While we’ve had these plans in the works for some time, given the recent outcry over privacy concerns in the media, we felt it was important to unveil those plans to our users now,’ he said.
• Source(s): Facebook Inc. and MySpace / Digital Media Group / News Corporation
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15
May
10

Google Data Admission Angers Europe

NEWS
Google Data Admission Angers Europe

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Germany’s Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner has sharply criticized Google for inadvertently collecting personal data.

“According to the information available to us so far, Google has for years penetrated private networks, apparently illegally,” Aigner said in a statement on Saturday.

The “alarming incident” showed that Google still lacks understanding for the need for privacy, according to the statement.

Privacy breach

Google’s fleet of Street View cars, photographing streets for its online map program, has been collecting more data than previously thought. After reviewing a system in the cars that recorded names and addresses of wireless networks detected along the routes, Google revealed that a programming error had led to small amounts of personal data to be collected from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

“It’s now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open Wi-Fi networks,” Google’s head of engineering Alan Eustace said in a blog posting.

The blog post did not specify what kinds of personal data had been collected but indicated it could be things such as email and web browsing history. However, since the data had been collected by moving vehicles, only fragments of information were recorded. Google regretted its mistake and would look for a way to destroy the personal data.

“Maintaining people’s trust is crucial to everything we do, and in this case we fell short,” said Eustace in the blog post.

Google reviewed its data collection methods in response to an inquiry from the Data Protection Authority in Hamburg.

The Google Street View service allows users to “walk” along panoramic street views in many countries, using images recorded by specially-outfitted cars. The fleet of cars around the world has been halted for the time being as Google attempts to fix the glitch.

The Street View project is controversial in Germany due to privacy concerns.
• Source(s): Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and Google Inc.
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27
Apr
10

Google Acquires LabPixies

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Google Acquires LabPixies
Google Acquires LabPixies For $25 Million

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Google has bought an Israeli company that develops mini-programs for the web known as widgets in the latest in a string of acquisitions.

The Mountain View, California-based Google announced the purchase of LabPixies in a blog post. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

LabPixies already makes widgets for iGoogle, Google’s personalised homepage service.

‘We decided that we could do more if we were part of the same team, and as such, we’re thrilled to announce the acquisition of Labpixies,’ Don Loeb, a member of the iGoogle team said.

‘The team will be based in our ever-growing Tel Aviv office and will anchor our iGoogle efforts across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa,’ Loeb said.

‘We are looking forward to working with Labpixies to develop great web apps and leverage their knowledge and expertise to help developers and improve the ecosystem overall,’ he said.

Besides iGoogle, LabPixies has also developed widgets for Google’s Android mobile phone operating system and the iPhone.

Widgets developed by LabPixies include calendars, news feeds, to-do lists and games.

Google has been on a buying spree for the past few months, snapping up a number of small startups including DocVerse, Picnik, Aardvark and Plink.

Chief executive Eric Schmidt said in a conference call with analysts in January that Google planned to acquire about one company a month this year.

● Ran Ben – Yair, CEO LabPixies, said, “We deal with Google to see a golden opportunity for our team to fit in workspace sharing with us the same desire – to millions of users the ultimate online experience.'”

● Prof. Yossi Matias, director of Google R & D Center in Israel, said, “We believe that the combination of LabPixies center staff will allow us to continue strengthening the web platform, and make it attractive than ever for developers and users around the world.” He added that “Google believes in innovation and creativity Israel, and will continue to pursue collaboration with – for start-ups in the future local.”
• Source(s): Google Inc. & LabPixies

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25
Apr
10

U.K.: Foreign Office sorry for insult to Pope Benedict XVI

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U.K.: Foreign Office sorry for insult to Pope Benedict XVI

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Government has apologised to the Pope over official documents that mocked his forthcoming visit to Britain by suggesting he should bless a gay marriage and even launch Papal-branded condoms.

The astonishing proposals, leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, were contained in secret papers drawn up earlier this month by civil servants following a ‘brainstorm’.

The ideas, included in a memo headed ‘The ideal visit would see …’, ridiculed the Catholic Church’s teachings including its opposition to abortion, homosexual behaviour and contraception. Many appeared to be deliberately provocative rather than a serious attempt to plan an itinerary for the September visit.

The proposals, which were then circulated among key officials in Downing Street and Whitehall, also include the Pope opening an abortion ward; spending the night in a council flat in Bradford; doing forward rolls with children to promote healthy living; and even performing a duet with the Queen.

In reference to the hugely sensitive issue of child abuse engulfing the Catholic Church, the Government document suggests that the Pope should take a “harder line on child abuse – announce sacking of dodgy bishops” and “launch helpline for abused children”.

The document was sent out by a junior Foreign Office civil servant with a covering note admitting that some of the plans were “far-fetched”.

Recipients of the memo were furious at its content and an investigation was launched. One senior official was found responsible and has been transferred to other duties.

• Go here to read the rest:
» Pope ‘could cancel UK visit’ over ‘offensive’ Foreign Office memo
» Ministers apologise for insult to Pope
• Source(s): Telegraph Media Group Ltd. & ITN
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16
Apr
10

Search with fewer keystrokes and better spelling

NEWS
Search with fewer keystrokes and better spelling

Friday, April 16, 2010

Google says it has enhanced its search engine to make it easier for people to find what they seek online despite spelling slips.

Google expanded automatic correction of misspelled search words to include 31 languages and improved software crafted to figure out correct spellings of people’s names.

‘Did you make a typo while looking for ‘chocolate strawberries and cream’ in Italian?’ Google technical staff member Pandu Nayak asked rhetorically while showing an example in a blog post.

‘The right word is so close you can taste it.’

The Mountain View, California-based internet search giant also finetuned a feature that suggests search terms based on where searchers are located.

Google last year launched a ‘Suggest’ feature that recommends queries based on which country people are in. Search suggestions are now more localised if queries are made in U.S. cities.

‘Just as people in the United Kingdom often look for different things than people in United States, we’ve found that people in Seattle tend to look for different things than people in Dallas,’ Nayak said.

‘In San Francisco ‘bart’ is probably not Bart Simpson; it’s probably Bay Area Rapid Transit,’ he added, comparing a search on a popular cartoon character name to a regional commuter rail system acronym.
• Source(s): Google – Pandu Nayak, Member of Technical Staff

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