Almost sounds a little back-alley-ish: “hey, I’ve been deluging you with these ads for decades, but for a small fee, I’ll remove them, in certain circumstances…”
On Thursday, Google started experimenting with a new way to let users contribute to web sites in exchange for removing – or at least reducing – the number of ads. The service, called Contributor by Google, has users give between $1 and $3 a month to sites like The Onion and Mashable.
Once they pay, the ads that normally show will be replaced with a banner that says “Thank you for being a contributor.”
For Contributor, Google is only working with 10 sites, and it will take a small cut of the contributions. The sites may not be completely ad free: Google only has the power to remove ads it has served, so it should probably be described as a way to see “fewer ads” rather than no ads.
The only way I could see this working would be for low-traffic websites with a loyal leadership – it seems Google shares a slice of that fee with the publisher. I notice Google doesn’t disclose what the percentages actually are, it could be a 90-10 split for all we know, with Google retaining $2.70 of a $3 contribution. I doubt I’d ever use Contributor By Google, but you never know. Is the occasional visit to Urban Dictionary or The Onion worth $36 a year? Meh. Especially since I use Ghostery to block most ads in the first place, so the savings would be negligible, plus Google would be able to accumulate more data about me for their data mills.
Sophism Becomes You
I used to have Google Ads displayed over there on the right column, and when this blog sucked less1 and got more daily traffic, the ads paid me a few hundred dollars a year. That was quite a while ago though, certainly before Twitter and other social media soaked up my bandwidth, and the tumbleweeds started accumulating here. In fact, I removed the Google Ads several years ago, probably when Google started frequently being a bully and a thief.2
The No. 2 official at the Justice Department delivered a blunt message last month to Apple Inc. executives: New encryption technology that renders locked iPhones impervious to law enforcement would lead to tragedy. A child would die, he said, because police wouldn’t be able to scour a suspect’s phone, according to people who attended the meeting.
Apple executives thought the dead-child scenario was inflammatory. They told the government officials law enforcement could obtain the same kind of information elsewhere, including from operators of telecommunications networks and from backup computers and other phones, according to the people who attended.
Technology companies are pushing back more against government requests for cooperation and beefing up their use of encryption. On Tuesday, WhatsApp, the popular messaging service owned by Facebook Inc., said it is now encrypting texts sent from one Android phone to another, and it won’t be able to decrypt the contents for law enforcement.
AT&T Inc. on Monday challenged the legal framework investigators have long used to collect call logs and location information about suspects.
In a filing to a federal appeals court in Atlanta, AT&T said it receives an “enormous volume” of government requests for information about customers, and argued Supreme Court decisions from the 1970s “apply poorly” to modern communications. The company urged the courts to provide new, clear rules on what data the government can take without a probable cause warrant.
Law enforcement officials are clever, they can find ways to get data in other ways, like this, for instance…
And good for Tim Cook – he suggests that Apple Inc. should not be in the business of enabling the police in their quest to snoop on our phones without first getting warrants. You know, like if we were living in a constitutional Democracy with a Bill of Rights again?
In June 2013, Mr. Snowden provided reporters with documents describing a government program called Prism, which gathered huge amounts of data from tech companies. At first, tech-company executives said they hadn’t previously heard of Prism and denied participating. In fact, Prism was an NSA code word for data collection authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Tech companies routinely complied with such requests.
More than a year later, tech executives say consumers still mistrust them, and they need to take steps to demonstrate their independence from the government.
Customer trust is a big issue at Apple. The company generates 62% of its revenue outside the U.S., where it says encryption is even more important to customers concerned about snooping by their governments.
These days, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook stresses the company’s distance from the government.
“Look, if law enforcement wants something, they should go to the user and get it,” he said at The Wall Street Journal’s global technology conference in October. “It’s not for me to do that.”
In early September, Apple said the encryption on its latest iPhone software would prevent anyone other than the user from accessing user data stored on the phone when it is locked. Until then, Apple had helped police agencies—with a warrant—pull data off a phone. The process wasn’t quick. Investigators had to send the device to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, and backlogs occurred.
Personally, I never, ever use logins that depend upon Facebook. I have run across a few iOS apps that insist upon Facebook logins, and I deleted them rather than give up my information. I have on rare occasion used the Google login, but I’d much prefer using my own login credentials, even if it involves creating yet another password. Since I use 1Password these days, creating and maintaining unique passwords isn’t as much of a burden as it used to be.
Facebook and Google are battling to be the gateway through which users connect to websites and mobile apps. But users and businesses may be losing interest in such “social login” services.
Consumers worry about broadcasting their preferences and habits to companies and across their social networks. Businesses are torn between making life easier for users and letting Facebook and Google see the resulting data.
“A few years ago, there was a frenzy, but the interest has peaked,” says Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, an analyst at Forrester Research who studies social login. “There’s the fear of, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to click something and God knows what’s going to show up on my Facebook wall.’ ”
The social login buttons allow consumers to log in to other websites and apps using their usernames and passwords, for example, from Facebook Login or Google+.
But a Forrester survey of 66 large and midsize companies finds that only 17% use social-login buttons, and more than half have no plans to do so. Forrester hadn’t previously done a similar survey, but Ms. Mulpuru-Kodali says social login offerings are no longer appealing to retailers and users.
I think also more consumers are realizing that Facebook and Google are not creating these tools to make consumers digital lives easier, but instead to enable Facebook and Google to collect data on consumers that they will then sell to businesses. Why make the process any easier for Big Data? Especially since Google and Facebook have repeatedly made errors that benefit their own business practices, and only apologize when the “error” becomes public, or the FTC files a complaint.
One reason users hesitate is privacy — the fear that logging in to the real-estate website Zillow through a Facebook button, for example, might inadvertently reveal the house you looked at, and its price, to your social network. Facebook says this can’t happen without a consumer’s express permission. But many users are wary because of the social network’s mixed record on privacy.
Some large brick and mortar retailers are concerned that letting Facebook or Google put code on their website might lead to the Web giants collecting their purchase data. Google says it doesn’t collect this information1.
Google’s new home, the Fulton Market Cold Storage Building before renovation. Photo by Seth Anderson] The West Loop and Near West Side are gaining more momentum as Chicago’s newest tech hotspots every week. As Chicago’s economy turns towards young startups and tech incubators to help usher in the new century, neighborhood demographics and flagship business tenants are changing constantly. With dozens of new coworking spaces, names like Groupon, Lightbank and soon-to-be Motorola, River North has been the city’s tech powerhouse for at least the last five years. However some are saying that the near north neighborhood known for its luxury high rises and fine dining has become saturated and too expensive for newer, younger and less endowed companies.
There were credible rumors1 that Google was going to move into the West Loop, but then Google signed a lease in River North instead. However, according to Crain’s Chicago, it still might happen:
Google Inc. is mapping new office territory in Chicago. The Mountain View, Calif.-based technology giant is in talks to move its Chicago office to the city’s meatpacking district, where it would lease more than 200,000 square feet, sources say. If a deal is struck, it would dramatically reshape the gentrifying Fulton Market-Randolph area, where foodies flock to a thriving restaurant row but major office tenants have yet to arrive. Landing one of the world’s most recognizable companies would bring instant legitimacy to an office market now made up of small tenants in low-rise loft buildings.
… “Google is an unbelievable engine,” says Chicago tenant broker Bob Chodos, a principal at Seattle-based Colliers International who is not involved in the Google deal. “Wherever they go gets bigger.” Google’s employees, mostly in sales, are outgrowing the Kinzie Street tower where the company’s lease for about 150,000 square feet expires at the end of 2015. As Google expands here, it is expected to need more than 200,000 square feet, and possibly up to 300,000, sources say.
Enter Sterling Bay Cos., which reached an agreement to buy the 10-story Fulton Market Cold Storage warehouse, the tallest in the neighborhood, in 2011. The Chicago developer is converting the existing building and an attached new structure into about 540,000 square feet of office and retail at 1000 W. Fulton St. by late next year.
In addition to Google, Boka Restaurant Group—which includes chef Stephanie Izard’s nearby Girl & the Goat and Little Goat Diner—is finalizing a deal for a steakhouse on the ground floor of the former meat storage facility, sources say.
Already, construction of a Soho House hotel is underway near the intersection of Halsted and Randolph streets. Nobu Hospitality Group, whose owners include actor Robert De Niro, in March confirmed its desire to put another boutique hotel and a Japanese restaurant on Randolph.
Editors love controversy, especially when Apple is involved, and even better if Google is involved as well. Controversy leads to increased web traffic, and theoretically, salary raises for editors. Thus the minor topic of Apple’s Map app continues to dominate the tech press, and has even leaked out to general news coverage.
Q: Then why did Apple kick Google Maps off the iOS platform? Wouldn’t Apple have been better off offering Google Maps even while it was building its own map app? Shouldn’t Apple have waited?
A: Waited for what? For Google to strengthen its chokehold on a key iOS service? Apple has recognized the significance of mobile mapping and acquired several mapping companies, IP assets and talent in the last few years. Mapping is indeed one of the hardest of mobile services, involving physical terrestrial and aerial surveying, data acquisition, correction, tile making and layer upon layer of contextual info married to underlying data, all optimized to serve often under trying network conditions. Unfortunately, like dialect recognition or speech synthesis (think Siri), mapping is one of those technologies that can’t be fully incubated in a lab for a few years and unleashed on several hundred million users in more than a 100 countries in a “mature” state. Thousands of reports from individuals around the world, for example, have helped Google correct countless mapping failures over the last half decade. Without this public exposure and help in the field, a mobile mapping solution like Apple’s stands no chance.
Q: So why not keep using a more established solution like Google’s?
A: Clearly, no one outside Mountain View and Cupertino can say who’s forced the parties to come to this state of affairs. Did Google, for example, want to extract onerous concessions from Apple involving more advertising leeway, user data collection, clickstream tracking and so on? Thanks to the largest fine in FTC’s history Google had to pay (don’t laugh!), we already know how desperate Google is for users’ data and how cavalier it is with their privacy. Maybe Apple didn’t like Google’s terms, maybe it was the other way around, perhaps both parties agreed it was best to have two separate apps available…we don’t know. After well-known episodes with Microsoft, Adobe and others, what we do know is that Apple has a justifiable fear of key third parties dictating terms and hindering its rate of innovation. It’s thus understandable why Apple would want to wrest control of its independence from its chief rival on its most important product line.
Q: Does Apple have nothing but contempt for its users?
A: Yes, Apple’s evil. When Apple barred Flash from iOS, Flash was the best and only way to play .swf files. Apple’s video alternative, H.264, wasn’t nearly as widely used. Thus Apple’s solution was “inferior” and appeared to be against its own users’ interests. Sheer corporate greed! Trillion words have been written about just how misguided Apple was in denying its users the glory of Flash on iOS. Well, Flash is now dead on mobile. And yet the Earth’s obliquity of the ecliptic is still about 23.4°. We seemed to have survived that one.
Jean-Louis Gassée adds re: the Apple Maps conversation a salient point, namely that Apple gave no hint that Maps was in its early stages:
The ridicule that Apple has suffered following the introduction of the Maps application in iOS 6 is largely self-inflicted. The demo was flawless, 2D and 3D maps, turn-by-turn navigation, spectacular flyovers…but not a word from the stage about the app’s limitations, no self-deprecating wink, no admission that iOS Maps is an infant that needs to learn to crawl before walking, running, and ultimately lapping the frontrunner, Google Maps. Instead, we’re told that Apple’s Maps may be “the most beautiful, powerful mapping service ever.”
After the polished demo, the released product gets a good drubbing: the Falkland Islands are stripped of roads and towns, bridges and façades are bizarrely rendered, an imaginary airport is discovered in a field near Dublin. Pageview-driven commenters do the expected. After having slammed the “boring” iPhone 5, they reversed course when preorders exceed previous records, and now they reverse course again when Maps shows a few warts.
Even Joe Nocera, an illustrious NYT writer, joins the chorus with a piece titled Has Apple Peaked? Note the question mark, a tired churnalistic device, the author hedging his bet in case the peak is higher still, lost in the clouds. The piece is worth reading for its clichés, hyperbole, and statements of the obvious: “unmitigated disaster”, “the canary in the coal mine”, and “Jobs isn’t there anymore”, tropes that appear in many Maps reviews.
(The implication that Jobs would have squelched Maps is misguided. I greatly miss Dear Leader but my admiration for his unsurpassed successes doesn’t obscure my recollection of his mistakes. The Cube, antennagate, Exchange For The Rest of Us [a.k.a MobileMe], the capricious skeuomorphic shelves and leather stitches… Both Siri — still far from reliable — and Maps were decisions Jobs made or endorsed.)
Re-reading Joe Nocera’s piece, I get the impression that he hasn’t actually tried Maps himself. Nor does he point out that you can still use Google Maps on an iPhone or iPad:
The process is dead-simple: Add maps.google.com as a Web App on your Home Screen and voilà, Google Maps without waiting for Google to come up with a native iOS app, or for Apple to approve it. Or you can try other mapping apps such as Navigon. Actually, I’m surprised to see so few people rejoice at the prospect of a challenger to Google’s de facto maps monopoly.
Also, glad to see that others think as little of Joe Nocera as I do.
Wheel of transformation
More on the benefits of iOS users feeding Google’s insatiable data maw – benefits for Google that is – from Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt:
Unbeknownst to me, I’ve been feeding geographical information into Google’s (GOOG) mapping database for years — searching for addresses, sharing my location, checking for traffic jams on Google Maps. Google, for its part, has been scraping that data for every nugget of intelligence its computers can extract. Without consciously volunteering, I’ve been participating in a massive crowdsourcing experiment — perhaps the largest the world has ever seen. Who knows what I might have been teaching Google Maps if I’d been navigating the surface of the planet with an Android phone in my pocket?
Apple, by building its much-loved (and now much-missed) iPhone Maps app on Google’s mapping database, has been complicit in this Herculean data collection exercise since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007. The famous Google cars that drive up and down the byways of the world collecting Street View images get most of the attention, but it’s the billions upon billions of data points supplied by hundreds of millions of users that make Google Maps seem so smart and iOS 6’s new Maps app seem so laughably stupid.
Feud is the wrong word, really, these are just competing businesses, not personal enemies, but still bears watching their competition unfold. At least this article in the NYT isn’t just trolling Apple, like Joe Nocera’s bit of vomit from yesterday.
Being kicked off the iPhone has potentially significant consequences for Google, whose Maps service earns more than half its traffic from mobile devices, and almost half of that mobile traffic has been from iPhone users. Apple’s move strikes at the heart of Google’s core business, search, because about 40 percent of mobile searches are for local places or things.
“Local is a huge thing for Google in terms of advertising dollars, and search is very tied to that,” said Barry Schwartz, an editor at Search Engine Land, an industry blog. “Knowing where you are, when you search for coffee, it can bring up local coffee shops and ads that are much more relevant for the user.”
But with maps, Google, which has long been the dominant digital mapmaker, now must adjust to a new rival, along with the loss of valuable iPhone users.
Even though Android phones far outnumber iPhones — 60 percent of smartphones run Android, versus 34 percent for iPhones, according to Canalys, a research firm — iPhone users account for almost half of mobile traffic to Google Maps.
In July, according to comScore Mobile Metrix, 12.6 million iPhone users visited Maps each day, versus 7.6 million on Android phones. And iPhone users spent an hour and a half using Maps during the month, while Android users spent just an hour.
Those users are a valuable source for Google, because it relies on their data to determine things like which businesses or landmarks are most important and whether maps have errors.
Wow! Remember that guy Vitaly Borker? We blogged about his crazy case back in 2010, he figured out how to game Google search with the realization that even bad comments elevated his site in Google rankings. It sounds like it was even worse than we know. Four years, plus three years of probation is a stiff sentence, but it might not be enough.
A Brooklyn man who terrified customers of his online eyewear store with threats of violence, including rape, was sentenced on Thursday to four years in federal prison and ordered to pay nearly $100,000 in restitution and fines.
Vitaly Borker, 36, who owned and operated DecorMyEyes from his home in Sheepshead Bay, pleaded guilty in May 2011 to charges of fraud and sending threatening communications. He admitted that he had scared dissatisfied customers with phone calls and e-mails, in some cases vowing rape, murder or dismemberment, according to prosecutors.
A handful of Mr. Borker’s victims were summoned to testify about calls and e-mails they had received, which turned out to include a threat to slice off the legs of one customer. Federal District Judge Richard J. Sullivan said, at the end of one day of testimony, that he found the victims credible and so disturbing that he revoked Mr. Borker’s bail, which had allowed him to live at home under restrictions.
In addition to four years in prison, Mr. Borker was told he would be on probation for three years after his release, during which he will not be allowed to use a computer. He was also told to receive psychiatric and substance-abuse counseling.
You might have heard that Google engineers created a way to surreptitiously collect data on all Safari users – including all iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users – ignoring the privacy settings. As a result of a computer scientist by the name of Jonathan Mayer, his investigation, and a subsequent media uproar, the FTC got involved, and eventually fined Google a few nickels.
The Federal Trade Commission fined Google $22.5 million on Thursday to settle charges that it had bypassed privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser to be able to track users of the browser and show them advertisements, and violated an earlier privacy settlement with the agency.
The fine is the largest civil penalty ever levied by the commission, which has been cracking down on tech companies for privacy violations and is also investigating Google for antitrust violations.
“The social contract has to be that if you’re going to hold on to people’s most private data, you have to do a better job of honoring your privacy commitments,” said David C. Vladeck, the director of the commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a call with reporters. “And if there’s a message the commission is trying to send today, it’s that.”
The commission said Google had broken the terms of a 2011 settlement over privacy missteps related to the Buzz, a social networking tool now defunct.
Let’s do the math, as best we can on this convenient envelope on my desk. Google broke their agreement for about a year.1 Even if there was only one violation per day, this adds up to $5,840,000 in fines. But there are probably 200,000,000 iOS devices in active use2, plus desktop Macs running Safari, so potentially, Google was liable for 200,000,000 x 365 x $16,000 = $1,168,000,000,000,000 in fines. Doh! Of course, the FTC doesn’t have the gumption to fine any corporation that much. Instead they fined Google $22,000,000.
For comparison, Google’s annual revenue is over $43,000,000,000 (per their 2nd Q 2012 report PDF). $22.5 million divided by $43.16 billion is 0.05213%. A joke in other words, a rounding error. If you made $50,000 a year in gross salary, and you got a fine of this magnitude, you’d pay…wait for it…$26. Yep, just twenty six dollars. Would it be worth it to you to pay a couple bucks a month in exchange for sellable advertising data on 200 million phones and iPads? Hell yes! Those cookies are a large reason why Google makes $43 billion a year, obviously they are valuable!
Google got off way, way too easily.
Let Me Show You How to Eagle Rock
What about those incompetent boobs at the Federal Trade Commission? The FTC isn’t very motivated to snoop out privacy invasions in the first place, as Wired reported back in June, 2012:
Jonathan Mayer had a hunch.
The young computer scientist suspected that online advertisers might be following consumers around the web — even when they set their browsers to block the snippets of tracking code called cookies. If Mayer’s instinct was right, advertisers were eying people as they moved from one website to another even though their browsers were configured to prevent this sort of digital shadowing. Working long hours at his office, Mayer ran a series of clever tests in which he purchased ads that acted as sniffers for the sort of unauthorized cookies he was looking for. He hit the jackpot, unearthing one of the biggest privacy scandals of the past year: Google was secretly planting cookies on a vast number of iPhone browsers. Mayer thinks millions of iPhones were targeted by Google.
The feds are often the last to know about digital invasions of your privacy. This is precisely the type of privacy violation the Federal Trade Commission aims to protect consumers from, and Google, which claims the cookies were not planted in an unethical way, now reportedly faces a fine of more than $10 million. But the FTC didn’t discover the violation. Mayer is a 25-year-old grad student working on law and computer science degrees at Stanford University. He shoehorned his sleuthing between classes and homework, working from an office he shares in the Gates Computer Science Building with students from New Zealand and Hong Kong. He doesn’t get paid for his work and he doesn’t get much rest.
If it seems odd that a federal regulator was scooped by a sleep-deprived student, get used to it, because the federal government is often the last to know about digital invasions of your privacy. The largest privacy scandal of the past year, also involving Google, wasn’t discovered by federal regulators, either. A privacy official in Germany forced Google to hand over the hard drives of cars equipped with 360-degree digital cameras that were taking pictures for its Street View program. The Germans discovered that Google wasn’t just shooting photos: The cars downloaded a panoply of sensitive data, including emails and passwords, from open Wi-Fi networks. Google had secretly done the same in the United States, but the FTC, as well as the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees broadcast issues, had no idea until the Germans figured it out.
Google spent $5.03 million on lobbying from January through March of this year, a record for the Internet giant, and a 240 percent increase from the $1.48 million it spent on lobbyists in the same quarter a year ago, according to disclosures filed Friday with the clerk of the House.
By comparison, Apple spent $500,000; Facebook spent $650,000 Amazon spent $870,000; and Microsoft spent $1.79 million. Google even outspent Verizon Wireless, a notoriously big spender, which spent $4.51 million.
The real question is how long will Google be content on losing money, lots of money, on Android? Especially since most of Google’s mobile ad revenue comes from Apple. Seems to me Google is hedging their Android bet by purchasing Motorola.
Brian Hall digs in a bit:
I mean, Android isn’t making a dime for Google. It’s a massive cost center. With the acquisition of Motorola, which isn’t making money from Android, Google will have dropped upwards of $20 billion on Android.Think of that: $20 billion.Twenty billion of shareholder money.…
Then I thought, considering my relentless criticism at Google for not breaking out any costs or revenues associated with Android, that someone at Google was feeding this reporter a story — and he bit, hook line and sinker. Not sure. Fellow seems to genuinely think that all the money Google continues to pour into Android, with no return, is an acceptable — strategic — business practice. Perhaps it’s because I don’t live in Silicon Valley. I mean, near as I can tell, beyond the insiders who are getting rich flipping talent, the only companies actually earning sustained revenues are Apple and Google. I guess earning revenues is no longer the hot trend in Silicon Valley.
Google really has lost whatever ethics it may have once had1 and should really have to pay a price for their latest lapse. Especially since Google and the Federal Trade Commission had an arrangement already, and Google violated it within weeks…
The Stanford privacy researcher who first uncovered Google evading the default privacy settings for all users of Apple’s Safari web browser believes that the Federal Trade Commission has a “slam dunk” case that Google violated its privacy agreement with the government.
“The facts in this case are unusually clear cut,” Jonathan Mayer, a grad student in computer science and law and a researcher at the Stanford Law Center for Internet and Society, in a phone interview with TPM.
The settlement, first struck in October 2011 , was the result of the FTC’s year-long privacy investigation into Google over its failed Google Buzz social network. The FTC concluded that Google had indeed misled users and violated their privacy and subjected Google to 20 years worth of privacy audits and ordered that Google no longer “misrepresent” its privacy settings to users. If Google violates any of the terms of the settlement, the FTC can slap the company with a $16,000 civil fine for every day that the company violated any of the terms.
On Thursday night, The Journal reported that the FTC “is examining whether Google’s actions violated last year’s legal settlement,” and another regulatory body in France (the CNIL) and several states attorneys general were also investigating Google over the practice and could levy fines of their own.
In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission is examining whether Google’s actions violated last year’s legal settlement with the government in which Google pledged not to “misrepresent” its privacy practices to consumers, according to people familiar with the investigation.
The fine for violating the agreement is $16,000 per violation, per day. Because millions of people were affected, any fine could add up quickly, depending on how it is calculated. The FTC declined to comment.
A group of state attorneys general, including New York’s Eric Schneiderman and Connecticut’s George Jepsen, are also investigating Google’s circumvention of Safari’s privacy settings, according to people familiar with the investigation. State attorneys general can have the ability to levy fines of up to $5,000 per violation.
In Europe, the French Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, or CNIL, has added the Safari circumvention technique to its existing pan-European investigation into Google’s privacy-policy changes, according to a person close to the investigation. The CNIL is the agency that levied a €100,000 ($130,960) fine on Google last year for collecting passwords and other personal information when Google vehicles were gathering information for its Street View map service.
Don’t Be Evil is a thing of the past, the new Google is brash in its insistence that consumers are the product. You are their product, to be sold to advertisers. What you want is not important, only your demographic information is, since that is the commodity that makes Google wealthy.
Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.’s Web browser on their iPhones and computers—tracking the Web-browsing habits of people who intended for that kind of monitoring to be blocked.
The companies used special computer code that tricks Apple’s Safari Web-browsing software into letting them monitor many users. Safari, the most widely used browser on mobile devices, is designed to block such tracking by default.
Google disabled its code after being contacted by The Wall Street Journal.
WSJ’s Jennifer Valentino-DeVries has details of Google and other advertising companies that were bypassing privacy levels set by users of Apple’s Safari browser on their iPhones. Photos: Getty Images
The Google code was spotted by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer and independently confirmed by a technical adviser to the Journal, Ashkan Soltani.
In Google’s case, the findings appeared to contradict some of Google’s own instructions to Safari users on how to avoid tracking. Until recently, one Google site told Safari users they could rely on Safari’s privacy settings to prevent tracking by Google. Google removed that language from the site Tuesday night.
…Google’s privacy practices are under intense scrutiny. Last year, as part of a far-reaching legal settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission the company pledged not to “misrepresent” its privacy practices to consumers. The fine for violating the agreement is $16,000 per violation, per day. The FTC declined to comment on the findings.
Utterly embarrassing for Google, and right when the Congress is poised to look at Google’s privacy practices.
For the record, I use Google constantly, have had a Gmail account since it was first offered, use Google Analytics on this site, even have Google ads (if you haven’t blocked them like I have)
The EFF Foundation blogs:
Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal published evidence that Google has been circumventing the privacy settings of Safari and iPhone users, tracking them on non-Google sites despite Apple’s default settings, which were intended to prevent such tracking.
This tracking, discovered by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer, was a technical side-effect—probably an unintended side-effect—of a system that Google built to pass social personalization information (like, “your friend Suzy +1’ed this ad about candy”) from the google.com domain to the doubleclick.net domain. Further technical explanation can be found below.
Coming on the heels of Google’s controversial decision to tear down the privacy-protective walls between some of its other services, this is bad news for the company. It’s time for Google to acknowledge that it can do a better job of respecting the privacy of Web users. One way that Google can prove itself as a good actor in the online privacy debate is by providing meaningful ways for users to limit what data Google collects about them. Specifically, it’s time that Google’s third-party web servers start respecting Do Not Track requests, and time for Google to offer a built-in Do Not Track option.
Meanwhile, users who want to be safe against web tracking can’t rely on Safari’s well-intentioned but circumventable protections. Until Do Not Track is more widely respected, users who wish to defend themselves against online tracking should use AdBlock Plus for Firefox or Chrome, or Tracking Protection Lists for Internet Explorer.1 AdBlock needs to be used with EasyPrivacy and EasyList in order to offer maximal protection.
Google cleared $37.9 billion in 2011 revenue, which equates to more than $3 billion a month, mostly from those little text ads next to your search results that neither you or anybody you know will admit to ever clicking on.
Insurance and finance buys for Google Adsense words accounted for $4.2 billion of that total — more than 10 percent — according to Larry Kim, the founder of Wordstream, a company that sells software to analyze text ad campaigns and commissioned the infographic above. The most expensive search term in that niche was “Self employed health insurance” — not surprising in the aftermath of the recession and the Affordable Care Act, which will eventually require nearly everyone to have health care insurance (unless the Supreme Court nullifies the law later this year).
That phrase cost $43.39 per click, nearly $10 more than the next most expensive term, “cheap car insurance”. (That’s not too surprising given that the long-term worth of a new insurance client might be worth losing money on them the first year.)
Retailers were a somewhat distant second, but still accounted for a hefty $2.8 billion in ad buys, and were led by e-commerce behemoth Amazon. Inexplicably, the top-priced search term in this niche was for “zumba dance DVD.” Or, perhaps the explanation is all those self-employed people looking to lower the cost of those health insurance policies they’ll need by finally getting started on a high-impact cardio routine.
“I compiled these revenue estimates by using our own trillion-keyword database and the Google Keyword Tool to determine the top 10 million most popular search queries in 2011, as well as their average cost-per-click prices as paid by advertisers,” Kim told Wired. “I used WordStream PPC technologies to categorize the huge keyword list by industry, such as “Finance & Insurance,” then applied a model that weighed the relative percentages of each industry’s revenue (keyword volume * average cost per click) to Google’s 2011 revenues, excluding non-advertising revenues. “The top five advertisers in each industry and their estimated spend was obtained by using data from SpyFu.com, then applying the same categorization analysis.”
Here’s the biggie: in order for a specific device to get a license for the apps, it must pass the Android Compatibility Test Suite and meet the Android Compatibility Definition. How Google exactly determines what passes the test is really the core issue in this case — Skyhook claims Google uses the threat of incompatibility to act anti-competitively.Interestingly, the license allows Google to change the applicable Compatibility Test Suite and Android Compatibility Definition at will up until the time a device is certified for launch… by passing the CTS. So basically there’s nothing keeping Google from changing the CTS or ACD any way it wants in order to keep a particular device off the market.
Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and their former editor Andy Coulson all face embarrassing new allegations of dishonesty and cover-up after the publication of an explosive letter written by the News of the World’s disgraced royal correspondent, Clive Goodman. In the letter, which was written four years ago but published only on Tuesday, Goodman claims that phone hacking was “widely discussed” at editorial meetings at the paper until Coulson himself banned further references to it; that Coulson offered to let him keep his job if he agreed not to implicate the paper in hacking when he came to court; and that his own hacking was carried out with “the full knowledge and support” of other senior journalists, whom he named.
I saw a Bloomberg report on the reverse break-up fee Google and Motorola Mobility (MMI) agreed upon: it’s a whopping, mindboggling $2.5 billion that Google has to pay to MMI if the deal falls through. I’m still researching this but it seems that this is, in relative terms, the highest-ever break-up fee agreed upon in this industry. “On an equity value basis, Google’s fee amounts to 20 percent, compared with the 4.2 percent median since last year”, reports Bloomberg. The same source that told Bloomberg the $2.5 billion figure claims that MMI “would pay a $375 million breakup fee if it decides not to sell to Google”.
How stupid and reckless is the Tea Party? In addition to shrugging off a default threat – or perhaps welcoming one – they believe austerity is the correct medicine for a weak economy!! Where did they study economics, in a cornfield outhouse?? It defies belief that Tea Party members actually think spending cuts will create jobs. No – spending cuts will eliminate jobs. The Know-Nothings don’t understand that, but hey — it’s good for my bonds !!
While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors. These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.
But a simple step that may lower the risk, especially in warm weather, is to stay properly hydrated. Dehydration causes blood volume to drop, researchers say, resulting in less blood and oxygen flow to the brain and dilated blood vessels. Some experts suspect that a loss of electrolytes causes nerves in the brain to produce pain signals. Anyone who has ever woken up dehydrated after a night of heavy drinking knows this feeling as a hangover. But migraine sufferers may be more sensitive to the effects of dehydration.
Look, I can understand if you get frustrated with Barack Obama. Like all politicians, he’s imperfect. He has taken some positions that are completely wrong (his education policy leaps to mind; his foreign policy has been at best a mixed bag), and he certainly hasn’t done a good job of articulating the counterargument to the nihilism that defines current Republican policy. I believe that he’s better in many ways than his liberal detractors think, but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect, it doesn’t mean he never deserves criticism, and it doesn’t mean you can’t state that frustration and still be a supporter of liberalism. Indeed, sometimes being a supporter of liberalism requires it. But when you take the next step, and declare that you’d rather vote for Michele Bachmann than support Barack Obama for president, you have completely lost the thread.
Now, I personallly have little patience for people trying to prove how hard they are generally speaking, and especially when said people are highly privileged liberals preening like they’re tough because they’ll “punish” the Democrats with their precious, precious votes—didn’t you know their votes count five times as much as yours? Well, they should anyway. The belief that the choice is to do things 100% your way or to give up altogether is what drives the Tea Party, which is why Rhodes has functionally become a Tea Partier, who will give the resentment vote to whatever asshole the GOP runs. I’m not going to argue the relative merits of Obama over fucking Bachmann, or Perry, or Romney. That just creates more opportunity for idiots and assholes to preen about how they’re lefter-than-thou, so left that they’re willing to destroy this country in order to make a point about how superior they are to everyone else.
Poor, poor lil’ Google. They are a billion dollar company, and yet they whine like this:
Google Inc. accused rivals Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. of waging an “organized, hostile campaign” against the Internet search giant’s Android mobile phone software, using questionable patents.
“They want to make it harder for manufacturers to sell Android devices,” Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote on a company website. “Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation.”
The campaign against Android is being waged “through bogus patents,” Mr. Drummond wrote, adding that “Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other’s throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what’s going on.”
I’m too lazy to write up responses to Google’s questionable, ridiculous arguments, but luckily, smarter folk have already done so. Like John Gruber:
So if Google had acquired the rights to these patents, that would have been OK. But when others acquired them, it’s a “hostile, organized campaign”. It’s OK for Google to undermine Microsoft’s for-pay OS licensing business by giving Android away for free, but it’s not OK for Microsoft to undermine Google’s attempts to give away for free an OS that violates patents belonging to Microsoft?
A consortium that included Microsoft and Apple recently paid $4.5 billion for patents auctioned by Nortel, an amount that Google notes was “five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion.”
Then when the auction actually started, it’s OK for Google to bid over $3.14 billion, but when Apple and Microsoft bid $4.5 billion, that’s “way beyond what they’re really worth”. And if these patents are “bogus”, why was Google willing to pay anything for them, let alone pi billion dollars?
No one other than Nathan Myhrvold and his cronies sees the U.S. patent system as functioning properly, but Google’s hypocrisy here is absurd. Google isn’t arguing against a handful of never-should-have-been-issued software patents. They’re not arguing against patent trolls like Myhrvold and his shell companies like Lodsys — companies that have no products of their own, no actual inventions, just patents for ideas for products. They’re effectively arguing against the idea of the patent system itself, simply because Android violates a bunch of patents held by Google’s competitors. It’s not “patents” that are attacking Android. It’s competing companies whose patents Google has violated — and whose business Android undermines — who are attacking Android.
John Paczkowski adds:
Clearly, the company is taking a new tack here, framing the issue in its own way and, presumably, putting whatever lobbying and legal muscle it has into throwing out roadblocks. To wit, these few lines, also taken from Drummond’s post:
We’re encouraged that the Department of Justice forced the group I mentioned earlier to license the former Novell patents on fair terms, and that it’s looking into whether Microsoft and Apple acquired the Nortel patents for anti-competitive means.
I bet you are. Particularly since you’re facing antitrust inquiries into your own core businesses. And in the end, that may be another purpose of this post: To show regulators that Google isn’t always the unstoppable juggernaut it is portrayed to be. Sometimes it’s the victim, or it would like to be viewed that way, especially by the FTC and the tough-talking judge presiding over its patent infringement showdown with Oracle. One last point: If the patents to which Google refers are “bogus,” why bother decrying them at all? Or, for that matter, trying to purchase them in the first place?
TechCrunch wonders why Google is so interested in patents now…
As you’ve undoubtedly seen by now, Google decided to go on the offensive today with regard to patents. No, they didn’t go after any company for violating their patents. Nor did they spend billions acquiring new ones. Instead, David Drummond, Google’s SVP and Chief Legal Officer, took to the Google Blog to lash out at Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, and others for using “bogus patents” to attack their Android mobile platform.
But why now? In the past, Google has remained fairly mum on the topic. And they certainly weren’t calling out rivals by name. They’ve talked generally about the broken patent system, and even did a post explaining why they were willing to spend big money on the Nortel patents — for defensive purposes. But those approaches haven’t worked. Google is now arguably more vulnerable than they’ve ever been. And the stakes are about to go even higher.
When Google lost the Nortel bidding, they’re believed to have bid north of $4 billion before dropping out. Apple, backing Rockstar Bidco, eventually won with a bid of $4.5 billion. Now a battle for an even bigger treasure of patents looms.