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Archive for January, 2012

24
Jan

Google to “revise” its privacy policies so that it can ramp up its spying and tracking

We hate to say, we told you so, but… we told you so!

In a move that could make it harder for Google users to remain anonymous, Google Inc. said it would start combining nearly all the information it has on its users.

This could mean, for instance, that when users search via Google, the company will use their activities on sister sites like Gmail and YouTube to influence those users’ search results. Google hasn’t done that before.

Google’s move—which was disclosed in a privacy policy that will take effect on March 1—is a sign of the fierce competition between Google and Facebook Inc. over personal data. Facebook has amassed an unprecedented amount of data about the lives of its more than 800 million members—information that is coveted by advertisers.

Years ago, Google began morphing from a search and advertising company into a tracking company that controls a vast treasure trove of information about people. This site, Leave Google Behind, was created as a response to the beginning of that metamorphosis. Since LGB’s founding almost three years ago, we have faithfully chronicled Google’s increasingly well-waged war on privacy, which the Monster of Mountain View seems determined to continue, one odious move at a time.

It should be obvious by now that many of Google’s offerings don’t directly generate revenue and have nothing to do with its core business. Consider Chrome, Google’s browser. Google doesn’t make money on Chrome. But it is able to use Chrome to track the web surfing habits of millions of people. Google made Chrome by taking freely available open source software, making some improvements, and adding a proprietary payload of spyware on top. That payload is distributed with each copy of Google Chrome. But of course, it is missing from community builds of Chromium, because Google has no interest in open-sourcing its spyware.

Chrome and other offerings are intended to expand Google’s reach, so the Monster of Mountain View knows more about everybody. Google’s own executives have admitted this. On multiple occasions.

“I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions…They want Google to tell them what they should be doing nextWe know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.

– Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, August 14th, 2010

Fortunately, Google’s war on privacy is starting to receive more pushback. The European Union is weighing a strong new user data privacy law that companies like Google would be required to comply with. The current incarnation of the law has some particularly strong and useful provisions in it. Perhaps if Europe can act, it will help at least spark a conversation about something similar in the U.S.

16
Jan

Google kills off Wave, announces that existing conversations will be deleted if they aren’t exported

In a few short weeks, Google Wave will be history… and the data contained within Wave conversations will become inaccessible (though Google will probably retain copies):

As we announced in August 2010, we are not continuing active development of Google Wave as a stand-alone product. Google Wave will be shut down in April 2012. This page details the implication of the turn down process for Google Wave.

Stage 1: Google Wave is read-only — January 31, 2012

In this stage, you will no longer be able to create or edit waves. Marking a wave as read will also not be saved.

Robots that try to write to a wave will stop functioning.

During this time, you will continue to be able to export your waves using the existing PDF export feature. You’ll still be able to read existing waves and access the Google Wave client.

If you want to continue using Wave, there is an open source project called Walkaround that includes an experimental feature to import all your waves from Google.

Stage 2: Google Wave shut down — April 30, 2012

In this stage, all the Google Wave servers will be shut down and you will no longer be able to get to your waves. Make sure to export any waves you want to save before that time.

Once upon a time, Google Wave had the tech press enthralled. But that was in 2009. Now it’s 2012, and Google, having made the decision that Wave is expendable, is shutting down the service – though the underlying software has been open sourced and will live on, maintained by the Apache Foundation, the proprietary software industry’s favorite receptacle for orphaned and abandoned projects.

(The Foundation assumed control of the Wave codebase late last year; it also received control of OpenOffice.org from Oracle. Consequently, Google Wave is now Apache Wave, short for Wave-in-a-box).

2
Jan

Surprise! Google violates its own policies to promote Chrome

Don’t be evil… be hypocritically evil!

Google, the company that has been fighting against paid links and “thin” content, seems to be behind a campaign that’s generating both on behalf of its Chrome browser. File this under “what were they thinking.”

Aaron Wall wrote about the campaign today at SEO Book, spotting how a search for “This post is sponsored by Google” brings back over 400 pages written apparently as part of a Google marketing campaign.

We’re checking with Google for confirmation that the company is behind the campaign, but expect a response to be delayed, as Google’s PR department, like much of Google, is off today. But it certainly appears to be Google-backed.

Google is increasingly relying on advertising to try to win over converts to its spyware-laden browser, Chrome, which is built on top of open source software originally derived from the KDE Software Compilation (KHTML). Google’s “ChromeOS” and Chromebooks aren’t doing so well, but Google has successfully convinced millions to download Chrome (the browser) by relentlessly hyping it on its web properties and bundling it with other downloads (like Google Earth).

Though Google is undoubtedly hoping that Chrome’s market share will continue to grow at Mozilla’s expense, it decided against parting ways with the nonprofit software maker recently, choosing instead to renew an agreement that will keep Google as the default search engine in Firefox for a few more years. But we believe Google’s executives didn’t sign off on the agreement out of the kindness of their hearts. They did so because they didn’t want to see Microsoft’s Bing become the default search engine in Firefox. (Microsoft had apparently made an offer and had put money on the table). Microsoft, of course, happens to make its own browser – Internet Explorer. But it has been working hard to integrate Bing into Firefox recently.