French privacy agency tries to kibosh Google’s privacy policy just days before roll out

The National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties announced today that Google’s new privacy policy might violate European Union law.

The allegation comes just days before the Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet giant planned to enact the policy that unveiled last month. Google said the updated policy streamlined privacy practices for 60 different services engaged around the globe to bring transparency and clarity.

“We’re getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that’s a lot shorter and easier to read,” explained Google’s policy website.

A portion of the letter.

The French privacy agency picked a bone with the search engine’s intent and wrote a letter (PDF) to Google’s Chief Executive Officer Larry Page that painted the new rules as questionable. The central focus of the letter inquired how Google would use the reaped private data, but it is well-known the advertising firm collects personal information from tracking cookies to build targeted ads.

“Rather than promoting transparency, the terms of the new policy and the fact that Google claims publicly that it will combine data across services raises fears about Google’s actual practices,” wrote the agency, also known as CNIL, in the letter. “Our preliminary investigation shows that it is extremely difficult to know exactly which data is combined between which services for which purposes, even for trained privacy professionals.”

The new policy takes effect March 1, and while users’ privacy preferences remain, the new arrangement allows Google to gather and implement user data across its services. Google is charging ahead with Search plus Your World, Gmail, Picasa, YouTube, and Google+, so it is probably just connecting all the loose legal ends to make one continuous experience….

Read more

‘And the Oscar winners are…’: Track search patterns with Google Insights to predict envelope names

Google Insights for Search is a handy tool that helped the Mountain View, Calif.-based search engine predict last year’s Oscar winners by tracking search pattern behaviors, and the Internet giant has decided to test its service again with this year’s red carpet lineup.

The Academy Awards is the most popular entertainment award show in terms of search volume. The convolute of searches subsequently create a prime foundation for Googlers to analyze patterns. Google’s Rebecca Mall, an entertainment account executive, took to the Official Google Blog today to “open the (search) envelopes and see who the Oscar (may) go to this year,” according to Google Insight’s reaped Web information.

More information is available below.

Read more

Google including upcoming concerts and links to tickets in search results

Google announced on the Official Google Search blog today that it would incorporate upcoming concert listings in search results. When previously searching for a band or artist, you would usually get its official website with songs and snippets that Google introduced in August of last year. After today’s update, Google will now display concert listings from various sources underneath the result for the band or artist’s official website. The new listing also includes links to various ticket dealers and a link to “Show more events.” Site administrators can add rich snippets markup to their web pages and follow instructions to mark up events. The feature is now only available to English-speaking users searching through Google.com.
Read more

Google implements lists for health-related queries, aims to help Googlers refine searches

Google improved its search engine once again by aggregating health-related web content to the top of its main page when users search for symptoms.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based Company took to the Official Inside Search Google Blog today to announce how often people search for health information, as well as what the search engine is doing to make the process easier for Googlers.

“Every day, people search on Google for health information. Many of these searches relate to symptoms they or their loved ones may be experiencing,” wrote Chief Health Strategist Roni Zeiger, MD. “Our data shows that a search for symptoms is often followed by a search for a related condition.”

More information is available below.

Read more

Google and the Super Bowl: Mobile browsing, YouTube uploads skyrocket



Americans were busy consuming record amounts of chicken wings and dip during yesterday’s big game, but they were also mobile web browsing more than ever before.

According to an official Google blog post, United States viewers used their tablets and smartphones to Google the Giants and Patriots, halftime acts and the best Super Bowl advertisements.

“In fact, around 41 percent of searches related to [Super Bowl ads] that were made during the game came from mobile devices, up from 25 percent for the same time the day prior,” wrote software engineer Jeffrey Oldham.

The Super Bowl XLVI streamed live for the first time this year, and a soaring spike in related searches came with the flagship circumstance. Predominate searches initially came from desktop devices, but mobile devices leaped forward as the four-hour game launched into full swing.

Read below for more details on Google and the Super Bowl.

Read more

Google addresses new privacy policy concerns in letter to Congress

Following the introduction of Google’s new privacy policy, late last week we reported government officials issued a statement and planned to request that the Federal Communications Commission launch a probe to investigate the changes. In response, Google has now issued its own letter to Congress addressing some of the concerns and detailing important issues that are not changing.

Before answering the questions presented in the letter from Congress, Google took some time to outline aspects of its policies that will not change. Among them: Google reminded Congress that the new policy will only apply to users signed into a Google account, while those signed in can still access the usual privacy settings like turning off search history, tailoring ads within Ads Preferences Manager, and setting Gmail chat to “off the record.”

Google noted, “The privacy policy changes don’t affect our users’ existing privacy settings. If a user has already used our privacy tools to opt out of personalized search or ads, for example,” they will remain opted out. The company also made it clear the new policy will not collect any new or additional data. Google further clarified how users will be able to access multiple accounts:

Read more

Lawmakers to Google: ‘We want to make sure’ unified policy protects consumer privacy, calls for FCC probe

Rep. Edward Markey, a prominent U.S. lawmaker on privacy issues, announced earlier this week he was concerned with Google’s new privacy policy, and he further addressed his worries on Thursday by calling for a probe into Google’s handling of consumer data.

Google’s offerings include its globally popular search engine, Gmail, YouTube, Search plus Your World, Google+, and more, which are streamlined under the merging of 60 privacy policies intended to “mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.” The unified policy’s primary objective is to assemble and integrate information from across Google’s products and services as a single throng of data that the Mountain View, Calif.-based Company can use to target advertising dollars.

Markey released a Jan. 26 statement contending that the new policy changes should allot premium consumer control, and in the meantime, he plans to ask the Federal Communications Commission to investigate if such options exists for Google users:

“All consumers should have the right to say no to sharing of their personal information, particularly when young people are involved.  Google’s new privacy policy should enable consumers to opt-out if they don’t want their use of YouTube to morph into YouTrack.  Consumers – not corporations – should have control over their own personal information, especially for children and teens. I plan to ask the Federal Trade Commission whether Google’s planned changes to its privacy policy violate Google’s recent settlement with the agency.”

More information is available below.

Read more

New ‘Google Crisis Response’ project issues public alerts through Google Maps

Folks seeking information on natural disasters or other global emergencies can now access Google Maps for the latest details through a new Google Crisis Response project.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant launched a Google Public Alerts system today to keep users informed of disaster alerts regarding tornadoes, floods, winter and tropical storms, and other hazards menacing throughout the world.

“With today’s launch of Public Alerts on Google Maps, relevant weather, public safety, and earthquake alerts from US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service, and the US Geological Survey (USGS) will be accessible when you search on Google Maps,” announced Google in a blog post.

More information is available below.

Read more

Twitter and Facebook engineers create ‘Don’t Be Evil’ tool to alter Google’s controversial social results

Search Engine Land pointed us to a new browser bookmarklet dubbed “Don’t Be Evil” created by Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook engineers to alter the controversial social search results displayed by Google since its most recent “Search plus Your World” update.

Earlier this month Google began rolling out the new “Search plus Your World” update to Google.com search results. The update consists of Personal results, Profiles in Search, and People and Pages, all of which provide prominent quick links to Google+ content relevant to your search query. It sparked controversy as the update arguably favors Google’s own Google+ social network over relevant social content from competitive services.

The tool is being open-sourced and available free. After performing a search, you simply click the “Don’t Be Evil” bookmarklet in your browser of choice (no IE support), and the social “Search plus Your World” results will be altered to also include content from Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Tumblr, Github, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and a hand full of others. The image above shows Google’s Search plus Your World results on the left with the altered results after clicking the “Don’t Be Evil” on the right.

You might be thinking that the tool is instead favoring websites like Facebook or Twitter, much the same way Google is accused of favoring Google+. However, the creators explained that the tool actually utilizes Google’s own search results to determine the most relevant social content to display. Search Engine Land explained exactly how it works:

Read more

Google+ lets users ‘join discussion’ from social network’s search results

While conducting a search on Google+, a user can only comment on an existing post or share a found item, however, the Google+ team announced a new feature today that lets users start a conversation directly from search results.

Until now, options for interacting with a certain phrase or interest was limited to commenting and posting. The newly announced component suddenly turns a search into a conversation and relieves the pressure from users needing original content to partake in discussions…

Read more

Google slows web crawlers to help blackout websites during protest effort

Google and many other websites went black today to oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate, but now the globally popular search engine has taken the protest one step further.

Pierre Far, a Webmaster trends analyst at Google, announced on Google+ today that the Mountain View, Calif.-based company slowed its web crawlers to continue support against U.S. anti-piracy bills.

More information is available below.

Read more

Google tests new QR-code secure login, experiment quickly taken offline

Google is experimenting again —but this time, with a QR-code login.

Apparently, a few Web surfers discovered a new QR-code account that served as an authentication tool to help Google users login securely while at a public computer. Keylogger programs are an eminent threat and may snatch and store passwords when people use public desktops to manually access Gmail and other Google services; therefore, a QR-code login could be a safer alternative.

With the new login that was found yesterday, users could use Android-powered smartphones to scan a QR code on a desktop that will automatically take them to a mobile login website. According to Google Software Engineer Walter Chang, users can sign into a Google service on their own device, and the action will directly forward them to Gmail or iGoogle on the public computer. Obviously, fake QR-codes imitating as an authentic Google login could pose a security risk, as well.

The feature made the rounds on the Internet yesterday, and Google Security Team Software Engineer Dirk Balfanz took to his Google+ account to announce the QR-code login as an experimental project.

“Looks like people have found the page for an experiment we’ve been running for phone-based authentication,” said Balfanz.

More information is available below.

Read more