An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, European Commission regulators finally agreed to a settlement in the organization's long-running antitrust investigation of Google's search and advertising business. Unfortunately for Google, it didn't stick. The EC said today they're reopening the investigation after a large number of "very negative" complaints about the settlement. "The key objection to the proposed settlement, which would have allowed rival services to buy spaces at the top of search results pages, was that it would not prevent Google from favoring its own services, and would divert money from the rivals to Google even if they received clickthroughs from the adverts — rather than the zero-cost solution if they were ranked highly in 'organic' search results, and Google was prevented from putting its own commercial services above those." The Commission is also looking into other parts of Google's business, including its influence over mobile devices through Android.
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mpicpp writes with a snippet from Businessweek: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is seeking to raise as much as $21.1 billion in its initial public offering, in what could be the largest sale of new stock in the U.S. ever. The Chinese company and shareholders including Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO:US) plan to sell 320.1 million American depositary shares for $60 to $66 apiece, according to a regulatory filing today (BABA:US). At the high end of that range, the offering would surpass Visa Inc.'s $19.7 billion IPO in March 2008 and give the company a market value of $162.7 billion. Alibaba's executives are now able to meet fund managers to build demand for the IPO and they plan to begin the roadshow in New York next week, people with knowledge of the matter have said. The Hangzhou-based company has garnered years of attention for its scale — with 279 million active buyers in the year through June — and its exposure to a growing Internet consumer base in China.
IonOtter (629215) writes Matt Haughey, founder of MetaFilter, has challenged a Cease & Desist letter from Sundance Vacations, a seller of time-shares with a reputation for aggressive sales tactics and suppression of criticism. Only this time, it seems that the plaintiff may have forged court documents ordering Mr. Haughey, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines to remove any and all mentions of the links and posts in question. Legal blog Popehat has picked this up as well, prompting Ken White to wryly note, "...Sundance Vacations is about to learn about the Streisand Effect." The story is gaining traction, and being picked up by Boing-Boing, as well as hitting the first page of search results on Google.
Rambo Tribble writes: In an apparent move to push those using older browsers to update, Google is reported to be serving outdated search pages to said browsers. The older pages lack features available on the newer versions, and this policy compounds with the limits announced in 2011 on Gmail support for older web clients. As a Google engineer put it, "We're continually making improvements to Search, so we can only provide limited support for some outdated browsers." The BBC offers a fairly comprehensive analysis.
onproton (3434437) writes The Intercept reported today on classified documents revealing that the NSA has built its own "Google-like" search engine to provide over 850 billion collected records directly to law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the DEA. Reporter Ryan Gallagher explains, "The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies." The search engine, called ICREACH, allows analysts to search an array of databases, some of which contain metadata collected on innocent American citizens, for the purposes of "foreign intelligence." However, questions have been raised over its potential for abuse in what is known as "parallel construction," a process in which agencies use surveillance resources in domestic investigations, and then later cover it up by creating a different evidence trail to use in court.
As TechCrunch reports, Google will begin using website encryption, or HTTPS, as a ranking signal – a move which should prompt website developers who have dragged their heels on increased security measures, or who debated whether their website was “important” enough to require encryption, to make a change. Initially, HTTPS will only be a lightweight signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, says Google. ... Over time, however, encryption’s effect on search ranking [may] strengthen, as the company places more importance on website security. ... While HTTPS and site encryption have been a best practice in the security community for years, the revelation that the NSA has been tapping the cables, so to speak, to mine user information directly has prompted many technology companies to consider increasing their own security measures, too. Yahoo, for example, also announced in November its plans to encrypt its data center traffic.
First time accepted submitter catparty (3600549) writes An examination of what we can know about Facebook's new machine learning News Feed algorithm. From the article: "Facebook's current News Feed algorithm might be smarter, but some of its core considerations don't stray too far from the groundwork laid by EdgeRank, though thanks to machine learning, Facebook's current algorithm has a better ear for 'signals from you.' Facebook confirmed to us that the new News Feed ranking algorithm does indeed take 100,000 weighted variables into account to determine what we see. These factors help Facebook display an average 300 posts culled from roughly 1,500 possible posts per day, per user."
An anonymous reader writes: In response to an inquiry from European data protection regulators, Google has detailed how they evaluate and act on requests to de-index search results. Google's procedures for responding to "right-to-be-forgotten" requests are explained in a lengthy document that was made publicly available. "Google of course claims its own economic interest does not come into play when making these rtbf judgements — beyond an 'abstract consideration' of a search engine needing to help people find the most relevant information for their query. ... Google also goes into lengthy detail to justify its decision to inform publishers when it has removed links to content on their sites — a decision which has resulted in media outlets writing new articles about delisted content, thereby resulting in the rtbf ruling causing the opposite effect to that intended (i.e. fresh publicity, not fair obscurity)."
tsu doh nimh (609154) writes KrebsOnSecurity looks at a popular service that helps crooked online marketers exhaust the Google AdWords budgets of their competitors.The service allows companies to attack competitors by raising their costs or exhausting their ad budgets early in the day. Advertised on YouTube and run by a guy boldly named "GoodGoogle," the service employs a combination of custom software and hands-on customer service, and promises clients the ability to block the appearance of competitors' ads. From the story: "The prices range from $100 to block between three to ten ad units for 24 hours to $80 for 15 to 30 ad units. For a flat fee of $1,000, small businesses can use GoodGoogle's software and service to sideline a handful of competitors' ads indefinitely."
The Wall Street Journal lists 26 questions that Google and other search providers have been asked (in a meeting in Brussels earlier this week) to answer for EU regulators, to pin down what the search engine companies have done to comply with European demands to implement a "right to be forgotten." Some questions were asked directly of representatives of Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, while the regulators want answers to the others in short order. From the article: Regulators touched on some hot-button issues in six oral questions and another 26 written ones, with answers due by next Thursday. They asked Google to describe the “legal basis” of its decision to notify publishers when it approves right-to-be-forgotten requests, something that has led to requesters’ being publicly identified in some cases. They also asked search engines to explain where they take down the results, after complaints from some regulators that Google does not filter results on google.com. That means that anyone in Europe can switch from, say, google.co.uk to Google.com to see any removed links. Among the questions: "2. Do you filter out some requests based on the location, nationality, or place of residence of the data subject? If so, what is the legal basis for excluding such requests?" and "16. Does your company refuse requests when the data subject was the author of the information he/she posted himself/herself on the web? If so, what is the basis for refusing such requests?"
An anonymous reader writes "Now that freshmeat.net / freecode.com doesn't accept any updates, I wonder how the Slashdot crowd gets news about new projects, and even new versions of existing projects. For project managers, where could you announce new versions of your project, so that it can reach not just those who already know the project. Freshmeat / Freecode had all the tools to explore and discover projects, see screenshots (a mandatory feature for any software project, even with only a console interface or no interface at all) and go to the homepage of the project. I subscribed years ago to the RSS feed and sometimes found interesting projects this way. You could replace these tools by subscribing to newsletters or feeds from the projects you follow, but that doesn't cover the discovery part." And do any of the major development / hosting platforms for Free / Open Source projects (GitHub, Launchpad, or Slashdot sister-site SourceForge) have tools you find especially useful for skimming projects of interest?
mpicpp (3454017) writes with news that Bing has joined Google in removing search results upon request by EU citizens. From the article: The company has asked European residents, who want Microsoft to block search results that show on Bing in response to searches of their names, to fill out a four-part online form. Besides the name and country of residence of the person and the details of the pages to be blocked, the form also asks if the person is a public figure or has or expects a role that involves trust, leadership or safety. ... The information provided will help the company "consider the balance" between the applicant's individual privacy interest and the public interest in protecting free expression and the free availability of information, in line with European law, Microsoft said. You can always visit a non-EU version of Bing to receive uncensored results.
Watches that do more than tell the time have been around for a long time. (And in fiction, James Bond, Dick Tracey, and Michael Knight all had notably high-tech watches.) The new smart watches from Samsung and LG, without a phone connected via Bluetooth as backhaul, can still serve to show the time and to serve as alarms (and Samsung's can measure your pulse, too), but all the magic features (like searching by voice via the watch) do require a connection. They can't play MP3s or take pictures on their own, and they don't have built-in GPS. Even so, compared to the polarizing Google Glass, the new breed of smart watches are wearables that probably are an easier sell, even if this far the trend has been to replace watches with smart phones. (Android Wear has gotten a lot of attention, but Microsoft has their own upcoming, and Apple almost certainly does, too.) Are you interested in a smart watch, and if so, what uses do you want it for? If they have no appeal to you now, are there functions that would make you change your mind on that front?
An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from Wired about the one big problem that comes with crowdsourced data: enough eyeballs may make all bugs shallow, but may not fare as well against malice and greed: Maps are dotted with thousands of spam business listings for nonexistent locksmiths and plumbers. Legitimate businesses sometimes see their listings hijacked by competitors or cloned into a duplicate with a different phone number or website. In January, someone bulk-modified the Google Maps presence of thousands of hotels around the country, changing the website URLs to a commercial third-party booking site ... Small businesses are the usual targets. ....These attacks happen because Google Maps is, at its heart, a massive crowdsourcing project, a shared conception of the world that skilled practitioners can bend and reshape in small ways using tools like Google's Mapmaker or Google Places for Business. ... In February, an SEO consultant-turned-whistleblower named Bryan Seely demonstrated the risk dramatically when he set up doppelganger Google Maps listings for the offices of the FBI and Secret Service..
DroidJason1 (3589319) writes Microsoft has killed off two of its mapping products, MapPoint and Streets & Trips. Both of these services have received their last update and will soon be retired in favor of Microsoft's premier mapping product, Bing Maps. The company has yet to go public with a press release announcing the retirement of these two mapping services, but the Redmond giant has quietly mentioned the fate on both the services' websites. MapPoint was first released back in 1999 and made it easier to view, edit, and integrate maps into software. Streets & Trips was a route planning package. Microsoft is now pushing Bing Maps exclusively.