Google Lets Advertisers Target By (Anonymized) Customer Data 58

An anonymous reader writes: Google's new advertising product, called Customer Match, lets advertisers upload their customer and promotional email address lists into AdWords. The new targeting capability extends beyond search to include both YouTube Trueview ads and the newly launched native ads in Gmail. Customer Match marks the first time Google has allowed advertisers to target ads against customer-owned data in Adwords. Google matches the email addresses against those of signed-in users on Google. Individual addresses are hashed and are supposedly anonymized. Advertisers will be able to set bids and create ads specifically geared to audiences built from their email lists. This new functionality seems to make de-anonymization of google's supposedly proprietary customer data just a hop, skip and jump away. If you can specify the list of addresses that get served an ad, and the criteria like what search terms will trigger that ad, you can detect if and when your target searches for specific terms. For example, create an email list that contains your target and 100 invalid email addresses that no one uses (just in case google gets wise to single-entry email lists). Repeat as necessary for as many keywords and as many email addresses that you wish to monitor.

The Difficulty In Getting a Machine To Forget Anything 79

An anonymous reader writes: When personal information ends up in the analytical whirlpool of big data, it almost inevitably becomes orphaned from any permissions framework that the discloser granted for its original use; machine learning systems, commercial and otherwise, end up deriving properties and models from the data until the replication, duplication and derivation of that data can never hoped to be controlled or 'called back' by the originator. But researchers now propose a revision which can be imposed upon existing machine-learning frameworks, interposing a 'summation' layer between user data and the learning system, effectively tokenising the information without anonymising it, and providing an auditable path whereby withdrawal of the user information would ripple through all iterations of systems which have utilized it — genuine 'cancellation' of data.

Why AltaVista Lost Ground To Google Sooner Than Expected 172

techtsp writes: Marcia J. Bates, UCLA Professor Emerita of Information Studies recently explained why Google's birth led to the downfall of AltaVista. According to Bates, early search engines including AltaVista adapted the classical IR methods. At the other hand, Google founders started off with a completely different approach in mind. Google successfully recognized the potential of URLs, which could be added to the algorithms for the sake of information indexing altogether. Google's modern age techniques were a huge boost to those older techniques. Whatever other business and company management issues AltaVista faced, it was the last of the old style information retrieval engines.

Report: Google Will Return To China 82

An anonymous reader writes: Google famously withdrew from mainland China in 2010 after fending off a series of cyberattacks from local sources. Now, according to a (paywalled) report from The Information, the company is working on plans to return. "As part of the deal Google is looking to strike, Google would follow the country's laws and block apps that the government objects to, one person told The Information." They're also seeking approval for a Chinese version of Google Play.

Some Uber Ride Data Publicly Accessible Through Google 28

itwbennett writes: On Thursday, ZDNet reported that Uber ride data had leaked into Google search results. Zach Minors confirms in this article that a "site-specific Google search for produced dozens of links to Uber rides that have been completed and cancelled, in countries around the world including the U.S., England, Russia, France and Mexico. Each link leads to a Web site with a map showing the ride's route, with the pickup and destination tagged with markers. A card on the page also shows the first name of the rider and driver, along the driver's photo, make and model of the car, and license plate number." However, what appeared to be a privacy red flag was not a "data leak," according to an Uber spokeswoman: "We have found that all these links have been deliberately shared publicly by riders. Protection of user data is critically important to us and we are always looking for ways to make it even more secure."

The Speakularity, Where Everything You Say Is Transcribed and Searchable 74

An anonymous reader sends an article from Nautilus about the possible future of speech recognition software. Today, hundreds of millions of people are walking around with devices that can not only record sound, but also do a decent job of turning spoken word into searchable text. The article makes the case that the recording and transcription of normal conversation will become commonplace, sooner or later. Not only would this potentially make a lot more interesting discussion available beyond earshot, but it could also facilitate information retrieval on a personal level.

The article makes an analogy with email — right now, if you communicated with somebody through email a decade ago, you don't have to remember the specifics — as long as you didn't delete it or switch email providers, you can just search and look at exactly what was said. Of course, the power of such technology comes with trade-offs — not only would we be worried about the obvious privacy issues, but many people may feel restricted by always "performing" for the microphones. Some researchers also worry that if we have technology to remember for us, we'll put much less effort into remembering things ourselves.

Google Facing Fine of Up To $1.4 Billion In India Over Rigged Search Results 152

An anonymous reader writes: The Competition Commission of India has opened an investigation into Google to decide whether the company unfairly prioritized search results to its own services. Google could face a fine of up to $1.4 billion — 10% of its net income in 2014. A number of other internet companies, including Facebook and FlipKart, responded to queries from the CCI by confirming that Google does this. "The CCI's report accuses Google of displaying its own content and services more prominently in search results than other sources that have higher hit rates. It also states that sponsored links shown in search results are dependent on the amount of advertising funds Google receives from its clients. Ecommerce portal Flipkart noted that it found search results to have a direct correlation with the amount of money it spent on advertising with Google." The company has faced similar antitrust concerns in the EU and the U.S

Google May Try To Recruit You For a Job Based On Your Search Queries 182 writes: If Google sees that you're searching for specific programming terms, they may ask you to apply for a job as Max Rossett writes that three months ago while working on a project, he Googled "python lambda function list comprehension." The familiar blue links appeared on the search page, and he started to look for the most relevant one. But then something unusual happened. The search results split and folded back to reveal a box that said "You're speaking our language. Up for a challenge?" Clicking on the link took Rossett to a page called "" that outlined a programming challenge and gave instructions on how to submit his solution. "I had 48 hours to solve it, and the timer was ticking," writes Rossett. "I had the option to code in Python or Java. I set to work and solved the first problem in a couple hours. Each time I submitted a solution, tested my code against five hidden test cases."

After solving another five problems the page gave Rossett the option to submit his contact information and much to his surprise, a recruiter emailed him a couple days later asking for a copy of his resume. Three months after the mysterious invitation appeared, Rossett started at Google. Apparently Google has been using this recruiting tactic for some time.

Since-Pulled Cyanogen Update For Oneplus Changes Default Home Page To Bing 87

ourlovecanlastforeve writes: Nestled into GSMArena's report on the Cyanogen OS 12.1 update for Oneplus [ Note: an update that the story reports has since been pulled.] is this tasty bite: "'ll find out that your Chrome homepage has been changed to Bing." Then it's casually dismissed with "Thankfully though, you can easily get rid of Microsoft's search engine by using Chrome settings." as if this were the most normal thing to have to do after an OTA update. Is this the new normal? Has Microsoft set a new precedent that it's okay to expect users to have to go searching through every setting and proactively monitor network traffic to make sure their data isn't being stolen, modified or otherwise manipulated?
Input Devices

Skylake Has a Voice DSP and Listens To Your Commands 99

itwbennett writes: Intel's new Skylake processor (like the Core M processor released last year) comes with a built-in digital signal processor (DSP) that will allow you to turn on and control your PC with your voice. Although the feature is not new, what is new is the availability of a voice controlled app to use it: Enter Windows 10 and Cortana. If this sounds familiar, it should, writes Andy Patrizio: 'A few years back when the Xbox One was still in development, word came that Kinect, its motion and audio sensor controller, would be required to use the console and Kinect would always be listening for voice commands to start the console. This caused something of a freak-out among gamers, who feared Microsoft would be listening.'

Why Google Wants To Sell You a Wi-Fi Router 198

lpress writes: Last quarter, Google made $16 billion on advertising and $1.7 billion on "other sales." I don't know how "other sales" breaks down, but a chunk of that is hardware devices like the Pixel Chromebook, Chromecast, Next thermostat, Nexus phone and, now, WiFi routers. Does the world need another $200 home router? Why would Google bother? I can think of a couple of strategic reasons — they hope it will become a home-automation hub (competing with the Amazon Echo) and it will enable them to dynamically configure and upgrade your home or small office network for improved performance (hence more ads).

Now Google Must Censor Search Results About "Right To Be Forgotten" Removals 179

Mark Wilson writes, drolly, that the so-called right to be forgotten "has proved somewhat controversial," and expands on that with a new twist in a post at Beta News: While some see the requirement for Google to remove search results that link to pages that contain information about people that is 'inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant' as a win for privacy, other see it as a form of censorship. To fight back, there have been a number of sites that have started to list the stories Google is forced to stop linking to. In the latest twist, Google has now been ordered to remove links to contemporary news reports about the stories that were previously removed from search results. All clear? Thought not... The Information Commissioner's Office has ordered Google to remove from search results links to nine stories about other search result links removed under the Right to Be Forgotten rules.

Cortana Can Now Replace Google Now On Android Devices 155

The Verge reports that Microsoft's Cortana can now be used (at least for beta testers) as a drop-in replacement for the Google Now assistant on Android devices; that means users can select launching Cortana as their default on-board assistant, and launch it by holding down the device's home key. However, notes the article, "The update version still doesn't include 'Hey Cortana' support, largely because of hardware limitations that prevent Cortana from always listening for the command."

Internet Search Engines May Be Influencing Elections 67

sciencehabit writes: Thomas Epstein, a research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research in Vista, California, has found that the higher a politician ranks on a page of Internet search results, the more likely you are to vote for them — 80% more likely in some cases. The story also suggests that the folks at Google may already be influencing elections. "Google's algorithm has been determining the outcome of close elections around the world," says Epstein. As predicted, subjects spent far more time reading Web pages near the top of the list (abstract). But what surprised researchers was the difference those rankings made: Biased search results increased the number of undecided voters choosing the favored candidate by 48% compared with a control group that saw an equal mix of both candidates throughout the list.

Google Rejects French Order For 'Right To Be Forgotten' 330

Last month, French data protection agency CNIL ordered Google to comply with the European "right to be forgotten" order by delisting certain search results not just on the European versions of Google's search engine, but on all versions. Google has now publicly rejected that demand. CNIL has promised a response, and it's likely the case will go before local courts. Google says, This is a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web. While the right to be forgotten may now be the law in Europe, it is not the law globally. Moreover, there are innumerable examples around the world where content that is declared illegal under the laws of one country, would be deemed legal in others: Thailand criminalizes some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalizes some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be "gay propaganda." If the CNIL's proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for Internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom. In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world's least free place.