Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
angry tapir writes "Two U.S. lawmakers have called on the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen its investigation into Google's snooping on Wi-Fi networks in 2010 after recent questions about the company's level of cooperation with federal inquiries. Representatives Frank Pallone Jr., a New Jersey Democrat, and John Barrow, a Georgia Democrat, called on the DOJ to fully investigate Google's actions for potential violations of federal wiretapping laws. In light of a recently released U.S. Federal Communications Commission report on Wi-Fi snooping by Google Street View cars, the DOJ should take a new look at the company's actions, wrote the lawmakers in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder."
squiggleslash writes "CNN reports that IBM CEO Jeanette Horan has banned Siri, the iPhone voice recognition system. Why? According to Horan '(IBM) worries that the spoken queries might be stored somewhere.' Siri's backend is a set of Apple-owned servers in North Carolina, and all spoken queries are sent to those servers to be converted to text, parsed, and interpreted. While Siri wouldn't work unless that processing was done, the centralization and cloud based nature of Siri makes it an obvious security hole."
benfrog writes "Microsoft just quietly launched so.cl in an experiment to more closely unite web searches and social networking. It's not intended as a stand-alone social network — users can log in with Facebook or Windows Live IDs, and it will share your searches publicly by default. "As students work together, they often search for the same items, and discover new shared interests by sharing links. We see this trend today on many social networks, such as Twitter, where shared links spread virally and amplify popular content. So.cl experiments with this concept by automatically sharing links as you search." They've also (wisely?) put Bing Search at the center of the site."
Gunkerty Jeb writes "After banning the word 'jailbreak' from its app store and music library, Apple [Friday] reversed course and again permits the term — slang for hacking into a device to download unauthorized content — to appear on iTunes and its App Store. On Thursday bloggers noticed Apple had censored the word, using the Thin Lizzy album 'Jailbreak' as an example. For awhile, the title was listed as 'J******k' in Apple's music library, at least its U.S. version. In other instances, digital content continued to bear the full name Jailbreak."
New submitter PantherSE writes with an article at CNN about the geopolitical importance of labeling, excerpting thus: "Iran has threatened legal action against Google for not labeling the Persian Gulf on its maps. 'Toying with modern technologies in political issues is among the new measures by the enemies against Iran, (and) in this regard, Google has been treated as a plaything,' Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Thursday, according to state-run Press TV. He added that 'omitting the name Persian Gulf is (like) playing with the feelings and realities of the Iranian nation.'"
judgecorp writes "Apple has changed the answer Siri gives to the question 'What is the best smartphone ever?' to prevent the voice-driven assistant from promoting the Nokia Lumia 900. Originally Siri trawled online reviews on the web, using the Wolfram Alpha search engine, to come up with the Lumia, much to Apple's embarrassment. Now, Apple has intervened, replacing that answer with a joke: 'Wait there are other phones?'"
Google85 writes with this news from All Things D: "Yahoo's embattled CEO Scott Thompson is set to step down from his job at the Silicon Valley Internet giant, in what will be a dramatic end to a controversy over a fake computer science degree that he had on his bio, according to multiple sources close to the situation. The company will apparently say he is leaving for 'personal reasons.' Thompson's likely replacement on an interim basis will be Yahoo's global media head, Ross Levinsohn, who most recently also ran its Americas unit, including its advertising sales."
An anonymous reader writes "A legal paper (PDF), commissioned by Google and written by Eugene Volokh and Donald Falk, makes the case that search results should be protected under the First Amendment, thereby making regulation of search results illegal. The authors say a search engine 'uses sophisticated computerized algorithms, but those algorithms themselves inherently incorporate the search engine company engineers' judgments about what material users are likely to find responsive to these queries.' Cory Doctorow's reaction: 'I think that the editorial right to exercise judgment is much more widely understood than the sacred infallibility of robotic sorting. I certainly support it more. But I wonder if Google appreciates that it will now have to confront people who are angry about their search rankings by saying, "I'm sorry, we just don't like you very much" instead of "I'm sorry, our equations put you where you belong." And oy, the libel headaches they're going to face.'"
Hentes writes "The internet has made many things easier, but unfortunately this also includes crime: it seems that nowadays not even people wanting to know their future are safe from fraud. Two fortune tellers are being investigated, after the Romanian police uncovered that they have utilized some extraordinary help in their clairvoyant acts. The pair used information collected from internet search and social networks to gain the trust of their customers, claiming that they could see their personal data through their crystal ball. In some cases, they also used high-tech surveillance techniques such as hidden cameras and phone tapping. But they didn't stop at merely spying on their victims: their most bizarre case involved a scuba diver dressed as a monster." Nice to know that internet-based fraud isn't limited to motivational speakers with real-estate seminars and other get-rich-quick flim-flam.
theodp writes "Meet Engineer Doe. A NY Times report has identified Marius Milner as the software engineer at the center of the uproar over a Google project that used Wi-Fi sniffing Google Street View cars to collect e-mail and other personal data from potentially millions of unsuspecting people. Milner, creator of the wardriving software NetStumbler, referred questions to his lawyer. Google declined to comment. A patent search shows the USPTO awarded Google and Milner a patent in June 2011 for protecting Internet users from 'hackers and other ne'er-do-wells [who] may seek to tap into communications on a network.'"
benfrog writes "According to a blog posting on the New York Times site, Microsoft tried to sell the perpetual money-losing Bing to Facebook 'over a year ago' (the article cites 'several people with knowledge of the discussions who didn't want to be identified talking about internal deliberations'). Steve Ballmer, apparently, was not involved or consulted. Facebook politely declined. Neither Microsoft or Facebook would comment on the rumors."
storagedude writes "Google could go the way of the dodo if ultra intelligent electronic agents (UIEA) make their way into the mainstream, according to technology prognosticator Daniel Burrus. Siri is just the first example of how a UIEA could end search as we know it. By leveraging the cloud and supercomputing capabilities, Siri uses natural language search to circumvent the entire Google process. If Burrus is right, we'll no longer have to wade through '30,000,000 returns in .0013 milliseconds' of irrelevant search results."
theodp writes "A newly surfaced Microsoft patent application, reports GeekWire, describes a 'user-following engine' that analyzes your posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to deduce your mood, interests, and even your smarts. The system would then automatically adjust the search experience and results to better match those characteristics, explains Microsoft, such as changing the background color of the search interface to suit your mood, or bringing back only those search results that won't strain your feeble brain. From the patent application: 'In addition to skewing the search results to the user's inferred interests, the user-following engine may further tailor the search results to a user's comprehension level. For example, an intelligent processing module may be directed to discerning the sophistication and education level of the posts of a user. Based on that inference, the customization engine may vary the sophistication level of the customized search result.'"
suraj.sun writes "Ilya Segalovich, co-founder of Russia's leading search engine, Yandex, has accused Google of abusing its dominance to shut out competitors in cyberspace. Responding to comments made to the Guardian by Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder, about threats to the open internet, Ilya Segalovich described the U.S. search giant's popular smartphone platform, Android, as a 'strange combination of openness and not openness,' and its Chrome web browser as anti-competitive. Segalovich said that Brin should explain Google's 'semi-open' approach to search competitors before accusing others of endangering the unfettered internet, and suggested Google was guilty of foul play with its Chrome browser, which picks the company's own search engine as default for users, rather than offering a choice between rivals including Yahoo, Bing and Yandex."