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Google

Google's Featured Snippets Are Damaging To Small Businesses that Depend On Search Traffic (theoutline.com) 144

The Outline tells the story of CelebrityNetWorth.com, a website launched in 2008 that tells you how much a celebrity is worth. The site was an instant success, but things have turned sore in the last two years. The creator of the website Brian Warner blames Google for it. From the article: For most of its history, Google was like a librarian. You asked a question, and it guided you to the section of the web where you might find the answer. But over the past five years, Google has been experimenting with being an oracle. Type in a question, and you might see a box at the top of the search results page with the answer in large bold type. [...] In 2014, Warner received an email from Google asking if he would be interested in giving the company access to his data in order to scrape it for Knowledge Graph, for free. He said no, as he feared the traffic would plummet. [...] In February 2016, Google started displaying a Featured Snippet for each of the 25,000 celebrities in the CelebrityNetWorth database, Warner said. He knew this because he added a few fake listings for friends who were not celebrities to see if they would pop up as featured answers, and they did. "Our traffic immediately crumbled," Warner said. He acknowledged the risks in building a site that depends so heavily on Google for search traffic, and whose research can easily be reduced to a single number. But he still thinks what Google did is unfair.
Android

Google Agrees To Open Android To Other Search Engines In Russia (bgr.com) 64

Google has reached a $7.8 million antitrust settlement with Russian watchdog group FAS. According to BGR, the company will loosen restrictions on Android's built-in search engines to allow for Russian competitors to take a share of the pie. From the report: Android's heavy reliance on Google services is to be expected, but in 2015 the Russian antitrust group -- officially the Federal Antimonopoly Service -- ruled that Google was breaking the law by forcing users to lean on Google for search. The ruling was the result of a complaint filed by Yandex, a Russian competitor to Google that runs the largest search engine in the country as well as web mail, news, maps, and other services. Google's settlement of the issue comes with the condition that Android will no longer lock down the search engine to Google, and must allow users the ability to change it if they want from within the Chrome web browser. Google will also loosen its exclusivity of the default apps on Android devices sold in Russia, potentially allowing for Yandex and other regional competitors to muscle in and replace the built-in apps with their own versions, depending on user preference.
Facebook

Facebook Has Reached Its Microsoft Bing Moment -- History Shows the Results Won't Be Pretty (cnbc.com) 150

As we noted recently, Facebook continues to duplicate every core feature that rival app Snapchat adds to its service. A new report, which cites multiple Facebook employees, sheds more light into how Facebook operates. The company, the report claims, created a "Teens Team" to figure out how to grab teenagers back from Snapchat, and has been up front about its tactics within the company: The internal mantra among some groups is "don't be too proud to copy." Matt Rosoff, an editor at CNBC says this whole tactics by Facebook is nothing new in the tech industry. From the article: Flash back to the early 2000s, when Microsoft was the undisputed king of the tech industry, with two unassailable monopolies -- operating systems and productivity apps for personal computers. It faced a lot of competitors, but the one that scared it the most was Google, which was in a completely different business. Google didn't start by creating alternatives to Windows and Office, although it did so later. Instead, it created a suite of online services -- first search, followed by email and maps -- that threatened the entire purpose of a personal computer. Why rely on Microsoft software running locally when you could get so much done with web apps? Microsoft's response? Trying to build the exact same service that made Google famous -- a search engine, first known as MSN Search, later rebranded to Bing. Eleven years later, Bing is a small minority player in search, with less than 10 percent market share on the desktop and less than 1 percent in mobile.
Google

Google Tackles Fake News With Global Fact-Checking Rollout (betanews.com) 230

Google is calling on fact-checking organizations to help it bust fake news -- but it's starting in a small way. From a report: Google's Fact Check feature is not new, but today the search giant is rolling out the feature around the world. A global rollout is important if such a tool is to have any real impact. It's all well and good have reports fact-checked on one side of the world, but it's of little use if the same fake stories remain unquestioned and untested elsewhere. Google is doing its part by making the Fact Check label available in Google News everywhere, and spreading it into search results in all languages as well. The Fact Check label has been around since October, providing an at-a-glance way to determine whether or not a particular story has been verified as true. Google admits that it will not be possible to fact-check every single search result it displays, and the company points out that it is not responsible for the actual fact-checking process.
Businesses

Why Bargain Travel Sites May No Longer Be Bargains (backchannel.com) 140

Aggregators like Expedia have made us lazy -- and we may be missing out on the best deals. From a report on Backchannel: Most of us rely on metasearch engines, like Priceline, Expedia, or Travelocity, which typically use dozens (sometimes as many as 200) of online travel agents, called OTAs, and aggregators to find the best deals. (A metasearch engine and an aggregator are interchangeable terms -- they both scour other sites and compile data under one roof. An OTA is an actual travel agency that actually does the booking and is the lone site responsible for everything you buy through them.) We rely on these sites because we assume they have the secret sauce -- the most powerful search engines, tweaked by superstar programmers armed with the most sophisticated algorithms -- to guide us to the cheapest options. With a single search, you can feel assured that you are paying a rock bottom price. Over time, however, the convention has flipped. As competition among the sites heated up, the hard-to-believe cheap fares required some filtering. A too-good-to-be-true fare ($99 to Europe from California) usually came with a catch (the $400, indirect, ticket home). And as the business models that on which these aggregators rely are getting tighter, the deals are getting worse. How can you be certain you're getting the lowest quote? The short answer is, you can't.
Android

Verizon To Force 'AppFlash' Spyware On Android Phones 120

saccade.com writes: Verizon is joining with the creators of a tool called "Evie Launcher" to make a new app search/launcher tool called AppFlash, which will be installed on all Verizon phones running Android. The app provides no functionality to users beyond what Google Search does. It does, however, give Verizon a steady stream of metrics on your app usage and searches. A quick glance at the AppFlash privacy policy confirms this is the real purpose behind it: "We collect information about your device and your use of the AppFlash services. This information includes your mobile number, device identifiers, device type and operating system, and information about the AppFlash features and services you use and your interactions with them. We also access information about the list of apps you have on your device. [...] AppFlash information may be shared within the Verizon family of companies, including companies like AOL who may use it to help provide more relevant advertising within the AppFlash experiences and in other places, including non-Verizon sites, services and devices."
Google

Google Home Gets 'Beauty & The Beast' Promo But Google Says It's Not an Ad (marketingland.com) 124

Danny Sullivan, reporting for MarketingLand: Ask Google Home what your day is like today, and it will remind you that Disney's Beauty and the Beast is opening today. Google says this isn't an ad. But it's definitely an out-of-the-ordinary cooperation with a Google Home "partner." The promotion was spotted by Bryson Meunier, whose child was definitely excited to hear the news delivered by Google Home. "This isn't an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales," a spokesperson said. The company doesn't list Disney as one of its partners on Google Home website, the report adds.
Google

Google Tells Army of 'Quality Raters' To Flag Holocaust Denial (theguardian.com) 429

Google is using a 10,000-strong army of independent contractors to flag "offensive or upsetting" content, in order to ensure that queries like "did the Holocaust happen" don't push users to misinformation, propaganda and hate speech. From a report on The Guardian: The review of search terms is being done by the company's "quality raters", a little-known corps of worldwide contractors that Google uses to assess the quality of its systems. The raters are given searches based on real queries to conduct, and are asked to score the results on whether they meet the needs of users. These contractors, introduced to the company's review process in 2013, work from a huge manual describing every potential problem they could find with a given search query: whether or not it meets the user's expectations, whether the result offered is low or high quality, and whether it's spam, porn or illegal. In a new update to the rating system, rolled out on Tuesday, Google introduced another flag raters could use: the "upsetting-offensive" mark.
EU

EU Court Sets Limit On 'Right To Be Forgotten' In Company Registers (reuters.com) 28

The European Union's top court ruled in May 2014 that people could ask search engines, such as Google or Microsoft's Bing, to remove inadequate or irrelevant information from the web results produced from searches for people's names. Today, the court is limiting the so-called "right to be forgotten" principle, ruling that individuals cannot demand that personal data be erased from company records in an official register. Reuters reports: In Thursday's ruling the European Court of Justice said that company registers needed to be public to ensure legal certainty and to protect the interests of third parties. Company registers only contained a limited amount of personal information and, as executives in companies should disclose their identity and functions, it said. This did not constitute too severe an interference in their private lives and personal data. However, the court said there might be specific situations in which access to personal data in company registers could be limited, such as a long period after a company's dissolution. But this should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Google

Google's Featured Snippets Are Worse Than Fake News (theoutline.com) 183

Adrianne Jeffries, reporting for The Outline: Peter Shulman, an associate history professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, was lecturing on the reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s when a student asked an odd question: Was President Warren Harding a member of the KKK? Shulman was taken aback. He confessed that he was not aware of that allegation, but that Harding had been in favor of anti-lynching legislation, so it seemed unlikely. But then a second student pulled out his phone and announced that yes, Harding had been a Klan member, and so had four other presidents. It was right there on Google, clearly emphasized inside a box at the top of the page. "I understand what Google is trying to do, and it's work that perhaps requires algorithmic aid," Shulman said in an email. "But in this instance, the question its algorithm scoured the internet to answer is simply a poorly conceived one. There have been no presidents in the Klan." Google needs to invest in human experts who can judge what type of queries should produce a direct answer like this, Shulman said. "Or, at least in this case, not send an algorithm in search of an answer that isn't simply 'There is no evidence any American president has been a member of the Klan.' It'd be great if instead of highlighting a bogus answer, it provided links to accessible, peer-reviewed scholarship."
China

Mobile Search Engine Baidu Goes Dark For Nearly 20 Minutes (cnet.com) 19

Zoey Chong, writing for CNET: Baidu is China's equivalent of Google, but hundreds of millions of questions went unanswered when the mobile version of the search engine broke down for 18 minutes last night, reports SCMP. Almost two hours after service was resumed, the company behind China's largest internet search engine apologised (for the third time) on its official Weibo account. "We missed more than hundreds of millions of search requests because our mobile search service broke down tonight, and we're very sorry," the post read.
Piracy

Google Says Almost Every Recent 'Trusted' DMCA Notices Were Bogus (torrentfreak.com) 83

Reader AmiMoJo writes: In comments submitted to a U.S. Copyright Office consultation, Google has given the DMCA a vote of support, despite widespread abuse. Noting that the law allows for innovation and agreements with content creators, Google says that 99.95% of URLs it was asked to take down last month didn't even exist in its search indexes. "For example, in January 2017, the most prolific submitter submitted notices that Google honored for 16,457,433 URLs. But on further inspection, 16,450,129 (99.97%) of those URLs were not in our search index in the first place."
Piracy

Google and Microsoft To Crackdown On Piracy Sites In Search Results (telegraph.co.uk) 104

Google and Microsoft pledged on Monday to crack down on sites hosting pirated content that show up on their search engines. In what is being called a first of its kind agreement, Google and Microsoft's Bing will demote U.K. search results of copyright infringing websites. From a report on The Telegraph: The search engine operators have signed up to a clampdown that will see the UK's copyright watchdog monitor the search results they provide for unlawful websites. The agreement follows years of campaigning by record labels and film studios, which have accused Google and Microsoft of turning a blind eye to piracy and dragging their feet over measures to protect copyright online. Under a new voluntary code, the tech giants have committed to demote websites that have repeatedly been served with copyright infringement notices, so that they do not appear on the first page for common searches.
Security

Attacks On WordPress Sites Intensify As Hackers Deface Over 1.5 Million Pages (bleepingcomputer.com) 119

An anonymous reader writes: "Attacks on WordPress sites using a vulnerability in the REST API, patched in WordPress version 4.7.2, have intensified over the past two days, as attackers have now defaced over 1.5 million pages, spread across 39,000 unique domains," reports BleepingComputer. "Initial attacks using the WordPress REST API flaw were reported on Monday by web security firm Sucuri, who said four groups of attackers defaced over 67,000 pages. The number grew to over 100,000 pages the next day, but according to a report from fellow web security firm WordFence, these numbers have skyrocketed today to over 1.5 million pages, as there are now 20 hacking groups involved in a defacement turf war." Making matters worse, over the weekend Google's Search Console service, formerly known as Google Webmaster, was sending out security alerts to people it shouldn't. Google attempted to send security alerts to all WordPress 4.7.0 and 4.7.1 website owners (vulnerable to the REST API flaw), but some emails reached WordPress 4.7.2 owners. Some of which misinterpreted the email and panicked, fearing their site might lose search engine ranking.
Government

US House Passes Bill Requiring Warrants To Search Old Emails (reuters.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Monday to require law enforcement authorities to obtain a search warrant before seeking old emails from technology companies, a win for privacy advocates fearful the Trump administration may work to expand government surveillance powers. The House passed the measure by a voice vote. But the legislation was expected to encounter resistance in the Senate, where it failed to advance last year amid opposition by a handful of Republican lawmakers after the House passed it unanimously. Currently, agencies such as the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission only need a subpoena to seek such data from a service provider.

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