Google (quietly) drops privacy policy that kept your name out of web-tracking database

❝ When Google bought the advertising network DoubleClick in 2007, Google founder Sergey Brin said that privacy would be the company’s “number one priority when we contemplate new kinds of advertising products.”

And, for nearly a decade, Google did in fact keep DoubleClick’s massive database of web-browsing records separate by default from the names and other personally identifiable information Google has collected from Gmail and its other login accounts.

But this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand – literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate…

❝ The practical result of the change is that the DoubleClick ads that follow people around on the web may now be customized to them based on your name and other information Google knows about you. It also means that Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit and the searches they conduct.

❝ The move is a sea change for Google and a further blow to the online ad industry’s longstanding contention that web tracking is mostly anonymous. In recent years, Facebook, offline data brokers and others have increasingly sought to combine their troves of web tracking data with people’s real names. But until this summer, Google held the line.

“The fact that DoubleClick data wasn’t being regularly connected to personally identifiable information was a really significant last stand,” said Paul Ohm, faculty director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law.

“It was a border wall between being watched everywhere and maintaining a tiny semblance of privacy,” he said. “That wall has just fallen.”…

RTFA for instructions on how to opt-out of GOOGLE’s omnivorous appetite for tracking folks. I consider their statement hogwash, PR rationales for plausible deniability. At best, a temporary solution until GOOGLE drops another one of their centipede shoes.

Why the new iPad isn’t called iPad 3

One of the big mysteries ahead of Wednesday’s Apple event was a simple question: What is the new iPad going to be called? The tech press had long settled on iPad 3, but some outlets had recently reported that the product name would actually be iPad HD, in reference to the new high-resolution Retina display.

Apparently, Apple wasn’t having any of that. More than an hour into the show, Apple CEO Tim Cook finally revealed that the new iPad is called just that: the new iPad.

It seems like an odd choice at first sight, especially in light of the fact that Apple will continue to sell the iPad 2 for $399. However, the new name signals something much more profound than just a new product generation.

Apple is acknowledging that we have arrived in a post-PC world, where iPads aren’t just niche products for gadget lovers with an eye for specs and revision numbers. Instead, they’re among the best-selling computing devices, something that everyone uses to explore the Internet, do commerce and consume media…

Part of this post-PC reality is a new normalcy. Consumers don’t have to be sold on getting a new iOS device anymore; they’re on everyone’s short list when contemplating a new purchase. And that’s especially true in the tablet market, where Apple sells more devices than all of its competitors combined. So it’s time for the company to treat its post-PC products the same way it’s been treating its PC product segments for some time: as devices you’re going to buy and frequently replace over several product generations, no matter the specs.

Apple has long been doing this in the PC space, where its products are simply called MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac and Mac mini. Sure, the most dedicated Apple followers will always know which generation of the MacBook Pro has which CPU, and which ports are present on which laptop iteration. But for the rest of us, these differences don’t matter all that much. We buy the latest generation, trusting Apple that the hardware will live up to our expectations. We expect the MacBook Air to be the best in portable computing and the MacBook Pro to be powerful – and we don’t need complicated revision numbers to keep track of all the changes over the years.

In a way, not going for names like iPad 3 or iPad HD shows that the iPad has grown up: it’s a device that’s here to stay and shape the post-PC world for years to come. It’s the new iPad, made for a new world.

I think Janko got it exactly right. I sat in on meetings that struggled with questions like this way too many times.

I especially recall a successful name that made sense and sounded great, too – in the much smaller business world I once inhabited. When Dawes Cycles became part of the M.Y.Sports group – and planned serious entry into the US market – our best hit in a lightweight sports bike ended up being called the Atlantis. Sorted at a board meeting in Birmingham. It brought together two prime markets in the US and UK.

I hardly ever admitted that I offered the name after listening to Donovan’s song – “Atlantis” – on the radio that morning.

The Very Large Array invites you to choose a new name


VLA at sunset
Image courtesy of NRAO/AUI

The most famous radio telescope in the world is about to get a new name. The Very Large Array, known around the world, isn’t what it used to be. The iconic radio telescope…is nearing the completion of an amazing transformation. More than a decade of effort has replaced the VLA’s original, 1970s-vintage electronics with modern, state-of-the-art equipment.

“The VLA Expansion Project, begun in 2000, has increased the VLA’s technical capabilities by factors of as much as 8,000, and the new system allows scientists to do things they never could do before,” said Fred K.Y. Lo, Director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. “After more than three decades on the frontiers of science, the VLA now is poised for a new era as one of the world’s premier tools for meeting the challenges of 21st-Century astrophysics,” he added.

And so it’s time, the Observatory has decided, to give this transformed scientific facility a new name to reflect its new capabilities.

The Observatory is seeking ideas for a new name from the public and the scientific community. Here’s the online entry form.

Entries will be accepted until December 1, 2011, and the new name will be announced at NRAO’s Town Hall at the American Astronomical Society’s meeting in Austin, Texas, in January…

RTFA for details and history of the facility. I can tell you from experience it is a wonderful place to visit. You feel like you’re being watched from outer space every minute you spend wandering the site – watched in a friendly sort of way. 🙂

Top CIA spy pulled from Pakistan after terror threats

The CIA has recalled its top spy in Pakistan out of concern for his safety after terrorist threats against him, a U.S. intelligence official said.

The station chief, the highest-ranking U.S. intelligence officer in Pakistan, operates covertly and his identity is considered classified. He had recently been named in a lawsuit filed by a Pakistani man seeking $500 million for the death of his son and brother, who the man alleges were killed in a U.S. drone strike. The spy’s name then appeared in Pakistani media stories about the lawsuit.

The threats “were of such a serious nature that it would be imprudent not to act,” the intelligence official said, describing the decision to pull him from the country…

“Our station chiefs routinely encounter major risk as they work to keep America safe, and they’ve been targeted by terrorists in the past,” CIA spokesman George Little said. “Their security is obviously a top priority for the CIA, especially when there’s an imminent threat.”

The station chief oversees all intelligence operations in Pakistan including managing the drone program, which the U.S. government does not publicly acknowedge, and coordinates with the country’s intelligence office.

Of course, every Pakistan official who has been queried about the leak denies any culpability, any way that bureaucrats under their control may have released the station chief’s name.

Uh-huh.

Life in a 3rd World state

New Mexico — KOB Eyewitness News 4 has learned the Valencia County sheriff is looking at filing criminal charges against a county commissioner for something he did in one of our recent stories.

In our story that aired last Wednesday, Commissioner Donald Holliday used a heat gun to prove he found a cheap solution to remove Sheriff Rene Rivera’s name from 20 patrol vehicles. The sheriff, who recently lost his re-election bid to Louis Burkhard, had spent $5000 this summer to affix the personalized decals.

The sheriff says he discovered Commissioner Holliday’s move after seeing our story air on TV that night:

According to Rivera, the commissioner committed vandalism to county and public property and if he had known what Holliday was up to “more than likely [Holliday] would have gotten arrested.”

Rivera says since he is still Valencia County’s acting sheriff, he is the only one to authorize the removal of decals from patrol vehicles. He is now consulting with attorneys about filing charges against Holliday.

Meanwhile, Valencia County Manager Eric Zamora says the sheriff’s patrol vehicles belong to the county, and that the commission has discretion on how that property is used. Zamora says Commissioner Holliday was within his rights to remove the decals and does not believe the sheriff has cause to file charges.

Next week, someone will be arrested for letting the wrong cousin sweep the streets.

Swiss win the Gruyère war

It was nicknamed the Gruyère War: a bitter three-year battle between French and Swiss cheesemakers over who made the real celebrated cheese.

In the end, the conflict was over before it began after the Swiss – backed by European Union experts – emerged victorious.

Makers of French Gruyère and Swiss Gruyère, which have a different taste and appearance, had both claimed the prestigious mark of quality the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in their respective countries. AOCs are an official mark of quality awarded to regional products with specific characteristics and taste produced with traditional methods.

But the French got greedy and sought to have their gruyère recognised more widely with a prestigious Appellation d’Origine Protegée (AOP) handed out by the EU as a mark of international recognition. The Swiss complained, arguing the very name Gruyère comes from one of their towns nestling in the Alpine foothills, and that they had been making the celebrated cheese for centuries…

The EU was called in to adjudicate and found the French argument had a few holes of its own, namely that it was matured outside of the area it was produced in – mostly near France’s border with Switzerland – and so did not appear to qualify for an AOP. Having digested the official report, which said the French case was “weak”, Gallic Gruyère makers threw in the towel.

Swiss Gruyère rules.

You needn’t be a Packers’ fan to be a proper cheesehead.

Dumb Crook of the Day!

Two armed robbers, one of whom left a T-shirt bearing his photo and name at the scene of the crime, and their female accomplice were captured early Sunday morning just minutes after firing multiple rounds during a robbery at a Rutherford County bar, police said.

Twenty-two-year-old Kendell M. Swader…his 20-year-old girlfriend, Whitney Elliott…and accomplice Antonyo O. Roper, 18, all of Murfreesboro, have all made bond…

The victims told police that two males and a female were hanging around The Spot…from about 1 a.m. Sunday until it closed two hours later…

During that time, the men came in to buy drinks and one of them removed a T-shirt bearing his photo and family name and tattoos. He left his T-shirt lying in the bar.

When the bar closed, the three were waiting in the parking lot and reportedly re-entered the bar armed with a .40-caliber pistol and took both the cash drawer from the register and a bank money bag full of cash.

Despite getting the money, one of the two men said “shoot them” as they were leaving. The victims ducked and heard four shots. More shots were fired into a truck driven by a woman who pulled up attempting to get a tag number off the suspects’ four-door brown car. That victim had already called 911 and saw the suspects flee outbound on Woodbury Pike.

A regional “be on look out” was immediately broadcast by RCSO Communications. A Woodbury police officer spotted the vehicle and began chase, asking for assistance from Cannon County deputies.

The car was stopped, and a .40-caliber Glock was recovered along with cash and other evidence linking them to the bar robbery.

The only thing these dummies didn’t do was leave behind a note with their home address. Presuming they can write.

Malaysian churches attacked over one word – “Allah”


Prime Minister Najib Razak visiting a torched church
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

There have been more attacks on churches in Malaysia, in a growing dispute over the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims.

The police say petrol bombs were thrown at a church and a convent school in the state of Perak, and at a church in Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Another church in the south of the country was daubed with black paint.

The attacks come days after four churches near the capital, Kuala Lumpur, were hit by petrol bombs.

Religious tensions in Malaysia have increased since a court ruled last month that a Roman Catholic newspaper could use the word Allah in its Malay-language edition to describe the Christian god…

Sarawak and neighbouring Sabah state are home to most of Malaysia’s Christians, who account for 9.1% of the country’s 28 million people. “The situation is under control and the people should not be worried,” Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama.

Correspondents say some of Malaysia’s majority Muslim community suspect Christians of wanting to use the word Allah to encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity.

The government has appealed against the ruling, in contrast to countries like Indonesia, Egypt and Syria where Christian minorities freely use the Arabic word to refer to God.

The question yet to be resolved is who leads the terrorist attacks on churches. Every part of the world has experienced communal violence over some localized bigotry. None are justifiable.

Google brand value rises faster than all in Top 100

Google has notched up the biggest rise in brand value, according to Interbrand’s latest listing of the 100 most valuable global brands.

The internet search company’s value grew 25% over the past year to reach nearly $32bn. In growth terms, it was closely followed by Amazon, which saw its brand equity boosted 22% to almost $8bn.

There were double-digit rises in the technology sector for BlackBerry and Apple, which made it into the top 20 global brands for the first time…

The top five brands, however, have held onto their positions. Coca-Cola remains at the top for the ninth year in a row, with its value up 3% to $69bn followed by IBM, Microsoft, GE and Nokia.

Luxury brands have also held onto their value; Ferrari was the best-performing automotive brand. However, Harley Davidson was one of this year’s biggest losers dropping 43% of its brand value and slipping from 50th to 73rd in the table.

I’m not concerned about acquiring a Ferrari anytime soon. I don’t drink carbonated beverages anymore. And there’s nothing in my home from the 4 brands following Coca-Cola.

My wife and I both Google – and sometimes I think we keep Amazon in business on our own.

Democracy run amok!

NASA’s online contest to name a new room at the international space station went awry. Comedian Stephen Colbert won.

The name “Colbert” beat out NASA’s four suggested options in the space agency’s effort to have the public help name the addition. The new room will be launched later this year.

NASA’s mistake was allowing write-ins. Colbert urged viewers of his Comedy Central show, “The Colbert Report,” to write in his name. And they complied, with 230,539 votes. That clobbered Serenity, one of the NASA choices, by more than 40,000 votes.

NASA still reserves the right to choose an, uh, appropriate name.