A gifted computer scientist, Mayer suspected that online advertisers might be getting around browser settings that are designed to block tracking devices known as cookies. If his instinct was right, advertisers were following people as they moved from one website to another even though their browsers were configured to prevent this sort of digital shadowing. Working long hours at his office, Mayer ran a series of clever tests in which he purchased ads that acted as sniffers for the sort of unauthorized cookies he was looking for. He hit the jackpot, unearthing one of the biggest privacy scandals of the past year: Google was secretly planting cookies on a vast number of iPhone browsers. Mayer thinks millions of iPhones were targeted by Google.
Pigskin-Referee writes: Google Inc Chief Executive Larry Page has reassured employees about his health, but the company on Friday shed little additional light on an unspecified condition affecting his voice that will sideline him from two high-profile events in the coming weeks.
Page told employees in an email on Thursday that there was "nothing seriously wrong with me," according to a source who had seen an internal staff memo.
The 39-year-old Google co-founder sat out his company's annual shareholders' meeting on Thursday because he had "lost his voice," according to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who informed attendees of the news at the start of the event.
Pigskin-Referee writes: Britain's data regulator has reopened its investigation into Google's Street View, saying Tuesday that an inquiry by authorities in the United States raised new doubts about the disputed program.
Steve Eckersley, enforcement chief of the British Information Commissioner's Office, said Google Inc. had questions to answer about Street View, an attention-grabbing project which sent camera-toting vehicles across the globe to create three-dimensional maps of the world's highways and byways.
But the cars weren't just taking pictures: They were scooping up passwords, Web addresses, emails, and other sensitive data transmitted over unsecured wireless networks.
There was outrage on both sides of the Atlantic when the data-slurping was exposed in early 2010, and the Information Commissioner's Office was one of several European agencies which investigated Street View in the aftermath of the scandal. But in November of that year, the ICO gave Google a mere slap on the wrist, saying that while Google had violated British data protection laws it would escape any fines so long as it pledged not to do it again.
At the time, Google insisted that the breach was an accident.
"We did not want this data, have never used any of it on our products and services, and have sought to delete it as quickly as possible," the company claimed back then.
Evidence made public earlier this year by the Federal Communications Commission has since punctured Google's "oops-I-took-your-data" defense.
Pigskin-Referee writes: NEW YORK — A U.S. senator has urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate reports that applications on the Apple and Google mobile systems steal private photos and contacts and post them online without consent.
Democrat Charles Schumer's request comes after iPhone maker Apple tweaked its privacy policies last month after prodding from other lawmakers.
The distribution of third-party applications on iPhones and phones running on Google's Android system has helped create a surge in the popularity of those devices in recent years.
Related story: Android apps can snoop photos, too
However, Schumer said on Sunday that he was concerned about a New York Times report that iPhone and Android applications can access a user's private photo collection.
He also referred to a discovery last month that applications on devices such as the iPhone and iPad were able to upload entire address books with names, telephone numbers and email addresses to their own servers.
"These uses go well beyond what a reasonable user understands himself to be consenting to when he allows an app to access data on the phone for purposes of the app's functionality," Schumer said in a letter to the FTC. Advertise | AdChoices
The lawmaker said it was his understanding that many of these uses violate the terms of service of the Apple and Android platforms. He said "it is not clear whether or how those terms of service are being enforced and monitored."
Related story: iPhone flaw allows apps access to your contacts
As a result, he said, "smartphone makers should be required to put in place safety measures to ensure third party applications are not able to violate a user's personal privacy by stealing photographs or data that the user did not consciously decide to make public".
Schumer said phone makers have an obligation to protect the private content of their customers.
"When someone takes a private photo, on a private cellphone, it should remain just that: private," said Schumer.
Pigskin-Referee writes: When Google rolled out the beta of their "magical and revolutionary" social network (oops, sorry — that's Apple's line), I dutifully signed up like everybody else in the tech industry. I played around with it and found some features I really liked — and some that made me scratch my head and think "Why in the world can't I do that? I can do it on Facebook." I circlified my friends and acquaintances, followed a few people I knew only by reputation, thoroughly enjoyed the "instant upload" feature for smart phones despite its scary aspects, got thoroughly annoyed while trying to navigate the interface a few times, and then... headed back to Facebook. It seems as if most others are doing the same thing; I've noticed a drop-off in posts on G+ lately (when I bother to go there). I haven't given up on it, but it's an afterthought, whereas Facebook is a part of my life. It's not that Facebook is technically better — in many ways, it's not (although Facebook as been hard at work, making improvements to give people the functionality they've found and like on G+). Ultimately, social networking is about the people, and in general, the people I care about and enjoy "hanging out" with (to borrow a G+ term) are on Facebook. I'll log onto G+ if I want to get into a technical discussion or a political argument. Many of my colleagues are there. But my friends are on Facebook.
Pigskin-Referee writes: Though Google remains firmly on top of the search engine market, it's shed market share to Microsoft over the past year, according to data released last week by research firm Compete.
Looking at the overall search engine market from May 2010 to May 2011, Compete found that Google has lost close to 16 percent of its share, dropping to 63.6 percent from 73.9 percent. At the same time, Microsoft grew its share by 75 percent, jumping to 17 percent from 9.7 percent.
The other three search engines tracked--Yahoo, Ask, and AOL--grew only slightly over the past year, showing that most of Bing's gain has been at the expense of Google.
The number of search queries on each site also showed a gain for Microsoft, according to Compete. Google's query volume fell to 9.5 million in May, compared with 10.8 million a year ago, a 12.4 percent loss. The number of queries for Microsoft rose to 2.5 million last month from 1.4 million last May, an increase of 78 percent.
Looking at the number of actual Web site visitors, Google drew 138 million people to its site in May, compared with 162 million in May 2010, a drop of almost 15 percent. In contrast, Microsoft saw its visitors climb to 93 million last month, compared with 61 million in May of last year, a jump of 53 percent.
Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft has released a Windows Media Player HTML5 Extension for Chrome so as to enable H.264-encoded video on HTML5 by using built-in capabilities available on Windows 7. As you may recall, less than two months ago, Microsoft released the HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in with the same goal in mind. Even though Firefox and Chrome are big competitors to Microsoft's own Internet Explorer, the software giant has decided Windows 7 users should be able to play back H.264 video even if they aren't using IE9.
Here's the current state of HTML5 video: Microsoft and Apple are betting on H.264, while Firefox, Chrome, and Opera are rooting for WebM. Google was actually in favor of both H.264 and WebM up until earlier this month, when the search giant decided to drop H.264 support completely, even though the former is widely used and the latter is not. The company also announced that it would release WebM plugins for Internet Explorer 9 and Safari. Although IE9 supports H.264, excluding all other codecs, Microsoft is making an exception for WebM, as long as the user installs the corresponding codec, and is helping Google ensure the plug-in works properly.
Pigskin-Referee writes: Gmail creator Paul Buchheit is putting Google's new Chrome OS on a deathwatch.
He writes on FriendFeed: "Prediction: ChromeOS will be killed next year (or "merged" with Android)." His reasoning for why Chrome is toast: "Because ChromeOS has no purpose that isn't better served by Android (perhaps with a few mods to support a non-touch display)"
While it sounds like a bold statement, he also adds, "I was thinking, 'is this too obvious to even state?', but then I see people taking ChromeOS seriously, and Google is even shipping devices for some reason."
He's 100% correct about Chrome. We've been thinking about this too. What problem does Chrome solve? We're stumped.
Buchheit left Google years ago to start FriendFeed, which was a Twitter rival. Twitter won out and Facebook bought FriendFeed. He spent a few years at Facebook and is now with Y Combinator.
Pigskin-Referee writes: "Google Caves To China, Halts Hong Kong Search Redirect
Google (NSDQ:GOOG) is capitulating to Chinese demands after executives announced Tuesday that the search engine giant would stop automatically redirecting users from its censored, China-based search site to a search page based out of Hong Kong.
David Drummond, Google senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer, said in a company blog post that the decision to put the brakes on the redirect and revert back to Google.cn was partly based on threats of non-renewals."
Pigskin-Referee writes: "Until this week, the answer to whether the upcoming Chrome OS could run Windows apps was "no."
The Chrome OS is completely in "the cloud," so all apps had to be accessed through the Chrome Web browser, and installed and "saved" to the Chrome OS.
This week, however, Google software engineer Gary Kamark has announced "Chromoting", a feature that will give users a chance to access "legacy PC applications" through a remote desktop connection process.
Says the engineer: "We're adding new capabilities all the time. With this functionality (unofficially named "chromoting"), Chrome OS will not only be great platform for running modern web apps, but will also enable you to access legacy PC applications right within the browser. We'll have more details to share on chromoting in the coming month."
While that leaves details on Chromoting scant, most believe that the process will be a sharing function that will require a home/office computer to be kept on, while the Chrome OS computer uses remote access."