Google reaches settlement with FTC in Google Buzz privacy case

via BGR by Todd Haselton on 3/30/11

On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced it has reached a settlement with Google over its controversial Google Buzz social network. The FTC charged Google with using “deceptive tactics and [violating] its own privacy promises to consumers” when it launched Google Buzz — its Twitter-like social network — in 2010. The FTC’s proposed settlement will bar Google from “future privacy misrepresentations,” and requires that Google implement a comprehensive privacy program. The FTC has also called for regular, independent privacy audits during the next 20 years. “When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them,” said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FCC. “This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honor its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations.” The FTC argued that some Google users who declined to participate in Google Buzz were still enrolled in some features of the service. Similarly, it said that those who did decide to join Google Buzz were often confused on how to control the privacy settings.  This is not the only lawsuit that was brought against Google in relation to its Buzz service. In November 2010 Google was required to create an $8.5 million fund dedicated to “promoting privacy education on the web” as the result of a class action lawsuit.  Hit the jump for the full release. 

FTC Charges Deceptive Privacy Practices in Google’s Rollout of Its Buzz Social Network 

Google Agrees to Implement Comprehensive Privacy Program to Protect Consumer Data

Google Inc. has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers when it launched its social network, Google Buzz, in 2010. The agency alleges the practices violate the FTC Act. The proposed settlement bars the company from future privacy misrepresentations, requires it to implement a comprehensive privacy program, and calls for regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years. This is the first time an FTC settlement order has required a company to implement a comprehensive privacy program to protect the privacy of consumers’ information. In addition, this is the first time the FTC has alleged violations of the substantive privacy requirements of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, which provides a method for U.S. companies to transfer personal data lawfully from the European Union to the United States. 
“When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. “This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honor its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations.” 
According to the FTC complaint, Google launched its Buzz social network through its Gmail web-based email product. Although Google led Gmail users to believe that they could choose whether or not they wanted to join the network, the options for declining or leaving the social network were ineffective. For users who joined the Buzz network, the controls for limiting the sharing of their personal information were confusing and difficult to find, the agency alleged. 
On the day Buzz was launched, Gmail users got a message announcing the new service and were given two options: “Sweet! Check out Buzz,” and “Nah, go to my inbox.” However, the FTC complaint alleged that some Gmail users who clicked on “Nah…” were nonetheless enrolled in certain features of the Google Buzz social network. For those Gmail users who clicked on “Sweet!,” the FTC alleges that they were not adequately informed that the identity of individuals they emailed most frequently would be made public by default. Google also offered a “Turn Off Buzz” option that did not fully remove the user from the social network. 
In response to the Buzz launch, Google received thousands of complaints from consumers who were concerned about public disclosure of their email contacts which included, in some cases, ex-spouses, patients, students, employers, or competitors. According to the FTC complaint, Google made certain changes to the Buzz product in response to those complaints. 
When Google launched Buzz, its privacy policy stated that “When you sign up for a particular service that requires registration, we ask you to provide personal information. If we use this information in a manner different than the purpose for which it was collected, then we will ask for your consent prior to such use.” The FTC complaint charges that Google violated its privacy policies by using information provided for Gmail for another purpose – social networking – without obtaining consumers’ permission in advance. 
The agency also alleges that by offering options like “Nah, go to my inbox,” and “Turn Off Buzz,” Google misrepresented that consumers who clicked on these options would not be enrolled in Buzz. In fact, they were enrolled in certain features of Buzz. 
The complaint further alleges that a screen that asked consumers enrolling in Buzz, “How do you want to appear to others?” indicated that consumers could exercise control over what personal information would be made public. The FTC charged that Google failed to disclose adequately that consumers’ frequent email contacts would become public by default. 
Finally, the agency alleges that Google misrepresented that it was treating personal information from the European Union in accordance with the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor privacy framework. The framework is a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the European Commission. To participate, a company must self-certify annually to the Department of Commerce that it complies with a defined set of privacy principles. The complaint alleges that Google’s assertion that it adhered to the Safe Harbor principles was false because the company failed to give consumers notice and choice before using their information for a purpose different from that for which it was collected. 
The proposed settlement bars Google from misrepresenting the privacy or confidentiality of individuals’ information or misrepresenting compliance with the U.S.-E.U Safe Harbor or other privacy, security, or compliance programs. The settlement requires the company to obtain users’ consent before sharing their information with third parties if Google changes its products or services in a way that results in information sharing that is contrary to any privacy promises made when the user’s information was collected. The settlement further requires Google to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program, and it requires that for the next 20 years, the company have audits conducted by independent third parties every two years to assess its privacy and data protection practices. 
Google’s data practices in connection with its launch of Google Buzz were the subject of a complaint filed with the FTC by the Electronic Privacy Information Center shortly after the service was launched. 
The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and accept the consent agreement package containing the proposed consent order for public comment was 5-0. Commissioner Rosch concurs with accepting, subject to final approval, the consent order for the purpose of public comment. The reasons for his concurrence are described in a separate Statement. 
The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through May 1, 2011, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section. Comments in electronic form should be submitted using the following web link: and following the instructions on the web-based form. Comments in paper form should be mailed or delivered to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex D), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form near the end of the public comment period be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions. 

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the respondent has actually violated the law. A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the respondent that the law has been violated. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000. 

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. “Like” the FTC on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter.

Before You Change your DNS Server, Read this!

Public DNS services, like OpenDNS or Google DNS, may offer more reliable and faster lookups than the DNS server of your ISP but in some cases, you may get much better download speeds if you continue to stick to your ISP’s DNS server. Here’s why.

location of amazon cdn

You know about Content Delivery Networks like Amazon, Akamai, etc. that have data centers located across the globe and they serve content from the one that’s closest to you geographically. A site like Adobe hosts its files on Akamai so when you download that 1 GB Photoshop installer from, the file will be served to you from the Akamai data center that’s nearest to you. 
A CDN uses your computer’s IP Address to determine your current location and then redirects you to the server that’s nearest to you. However, if you use a public DNS service, the CDN may not get to know your accurate location as your IP address is masked by the public DNS Service. The CDN could therefore serve content from a server that’s not closest to you and hence it will take more time to download files. 
A recent story published in The Economist discusses this problem in much greater detail. 

Are CDNs serving you content through the shortest path? 

Considering the fact that all major websites – from Microsoft to CNN to YouTube – use CDNs for delivering content, it is important to know if your are getting served from the nearest located server. How do you find that out? 
Step 1: Download the Dig tool and run it against a domain (like 
C:\labnol>dig A 687 IN CNAME 20 IN A 20 IN A 
Once you have the IP Addresses, you can find the server’s physical location using this online tool. If you are in India and request a file through Adobe (Akamai CDN), it should be served from their data-center in Asia and not the one in North America. MY Malaysia Simpang Tiga TMnet Telekom Malaysia MY Malaysia Simpang Tiga TMnet Telekom Malaysia 
When I asked OpenDNS about this issue, their representative told me that it is something ‘fixable’ and that they’re working on a solution where the DNS Server itself passes on the client’s location to the CDN. Unless this happens, as Atul Chitnis rightly points out, non-ISP DNS services “kill the benefits of CDNs like Akamai.”
Digital Inspiration @labnol

Do You Feel Like Google Screwed You Over? Your Right – Just Look @ the NEXUS TWO With Full ATT 3G Support

I got my Nexus One on launch day, NO 3G with ATT, now if you check out the Google site and after their announcement on the 16th that the Nexus One is now FULLY COMPATIBLE with ATT 3G network, all of us poor saps who dished out $600 for the first Nexus One are completely out of luck.

I just got out of the phone with Google tech support and was told that basically i was out of luck. That there is nothing they can do and that i was stuck with the EDGE service with ATT. Short of getting a new phone i a was screwed over by Google.

This is so ridiculous, as an early adapter shouldn’t we be rewarded? Instead the exact opposite happened. We got screwed.

I now i am stuck with an inferior phone that i can’t sell because i had it engraved, and even if i did not i still would not be able to sell it due to the fact that the NEXUS TWO,  and that is exactly what it is, the NEXUS TWO is out. Regardless of what Google wants to call it or not, it’s still a new unit… Or is it?

 So get used to it everyone who got the NEXUS ONE in the last 3 months, you were screwed, for the NEXUS TWO is out!!!

DAMN YOU GOOGLE! You are starting to act like Microsoft. What ever happened with DO NO HARM?!

What’s Inside the Google Phone

Video: Nexus One Disassembled

If you are wondering what’s inside Nexus One, check this slideshow at iFixit*. They bought a new phone and completely disassembled it using a Phillips screwdriver.

Google Phone Battery Cover Opening the Nexus One
Inside Nexus One Google Phone Disassembled

Motorola Droid now best Android phone ever

Motorola Droid now best Android phone ever *via DVICE Atom Feed by Stewart Wolpin on 10/28/09

Motorola Droid now best Android phone ever *

A few weeks I go I proclaimed the Motorola CLIQ the best Android phone ever, asterisk, at the time it came out.

On Nov. 6, the new Android champion will be the Motorola Droid. That’ll make Verizon customers/Apple haters happy now that the carrier has a phone to match its vaunted 3G network, or will have when it becomes available on Nov. 6 for $200 after the usual contract stipulations and rebate.

Handling the phone for the last couple of hours, I find Droid’s imperfections overwhelmed by Android 2.0 advances that help unify related functions and, first and foremost, its gorgeous screen.

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At 3.7 inches diagonal, Droid’s display is the biggest on a cellphone, yet the Droid is only a hair larger and actually a bit thinner than the CLIQ. Even better, the LCD is 854 x 480 (WVGA) or 400,000 pixels. Most similarly sized screens are 480 x 320. In less tech terms, text and colors are sharper, bolder and crisper than on any other cellphone LCD I’ve seen.

All Together Now
Droid is more than its screen and slide-out QWERTY keypad. To make non-verbal communications easier, Motorola borrows the contact-centric phonebook from CLIQ’s MOTOBLUR social-network interface. Contacts in your phone book include text and email data, but let you compose a message or post to varying your contact’s pages on social-networking sites such as Facebook without having to actually boot the Android Facebook app. Droid also handily merges all the info from contacts culled from varying app phonebooks and email contact lists, such as Facebook and Gmail.

Further unifying disparate functions, the home page-based Google Search now scours not only the Web but data on your Droid. For instance, if you do a search on U2, you’ll find websites, plus websites you’ve visited or bookmarked, apps, contacts or, optionally, YouTube and your music. You can change these search options in the settings.

Google Maps now comes with voice-prompted turn-by-turn directions and “layers” — instead of having to choose a normal map view or a traffic view or a satellite view, you can overlay these options on top of each other. You can also share your location with other Google Navigation users for keeping track of your peeps or coordinating arrival at a mutual destination, i.e., “I’m lost, do you see where I am? How do I get to where you are?”

Moto Quibbles
I have some initial complaints. First, the 5MP camera is slow to process the large images. And, despite included image stabilization, indoor shots with the dual LED flash come out blurry if you don’t hold the camera stock-still until the shot is processed. Photos also can be geotagged, but oddly this is not the default setting. I’m not even sure why there is an option to begin with — what is the drawback to having all your photos automatically geotagged?

Like the CLIQ, Droid’s slide-out horizontal keyboard is three-line rather than four, which means you’ll need to tap ALT to access the number keys.
YouTube playback was hinky on my demo unit, especially when I tried to watch videos in HQ. They’d get stuck in “loading” and never actually play. Unlike other Android phones, there isn’t a “full screen” zoom option, which means videos that do play play in the middle third of the screen.

But Droid’s big, sharp screen makes everything easier to read, Android 2.0 adds the kind of intuitive interface that makes using a complex cellphone easier, Verizon’s EV-DO network speeds net surfing, and Droid’s solid metallic body fills klutzes with confidence.

Now all we need is an iTunes-like Android client software.

AT&T’s first Android phone: A Dell?

via Betanews by Tim Conneally on 10/7/09

By Tim Conneally, Betanews

Dell has smartphones on the way, but it’s not talking about them yet.

In fact, the first Android-powered smartphone on AT&T’s network could be coming from Dell, according to reports this afternoon.

Citing unnamed “people briefed on the plans,” The Wall Street Journal today claimed that Dell will have a smartphone on AT&T as early as 2010.

In September, a 3.5″ touchscreen Dell smartphone known as the “Mini 3i” was shown running Open Mobile System (OMS), an Android-based operating system central to China Mobile’s “OPhone” platform. That platform thus far has been supported by Lenovo and HTC subsidiary Dopod, with many more to come.

The smartphone that Dell is saying is not really its Mini 3i, at least not yet.

The Texas PC company, however, has thus far been hesitant to discuss its movement in the Chinese mobile sector, even though China Mobile has highlighted Dell’s participation in the Android-based OPhone project several times.

Dell declined comment today to Betanews and others on its plans for smartphone distribution, domestically or otherwise.

SHIFT: What Google Gears means for cloud computing

via DVICE by S.E. Kramer on 2/6/09


DVICE writers take a closer look at the latest tech trends in our weekly column, Shift.

One of the big trends of 2008 was cloud computing, or the idea that you don’t have to use applications or store information on your computer’s hard drive, because you can do it easily and efficiently online. We’ve been able to store e-mail, photos and documents online for years, but never has there been so much good, free Web-based software to let us do it. Many of Google’s applications are so user-friendly that they’ve led some to announce the impending death of the operating system and software as we know it.

But 2009 may mark the beginning of a new trend: reverse cloud computing, where you store data from the cloud on your hard drive. Sound counterintuitive? It is, and it isn’t. Last week, Google announced that Gmail would work with Gears, Google-developed software that lets Gmail work seamlessly when it’s not connected to the Internet. Hit the Continue jump to explore the ups and downs of using Web applications when you’re not online.

Getting into Gear

For years, Gmail has supported systems that let you download e-mail to your computer through programs like Outlook. Unlike Outlook, however, Gears works through your Web browser: It looks just like regular Gmail. Gears isn’t new; it’s been around for more than a year, supporting programs like Google Documents (and some non-Google based Web software). It’s only just begun working with Gmail, and remarkably, it still doesn’t work with Google Calendar.

Because offline Gmail is browser-driven, it doesn’t feel like offline storage. This is deliberate: Most people will see the application not as a system for backing up e-mails in case of Internet failure, but one that lets you stay connected (or at least feel connected) even when you’re in an Internet-free zone.

But that’s a limited way of looking at it. Google isn’t infallible, and backing up your e-mail is good common sense, though backing up information on a hard drive is already beginning to sound retro.

When Gmail launched, it didn’t have a delete button— Google’s idea was that readers would want to archive everything. Google soon fixed the delete button problem — it had overestimated the value of most e-mail to readers — but it still has an “archive everything” mentality. This is hardly surprising; since as a search company Google’s in the business of finding information, not getting rid of it. But there’s a happy medium between never backing up anything and the Google Gears system of saving a document on your computer, then backing it up online and then re-downloading it as e-mail backed up on your hard drive. And it already exists.

Outlook vs. Gears

While some proclaim that the system will destroy Outlook and similar hard-drive based e-mail software, Gmail with Gears is a fundamentally different concept — Outlook lovers aren’t going to abandon the program immediately.

Outlook, and similar programs like Eudora and Entourage take mail from a server and store it even if you delete it on the server. Similarly, if you delete mail in Outlook but it’s still on the server, you can get it back. These programs retrieve mail and keep it. Gmail with Gears, on the other hand, simply creates an exact replica of your Gmail account. This means that when you delete an email when you’re offline (off your hard drive), that email will be deleted from your online Gmail as soon as you reconnect to the Internet. Similarly, when you delete a message online, it won’t show up in your offline version of Gmail.

Gmail’s system has disadvantages. Let’s say you want to clear some attachments from your online account to free up space, but you have plenty of room on your hard drive. You can’t keep just some messages in your desktop version of the program. Conversely, I found that one of the most annoying aspects of downloading Gears was that all sorts of big attachments got copied onto my computer. Mostly, the attachments were images, MP3s and documents that already exist on my hard drive. But I can’t delete them from my offline version of Gmail, because in that case they won’t be stored in Google’s cloud either.

Also, if Gmail is in Beta (which it totally shouldn’t be, since it’s nearly five years old), then Google Gears for Gmail is in Super Beta, with plenty of room for improvement. The program is slow — sometimes alarmingly slow. Shouldn’t it be faster than regular Gmail? After all, Google no longer has to retrieve messages from a server way over yonder, just grab stuff from your so-close hard drive.

Google: Not Infallible

Google search’s 55 minutes of failure last weekend showed the extent to which most computer users rely on the company. Though I love its products, I too certainly have concerns about total Google reliance. Nonetheless, I welcome Google Gears as an easy backup system that has a fantastic, Google-driven built-in search function. But it should be a little more flexible, instead of making offline Gmail a carbon copy of the online version. After all, when you delete all your girlfriend’s e-mails in a drunken fervor, you might want to be able to find the archive somewhere else when you regret that decision the next day.

Firefox will eventually let users turn web apps into desktop apps

via Download Squad by Brad Linder on 12/30/08
Prism for Firefox

Web based apps are the new desktop apps. There are web apps for playing games, watching videos, listening to music, creating and editing office documents, and the list goes on. While I still prefer editing audio, video, and images using dedicated desktop tools, there are even web apps for that.

But sometimes if all you want to do is access your email account or an online image editor like Picnik, you don’t really need to fire up a full fledged web browser. A while back Mozilla created a project called Prism that lets you create a desktop shortcut that will open just a single page at a time in a stripped down version of Firefox. Now it looks like Mozilla is planning on integrating that feature with a future version of Firefox.

Here’s how it would work. When you visit a web-based application, you’d be able to click a button to turn it into a desktop app. This would create a desktop shortcut to the application and users would be able to open a window showing just that app. For certain applications, like the Flickr Uploader or Zoho Docs, Firefox might allow you to drag and drop files to upload or create file associations in your operating system so that every time you click on a Word document, for example, Zoho Docs would be opened instead of Microsoft Word.

Right now these features are still in the planning stages. But we could see them in future versions of Firefox. Of course, Google Chrome already has a similar feature which lets you create an application shortcut out of any web page with a click of a button using Google Gears.

New York City Is Breathtaking Following Google Earth Update

via Gizmodo by Mark Wilson on 12/18/08

That’s not a photo of New York. It’s actually many photos of New York, textured on 3D models in Google Earth’s latest update. And it’s truly nothing short of amazing.

The Google Earth Blog estimates that the new New York City (captured here with Google Earth Pro) has seen an update with hundreds, if not thousands of new buildings. That wild estimate sounds right to us, as here’s what the skyline looked like in January 2007:

Sure, this is just one city, but it’s a sign of where Google Earth can go. Scratch that, it’s a sign of where Google Earth is going. Really, really, really neat stuff (that will be a gloriously mundane commonplace in a few more years).

[Google Earth Blog via CrunchGear]

Kogan Agora, the next Google Android smartphone, to ship next month

via DVICE by Charlie White on 12/4/08


Google’s open-source Android cell phone operating system has just one taker so far, the T-Mobile G1, but that’s about to change. Now there’s a new kid on the block, the Agora from Aussie cell phone maker Kogan.

Built like a cross between a Blackberry Bold, a Samsung Blackjack, and a Motorola Q, the smartphone will have a 2.5-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G, and that sweet Qwerty keyboard that we miss in other touchscreen phones. It’s set for a January 29, 2009 ship date and now available for pre-order. It’ll be available unlocked for around $300 including international shipping.

It’s about time another company stepped up with the next Android phone. What’s taking so long? We’re nuts about Android, looking forward to the upcoming explosion of open-source applications that have already begun. All the software needs is a hot network and some great phones, and it’s golden. Bring it!

Via Obsessable