It's a little while since a European Court of Justice ruling forced Google to start removing search links to certain articles. Dubbed the "right to be forgotten", the ruling led Google to create an online form making it easier for people to get in touch about search results relating to them thought to be "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant". But just like those requests from celebrities to stop publishing compromising images online, it seems like asking for search links to be censored serves only to highlight the existence of the web pages they correspond to.
The court's decision that people should be able to request that information about them be removed from Google searches came after Spaniard Mr Costeja González took exception to links to stories about a series of old debts he had. There are now few people who follow news about Google who are not aware that Mr González has a less than perfect credit history. It's not clear whether he regards the ruling as a personal victory, but the appearance of Hidden From Google is sure to ruffle the feathers of many who have submitted similar removal requests to the search giant.
Not many days pass without security being in the news in some form or another. Most of that news isn't good either. Services being attacked through vectors like DDoS, gaping holes in software that many people use everyday -- hello, Adobe and Java.
Now Google is taking its own steps to try and protect users. The company has already implemented SSL for many of its services, but the latest push is against zero-day vulnerabilities.
Get ready for another rash of "Year of the Chromebook" stories. It isn't, but tongues will wag. Today, NPD released new data about U.S. commercial computer sales which, like the last set, is sure to be misquoted. Spurred by educational buying, Chromebooks accounted for 40 percent of U.S. commercial channel notebook sales for the three weeks ended June 7. But some nitwits are sure to claim all sales, as they did following December's data drop. Commercial sales are more limited and represent those to businesses, educational institutions, governments, and other organizations.
That's not to diminish Chromebook's success, considering the category is but three years old and supplants OS X and Windows sales in the coveted education market. Users gotten young often stay with a platform for life. The browser-based computers aren't singular entities, either. Android and stand-alone Chrome platforms benefit, too, from halo sales going both ways.
Last night, Germany won against Argentina in the World Cup 2014 final. It was a good game, with, dare I say, an expected outcome for those who watched both teams closely during the competition. But, for tech enthusiasts, there is a second winner, and that is Microsoft's Bing.
Through the Windows Phone 8.1 personal assistant, Cortana, Bing predicted the winners in 15 out of the 16 World Cup 2014 games in the knockout stage. It only failed to foresee that The Netherlands would win against Brazil in the fight for third place. This remarkable achievement shows to prove that, contrary to what some might believe, Bing really has what it takes to shine when the pressure is on.
Mobile security specialist Lacoon has released details of a new vulnerability in the Gmail app for iOS that may allow hackers to view or modify encrypted communications.
It allows attackers to use a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) technique to impersonate a legitimate server using a spoofed SSL certificate.
It has been a year since Google released its Chromecast -- a "one last thing" sort of device that was hidden behind the new Nexus 7 announcement. The tiny HDMI dongle has been steadily gaining features, making it compatible with an ever-growing number of services.
But one thing it lacked seemed rather basic -- Android screen mirroring. While we don't know how this slipped through the Google cracks, it has finally made its debut.
Phones hit the headlines for lots of reasons -- the biggest, the most expensive, the shiniest, or just the newest. We live in times in which security and privacy are major concerns for people in all walks of life. The activities of the NSA, as revealed by Edward Snowden, served only to heighten paranoia -- the prospect of having one's phone calls and text messages intercepted is something that fills few people with joy. Enter Vysk communicastions' Vysk QS1 phone case which can be used with an iPhone 5 or 5s, and a Samsung Galaxy S5 or S4. The selling point here is that it's not just your phone that's protected, but also your privacy.
The privacy features come in mechanical and software forms. On the mechanical front there are "shutters" that can be used to obscure your phone's front and rear cameras, and there's also a jamming system for microphones. This is described by Vysk as "Lockdown Mode", but you can take things a step further. For $9.95 you can subscribe to "Private Call Mode". This introduces encryption to your texts and phone calls, with an onboard processor taking care of encryption on the fly and sent via the Vysk encrypted network. As Vysk puts it: "No one -- not even Vysk -- will know the identity of the caller or the recipient. No data is collected -- no phone numbers, call times or content - so there is no data to record. Because nothing is recorded, nothing is at risk."
Even though Android can run paid apps without any problems whatsoever, the same cannot be said about Android Wear. Google's new operating system for wearables fails to install anything but free offerings, effectively preventing developers from making money.
That is not much of a problem now, as most Android Wear-designed apps are free. But, as the platform gains more traction, this could severely impact developers' interest. Google, however, has decided to reveal a workaround.
PopcornTime has been in and out of the news. The program uses BitTorrent to grab movies and TVs shows and allows you to stream them right away. The service was initially taken down, but has found a way to come back, and claims those problems are in the past, stating "This PopcornTime service will never be taken down".
Now, in an even bolder move, the service has announced support for Chromecast, Google's tiny TV dongle. "This is the alpha version, so handle with care and let us know what works, what doesn’t, and if you do find something that’s not working properly (hopefully not!!) let us know in our forum and be as specific as possible (also tell us which Windows version you’re running, etc.)", the service announces.
Sixth in a series. On July 1, I officially started my "Microsoft All-In" summer sojourn. Surface Pro 3 is my PC and Nokia Lumia Icon my smartphone for the next couple of months. Google gets the boot -- at least for awhile. I now largely use Microsoft products and services and third-party apps available for the company's platforms. Many commenters wonder why, so let me explain.
I last used Windows as my primary platform in 2010 -- never for Windows Phone. Like other BetaNews reporters, I tend to write about products used regularly. Writing is more authoritative from experience, and often only long-time use reveals hidden problems or benefits. The reality, and it's something obviously seen in comments: Microsoft platform users largely make up BetaNews readership.
Adrian Ludwig, lead engineer for Android security at Google, spoke to journalists prior to Google's I/O developers' conference and said that Android users who install antivirus and other security apps on their devices are no better off than those who don’t. The risk of potentially harmful applications is "significantly overstated" he believes, and there’s no need for anyone to install any form of third party protection.
"I think ... paying for a product that you will probably never actually receive protection from is not a rational reduction of risk -- but people buy things for lots of reasons", he said. Security expert Graham Cluley, who worked for Sophos for 14 years, disagrees. In a blog post he says Ludwig is "wrong, wrong, wrong". Two very opposing views. So who’s right?
We already knew that the dragnet style of data collection employed by the NSA resulted in a huge level of collateral damage. As revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden the agency had been intercepting huge amounts of web traffic -- often with the assistance of web firms -- on an almost unbelievable scale. The NSA has tried to improve its public image by playing the national security card, as well as releasing a "transparency report" but there's no getting away from the fact that countless innocent web users got caught up in the net. But an investigation by the Washington Post reveals the true extent of the impact on the average internet users -- and it's far worse than many thought.
A four-month investigation by the newspaper found that the number of average internet users who had their data intercepted far outweighs the data of targeted individuals. And not just by a bit -- by a factor of nine. Data provided to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden shows that an astonishing 900 percent more innocent users than intended targets fell victim to the NSA's surveillance. (For the purposes of accuracy the exact figures are closer to an 11 to 89 percent split). These are staggering revelations. There has already been very vocal opposition to the NSA's activities but these were essentially "blind" complaints. Without knowing the scale of operations, it was difficult to know just how upset to be. Nine out of ten people who had their data collected were nothing more than collateral damage caught in the extremely wide net cast by the agency.
The idea of a closed internet is hardly new; turn your eyes to East Asia, and the Great Firewall of China looms large. The Chinese government is well known for the control it likes to exert over the levels of access its citizens have to the internet, and there have been numerous well-publicized cases of censorship and access being restricted to pages that refer to certain events in the county's history. The country is highly defensive of its image, and goes to great lengths to fight off western influence -- including going as far as banning Windows 8 on government computers lest machines furnished with Microsoft's most recent operating system be used for spying on the People's Republic of China. Now it looks as though Russia could be going down a similar route.
Russian parliament has just passed a law that requires internet companies to store data about Russian citizens within the county's boundaries. The move can be viewed in a couple of ways. It is no secret that the Russian government, and Vladimir Putin in particular, is no fan of social media -- social networks were used by Russians to voice their disapproval at Putin's activities. It is thought that the move to contain citizen's data without Russia is a bid to create a Russian version of China's closed internet.
Something of a quieter week this week -- perhaps because of Independence Day and preparations there for. Still, there was plenty of news to keep us busy, including the NSA releasing a transparency report -- for what it's worth. Facebook found itself in the firing line after it transpired that the social network had been conducting psychological experiments by meddling with users' newsfeeds. Security is an on-going concern in technology, but it's something we have tendency to think about only in relation to computers and smartphones. One of the latest targets for malware and attacks is the power grid, and it's hard to tell what sort of havoc could be wreaked.
Microsoft tried to do its bit for security -- arguably in a misguided fashion -- by taking control of dynamic DNS service No-IP, and accidentally taking out a number of legitimate sites in addition to those malware-related ones -- the intended targets. In more positive Microsoft news, enhancements were made to Office 365's collaboration options. Windows Phone is still struggling in the smartphone market, but Microsoft will be hoping that this month's launch of Windows Phone 8.1 will help to improve things -- will the addition of folder support be enough? Looking further into the future, Joe pondered what Microsoft should do with Nokia. He also decided to give Windows another chance, helped along by his new Surface Pro 3.
It is hard to get excited about an Android smartphone nowadays. There are simply too many similar devices on the market. Slightly faster processor? Slightly larger screen? Yawn. At this point, Android is simply evolution rather than revolution. Hell, Google I/O 2014 was rather boring. While the proposed changes to Android "L" are nice, it is hardly anything to get excited about.
Instead, it seems that true innovation is coming from the manufacturers, rather than Google. There have been many cool additions to Android by Samsung, LG and HTC to name a few. Samsung in particular has enhanced the OS immensely with its tweaks and features. Sadly, many critics have lambasted that manufacturer for cluttering the user experience with too many features. While I understand the "less is more" philosophy, I refuse to fault any company for being too ambitious. For the past couple weeks, I have been testing Samsung's ambitions with the Samsung Galaxy S5 (Verizon) and I would like to share that with you.