Google believes the future is in wearable computing, and that their innovative glasses Google Glass is going to lead the way. But as Brendan Sasso of The Hillreports, at least some members of Congress aren’t too keen on where Google is attempting to go:
Eight members of Congress raised privacy fears about Google’s wearable computer, Google Glass, expressing concern the device could allow users to identify people on the street and look up personal information about them.
The lawmakers, members of the congressional Privacy Caucus, said they are concerned users could access individuals’ addresses, marital status, work history and hobbies.
“As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of the average American,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Google CEO Larry Page.
In response, Google has reassured the members of Congress that privacy concerns are very much on their radar:
“We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues,” a Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “Our Glass Explorer program, which reaches people from all walks of life, will ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology — and we’re excited to hear the feedback.”
Google Glass, the company’s innovative eyewear computer, is currently garnering a lot of attention. Christina Chaey of Fast Companylooks at a recent contest asking people for ideas the high-tech glasses could be used for:
A daily calorie tracker. A lifeline to a 911 operator. A real-time sign language translator. These are just a few of the thousands of entries submitted to Google’s If I Had Glass competition, which ended on Wednesday. The competition was an open call in search of early-access testers, or Glass Explorers, for the highly anticipated augmented reality headset the company says will be on sale by the end of 2013.
While Google Glass has many techies excited, Mark Hurst of Creative Good fires a warning flare about the device (italics his):
Yes, the glasses look dorky – Google will fix that. And sure, Glass forces users to be permanently plugged-in to Google’s digital world – that’s hardly a concern for the company or, for that matter, most users out there. No. The real issue raised by Google Glass, which will either cause the project to fail or create certain outcomes you may not want (which I’ll describe), has to do with the lifebits. Once again, it’s an issue of experience.
The Google Glass feature that (almost) no one is talking about is the experience – not of the user, but of everyone other than the user.
$1 billion, which is the amount Google pays Apple each year to be the default search engine in iPhones and iPads. Just goes to show how important mobility — and mobile broadband — now are. (Via Cult of Mac.)
Chico Harlan of The Washington Posthighlights a cool — and important — new addition to Google Maps:
Until Tuesday, North Korea appeared on Google Maps as a near-total white space — no roads, no train lines, no parks and no restaurants. The only thing labeled was the capital city, Pyongyang.
This all changed when Google, on Tuesday, rolled out a detailed map of one of the world’s most secretive states. The new map labels everything from Pyongyang’s subway stops to the country’s several city-sized gulags, as well as its monuments, hotels, hospitals and department stores.
Interestingly, Google updated the map only a few weeks after the company’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt visited the dictatorship.
In this day and age, passwords for the various online services and devices can be hard to manage. Now, Robert McMillan of Wiredreports, Google is aiming to revolutionize how we protect ourselves online:
[Google is] experimenting with new ways to replace the password, including a tiny Yubico cryptographic card that — when slid into a USB (Universal Serial Bus) reader — can automatically log a web surfer into Google. They’ve had to modify Google’s web browser to work with these cards, but there’s no software download and once the browser support is there, they’re easy to use. You log into the website, plug in the USB stick and then register it with a single mouse click.
They see a future where you authenticate one device — your smartphone or something like a Yubico key — and then use that almost like a car key, to fire up your web mail and online accounts.
In the future, they’d like things to get even easier, perhaps connecting to the computer via wireless technology.
“We’d like your smartphone or smartcard-embedded finger ring to authorize a new computer via a tap on the computer, even in situations in which your phone might be without cellular connectivity,” the Googlers write.
Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission closed its antitrust investigation of search giant Google. At Politico, Tony Romm examines how the company “beat the feds.”
Instead of ignoring Washington — as rival Microsoft did before its costly monopolization trial in the 1990s — Google spent about $25 million in lobbying, made an effort to cozy up to the Obama administration and hired influential Republicans and former regulators. The company even consulted with the late Robert Bork and The Heritage Foundation and met with senators like John Kerry to make its case. In other words, these traditional outsiders worked the system from the inside.
This calculated and expensive charm offensive paid off Thursday when the Federal Trade Commission decided not to challenge the company’s dominance of the Internet search business in court and settled the investigation with what critics allege is a slap on the wrist.
One of those critics of the decision, Microsoft Vice President & Deputy General Counsel Dave Heiner, called the FTC’s investigation a “missed opportunity” on the company’s blog Technet:
As we know from experience, one of the litmus tests of any antitrust outcome is the set of statements made by a company on the day that the outcome is announced. Has the company truly learned from the experience? Does it acknowledge that its practices raise serious antitrust issues?
In response to a question at his press conference today, Chairman Leibowitz said that he doesn’t believe that Google will be emboldened by today’s FTC decisions. But Google seems to be walking with a new spring in its step today. As Google’s official statement on its public blog today put it, “The U.S. Federal Trade Commission today announced it has closed its investigation into Google after an exhaustive 19-month review that covered millions of pages of documents and involved many hours of testimony. The conclusion is clear: Google’s services are good for users and good for competition.”
In other words, there appears to be no reason, despite the FTC’s optimistic statements this morning, to believe that Google recognizes its responsibilities as an industry leader. That is certainly consistent with the lack of change we continue to witness as we and so many others experience ongoing harm to competition in the marketplace.
Via Brendan Sasso of The Hill, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has been approved by the Senate for another term on the Commission:
In a statement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he looks forward to continuing to work with her.
“Commissioner Clyburn is an excellent and dedicated public servant and has been a strong advocate in seeking to extend the benefits of broadband to all Americans,” he said.
Also approved was Republican Joshua Wright for the Federal Trade Commission. Interestingly, Wright has agreed to recuse himself from any FTC cases involving Google for at least two years due to the search/advertising giant having funded Wright’s academic research.
Here’s something cool. Via Frederic Lardinois of TechCrunch, Google has updated its Gmail service to support a new language:
Google just announced that it has added Cherokee as Gmail’s 57th supported language. While Google has continuously expanded its language support for Gmail and its other services, this marks the first time that Google has added a Native American tribal language to its repertoire.
Evidently, despite a diminishing number of Cherokee-speaking people, Google worked with the Tribe in order to help keep the language alive for future generations.
Back in 2011, search giant Google bought Motorola Mobilty for $12 billion. At the time, it was believed a driving force behind the acquisition was Motorola’s extensive patent portfolio. Now, as Sara Forden of Bloomberg reports, that portfolio has gained the attention of the Federal Trade Commission:
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission should sue Google Inc. for trying to block competitors’ access to key smartphone-technology patents in violation of antitrust law, the agency’s staff told commissioners in a formal recommendation, according to four people familiar with the matter.
A majority of the agency’s five commissioners are inclined to sue, according to the people, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public. A final decision on the staff recommendation, made last month, isn’t likely until after the Nov. 6 presidential election, they said.
A new report from Gartner (via Erik Pineda of the International Business Times) predicts mobile computing, via smartphone or tablet, will continue to grow:
Personal computers will inevitably be relegated behind the pacesetting smartphones and tablet computers, research firm Gartner said in a new report made public on Wednesday, adding that mobile phones are likely to emerge as the preferred computing tool by 2013.
Gartner also predicts Google’s Android platform will soon be the dominating operating system in the mobile space.
Yesterday, online advertising giant Google found itself in a colossal blunder. As Antone Gonsalves of Read Write Web reports:
The fiasco began early Thursday morning Pacific time, when Google accidentally released its third-quarter earnings ahead of schedule. The results were supposed to come out at the end of the day.
Worse yet, the earnings were terrible - so bad that the stock plummeted 9% within 20 minutes after the release of a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Compounding the error was the fact that the release that was, well, released wasn’t fully baked yet:
The press release filed with the SEC contains the note “pending Larry quote.” Apparently, “Larry” refers to Chief Executive Larry Page. In other words, Google was holding a spot in the release where it would pop in a quote from Page, but then someone, somehow, went ahead and hit “send,” and put the release out before it was completed.
Sure, it’s not the end of the world. But the combination of bad news and inept rollout of that bad news is not what Google needs right now.
After halting trading on its stock, Google eventually released the fully vetted results later on the day.
In the wake of the amateurish YouTube video that has sparked protests from the Muslim world, Zahra Hosseinian and Yeganeh Torbati of Reuters report:
Iran plans to switch its citizens onto a domestic Internet network in what officials say is a bid to improve cyber security but which many Iranians fear is the latest way to control their access to the web.
The announcement, made by a government deputy minister on Sunday, came as state television announced Google Inc’s search engine and its email service would be blocked “within a few hours”.
As the tech patent war continues to rage, Alexel Oreskovic and Poornima Gupta of Reuters report two heavy hitters in the tech space are tentatively talking:
Google Inc Chief Executive Larry Page and Apple CEO Tim Cook have been conducting behind-the-scenes talks about a range of intellectual property matters, including the mobile patent disputes between the companies, people familiar with the matter said.
The two executives had a phone conversation last week, the sources said. Discussions involving lower-level officials of the two companies are also ongoing.
If the Reuters report is correct, any conversations that keep the smartphone revolution from being mired in patent disputes are cause for celebration.
Recently, Google launched a portal making it easy for Americans to register to vote. But according to Gregory Ferenstein of TechCrunch, the good-faith effort may not have the desired effect:
[E]xperimental research into the impact of such online registration systems finds that they actually decrease registration. Apparently, the ease of the online process lulls citizens into complacency and they forget to follow through with the rest of the process. The unfortunate drawback can be offset with SMS reminders, which TurboVote encourages. So, depending on the number of people comfortable giving Google their digits, this well-intentioned experiment could backfire.
With tech issues increasingly receiving attention in D.C., The Washington Post‘s Cecilia Kang reports on some major tech players joining forces on the lobbying front:
Google, eBay, Amazon and Facebook are launching a lobbying group, The Internet Association, to try to raise their voice in Washington as federal officials focus their sights on their largely unregulated tech industry.
Leading the group will be Michael Beckerman, former deputy staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and longtime adviser to Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich).
$22.5 million, which is the amount the Federal Trade Commission will reportedly fine Google for overriding Apple’s privacy settings for its mobile Safari web browser. It would be the biggest fine the FTC has ever levied against a single company.
Speaking of smartphones, according to Tim Culpan, Olga Kharif, and Ashlee Vance of Bloomberg, online retailer Amazon is looking to get in the game along with other heavy hitters Apple, Google, and Microsoft:
A smartphone would give Amazon a wider range of low-priced hardware devices that bolster its strategy of making money from digital books, songs and movies. It would help Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos—who made a foray into tablets with the Kindle Fire—carve out a slice of the market for advanced wireless handsets.
As a bonus, the Bloomberg story also features this startling fact:
Manufacturers led by Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple shipped 398.4 million smartphones in the first quarter, according to researcher IDC.
Last week, Google announced a new 7-inch tablet called the Nexus 7. Now rumors are flying that Apple, which has so far dominated the growing tablet market — which, arguably, is the future of computing — is set to fire back with a smaller tablet of its own. As Peter Burrows and Adam Satariano of Bloomberg report:
A smaller, less expensive iPad could undercut the ambitions of Google, Microsoft and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) to gain traction in the advancing tablet market, said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. The new device will probably have a price closer to Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon’s Kindle Fire, both of which have 7-inch screens and cost $199.
“It would be the competitors’ worst nightmare,” Wu said in an interview. “The ball is in Apple’s court.”
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