This promotional video apparently demonstrates the Google Glass experience. The video itself reminds me of one of Hollywood's cliche friends-having-fun-day-out montage, only this one doesn't end with a pillow fight. Probably because it might damage the Google Glass.
Google Maps has added notorious, secretive North Korean prison camps to its maps of the country. The data is gleaned from user contributions, including a first-person account of Shin Dong-Hyuk, who escaped from Camp 14, a death camp where he was born and raised.
Called Map Maker, Google’s information for the country’s layout comes primarily from visitors and from former citizens who defected, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The mapping idea stemmed in part from a 28-year-old South Korean who tried to use Google maps on a trip to Laos four years ago, but found it unhelpful, at best. He ultimately helped devise the Google map application for North Korea.
“I thought if I could fill in information on North Korea, it might be useful in an emergency or tragedy if Google can provide a map for aid agencies,” the South Korean told the Wall Street Journal.
Google's latest transparency report reveals that the company has refused to turn over stored email to law enforcement unless a warrant is presented. The ancient Electronic Communications Privacy Act assumes that any file stored on a server for more than six months is abandoned and can be requested without a warrant, and Congress has refused to modernize this law for the age of Gmail and cloud storage (law enforcement agencies love the fact that most of your life can be fetched without having to show cause to a judge).
Google has refused to comply with warrantless requests for its users' stored cloud data, and instead demands that law enforcement officers get a warrant.
Google demands probable-cause, court-issued warrants to divulge the contents of Gmail and other cloud-stored documents to authorities in the United States — a startling revelation Wednesday that runs counter to federal law that does not always demand warrants.
The development surfaced as Google publicly announced that more than two-thirds of the user data Google forwards to government agencies across the United States is handed over without a probable-cause warrant.
A Google spokesman told Wired that the media giant demands that government agencies — from the locals to the feds — get a probable-cause warrant for content on its e-mail, Google Drive cloud storage and other platforms — despite the Electronic Communications Privacy Act allowing the government to access such customer data without a warrant if it’s stored on Google’s servers for more than 180 days.
“Google requires an ECPA search warrant for contents of Gmail and other services based on the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which prevents unreasonable search and seizure,” Chris Gaither, a Google spokesman, said.
I can't stress how exciting a development this is. Google has historically reserved the right to give docs to law enforcement without a warrant in its terms of service. Indeed, a group of authors asked the court to block the Google Books Settlement unless Google promised not to hand over your reading habits without a warrant. Google refused to do so. It would be wonderful to see Google enshrine "Come back with a warrant" in its terms of service, making it a promise and not just a habit.
My latest Guardian column is about positive externalities, the value that bystanders get from the stuff you're already doing:
That's the crux of this irrational fear of positive externalities: "If something I do has value, I deserve a cut." It's one thing to say that someone who hires you to do a job, or purchases your product, should pay you money. But positive externalities are the waste-product of something we were already going to do. They're things that you have thrown away, that you have thrown off, that you have generated in the process of enjoying yourself and living your life.
The mania to internalise your positive externalities is the essence of cutting off your nose to spite your face. I walk down the street whistling a jaunty tune because I'm in a good mood — but stop as soon as I see someone smiling and enjoying the music. I keep my porchlight on to read by on a warm night, but if I catch you using the light to read your map, I switch it off, because those are my photons — I paid for 'em!
Worse still: the infectious idea of internalising externalities turns its victims into grasping, would-be rentiers. You translate a document because you need it in two languages. I come along and use those translations to teach a computer something about context. You tell me I owe you a slice of all the revenue my software generates. That's just crazy. It's like saying that someone who figures out how to recycle the rubbish you set out at the kerb should give you a piece of their earnings. Harvesting positive externalities involves collecting billions of minute shreds of residual value – snippets of discarded string –and balling them up into something big and useful.
If every shred needs to be accounted for and paid for, then the harvest won't happen. Paying for every link you make, or every link you count, or every document you analyse is a losing game. Forget payment: the process of figuring out who to pay and how much is owed would totally swamp the expected return from whatever it is you're planning on making out of all those unloved scraps.
Warren Ellis, always a shrewd observer of online media, supposes that we've reached peak social media, the point at which exciting new communications forms ossify into dull media titans:
Twitter alters its terms of access to its information, thereby harming the services that built themselves on that information. Which was stupid, because Twitter gets fewer and fewer material benefits from allowing people to use its water. And why would you build a service that relies on a private company’s assets anyway? Facebook changes its terms of access regularly. It’s broken its own Pages system and steadily grows more invasive and desperate. Instagram, now owned by Facebook, just went through its first major change in terms of service. Which went as badly as anyone who’s interacted with Facebook would expect. As Twitter disconnected itself from sharing services like IFTTT, so Instagram disconnected itself from Twitter. Flickr’s experiencing what will probably be a brief renaissance due to having finally built a decent iOS app, but its owners, Yahoo!, are expert in stealing defeat from the jaws of victory. Tumblr seems to me to be spiking in popularity, which coincides neatly with their hiring an advertising sales director away from Groupon, a company described by Techcrunch last year as basically loansharking by any other name.
This may be the end of the cycle that began with Friendster and Livejournal. Not the end of social media, by any means, obviously. But it feels like this is the point at where the current systems seize up for a bit. Perhaps not even in ways that most people will notice. But social media seems now to be clearly calcifying into Big Media, with Big Media problems like cable-style carriage disputes. Frame the Twitter-Instagram spat in terms of Virginmedia not being able to carry Sky Atlantic in the UK, say (I know there are many more US examples).
His closing remark is "I wonder if anyone’s been thinking twice about giving up their personal websites." Good question.
Fred von Lohmann, Legal Director at Google, has published a blog-post explaining the company's new practice of publishing data and reports on the number of takedown requests they get. It's all about helping policy makers understand whether the censorship provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act are doing their job:
Starting today, anyone interested in studying the data can download all the data shown for copyright removals in the Transparency Report. The data will be updated every day.
We are also providing information about how often we remove search results that link to allegedly infringing material. Specifically, we are disclosing how many URLs we removed for each request and specified website, the overall removal rate for each request and the specific URLs we did not act on. Between December 2011 and November 2012, we removed 97.5% of all URLs specified in copyright removal requests.
As policymakers evaluate how effective copyright laws are, they need to consider the collateral impact copyright regulation has on the flow of information online. When we launched the copyright removals feature, we received more than 250,000 requests per week. That number has increased tenfold in just six months to more than 2.5 million requests per week today. While we’re now receiving and processing more requests more quickly than ever (on average, within approximately six hours), we still do our best to catch errors or abuse so we don’t mistakenly disable access to non-infringing material.
In the New Yorker, an essay by Gary Marcus on the ethical and legal implications of Google's driver-less cars which argues that these automated vehicles "usher in the era in which it will no longer be optional for machines to have ethical systems."
Your car is speeding along a bridge at fifty miles per hour when errant school bus carrying forty innocent children crosses its path. Should your car swerve, possibly risking the life of its owner (you), in order to save the children, or keep going, putting all forty kids at risk? If the decision must be made in milliseconds, the computer will have to make the call.
The cheaper Chromebooks that Google introduced last month don't deserve credit for being a cheap way to read e-mail and surf the web: any smartphone meets that specification.
But the $249 Samsung model I've been testing for the past two weeks can do those things and also plausibly replace a low-end laptop.
Like an iPad or an Android tablet such as Google's Nexus 7, this Chromebook demands no special setup, provides an excellent window on the Web and updates itself almost automatically. But Samsung's WiFi laptop adds a physical keyboard and a bigger, 11.6-in. screen and then welcomes other digital devices without needing adapters: Like any other laptop, you can plug in a USB flash drive, SD Card, digital camera or HDTV.
Normally, I'm pretty blase about Google Doodles, but today's Doodle pays homage to Winsor McCay's Little Nemo, with a beautiful, pitch-perfect animated series of "Adventures in Google-Land" that you really must see (even the large graphic excerpt here doesn't do it justice, you have to get the animations to get the full effect).
A landmark fair use ruling: a judge in the Southern District Court of New York has ruled that Google's program of scanning books for libraries, and giving them copies to use for full-text search is fair use. The suit was brought by the Authors' Guild against the Hathitrust Digital Library, which holds the digital books for the library. Timothy B Lee does a good job summing up the judgment and its implications for Ars Technica:
"The use to which the works in the HDL are put is transformative because the copies serve an entirely different purpose than the original works: the purpose is superior search capabilities rather than actual access to copyrighted material," wrote Judge Baer. "The search capabilities of the HDL have already given rise to new methods of academic inquiry such as text mining." Similarly, Judge Baer noted, the scanning program allows blind readers to read the books, something they can't do with the original.
Also key is the fourth factor: the impact on the market for the works. While a book search engine obviously doesn't undermine the market for paper books, the authors had argued that a finding of fair use would hamper their ability to earn revenue by selling the right to scan their books. But Judge Baer rejected this argument as fundamentally circular. He quoted a previous court decision that made the point: "Were a court automatically to conclude in every case that potential licensing revenues were impermissibly impaired simply because the secondary user did not pay a fee for the right to engage in the use, the fourth factor would always favor the copyright owner."
After years of video creators being caught in Kafkaesque support-loops from Google, the company has finally introduced a meaningful appeals process to copyright complaints for YouTube videos. Though, as Timothy Lee points on at Ars, the new process still has plenty of room for abuse.