Google plans sci-fi style supercomputer

Farhad Manjoo: "Google has a single towering obsession: It wants to build the Star Trek computer." [Slate]

Reddit co-founder calls Larry Page to get Google to join the anti-CISPA fight -- your help needed too!

Evan from Fight for the Future sez, "In the hours before the House Intelligence Committee's secretive, closed-door markup on privacy killing bill, CISPA, we had to unleash our secret weapon. CISPA threatens to invalidate every privacy law on the books and give companies full legal immunity when they share our private data with the government. That's why the tech giants that stood with us during SOPA (Google, Facebook, and Twitter) haven't said much about CISPA. Our chief Internet Defender, Reddit-Cofounder Alexis Ohanian, helped us make this video of him calling Google and asking to speak to CEO Larry Page about that fact that if CISPA passes, every privacy policy on the web will be a total joke."

Sign the petition, kill CISPA, save the Internet (again!).

Google, Twitter, & Facebook: What's your privacy policy? (Thanks, Evan)

Studios regret sending Google a list of every pirate site on the Internet for publication

The movie studios send a lot of takedown notices to Google, demanding that the search engine remove links to sites and files they don't like. Google publishes all the notices they receive, and this has Fox and other studios upset. Now, they're sending takedown notices demanding removal of their takedown notices. Cory

Comedy troupe loses YouTube account after viral success of "PS Gay Car," can't get anyone at YT to listen to them

Wil Wheaton sez,

On November 17th, 2012, New York-based comedy music group Fortress of Attitude uploaded a music video they created for their song "PS Gay Car" (using the exact words of a mean note they found on their car one day) to YouTube. The pro-gay rights video was immensely popular, garnering coverage from, Huffington Post, Out Magazine, College Humor and Queerty. The video gained 39,800 views in its first month, and then a month later YouTube took down the video, claiming they'd used bots to drive up views.

The story that unfolds is Kafkaesque: Fortress of Attitude hires New Media Rights to help them get their video reinstated, and Google/YouTube's response is to send form letters back that just restate the alleged initial TOU violation. Ultimately, Google/YouTube refuses to consider any evidence or explanation from Fortress of Attitude, and deletes the video permanently.

Google deletes "PS Gay Car"— We need your help! (Thanks, Wil!)

How long should we expect Google Keep to last?


On the Guardian, Charles Arthur has totted up the lifespan of 39 products and services that Google has killed off in the past due to insufficient public interest. One interesting finding is that Google is becoming less patient with its less popular progeny, with an accelerating trend to killing off products that aren't cutting it. This was occasioned by the launch of Google Keep, a networked note-taking app which has the potential to become quite central to your workflow, and to be quite disruptive if Google kills it -- much like Google Reader, which is scheduled for impending switch-off.

So if you want to know when Google Keep, opened for business on 21 March 2013, will probably shut - again, assuming Google decides it's just not working - then, the mean suggests the answer is: 18 March 2017. That's about long enough for you to cram lots of information that you might rely on into it; and also long enough for Google to discover that, well, people aren't using it to the extent that it hoped. Much the same as happened with Knol (lifespan: 1,377 days, from 23 July 2008 to 30 April 2012), or Wave (1,095 days, from May 2009 - 30 April 2012) or of course Reader (2,824 days, from 7 October 2005 to 1 July 2013).

If you want to play around further with the numbers, then if we assume that closures occur randomly as a normal distribution around the mean, and that Google is going to shut Google Keep, then there's a 68% chance that the closure will occur between April 2015 and February 2019. Even the later date wouldn't be much longer than Evernote - which is still growing - has already lasted. Is Google really that committed to Keep?

Google Keep? It'll probably be with us until March 2017 - on average (via /.)

Clueless Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert can't get how Gmail ads work through his thick, thick skull

Rep Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is an ignoramus, as is demonstrated by his questioning during this hearing on reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Gohmert questions a Google rep about how Adwords in Gmail work. For the record, here's how it works: Google parses the email for keywords, checks to see if anyone has bid to have text-ads displayed on emails with those words, and displays ads that match. Here's how Gohmert thinks they work: A computer at Google reads your email, sends your identity to an advertiser, and asks it if it wants to display ads on your email.

Gohmert may have confused Adwords with some of the realtime auctions for display ads. Google rep very patiently, and repeatedly tries to explain this to Gohmert, who refuses to get it, and instead smugly keeps asking whether the government could buy the right to see who's sending what email from Google in the way he imagines (incorrectly) that advertisers do.

If watching the video is too painful, have no fear, TechDirt's Mike Masnick has thoughtfully transcribed some of the choicest moments:

Gohmert: Okay, so what would prevent the federal government from making a deal with Google, so they could also "Scroogle" people, and say "I want to know everyone who has ever used the term 'Benghazi'" or "I want everyone who's ever used... a certain term." Would you discriminate against the government, or would you allow the government to know about all emails that included those words?

Lawyer [confounded look] Uh... sir, I think those are apples and oranges. I think the disclosure of the identity...

Gohmert: I'm not asking for a fruit comparison. I'm just asking would you be willing to make that deal with the government? The same one you do with private advertisers, so that the government would know which emails are using which words.

Lawyer: Thank you, sir. I meant by that, that it isn't the same deal that's being suggested there.

Gohmert: But I'm asking specifically if the same type of deal could be made by the federal government? [some pointless rant about US government videos aired overseas that is completely irrelevant and which it wasn't worth transcribing] But if that same government will spend tens of thousands to do a commercial, they might, under some hare-brained idea like to do a deal to get all the email addresses that use certain words. Couldn't they make that same kind of deal that private advertisers do?

For the record, I think there are real privacy concerns with Gmail's ads, but not the dumbass ones that Gohmert is worried about. Also for the record, Gohmert believes that a trans-Alaskan pipeline will help caribou get more sex; denies climate change; and thinks that school shootings can be averted by giving school principals M-4 rifles.

Rep. Gohmert's Record For Stunning Technological Ignorance Is Broken By... Rep. Gohmert

HTML5's overseer says DRM's true purpose is to prevent legal forms of innovation

Ian Hickson, the googler who is overseeing the HTML5 standard at the W3C, has written a surprisingly frank piece on the role of DRM. As he spells out in detail, the point of DRM isn't to stop illegal copying, it's to stop legal forms of innovation from taking place. He shows that companies that deploy DRM do so in order to prevent individuals, groups and companies from innovating in ways that disrupt their profitability:

The purpose of DRM is to give content providers leverage against creators of playback devices.

Content providers have leverage against content distributors, because distributors can't legally distribute copyrighted content without the permission of the content's creators. But if that was the only leverage content producers had, what would happen is that users would obtain their content from those content distributors, and then use third-party content playback systems to read it, letting them do so in whatever manner they wanted.

Here are some examples:

A. Paramount make a movie. A DVD store buys the rights to distribute this movie from Paramount, and sells DVDs. You buy the DVD, and want to play it. Paramount want you to sit through some ads, so they tell the DVD store to put some ads on the DVD labeled as "unskippable".

Without DRM, you take the DVD and stick it into a DVD player that ignores "unskippable" labels, and jump straight to the movie.

This is the first third of my recent Guardian column, What I wish Tim Berners-Lee understood about DRM, but there's two other important points to make, apropos the W3C:

Read the rest

TWA Moonliner atop an office building in Kansas City


A replica of the TWA Moonliner II -- centerpiece of the TWA Moonliner at Disneyland's Tomorrowland from 1955-1962 -- sits atop the old TWA headquarters in Kansas City, MO, at 1795 West Baltimore Ave. This is an important fact that no one brought to my attention in a timely fashion when I was in KC on the Pirate Cinema tour, for which I blame all of you.

Google Maps (Thanks, Dan!)

Google shutting down Google Reader: where should we go next?

Google has announced the imminent shutdown of Google Reader, effective July 1. I use Reader every day, often as the back-end for other RSS reader apps, like the excellent Newsrob for Android, and it's the core of how I blog and stay informed -- over the past several years, I've gradually shifted over from bookmarked tab-groups to feeds -- I used to have hundreds of the former, now it's more like a hundred, and my feeds have ballooned into the thousands.

Various forums have vigorous discussions of Reader readers should do next. Reddit, Hacker News and Lifehacker all give high marks to Newsblur, where I've had a paid account for quite some time. I tried Newsblur a couple years back, and liked it at first blush, but at the time found it too slow and not well enough integrated into Android for my taste. Apparently, both of those issues have improved a lot since those days, though at the moment the whole site appears to be slow due to the enormous attention it's received since the Reader shutdown notice.

What do you use for RSS?

Official Google Reader Blog: Powering Down Google Reader

Dr. Google proves himself somewhat useful

Googling what ails you sounds like a good and empowering idea — until you run into barren fields of Yahoo Answers, swamps of misinformation peddled by charlatans, and orchards of seemingly useful sites that yield only the bitter fruit of tiny bits of information you have already read 5000 times already. But, it turns out that Dr. Google can actually be good for something. At The New York Times, John Markoff reports on a study that found Google search data could be used to discover and track previously unreported side-effects of common medications.

RIAA you suck at SEO

The RIAA says Google doesn't list the sites it likes highly enough on search result pages. Masnick on TechDirt nails 'em to the wall: "For everyone else in the world, if they're not satisfied with how the sites they favor rank in Google, they learn a little something about search engine optimization. But, noooooooo, not the RIAA. They think that it is a requirement that Google be tailored to them directly." Cory

Google Glass demo video

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.

Account hijackers stymied

Google reports that account hijacking is down 99.7% in the last two years.

Google adds North Korean death-camps to maps


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 maps North Korea, including prison camps [Cheryl K. Chumley/Washington Times] (via /.)

When it comes to cloud data, Google tells the Feds to come back with a warrant


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.

Google Tells Cops to Get Warrants for User E-Mail, Cloud Data [Wired/David Kravets]