The attorneys general of 48 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have opened a joint antitrust investigation into Google, stepping in where the defanged, irrelevant DoJ (gripped by a Reaganite cultlike doctrine that worships monopolies) refused to go for decades.
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I am totally, utterly reliant on Creative Commons images for Boing Boing, and mostly I use Google Image's mediocre search tool for this purpose, but no more! Creative Commons's new search engine is out of beta, and contains more than 300,000,000 images, along with tools to make attribution easier! (via Kottke)
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The precincts that swung hardest for Trump in 2016 and for the GOP in 2018 also had the highest incidence of Google searches for “erectile dysfunction,” “hair loss,” “how to get girls,” “penis enlargement,” “penis size,” “steroids,” “testosterone” and “Viagra.”
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Sandra Louise Garner, 55, of Maypearl, Texas, was arrested this week for allegedly murdering her husband, Jon Garner.
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Google has long maintained that it must keep the workings of its search and ad-placement algorithms a secret, lest they provide a roadmap to the kinds of bad actors who'd like tweak the results and give their bad ideas (or sleazy products) pride of placement on its pages.
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The EU had been expected to fine Google a little over €1B for its anti-competitive practice of promoting its own shopping service over competitors' in search results: today's €2.42B comes as a surprise, as does the ongoing fine if it fails to change its behavior within 90 days -- up to €10.6m a day, or 5% of parent company Alphabet's total daily earnings. Read the rest
Takedown Piracy is a copyright enforcement outfit that works on behalf of porn companies; they sent thousands of takedown notices to Google demanding the censorship of search-results for links to pages that contained the word "pure," "rebound," "lipstick," and other common words, including several Github pages that had nothing to do with their clients' movies. Read the rest
In some ways, it's the inevitable outcome of Google's increased focus on Chrome and Yahoo's increased focus on getting anyone, anywhere to care about it before it runs out of money. Read the rest
The original Filesoup torrent-site was nuked from orbit by the entertainment industry, but the domain has been resurrected and provides a single interface to query The Pirate Bay, Kickass Torrents, Extratorrent and Torrentz.eu. Read the rest
The controversial "right to be forgotten" European court ruling has Google removing embarrassing (and worse) search results from search-results served in the EU. Read the rest
Wired's Kim Zetter rounds up some of the highlights from Untangling the Web: A Guide to Internet Research [PDF], an NSA guide to finding unintentionally published confidential material on the Web produced by the NSA and released in response to a Muckrock Freedom of Information Act request. As Zetter notes, the tactics discussed as described as legal, but are the kind of thing that weev is doing 3.5 years in a Federal pen for:
Want to find spreadsheets full of passwords in Russia? Type “filetype:xls site:ru login.” Even on websites written in non-English languages the terms “login,” “userid,” and “password” are generally written in English, the authors helpfully point out.
Misconfigured web servers “that list the contents of directories not intended to be on the web often offer a rich load of information to Google hackers,” the authors write, then offer a command to exploit these vulnerabilities — intitle: “index of” site:kr password.
“Nothing I am going to describe to you is illegal, nor does it in any way involve accessing unauthorized data,” the authors assert in their book. Instead it “involves using publicly available search engines to access publicly available information that almost certainly was not intended for public distribution.” You know, sort of like the “hacking” for which Andrew “weev” Aurenheimer was recently sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for obtaining publicly accessible information from AT&T’s website.
Use These Secret NSA Google Search Tips to Become Your Own Spy Agency Read the rest
A NY federal judge handed down a terrible ruling in AP vs Meltwater, which turned on whether providing a search-engine for newswire articles that showed the first sentence or two of the article was fair use. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Corynne McSherry sums up many of the ways in which this judge got it wrong. We can only hope for an appeal and a better ruling.
Second, the court implicitly adopted AP’s dangerous “heart of the work” theory. AP contended that sharing excerpts of a news article must weigh against fair use if those excerpts contain the lede. The court stressed that the lede is “consistently important” and takes “significant journalistic skill to craft.” But that is beside the point – there is no extra protection because something is extra difficult. More important to the fair use analysis is the fact that (1) is primarily factual; and (2) contains precisely the information the user wishes to make known to others. As we explained in our amicus brief, this case illustrates why the heart of the work doctrine does not mesh well with highly factual, published, news articles. When it comes to news articles, an excerpt that is shared will very often be the most “important” aspect of the work – but that importance will derive from the uncopyrightable factual content, not the expression. It is not the “heart of the work,” but a piece of the factual skeleton upon which the expression hangs.
AP v. Meltwater: Disappointing Ruling for News Search
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The Calvin & Hobbes Search Engine performs pretty much as you'd expect: it's a search engine that runs against the full text and descriptions of all the Calvin and Hobbes strips. For example, a search for "snowman" returns,
Mom is sitting at the table when Calvin walks by dressed in his coat and hat. Puzzled, Mom goes upstairs and opens the bedroom door. There, she finds Calvin has opened the window letting snow into the room. Calvin is working on a snowman. Mom just covers her face.
and several others. Handy!
Calvin & Hobbes Search Engine - by Bing
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest
My latest Guardian column is "Google admits that Plato's cave doesn't exist," a discussion of how Google has changed the way it talks about its search-results, shifting from the stance that rankings are a form of pure math to the stance that rankings are a form of editorial judgment.
Google has, to date, always refused to frame itself in those terms. The pagerank algorithm isn't like an editor arguing aesthetics around a boardroom table as the issue is put to bed. The pagerank algorithm is a window on the wall of Plato's cave, whence the objective, empirical world of Relevance may be seen and retrieved.
That argument is a convenient one when the most contentious elements of your rankings are from people who want higher ranking. "We have done the maths, and your page is empirically less relevant than the pages above it. Your quarrel is with the cold, hard reality of numbers, not with our judgement."
The problem with that argument is that maths is inherently more regulatable than speech. If the numbers say that item X must be ranked over item Y, a regulator may decide that a social problem can be solved by "hard-coding" page Y to have a higher ranking than X, regardless of its relevance. This isn't censorship – it's more like progressive taxation.
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Greg from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association sez, "The BCCLA is releasing its 'Electronic Devices Privacy Handbook' (PDF) on Monday. It's a know-your-rights guide and a how-to manual designed to help you keep your data and devices secure when you cross the border into Canada. If you're in Vancouver, BC, handbook author Greg McMullen is giving a talk to officially launch the handbook on Monday, March 5 at 12:30 at UBC Law." This is a very interesting document -- did you know that you don't have to unlock/decrypt your password for Canadian border officials without a court order (though they'll happily ghost your hard disk and try to brute force it, and Greg adds, "you might also get arrested (or refused entry, if not Canadian) for failing to provide your password if they are feeling especially mean")? Read the rest
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