Google

Last month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit in which Google Inc. was accused of engaging in harmful behavior against owners of smartphones. The accusation was that handset manufacturers were forced to use the Android operating system, which also meant that Google apps were the default option at all times.

While Apple has not listened to my complaints ...

According to consumers, smartphone manufacturers like Samsung Electronics Co. were forced to favor apps offered by Google, such as YouTube. It also meant that they could not favor competitors to Google, such as Bing, which is owned by Microsoft Corp. The lawsuit claimed that the prices of smartphones were driven upwards, as it is not possible for a Google competitor to get their foot in the market over the Google apps.

However, Beth Labson Freemon, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the case in San Jose, CA, stated that consumers have not been able to demonstrate that the high prices were a direct result of illegal activities by Google, in which they were forcing handset manufacturers to enter into a restrictive contract. Furthermore, the judge did not feel able to determine just how many different levels there were in the supply chain between the producers of the handset, who had signed what were allegedly anticompetitive contracts, and the actual consumers.

Their alleged injuries – supracompetitive prices and threatened loss of innovation and consumer choice – are not the necessary means by which defendant is allegedly accomplishing its anticompetitive ends.

The judge has given the plaintiffs the opportunity to amend their claims, which they must do within three weeks. This is a legal requirement under Sherman Antitrust Law, a federal law, and the unfair competition law of California.

“The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was the first measure passed by the U.S. Congress to prohibit trusts. The Sherman Act authorized the Federal Government to institute proceedings against trusts in order to dissolve them. Any combination “in the form of trust or otherwise that was in restraint of trade or commerce among the several states, or with foreign nations” was declared illegal.

One of the plaintiff’s lawyers, Robert Lopez, was not available to comment on the decision. Additionally, Google’s spokesperson Aaron Stein declined to comment at all. It is believed that this may be due to the fact that similar antitrust claims are being made against Google in Europe.

In November, the European Parliament urged their antitrust authorities to break up Google, which is based in Mountain View, CA. They also asked the European Commission to look into various proposals that would break the link between search engines and other services, thereby stopping them from dominating the market.

Because of these European antitrust issues, Google must at present be relieved that the case has been dismissed. They are still dealing with the Russian watchdog, who are actually making very similar claims. They have stated that forcing Android smartphone developers to run Google as the default search engine is against their anti-monopoly law. Yandex NV, which is the largest search engine in Russia, has asked the national watchdog to investigate these claims. They believe that Android users are forcefully limited into which services they are able to use.

Not only are the Russians fighting against Google on their own, the entire European Union is as well. Margrethe Vestager is the new antitrust chief, and she has taken the world by storm. Google is just one of her many victims, as she is also going after Amazon.com Inc, and Apple Inc. Plus, she is going after Gazprom, moving away from the online companies. She has taken over the case against Google, which has been going for nearly five years now, and she is committed to bringing it to a fair end. She has publicly claimed to be highly impressed by the evidence presented by the competitors who are starting an action against Google.

I have now met with a number of the complainants and been very impressed by their nuances, the complaints that they make, the way that they make it very fundamental, very basic.

She has claimed that the information that has been provided does indeed make her feel that Google is stifling competition, as they are able to control the data of individuals more easily. At the same time, however, although she understands this is a significant issue, she will not add it to the current investigations and case against Google. This is also due to the fact that the full investigation is still pending. A number of questionnaires have been sent out to market participants in order to identify just what the influence of Google is and whether or not this is in breach with antitrust laws.

The current EU case against Google goes together with four other cases. These are against Fiat, Apple, Amazon and Starbucks. It is hoped that steps forward will be identified within the next few weeks so that the case can, eventually, be wrapped up. The outcome of this may also influence the response by the plaintiffs in our own country.

Naturally, therefore, this initial dismissal by the U.S. Federal Judge is not the end of the case. Although Lopez was not available to comment, it is believed that he will present the necessary information within three weeks. Particularly, he will likely be resending a full analyses of the supply chain that exists between Google, smartphone manufacturers and consumers.

The lawsuit didn’t include an analysis of the number of supply-chain levels between the phone manufacturers who sign the agreements and consumers, the judge said. Without that information, it’s impossible to figure out if the agreements inflate consumer prices, Freeman wrote.

Naturally, Google has denied these claims. They have, on numerous occasions, explained that manufacturers have complete control over the apps they choose to install on their devices. Additionally, users have the ability to manually change the settings and run any applications they want. It is not clear what the next moves of either side are going to be, as neither have been available or willing to comment.

 

 

 

 

In 2013, Google partnered up with Uber and poured over $250 million into the company. People were expecting greatness! After all, Google is one of the wealthiest companies in the world, and they have maps, including streetview, for almost all of the planet. What better partnership could exist? However, it seems that the honeymoon period didn’t last very long.

Uber had told the world they want to create a self-driving vehicle.

Uber on Monday announced plans to open a research and development center in Pittsburgh, where the company plans to study the futuristic field of autonomous cars.

This is something that Google had been working on as well. Additionally, Uber is hiring people to develop new types of maps. Last but not least, it seems they are also in talks with Facebook, which is Google’s nemesis.

English: Wordmark of Google Maps

Naturally, Google is doing the same thing and they seem to be getting their own back over Uber with a ride-sharing app.

We’re thinking a lot about how in the long-term, this might become useful in people’s lives, and there are a lot of ways we can imagine this going. One is in the direction of the shared vehicle. The technology would be such that you can call up the vehicle and tell it where to go and then have it take you there.

Both Uber and Google have long been considering doing same day delivery options for staple items like groceries. Put all of this together and it seems as if the two are at an all out war.

It is a known fact that business relationships forged in Silicon Valley don’t last. There is a constant fear of being outdone, and all companies simply want to grow bigger and bigger. Sometimes, this means that partners can be each other’s competitor at the same time. Remember that in 1997, for instance, Microsoft invested in Apple technology and, to do this, there is still collaboration between Google and Apple as well.

However, the friendship between Google and Apple is non-existent and it hasn’t been since the Android was developed. The reality, however, is that neither can exist without the other. Hence, they choose to coexist as much as possible. This could be how Google and Uber will move forward as well, both being leaders in the field of self-driving vehicles.

Although there is an overlap between the two companies, Google is actually moving into something unfamiliar to them. Google Shopping Express is still in its infancy and the focus continues to be on advertising, not on developing life-changing apps. In fact, Jeff Holden, Chief Product Officer at Holden, is playing down the relationship between the two.

We’ve got a wide-ranging partnership with Google. We’re incorporated with Google Maps, for example.

However, what does this mean for the next five years, when we can actually expect to see the driverless vehicles on the road? At the minute, Uber is reliant on Google Maps, but they have made no secret of the fact that they are hiring their own staff to research new map technology. Google, on the other hand, is pouring millions into Google Shopping Express, through which they expect to earn more advertising revenue. Yet, companies like Uber and Amazon and other such likes could get in the way of this.

Google has also created a car-pooling app, which is currently being tested in-house. According to Bloomberg Business, this app is created to directly compete with Uber itself. But others on the inside said interest in ride-sharing is nothing but a side project for Google. It isn’t clear which side of the argument is truthful, but it is clear that Uber is worried.

Of course, the competition is also on for talent, and not just for dollars and customers. Uber is working very hard on its new research center for safety, mapping and driverless cars. This is something they are doing in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. This is one of the world’s leaders in robotics research. Interestingly, the university from Pittsburgh also delivered some of the researchers that are working on Google’s autonomous driving programs.

Google has not yet commented on whether they are now directly in competition with Uber. Uber, on the other hand, wanted to show the world that relationships are still positive and good.

Uber has a strong relationship with Google and greatly values working closely with David Drummond. We look forward to continuing our collaborative dialogue with Google about the future of our partnership in the years to come.

However, it seems clear that Uber has a few worries, since they are sniffing out other potential partners. At present, they are looking at how they can combine their current car service with Facebook Messenger. This partnership is based on programs that are running successfully on the Asian continent, including WeChat and ReCode, who are behind start-ups like Didi Dache. Facebook has declined to provide any comment on the matter.

Naturally, any of these projects are still years in the making. Additionally, Google has a huge head start since they are the global leaders on map technology. Additionally, we have seen from Apple that trying to beat Google at maps is all but impossible. When Apple developed a system other than Google Maps to be delivered on their iOS devices, users were in uproar. It took just a few months for Google to develop an iPhone Maps app and settle things down again. Another clear example on how partnerships can be found in the unlikeliest of places.

Anybody that wants to make it in the business world has to try and get a spot between the true giants. This is risky, but it is also part of business and it seems that Uber understands this. Indeed, it is clear that cooperation does not happen without some clear and present dangers and the lessons learned from past exploits are still fresh in the minds of most potential partners. This can make it very difficult to work together, even if it does make economic sense.

 

Open information group WikiLeaks has learned that Google had disclosed three staff email addresses to the US government three years ago. This was done after a federal judge issued a warrant. WikiLeaks sent a letter to Eric Schmidt, executive chairman at Google, because they are upset about the fact that it took three years for Google to disclose this information. They claim that the failure to disclose this information means that Google users were not reasonably able to protect their right to privacy.

English: A van that purports to be the 'WikiLe...

The letter came from Michael Ratner, who is a New York-based lawyer working at the Center of Constitutional Rights. In it, he requested Google to disclose a full list of the materials that were given to the FBI. Additionally, Ratner wants to know whether any challenge was made against the warrant itself and whether any other demands have been made since.

Interesting, Google made the revelation on Christmas Eve, which is a period when there is very little news. They stated that the emails and IP addresses of three specific members of staff were handed over following an order by the Justice Department. The three staffers were Kristinn Hrafnsson, a Google spokesperson; Sarah Harrison, a British citizen; and Joseph Farrell, a senior editor. Google said that they had been unable to divulge this information sooner as they had also been imposed with a gagging order. These non-disclosure orders have at some point been lifted, although it is not clear when this happened.

Harrison, the British citizen who heads the Courage Foundation, has spoken out about her feelings over the whole affair.

Knowing that the FBI read the words I wrote to console my mother over a death in the family makes me feel sick.

She felt the government invaded her privacy, as she is a British journalist and not a Google employee. As such, she feels that both Google and the government in this country are breaking their own laws, as she is not able to retain her privacy and there is clearly no protection of the press.

It appears that the data net that Google cast was so wide that any and all communication made by or sent to the three people were intercepted. This included draft emails and the content of their trash email. The dragnet included the date and time of the communication, where it went to and came from, how long it was and how big it was. Additionally, all internet account details had to be handed over, including IP addresses and telephone numbers and their online activity.

An expert at the American Civil Union on privacy and staff attorney, Alexander Abdo, expressed his surprise at the “shockingly broad” request of the warrant.

This is basically ‘Hand over anything you’ve got on this person’. That’s troubling as it’s hard to distinguish what WikiLeaks did in its disclosures from what major newspapers do every single day in speaking to government officials and publishing still-secret information.

Google has not disclosed which documents they have provided to the government other than the fact that they came under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Additionally, they were keen to stress that they follow the law and will not further discuss an individual case.

When we receive a subpoena or court order, we check to see if it meets both the letter and the spirit of the law before complying. And if it doesn’t we can object or ask that the request is narrowed. We have a track record of advocating on behalf of our users.

It is believed that the court order is part of a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks, which was originally started in 2010. This was in relation to the very publication of WikiLeaks and included information provided by Chelsea Manning, who is now in prison. The criminal investigation into WikiLeaks was set up under Virginia jurisdiction and in May last year, it was still fully active.

When Chelsea Manning was prosecuted, it was revealed that at least seven people involved with WikiLeaks were being monitored by the FBI. She was convicted to 35 years in a military prison, and she is currently in Fort Leavenworth, KS.

The warrants against WikiLeaks are in relation to Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the 1917 Espionage Act. Indeed, these are the same laws that were used to prosecute Manning. Additionally, Edward Snowden, another whistleblower, has also been charged with the same offenses. According to Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief and founder of WikiLeaks, the warrant is just part of a larger conspiracy against himself and his staff.

Google rolling over yet again to help the US government violate the constitution – by taking over journalists’ private emails in response to give-us-everything warrants.

 

The warrants themselves are being taken to the Geneva United Nations human rights council. Here, they will be reviewed by Judge Baltasar Garzon, from Spain. He also heads the defense team for Assange, who has been in exile in the embassy to Ecuador in London for several years now. There is currently an extradition warrant out on him to Sweden, where he is alleged to have committed several counts of sexual assault, although he has not been charged with these.

Interesting, Google is not the only one to have received such demands. Twitter had also received a warrant, but they challenged the demand. This gave them the opportunity to tell their users, so they were able to take appropriate safety measures. Twitter was asked to hand over access to the details of Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir and a volunteer for Wikileaks.

Twitter immediately contacted Jonsdottir, so she was able to start a legal campaign. However, despite her efforts and an appeal, a ruling went against her and two other defendants. As a result, information that were collected remained a secret.

Nowadays, it is common for tech companies to at least reveal how often they have received US authority requests to divulge information. However, only rarely will they tell who the targets are. Often, this is because a non-disclosure order is put in place on them. Google, for instance, received some 32,000 requests from various governments. This is an increase of 15% compared to the previous year.

 

 

 

 

 

Google has publicly released all important details on a Windows 8.1 security vulnerability. Some 90 days ago, they initially disclosed the issue to Microsoft. This led to a widespread debate over the Project Zero security initiative launched by the online giant. The initial report went to Microsoft in September and described the bug that allows a user who is logged in to execute code on any machine running Windows 8.1 even without administrator privileges.

The issue has to do with NtAppelpCacheControl(1). It is incredibly obscure and you really need to know what you are looking for in order to find it. Firstly, you need to have the program to get an access token, provided by a system-level process. An example is BITS. After that, the function has to be engaged so that an entry can be made in the actual application’s compatibility cache. Normally, only someone with admin codes should be able to achieve this. It now seems, however, that when the access token gets examined, the impersonation level of the program does not get checked. This means that someone at user level is able to use the software to pretend they are a privileged program. As a result, they are able to change the cache itself. If this is crafted properly by someone who knows what they are doing, Windows could use this cache to run an arbitrary executable file that then has elevated privileges. Google’s security team immediately notified Microsoft about the blunder in their programming.

This bug is subject to a 90 day disclosure deadline. If 90 days elapse without a broadly available patch, then the bug report will automatically become visible to the public.

As promised, the details of the bug were revealed on December 30, when the deadline passed. The release included the exact workings of the proof-of-concept code. This has been made available by the Chocolate Factory both in executable binary form and source code.

However, it seems that Google has stirred up a brand new storm now. Some people seem to think that the disclosure policy employed by Project Zero is far too aggressive. This project was first started in July 2014 and its aim has always been to find and identify bugs in any software that is used regularly in the public sphere. It now seems that various people have spoken out against this aggressive approach.

Automatically disclosing this vulnerability when a deadline is reached with absolutely zero context strikes me as incredibly irresponsible and I’d have expected a greater degree of care and maturity from a company like Google.

However at the same time, there are users who feel that Project Zero is absolutely necessary. They believe that those bugs that haven’t been disclosed yet may well have been identified by hackers already. After all, if Google can find them, others can as well. By releasing the bugs after a set deadline, Project Zero gives program owners the opportunity to make changes and it gives users the opportunity to not use the program until the bug is fixed. Indeed, those who support Project Zero feel that keeping issues a secret doesn’t help anybody. It is only when a vulnerability is exposed to all of those who use a program, that they are aware of the fact that their security is at risk, giving them a true opportunity to actually take actions against it. Ben Hawkes, security researcher at Google, has also defended the auto-disclosure policy.

Project Zero believes that disclosure deadlines are currently the optimal approach for user security – it allows software vendors a fair and reasonable length of time to exercise their vulnerability management process, while also respecting the rights of users to learn and understand the risks they face.

At the same time, Hawkes stated that he understood the necessity of analyzing and monitoring the effects of the policy. So far, it has been shown that most of the reported bugs are fixed before the deadline actually passes. This demonstrates that software developers are committed to the security and safety of their users.

Microsoft, however, seemed less happy about the disclosure. They have stated that they did indeed receive the statement about the bug and have been working on fixing it. Unfortunately, they were unable to do so within the deadline period. An email has been received from El Reg, spokesperson for Microsoft, in which it was explained that they are trying to address an Elevation of Privilege problem. However, Microsoft wanted to stress that the bug could only be exploited by somebody that already has the necessary and valid login credentials. Additionally, they need to have local access to the machine in question. According to El Reg, so long as all users have an up-to-date anti-virus package and ensured they install all the Windows Security Updates, and made sure they have their firewall switched on, they should not have any problems with the bug. Interestingly, Patch Tuesday is on January 13, but it is not known whether the issue will be fixed by then. Microsoft seems to be keeping quiet about how much progress they are making on fixing this issue at all.

Although the bug was released under Project Zero on December 30, it still took quite a number of days for news agencies to become aware of it. However, it is now found across all tech and marketing websites. This is the flip side of Project Zero, in a way. Although there is certainly something to be said for releasing details on bugs that aren’t fixed within a certain deadline, it also means that it is almost impossible to not know that Microsoft has a bug. However, the vast majority of Microsoft users do not have any real understanding of coding and credentials and they may be unnecessarily put off by the operating system when they are actually not at any risk. On the other hand, it should be Microsoft’s responsibility to set people’s minds at ease and explain how the bug is getting fixed.

Recently, Google has pushed a new update out very quietly to Android developers. Their guidelines now prohibit developers from including user testimonials in the Play Store under their app descriptions. The rule has been implemented in order to stop developers from making their apps easier to find by using unrelated or irrelevant keywords in their apps. Very often, the user testimonials are actually fake and have been placed there by the developers themselves, to allow for keyword stuffing. This will no longer be possible.

Google has released new advice to their developers as well. They now ask that all descriptions be kept short and sweet. They should provide a highlight of the best points of the app and they should include a short but very accurate description of the app itself. Additionally, they are no longer allowed to use repetitive keywords. Furthermore, Google has included a specification that user testimonials can no longer use “unrelated keywords or references” and that these testimonials cannot be included in the description of the app itself.

Please do not include user testimonials in your app description. They tend to be dubious and are frequently utilized to include references to popular search terms and competitor apps in violation of the policies outlined here. Let your users speak for themselves via Play’s comment review system.

It is quite obvious what Google is trying to do. At present, the testimonials are filled with spammy keywords. As a result, people no longer trust them to be an accurate description of the app itself and they are losing faith in the Google Play Store, in general. Indeed, users do not appreciate the fact that they are confronted with a full range of irrelevant apps that only show up because they are using keywords that link to other searches.

As expected, Google is not actually asking their app developers to stick to the new rules. Rather, they are telling them to. If excessive references and details are included that refer to other products and apps, they will be penalized. This will, of course, create a problem for developers as they often try to capitalize on the fact that they have had a successful app, which allows them to push any new apps forward.

The new guidelines are designed to ensure that Android users have a positive and honest experience when they go to the Play Store. Within the existing Google Play guidelines, anti-spamming rules have long been included. Publication of spam has never been allowed, but they have now expanded on those rules by including the use of repetitive, deceptive and irrelevant content or keywords. If developers do not stick to these rules, Google will lower the ratings of the app. The new guidelines have made it very clear that the consequences can be severe.

It can result in your app being suspended or your developer account being terminated.

However, most developers have already found a way around the new guidelines. Indeed, they have seen the update coming for quite some time and they have already been working on options to work around it. The most popular one is the use of screenshots instead.

This new policy won’t, at this point, prevent developers from overlaying user testimonials on screenshots, which is another common practice.

However, for users, the new development should be highly positive. Indeed, it means that they will no longer be confronted with as many apps that have absolutely no relevance to them anymore. In the past, when you would search for an app, the description of the app itself would include a customer review with links to other apps of the same developer. Although these may now still be there on screenshots, it is much easier to not look at screenshots and simply read the description, which will have to highlight what the app is about and what its main features are.

In reality, it was about time that Google included such an update. Before these updates, if you were to search for something like “best photography app,” you could end up with a list of apps that had absolutely nothing to do with photography at all, but simply had those keywords in their description. This has now changed completely, meaning search results are more honest and realistic. But the guidelines do not mean that app developers cannot ask their users to leave reviews. It simply means that these reviews can no longer be used in the description of the app itself.

This is an important factor because users do look for reviews in order to decide whether or not to download an app. It seems, therefore, that Google may be moving closer to the way Amazon deals with their products, allowing for reviews without these affecting the popularity of a product in search options. However, this does raise the question about how you can ensure reviews are honest and reliable. It is easy enough to find websites that will pay people to leave positive reviews for products that they sell on Amazon, so it could be that the same will happen with the Google Play Store.

Responses to the new guidelines have been mixed. On the one hand, users have reacted positively as they feel that any search results they receive are more honest and reliable. Naturally, developers have been less enthusiastic about the development. They feel that using reviews in descriptions are actually an age-old marketing technique that should not be removed.

There is a fine line between making stuff up and marketing. Yes, we all understand that there is some cheeky marketing out there, but just turn on the TV – you see this sort of thing everywhere!

Indeed, any advertisement is, most often, a lie to some degree. Every product claims to be the best, the most innovative and the most necessary. What Google is basically saying is that you are no longer allowed to truly promote your product, and this can be a real problem. Advertising will never be fully honest, after all.

Google is a true dominant giant in the world today. They are developing driverless cars and they are looking at ways of using balloons to allow internet access for the world. It seems to many people that the company is a Nirvana for the most “out there” scientific projects that are out of touch with the normal world. Naturally, Google doesn’t see things that way and the head of the driverless car project, Chris Urmson was keen to refute those ideas.

We aren’t here to be a Willy Wonka chocolate factory. We’re here to explore hard problems that aren’t being pushed in other places and move them towards products and out into the world.

Unfortunately, Google’s ambitions have hit a setback with their Glass project. Glass is one of Google X’s experiments: smart glasses. For this project, they had to go back to the drawing board. The test version went on sale last week, but this had to be suspended and the project received a new manager.670px-googlelogo-300x102

This comes at the same time as Wall Street funking out about the relationship between Google’s increasingly high spending and their profit margins. Their Moonshot projects, for instance, also came under scrutiny. Indeed, although Google’s profits did rise by 20% last year, their development costs went up by 35% and their operating costs by 30%. Naturally, Google believes the Glass changes are par for the course and required before it can really be made available. However, the reality is that there was also a sense of reversal. Critics who believe Google is placing personal gain over privacy are having a field day over this.

Eric Schmidt, who was a Glass chairman, had stated that Glass 2.0 would soon be on sale. Yet, Google quickly replaced Schmidt with Tony Fadell, who, incidentally, used to work for Apple. Fadell also manages the Nest (smart home) element of Google. The first order of business for Fadell was to take Glass back off the market, without any mention of when, and if, it would be released again.

Clearly, the release of Glass wasn’t handled properly. It may have been backed by Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google with much enthusiasm, but it came to very little. Nevertheless, Google remains ambitious at the same time. Indeed, it seems that everybody agrees that the market of wearables is anything but dead and that it makes good business sense for Google to continue to invest in these products. At the same time, however, customers are very disappointed.

Glass suddenly feels like a very expensive Kickstarter project. It always sounds awesome at first, and some charismatic people do a fabulous job of selling the concept to you. You slap down some money, and eventually get a half-baked product that’s quickly abandoned by its makers.

Indeed, questions are now being raised about how Google decides to invest and how they manage their products. The belief behind Google X was always that the company had the opportunity to change the world by developing ambitious ideas that seem impossible to realize, through the work of engineers who love a good challenge. This is in stark contrast to Apple’s methods of working, under which Fadell was a key figure as well. It was his team that developed the iPod, but this was under the understanding that user experience is more important than technological development. It is for this reason that Apple works for years on their prototypes, in complete secrecy, before ever talking about a new product.

Perhaps a new model does indeed need to be created for Google’s most ambitious projects, above and beyond what is currently offered by Google X. Chief executive and co-founder Larry Page certainly seems to agree. He felt that Google’s investment approaches should be seen like those of Warren Buffett, the legendary investor: management teams should be able to run near independent businesses within the company itself. Wall Street also continues to be involved and is demanding greater disclosure. However, Page says this would not be possible, as it would release information to competitors that should still remain secret. For investors, however, it looks as if Google lacks a degree of discipline.

Interestingly, it does seem as if no internal agreement exists on the larger projects within Google. Some believe that the company will back anything that involves objects, like cars and glasses, to connect to the internet. After all, according to Mr Mahaney, this is how Google will get more data.

They’re the ultimate tax on the internet.

As always, Google disagrees. They feel they have come under fire needlessly, being accused of pushing advertisements to online users, when what they really want to do is solve world problems and make life a little easier. This could really have an impact on society and, therefore, businesses.

Of course, many people are now starting to compare Google to Microsoft, which also famously tried to go above and beyond its core monopoly. Indeed, both pro- and anti-Google advocates are making this same comparison. Microsoft famously spent billions of dollars on Bing and failed to achieve any results. Similarly, Google invested heavily in Google+ social networking, but found that they spent a lot of money trying to rival Facebook and essentially wasted it.

However, there is a big difference as well. Microsoft failed when it looked for markets that were outside of the realms of the PC. Google, on the other hand, continues to bid strongly on future developments. Companies who have traditionally not invested in growth, like Yahoo!, AOL and eBay, are the ones which have really lost money, after all.

No opinions have been received from investors at Google and, in reality, they can only go along with what happens anyway. Since a third stock class was created last year by Mr Brin and Mr Page, it is guaranteed that there will never be a dilution of majority control in the company either. It is felt that those who do not want to take big investment risks simply should not invest in Google.

Google has recently confirmed that they will soon remove its engineers from their Russian offices. Nevertheless, the commitment to Russian Google users will remain in place. The company stated that this is not the first time they have relocated engineers in different countries. There is no clarity on the number of staff members who will be affected by this action and Google has declined to comment on this.

Earlier this year, the Russian government changed laws so that all online companies have to store the personal data of Russian citizens inside the country itself. According to the Kremlin, this law will actually help data protection. However, critics have stated that it is a method of censoring the internet, since the government would be able to block any website that refuses to comply with the law. Additionally, there is a concern about how the Russians would want to use the data.

Critics say it is designed to make it harder for US internet companies to operate in the country and will give Russia’s secret services – which are reportedly able to monitor virtually all data transmitted by domestic internet service providers – greater access to information held by foreign firms.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a known fact that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is strongly against the internet. He believes it is a CIA project and that this information will be more credible if it comes from other sources. Officials in Russia have been advised to stay away from any GMail services. Additionally, further laws may be passed to stop people who work for the Russian government from sharing any information through an internet service that is not state-controlled.

Various other laws have recently been passed in Russia as well. One such law has stated that if a blogger has more than 3,000 followers, he or she must register with the government, providing them with personal information. It is believed that these tactics have been designed to intimidate others. In Russia, most of the televised media is controlled by the Kremlin, and they engage in substantial amounts of pro-Russia propaganda. However, the state does not have such control over social media, which is one of the reasons why the new laws have been put in place. Between 2011 and 2013, strong protests took place in Moscow against this, but the laws have been passed regardless.

Google has always openly opposed Russian laws in terms of the internet. They have also accused the government of having Chinese-styled tactics when it comes to censorship. In 2010, Google stopped its operations in China, again due to a refusal to cooperate with government restrictions.

The majority of technological companies have huge data storage facilities where they store data on their users. These facilities are all over the world, and there is no link between the user’s location and the data they access. This means that it is highly likely that the data on different users is kept in a country in which they do not reside themselves.

Some Google staff will be retained, including those involved in marketing, sales and support. Hence, not all of Russia’s Google offices will be closed. Google has issued an official statement to explain that they continue to be committed to Russian customers and users and a dedicated team for support will remain in the country.

It seems as if Google is just the next in a long line. Adobe closed down offices in September, because they were unable to meet the new laws’ demands. Additionally, Vkontakte, the most popular social media website in Russia, saw its founder, Pavel Durvo, leave the company. This was due to his opposition to the draconian laws. Indeed, Anoton Nossik, owner of Fuzzy Cheese and hailed as the father of the internet in Russia, has expressed significant concerns. He believes that the new laws in Russia and the wide-spread anti-Russian sentiments that exist due to the situation in the Ukraine, will only force more large internet companies out of the country, making the situation much worse than what it is now.

Although the laws have, on paper, been passed to increase data security, the reality is that there is much potential for abuse in them.

The rules – which also apply to Facebook, Twitter, and other “organizers of information distribution” – mean President Putin’s government will have the right to remove “offensive” material from servers in Russia, as well as anything that the state decides is in breach of election rules.

Google is presently the second largest internet company in Russia, with Yandex holding first position. However, Google has been growing recently. One of the reasons for this is the rise in popularity of Android devices, which all run on Google-powered technology. As a result, it seems as if Google is in a pretty strong position to be able to negotiate with Putin should they wish to remain the country. It might also be for this reason that Google has been very vague about its motivation and exact actions.

Google would not comment on Thursday on the reason for the move, which was first reported by the tech news service The Information, and it was not clear whether the retreat was a response to an erosion of the country’s internet freedoms or any direct pressure on the company.

Although history has shown us that Google will move out of a country entirely if it is required to do so, we also know that Google frequently moves entire teams out of countries because it makes more business sense. The presence of Google in Russia is, quite obviously, highly desirable for Russians, which is something both Putin and Google will have to take into consideration. It is possible, therefore, that a secret arrangement has already been made between the two, that allows Google to continue to operate without having to stick to Russian rules.

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying...

 

The Christmas countdown has officially started, so it can only be hoped that Santa is hard at work at filling all the Christmas lists and getting the presents ready. This year, Google and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense) have created interactive Santa Claus websites. Here, boys and girls alike can see how many days till Christmas, as well as being able to enjoy various other great features, including games.

 

Google has launched Santa Tracker on December 1. It looks just like a traditional Advent calendar and it also has a fun game and some features like coding courses. Every day, something else is unlocked for all who visit the site. Google has been keen to advertise their new tracker.

 

Starting today, the elves are back on the clock in the North Pole-and throughout the month of December, you can join the elves as they unlock a new project or game each day in preparation for Santa’s annual journey around the world.

 

Google has also made sure that people on the go are able to track Santa. Hence, they have developed an app for Android, as well as for the extension of Google Chrome. Various surprises have been promised all month long.

 

However, Google isn’t the only contender for the official Santa tracker. NORAD have also created a Santa Tracking website. They have worked together with Microsoft and have developed movies, games and a full history section on how NORAD started to track Santa. They will explain how the Big Man goes all around the globe on Christmas itself.

 

NORAD actually stated doing this back in 1955. At this point, Sears Roebuck & Co created an advertisement with a telephone number that children could ring if they wished to speak to Santa. However, they made a mistake in that telephone number. Hence, children did not get to speak to Santa at all, but they ended up speaking to CONAD, which is now NORAD. Specifically, they got the telephone number of the hotline for the Commander in Chief. Rather than becoming angry, the director of CONAD instructed staff to man the phone and to give children updates on where Santa was, so as not to ruin Christmas for them. This is a tradition that has stuck ever since. NORAD has also created an app for mobile Santa trackers, that is available on both Android and iOS devices.

 

NORAD men, women, family and friends have selflessly volunteered their time to personally respond to phone calls and emails from children all around the world. In addition, we now track Santa using the internet.

 

NORAD and Google used to work together. However, the former decided to move on to Microsoft Bing rather than stick with Google Maps. As they are the aerospace tracking agency, they have stated that their role is to protect Santa, so that governments across the world don’t mistake him for a missile and accidentally shoot him down.

 

The big question, of course, is going to be who will have the most popular tracker this year. The Santa Wars are well and truly on. Both Google and NORAD have decided to make their trackers independent websites, so Google is not the automatic winner just by having their tracker straight on their search home page. Additionally, since they have always worked together with NORAD, those who are used to the system may be inclined to go straight there this year. On the other hand, it seems Google has invested more in marketing their tracker, which could mean more people will go them. Perhaps only Santa Claus himself will be able to deliver the final verdict this year.

 

On November 9, 1989, which was 25 years ago, the Berlin Wall finally fell. Google is commemorating this incredible occasion by creating an emotive video Doodle. When the wall toppled, a country that had been divided for 30 years was finally unified again. In 1990, this was made official when Germany was reunified once again.

What few people know is that the construction of the wall took place overnight. On August 12, 1961, it was put up by East Berlin, which was then controlled by a communist regime, to separate it from West Berlin. Originally, it was a line of barbed wire that followed all the roads. It then became a fence, before finally turning into two fortified walls, that had a no man’s land in between them. On August 13, 1961 people woke up to see that they could no longer see their families, friends and coworkers who were based in the western part of the city. Once completed, the wall stretched across 66 miles. The concrete wall reached 3.6 meters in height. Additionally, there were another 41 miles covered with barbed wires and 300 look-out towers, which were all manned around the clock, were erected. The wall went through the center of the city of Berlin. Additionally, it actually encircled West Berlin itself, as whole of Berlin was completely surrounded by the GDR, which was communist.

Germany became two divided countries in 1949. West Germany was the Federal Republic of Germany, which was under control of the Allied Forces until a government was established. The other half was the GDR, the German Democratic Republic, which was in the East. Berlin is located in the geographical area of the GDR. However, it was shared between the allies, namely, France, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States of America. The wall was erected to stop people from East Germany from leaving and fleeing to the West.

 

English: Short section of the Berlin Wall at P...

 

The wall divided more than a piece of land. It separated entire families and social circles. Additionally, those who were trapped on the “wrong” side, which could be either side, often lost their jobs and livelihoods if the businesses they worked for were on the other side of the wall.

The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years. During this time, at least 200 people died in various attempts to cross it. Estimates vary, with some saying it was actually far more. One area, known as the “death strip” was particularly deadly. It was heavily fortified with barbed wire, anti-vehicle trenches, blinding floodlights and beds of nails. Many people lost their lives there.

During the time when the wall existed, the people of East Berlin became more and more frustrated with their lack of freedom and prosperity that would have been available to them had they lived in West Berlin. The communist government of the GDR denied them their freedom of movement and this led to various demands being placed. The people were motivated by revolutions against the Soviet Union that were experienced all over the East Block and, as a result, they demanded that they be given free passage.

On 9 November 1989, protesters became increasingly present and active. The guards became confused and, around 10:45pm, they opened the gates. This happened after Gunter Schabowski, the spokesperson for the Communist Party of East Berlin, announced that “immediate” passage would be allowed. It is believed that he did not mean that exact moment, but this was how guards and protestors alike interpreted his statement. Instantly, parts of the wall were destroyed and torn down, culminating in the official demolition of the wall in the summer of 1990.

The new Google Doodle commemorates all of this. Through its video, it shows the scenes of joys experienced by all Berliners, with West and East greeting each other and their long lost loved ones. The video shows that night in 1989.

Additionally, the Doodle shows where the wall remains today. Pieces of it have been donated to Seoul, London, Madrid, Washington D.C., Kiev, Cape Town and Mountain View, California, which can be seen in the Doodle video. It is an emotive commemoration of an event that so significantly shaped the world today. Interestingly, Mountain View, California is also the location of Google’s company headquarters.

 

Google has actually commemorated the fall of the Berlin Wall in the past. In 2009, they used an image of the Wall with the word “Google” on it, with the second “g” shown as having toppled over. This time, they have worked together with people who were there and who had personal experiences of living with and without the wall.

I was 7 years old when thousands of East German signature cars arrived in my hometown Hamburg and filled the air with odd smelling blue smoke. I saw strangers hugging strangers, tears in their eyes, their voices tired from singing.

This is a quote by Nils Frahm, who is also responsible for the musical composition that accompanies the Doodle. He stated that he felt the time had arrived to celebrate unity, which has now lasted for 25 years. Berlin itself has joined in with the celebrations as well, sending out 8,000 LED balloons across what used to be the border. Additionally, Google worked together not just with someone who was there and had experienced it, they also sent employees Liat Ben-Rafael and Ryan Germick to experience it themselves by studying a graffiti-ed piece of the wall itself.

 

This graffitied chunk of concrete, once a literal division, has been transformed into a symbol of unity, a reminder to passersby of the triumph of the collective human spirit. It was moving to see it in person and, appropriately enough, spray-painted on this special slab are the German words ‘Wir lieben dich’ — ‘we love you,’ they said.

The Doodle video ends with a symbol of peace. The CND symbol replaces one of the “O” letters in Google. The Doodle has been incredibly well-received. People still remember the Wall very well, and they still visit the site today. It is a fresh memory, but it is hoped that the Doodle will be a celebration of unity, rather than a commemoration of division.

 

 

 

It was recently reported that the European Parliament is looking at ways to break up Google. Indeed, a draft motion is likely to be passed asking for the European Commission to “unbundle” search engines, splitting them up from other commercial services. This would be a way to stop Google from truly dominating the world. However, it is not entirely clear whether this is actually possible.670px-googlelogo

Andreas Schwab, German MEP, has long been a firm critic of Google. He is sponsoring the motion itself. He said that the motion is now in place and that the practicalities still have to be ironed out. Another MEP is taking part in the consultation and he actually took the time to speak to Google and find out what a possible break up would mean.

Basically, if the service is unbundled, then things like Google Shopping and YouTube would find benefit in the dominance in search of the company. The real focus, therefore, is in the utilities, as was explained by Sigmar Gabriel, economy minister for Germany.

We must give serious thought to the possibility of “unbundling” the Internet market, in a similar way to the electricity and gas networks.

A number of European companies have had to go through similar processes. For instance, British Telecoms (BT), used to hold a service monopoly in the United Kingdom. They owned the entire network of copper wiring. However, new legislation meant that the wires had to be made available to various other telecom companies in the country as well. The result is that BT is still a single company, but it is made up of different, completely separate divisions. Although this has been a benefit to the competitive telecoms market, some say that BT continues to be dominant and to abuse this position. They do this by ensuring their retail division has its profits squeezed to breaking point. On the other hand, it is this EU legislation that has ensured other companies were able to gain new broadband customers, as this does not involve any copper wiring.

Another example is seen in Deutsche Telekom, the German equivalent of BT. They are, interestingly, one of the biggest complainants in the current case against Google. The worry for Google, therefore, is that they will have to comply with this type of approach as well. However, their main defense is that this would lead to customers have separate data and search behavior, no longer linking in to any of their other online activities. According to Google, this would not benefit the ease of use of the internet.

If Google does have to get unbundled, some new and complex legislation would have to be developed, according to Joaquin Almunia, the European Commissions outgoing competition commissioner.

Google cannot be broken up into smaller companies without new EU legislation, the European Commission said, after detailing two potential new antitrust investigations into the internet giant.

However, a number of other sanctions that could be imposed on Google have been developed already. Ramon Tremosa, Spanish MEP, and Mr Schwab, have suggested that there should be some sort of rotation mechanism. This would mean that Google’s competitors and its commercial services will have equal prominence on the search results page. This move has been seen before, after the Microsoft investigation. It is the result of that investigation that allows users to now have a choice of browsers, rather than having to stick with Internet Explorer.

According to some, the biggest issue here is politics. The move, whether supported or not, shows that Europe is exasperated with Google. Indeed, Mr Almunia’s successor is now the competition commissioner. It is his decision to decide where to go from here. However, it is an anti-trust investigation, and this has to be taken very seriously.