The Internet has plenty of dark corners, but one of the darkest is surely the growing number of sites that traffic in child pornography. Google, which has no interest in surfacing any of these sites and images, has long worked with numerous nonprofit organizations and law enforcement agencies to help protect children online and keep these sites out of its index. The company has, however, recently been criticized by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and others for not doing enough to fight child pornography online.
Today, Google pledged $5 million to the fight. It will distribute this money to a number of organizations in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and Latin America. Among the organizations that will receive these funds are groups like the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the U.K.’s Internet Watch Foundation. Google has also set up a $2 million Child Protection Technology Fund to “encourage the development of ever more effective tools.”
Since 2008, Google has been tagging the child abuse images it detected in its index and those that were reported to organisations like the NCMEC to ensure that it could also identify any copy of these files.
In today’s announcement, Google revealed that it has recently started to add this information to a cross-industry database that it shares with law enforcement agencies and charities. This, Google believes, will allow these organizations to “better collaborate on detecting and removing these images.”
Later this week, representatives from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook and a number of telecom firms will also meet with the U.K. Culture Secretary to discuss this issue.
It’s worth noting that Google is obviously not the only search company that is working to combat child pornography online. Microsoft has a similar initiative, and the company also tags images of child abuse it finds using its PhotoDNA technology. Facebook started licensing PhotoDNA from Microsoft in 2011. The company has also been working with a number of law enforcement agencies to develop the Child Exploitation Tracking System.
Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of online tools and platforms including: Gmail, Maps, YouTube, and Google+, the company’s extension into the social space. Most of its Web-based products are free, funded by Google’s highly integrated online advertising platforms AdWords and AdSense. Google promotes the idea that advertising should be highly targeted and relevant to users thus providing…
AP Photo/20th Century Fox. Publicity shot from “The Internship,” with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.
The release over a week ago of the Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson film “The Internship,” while disappointing so far at the box office, has shined a light on summer internship salaries at large tech companies.
According to unofficial data published by Glassdoor.com, the “average monthly salary” for a Google intern is $5800, with compensation for certain software engineers reaching in the area of $6700. According to the Daily Mail, CNNMoney and others, interns at Google face intense competition and a pressurized interview process for the coveted slots, which can include, “a host of benefits including housing, gym membership, bowling and food – all for free.”
The Mail goes on to point out that, “The equivalent full-time salary for a Google intern is $72,000 – about $30,000 higher than the average starting salary for college graduates” and most make close to $20,000 for a three-month summer commitment.
The HuffPost offered comments from Glassdoor’s Scott Dobroski, a Glassdoor community expert, who said that “in addition to salary, interns greatly value real-world experience, access to executives and involvement in far-reaching projects.”
At Google, we see themes that interns speak very favorably about: working on innovative technology and building products that touch the lives of millions and are changing the world, which also involve collaboration with bright colleagues who are willing to help and teach them… It’s interesting to note they also say they do work long hours and are often given deadlines to complete projects. Interning at Google is no walk in the park, but is a rewarding experience.
Forbes has previously published a very interesting look at the top-paying summer internships at tech companies, showing VMware, Facebook, and Microsoft in the lead and noted:
Most tech industry internship-seekers would do anything to work at Facebook, Google, Amazon or Apple. In fact, they’d probably even do it for free. But as it turns out, all of these companies offer paid internships. And they compensate remarkably well.
The “Internet’s Fantastic Four” were all over the news for another well-publicized story, with journalists and political commentators spending much of the week covering various angles on the NSA “spying scandal.”
MarketWatch asked, “Are Google, Facebook lying about the spying?” and the NY Times Dealbook headlined, “Tech Companies Tread Lightly in Statements on U.S. Spying.”
Charlie Rose had a roundtable on the issue on his program, which provided a pretty decent perspective on the entire “spying” controversy. To paraphrase:
It is a debate which goes back to Thomas Jefferson. It is a debate that has to be revisited with each new major advance in technology.
Markets cared little about Google intern salaries or the actions, motivations or whereabouts of Edward Snowden, instead having their usual laser-like focus on second-guessing what Barron’s called the “Federal Open Mouth Committee’s” (FOMC) next move or utterance.
Indices put in their third down week out of four, with the weekly negative tallies of the Dow off -1.2%, the SP down -1.0% and the Nasdaq Comp losing -1.3%.
The Dow went on a wild ride this week, with the index trading in a triple-digit range in four out of five sessions. The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) popped higher today, up 4.5%, or 0.7 point, to close back above the 17 level, at 17.15. This week was a big one for the VIX, which surged by 13.3% and managed a weekly close atop its 80-week moving average for the first time in 2013.
Underscoring the importance of expectations over “Fed tapering,”Bloomberg noted:
More than $2.5 trillion has been erased from the value of global equities since May 22, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said stimulus efforts may be scaled back if U.S. employment shows ‘sustainable improvement.’
But beyond the Fed-watching, there were numerous macro stories and events which went beyond the usual weekly mixed domestic U.S. economic data. So let’s focus the rest of this week’s piece on some of those major headlines:
Evidence has mounted in recent weeks that China’s economy is fast losing growth momentum, with sluggish domestic demand failing to make up for lethargic export sales as the country’s main trading partners wrestle with their own slowdowns.
On Monday, SP upgraded its outlook on the U.S. debt rating to ‘Stable’ from ‘Negative.’ It said that the U.S. economy has started to improve. The agency cited the budget deal that Congress brokered late last year, which is meant to raise tax revenue and cut government spending.
“Why Europe has so much riding on German court ruling.” –Globe and Mail
The eight judges of Germany’s Constitutional Court were dressed in elegant red robes, including red caps, as if they were Roman Catholic cardinals entering a papal conclave that would decide the future of the church. Their mission is, of course, was secular in nature but no less important: Determining whether sovereign bond purchases, real and theoretical, by the European Central Bank are legal under German law. (A decision is not expected to be delivered before September.)
“Pimco: Everything Is Expensive And We’re Probably Heading For Another Recession.” –Forbes
One of the world’s largest money managers is out this week with a report saying valuations are expensive in almost every asset class and there is a 60% chance the global economy dips into recession within the next five years.
A jump in stock and home prices pushed U.S. household wealth up by $3 trillion in the first quarter, surpassing levels last seen before the 2007-09 recession and giving a hopeful sign for future consumer spending. Financial wealth grew to a record high of $70.3 trillion, the Federal Reserve said on Thursday.
“IMF Cuts Outlook, Warns on Stimulus Exit.” –Bloomberg
The International Monetary Fund cut its U.S. 2014 growth outlook and urged the Federal Reserve to carefully manage its exit from monetary stimulus plans. The Washington-based IMF lowered its prediction for 2014 to 2.7 percent, from 3 percent growth predicted in April. It left its U.S. growth forecast for this year unchanged at 1.9 percent. (And the IMF also warned, according to HuffPost, of the ‘harmful impact of indiscriminate federal spending cuts known as sequestration.’)
Buy programs were relentless Thursday as the SP wound up moving up a total of 28 points from the morning low and about 20 points from 12:30 pm alone. As such, it appeared that something was up. Then I saw it on my news ticker: ‘Fed likely to push back vs. market expectations for rate increase–WSJ.’ Boom, there it was – a new article by none other than the Fed mouthpiece himself, Jon Hilsenrath.
“Global Stock Rout Hits Consumers As Sentiment Falls In June On Tax Hikes And Taper Fear.” –Forbes
The now-controversial Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment number showed a slight decline in June over May, when the index hit its highest levels in nearly six years. The number, which is leaked early to high-frequency traders for a fee, was dragged down by the current conditions part of the equation, as consumers recalibrated their views on the recovery after recent market weakness and a surge in global volatility.
Let’s close it out there for this week, saluting Fathers everywhere and settling in here to watch the exciting conclusion of the 113th U.S. Open Championship.
But in the category of “Learning Through Extreme Repetition,” we have to thank the Golf Channel, ESPN and NBC for burning into our brains forever some facts we mostly knew already about Merion Golf Club, its “storied history,” past Open participants and champions, and this year’s competitors.
We will now never forget several items:
-Merion is known for its “red wicker baskets” atop flagsticks unlike the classic “flags” found just about everywhere else. What we did not know was the inspiration for their origin, which the NY Daily News explains:
Legend has it that the idea for a wicker basket — rather than the traditional flag — came after the course designer took a trip to Scotland and saw sheep herders using baskets on the top of their walking sticks to carry their lunches.
-Lee Trevino tossing a rubber snake at Jack Nicklaus prior to the start of their playoff round at the 1971 Open also held at Merion. What we did not know is that the incident might not have been a totally planned and questionable “psych-out act” on Trevino’s part, as Golf.com reported this week:
He (Trevino) had the snake in his bag from a photo shoot earlier that week. Nicklaus asked to see the snake, so Trevino tossed it to him, which caused a nearby woman to shriek and distracted Nicklaus. Trevino went on to win the playoff. Some charged Trevino with gamesmanship, though Trevino and Nicklaus disagreed.
-Perhaps the most famous golf shot in Merion’s history hosting the U.S. Open was Ben Hogan’s 1-iron approach shot on hole number 18 in 1950 to set up a playoff and subsequent victory. What we didn’t know was “the club was stolen from Hogan after his U.S. Open victory and went missing for 30 years… resurfacing in a bag of old irons sold in 1983.” (golfchannel.com)
-Phil Mickelson’s record of heartbreak in the U.S. Open, losing epically in 1999 to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst in a hard-fought battle and “shooting himself in the foot” at Winged Foot in 2006. What we did not know was Mickelson’s five second-place finishes at the Open was a record heading into today’s final round, always sort of assuming Jack Nicklaus held that particular distinction. (Nicklaus does have 19 second-place finishes in all the majors combined.)
Let’s wish Phil good luck and hope he plays up to his standards no matter what the outcome today. Happy Father’s Day to all.
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CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Wrinkled and skinny at first, the translucent, jellyfish-shaped balloons that Google released this week from a frozen field in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island hardened into shiny pumpkins as they rose into the blue winter skies above Lake Tekapo, passing the first big test of a lofty goal to get the entire planet online.
It was the culmination of 18 months’ work on what Google calls Project Loon, in recognition of how wacky the idea may sound. Developed in the secretive X lab that came up with a driverless car and web-surfing eyeglasses, the flimsy helium-filled inflatables beam the Internet down to earth as they sail past on the wind.
Still in their experimental stage, the balloons were the first of thousands that Google’s leaders eventually hope to launch12 miles into the stratosphere in order to bridge the gaping digital divide between the world’s 4.8 billion unwired people and their 2.2 billion plugged-in counterparts.
If successful, the technology might allow countries to leapfrog the expense of laying fiber cable, dramatically increasing Internet usage in places such as Africa and Southeast Asia.
“It’s a huge moonshot. A really big goal to go after,” said project leader Mike Cassidy. “The power of the Internet is probably one of the most transformative technologies of our time.”
The first person to get Google Balloon Internet access this week was Charles Nimmo, a farmer and entrepreneur in the small town of Leeston. He found the experience a little bemusing after he was one of 50 locals who signed up to be a tester for a project that was so secret, no one would explain to them what was happening. Technicians came to the volunteers’ homes and attached to the outside walls bright red receivers the size of basketballs and resembling giant Google map pins.
Nimmo got the Internet for about 15 minutes before the balloon transmitting it sailed on past. His first stop on the Web was to check out the weather because he wanted to find out if it was an optimal time for “crutching” his sheep, a term he explained to the technicians refers to removing the wool around sheep’s rear ends.
Nimmo is among the many rural folk, even in developed countries, that can’t get broadband access. After ditching his dial-up four years ago in favor of satellite Internet service, he’s found himself stuck with bills that sometimes exceed $1,000 in a single month.
“It’s been weird,” Nimmo said of the Google Balloon Internet experience. “But it’s been exciting to be part of something new.”
While the concept is new, people have used balloons for communication, transportation and entertainment for centuries. In recent years, the military and aeronautical researchers have used tethered balloons to beam Internet signals back to bases on earth.
Google’s balloons fly free and out of eyesight, scavenging power from card table-sized solar panels that dangle below and gather enough charge in four hours to power them for a day as the balloons sail around the globe on the prevailing winds. Far below, ground stations with Internet capabilities about 60 miles apart bounce signals up to the balloons.
The signals would hop forward, from one balloon to the next, along a backbone of up to five balloons.
Each balloon would provide Internet service for an area twice the size of New York City, about 780 square miles, and terrain is not a challenge. They could stream Internet into Afghanistan’s steep and winding Khyber Pass or Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, a country where the World Bank estimates four out of every 100 people are online.
There are plenty of catches, including a requirement that anyone using Google Balloon Internet would need a receiver plugged into their computer in order to receive the signal. Google is not talking costs at this point, although they’re striving to make both the balloons and receivers as inexpensive as possible, dramatically less than laying cables.
The signals travel in the unlicensed spectrum, which means Google doesn’t have to go through the onerous regulatory processes required for Internet providers using wireless communications networks or satellites. In New Zealand, the company worked with the Civil Aviation Authority on the trial. Google chose the country in part because of its remoteness. Cassidy said in the next phase of the trial they hope to get up to 300 balloons forming a ring on the 40th parallel south from New Zealand through Australia, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina.
Christchurch was a symbolic launch site because some residents were cut off from online information for weeks following a 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people. Google believes balloon access could help places suffering natural disasters get quickly back online. Tania Gilchrist, a resident who signed up for the Google trial, feels lucky she lost her power for only about 10 hours on the day of the quake.
“After the initial upheaval, the Internet really came into play,” she said. “It was how people coordinated relief efforts and let people know how to get in touch with agencies. It was really, really effective and it wasn’t necessarily driven by the authorities.”
At Google’s mission control in Christchurch this week, a team of jet lagged engineers working at eight large laptops used wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to maneuver the balloons over snowy peaks, identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction and then adjusting balloons’ altitudes so they floated in that layer.
“It’s a very fundamentally democratic thing that what links everyone together is the sky and the winds,” said Richard DeVaul, an MIT-trained scientist who founded Project Loon and helped develop Google Glass, hidden camera-equipped eyeglasses with a tiny computer display that responds to voice commands.
DeVaul initially thought their biggest challenge would be establishing the radio links from earth to sky, but in the end, one of the most complex parts was hand building strong, light, durable balloons that could handle temperature and pressure swings in the stratosphere.
Google engineers studied balloon science from NASA, the Defense Department and the Jet Propulsion Lab to design their own airships made of plastic films similar to grocery bags. Hundreds have been built so far.
He said they wouldn’t interfere with aircraft because they fly well below satellites and twice as high as airplanes, and they downplayed concerns about surveillance, emphasizing that they would not carry cameras or any other extraneous equipment.
The balloons would be guided to collection points and replaced periodically. In cases when they failed, a parachute would deploy.
While there had been rumors, until now Google had refused to confirm the project. But there have been hints: In April, Google’s executive chairman tweeted “For every person online, there are two who are not. By the end of the decade, everyone on Earth will be connected,” prompting a flurry of speculative reports.
And international aid groups have been pushing for more connectivity for more than a decade.
In pilot projects, African farmers solved disease outbreaks after searching the Web, while in Bangladesh “online schools” bring teachers from Dhaka to children in remote classrooms through large screens and video conferencing.
Many experts said the project has the potential to fast-forward developing nations into the digital age, possibly impacting far more people than the Google X lab’s first two projects: The glasses and a fleet of self-driving cars that have already logged hundreds of thousands of accident-free miles.
“Whole segments of the population would reap enormous benefits, from social inclusion to educational and economic opportunities,” said DePauw University media studies professor Kevin Howley.
Temple University communications professor Patrick Murphy warned of mixed consequences, pointing to China and Brazil where Internet service increased democratic principles, prompting social movements and uprisings, but also a surge in consumerism that has resulted in environmental and health problems.
“The nutritional and medical information, farming techniques, democratic principles those are the wonderful parts of it,” he said. “But you also have everyone wanting to drive a car, eat a steak, drink a Coke.”
As the world’s largest advertising network, Google itself stands to expand its own empire by bringing Internet to the masses: More users means more potential Google searchers, which in turn give the company more chances to display their lucrative ads.
Richard Bennett, a fellow with the nonprofit Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, was skeptical, noting that cell phones are being used far more in developing countries.
“I’m really glad that Google is doing this kind of speculative research,” he said. “But it remains to be seen how practical any of these things are.”
Ken Murdoch, a chief information officer for the nonprofit Save the Children, said the service would be “a tremendous key enabler” during natural disasters and humanitarian crises, when infrastructure can be nonexistent or paralyzed.
“The potential of a system that can restore connectivity within hours of a crisis hitting is tremendously exciting,” agreed Imogen Wall at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, although she warned that the service must be robust. “If the service fails in a crisis, then lives are lost.”
In Christchurch this week, the balloons were invisible in the sky except for an occasional glint, but people could see them if they happened to be in the remote countryside where they were launched or through binoculars, if they knew where to look.
Before heading to New Zealand, Google spent a few months secretly launching between two and five flights a week in California’s central valley, prompting what Google’s scientists said were a handful of unusual reports on local media.
“We were chasing balloons around from trucks on the ground,” said DeVaul, “and people were calling in reports about UFOs.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Pressure on the web giants further intensified after it emerged Mark
Bridger, who murdered five year-old April Jones, and Stuart
Hazell, who murdered Tia Sharp, 12, were both found to have accessed
indecent images of children on the web.
The new system will work by sharing data on images which have been identified
as illegal and then flagged, or “hashed”, using software originally created
The lack of an industry standard means data on images earmarked in this way is
difficult to share, and therefore hard to eradicate completely.
Scott Rubin, Google’s spokesman, said: “We are creating an industry-wide
global database of ‘hashed’ images to help all technology companies find
these images, wherever they might be.
“They will then be blocked and reported.”
John Carr, a government adviser on child internet safety, said: “This is an
important moment. It should focus the minds of other industry leaders in
relation to how they are going to join the fight.
“Google have stepped up. No one can argue about that. In all my time working
in this space no company has ever devoted anything like this level of
resources to working with civil society organisations to attack online child
Susie Hargreaves, chief executive officer of the IWF, which is part-funded by
Google, said: “This announcement is inspiring for those who are at the
forefront of tackling child sexual abuse content.
“We know that the best way to tackle what is some of the most horrific content
online is by working with others from all over the world to combat this on a
“These funds, made available internationally, will no doubt allow
international experts to target images and videos of children being sexually
abused with the best technology based on the most technically progressive
David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said: “Since 2008, we have used
‘hashing’ technology to tag known child sexual abuse images, allowing us to
identify duplicate images which may exist elsewhere.
“Each offending image in effect gets a unique fingerprint that our computers
can recognize without humans having to view them again.
“Recently, we have started working to incorporate these fingerprints into a
cross-industry database. This will enable companies, law enforcement, and
charities to better collaborate on detecting and removing child abuse
The Internet is abuzz with news of the first public flight tests in New Zealand of Google’s Project Loon, which aims to provide Internet access to underserved areas using a network of high-altitude balloons. As Google explained in a June 14 blog post:
We believe that it might actually be possible to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, that provides Internet access to the earth below. It’s very early days, but we’ve built a system that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster. As a result, we hope balloons could become an option for connecting rural, remote, and underserved areas, and for helping with communications after natural disasters. The idea may sound a bit crazy—and that’s part of the reason we’re calling it Project Loon—but there’s solid science behind it.
Whether Project Loon’s vision makes technical sense is a worthy question. But even if it passes technical muster, the prospect of using globe-circling high-altitude balloons as communications platforms raises complex legal issues regarding airspace access and control.
It’s the distance, and not the altitude, that creates the primary concerns. Thousands of high-altitude weather balloons are launched without incident every week. However, (with some notable exceptions) weather balloons usually stay aloft for only a few hours and remain within the airspace of a single country during their flight.
By contrast, flying a balloon around the world is hard—and not just because of the engineering difficulties involved. The biggest challenge can often be finding a route that steers clear of countries unwilling to grant overflight permissions. Back in the 1990s, attempts at around-the-world manned balloon flights generated complex diplomatic dances and were even thwarted completely by airspace permission concerns. Obtaining approval from China proved critical in enabling the first successful nonstop balloon circumnavigation in 1999 by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones. Steve Fossett’s successful 2002 solo balloon circumnavigation took place deep in the southern hemisphere, where much of the route is over water.
Google says that the Project Loon balloons can be “steered by rising or descending to an altitude with winds moving in the desired direction.” To a certain extent, that’s true. But when the only thing you can control is altitude, steering options can be pretty limited. Unless you’re willing to ditch or to limit flights to latitudes well south of the equator, sooner or later some of the balloons will end up in the airspace of countries that don’t welcome their presence. And, while Silicon Valley’s ask-forgiveness-not-permission culture might pay off in many contexts, international aviation won’t be one of them.
So what does that mean for Google’s vision to ring the globe with Internet access points drifting in the stratosphere? A Google spokesperson said the company is “hoping that the launch can start the conversation and begin to spec out how this might work on a larger scale.” Google coordinated with local air traffic control in last week’s New Zealand tests, and is “looking forward to see where this can go.” The next phase of the project will reportedly involve hundreds of balloons flying at a latitude of approximately 40 degrees south, which would take them over a lot of open ocean but also include transits over New Zealand, southern Argentina, and southern Chile.
And then what? In a “Facts and Figures” post about Project Loon, Google notes that “approximately two thirds of the world’s population today doesn’t have Internet access.” However, reaching more than a small fraction of them using Project Loon would require expanding coverage to more tropical and northern latitudes. That, in turn, would require using the airspace of countries that are certainly not going to permit regular overflights of communications balloons operated by an American company. In other words, regardless of the potential technical merits, a truly global system of Google-operated Internet access balloons isn’t happening anytime soon.
But that doesn’t mean the underlying idea of using high-altitude balloons as communications platforms is flawed. For applications such as disaster relief, it’s a well-recognized and potentially highly effective approach that companies like Space Data Corporation have been honing for many years [PDF]. To the extent that Project Loon can help improve the state of the art in rapid communications system deployment, it’s a worthy effort.
Click on the image above to see a gallery of Google Doodles
The doodle on the Google home page features a button in the second ‘o’ which when pressed changes a slot machine type selection of images of father’s in different roles as part of story.
Father’s Day was created in the United States in the early 20th century to complement Mother’s Day.
The credit for the creation of the modern holiday is often given to Sonora Smart Dodd, who was the daughter of American Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart.
Smart came up with the idea of the day after hearing a church sermon on Mother’s Day – she created the day as she believed fatherhood needed to be recognised as well. Smart’s father William Jackson Smart was a single parent who raised six children.
She initially suggested her own father’s birthday (5th June) as the date but the Spokane Ministerial Alliance selected the third Sunday in June.
The majority of nations mark the day on the third Sunday in June but there are international variations.
Google’s latest “moonshot” project is Project Loon, a phalanx of balloons that sail in the stratosphere like low level satellites. The objective is to bring broadband capability to less developed parts of the world, an ambition Google Google is also pursuing through its White Spaces project.
Google ran its first test on Saturday in New Zealand – here’s one report. It gave people 15 minutes of access before the balloons floated away.
However Loon takes us close to what Google is really about right now. Although Google has its “way-out” projects like Driverless Cars and Google Glass, those projects are adding nothing to the business. They create great press and clearly they have lifted the stock price, but Google is an ad company and autos and Glass will not add to that revenue stream. They might not provide alternatives for many years to come.
What does, and what will, is getting more people online with better connectivity, and controlling that process. In that sense Loon is really about the future of Google’s core business (on a technical note Google says that winds in the stratosphere are slow – I have only been able to find information that says they are highly variable and often very fast)
Google Fiber, one of its three telco infrastructure projects, is too slow-build to matter in the near future. In White Spaces, the use of excess TV spectrum, Google is in a tight battle with Microsoft Microsoft, especially in Africa where Microsoft seems to be moving ahead with rural access, much faster than Google has.
More generally, both are going to have to battle with Samsung in global wireless infrastructure because something strange, innovative and remarkable is going on with these companies (Huawei and ZTE are also players). Integration. Device to infrastructure and everything in between.
Integration is also on the agenda at Samsung. Go here for a summary of Samsung’s moves into 5G wireless. It’s a big play for all three and really illustrates how business is changing substantially. Yes, Loon is fun but integration is very serious.
Loon looks like an imaginative, perhaps fantasy bet on some possible, alternative access technology for Google. But as Google admits, its current status is highly experimental. The Loon website promises “Internet for all”, which is typical Google language these days. But many of us have good Internet. This is a project for the developing economies where both Microsoft and Google will have infrastructure, devices and services.
Loon relies on some beautiful reasoning “Winds in the stratosphere are generally steady and slow-moving at between 5 and 20 mph, and each layer of wind varies in direction and magnitude (see above). Project Loon uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go, then moves each one into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communications network.”
So they might, and if they do then Google will have found a way to join the emerging global infrastructure club. It won’t be enough – by the time it rolls out, if it works, the world will have moved beyond 3G, the capacity Google expects from its balloons. Most interesting of all though we can now see the competitive, innovation landscape evolving alongside a new business strategy. Device, software, cloud, services, infrastructure. That makes Loon Google’s second most important project, behind one that gets very little press – White Spaces for rural developing areas. All prosaic in comparison with Glass and driverless cars. But this is business.
Google is releasing 30 hi-tech balloons in a trial of technology designed to bring the internet to places where people are not yet connected. The balloons are being launched from New Zealand’s South Island this month in the first trial of the pioneering plan dubbed Project Loon
Connie Zhou/Google, via Associated PressBackup tapes at one of Google’s data centers, in Berkeley County, S.C.
Even as tech companies were given permission to publish some data on national security requests for users’ data, Google said the authorization did not go far enough.
Facebook and Microsoft on Friday night published data that for the first time included national security requests authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which are broad surveillance orders that prohibit recipients from acknowledging their existence. The companies, led by Google, had publicly pressed the government to let them publish the data since Tuesday, in an attempt to quell anxiety among consumers after revelations of the government’s secret Internet surveillance program.
The government gave the companies permission to publish the numbers only if they were grouped with all other government requests, including those from state and local governments and for criminal cases, making it difficult to glean any information about the national security requests.
Google already publishes a report that separates requests by country and type, including search warrants, subpoenas and national security letters. The report does not include FISA requests.
On Friday, the company issued a statement saying that publishing data that combines criminal and national security requests would be even less transparent than the data it currently publishes, and that it would continue to push the government for permission to publish the number and scope of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requests that it receives.
“Lumping the two categories together would be a step back for users,” the statement said. “Our request to the government is clear: to be able to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately.”
Google and other tech companies have said they want to disclose the information in part to correct impressions about their participation in government surveillance. While some have pushed back on the requests, they are forced to comply with lawful orders yet are unable to talk about them.
Twitter, which also publishes a transparency report but does not include national security requests because of government orders, issued a statement in support of Google.
“We agree with @Google: It’s important to be able to publish numbers of national security requests — including FISA disclosures — separately,” Benjamin Lee, Twitter’s legal director, wrote on Twitter.
Facebook had never published data on government requests for users’ data until Friday because it had said the information was meaningless if it did not include national security requests. On Friday, Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s general counsel, said in a statement that the company was still trying to get permission from the government to publish more details.
John Frank, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, wrote in a blog post, “We continue to believe that what we are permitted to publish continues to fall short of what is needed to help the community understand and debate these issues.”