Big deal: Google buys Motorola

Google, generally described in news articles as a search engine giant, will become a cell phone manufacturer following news that it will purchase cell phone makers Motorola for $12.5 billion.

From the San Jose Mercury News:

The deal, by far the largest in Google’s history, has  been approved by the boards of both companies. It  will give the Mountain View company its own  hardware products and allow it to compete more  closely with phone- and tablet-makers such as   Apple (AAPL), Research In Motion, Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and the new alliance between Microsoft and Nokia.

The acquisition also gives Google access to more  than 17,000 patents held by Motorola, which  pioneered the cellphone business. Analysts said  that could help Google stave off a barrage of patent  claims levied by Apple, Microsoft and other rivals  battling the company’s Android operating system.  The deal could also boost Google’s faltering efforts  to bring the Internet to living room television sets, by  allowing Google to leverage Motorola’s expertise in  set-top TV boxes.

Fundamentally, the decision to buy Motorola  underscores the growing importance of mobile  computing to Google, which draws most of its  revenue from selling advertising associated with  Internet searches, as consumers and workers  increasingly perform more computing tasks with  handheld devices. Google’s lead in mobile search is  thought to be even greater than its search  dominance on desktop computers.

“It’s no secret that Web usage is increasingly  shifting to mobile devices, a trend I expect to continue,” Google CEO Larry Page said in a conference call Monday morning.

First Impressions of Google+

If you have Internet access, you have probably heard of Google+, which is basically the search engine giant’s answer to Facebook.

If you don’t have Internet access, how are you reading this?

Like Facebook, Google + lets users and their friends share every detail about their personal life. The difference, and Mountain View-based Google’s selling point, is that you can put your friends, acquaintances and family members into different, customizable “circles,” so different information is shared with different users.

At first glance, it seems like a decent way to manage information feed and the dreaded “mom is on Facebook” dilemma. Also, users’ contacts won’t know which circle they are in, which would avoid the complications of having to publicly describe peers as “friends” or “acquaintances.”

If circle scheme works, users may indeed be able to acknowledge that they do indeed have a mother while still having the freedom to post pictures involving massive amounts of tequila and poor judgment.

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WSJ: Google’s Android phones track users, just like Apple products

Following news that Apple’s popular iPhone and iPad products keep files tracking users’ movements, the Wall Street Journal reports smartphones using Google’s Android operating system transmit users’ locations to Google.

Apple phones also transmit similar data, the Journal reports.

Google and Apple are gathering location information as part of their
race to build massive databases capable of pinpointing people’s
locations via their cellphones. These databases could help them tap the
$2.9 billion market for location-based services–expected to rise to $8.3
billion in 2014, according to research firm Gartner Inc.

In the case of Google, according to new
research by security analyst Samy Kamkar, an HTC Android phone collected
its location every few seconds and transmitted the data to Google at
least several times an hour. It also transmitted the name, location and
signal strength of any nearby Wi-Fi networks, as well as a unique phone

Cellphones have many reasons to collect location information, which
helps provide useful services like local-business lookups and
social-networking features. Some location data can also help cellphone
networks more efficiently route calls.

Google also has said it uses some of the data to build accurate
traffic maps. A cellphone’s location data can provide details about, for
instance, how fast traffic is moving along a stretch of highway.

The widespread collection of location information is the latest
frontier in the booming market for personal data. Until recently, most
data about people’s behavior has been collected from personal computers:
That data generally can be tied to a city or a zip code, but it is
tough to be more precise. The rise of Internet-enabled cellphones,
however, allows the collection of user data tied with much more
precision to specific locations.

The full story is worth reading.

Report: Google confesses to taking private data

The United Kingdom’s Daily Mail reports that Google has admitted its Street View cars collected private data – including passwords and emails – while roaming British streets.

Google was accused of spying on households yesterday after it
admitted secretly copying passwords and private emails from home

The internet search giant was forced to confess it
had downloaded personal data during its controversial Street View
project, when it photographed virtually every street in Britain.

an astonishing invasion of privacy, it admitted entire emails, web
pages and even passwords were ‘mistakenly collected’ by antennae on its
high-tech Street View cars.

Privacy campaigners accused the company of spying and branded its behaviour ‘absolutely scandalous’.

Information Commissioner’s Office said it would launch a new
investigation. Scotland Yard is already considering whether the company
has broken the law.

Google executive Alan Eustace issued a
grovelling apology and said the company was ‘mortified’, adding: ‘We’re
acutely aware that we failed badly.’

Many Tech-Out readers probably have their WLAN settings as secure as they can make them, but may want to take some time to double-check their settings.

Besides the question of whether Google broke any laws in the UK, this country or another others in its Street View activities, the greater question is how willing users should be when it comes to voluntarily giving Google and other companies access to personal information.

This writer uses Google and Facebook, even though it’s obvious those companies services are designed to attract customers to data mining operations. If the government admitted to warrantless spying on everyday Americans, the public (one assumes) would be outraged. Is it any better for a private company to do the same?