Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

Google Now adds data from Lyft, Airbnb and other apps

The content could give a lift to Google in mobile search

Google Now just got a lot smarter, adding data from dozens of outside apps to help people get more things done as they go about their day.

Google Now is a search tool and digital assistant built into Android devices and the Chrome browser, and included as part of the Google search app for iOS. Until now it’s served up information about the weather, restaurant reservations, shipping notifications and nearby events based on people’s past Google searches and reading their Gmail messages. The content is presented as “cards” that users can swipe through and dismiss as they please. The idea is to present helpful information, sometimes before people know they need it.

Now, a much wider variety of cards will be incorporated into the Android version of the app, including for the first time information from third-party apps like Pandora, Airbnb, Lyft, and real estate database Zillow — provided a user has those apps installed. Adding more of those cards will make it faster to get information from the other apps, and perhaps make them more useful.

Take this example for Airbnb: A person uses Google search to plan a trip but can’t decide right away where to book. Later, after opening the Google Now app, a card from Airbnb appears for the location and dates researched, helping the person choose a place to stay. Or if a person who uses Lyft lands at an airport, Google Now can offer to order them a ride.

The integrations could lead to more use of Google Now, provided the suggestions are useful and not annoying. And they could address a mounting challenge for Google — that people are getting more and more information from apps rather than searching the web.

Google’s share of U.S. mobile search ad spending could fall to 64 percent this year, research company eMarketer said in a report last June, down from 83 percent in 2012, while Yelp’s share was expected to grow.

The more than two dozen new cards will roll out over the next few weeks, Google said, with more on the way. Plans for bringing the new cards to iOS were not announced.


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10 signs Google Glass is disrupting the enterprise

Google Glass, the tech giant’s connected eye-worn computing device, has generated plenty of buzz and controversy in consumer markets, where people seem just as excited about its apps as they are concerned about its potential threat to privacy. Although many questions remain to be answered for consumer wearable technology in general, Google Glass is already making inroads to several enterprise markets, while inviting competitors looking to capitalize on the businesses that could put it to use. Here are 10 signs that Google Glass is already making an impact on the enterprise.

It’s already being used in healthcare
Hands-free access to information while multi-tasking makes Glass a perfect fit for healthcare, where the risk of contamination or clerical errors could spell disaster. That’s why the healthcare industry has already started to integrate Glass into its operations. Physicians in one Boston hospital are using the devices during routine checkups and examinations, while surgeons have put them to use for operations. Medical students at Stanford are using Glass to connect with instructors for feedback during operations, and a surgeon at Duke Medical Center in North Carolina is using it to record and archive his operations.

First venture financing went to medical Glass developer
In March, a startup called Augmedix that develops Glass applications targeted for use in hospitals and doctors’ offices received $3.2 million in venture funding. The Dow Jones called it “the first publicly announced round of venture financing for a developer working exclusively on Google Glass,” highlighting the potential for Glass in the healthcare field.

Manufacturing apps are in the works
Another market that places a premium on easy access to information for workers is manufacturing, and many developers have begun to accommodate Glass for them. Last July, Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies released a free Glass app called MTConnect, which Automation World called “a manufacturing industry standard for the organized retrieval of process informaiton from numerically controlled machine tools.” Even GE is working with Glass apps for manufacturing. In December, Barry Lynch, GE Intelligent Platform’s global marketing director for automation hardware, published a company blog post predicting that Glass “will become a common sight on the manufacturing shop floor of tomorrow.”

Glass is being adapted for the oil and gas industry
In May, Automation World reported on a Google Glass project at Wearadyne, a company working on wearable technology specified for use in the oil and gas industry. David Vaucher, a company co-founder and a petroleum engineer himself, told Automation World that the company envisions Glass applications that allow engineers to access templates and other information hands-free while in the field, then ultimately send the data back to the network.

Competitors are targeting enterprise markets
One company with a serious Glass competitor for the enterprise is Vuzix, whose connected eyewear system looks strikingly similar to Glass and actually runs an Android-based operating system. The Vuzix system has its own SDK for developing custom apps, and offers separate models for about $1,000, undercutting Glass’s price point by $500. Whether intentional or not, the approach to the market – capitalizing on Google Glass buzz with its own product – is already paying off. In the first quarter of this year, Vuzix reported an 8% year-over-year increase in gross sales, more than half of which stemmed from sales of its new eyewear.

Some see enterprise as a gateway to consumer market
Atheer Labs, a successfully crowdfunded Glass competitor that initially billed itself as a consumer device, has since taken aim on the enterprise as its gateway to consumers. In an interview with Business Insider, company co-founder and chief scientist Soulaiman Itani pointed to the enterprise-first route the PC and smartphone took before gradually moving into consumer markets. Itani told Business Insider that the company would rather design a product for specific use cases, be it for healthcare or factory workers, before trying to guess which features consumers will use.

Others are trying to usher Glass into the workplace
APX Labs, a company with experience developing smart glasses for the military, is crafting its Skylight software to make it easier for developers to create enterprise-focused apps for both Glass and Epson’s smart glasses. In July, the company announced that it had hired Eric Johnsen, a member of the Google X team, to serve as its vice president of development. At the time, Johnsen told Forbes that the active interest in smart glasses in the enterprise is what drew him to the company. Similarly to Atheer Labs, the company said Google’s efforts to make Glass a consumer device created new opportunities in the enterprise.

Citrix is developing enterprise Glass apps
In May, Citrix vice president of mobility Chris Fleck told PC Pro that the company has been working with Google on enterprise apps for the workplace. He clarified that the work is still in the prototype stage, but detailed the company’s interest in integrating its ShareFile and GoToAssist software products into Glass.

Business is an easier sell for smartglasses
In November, Gartner predicted that smartglasses could save the field service industry as much as $1 billion annually by 2017, even though Gartner only expects 10% of U.S. companies will adopt them in the next five years. It will likely be easier to convince a business to buy smartglasses by showing them real cost savings and better efficiency than it will be to convince consumers to buy a $1,500 Glass unit, especially while consumers wearing Glass are being kicked out of restaurants and attacked on the streets.

Google has launched a Glass at Work campaign
Earlier this year, Google teamed with several companies (some of which were mentioned in this list) for the Glass at Work initiative to help foster a large community of enterprise-focused developers for Glass. The program didn’t receive as much attention as much of the more controversial Glass news, but it’s an open invitation from Google to help adapt Glass for the enterprise.

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Google Android roundup: Why did JBQ leave AOSP?

Android news/rumors: The end of an era, plus giant robots annoyed as LG removes “optimus” title from latest release, Android’s continued domination and why people think it’s doomed, and a Moto X engineer hates back on critics

The Android realm is not a physical place, else we would have seen flags flying at half-mast and heard announcements made over school loudspeakers – Jean-Baptiste Quéru, godfather of the Android Open Source Project and one of the most influential figures in the ongoing development of the platform, abruptly stepped down from his position as AOSP maintainer this week.

Though JBQ, as he’s generally known, didn’t give explicit reasons for the move, the clever people over at Android Police quickly connected the dots from some of his recent Twitter activity, which bemoaned legal interference in the AOSP release process. Specifically, Quéru’s frustrations about being barred from releasing critical binaries for the new-model Nexus 7 tablet appear to have boiled over.

What’s strongly implied by the Android Police analysis is that Qualcomm, which makes the chipset for the new Nexus 7, has been making it impossible to get fully open-source versions of the software to work properly, withholding code essential for hardware support.

In a subsequent Google+ post, Quéru more or less confirmed this.

“Well, I see that people have figured out why I’m quitting AOSP,” he wrote. “There’s no point being the maintainer of an Operating System that can’t boot to the home screen on its flagship device for lack of GPU support, especially when I’m getting the blame for something that I don’t have authority to fix myself and that I had anticipated and escalated more than 6 months ahead.”

The reaction from the community has been generalized dismay, with sorrowful posts highlighting JBQ’s importance to AOSP and Android in general, as well as widespread rancor directed at Qualcomm.

AOSP’s curiously bifurcated nature – the underlying OS is open-source, but Google can’t distribute the fully open version for a given device unless the OEM gives permission to distribute its proprietary binaries – always makes this sort of issue a bit hazy and complex, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Quéru had every right to be upset. Given that anyone can simply grab the closed-source binaries from the device itself, refusing to give AOSP permission to distribute is puzzling, to say the least.

While the usual caveats about unconfirmed information apply – Quéru himself seems to have some legal obligations that prevent him from speaking explicitly on the subject – it certainly seems as though JBQ’s exit should have been avoidable, and it’s a shame that it wasn’t. Android Authority says it’s “unlikely” that he’ll actually leave Google, but AOSP has nonetheless lost a father figure.

* Speaking of Qualcomm, their latest Snapdragon 800 is powering the just-announced LG G2, according to the many tech blogs that got an early hands-on with the device. In contrast to the recently released Moto X, the G2 is a much more traditional Android flagship – an outsized, feature-packed whopper of a phone, with as many megapixels, GB and GHz as can possibly be crammed into its considerable frame.

From a design perspective, the G2’s big innovations are having lost LG’s well-worn “Optimus” moniker and putting some of the controls – including the power and volume keys – on the back of the phone instead of somewhere on the side. I have no idea if this is a silly gimmick or a revolutionary answer to the problem of oversized smartphones – and I won’t until I actually get my hands on one – but it’s at least a creative attempt.

* The latest smartphone market share report from IDC says that Android’s global smartphone market share has risen to nearly 80% – up from just below 70% a year before. Sound like great news for Android, right?

Not so fast, says comScore. In the U.S., at least, Android subscriber numbers were flat during 2013’s second quarter, while Apple’s rose slightly. The Guardian also cites a Yankee Group study as saying that Android’s market dynamics indicate that Apple will retake the lead next year.

While they’ve obviously done their homework more assiduously than I have – which is to say, they’ve done some homework – I still have a hard time seeing Android losing too much ground back to That Other Smartphone absent a massively successful launch of the next-gen iPhone. Given that the last couple of iterations haven’t quite matched the stratospheric heights reached by their predecessors, that’s far from a guarantee.

Still, the U.S. market is more heavily Apple-centric than that of the world in general – more like 52% to 40%, according to the aforementioned numbers from comScore, so Apple’s still within striking distance.

* After the Moto X took some lumps on Twitter about its slightly-less-than-cutting-edge specs, Motorola designer Iqbal Arshad slammed critics in an interview with ZDNet.

He said that comparing raw specs misses the point, asserting that the Moto X is architected so differently that such measurements are meaningless.

“So it’s hard to understand because you’re comparing architectures that are fundamentally different. It’s kind of like people who are looking at a Tesla electric car and expecting it to have a V-8 engine. When you talk about an electric motor, it’s hard for people who are used to comparing specs on traditional cars to understand how it truly compares, because it’s completely different,” he said.

He would say that, of course, given that his company is the one charging the same price for less powerful hardware, but he has a point – the Moto X’s voice command and power-saving technologies are a bit more compelling than the avalanche of goofy camera modes. Still, if you’re just in it for pure performance, the ability to say “OK Google, advise me on purchasing decisions” or whatever probable doesn’t cut it for you.

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Google unveils second-generation Nexus 7 tablet running Android 4.3

The device will be available starting next week via Google’s Play Store

Google is rolling out a second-generation Nexus 7 tablet designed for improved performance and portability, featuring the company’s just-announced mobile operating system, Android Jelly Bean 4.3.

The device offers numerous enhancements over the original Nexus 7 tablet that Google released last year. It is also the first device to ship with Android Jelly Bean 4.3, the latest version of Google’s mobile OS, the company announced Wednesday.

The product was introduced by several Google executives during a meeting hosted by Sundar Pichai, head of Android, Chrome and apps at Google.

Improved portability, speed and graphics comprise the major enhancements to the Nexus 7 tablet. The device will be available in three models: a 16GB Wi-Fi version for US$229, a 32GB Wi-Fi model for $269, and a 32GB 4G LTE version for $349. The Wi-Fi models will be available starting Tuesday at the Google Play store, while the 4G model will be available in the coming weeks through T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, the company said.

Besides the U.S., the new Nexus 7 will be available in Canada, the U.K., Spain, Korea and Australia, with more countries to follow very soon, Google said.

In terms of portability, the new Nexus 7 is almost 2 millimeters thinner than the original and about 50 grams lighter. The device features a 7-inch display, the same size as its predecessor, but packs in more pixels, Google said, going from 1280 x 800 to true 1080 HD at 1920 x 1200 pixels in the new model. It also can show a 30 percent wider range of colors and has dual stereo speakers for virtual surround sound.

The first partner to take advantage of the new 1080 HD video feature is Netflix, which supports video streaming in the high-quality format.

The tablet also sports dual cameras, with a 1.2-megapixel camera in the front and a 5-megapixel lens in the rear.

Internally, the Nexus 7 features a 1.5Ghz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, giving it a four-times-more-powerful graphics processing unit than the original Nexus 7, Google said. The CPU is also 1.8 times faster, Google said, and the system memory has been doubled to support 2GB of RAM.

Specs also include dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 for powering peripheral low-energy devices.

The Android 4.3 software on the Nexus 7 also includes a new restricted profiles feature to give users more controls over who else can access certain content and apps on the device.

Since its launch last year, Google’s Nexus 7 has accounted for more than 10 percent of all Android-based tablets sold, Google’s Pichai said.

“Nexus 7 has been a big hit, and we’re going to try to follow up with another one,” said Hugo Barra, product manager at Google.

In recent years Google’s product portfolio has expanded significantly beyond its bread-and-butter search technology. In recent months there has even been talk of Google opening brick-and-mortar retail stores to boost its efforts in selling hardware like tablets and also laptop computers with its Chromebooks.



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Google’s latest Penguin update lets you squeal on spammy websites — as well as anyone else

Penguin 2.0 makes large-scale algorithm changes, affecting 2.3% of U.S.-English results

The latest version of Google’s sophisticated anti-spam algorithm, dubbed Penguin 2.0, was announced yesterday in an official blog post from the company’s well-known webspam czar, Mike Cutts.

The 2.0 label was applied, according to Cutts, because the update is a major one — it includes changes to the underlying algorithms used to evaluate whether a website is spammy or not, not just the dataset Google uses. About 2.3% of queries in U.S. English will be visibly affected by the changes.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Felipe Micaroni Lalli

Cutts also posted a link to a webspam report page, where anyone can flag sites they consider spam for the attentions of Google’s engineers. The form doesn’t ask for any identification by the reporting party, requiring only a copy/pasted URL.

While this appears to present a golden opportunity for abuse — as several Twitter responses to the announcement noted — Cutts noted on Twitter that Google has always had an extensive array of options in place to report spammy sites, and that “we’ll listen to feedback and look for ways to improve results.”

Search Engine Land Editor Barry Schwartz wrote that this is actually the fourth major generation of Google’s current anti-spam algorithm. However, its effects have been wider-ranging than all but the initial release of Penguin, which reached 3.1% of queries.

Cutts didn’t discuss the algorithm changes in detail, so as not to provide too much information to black hat search engine optimization practitioners, but laid out some broad goals that Google is working toward in a video released earlier this month.

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Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are secret backers behind European Privacy Association

The privacy organization has hidden its ties to corporate backers

After being accused of a lack of transparency by an independent watchdog, the European Privacy Association (EPA) has confirmed that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are backers.

The Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), which works to expose privileged access in E.U. policy making, said in a complaint Thursday that the European Privacy Association is working to represent industry interests in the debate on data protection in Europe, even though it has not listed any corporate backers on the E.U.’s “Transparency Register.”

The register, which is operated by the European Parliament and European Commission, requires all signatories to disclose their interests, objectives or aims and, where applicable, the clients they represent.

The EPA is listed in the category of think tanks, research and academic institutions and claims to have only 10 private (non-corporate) members. However, EPA managing director Pietro Paganini confirmed to the IDG News Service that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are members.

CEO campaign coordinator Olivier Hoedeman was not surprised. “A look at EPA’s activities with regard to the ongoing debate on the overhaul of the European Data Protection rules shows that it favors a lighter regulatory touch and until recently the EPA advertised business membership at a cost of a!10,000 per year on its website,” Hoedeman said.

He said that the name of the organization, with its pro-privacy connotations, conflicted with its very pro-industry stance, creating “a confusing, a mismatch.” CEO has described the EPA as an “astroturf organization,” or front group, defending the interests of large IT corporations.

Paganini refuted these allegations, saying that although the EPA listens to its members ideas and concerns, the reports it produces are independent. He claimed the failure to list the companies on the Transparency Register was an oversight.

Joe McNamee of EDRi (the European digital rights organization) said he had brought the issue to EPA’s attention four months ago in January of this year but that nothing had been done. Paganini said that EPA did not know it was supposed to list any corporate members on the transparency register. was unfamiliar with the procedure in Brussels. However, EPA chairwoman Karin Riis Jorgensen is a former elected member of the European Parliament.

CEO says there is also evidence that the EPA has close relationships with two lobbyist consultancy firms, Competere Geopolitical Management and DCI Group, and is working to promote industry-friendly legislation in the new Data Protection Regulation that digital rights organizations say will undermine fundamental civil liberties online.

The CEO has laid out its allegations in a complaint to the secretariat overseeing the transparency register. The secretariat says it will examine the evidence put forward by CEO and by June 7 will announce a decision whether to impose sanctions or require the company to update its entry.

Google had no comment on the issue. Microsoft did not have an immediate comment and Yahoo officials were not available for comment.


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Internet Explorer only? IE doubt it

Fewer businesses standardizing browser use on Internet Explorer, but the practice isn’t gone yet.

Just as Internet users in general have defected in huge numbers from Microsoft Internet Explorer over the past several years, the business world, as well, is becoming less dependent on the venerable browser.

Companies that used to mandate the use of IE for access to web resources are beginning to embrace a far more heterodox attitude toward web browsers. While it hasn’t gone away, the experience of having to use IE 6 to access some legacy in-house web app is becoming less common.

“Things have changed a lot in the last three years, and I think a lot of it has to do with the emergence of the modern web and the popularity of mobile. They have made it very different for companies to truly standardize on a browser,” says Gartner Research analyst David Mitchell Smith.

One example of the changing face of business browser use is SquareTwo Financial, a Denver-based financial services company that works primarily in distressed asset management. The firm’s 280 employees handle both consumer and commercial business, buying and selling debt, and a franchise program means that there are upwards of 1,500 more people working at SquareTwo affiliates. According to CTO Chris Reigrut, the company takes in roughly $280 million in annual revenue.

“In addition to buying and selling debt, we also provide a software-as-a-service platform that our franchises (and we) use to actually negotiate and litigate the debt,” he tells Network World.

Square Two hasn’t needed to standardize, he says, because keeping their offerings diverse is part of the idea – the company’s various online resources all have differing requirements.

“We do distribute Firefox on Windows systems – however, Safari and IE are both frequently used. Our internal wiki is only officially supported on Firefox and Safari. Our SaaS ‘client’ is a pre-packaged Firefox install so that it looks more like a traditional thick-client application. Most of our employees use their browser for a couple of internal systems, as well as several external services (i.e. HR, training, etc),” says Reigrut (who, like the other IT pros quoted in this story is a member of the CIO Executive Council Pathways program for leadership development).

The Microsoft faithful, however, are still out there. Many businesses have chosen to remain standardized on IE, for several reasons. SickKids, a children’s research hospital in Toronto, sticks with Microsoft’s browser mostly for the ease of applying updates.

“We have more than 7,000 end-point devices. Most of those devices are Windows workstations and Internet Explorer is included as part of the Microsoft Windows operating system. As such, this makes it easier and integrates well with our solution to manage and deploy upgrades, patches and hotfixes to the OS including IE,” says implementations director Peter Parsan.

“Internet Explorer is more than a browser, it is the foundation for Internet functionality in Windows,” he adds.

The complexity of managing an ecosystem with more than 100 types of software – running the gamut from productivity applications to clinical programs – requires a heavily controlled approach, according to Parsan.

Smith agrees that IE still has its advantages for business users that want just such a strictly regimented technology infrastructure.

“If you want a managed, traditional IT environment … really, your only option is Internet Explorer,” he says, adding that both Firefox and Chrome lag behind IE in terms of effective centralized management tools.

Some companies, however, have gone a different way – standardizing not on IE, but on a competing browser.

Elliot Tally, senior director of enterprise apps for electronics manufacturer Sanmina, says his company’s employees are highly dependent on browsers for business-critical activities. Everything from ERP to document control (which he notes is “big for a manufacturing company”) to the supply chain is run from a web app.

Tally says Sanmina made the move to standardize on Chrome in 2009, in part because of a simultaneous switch to Gmail and Google Apps from IE and Microsoft products.

“It made sense to go with the browser created and supported by the company that created the apps we rely on. Also, Chrome installs in user space so it doesn’t require admin privileges to auto-update,” he says. “It also silently auto-updates, as opposed to Firefox, which requires a fresh install to update versions, or IE, which is similar. Chrome, over the last year or so, has supported web standards better than any other browser, and (until recently) has offered significantly better performance.”

Plainly, broad diversity exists both in the actual browsers used by workers and the approaches businesses have taken in managing their use.

That diversity, says Smith, is the reason Gartner has been advising clients against standardization from the outset.

“Standardize on standards, not browsers,” he urges. “That was a controversial position for 10 years. People really didn’t agree with it, they didn’t listen to it, and they paid the price.”

Microsoft, as well, has had to pay a price.

“[Standardization] hurts Microsoft’s reputation as an innovator; as a forward-thinker,” he says. “When people’s impression of using Microsoft technology – whether it’s a browser, whether it’s an operating system – is something that is two or three versions old, because they’re dealing with it through what enterprises want.”

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Top 5 cities for big data jobs

San Francisco tops Modis list, followed by McLean, Va., Boston, St. Louis and Toronto

Corporate data stores are growing exponentially, nearly every tech vendor is positioning their products to help handle the influx of data, and IT departments are scrambling to find the right people to collect, analyze and interpret data in a way that’s meaningful to the business. On the employment front, the big data deluge is creating a hiring boom across North America. Modis, an IT staffing firm, identified five cities in particular where big data is driving job growth.

San Francisco tops the Modis list, followed by McLean, Va., Boston, St. Louis and Toronto. The roles that companies in these cities are fighting to fill include data scientist, data analyst, business intelligence professional and data modeling/data modeler.

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Business intelligence and data analysis have been core enterprise disciplines for a long time, but they’re becoming more important to businesses as data volumes rise, says Laura Kelley, a Modis vice president in Houston. “We’re in a new era in terms of how large the databases are, the amount of data we’re collecting, and how we’re using it. It’s much more strategic than it’s ever been.”

Big data professionals can be particularly difficult to find since many roles require a complicated blend of business, analytic, statistical and computer skills — which is not something a candidate acquires overnight. In addition, “clients are looking for people with a certain level of experience, who have worked in a big data environment. There aren’t a lot of them in the market,” Kelley says.


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Looking at recruiting trends across its offices, Modis finds there’s not one industry that’s doing the most big-data hiring. Rather, the cities have in common a concentration of large enterprises across myriad industries.

San Francisco, for instance, is home to large companies in the retail, insurance, healthcare, and e-commerce sectors.

McLean, Va., has both a strong commercial sector and government presence. “There are many data center operations in this area, both commercial and government related, that require talent to support the high volume of that data,” Modis explains in its report. “In addition, there is no larger consumer of IT products and services in the world than the US federal government.”

Banking and bio/pharmaceutical industries helped put Boston on the big data hiring map. “Both industries deal with large amounts of data that are detailed and complex in nature. That data then needs to be analyzed and placed in reports, dashboards and spreadsheets by data scientist and analysts,” Modis writes.

In St. Louis, universities and healthcare companies lead the big data hiring boom, followed by pharmaceutical and bioresearch firms that need to fill data analyst and scientist roles.

Lastly, in Toronto, financial institutions are fueling a need for business intelligence pros who can help organizations get a more precise and complete picture of the business and customers, Modis finds.

In the big picture, companies often have to compromise and prioritize their wish list — technical expertise, industry experience or quantitative statistical analysis skills, for experience — to find available big-data candidates.

“What is this person going to be doing? Do you need the technical skills? Or is the quantitative/statistical expertise more important? Is this person going to be doing data modeling or making business decisions?” Kelley says. “In an ideal world, companies want all of it. But it’s not an ideal world.”

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Google boosts Web bug bounties to $20,000

Increases payments for bugs in core sites, services and Web apps

Computerworld – Google today dramatically raised the bounties it pays independent researchers for reporting bugs in its core websites, services and online applications.

The search giant boosted the maximum reward from $3,133 to $20,000, and added a $10,000 payment to the program.

The Vulnerability Reward Program (VRP) will now pay $20,000 for vulnerabilities that allow remote code execution against, and other core domains, as well as what the company called “highly sensitive services” such as its search site, Google Wallet, Gmail and Google Play.

Remote code flaws found in Google’s Web apps will also be rewarded $20,000.

The term “remote code execution” refers to the most serious category of vulnerabilities, those which when exploited allow an attacker to hijack a system and/or plant malware on a machine.
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A $10,000 bounty will be paid for SQL injection bugs or “significant” authentication bypass or data leak vulnerabilities, Google said in the revised rules for the program.

Other bugs, including cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (XSRF) flaws, will be compensated with payments between $100 and $3,133, with the amount dependent on the severity of the bug and where the vulnerability resides.

Google explained the higher bounties as ways “to celebrate the success of this [program] and to underscore our commitment to security.”

The website and web app reward program debuted in November 2010, and followed Google’s January 2010 launch of a bug bounty program for its Chrome browser. Google paid out about $180,000 in Chrome bounties last year.

The maximum award for reported Chrome vulnerabilities remains at $3,133, Google confirmed today.

Since VRP’s introduction, Google today said it has received more than 780 eligible bug reports, and in just over a year, paid out around $460,000 to approximately 200 researchers.

“We’re confident beyond any doubt the program has made Google users safer,” said Adam Mein, a Google security program manager, and Michal Zalewski, a engineer on the Google security team, in a Monday post to a company blog.

Google has shown that upping bounty payments will shake loose vulnerabilities it wasn’t aware existed.

Last month, the company wrote $60,000 checks to two researchers at Pwnium, the Chrome hacking contest it ran at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Both researchers revealed bugs and associated attack code that demonstrated how hackers could escape the browser’s isolating, anti-exploit “sandbox, to hijack the browser and plant malware on a machine.

Why Google should be allowed to ‘harvest’ your Wi-Fi data

The hysteria around the Google ‘WiSpy’ case is based on an irrational double standard

Computerworld – The Federal Communications Commission cleared Google of wrongdoing in the so-called “WiSpy” case. It was the right decision.

Why? Because Google didn’t do anything wrong.

Two years ago, Google said its Street View cars had been “harvesting” information from Wi-Fi networks, including personal home networks, as a matter of course.

In some cases, data gathered included passwords, e-mail messages and browser information.

The data gathering was accidental. Google as an organization didn’t mean to collect this information. But even if it had meant to, there would be nothing wrong with doing so. I’ll tell you why later.
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The FCC did charge Google a pathetic $25,000 fine for taking too long to respond to requests for information during the investigation. But it didn’t levy any fine for the actual data harvesting. Inconvenient truth: In a country ruled by law, you can’t legally punish people or companies when they haven’t in fact broken an actual law.

Still, critics are coming out of the woodwork to denounce both Google and the FCC.

“FCC’s Ruling that Google’s Wi-Fi Snooping is Legal Sets Horrible Precedent,” said PC World’s John P. Mello Jr. “Google Breaches Highlight Need for Regulation,” said Jason Magder of the Montreal Gazette.

And as they tend to do in such cases, the pandering politicians are trying to get in front of the parade.

For example, U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) this week issued a statement that says “The circumstances surrounding Google’s surreptitious siphoning of personal information leave many unanswered questions. I believe Congress should immediately hold a hearing to get to the bottom of this serious situation.”

Other countries, including Germany, France and Australia, concluded (unlike the FCC) that Google was guilty of wrongdoing.

Australian Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy called the it the “largest privacy breach in the history across western democracies.” The Australian government forced Google to publicly apologize.

France made Google pay a $142,000 fine.

The global consensus is that Google’s so-called “snooping” was an invasion of privacy, accidental or otherwise.

Unfortunately, this consensus is based on emotion and knee-jerk populism, rather than facts and reason.

Let’s try something different. Let’s analyze what actually happened.
Wi-Fi is radio broadcast over the public airwaves

The hyperbolic accusations against Google imply that the company electronically reached into people’s homes, breached their Wi-Fi systems, took data and stored it in a database.

That’s not what happened.

Google did not harvest data from inside people’s homes. Google plucked data from the public airwaves — data that was voluntarily broadcast into those airwaves by the owners of that data.

In the U.S., the airwaves belong to the public.

Wi-Fi devices that people use for home networking have radios built in. And it’s via radio waves that the miracle of wireless networking takes place.

A home Wi-Fi device generates radio waves that are sent out in 360 degrees, like the ripples that radiate across the surface of a pond when you throw a rock into it. These radio waves go right through the walls of the house, and out into the world at high speed.

At some point in their journey, Wi-Fi radio waves breach the private-public barrier. They wash over your privately owned lawn before continuing on over the publicly owned sidewalk and street.

A person walking or driving by is physically penetrated by these waves. (Some studies have suggested that the waves may increase the risk of cancer; they probably don’t.) The radio waves enter people’s bodies, are conveyed through their bodies, and then continue on their journey on the other side.

Wi-Fi radio waves also trespass onto other peoples’ private property. If your laptop can see the name of your neighbor’s Wi-Fi, that means he is broadcasting radio waves over your property line, through the walls of your house and into your home.

What’s interesting about this broadcasting of electromagnetic radiation is that it’s nothing new. People do it all the time with other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Shining light on Wi-Fi ‘snooping’

Let’s say you took your big-screen TV and put it in your home’s front window facing out so that people could see the screen from the sidewalk or the street.

Then let’s say you connected your laptop to it, then made a PowerPoint slide so that in large letters, the TV displayed the following phrase: “My password is bond007.”

If anyone, whether Google or your neighbor, stood on the sidewalk and took a picture of your house, they would be recording your password. And this would be, and should be, perfectly legal.

There are two reasons why this is legal. First, the recording happened from a public space. And second, the recording was made with a device in general public use — a camera.

Any outrage expressed by the person broadcasting his password via electromagnetic radiation (light) into the public space would be ludicrous.

In fact, there are many ways to use electromagnetic radiation to broadcast personal data into the public airwaves.

One could say “My password is bond007″ into a walkie-talkie, a ham radio or a CB radio.

It’s perfectly legal for a passerby or anyone else to listen to and record that audio signal, as long as he’s in a public space or in his own home.

Even if the broadcaster is ignorant of the fact that speaking into a radio conveys his voice into the public space, it’s still not illegal for someone else to listen to it or record it.

In each of these cases — the TV in the window, the walkie-talkie, the ham radio or the CB radio — the data is being broadcast via electromagnetic radiation out into the public airwaves and therefore it is not a violation of privacy for someone else to receive and record the data.

A Wi-Fi signal is exactly the same thing. It uses electromagnetic radiation to broadcast data into the public airwaves.

As in my thought-experiment, it’s up to the owner of the equipment to determine whether and what data is broadcast publicly.

When someone sets up a Wi-Fi network and a Google Street View car drives by and captures the data, it’s not that Google is invading the home. The Wi-Fi signal is invading the Street View car on a public road.

I believe the burden is on anyone who says Google’s data harvesting is illegal to explain why recording data voluntarily broadcast into publicly owned airwaves over one part of the electromagnetic spectrum is legal, but doing so over another part of the spectrum is illegal.
What’s the difference?

It’s not as if the equipment that’s needed to view and record such data is hard to find. You can buy it at Wal-Mart, and nearly everyone owns such equipment.

Look, Wi-Fi is no longer some new, mysterious and rare phenomenon. It’s not witchcraft, or some unknown to be feared and confused about.

I think we can all agree that anyone who broadcasts unencrypted, un-password-protected data over public airwaves in a way that is readable by devices millions of people own has no reasonable expectation of privacy.

And anyone who views, records or “harvests” such publicly broadcast data has — and should have — every right to do so. The hysteria around the so-called Google “WiSpy” scandal represents an ignorant double standard about data voluntarily broadcast over public airspace.

Give it a rest. Google did nothing wrong.

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