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Penguin 3.0 Born One Year After Its Predecessor

One year after the release of Penguin 2.1, Google released its latest update and the search marketing world is bracing for its impact.

View full post on Search Engine Watch – Latest

Whisper’s Users May Not Be So Anonymous After All

Anonymous messages posted on Whisper, the secret-sharing application, might not be so anonymous after all, according to a report from the Guardian published on Thursday. Whisper has strongly denied many of the Guardian’s claims.

Whisper lets users post anonymous messages, often secret or gossipy in nature, publicly to the application. Other people can view and comment on the posts, and sometimes whispers posted on the application are used by news organizations, including the Guardian, in articles. 

What The Guardian Found

According to the newspaper, Whisper monitors the location of some of its users, even those people who have decided to opt-out of the location sharing, and can track and pinpoint specific users with location turned on to within a 500-meter radius. The company is also reportedly sharing information posted from military bases with the U.S. Department of Defense, and monitoring “potentially newsworthy” users like military personnel and people who say they work at companies like Yahoo.

See also: I’ll Tell You A Secret: Anonymous Apps Matter

Additionally, the report claims Whisper is storing user information and post data indefinitely, even if someone believes they have been deleted, and that the company changed its privacy policy after learning about the Guardian’s exposé. The information was reportedly gathered while the Guardian was speaking with Whisper about a potential journalistic relationship.

For people who turn off geo-location information, Whisper can use the poster’s IP location to discern approximate location data like a particular city, state, or country. Whisper does not have any access to any personal information like name or address, rather a unique user identification code is assigned to each user the first time they download and sign up for the application.

From A Whisper To A Scream

Neetzan Zimmerman, editor-in-chief at Whisper, said the Guardian story was a “pack of vicious lies” and that the news organization “made a mistake posting that story and they will regret it.” Zimmerman also said that the data Whisper provided to the Department of Defense was only from users who had opted-in to share their location.

The company says there is nothing in the geolocation data that can put the anonymity of users in jeopardy, and that it does not follow or track users. The company published a complete response to the Guardian’s questions, along with links to other stories that describe some of the company’s policies.

In January, Forbes reported that Whisper does track users in order to ban harassers or bullies on the site, and that the app has enough information on users for law enforcement to be able to figure out who posts what on the app. Whisper CEO Michael Heyward is fine with that, Forbes notes.

The key thing here is it’s not so much about being anonymous to us. What users care about is they’re anonymous to the community.

Whisper CTO Chad DePue was also quick to discount the Guardian story. He wrote on Hacker News that the company doesn’t collect personal information on users, although it does monitor some location information:

We want to know where a user is in a general sense for things like tracking timezone so when we send pushes we know not to send pushes at 3 in the morning. you’d be surprised how often device timezone may not always match with physical location.

We use general location to determine things users may be interested in. folks who post in lower manhattan may see different results than people in College Station, TX, over time.

We have a lot of anti-spam technology, and what IP you posted from, and what country that IP is in, is important. I can’t elaborate on this but it’s incredibly logical why we would use that information for things like keeping the app from filling with spammy garbage.

We throw away the IP you used to create the whisper after a brief period of time.

His response was met with heavy criticism. Security researcher Moxie Marlinspike said that, based on DePue’s response, he would assume that the Guardian’s reporting was “entirely accurate” despite DePue’s claim to the contrary. 

A Third-Party Assessment 

Security researcher and iOS forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski conducted an independent investigation into the Guardian’s claims. He found that although people don’t provide their name or other personal information to Whisper, the unique identifier and the location data combined could potentially put someone’s identity at risk. 

The Whisper app does not appear to be a social networking application with analytics; it appears to be an analytics and user acquisition application that also happens to have a social networking component.

Zdziarski also found that while it would be simple for Whisper to “fuzz” or “salt” the precise location information before sending it to their server, the company does not. Instead, DePue told Zdziarski in a tweet, the company is filtering the location data on the server side. 

“It would make much more sense for privacy’s sake to simply fix this in future versions of the app,” Zdziarski wrote.

Just Don’t Trust Anonymous Apps

In the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations and other concerns about privacy and anonymity stemming from controversial polices from companies like Facebook, anonymous applications are on the rise.

See also: Facebook Is Reportedly Working On A Secret Clone

Whisper and other apps like Secret and YikYak, supposedly provide users with a safe and secure place to talk about feelings on the Internet. Even Facebook is reportedly building an app that encourages you to spill your guts anonymously. 

Users who just read and don’t contribute to these online spaces can enjoy a bit of Schadenfreude at others’ expense. But some users also post “secrets” on these anonymous networks that can do some serious damage

Anonymous apps are still a small and growing space. As the Guardian article—along with stories like this Wired piece exposing a hack that could identify Secret users—illustrate, it might not be smart to trust these mobile applications with our deepest darkest secrets.

Anonymous applications are an important part of the Web. But they still have a lot of growing up to do. Until applications let users stay anonymous and safe from both the community and the companies that build them, there will always be a risk in sharing your secrets. 

Of course, isn’t the whole point of secrets to keep them to yourself?

Lead image by Brian Smithson

View full post on ReadWrite

After More Than Two Years, Google Finally Releasing New “Pirate Update” To Fight Piracy

In August 2012, to stem accusations that it doesn’t do enough to fight piracy, Google released what’s known as the Pirate Update, a system that penalized sites deemed to be violating copyright laws. Next week, Google is finally going to refresh that system to catch new offenders and…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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5 Tips for Handling Digital Life After Death by @annebot

Earlier this year the unthinkable happened. My beloved father passed away suddenly. After getting through the initial shock, my family started to pick up the pieces. My father was both a diligent and thoughtful man, one who took care of everything, including every loose end. Being the ‘tech’ person in the family, it fell upon me to figure out how to handle my Dad’s social media accounts, do backups of his photos, recover his emails, etc. It would have been ideal if all the passwords were stored somewhere. Unfortunately, there was no way we could have anticipated what happened. Plus, there is no defined […]

The post 5 Tips for Handling Digital Life After Death by @annebot appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Twitpic Is Now Shutting Down After All

First Twitpic was shutting down. Then it wasn’t. And now it is again.

After getting people’s hopes up that the photo repository might stick around a bit longer, Twitpic announced that it will indeed shut down on October 25.

See also: Twitpic, Already Sidelined By Twitter, Shuts Down After Trademark Spat

Former users can export their pictures and data through their account settings before the October 25 deadline, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

We worked through a handful of potential acquirers and exhausted all potential options. We were almost certain we had found a new home for Twitpic (hence our previous tweet), but agreeable terms could not be met.

Twitpic mosaic by evan courtney

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Verizon Won’t Hobble Heavy 4G LTE Data Customers After All

Say goodbye to the prospect of data throttling, 4G Verizon subscribers.

October may be the month for goblins and ghouls, but there’s now one thing that will no longer haunt Verizon Wireless 4G LTE subscribers with unlimited plans: the prospect of data throttling. 

The wireless operator’s plan—which would have to tamped down 4G LTE speeds for the heaviest unlimited data users—was set to launch today. But the company decided to pull the plug on the policy in a late-breaking decision Wednesday afternoon (emphasis added): 

We’ve greatly valued the ongoing dialogue over the past several months concerning network optimization and we’ve decided not to move forward with the planned implementation of network optimization for 4G LTE customers on unlimited plans. Exceptional network service will always be our priority and we remain committed to working closely with industry stakeholders to manage broadband issues so that American consumers get the world-class mobile service they expect and value.

The “ongoing dialogue” referenced here goes back to letters between Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and Verizon. Wheeler questioned Verizon’s motivation, essentially casting the tactic as a money-grubbing way of milking more cash out of subscribers. (Utterly shocking, I know.) 

See also: How All The Major U.S. Carriers Throttle Your Mobile Data

Verizon’s defense: All the other major U.S. carriers are doing it too. In this implementation, the so-called “network optimization” would only be invoked when there’s network congestion—i.e., Verizon’s network is overly taxed with a lot of data traffic. However, the company claimed, this is not data throttling. There’s a difference, as its online FAQ pointedly emphasizes. 

Is this the same as throttling?

No, this is not throttling.

How is this different than throttling?

The difference between our Network Optimization practices and throttling is network intelligence. With throttling, your wireless data speed is reduced for your entire cycle, 100% of the time, no matter where you are. Network Optimization is based on the theory that all customers should have the best network possible, and if you’re not causing congestion for others, even if you are using a high amount of data, your connection speed should be as good as possible. So, if you’re in the top 5% of data users, your speed is reduced only when you are connected to a cell site experiencing high demand. Once you are no longer connected to a site experiencing high demand, your speed will return to normal. This could mean a matter of seconds or hours, depending on your location and time of day.

To be honest, that pretty much looks like data throttling to us. But whatever you call it, Verizon does have a point: It’s not the only carrier that has such a policy. And it’s nothing new. Verizon’s own 3G subscribers have long been subject to it, and that doesn’t appear to be changing now. 

See also: Thanks, Verizon! Now The FCC Is Asking All Carriers About Data Throttling

However, if you’re a Verizon Wireless account holder with a 4G LTE unlimited plan, at least now you can breathe a sigh of relief. Now we’ll see if Wheeler continues his crusade to preserve the meaning of “unlimited data” by taking aim at the other major wireless networks.

Verizon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Feature photo by Jim Accordino

View full post on ReadWrite

After 12 Years Together, eBay And PayPal Will Separate

On Tuesday, eBay Inc. announced it was splitting up into two companies—its eBay marketplaces unit and PayPal, its faster-growing payments unit.

The move, expected to be completed in 2015, essentially reverses eBay’s 2002 acquisition of PayPal.

Dan Schulman, formerly head of American Express’s online and mobile businesses, is taking a job as PayPal’s president and will become CEO of the company when it spins off from eBay Inc.

In 2002, PayPal was largely dependent on eBay for its business. Merchants on the auction site used PayPal instead of waiting for buyers to mail checks—and preferred PayPal despite eBay’s attempts to get them to use an internally developed payments service. 

See also: PayPal Slams Apple In Full-Page Newspaper Ads

Now, PayPal sees its business in mobile applications—and eBay is just one more reference customer. (It’s not even a particularly good or loyal one: The eBay Now same-day delivery service, for example, no longer accepts PayPal.)

Schulman’s first challenge will be making sure that Bill Ready, CEO of PayPal’s recently acquired Braintree subsidiary, stays put. After the abrupt departure of David Marcus as PayPal’s president, ReadWrite among others suggested Ready might become the payments unit’s next chief.

PayPal’s strategy now centers around two products: its consumer app, which lets people pay for products in stores and place orders with nearby businesses, and Braintree, whose software powers payments for mobile apps like Uber and HotelTonight. As an independent company, it will face a variety of payments competitors, like Square and Stripe. It will also have to figure out a way to work with Apple, which pointedly excluded it from the launch of Apple Pay.

eBay Inc. CEO John Donahoe, who’s been running PayPal on an interim basis, will join the new company’s board, but he won’t remain chief of eBay after the spinoff. Devin Wenig, an eBay executive, will run the independent marketplaces business.

View full post on ReadWrite

Four Reasons Google+ Might Still Be Alive After All

Recent acquisitions and product integrations, as well as the removal of certain restrictions, hint at a potentially bright future for the social network.

View full post on Search Engine Watch – Latest

SolarCity uses SEO to gain traffic after a site redesign –

SolarCity uses SEO to gain traffic after a site redesign
SolarCity could not be reached for comment. It was unclear exactly how much the company paid to make sure its SEO remained strong after the redesign. “Migrations are costly because they require a great deal of effort across marketing and web

View full post on SEO – Google News

Bing Image Widget Now Offline After Getty Images Lawsuit

The Bing Image Widget that launched on August 22nd is now temporarily offline after Getty Images sued Microsoft over the feature. If you try to access the tool, you will be presented with a notice that the “Image Widget” has been “temporarily removed the beta.” Here is a…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

View full post on Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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