Google is getting more social , and its web analytics tools are no exception; Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools have added new tools for tracking the impact of tweets, likes, +1s & more on your website’s traffic. Google Webmaster Tools now has a “+1 Metrics” section, which provides reports on the impact of the +1 Button on search. The new analytics show how +1s affect your website’s clickthrough rate (CTR).
Facebook has admitted it authorized an effort to raise privacy concerns about a Google product, but says it was not intended as a smear campaign. The social networking giant released a statement acknowledging that it hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to alert the media about the questionable use of Facebook user information in a little-known Google feature called Google Social Search . The feature pulls in publicly available data about users from social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and displays it in the search results of your social connections — often without their direct authorization. Unsavory emails sent to reporters have since surfaced, deeply embarrassing both Facebook and Burson-Marsteller. “Google, as you know, has a well-known history of infringing on the privacy rights of America’s Internet users,” a representative wrote in an email to one targeted blogger, Chris Soghoian. “[This] latest tool designed to scrape private data and build deeply personal dossiers on millions of users –- in a direct and flagrant violation of its agreement with the FTC.” Embarrassment escalated after USA Today and then The Daily Beast published stories about the agency’s antics. While Facebook refuses to say that it took part in a “smear campaign,” the company admits that it “wanted third parties to verify that people did not approve of the collection and use of information from their accounts on Facebook and other services for inclusion in Google Social Circles — just as Facebook did not approve of use or collection for this purpose,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Mashable . “We engaged Burson-Marsteller to focus attention on this issue, using publicly available information that could be independently verified by any media organization or analyst. The issues are serious and we should have presented them in a serious and transparent way.” Burson-Marsteller has been quick to do a little crisis management of its own, telling Cnet in an emailed statement that an anonymous smear campaign “was not at all standard operating procedure and is against our policies, and the assignment on those terms should have been declined… When talking to the media, we need to adhere to strict standards of transparency about clients, and this incident underscores the absolute importance of that principle.” Why Facebook’s Concerns Are Valid Although the PR campaign clearly backfired, Facebook does raise some valid concerns about Google’s social search product. Social search , which was launched in October 2009, provides search results with data aggregated from your social graph. Search for a particular restaurant, for instance, and social search might pull up a tweet from someone you follow noting that she ate there recently and didn’t enjoy the food. To display this information, Google requires an indexable understanding of your social graph, which Google calls “social connections.” The company builds social connections for users by gathering information about your Google contacts and chat buddies, from information and accounts connected to your Google Profile, and through secondary connections. Google Profiles generally provide most of this information, as many Google users have set up a Google Profile that links to their accounts on social services such as Flickr, Twitter, Blogger and Quora, just as they might also have done on a service like About.me. Although Google doesn’t allow users to connect their Facebook accounts to their Google Profiles, users can still enter a link to the URL of their public Facebook Pages or private profiles, which Google can scrape to display information such as status updates and photos that a user has authorized to display publicly. The problem that Facebook is pointing out is that even if a user doesn’t explicitly link their Facebook account on their Google Profile, Google can still display his or her public Facebook information
Starting at the end of 2011, the Great Schism of the Android mobile operating system — between Android version 2 for phones, and Android version 3 for tablets — will finally end. The rollout of Ice Cream Sandwich will signal the start of something new. At Google I/O this year, the company announced that Ice Cream Sandwich was coming and that it would end the 2.X/3.X split between tablets and phones. News about Google Music buried many of Google’s Android announcements. We’ve clarified a few points about Ice Cream Sandwich with a Google rep. Here’s exactly why this OS will be one of the most significant launches from Google this year. One OS for All Gadgets Honeycomb originally launched as Google’s operating system for tablets. Formally dubbed Android 3.0, it represented a break from the 2.X line of OSes (Donut, Eclair, Froyo and Gingerbread) that were built with mobile phones in mind. Even before Honeycomb made its debut, the myriad variations in the 2.X line had caused many complaints, and fragmentation had become a well-worn buzzword on the lips of Android critics. In July 2010, only 2% of Android users were running the most recent version of the OS, while almost 20% of devices were running the obsolete Android 1.5. And as of March 2011, after the launch of the 3.X Honeycomb line, a full seven variants of Android were in use on the 310 types of Android devices.
If you’ve been disconcerted by the news that Facebook was conducting a smear campaign against Google, perhaps a little look at the financials might clear up a few key points. Both companies have already been in fierce competition for online ad dollars for a few years. Google makes the majority of its income from search ad programs like AdWords and AdSense, but as the incumbent in online advertising, it has to watch its back very carefully. Facebook’s ad revenue hit an impressive $1.86 billion for 2010, and the site may account for as much as one-third of display ad impressions . For 2011, Facebook is expected to bring in $4.05 billion in advertising revenues worldwide, $2.19 billion of which will come from the U.S. market. Also, given Google’s recent launch of +1 — a half social, half traffic-generating web search feature — Facebook might be feeling even more pressure to make sure users are wary of the tool and less likely to use it without overthinking it. After all +1 is a Facebook Like competitor . And both +1 and Likes can generate valuable data used in ad targeting. So if Facebook can convince the web-surfing world that Google is negligent about user privacy, +1 won’t be as valuable as Google might otherwise hope. Ultimately, these two corporations are not making web apps for the pure joy of protecting user privacy; they’re in it to make money
AT&T launched a new service Monday that shoots you special offers over your mobile phone when you’re near a participating store or brand. The service, called ShopAlert, is launching with the backing of Hewlett-Packard, Kmart, JetBlue, SC Johnson, Kibbles ‘n Bits and others. AT&T claims this is the first time a major operator in the U.S
As rumored, Nokia announced Friday that it is entering into a “broad strategic partnership” with Microsoft and adopting Windows Phone 7 as its primary smartphone strategy. The announcement came days after a leaked memo from Nokia CEO Stephen Elop hit the press. The memo, which was unusually frank, referred to Nokia as “standing on a burning platform” in the face of competition from Google and Apple. With Symbian barely clinging to its lead in the smartphone space and MeeGo still not shipping, Nokia needed to do something drastic. This is drastic. It’s also Nokia’s only option. Tomi Ahonen, mobile analyst and former Nokia executive, disagrees (Ahonen also doubted the authenticity of Elop’s memo), but he is one of the few commentators in the wireless industry who actually thinks Nokia’s old smartphone strategy was correct. The problems Nokia faces are already well documented — most notably by Elop himself — and when looking at its possible options, it becomes clear that partnering with Microsoft is the company’s only hope of reversing course.
A bill that would allow consumers to opt out of online tracking was introduced in the House of Representatives on Friday by California Democrat Jackie Speier. If passed, the Do Not Track Me Online Act would provide an option for consumers to opt out of online tracking that advertisers use to target ads. The option would be analogous to the National Do Not Call Registry , and companies that didn’t respect an Internet user’s choice to opt out would be subject to legal consequences. A “Do Not Track” option has been on the wishlist of privacy advocates like Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Digital Democracy for quite some time, and eight such organizations have announced their support. The FTC also indicated that it would back a “Do Not Track” option in December report. Although bills have been introduced that offer solutions to consumers who wish to keep their online activities private, no “do not track” list has ever been explicitly introduced.
Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world. We’re keeping our eyes on five particular stories of interest today. Nokia Enters Major Strategic Partnership With Microsoft Nokia and Microsoft have officially entered a strategic alliance that makes Windows Phone 7 Nokia’s primary smartphone platform
As part of this year’s Pwn2Own hacking contest, Google is offering $20,000 and a CR-48 laptop running Chrome OS to a hacker who can exploit a security hole in its Chrome browser. The contestant must use the vulnerabilities purely present in Google-written code and escape the sandbox for the hack to be successful
Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world. We’re keeping our eyes on six particular stories of interest today. Google Unveils Android Honeycomb Google gathered press at its headquarters to officially unveil Android Honeycomb , the first Android OS designed specifically for tablets, on Wednesday. Among other things, the software enables users to encrypt all data on their tablets and protect them with passwords, a critical feature for business users. Verizon iPhone Pre-Orders Begin Existing Verizon customers can now place pre-orders for a Verizon iPhone. WikiLeaks Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize A member of the Parliament of Norway says he has nominated WikiLeaks for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Rupert Murdoch Unveils The Daily News Corp Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch took the stage at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City Wednesday morning to unveil The Daily , a newspaper designed specifically for the iPad. Read our full review here . Reddit Surpasses 1 Billion Monthly Pageviews Reddit has reached a new milestone : 1 billion monthly pageviews. That’s up 300% from a year ago and a 20% increase from just last month. OkCupid Acquired by Match.com for $50 Million Match.com owner IAC has acquired dating site OkCupid for $50 million in cash, plus future payments depending on performance. OKCupid will continue to remain free to users