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
The Web Development Series is supported by Rackspace , the better way to do hosting. Learn more about Rackspace’s hosting solutions here . The latest version of WordPress — 3.2 Beta 1 — is now available for download. Interested parties can grab the .zip file and install away. The
The mobile web has become such a significant part of our everyday lives that 35% of people are firing up apps on their smartphones before getting out of bed, according to an Ericsson ConsumerLab study. Furthermore, 18% of consumers use social networking apps before they rise for the day; 10% use them while commuting, 34% use them late in the evening and 20% use them in bed before going to sleep. Interestingly, consumers’ behavior on the web has changed due to the Internet’s constant availability on smartphones and tablets. “Prior to the introduction of smartphones, consumers tended to use the internet in “chunks” – they would tend to confine their internet activities to when they had an opportunity to sit in front of a computer,” the study says. “Smartphones allow people to go online the very instant they get the impulse. Internet access is thus becoming more spontaneous and unplanned.” The study also shows that consumers’ habits do not depend so much on the device they have — the apps they use are more important. The form factor also isn’t critical, as consumers are using apps on tablets in a similar way as they do on smartphones. According to the study, many consumers cannot imagine their lives without apps that reside in the cloud. “Consumers expect, and increasingly depend on, the ability to access online services easily at low cost and complexity from multiple locations during the day,” the study says. The 18-month study on mobile Internet usage was conducted in a number of locations, including the U.S., Europe and Japan. Have a look at the full report . More About: apps , ericsson , internet , Mobile 2.0 , mobile internet , smartphone For more Mobile coverage: Follow Mashable Mobile on Twitter Become a Fan on Facebook Subscribe to the Mobile channel Download our free apps for Android , Mac , iPhone and iPad
About $5.3 million in unclaimed royalties are floating around, just out of the grasp of deserving artists. RootMusic, maker of the Facebook app BandPage, teamed with performance rights non-profit SoundExchange to put that money in the right hands. Musicians garner royalties whenever their music is streamed on the Internet or played on digital satellite radio or cable music channels. SoundExchange , an organization enlisted by Congress to distribute digital performance royalties, collects those royalties and distributes them to bands. However, bands have to be registered with SoundExchange in order to get the cash. Unfortunately, some of those bands are unaware of the money they’re making and don’t register. To right that wrong, RootMusic gave SoundExchange a list of artists who have used its Facebook app, BandPage, so that the organization could connect with any artists with unclaimed royalties.
Internet Explorer 9, which was released Monday , was downloaded 2.35 million times in the first 24 hours it was available, according to Microsoft. The beta version of this iteration of the browser was downloaded only 1 million times during the first day of its availability. For the final version of IE 9, that’s almost 98,000 downloads per hour, or 27 downloads per second, however you want to look at it. “We want to thank everyone around the world for downloading IE9 and the enthusiastic reception,” Ryan Gavin, Microsoft’s senior director of Internet Explorer, wrote on the IE blog
Joining the ranks of SoundCloud , RootMusic and the like, streaming radio service Slacker Radio has recently received an injection of cash: $3 million in debt funding. According to Hypebot , the news of this funding comes via a SEC filing. A representative from Slacker confirmed the news with us. “Slacker had a great 2010 and tweaked their business to make it float,” the rep told us. “The funding will help to further their automotive efforts,” which means Slacker could soon be available in cars, as Pandora already is. Still, since Slacker has a license to cache music, it won’t need a constant signal to stream, giving it an edge on the other service. Last month, Slacker unveiled its iPad app and announced that on-demand listening would be available on the Internet radio service at the end of January. We have yet to see on-demand come to fruition, but the rep says it should be launched around SXSW. This will add a third tier Slacker’s service options: free radio, paid radio and on-demand. The addition of this feature would put the service in competition with MOG, Rdio, Spotify and other subscription services that offer that option already. Photo courtesy of Flickr, João Pedro, uai! More About: Slacker-Radio For more Media coverage: Follow Mashable Media on Twitter Become a Fan on Facebook Subscribe to the Media channel Download our free apps for Android , Mac , iPhone and iPad
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down, more than two weeks after the protests that began January 25 in the country — and launched a flood of #Jan25 and #Egypt tweets as well as media coverage that broke the mold — to remove the president from power. From the beginning, the revolution in Egypt was propelled by the use of social media. It at least partly began on Facebook with the creation of Facebook groups that gained hundreds of thousands of members and promoted the early protests in Cairo. Subsequently, the government blocked Facebook and Twitter and eventually shut down Internet access completely. And with the outside world following the unfolding revolution online, political leaders and others, including Twitter, spoke out against the violence and freedom of expression issues at risk
Internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee worries that the Web's most successful inhabitants are gradually chipping away at its "egalitarian" foundations. "The Web as we know it is being threatened," writes Berners-Lee in a Scientific American essay. "Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users ... . Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments -- totalitarian and democratic alike -- are monitoring people's online habits, endangering important human rights."
Facebook’s putting up some big numbers in terms of U.S. web traffic. Right now, the site accounts for one out of every four pageviews in the United States — that’s 10% of all Internet visits. According to data from analysis and intelligence firm Hitwise , Facebook’s year-over-year growth has been phenomenal. We reported in June that the social network was set to eclipse Google in web traffic; now, Hitwise is showing that in the past week, Facebook.com saw 3% more web visits and almost five times more pageviews than Google.com. By these metrics, Facebook is by far the single most popular website in the United States. Still, other sources with other measurements and criteria show some variance. comScore has also released stats showing huge growth from Facebook — a 55% year-over-year increase , in fact. But comScore places Facebook at 151.13 million U.S. uniques for October 2010, slightly behind Google’s 173.3 monthly uniques, which means the search giant is the social network’s sole competitor for web traffic domination. The company has been growing at a breakneck pace all year. It announced that its network had reached the extraordinary milestone of 500 million members in July. And at Web. 2.0 Summit this week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the audience that half of those members visit Facebook on a daily basis .