February 3, 2006 10:00 AM PST

Week in review: In search of trouble

Google and its search brethren are taking more heat this week over what the giants of the Web search world are doing and what they aren't doing.

Politicians attacked Google, Microsoft, Cisco Systems and Yahoo for declining to appear at a briefing about China's Internet censorship and called for legislation to outlaw compliance with such requirements. The four technology companies said earlier that they were not able to schedule an appearance on such short notice but would testify at a similar House of Representatives hearing scheduled for Feb. 15.

"These massively successful high-tech companies, which couldn't bring themselves to send their representatives to this meeting today, should be ashamed," said Rep. Tom Lantos, the California Democrat who is co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, which organized the briefing. Because his caucus is not an actual congressional committee, it does not have the power to compel companies to testify at its hearings.

Some CNET News.com readers slammed the criticism.

"These companies are caving in to demands from foreign governments because Congress hasn't offered any protections to shield them within our own legal system," wrote Richard Kokoska in News.com's TalkBack forum.

Under fire after censoring a Chinese blogger, Microsoft announced a new policy for dealing with government requests to block content that violates local laws.

Microsoft's new MSN Spaces policy states that the company will remove content only when it "receives a legally binding notice from the government indicating that the material violates local laws" or when the content violates MSN contract terms. When it does take down content, it will be done only in the country issuing the order, and the company said it will also "ensure that users know why that content was blocked."

Google's recent legal spat with the U.S. Department of Justice highlights not only what information search engines record about us but also the shortcomings in a federal law that's supposed to protect online privacy. It's only a matter of time before other attorneys realize that a person's entire search history is available for the asking, and the subpoenas start flying.

CNET News.com has prepared an FAQ to answer questions related to this new privacy concern.

Google raised the ire of stockholders this week when it missed earnings expectations for the first time since it went public in 2004, sending its stock price into an after-hours trading spiral. Google's share price has more than doubled in the past year and risen more than 40 percent since its last earnings report. In after-hours trade, however, the stock fell as much as 19 percent, a loss of more than $24 billion in market value.

Patent problems
Microsoft began e-mailing its corporate customers worldwide, letting them know that they may need to start using a different version of Office as a result of a recent legal setback. The software maker said it has been forced to issue new versions of Office 2003 and Office XP, which change the way Microsoft's Access database interacts with its Excel spreadsheet.

The move follows a jury verdict last year that found in favor of a patent claim by a Guatemalan inventor. Although existing customers can keep using older versions on current machines, any new installations of Office 2003 will require Service Pack 2, released by Microsoft in September. Office XP will need to be put into use with a special patch applied.

In another patent scuffle, wireless e-mail vendor Visto took aim at a fellow rival to Research In Motion, filing a patent infringement lawsuit against Good Technology. Visto and Good Technology are two of several companies looking to capitalize on the legal problems of RIM, which could see its popular BlackBerry service shut down from its own patent problems with NTP.

Visto is charging that Good Technology's products infringe on four patents it holds for sending data wirelessly over a network. The company is seeking a permanent injunction against the GoodLink software that runs Good's system, the same remedy sought by NTP against RIM's wireless software and services.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will re-examine the validity of the so-called JPEG patent held by Forgent Networks, an action that could deprive the company of its multimillion-dollar revenue stream. The Patent Office granted the review at the request of the

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Open Source, Distributed & Decentralized is only answer
Look there is no point ******** all the time
about Yahoo & Google "taking over the world".

The only solution to Google & Yahoo or any SINGLE search engine taking over the world is a Distrusted, Open Source & Decentralized search engine. Because search engine is too important, to be dominated by any one or 2 giant companies. In many ways results of a search engine
are similar to what one gets from the News paper or TV, that is information. So as crazy as it would be for News for Italian people, or French people, or Russian people, or Indian people, etc. to all come from 2 giant US companies,
same is for search results. So what is needed is a search engine which is run & operated from many locations (Countries) from around the world, controlled and run by people from those countries coming together in an as open a fashion as possible to create a global search engine that is controlled by no single entity! Hey come to think of that is what the Internet supposed to do!

Because there is an old adage which is absolutely true, that is: "Absolute Power
Absolutely Corrupts". And what can be more "Absolute Power" than people's
searching worldwide leading to, being limited to, 2 giant US companies in Silicon Valley!

So is a Distrusted, Open Source, Decentralized and People driven search engine just a dream, no it is a reality actually, it is AnooX, you can find the details here:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.anoox.com/sep-overview.jsp" target="_newWindow">http://www.anoox.com/sep-overview.jsp</a>
Posted by Cyrus_K (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do you work for them?
...from all your talk either you work from them or for the Chinese communist goverment.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Link Flag
This poor soul....
... just prattles on with the company line and doesn't recognize that
he not only doesn't know what he's writing about, no one else
wants to bother reading his drivel.

"Absolute Idiocy Absolutely corrupts" in his case.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Anonymous Free Speech with Google Wifi?
Google created their own problem by collecting this information in the first place....

In an attempt to rollout a Citywide Wireless Internet plan (TechConnect) two major approaches being considered by San Francisco which may significantly encroach on the public's privacy. The two options are a for-profit solution which will finance the solution by monetizing the public's privacy or grants from Homeland Security. This occurs in the context of elected officials and city administrators patting themselves on the back for what the voters approved (2004) in a watch law ordinance that makes Patriot Act requests difficult for the Federal government to pursue in San Francisco.

The targeted advertising solution (google and others) would track all the email and surfing habits of any user. This information could be used as in Gmail and Amazon to send specific advertising. It is of course , also available for National Security Letters and other legal methods which would not be presented within the legal context of San Francisco - avoiding the Watch Law. While networks can be created that do not track a user's private information (no server logs, etc) that is not a method being promoted publically by vendors like Google and in fact is partly the reason the Justice Department and Google are now fighting over production of user's search records - Google can't say they just don't have the information. While there are questions about Privacy in the RFP, they were specifically written as Open Ended rather than as Minimal Standards. Public Advocates and Organizations like ACLU, EFF.org and EPIC.org have all written and some have spoken about their concerns with this approach Before the RFP was created and released - yet no changes were made. Also DTIS has the ability to waive any RFP requirements in the contract negotiation process anyhow.

The other funding concept that is being quietly discussed as a mechanism for the San Francisco Municipal Wireless solution is Homeland Security Grants - the calendar image below is from the city official Chris Vein who is in charge of the RFP process which requires bid submittals by 2006/2/21 - See Below

Washington Post: 2006-01-19 Fed Grants (Homeland Security) for Surveillance Cameras for Small Towns .. this seems related to Municipal Wireless funding efforts as well in San Francisco

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/18/AR2006011802324.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/18/AR2006011802324.html</a>

The Homeland Security funding option: "Motorolas proposal suggests that the city pitch the project as a public safety issue, and capitalize on grants from government organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security. They suggest that the network would help law enforcement by enabling the SFPD to put wireless cameras across the city cheaply, and that the signal from a particular camera could be routed wirelessly to officers in their cars as they approached the scene." (thanks to www.JacksonWest.com for summary)

for more info see blog www.webnetic.net

Combined brief ACLU, EFF.org and Epic.org
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004078.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004078.php</a>

SF Watch Law Re Patriot Act
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/bdsupvrs/about/watch_law_program.pdf" target="_newWindow">http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/bdsupvrs/about/watch_law_program.pdf</a>

Jackson West summary of TechConnect RFI/C submittals (the step before the current RFP process)
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://gigaom.com/2005/10/18/politics-of-san-francisco-wifi-project/" target="_newWindow">http://gigaom.com/2005/10/18/politics-of-san-francisco-wifi-project/</a>

Chris Vein DTIS Acting Director's calendar showing a meeting planned with Motorola (obtained through a Public Record's request)
"Meeting with Bob Siemmens from Motorola (925-218-4213) re: TechConnect - Homeland Security"
Posted by kimocrossman (31 comments )
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