Google’s Gags Go Worldwide For April Fool’s Day 2012

google-racing It was right about this time last year when we gave Google the winner's trophy for a series of gags that put all others to shame. We could do the same again right now, because Google has tried to top itself with another round of April Fool's Day jokes that pretty well span the globe of Google's international properties. Below is a recap of Google's (and a few others) pranks, and we'll do our best to update this as the day goes along. Google Racing: Self-Driving Cars Hit NASCAR The main joke at the moment is Google's "announcement" of a partnership with NASCAR called Google Racing, which b [...]

Nathon Fillion Demonstrates His “Google Maps Pose”

Last week on Jimmy Kimmel Live, actor Nathon Fillion demonstrated his Google Maps Pose. He described how he was outside of his new home and noticed that the Google Maps Street View car was approaching. He had to act fast and think up his "Google Maps Pose." He then demonstrated the pose to the audience. Fillion jokes, "I think this is important, it is something everybody should think about." "If a Google Maps car is coming down the street, what am I going to do?" he said. Jimmy Kimmel never saw a Google Maps car before and asked what they look like. Nathon Fillion described it as a ca [...]

Czech Republic Gives Google Green Light To Resume Street View

czech-street-view After more than two years, and a few important concessions from Google, the Czech Republic is letting the company resume its Street View service. As Czech Position reports, Google has agreed to several conditions put forth by the Czech Office for Personal Data Protection: Google will take photos closer to ground level to avoid photographing personal property over fences/walls. Google will give Czech citizens a method to demand that their property be removed from Street View. Google will blur license plates/registration information on vehicles. Google will pre-announce when it's plan [...]

Google Announces “_nomap” WiFi Opt-out Option, Wants Other Location Providers To Go Along

wifi-router-x As promised, Google has announced a way for WiFi router owners to stop Google from including them in the company's location database. The opt-out requires a change in the name of the wireless network (the SSID) to include _nomap at the end of the name. In other words, if your wireless network is named "McGeehome," you'd need to rename that to "McGeehome_nomap." (And frankly, I'd prefer you use your own last name while you're at it.) Google says this method "provides the right balance of simplicity as well as protection against abuse. Specifically, this approach helps protect against ot [...]

Ex-Burglars Believe Google StreetView, Facebook, Twitter & Foursquare Used To Plot Crimes

Screen shot 2011-09-28 at 6.20.52 AM There have been many stories in the past of criminals (of one sort or another) using Google, Foursquare and Facebook to target people who many not be home or, in the case of Google Earth and Street View, which homes to target. A recent survey of 50 convicted burglars by UK security firm Friedland Response and reported by the UK's Sky News argues that Google and social media tools are being used extensively to target people. Nearly 80 percent of the 50 ex-burglars surveyed strongly believed that Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare were being used by current criminals, and nearly 75 percent s [...]

Google Will Offer Wi-Fi Opt-Out Tool To Improve User Privacy & Appease European Regulators

With the smoke still smoldering from Google's long-running battle over the collection of personal information via unsecured WiFi networks, the company says it's working on a service that will allow WiFi router owners to opt-out from being included in Google's location services. In a blog post yesterday, Google says the opt-out will be available to people around the world. Even though the wireless access point signals we use in our location services don't identify people, we think we can go further in protecting people's privacy. At the request of several European data protection authorit [...]

Google Travel Search Takes Flight With First ITA Travel Product

google-ita-featured Google has made what amounts to a promising downpayment on more ambitious travel search tools with its new Flight Search, debuting today. Launching initially for a select group of US cities Google users will have access to an expanded range of airline search options and a much more verticalized experience than has been available in the past on Google. This is the first product to emerge from Google's controversial acquisition of travel software company ITA, which closed in April and included concessions and guarantees to existing ITA customers such as Kayak, Microsoft, Orbitz, Hotwire and [...]

Google’s Street View Gets OK To Launch In Israel

streetview-israel Google's Street View service is headed to the Middle East. As expected, the Israeli government has given Google a green light to begin driving through the country and placing panoramic images online. The Ministry of Justice's decision comes after months of discussion with Google about how to allow Street View in the country while still protecting concerns related to individual privacy and the bigger issue of violence/terrorism. The government offered an online poll about Street View, and 70% of respondents voted in favor of allowing Street View to launch in Israel. As repor [...]

Belgium Says Google Broke Privacy Law, Offers Cash Settlement

Google is considering a settlement offer from federal prosecutors in Belgium who say the company broke national privacy laws when it collected personal data from unsecured WiFi networks via its Street View vehicles. According to Bloomberg, prosecutors have offered Google a €150,000 penalty (currently about $215,000 USD) for the gaffe that Google has repeatedly said was accidental. Google has three months to accept the penalty; if it doesn't, prosecutors may take the case to court, where Google could face higher fines and perhaps even time in prison. A Google spokesperson confirmed the [...]

Report: Google Street View Collected Device Locations, Not Just WiFi Access Points

street-view-car-small Google is likely to face more privacy-related challenges on the heels of news today that the company's Street View vehicles have collected more than just the location of WiFi access points. According to a CNET article today, Google collected those WiFi access points along with the location of client devices including mobile phones and desktop computers. The cars were supposed to collect the locations of Wi-Fi access points. But Google also recorded the street addresses and unique identifiers of computers and other devices using those wireless networks and then made the data publicly avai [...]

Google Gets Chance To Appeal In Street View Lawsuit

Just a couple weeks after the latest setback, Google picked up a small but potentially important victory today in its defense against charges that the company violated federal wiretap laws when its Street View cars intercepted personal data over unencrypted WiFi networks. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, Judge James Ware has put the case on hold and given Google the go-ahead to appeal his ruling last month that kept open a group of consolidated lawsuits that accuse Google of violating the Federal Wiretap Act. In that decision, Ware dismissed a pair of claims against Google, but refus [...]

Judge Rejects Google’s Motion To Toss Out Street View Lawsuit

street-view-car-featured Google is currently considering its options after a federal judge gave the go-ahead for a group of consolidated lawsuits to proceed against the company over a potential violation of the Federal Wiretap Act. Wednesday's decision by US District Judge James Ware, first reported by Wired, actually dismissed two of the three claims against Google, but left open the group's ability to sue Google for potentially violating the Wiretap Act: … the Court finds that Plaintiffs plead facts sufficient to state a claim for violation of the Wiretap Act. In particular, Plaintiffs plead that Defendant [...]

Google Street View Runs Into Indian Roadblock

Google has bumped into problems with Street View in yet another country. This time it's India. According to website MediaNama, three weeks after it began driving the local police commissioner in Bangalore notified Google that it must stop photographing the city until a number of issues can be resolved. Google told the publication it had obtained police permission before commencing Street View photography. The legal questions raised by the Bangalore police revolve around the legality of "foreigners or foreign firms" doing extensive photography on the scale of Street View in India. A r [...]

Friday Fun: A Street View Car Made Of LEGOs … And It Works!

From the you-knew-it-would-happen-at-some-point department: a "street view" photography car made out of LEGOs that actually works! The car/toy (frankly, I'm not sure what to call it) is the work of Mark Crosbie, a software architect based in Dublin, Ireland and self-described "big LEGO kid by night." It uses Lego's NXT (a programmable robotics system), a dGPS sensor to capture the car's coordinates, and four small cameras mounted on top. Crosbie showcased the car at the Google Zeitgeist event in London last month, and posted this video of the car in action, along with some of the actual [...]

Google Tiptoes Into India With Street View

Google launched Street View on Thursday in India, the second most-populous country on earth. But "launch" may be a bit of an overstatement because, in a country that's also the seventh biggest in square mileage, Google is only taking photographs in one city: Bangalore. Google announced that it's using both cars and trikes to photographs the streets of Bangalore. The city is a smart first choice: It's a tech hub that's often referred to as India's version of Silicon Valley. Presumably, many in Bangalore will be familiar with and welcoming toward Street View photography. When the Street Vi [...]

Google Ireland Greeting A Google Street View Car

Wouldn't it be cool to know when a Google Street View car was planning on taking pictures of your office or home? Most of us do not have that luxury, but if you are Google, you are privy to that information. All of Google Ireland's staff stood outside cheering, holding signs, balloons and other items while the Google Street View car passed by and took pictures today. One Googler actually took a video of it happening today and here is that video: You'd think this was President Obama visiting. Related Stories: Cool Sights In Google Street View Dead Girl On Google Street View? [...]

Google Maps Vs. Bing Maps: Summer Vacation Planning Showdown

google-bing-maps-featured Wouldn't it be great if there was one mapping service that offers everything you need to plan a trip to somewhere you've never been? Sure, map sites are generally pretty similar. You can see maps, find business listings, get driving directions, see images and stuff like that. But it's actually more complicated than that. At least it was for me. My wife and I recently visited Maui, Hawaii for the first time. We spent a week on the island celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary and, after getting advice from all of our family and friends, we had enough must-sees and must-dos to fill a [...]

Google Threatens To Pull Street View From Switzerland; Will Launch In Poland

Google has appealed a recent Swiss court decision that requires the company to guarantee 100% anonymity of faces and license plates in its Street View imagery, and says it may cut the service altogether in Switzerland if the ruling isn't changed. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google attorney Peter Fleischer told reporters, "We simply cannot comply with the current terms of the court. If the ruling is not amended, we will not have any choice but to pull Google Street View services from Switzerland." Fleischer says Google will appeal the ruling to Switzerland's highest court. In [...]

Austria Ends Ban On Google Street View; Google Unmoved

Austrian officials have lifted an almost year-long ban on Google Street View, but Google says it has no current plans to offer the service there, anyway. According to the Austrian Independent, Austria's Data Protection Commission (DSK) announced on Thursday that it was ending the ban that started in May 2010; that's when Google admitted that its Street View cars had been accidentally collecting personal data over unsecured WiFi networks. But that doesn't mean Austrians should expect Street View to be available anytime soon: Google Austria said today it was "happy" about the DSK's dec [...]

Belgium Launches Investigation Of Google WiFi Data Collection

While some countries have already completed their investigations, Belgium is just now launching a probe into Google's collection of Wifi data over unsecured WiFi networks. According to the Flemish newspaper De Morgen, Belgian data protection officials believe Google is guilty of a "flagrant violation of privacy protection laws." A Bloomberg report says the Belgian privacy committee passed its findings to government prosecutors because the committee doesn't have the power to fine Google. Google has previously admitted that its Street View cars accidentally collected personal data via une [...]

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