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A consumer protection government agency of the United States might soon launch a probe into Google’s latest search update which is believed to have issues with privacy and competition.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has said that it may file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (or FTC) to investigate the new search update by Google which apparently gives the search giant an unfair edge against its competitors and exposes the personal data of users on the Google Plus network.

On Thursday, Google launched a new search feature called Search Plus Your World which lets users search through the Google Plus network for information, and apparently brings up more results from Google Plus than any other social network.

Unfair advantage to Google:- According to EPIC, Google’s latest search innovation is unfair because it gives greater importance to information from Google Plus than any other social networking site. Also, users have expressed concerns over their personal photos and other information showing up in Google searches.

Twitter expresses concern:- Popular social networking site Twitter has said that Google’s results are pushing Twitter content down to give greater prominence to content from Google’s own social networking site.

“Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant results,” said Twitter.

According to Twitter, a search query on Google for “@wwe” threw up results including WWE’s official site and links to related content on Google Plus, but failed to provide any links to Twitter.

“@wwe” happens to be the official Twitter handle for World Wrestling Entertainment. It is not the first time that Google has landed itself in hot water for its search algorithms.

Google’s response:- In response, Google said that it is simply making the search results more relevant by including information and content from real people.

“Search plus Your World doesn’t change who has access to content, it simply helps people rediscover information they already have access to. We’ve taken special care with our new features to provide robust security protections, transparency and control for our users,” said Google.

It is not the first time that Google has landed itself in hot water for its search algorithms. FTC is already investigating Google for some of its controversial search practices.

If Google searches begin showing more content from the Google Plus network at the expense of its competitors, the very purpose of an unbiased and relevant search result will be lost.

Facebook and FTC refused to comment on the controversy.

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Google-owned DoubleClick Ad Planner’s report that Facebook received 1 trillion page views in June has turned out to be incorrect. In fact, estimates by Internet marketing research firm ComScore suggest that the actual number of page views is 457.4 billion, less than half as many.

Comscore data, widely accepted as an authentic source, pegs the number of page views at 457.4 billion for Facebook in June. That’s way off from the stupendous feat initially reported.

The discrepancy:- If Comscore’s version is to be believed, it is the user’s inaccurate cookies information that spoiled the Doubleclick’s applecart.

Google-owned Doubeclick, too, has admitted that its data should be used to “get an idea of” page view activity and should not be considered as a true representative of actual user activity.

“Cookie-based methodologies will always have inflated numbers compared to panel-based, because people delete their cookies throughout the month. For a site with high engagement like Facebook, this is going to result in overstatement of figures,” Comscore spokesperson Stephanie Flosi was quoted as saying on CNN.

Google-owned Doubeclick, too, has admitted that its data should be used to “get an idea of” page view activity and should not be considered as a true representative of actual user activity.

ComScore’s superior method:- The method employed by ComScore to capture page view data appears more reliable than that of Doubleclick. The former juxtaposes the data captured from more than a million domains with that of the data collected by panel-based Internet measurement system.

This system culls surfing data from close to two million worldwide Internet users. Projections about total page view numbers are made from that sample group. The research firm discounts the numbers that have been exaggerated by spiders and bots. The ComScore methodology also weeds out a lot of data that may be allowed by DoubleClick.

Facebook may not have got the 1 trillion page view feather in its cap. It nonetheless topped the charts in June with Google at a distant 2nd with 268.7 billion page views. Microsoft takes in 3rd slot with 90.2 billion page views, while Yahoo, with 90.1 billion, stands 4th in terms of activity on Internet properties.

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The nasty Ramnit worm, originally designed to target bank systems, is now stealing Facebook login credentials, security experts have warned.

Researchers at Israeli security firm Seculert found Ramnit’s command-and-control server containing all the stolen Facebook login credentials.

According to Seculert, a modified version of the malware has managed to steal more than 45,000 user accounts, mostly from the United Kingdom and France.

Securlet said in its bulletin, “We suspect that the attackers behind Ramnit are using the stolen credentials to log-in to victims’ Facebook accounts and to transmit malicious links to their friends, thereby magnifying the malware’s spread even further.

“In addition, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the fact that users tend to use the same password in various web-based services (Facebook, Gmail, Corporate SSL VPN, Outlook Web Access, etc.) to gain remote access to corporate networks.”

Ramnit, first detected in April 2010, is a multi-component malware family which infects Microsoft and HTML files, and Windows programs.

Seculert notifies Facebook:- Seculert has provided Facebook with the stolen data that it discovered on Ramnit servers.

The social networking giant confirmed that it was aware of the Ramnit worm and was taking steps to combat the problem.

Meanwhile, they are also urging users to be vigilant and offering them advice to be on guard against hacks.

Some recommendations for protection include not clicking on strange links, to report suspicious activity on the social network, and join the Facebook Security Page (www.facebook.com/security) for additional security information.

Fred Wolens of the social network’s Public Policy team stated, “Our security experts have reviewed the data, and while the majority of the information was out-of-date, we have initiated remedial steps for all affected users to ensure the security of their accounts.

He added, “Thus far, we have not seen the virus propagating on Facebook itself, but have begun working with our external partners to add protections to our anti-virus systems to help users secure their devices.”

Ramnit first spotted in 2010:- Ramnit, first detected in April 2010, is a multi-component malware family which infects Microsoft and HTML files, and Windows programs.

In August 2011, the Ramnit worm was able to “gain remote access to financial institutions, compromise online banking sessions and penetrate several corporate networks.”

Seculert found that approximately 800,000 computers were infected with Ramnit variants from September to the end of December last year.

“It appears that sophisticated hackers are now experimenting with replacing the old-school email worms with more up-to-date social network worms,” said Seculert.

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In a bid to sharpen focus on meaningful projects and make way for bigger and better products, Google has decided to bring curtains down on ten of its services.

With Larry Page firmly in charge as CEO, unnecessary projects that are small or have outlived their usefulness will be phased out in the coming months.

The employees working on the affected companies will be transferred to other Google properties or reassigned to new positions.

“This will make things much simpler for our users, improving the overall Google experience,” stated Alan Eustace, a senior vice president at Google.

“It will also mean we can devote more resources to high-impact products the ones that improve the lives of billions of people,” he added.

The other products that are being shutdown as a part of the reorganization process include, Image Labeler, Google Notebook, Sidewiki, Subscribed Links, Google Maps API for Flash and Google Web Security.

Services being chopped:- Following Slide, Google Health, Google Power Meter, and Google Labs, the properties being pruned are the following:

1.Aardvak: Google acquired Aardvark last February for a reported $50 million. Aardvark uses the contacts in a person’s network to provide answers to questions at Vark.com, instant messaging, email or Twitter.

2.Fast Flip: Launched with great fanfare two years ago, Fast Flip helped users browse through news stories from Google’s media partners on the web page and on mobile devices at a significantly high speed.

3.Google Pack: Unveiled at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, the Google Pack, a collection of free software app like Skype, Abobe Acrobat Reader, and Google Earth will also be killed.

4.Google Desktop: With people having easy access to their data online or offline, Google’s desktop which allows you to search the web, email, as well as files on your computer is no longer useful. It will be knocked off on September 14th.

The other 6 products:- The other products that are being shutdown as a part of the reorganization process include, Image Labeler, Google Notebook, Sidewiki, Subscribed Links, Google Maps API for Flash and Google Web Security. Google has decided to bring curtains down on ten of its services.

Eustace concluded, “We’ll continue to take risks on interesting new technologies with a lot of potential. But by targeting our resources more effectively, we can focus on building world-changing products with a truly beautiful user experience.”

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Facebook has threatened to drag Mark Zuckerberg to court. Well, the Zuckerberg in question is not the Facebook founder, but Israeli entrepreneur Rotem Guez who legally changed his name to Mark Zuckerberg recently.

Though the name change is a recent episode, Facebook and the Israeli entrepreneur has been embroiled in a dispute since January this year. Earlier this year, the Facebook page of Indiana bankruptcy attorney Mark Zuckerberg was deleted because Facebook thought that someone had created a fake account.

It all started when Guez filed a lawsuit against Facebook for deleting his profile from the social networking site.

Later in September, Facebook sent Guez a threat for lawsuit, alleging that the Israeli entrepreneur’s online marketing company ‘Like Store’ has breached Facebook’s Terms of Service. The social networking giant claims that Like Store is illegally using its ‘Like’ feature.

“The idea was, if only “Mark Zuckerberg” is allowed to sell likes, then for that matter, i’m “Mark Zuckerberg”.” – Israeli entrepreneur Rotem Guez

Just recently on Dec. 14, the Palo Alto, California-based company again threated to sue Zuckerberg II for the still existing Like Store.

Zuckerberg II’s take on the issue:- Guez’s Like Store is a social marketing company that sells ‘Likes’ to companies for their brand pages.

The sites pages (translated) reads, “You are sad because no one came to visit your Facebook page? We have the solution. We get them to 1000 likes. We get them to 10000 likes.”

It further adds, “Build all types of pages on Facebook, from a landing page and contact form to special applications or applications that will compete for your page to be viral and get maximum exposure.”

Zuckerberg II has admitted that he has violated Facebook’s term of use, but he added many U.S. companies offer similar services.

In fact, in an email to Huffington Post, the Israeli clarified, “Likes” come from real users who want to receive our content, and instead of paying us with money, they pay us with “Likes”.”

Offering explanation for his changed name, he added, “The idea was, if only “Mark Zuckerberg” is allowed to sell likes, then for that matter, i’m “Mark Zuckerberg”.

Another Zuckerberg in Indiana:- Well, this is not the first time that Facebook is dealing with another Zuckerberg.

Earlier this year, the Facebook page of Indiana bankruptcy attorney Mark Zuckerberg was deleted because Facebook thought that someone had created a fake account. Zuckerberg II has admitted that he has violated Facebook’s term of use, but he added many U.S. companies offer similar services. The sites pages reads, “You are sad because no one came to visit your Facebook page? We have the solution. We get them to 1000 likes. We get them to 10000 likes.”

“Other than the name, and our Jewish upbringing, the two of us have little else in common. He was born in Dobbs Ferry, NY at about the same time that I was graduating from Indiana University,” the Indiana Zuckerberg wrote on his website.

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So who tops Google Zeitgeist this year.

Rebecca Black, the teen singing sensation was the fastest rising search subject in the United States this year. Zeitgeist said that the nuclear emergency in Fukushima, Japan after the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunamis also caught the attention of the world Even the nonexistent iPhone 5 also found a coveted spot in the top ten, and also singer Adele, whose new album ’21’ rocketed to success. The launch of the iPad 2 also drew searches, and also the video game Battlefield 3, which sold five million copies in the first week of its release.

Google Inc. on Thursday released Zeitgeist 2011, an aggregation of billions of search queries, the company says captures the spirit of 2011.

“This year marks our 11th annual look back at the searches that compose the year’s Zeitgeist the spirit of the time. With Zeitgeist, we look at the most popular and the fastest rising terms the terms with the highest growth in 2011 in many categories across many countries around the world,” Google Fellow Amit Singhal wrote in a blog post.

Others who made it to the top 10 list included Casey Anthony, who was charged and later acquitted of killing her 2-year-old daughter after a sensational murder trial.

The top 10 list:- Newcomer, Rebecca Black, whose amateur music video ‘Friday’ garnered both cheers and jeers on the web, was the most popular search of 2011.

Google’s own new social network Google+ grabbed the second spot after its launch. Hurricane Irene, one of the deadliest storm to hit the U.S. since 1980 ranked third, followed by Pinterest. ‘Jackass’ star Ryan Dunn, who died in a car accident in June at age 34 finished fifth.

Others who made it to the top 10 list included Casey Anthony, who was charged and later acquitted of killing her 2-year-old daughter after a sensational murder trial.

Even the nonexistent iPhone 5 also found a coveted spot in the top ten, and also singer Adele, whose new album ’21’ rocketed to success.

The death of Steve Jobs and the assassination of Osama bin-Laden claimed another two spots in the list for fastest-rising terms.

Other queries on the internet:- According to Zeitgeist, the nuclear emergency in Fukushima, Japan after the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunamis also caught the attention of the world. The Occupy Wall Street movement against the dire economic situation and austerity was a popular news search.

The launch of the iPad 2 also drew searches, and also the video game Battlefield 3, which sold five million copies in the first week of its release. Rebecca Black, whose amateur music video ‘Friday’ garnered both cheers and jeers on the web, was the most popular search of 2011.

Singhal said, “When looking at the data, it is fascinating to see the cultural fads and trends that took over the globe, from cupcakes (making top food lists in over a dozen countries) to the Dukan diet and high-profile weddings, but Google was used for much more than staying up to date on the sisters Middleton and Kardashian.”

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