Follow the Filter Bubble

US Government asked Google for user data 4,601 times.


/ June 29th, 2011 /

What does Google do with all that data they collect on us? Most of it sits in massive data centers — quietly providing users with more “relevant” search results and news. But what happens when governments get involved?

That’s what Google’s latest transparency report provides — a detailed look at who’s asking for data and how much Google gives up. They even have an nicely arranged website for those interested in the stats.

The newest report was released today, detailing the six-month period of  July-December 2010. For curious individuals in the US — Google has received 4,601 user data requests from the US Government over the most recent six-month period and has complied with 94% of those requests (the highest compliance rate).

Other countries making full use of their information request power include: Brazil, France, the UK, and India.

The old adage holds true — “With great power vast quantities of data, comes great responsibility.” Good for Google for providing such a detailed and accessible analysis of this data.


Our audiobook has launched!


/ June 15th, 2011 /

The Filter Bubble has just been released as an audiobook — and not a moment too soon. June is audiobook month!

Click here to listen to a sample.


What’s the Internet hiding? Lets find out.


/ June 8th, 2011 /

What does the filter bubble look like? We decided to do a little experiment to help visualize what’s taking place.

The comparisons below only scratch the surface of what the Internet’s filters are up to, but they give a good troubling idea.


If you liked… you will NOT like


/ May 31st, 2011 /

The folks over at LibraryThing.com have taken a different approach towards filtering: showing you what you won’t like based on what you do like. Here’s an amusing list of books to steer clear of:


What does Skype’s $8.5 billion dollar privacy policy look like?


/ May 10th, 2011 /

Microsoft is buying Skype for $8.5 billion – making it one of the largest tech deals in recent memory. For reference, Google paid $1.65 billion back in 2006 for Youtube. This deal is 5x the size.

Microsoft may have overpaid for the online VOIP service (voice over internet protocol), but the intent is clear: Microsoft wants to establish a firm foothold online. Aside from Bing, they don’t have much to work with.

That got me thinking – what else might Microsoft get from the deal? For that I turned to Skype’s privacy policy. The important bit:

2. WHAT INFORMATION DOES SKYPE USE?

Skype may gather and use information about you, including (but not limited to) information in the following categories:

(a) Identification data (e.g. name, address, telephone number, mobile number, email address);

(b) Profile information (e.g. age, gender, country of residence and any information that you choose to make available to others as part of your Skype user profile);

(c) Electronic identification data (e.g. IP addresses, cookies);

(d) Banking and payment information (credit card information, account number);

(e) Survey results;

(f) Information about your usage of and interaction with the Skype software, our products and websites including computer and connection information, device capability, bandwidth, statistics on page views, and traffic to and from our websites;

(g) Products or services ordered and delivered;

(h) The URL of videos that you have selected to appear in your mood message;

(i) Skype test calls made to ECHO123 (which are recorded and played back to the user and deleted thereafter);

(j) List of your contacts;

(k) Your user profile;

(l) Your username and password for other email accounts where you have provided this to us and requested us to search for your friends on Skype (please note that Skype does not retain this information or use it for any other purpose);

(m) Correspondence between you and Skype;

(n) Traffic data (data processed for the purpose of the conveyance of communications or the billing thereof, including, but not limited to, the duration of the call, the number calling and the number called); and

(o) content of instant messaging communications (please see section 13).

I doubt data mining played a major role in Microsoft’s reasoning for the acquisition, but it’s worth noting that Microsoft now has access to 665 million names, numbers, and chat logs.


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