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July 22, 2011

Google+ Early Success: Privacy. Around 2/3 of Updates are Private

Google Plus CirclesOne of the much hyped features of Google+ are the privacy settings, which are not new compared to Facebook, but easier to configure and actually use. While it is unlikely that we’ll soon get any insight in the user numbers. The number known so far is that more than 10 million users signed up to the service within its first three weeks. If, we can expect more official numbers it will probably be at Google’s next earnings call.

While it is too early to call Google+ a success, more and more we see very interesting numbers emerge, combined with the fact that the immediate reception and hype around the service did push Google’s stock (GOOG) with 13%.
Hitwise estimated Google+ at around 300,00 daily US based visits after two weeks, comScore said on Wednesday that the site had reached 20 million page views already in only three weeks, Paul Allen estimates there’s 18 million users already and Alexa ranks the G+ subdomain at almost 2% of the entire traffic to Google properties.

In an interview with The Mercury News, Vic Gundotra – Google+ Project Lead, disclosed another interesting statistic: around 2/3 or more of the updates posted to Google+ are ‘Limited’ and shared only with a select number of people. Women are also likely to share more content privately than men and early statistics of a low number of female users (less than 15%) are wrong. read more

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July 15, 2011

Your Email, Your Privacy and Your Blog

Image of Email PrivacyMost of us take email for granted. We just type in an address, pound out a message and hit send. We trust our email will get there in a prompt fashion and that, if needed, we’ll hear back from the recipient shortly.

The problem is that email doesn’t go directly from point A to point B. Your email, as with nearly all communication on the Internet, is first passed through a series of intermediaries that receive it and send it on its way again.

Since this happens within the blink of an eye it’s easy for us to miss it or not think about it. However, this system has drastic impacts for the relative privacy of email both in terms of how secure our information is and what others can do with it.

The truth is simple. Email, at least by itself, is not a private method of communication and should never be treated as such. Your email is not safe from snooping by the government, by your employers, by your ISP nor even disclosure by your recipient.

The impact this has on you depends on how you want to use email, but the basics of the situation are pretty much the same for everyone, never put anything in an email you don’t want disclosed publicly later. read more

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July 14, 2011

Google+ To Allow Gender Identity To Stay Hidden

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Facebook Vs GoogleGender identity on social networks such as Myspace, Facebook and LinkedIn have always been a given part of a users experience however Google+ has decided to change that fact by providing users with the option to hide their identities.

Starting this week Google+ user will be able to hide their gender which currently includes male, female and “other” options. According to a Google product manager the company decided to offer the option to turn off gender displays because:

“Gender can be a sensitive topic, especially on the Internet.”

Under the new program users can keep their gender displays entirely public or private and they can even choose to create different settings based on “circles” which means family, friends and co-workers may be able to see your gender if you choose while your more “public” profiles can be limited to only the “Circles” for which you choose to hide that information.

Google will still require that users identify a gender in their accounts, an important aspect of most social network advertising as advertisers like to geographically target certain groups based on gender, location, age and other variables. Google is also requiring some type of gender be given so they know which pronouns to use for your account. read more

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July 1, 2011

The Problems with Anonymous Blogging

Whenever I talk with others about the legal risks that come with blogging, it is inevitable that someone says that the risks don’t apply to them as they blog anonymously and no one will ever know who they are.

The truth is that, while anonymous blogging may be great for certain purposes, it isn’t a bullet proof vest that lets you do dumb things legally without fear of reprisal. Even if you can bring together a perfectly anonymous site, you have to be flawless in your execution of it ensuring that every single interaction, no matter how small, is untraceable.

While anonymous or pseudonymous blogging might be good enough to fool your mother, your boss or your friends, it won’t be enough to fool law enforcement nor anyone with adequate motivation and resources to track you down.

Anonymous blogging may free you up to say things you otherwise couldn’t, but it doesn’t free you up to break the law. Basically, if you’re blogging under a different name, you should expect to be found out if you make it interesting enough for anyone to seek out your information.

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June 24, 2011

The 5 Groups Most Likely To Legally Threaten Your Blog

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No Parking Image

We’ve talked a lot in this column about the various activities that might get you and your site in legal hot water, including some of the false legal threats you may face.

But that begs the question, who is likely to do either make the threat or file the lawsuit? While the answer could easily be just about anyone as lawsuits online are as varied as thy are in the bricks and mortar world, there are definiely some groups that have been far more litigious than your average netizen.

However, actual data in this area is very difficult, if not impossible, to come by. Not only does one have to factor in the courts of over 50 states and nearly 200 countries, but many of the most important legal threats never actually make it to court.

So, unfortunately, a lot of guesswork is involved but it doesn’t take much research to see some trends forming. With that in mind, if you’re worried about being sued for your blogging activities, here are some groups that you probably want to avoid or at least be wary of messing with. read more

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June 20, 2011

5 False Legal Threats Bloggers Routinely Face

Legally, blogging can be a very scary activity. Since few bloggers are acquainted with media law before setting up their first site, they are dealing with issues of trademark, copyright, libel, privacy, etc. when they have little understanding of the law itself.

This, often times, creates problems where a blogger oversteps a legal boundary and finds themselves either being sued or threatened with legal action. However, it also can create the reverse problem, one where the blogger is threatened with legal action when they haven’t done anything against the law.

To be clear, in the U.S., anyone can sue anyone for any reason at any time. If your sole purpose is to avoid a lawsuit, being within the law is, unfortunately, no protection. There’s always a chance you could have to spend the time and money to defend yourself in court.

However, if you have a more practical goal of not being hit with a lawsuit that has a chance of success, you still don’t want to give in needlessly to false legal threats. With that in mind, here are five of the more common false legal threats that bloggers face and why they carry no weight. read more

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June 22, 2010

Apple Changes iPhone Policy, Begins Sharing Your Location Information

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iPhone Location Based ServicesLocation based services have taken over the cellular market in the last several years and now Apple has decided that your location information may be worth a bunch of cash. Apple changed their company license today to state that they now store “the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device” and that they have the right to share it with “partners and licensees.”

Apple is working to calm customer fears, claiming that all location based data is “collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you.” It’s a statement that should seem familiar to Facebook users who were told the same thing months ago, only to find out that their profile information and the profile information of their friends were being shared with advertisers.

Unlike Facebook, there is apparently no way to opt-out of the Apple policy. Actually that’s not totally true, you can refuse to ever download another app for the life of your device and then stay away from the iTunes store, at which point you aren’t forced to agree to the companies new terms of service before proceeding with purchases. read more

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October 12, 2009

5 Smart Legal Steps for Your Blog

Rapidly the “Wild West” days of blogging are coming to an end legally. As blogging becomes more mainstream as a form of media, so does the legal issues that confronts it. No longer an outlier, blogs are actively competing with newspapers and even television in terms of journalism, audience and trendsetting.

But this has brought with it a slew of new legal headaches. Blogging has become the target for copyright holders, celebrities and even the FTC. There are very real and very serious legal risks associated with blogging and it is important to be aware of them.

So what are some steps you can take to avoid legal headaches with your blog? There are actually too many to list and much of it just comes down to operating in good faith. However, there are a handful of very simple things that you can do to improve your legal position and lessen the likelihood that you’ll be on the wrong end of a lawsuit and also strengthen your own rights.

Just some of the basics are below. read more

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May 8, 2009

The CrunchCam: Look In On TechCrunch

CrunchCamTechCrunch obviously wants to save money on “real” surveillance, so they’ll get the nerdosphere to do the job for them, courtesy of the CrunchCam. That’s the fancy word for a webcam setup at the TechCrunch office, streaming live nonstop using Ustream. That’s right, you can watch bloggers blog, for free! And you know what, they might even add a second camera with limited audio, oh the joy!

To be fair, they are doing something with this. Right now I’m seein a dog, a bunch of bloggers behind desks or running around, and a “Today’s Sponsor” whiteboard piece of art. And if you watch it on Ustream, you can tweet about it and end up in the social stream box. That’s always fun, isn’t it?

Hopefully not all bloggers will follow. The mere thought of being able to watch some unwashed guy still in his undies at 3PM scares me a little.

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April 20, 2009

20 Law-Related Questions Every Blogger Should Know

Though journalism schools are often maligned in the blogging world as producing stale writing, they do teach many valuable lessons that are useful when running your own site.

One of those lessons is a primer in mass media law. By publishing works to the Web, one is essentially performing much of the same function as newspapers and television stations did exclusively just a few decades ago. However, the laws that govern such publications are not taught in most high schools nor most colleges.

So what should a blogger know about the law before they put up their first post? There are many things, certainly more than what can be covered in this post, but here are twenty questions every every blogger should be able to answer. read more

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