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Google has announced that they are opening up their Street View Trekker program to third-party non-profits. Google is looking to expand Street View imagery off the beat path. To do this, they need to take their Trekker backpacks by foot into areas not accessible by cars or other imaging devices.
So, who better to trek into the unknown than the tourism boards or non-profits responsible for protecting those areas? This is exactly why Google has opened their program up to the public. Google is now accepting applications, though the details of the program aren't exactly clear. You can fill out an application at Source #2 below.
It was leaked today that Facebook is working on a Chat Room feature. This feature is currently in testing, so don't expect it to be coming to a profile near you for quite sometime, if at all. Facebook confirmed that the feature is being tested, but wouldn't confirm any details regarding the feature.
Luckily for us, someone who has the new feature was more than happy to talk. The option to start a chat room would be above the Update Status box. Clicking "Host Chat" would open up a chat box that then anyone could join. A status update would be pushed out to your friends inviting them to join.
The host would have the ability to set a topic for discussion, expel people, and set privacy options, though these chat rooms could ultimately end up connecting friends of friends. Privacy details could prove troublesome and could result in the project never seeing the light of day, however, it could end up being a valuable way to discover new friends via trusted mutual friends.
Google has processed hundreds of terabytes of Earth imagery to construct a cloud-free version of its satellite imagery used in its Maps and Earth products. The data is also now higher resolution, providing the ability to see the Earth in greater detail. The new imagery comes from NASA's and USGS' Landsat 7 satellite. Due to a hardware failure early in life, this was no easy feat.
Landsat 7's imagery has black stripes in the normal images due to said hardware failure. Google had to combine multiple images in order to remove those black stripes. This same process is essentially how they managed to get a cloudless version of their imagery, even in tropical zones that almost always have some cloud cover.
Google has also focused on bringing the new imagery to zones that hadn't been updated in a while. This means the new imagery focuses on Russia, Indonesia, and central Africa. Google notes that the new image is over 800,000 megapixels. In other words, it would take a piece of paper the size of a city block to print it out at the standard 300dpi.
Facebook strongly denies allegations that it handed over user data to the Turkish government in relation to the ongoing protests currently taking place in Turkey. Facebook notes that they rarely provide any user data to Turkish law enforcement or government officials, with the only exception being if there appears to be an immediate threat to life or a child.
Facebook has not provided user data to Turkish authorities in response to government requests relating to the protests. More generally, we reject all government data requests from Turkish authorities and push them to formal legal channels unless it appears that there is an immediate threat to life or a child, which has been the case in only a small fraction of the requests we have received.
We are concerned about legislative proposals that might purport to require Internet companies to provide user information to Turkish law enforcement authorities more frequently. We will be meeting with representatives of the Turkish government when they visit Silicon Valley this week, and we intend to communicate our strong concerns about these proposals directly at that time.
Reports of Facebook providing Turkish officials with user data stemmed from an NPR report that cited a Turkish minister. He claimed that Facebook was "in cooperation with the state" and that Twitter refused to supply user data. Facebook and others are worried about pending litigation that could force them to provide more data to the Turkish government. Some of Turkey's legislators have called for stronger social media use rules in light of the protests.
Should Facebook and Twitter be required to cooperate more with the Turkish government?
Google has just announced an addition to its popular Transparency Report. Google will now be including information about malware, broken down by country. Google has included various interesting tidbits including how many users they protect through their SafeBrowsing technology, how long it takes for a site to become reinfected after being cleaned of malware, and various other bits of information Google has gleaned.
Glancing over the data, it's easily seen that malware doesn't seem to be on the rise, unlike government data requests. India has the highest percentage--16, for those keeping count--of infected sites, but via total number of hosted sites, the United States is way ahead of India. The United States has two percent of all scanned sites infected with malware, but this amounts to two percent of 14 million sites. India is 16 percent of just 26,000 sites.
To check out Google's interactive map of malware infections, head to Google's updated Transparency Report.
Today, we are hearing rumors that Microsoft will launch a web-based version of Xbox Music, a Spotify-like music streaming service. The company says that this will allow Xbox Live subscribers to be able to access their content across various platforms.
Citing sources familiar with Xbox Music's internal team, The Verge is reporting that the web-based version will launch as early as next week at music.Xbox.com. The same sources also state that Microsoft is already started updating its Xbox Music pages in preparation for the launch. Xbox Music on the web will work very similar to how Spotify handles its web-based music streaming, and will let you manage playlists through the browser.
Microsoft is also refreshing its Xbox Music App in preparation for Windows 8.1. The new design will include a two-panel interface and will improve discoverability while allowing quick access to collections of songs. It will also support streaming music files from SD cards and improved play to smartphones outside of the Xbox music catalog.
This morning Microsoft unveiled its new Bing for Schools initiative, a voluntary program that offers schools in the US a custom tailored version of its Bing search engine that is K-12 appropriate. The customization process removes all advertisements from the search engine you to Microsoft believe that schools "are fore learning and not for selling".
SafeSearch, brings built-in adult content filter is configured to the strictest settings by default and is locked down so students are unable to change it back manually. Microsoft says that there will also be many more enhanced privacy protections, but declined to elaborate further.
Bing for Schools will come with several bundled short lesson plans that the school can use to teach students basic digital literacy skills. "We see the program as something we can build alongside teachers, parents, and visionaries to create the best possible search experience for our children," Matt Wallaert, a Bing Behavioral Scientist said.
Twitch.tv is down, and once it comes back online, all users will be requires to reset their passwords and stream keys. We know this, as the information is coming directly from their blog, which blames the outage on a caching issue with their web CDN partner.
Some were worried that Twitch were hacked, but this isn't the case. The company has stated that they haven't been hacked and it should be back up shortly, but "10s of millions of accounts resets takes quite a bit of time".
It seems like several different web companies are racing to build replacements to Google's ill-fated Reader product that officially closes down July 1. Digg was one of the first to announce a replacement option, now it appears that AOL has thrown its hat into the ring.
According to the AOL Reader site, the new product is "in private beta now." It promises "all your favorite websites, in one place." Not much is known about the service. In fact, I haven't been able to find anything publicly announced by the company ahead of the launch.
On another page, a bit more information about the service can be found. It offers a customizable layout, the ability to import and export your feeds, and an API so anyone can develop web, desktop, and mobile apps on top of the service. We'll have to see how it ends up looking once it is out of beta.
Facebook has just reported about a bug that "may have allowed some of a person's contact information (email or phone number) to be accessed by people who either had some contact information about that person or some connection to them."
It's important to note that only phone numbers or e-mails were affected. The bug was present in the Download Your Information (DYI) tool.
The bug doesn't likely present a huge security risk as the information was provided about people who were already connected with you in some form or another. This means that it probably isn't an issue if their e-mail or phone number shows up in your data; you likely already have it.
Of course, Facebook needs to be careful as they are the stewards of quite a bit of personal and private information. We're glad that it was just phone numbers and e-mails, but Facebook needs to make sure things like this don't happen in the future.