Online buzz: Google has best, worst week ever

· Mar 30, 2011 Tweet

What a week it has been for Google. The search engine giant rolled out a number of new features, announced the lucky city to receive its ultra-high speed Internet service and was hit hard by a settlement over privacy concerns. Here is a round-up of Google’s tumultuous week.

Kansas City wins Google Fiber, Madison sheds a silent tear

Around this time last year, Madison was abuzz with the news Google was seeking a city in which to test an ultra high-speed Internet experiment called Google Fiber. City officials, grassroots organizations and individuals from all over the city threw their support behind the city’s application. Planning meetings were held, social media accounts cropped up and Babcock created a special ice cream flavor.

But it was not enough. Google announced Thursday it will invest resources in Kansas City, Kans. to construct the network of fiber optic cables and conduits necessary to bring the service to consumers. The company’s blog post noted the city was chosen because “our goal was to find a location where we could build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations.”

The news is a blow to Madison, where the 1 gigabit data transfer speed would have afforded Internet access at speeds 40 to 1,000 times faster than what Charter currently provides its customers. But if all goes well in Kansas City, here’s to hoping Google shares the love, either directly or through pushing industry standards sky-high.

Google wants to make searching even more social

Google has been rolling out its “social search” feature for some time now, allowing people who opt to sign in with social networks to view within search results what their friends are sharing.

This was taken one step further Thursday, when the new “+1” button was unveiled. It works similarly to liking something on Facebook, allowing you to recommend search results within Google. Google said on its blog it is equivalent to saying “this is pretty cool.” Unlike social results, it’s not limited to your friends, either – you can see what people across the web have +1’d.

However, we had a bit of trouble getting it rolling at The Badger Herald office. A colleague and I both +1’d a link, but our recommendation did not show up in each other’s search results.

More tailored ads: Coming to a Gmail inbox near you

Google is not just a search engine – it’s an enormous force in the advertising world thanks to its access to so much consumer information. Ads within Gmail have been around for a while, utilizing information pulled from users’ emails to target them with relevant ads.

Google wants to make this connection between email data and ads even more powerful, utilizing technology similar to how it currently creates “priority inboxes.” Using the topics a user emails most about, Google will create ads that are much more specific to the individual. The irrelevant info is sorted out, and you are left with ads Google believes will truly interest you.

The company notes the process is fully automated, and no private information is passed on to the advertiser.

Google Buzz: An apology and a settlement

Google’s glowing week was marred by the revelation the company will be subject to privacy audits for the next 20 years. The settlement comes a year after furious consumers brought a suit claiming the company did not do enough to allow privacy with its then-new Buzz feature.

Buzz, which works as a Twitter-like social sharing platform within Gmail, was found by the Federal Trade Commission to have confusing and hard-to-find privacy settings. FTC also found the company was deceptive during its implementation and in violation of its privacy standards.

Google offered an apology on its blog, but the company will have to tread lightly to improve trust as it continues to move forward with innovative data-mining features.

Signe Brewster is a junior majoring in life sciences communication. If you want to talk Google conspiracy theories or have a topic you want to see addressed in Technologic, e-mail her at [email protected].

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This article was published Mar 30, 2011 at 6:15 pm and last updated Mar 30, 2011 at 6:15 pm

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