Todd "Turbo" Watson -- IBM Corporation
Pardon my brief and sudden disappearance from the blogosphere, but I was in the NYC area last week, making some rounds and taking some meetings.
As fate would have it, I bumbled through Grand Central station about 70 minutes prior to the steampipe explosion on Lexington Avenue.
Thank heavens for cocktails with a colleague closer to Times Square.
If I was fortunate to miss the flying steam and wilting asbestos, I was also glad to see a longstanding personal belief vindicated: that in our new digital world, privacy would increasingly evolve into a competitive advantage.
First, there was Ask's introduction of "AskEraser," which allows users of the Ask search engine to erase their search history.
Prior to that, Google's reduction in retained data (from 2038 to 18 months) and its revised cookie expiration (from 2038 to 2 years...something advocates have rightfully pointed out is somewhat anemic: Are you going to stop using Google for two years so your cookie can expire just to have another one set? But hey, they're trying.)
And then today, MIcrosoft's announcement that it was introducing new policies and technologies to protect the privacy of users of its Live Search services.
Microsoft, along with Ask, have also announced their intent to initiate an industrywide initiative to establish standard practices for retention of users' search histories.
In spirit, I'm all for such initiatives -- the more dialogue about the sensitivity around and commercial exploitation of users' search histories, the better.
But The Wall Street Journal observes that the attempt to spearhead such an initiative "could be in part a reflection of their [Ask and Microsofts'] place in the industry, pointing out that both "lag far behind Google and Yahoo in Internet-search market share and thus have far less data about search behaviors than their rivals."
Such a clarion call for more privacy standards, the Journal suggests, "could indirectly limit Google's ability to use its vast stores of information to improve its services."
That may be so, but if, in the process of establishing some industry-wide standards, users' regain some control of their personal search histories, I would suggest all constituencies involved would be better off.
Privacy and search are a ticking time bomb.
It would likely only take the misused or misappropriated use of one high-profile U.S. politican's personal search information to start this whole thing tumbling into a legislative landslide.
Better to get ahead of the search privacy curve and establish some reasonable and mutually-beneficial rules of the road (which strike a balance between business and user) -- no matter the potentially misguided impetus.[Read More]
Hey, what happened to Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien??!! Bring them back!
I turn on the telly this morning, and there's Larry King live on "American Morning" interviewing Kiran Chetry and John Roberts!
I knew the cancellation of "Imus in the Morning" caused some disruption in the mass media marketplace, but c'mon, ya didn't have to bail on the O'Briens, now did ya?
Well, the ploy backfired in the Turbo household as I immediately showed "American Morning's" Nielsen representative out the back door.
Then, I dusted off my remote for the NBC channel to check out "The Today Show" after who knows how many weeks (months?? years??).
Looking real good in HD, Matt and Meredith, I must say...Long as you give me some real news between your cooking packages, ya'll will do just fine.
Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that Microsoft has called for government intervention in Google's announced acquisition of DoubleClick.
Turnabout is fair play, I guess.
GigaOM's Om Malik does a deeper dive on the merger in his interview with Organic CEO Mark Kingdon, highlighting the weekend flurry of Google news, including the partnership with Clear Channel Communications to sell radio ads.
This just in time for a possible private equity buyout of Clear Channel from Bain Capital and Thomas Lee Partners.
(Is it just me, or is it the M&A bankers and lawyers cleaning up with all this dealmaking??)
As Mr. Malik explains in his post, "If there was any need for proof that Google considers advertising its core competency, then last few days provide ample testimony to that fact...The DoubleClick acquisition showed that Google is willing to spend any amount of money to defend its advertising turf."
Boy howdy and then some.
I think it's probably a little too soon to tell if the free marketplace will be a winner or loser -- it could easily be argued that Google and DoubleClick businesses are sufficiently distinct enough not to merit warranted antitrust complaints.
Alas, logic has never stopped the inclination to drive antitrust suits, particularly by competitors and incumbents whose businesses could be negatively impacted by major mergers.
Me, I still maintain that consumer privacy is the big loser (Go head, hold a big "L" against your forehead) in the deal, and hope and pray that Google and DoubleClick can convince me over time that those concerns are unwarranted (in deeds, not words).[Read More]
Yesterday, the New York Times published an article about the dirty little secret behind "cookies," the files that many online advertisers, publishers, and advertising networks drop onto users' hard drives.
Such cookies can admittedly be useful to consumers (cookies help prevent you from having to log in to the same site over and over and over again), as well as to businesses trying to ascertain the number of "unique visitors" who visit their site.
But as the Times' article points out, the online ad measurement cookie starts to crumble before even getting out of the oven. Why?
Geeks like me delete their cookies on a fairly regular basis. Some 7.1 percent of geeks, according to a comScore panel survey conducted late last year.
We're known as "serial deleters" (I'm not even going to go there), but unfortunately for advertisers, we account for a "grossly disproportionate" share of the ad server traffic, having received some 35.3 percent of the total number of cookies observed in the study.
So after reading this piece yesterday, I laughed out loud today when I saw this Wall Street Journal article today about "behavioral targeting" (registration required).
In summary, the article explains how many big advertisers are turning to behavioral targeting -- using cookie-based targeting across a large swath of different Web sites to try and target a specific demography with online ads -- to try and create more efficient and effective online advertising buys.
The problem is, they're very likely way overcounting the number of actual unique visitors out there, which means advertisers are paying to reach a bunch of "unique visitors" who aren't very unique at all!
Turbo Thought: Target geeks like me who frequently delete their cookies. Even though every other demography you're targeting could be completely miscalculated due to this 30+ percentage differential, you'll know for sure you're getting to the "serial deleter" demographic!
Fresh cookies all around!
All of this becomes even more amusing when you think about the size of the recent deals in this space -- Google paying $3.1B for DoubleClick, Microsoft acquiring aQuantive for $6 billion, WPP paying $649 million for 24/7 -- businesses all apparently constructed atop a fragile cookie measurement foundation.
As Cookie Monster himself would say, "Me love Santa's cookies!"
And Google's, and DoubleClicks, and everybody else's!!!
Cookies everywhere and all over the world and for everybody!!![Read More]
Facebook is finally ready to expand its social networking tentacles beyond Facebook.com, the New York Times is reporting this morning, with the adoption of Facebook Connect by a number of partner Web sites.
This capability, announced earlier this year, will essentially let users take their Facebook data and use it on other Web properties.
Their identity (read: authentication, as well as basic profile information), friends, and privacy controls can be carried to and leveraged by other Websites, and in turn, it will allow those other properties to feed off the Facebook engine.
The Times story indicates that among those signing up to use the service include Digg, Discovery Channel, the San Francisco Chronicle, online video star Hulu, among others.
Though this is clearly intended to make the very popular social networking site even more social, it also seems clearly intended to identify more logical ways to monetize the Facebook juggernaut.
Advertisers haven't exactly flocked to Facebook in droves, and a recent IDC study observed that only 57 percent of users of social networks clicked on an ad in a social networking site over the past year.
By taking the Facebook profile data into other sites, Facebook is essentially opening the aperture of its ad sales opportunity.
But they're also running the risk of another privacy bungle, one not unlike the original outcry among college students when Facebook introduced the now incredibly popular NewsFeed feature, and more recently its Beacon advertising system.
For my money, education and a slow and steady approach wins this race.
Facebook needs to educate the market and its user base about the opportunity Connect presents to each constituency, one for selling advertising, and the other for enriching the Facebook experience.
By demonstrating how Facebook Connect can enhance the consumer FB experience beyond the site, Facebook can ease concerns about the use (or misuse) of their profile information, much as they smoothed over the initial concerns expressed about NewsFeed -- a feature which many would now consider to be the key feature that distinguishes the Facebook experience (I would be one among them).
Based on my reading of the Times story, the slow and steady approach seems to be the one that Facebook has adopted, remembering that friends in one's social graph are made one click at a time.Read More]
Today signals the kickoff of the RSA Security Conference in San Jose, California. This year's conference will see more than 275 exhibitors and a host of speakers, including IBM's Doug Conorich, who will head a session on "Lessons Learned from Network Break-Ins." Doug works with IBM's Managed Security Services organization.
Also speaking at RSA from IBM will be Anthony Nadalin, a distinguished engineer with our Tivoli software team. Anthony will be providing an overview of "Model Driven Security Architecture," which takes a business application lifecycle management approach to building in layers of security and authorization for a service-oriented architecture. (Get a deep dive in this article from the IBM Systems Journal.)
C:NET provides some setup overview coverage here, citing that this year's conference agenda dutifully acknowledges that security has moved out of the server room and into the boardroom.
Though I've talked extensively in past postings about identity theft and what we as consumers can do to protect ourselves (and our identities), I also wanted to point out some new IBM solutions and approaches that can help organizations with this critically important challenge.
As a reminder of how pervasive that challenge is, in the U.S. alone identity theft has already touched one in 20 adult Americans. To help drive this number down, companies need to be taking a more holistic approach to identity management.
To that end, earlier this week we launched the IBM "Identity Management Services," an end-to-end portfolio of capabilities that cover the entire identity management lifecycle - from identity proofing to user provisioning to access control. You can learn more about this offering here.
Also, don't think you have to be a gargantuan company to benefit. This week we also announced IBM Tivoli Identity Manager Express, a software tool that provides those of you in the SMB marketplace a way to manage passwords, user accounts, and access permissions from a single point. This can help streamline your user permissioning and password resets, as well as better prepare your organization for internal and external audit compliance.[Read More]
Didja see the Grammys last night? I made it about halfway through then realized that I'm woefully out of touch with modern music.
Dug that Circque du Soleil homage to the Beatles, though.
If you missed all the action at the Staples Center, Mahalo's Jason Calacanis found a few video clips on the Internets, including Amy Winehouse's satellite performance of "Rehab" live from London (Winehouse took the most Grammys for the evening, at five.)
The morning after, as the candles were burning out from the all-night Grammys after parties, I stumbled upon this story from the New York Times about Facebook's seemingly endless personal information misuse saga.
The Times' new angle: What happens to your information when you break it off with Facebook?
Apparently, not much -- including having your information not getting completely erased, even though that would be most peoples' expectation after deleting their account.
Speaking of Grammys, as one person interviewed for the story explained: "It's like the Hotel California...You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."
Says another: "...they save your information without telling you in a really clear way."
Facebook's explanation: Leaving some of that basic profile and historical information available in deactivated accounts makes it easier for former Facebookers to return to the fold and reactivate their accounts so that "their information will be available again just as they left it."
What, just in case one goes into Newsfeed withdrawals and is compelled to come back to Facebook?
May be. But Facebook may soon find themselves in consumer data retention rehab themselves, if they're not careful.
The way I see it: It was my information before we started seeing one another, and it'll be my information long after we're done.
Allow me to delete it, all of it, when I decide to leave -- easily and without a court order -- and you might just get another shot at me.
But hold my information hostage...well, that's just no way to treat a former customer, and I'll remember it long after you've allegedly deleted my account.
Can't we all just get along?
Apparently, we can.
Mashable is reporting that Photobucket and MySpace have now kissed and made up, with Photobucket video embeds once again working on MySpace pages after being forced to stand in a virtual corner for the past two weeks.
But Mike Arrington wants to know "who blinked first and why," explaining that Alexa data suggests Photobucket got a PR boost from the controversy as opposed to what many would have expected to be a significant traffic decline.
Bad news is apparently better than no news at all.
Speaking of PR, DoubleClick is going on a rebranding offensive with an excellent example of new media communications online via a site called "Nervecenter," complete with chic video interviews with CEO David Rosenblatt, who speaks about the new new DoubleClick and the opportunity ahead for "redefining the digital space."
Alas, the redefinition does not seem to have been redefined prior to the announcement of Google's intended acquisition of DoubleClick, which means there's no lipstick to be found anywhere on the "Nervecenter" site about the looming privacy pig...or was that an elephant???
In any case, the "Nerve Center" is (mostly) very well executed -- long on style, shorter on substance -- but struck a nerve with me by not having any RSS feeds in sight?
What does one have to do to get a subscription around here? Drop a cookie?[Read More]
Just last week on a call with my extended team I was reviewing the new Google Street View capability, and explaining the reaction many had had to it from a privacy perspective.
During my conversation with the team, I had mentioned that it would likely only be a matter of time before concerns were raised around the use of such information by terrorists for the planning of their heinous crimes.
Then lo and behold, this tidbit falls over the transom from the CNET "News Blog" stating that the JFK terror plotters used Google Earth to obtain detailed aerial photographs of JFK airport.
According to a court document, the blog reports, one of the four defendants indicated that one of their surveillance videos was not sufficiently detailed for operational purposes, which is when they allegedly resorted to Google Earth instead.
While a Google statement from earlier today highlighted the attention that its Google Earth team has paid to security risks posed by its satellite imaging tool, and that they're not the only player in this market, CNET's Caroline McCarthy also points out that such tools "certainly do make it easier for a would-be terrorist to obtain such maps anonymously."
I would expect this turn of events to lead to at some further public debate and deliberation (perhaps in the U.S. Congress?) about the implications of anonymous access to such valuable satellite imagery online.
Our collective safety and security might well depend on it.[Read More]
The Google Mint continues to demonstrate steam in its latest earnings, with net income having climbed to $1B in the latest quarter, reports Bloomberg.
CEO Eric Schmidt explained that "We overspend relative to what people think we should capital..." and ..."underspend on people in, say, customer service because we're automated."
But the Google $$$ printing machine ain't the only thing being automated out in Mountain View.
Search swami Danny Sullivan has also outlined some new changes to its search history system. The feature formerly known as "Search History" has been renamed "Web History."
The feature allows Google to record each and every single search and Web site you visit.
Google is being purposely transparent about the move, but the level of personal data associated to individuals is greater than it has ever been with this move.
On the other hand, the personalization of search brings great user benefits, allowing the consumer to reach back and easily find previous searches or Web site visits (search the searches!).
It's a mixed bag. Become a more informed and educated Googler. Read Danny's post and decide if the privacy tradeoff is worth it for you personally.[Read More]