"Algorithms can have errors": One man’s quest to purge horrific pictures from his Google results

Last week, we covered the story of Camping Alfaques, a Spanish vacation spot whose owner recently sued Google in a local court. His concern: top search results that feature grisly images (note: thumbnail versions of a few appear in a screenshot below) of dead bodies from an old tragedy. Such cases have so many implications for the future of search engines and the companies who depend on them that we spoke to the owner of Camping Alfaques to learn more about his situation. He told us what led him to sue Google, how much the case matters to him, and why he doesn’t want anything “deleted” from the ‘Net—just relocated.

Mario Gianni Masiá, now the owner of an oceanfront vacation spot called “Camping Alfaques” in southern Spain, was a child in 1978 when a tanker truck exploded into a fireball on the road just beyond the site. 23 tons of fuel ignited, immediately turning 200 campers to ash and badly burning several hundred more. Safely on the other side of the camp, Mario was unscathed.

Photographers descended, of course; pictures were snapped, graphic shots of bodies stacked like charcoal, carbonized arms rising from the earth. Newspapers covered the deaths. A movie was made. But 30 years is a long time, and while memories of the disaster never vanished, visitors to the campground didn’t have the most shocking images shoved in their faces just for planning a trip.

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Android Apps also have a backdoor to your photos

Recent investigations into the untidy state of smartphone app permissions have led to a startling discovery—Android apps can siphon photos off your phone as long as you give the app permission to access an Internet connection.

After throwing Apple into the fire for allowing social networking app Path to access a user’s contacts without an explicit warning, further probes revealed that iOS apps could upload pictures from a user’s gallery and send them to an unknown server as long as the user allowed the app to see pictures with location data on them. Today, an investigation by the New York Times revealed that Android’s permissions system is allowing the same thing, although perhaps in a more nefarious way.

The Times got an Android developer to make a simple timer for a test app. When the app was launched, it asked for permission to access the Internet, making no mention of access to the user’s photo gallery. Once the permission was accepted, however, the app accessed the user’s most recent photo and uploaded it to a public website.

Google responded by saying that the privacy breach is a legacy of the way old Android phones handled photos—usually on external SD cards that could be removed and exchanged so that users could grant permissions to access the data off one memory card but not another.

The photo uploading problem is yet another privacy fumble in which Apple is caught first, but Android is also found culpable later, like when iOS phones were found tracking location data and storing it in a file on the phone in mid-2011. In response to the Times‘ questions on photo uploading, Google said it would consider changing its approach, but asserted that its security system Bouncer screened applications for inappropriate implementation of permissions.

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Nearly 50% of Americans Own Smartphones; Android, iPhone Dominate

Smartphone use is surging in the United States, powered by the massive success of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android operating system. In fact, for the first time, smartphones now outnumber more basic mobile phones, according to a new Pew survey. The growing ubiquity of these sophisticated mobile device is fueling an entirely new industry — […]

Yahoo Threatens to Sue Facebook Over Patents

The escalating war between technology companies over intellectual property has had a number of unfortunate consequences, but perhaps none is sadder than the spectacle of an ailing Internet giant using the threat of patent litigation to extract money from an up-and-coming firm. Yet that appears to be Yahoo’s strategy, by demanding that Facebook pay it […]

Report: Facebook, Google Overtake Yahoo In Display Ad Market Share

Yahoo’s once dominant position with display advertising is now officially over. Research firm eMarketer released figures Wednesday showing that both Facebook and Google surpassed Yahoo last year in display-ad revenue, with $1.73 billion and $1.71 billion, respectively. According to eMarketer, overall spending on online video, sponsorships, rich media and banner advertising grew 25.2 percent to $12.4 […]

Does Obama’s Online ‘Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights’ Get the Job Done? Read more:

The Obama administration just rolled out something it’s calling a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.” It’s a first draft at this point — think of it as a blueprint for legislation down the road, a statement of principles companies can voluntarily sign onto — but given what it’s meant to do, and how it could […]

Google Takes Another Experimental Step Toward Delivering TV

Google, which was founded by two graduate students, has always made research a top priority. Now it appears that the company is turning a metropolitan area in the Midwest into its latest laboratory. The tech giant, which is building a fiber-optic network to provide superfast Internet service in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., is […]

Future Chrome version may choose your passwords, and change them when you’ve been hacked

Google’s Chrome development team is working on a system to automatically generate passwords, which would help users secure their online identities with passwords that would be diversified across different sites, and are randomized and thus harder to guess. Detailed in developer documentation on the Chromium Project site, the system would detect account sign-up pages and “add a small UI element to the password field” giving the user the option of letting Chrome manage the password for them.

Initial versions of the system would create passwords on an individual basis, at the user’s request. But Google’s development team states that “At some point in the future it might also be possible for us to automatically change all of a user’s passwords when we realize that their account is hijacked.” The developer documentation notes that the feature would make Google “a higher value hijacking target,” than it already is, although “Google is already a high value target so this shouldn’t change much.”

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