Tag Archives: google

Tech City News – Issue 7, June 2015 – Dublin #StartupIreland

Feature work covered both words and photography.

EU Finally Rules in 10-year Google Anti-trust Case

Google CarouselGoogle has committed to improving its business practices as part of a decade-long investigation by the European Commission into monopolistic behaviour in online search.

Having rejected two initial proposals for reconciliation from Google, the Commission has now accepted the ad giant’s offer, with anti-trust chief Joachin Alumnia speaking in Brussels to say he believes the company is now ‘capable of addressing the concerns’.

The Commission said: “Google has now accepted to guarantee that whenever it promotes its own specialised search services on its web page (e.g. for products, hotels, restaurants, etc.), the services of three rivals, selected through an objective method, will also be displayed in a way that is clearly visible to users and comparable to the way in which Google displays its own services.

“This principle will apply not only for existing specialised search services, but also to changes in the presentation of those services and for future services.”

‘Difficult to feel complete comfort’ with process

Glen Collins, CEO of user-generated content review site Review Centre, told Mobile Marketing that he doesn’t feel entirely comfortable with the length of the latest case. “I think it’s very difficult to feel complete comfort in an anti-trust process that takes 10 years to reach a decision in a market where the rules, the players and the technology changes seemingly overnight.”

SEO specialist Richard Baxter, MD of SEOgadget.com, told us his company will be interested to know how Google will identify ‘three rivals’ to display within its paid search results. “The concessionary measure offered by Google today apparently opens a fairer, less biased playing field for brands to succeed in search regardless of their budget and company size.

“We’ll be analysing just where Google intends to find the data for their enhanced ad listings, though we expect to find they’ll be influenced by results from Google’s Organic search service.”

Not the first time

In January last year, Google agreed to change some of its business practices in the US following a large-scale investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These related to issues around patents, use of other companies content to sell its own products and, as in the EU case, anti-competitive promotion of Google AdWords to advertisers looking to use multiple ad providers.

While Google was investigated for manipulating search algorithms to favour its own vertical websites, the FTC concluded that this ‘could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google’s product and the experience of its users’. Although this criticism was not upheld in the US, the EU case also looked at whether Google was favouring its own search results over others.

In another case, this time April last year, the Fairsearch coalition of tech companies, including Microsoft, Nokia, TripAdvisor and Expedia called for a ‘rigorous investigation of Google’s mobile practices’ to protect consumers and ensure competition. The group also filed a complaint with the EU.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here: http://mobilemarketingmagazine.com/eu-google-not-guilty-in-anti-trust-search-case/#JCPr1mSClq247GVv.99

‘Leaky Apps’ Scandal: Where Does the Buck Stop?

Apps stock imageThis week’s revelations about the role that app developers and advertising networks may have (potentially accidentally) played in UK and US government spying raises very important questions for the mobile industry.

Aside from Rovio, which released a comprehensive statement assuring its users that it does not give data to spying agencies, and levelling blame at third-party networks, the silence from the industry has been deafening.

Google’s Doubleclick ads are among those served within Rovio’s Angry Birds, which implicates the company in this alleged haemorrhaging of personal details. Google is also an app owner, with its suite of productivity apps among the most widely used in the world, giving it even greater visibility of data and relevant security issues.

Google: No comment

Asked what the company made of the Wikileaks information, a Google spokesperson said: “We don’t have a comment on this.” When pressed on its responsibility to its users, Google added: “No one’s available for comment.”

Ad networks including Millennial Media and Nexage also serve ads within Rovio’s apps. Millennial Media’s EMEA content and communications manager Dave Ross-Tomlin, made a short statement yesterday. “There has been reporting over the last 24 hours about the collection of mobile data by government ‘spy’ agencies,” he said. “Let us be clear: Millennial Media has not and does not work with, nor pass information to, the NSA, GCHQ, or any other such agencies.”

The company said that it uses non-personally identifiable data provided by publishers – in this case, app developers – with the permission of users. It then adds additional filtering for regulatory compliance, relating to laws like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. We were directed to their privacy policy but Millennial could not give any more detail about whether data could have been collected without them knowing and, if so, how this could be stopped in the future.

MMA: We take privacy seriously

It is not entirely clear within whose jurisdiction this lies and who should be held accountable if consumers’ privacy is infringed. While the Internet Advertising Bureau said it is unable to comment, Stephen Upstone, UK chair of the Mobile Marketing Association, a trade body for the industry, said that his organisation and its members take the issue of consumer privacy very seriously.

“I am not aware of any companies sharing of customer data accidentally or deliberately,” Upstone said. “The MMA takes an active role in encouraging regulation and best practice with the mobile marketing and advertising industry globally. We consult with brand marketers, advertising agencies, publishers, software and service suppliers on behalf of the industry and consumers.”

When asked who could be held responsible if data has been handed over to security services, purposefully of not, Upstone added: “Individual companies that handle data are responsible for ensuring it is properly handled, securely stored and that the laws and regulations are being respected. App developers who work with third-party suppliers and manage data are responsible for choosing vendors who are managing data properly.”

Rovio has said that it is now re-evaluating its work with ad networks as it considers how to ensure that data is not made so freely available in future, but without clear evidence of who has done what, many in the industry face having this key app ad inventory removed from their arsenal. And with little response from app developers and the ad networks they work with, it is difficult to know how the industry can stop this happening in the future.

ICO: We have raised concerns about US spying

We got in touch with a number of consumer protection organisations, including Consumer Future and Which?, but they were unable to comment as they did not have the relevant expertise. An Information Commissioner spokesperson said that app developers must comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act, including being open about how data will be used and that data collection is not excessive, on which the organisation has created guidelines.

On the NSA and surveillance, the ICO spokesperson said: “There are real issues about the extent to which US law enforcement agencies can access personal data of UK and other European citizens. Aspects of US law under which companies can be compelled to provide information to US agencies potentially conflict with European data protection law, including the UK’s own Data Protection Act. The ICO has raised this with its European counterparts, and the issue is being considered by the European Commission, who are in discussions with the US Government.”

This is just the latest in a long list of examples of government infringing on civil liberties, so are people right to ask whether privacy itself is a thing of the past? Online security firm Bitdefender says that users who embrace privacy are ‘denied access to modern technology’.

Bitdefender: Internet is a pool of data waiting to be mined

“Many of the apps that we install on a daily basis are paid for with our private details,” said Alexandru Catalin Cosoi, chief security strategist at Bitdefender. ”On one hand, advertisers are becoming greedier and greedier, because the more personal information they get, the more accurate their profiling, and on the other hand, developers are better paid if they accept the task of getting more information for the advertiser.

“It looks like a win-win situation, but the end-user has the most to lose in the case of a data breach, and what’s most harmful is that most of the time they aren’t even aware that their private information is being harvested. Social networks are booming and a good chunk of users either have no idea how to, or do not care about, safely using these. The internet has become a pool of personal information ready to be mined.”

It was announced yesterday that Ed Snowden, the man who did some data mining of his own when he leaked documents about government spying to Wikileaks, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Price. But the prize is not without its critics, with past nominees including Joseph Stalin.

In an interview in December Edward Snowden said: “I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.” These revelations look like a good opportunity for the mobile industry to do some soul-searching of its own.

We reached out to a number of ad networks, including Nexage and Medaiplex, who did not get back to us. Adblock, creators of software to stop ads, declined to comment and App Annie, the app data analytics platform that tracks 3.9m apps, said it ‘may be next week when they engage with the question’. We are awaiting further comment from a number of other organisations. 

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here:  http://mobilemarketingmagazine.com/leaky-apps-scandal-where-does-the-buck-stop/#vouAJQ4eioHpUut1.99

Rovio Points to Ad Networks Over Data Leaks to NSA and GCHQ

Angry Birds CartoonAfter revelations in the Guardian today, on the EU’s international Data Protection Day no less, that Angry Birds and other ‘leaky’ phone apps like Google Maps have been targeted by NSA and GCHQ for private user data, the app developer Rovio has responded by pointing the finger at third-party ad networks.

The allegations about the security of popular apps relate to documents leaked by Edward Snowden to Wikileaks and subsequently passed on to the Guardian, the New York Times and ProPublica.

They show that apps, where commercial data is collected by developers or advertising networks, are considered a target for spies, with Angry Birds used as a case study. Information that may have been intercepted includes phone model and screen size, personal details like age, gender, sexual orientation and sexual preferences, and location data, including live Google Maps queries.

‘Anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of GCHQ’ 

The documents do not show how much data has been collected, stored or searched, or how many people are affected, but a document from 2008 highlighted by the Guardian explains that the level of access ‘effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system’. And apps have certainly come a long way since then. The NSA has spent more than $1bn in its phone targeting efforts, the Guardian reports.

Rovio, who spoke to Mobile Marketing last week about its plans for the Angry Birds apps, which have been downloaded more than 2bn times to date, has now issued a statement. The company says that it ‘does not share data, collaborate or collude with any government spy agencies such as NSA or GCHQ anywhere in the world’.

“The alleged surveillance may be conducted through third-party advertising networks used by millions of commercial web sites and mobile applications across all industries,” Rovio said. “If advertising networks are indeed targeted, it would appear that no internet-enabled device that visits ad-enabled web sites or uses ad-enabled applications is immune to such surveillance. Rovio does not allow any third-party network to use or hand over personal end-user data from Rovio’s apps.”

‘We will have to re-evaluate working with these networks’

Mikael Hed, CEO of Rovio Entertainment, added: “The most important conversation to be had is how to ensure user privacy is protected while preventing the negative impact on the whole advertising industry and the countless mobile apps that rely on ad networks. In order to protect our end users, we will, like all other companies using third-party advertising networks, have to re-evaluate working with these networks if they are being used for spying purposes.”

We have reached out to ad networks working with Rovio, including Millennial Media, Nexage and Google’s DoubleClick, along with the relevant industry bodies and privacy campaigners to comment on the story. Watch this space.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here: http://mobilemarketingmagazine.com/rovio-points-to-ad-networks-over-data-leaks-to-nsa-and-gchq/#LVXpgpxoBCtYwy80.99

A New Curriculum?

This is an article based on an interview with ed tech entrepreneur Gi Fernando on technology’s role in changing how education works. Gi Fernando is an investor in Freeformers, a company that trains young people from disadvantaged backgrounds alongside companies looking to learn digital skills.

I think we need to work harder to build a curriculum that unlocks students’ passions and enables them to solve problems they care deeply about. If you get them involved in projects where they can sort out problems by building things and making things, they are passionate to learn more. School panders to academic people who like learning for the sake of learning. But 90 per cent of people aren’t academic and they actually just want to be able to solve problems that they care about.

Creative does not just mean you’re good at drawing, and you can learn to be more creative. Some would argue the UK is number one for creativity for a whole number of things across the world. I’d say we’re almost creative despite ourselves! But we are a massively creative society – despite the curriculum, despite everything else. Creativity needs to be at the heart of curriculum as it comes out of passion.

Something like Apps for Good is a great model for this. The kids create an app around an issue, like a tool to help someone with learning disabilities learn better through the use of tech. The participants learn about building a successful business, hard skills like maths, soft skills like communication and the history of the problem they’re trying to solve.

Kids are told to turn off their phones when they get into the classroom. But like it or not, that is their communication device, making it more efficient for them to stay in touch with a bigger audience. With devices like this, kids also have the potential to learn larger volumes of stuff more quickly. Surely it’s better to incorporate this powerful computer into lessons, enabling the teacher to engage with students before, during and after?

The problem with teachers’ traditional knowledge transfer role is that knowledge is all there already, in real-time and always being updated. What a teacher now has to do is help young people distinguish the truth from untruth, ensure they know how to use knowledge effectively and also how to create knowledge. Of course the basics are still really important, but you have to embed that rote learning into something creative.

Teachers can actually start to have more one-to-one interactions because they are acting in more of a facilitation role; teaching assimilation skills, usage skills, interrogation of information and drilling down – not just rote learning. They also need more power to be 100 per cent inspiring kids, working with kids and getting the best out of them, which means they have to do less paperwork. Admin should be reduced by tech – automate it, or just don’t do it. Schools should make their own decisions, do it locally and be as creative as they can, and transfer best practice.

This actually doesn’t require as much of a shift for teachers as it does for those who build the curriculum.

Vocational versus non-vocational

People are really quick to say ‘or’. It should be ‘and’ not ‘or’ for vocational and non-vocational subjects. The division of them is a systematic thing from the past that deemed that doing something vocational meant you were ‘a bit thick’. Splitting people like this does both sides a disservice.

Freeformers participants learning by doing, do online digital missions, volunteer to transfer their skills to others, learn in the local coffee shop, do face-to-face stuff with mentors, as well as working in a dynamic startup-style classroom environment. A mix of vocational and non-vocational, human, not isolated.

MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses piloted by tech teachers, which have become very popular – are still done by learners largely in isolation, even if a lot of people participate, which again only suits some people. You learn differently when you’re learning with other kids, you actually learn things from them, in the same way hanging around with friends at university is actually massively valuable.


The value of centralisation should be around economies of scale, where you collect taxes and deliver a cheaper and better education. In theory the best education you should be able to get should be government doing it at scale. But free schools mean it’s easier than ever to set up a school or an adult education facility. You see industry getting involved in education and competing with the government – and unfortunately, I know where I’d put my money.

Tech shifts the focus to demand-side from supply-side – the demand from learners and industry for the right skills for people to get jobs and unlock the potential they have. What if Google starts to offer the best education? Part online courses, with face-to-face delivery through community buildings. And it could be free. People would vote with their feet.

Future campuses? I see different hubs with meeting spaces where TedX-type events are beamed in, with clubs and communities grouped around MOOC-type things and people work on projects they’re getting paid for.


I’d always tell people to study something they’re passionate about at university even if you’re not going to get a job directly from it. My parents made me do science because frankly I couldn’t make up my mind. Ancient medicine and French – whatever – go and learn something creative and then start making stuff at home. Doing art? Build stuff around art, solve problems you see using tech. If you do that, you’re more likely to be able to get a job you’re passionate about and have an advantage over other people in the industry.

What we’re seeing in the tech industry and other areas are moves towards a ‘micro-work culture’ – so learning something very specific with the idea that you’ll be working for the same company and picking up a pension just aren’t that relevant anymore. You might do four different things for eight companies or a number of different jobs within the same organisations.

Academic is not the same as bright. There are a whole host of people who’ve change the world that are not academic. But everybody from startups to the civil service to the corporate world judge people by how academic they are because we don’t really have another way to judge them. At Freeformers, you can actually see the corporate guys twig when they realise these kids are bright, they know their stuff, hey, they’re actually teaching us. At that point, any qualifications become irrelevant. And in digital, tech and creative industries more generally, a degree is not so important. I believe we really need another evaluation system about what ‘bright’ is.

Future of work

Knowledge and creative workers are the new factory workers, blue collar workers. Solving problems, using assets – that’s the future of most of the workforce. All levels in a company will have to be more creative and more tech-enabled. Tech will have massive effects – removing the need for performing automated tasks and driving competition – which will then call for really creative skill sets to be creative in serving the customer.

Space is already becoming high-premium stuff on the high street, for example. In many cases, you already pay ‘more for in store’, so to have that edge, the shop assistant really has to be able to offer a mix of digital and face-to-face skills. Suddenly, the job becomes quite skilled, transforming your typical ‘boring’ job into a skilled servicing job.

Tech jobs

There needs to be more creativity in government about thinking what the future’s going to be like. It’s all well and good ‘backing startups’ but they actually need to change behaviour in terms of embracing change. Doing a big project with lots of risk management is actually riskier than doing lots of small projects, some of which fail. What’s a few £10,000 failures compared to a huge $13bn one? Trying things with less money means your chances of success will be much higher and it will give a more diverse group of people access to government project work.

Government projects breed selection bias because they are so worried about making a mistake, they always choose the same people. There is a massive issue around diversity that also massively inhibits your ability to succeed more and more. There are those who know they have a selection bias and those who mean well but don’t actually know they have a selection bias.

Getting a job and being able to earn is still very important – in tech, people say ‘learn, earn and return’. You need to learn by doing all sorts of skill sets, learn how to interact with society, then earn respect, earn money, hopefully get a regular income and then give back and support other people. Tech is democratic and you will earn more money so we have to support people by  teaching them skills to earn more.

Tech founders are working hard to find the right talent – largely imported from outside the UK – but you should only do that alongside educating the local population to fill those roles. It really doesn’t take years. If we don’t sort education out and look to immigration to fill these role, we’ll get to a point where we’ll have an uprising because local people will feel the country is ignoring them. Particularly because they’ve had skills training overlooked because of inherent selection biases that exist.

Otherwise it just becomes a whole bunch of hipsters who are moneyed, it is a class thing that ceases to become about colour. I certainly don’t want the tech industry driving cliques and class barriers in the UK – we don’t need to do it.

Given its creative history, we have a very exciting opportunity to be a very British tech industry which is inclusive, driven, massively creative, highly experienced and less wasteful of talent – which is why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Written for Compass as part of its Education Inquiry http://www.compassonline.org.uk/a-new-curriculum/