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Monthly Archives: December 2013

18
Dec
2013

Google Says Thirty Percent of The Internet Is Duplicate Content

by Bill

Google Says Thirty Percent of The Internet Is Duplicate Content

In a recently posted video from engineer Matt Cutts, the search engine tech giant announced it now believes that more than 30 percent of the entire internet is nothing more than duplicated content.

For years webmasters routinely copied and pasted content from other sources to their own websites, plagiarizing text and pirating videos to stealing images and republishing old news under new names. Of course it doesn’t benefit Google or consumers to have people being sent by searches to a number of sites that feature the exact same information, even if it has been reformatted to appear new.

Much of the content has been spun, morphed or otherwise modified by computer scripts capable of doing everything from simple word-substitutions to complicated algorithmic changes of entire documents that go unnoticed by humans with an untrained eye but now may lead to search engine optimization penalties of lower quality sites with content that fails to be informative.

According to Google the duplicate content is not always disregarded completely, in that a quality site that aggregates content may still effectively use some duplicated material within a large collection of curated content. In essence, Google claims it won’t punish news network sites for all publishing similar stories about current events, since those entities are trusted and provide plenty of other original content on other pages of their site. However, any new blogger or site owner thinking they can just scrape some stories from an existing authority site and gain ranks by pushing them through a spinner wont have much success – as proven by virtually every re-ranking that has taken place since the Google Panda patch more than a year ago.

The logic of all this is actually fairly transparent. For Google it’s best if everyone who goes to a search result is greeted by fresh, original, relevant content because that is the best way for the company to ensure it will remain dominant as a search engine. When thirty percent of the whole internet comes back as duplicate content, that presents a challenge for Google to overcome and the company seems to have finally gotten a handle on stamping out dupe sites from its ranking algorithm. Unfortunately for site owners, that puts everyone else in the position of having to generate content on behalf of Google for free in order to rank for search terms that may or may not send actual customers.

Learn more about the way Google thinks by visiting the Google Webmaster Help Channel on YouTube.com any time. Experts claim their videos are full of misinformation, yet it remains the best keyhole sized view into the heart of the Google algorithm for most outsiders.

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11
Dec
2013

The United States First RICO Conviction for Cybercrime

by Bill

cybercrime-smIn a case with wide-ranging implications, a jury in Las Vegas, Nevada returned a guilty verdict last week in the case against an Arizona identity thief online. The defendant, David Ray Camez was already serving a seven year state sentence for his crimes, when the federal government came in to charge him under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, more commonly referred to as RICO, by obtaining the first-ever conviction under the statute for digital crimes.

Enacted as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, the RICO statute was originally intended as a mechanism to go after the mafia and organized crime rings by making all members of these organizations culpable for the crimes committed by all the other members of the group, so everyone from a low level thug to a don were all guilty for the sum total of the crimes perpetrated by the group.

To build this case, the Secret Service infiltrated an underground website frequented by identity thieves, and set themselves up as a vendor, providing fake IDs to the site’s users for use in credit card fraud. The “fake” IDs were flawless, as they were secretly being fabricated by Nevada’s DMV for the sting operation. Camez purchased a fake Arizona license from the undercover agent for $330.00.

Utilizing the RICO statute, Camez was found guilty, and therefore became jointly and severally liable for all of the crimes perpetrated by members of the website – estimated by the government to be more than $50 million in losses, and potentially carrying a 20 year prison sentence.

The case is particularly interesting in that it sets precedent for bringing similar RICO suits against anyone who participates in any illegal activity online. A person who bought a quarter ounce of marijuana on the Illicit website Silk Road for example, would be liable for all of the billions of dollars in transactions the site had facilitated whether they had direct involvement in each transaction or not, and potentially those who utilize torrent sites to download movies would be liable for the whole dollar value for all files ever transferred by the site in question.

While the existing laws regarding online theft and piracy have resulted in some well-publicized convictions and monetary penalties that range up to $250,000, with this new RICO precedent, the federal government has the ability to make the penalties for singular online crimes so disproportional that it’s reasonable to foresee it making a significant impact on online crimes like content piracy.

Downloading a song, TV show, movie or computer program from the a piracy site could potentially lead to decades in prison and billions of dollars liability if this line of legal argument is carried to its logical conclusion. Certainly no rational adult would subject themselves to the specter of decades in prison just to steal a song or video game – and now that may be a real risk of doing so.

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03
Dec
2013

Google Increasingly Under Attack From Powerful Entities

by Bill

 google-magnifying-glassGoogle began as the company famous for the informal motto “Don’t be Evil” but it now increasingly finds itself cast as the new “evil empire” by detractors, displacing the unenviable position in tech that Microsoft occupied for so long. That may be the harbinger of many changes to the landscape in tech, medicine, mobile and the many other sectors Google has attempted to dominate.

From it’s on-again, off-again participation in internet censorship in countries under totalitarian rule, to getting caught red handed collecting sensitive personal data from local WiFi networks from their Google Street View photography cars, Google finds itself under attack from all sides of late. As the search behemoth throws its weight around, leveraging its dominance in search, it has created some very powerful enemies, and is now beset with lawsuits over its anti-competitive business practices, from providing preferential treatment in search to their own products and services, tocopyright infringement lawsuits over targeted advertising, Google’s core business.

While being one of the largest tech companies by definition means that there are going to be lawsuits and controversies that relate to presumed market dominance, the “don’t be evil” company has demonstrably crossed over the line in the minds of many and is under increasing scrutiny of its business practices as well as some of its corporate relationships by regulators, competitors and consumers who are increasingly uncomfortable with the company’s opaque business practices.

The latest regulatory action relevant to the tech giant has the FDA ordering the shutdown of 23andMe, a consumer genetic testing company in which Google had a significant stake, and one that is operated by it’s founder – who happens to be the wife of Google’s founder. With the FDA stating that 23andMe has failed to analytically or clinically validate the tests that purportedly provide an indication of whether a subject is susceptible to over 250 illnesses and diseases (from diabetes to breast cancer) the FDA’s warning letter indicates that the company also has not been responsive enough in addressing the agency’s concerns.

Reports state that 23andMe has resisted government regulation for years, arguing that it is merely providing consumers with information, and that it is not a medical service, though in the last year, they submitted several of their disease-specific tests to the FDA for validation. In a statement issued by the company, 23andMe admitted they had been slow to respond to the FDA’s questions about the tests, but in a written statement issued by Kendra Casillo, 23andMe’s spokeswoman said “Our relationship with the FDA is extremely important to us and we are committed to fully engaging with them to address their concerns.”

From snooping on the public to trying to oust major companies from their long-held core businesses, utilizing often pirated content to build YouTube into a massive traffic network and more – it would seem to many that Google’s “Don’t be Evil” slogan, is becoming an ironic albatross hung around the company’s neck as a decade of success have recast the company as precisely the kind of corporate monolith it once warned people about.

It speaks volumes that just about any story about Google in the news has worldwide implications for nearly every website, hosting company and digital business owner. The world slowly began to migrate away from complete desktop dominance by Microsoft and now there seem to be plenty of parallels in place as the world migrates away from the desktop to an ‘always on’ infrastructure that Google helped create, their grip may be loosening in much the same way.

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