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Employer’s Asking for Facebook Credentials

There has been a rash of complaints and public outcry arising over companies asking potential employees for their Facebook login credentials. Several complaints have been filed in Canada and the United States of documented cases in which job applicants have been asked to surrender their Facebook username and password during job interviews.

1984 comic

Using social profiles as a resource to screen potential employees is not new, but demanding that users turn over passwords has garnered attention from government officials and has been condemned by Facebook as "distressing"

This disturbing trend in the US job market has legislators hastening to protect individuals from such practices. Fortunately labor laws in Canada already offer strong protection against employers asking for personal information. US laws are much more lax and there have been many instances reported where prospective employers has required employees to reveal this information as part of the vetting process. In other cases, candidates have been asked to log onto their social networks on computers at the job site or requested to become friends with a hiring manager while still in the interview process. Illinois and Maryland have both tabled legislation that would forbid public agencies from gaining access to social networks.

Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan cautioned in a post on Friday that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer may open itself up to claims of discrimination if it doesn’t hire that person.

"If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password," Erin Egan wrote. “This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends," wrote Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan. "It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability."

In the light of these reports, Facebook is warning employers not to demand login credentials from job applicants stating that is a blatant violation of privacy and of the Facebook term of use. Companies that access user profiles could easily find themselves facing a barrage of discrimination charges.

Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut want Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether employees asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews violates federal law.

Job seekers are within their right to ask employers to explain their motives behind obtrusive questions. Even if candidates resist such strong-arm tactics experts caution they should be on the lookout for more insidious ones.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:14 am on March 26, 2012


Much ado about Nothing – HTTPS and Ion Cannons

Technology news was a real mixed bag this morning. Google’s official move to HTTPS forced searches was front page for the last few days, but is it news?

Chrome Plated Ion Cannon
I can’t mention Ion Cannons without including this pic. Sorry.

No. Not really. We mentioned the Google HTTPS move with a heap of sarcasm back in October 2011 when the HTTPS only work began. Back then it wasn’t very exciting news either, all it means is that services ‘spying’ on Google searches can no longer do that with such ease.

Technically it’s also paving the way for some innovation down the road but that’s a wait and see spin off from the move. In all honesty I’d rather spend 8 mins watching the team handle search quality issues and see what sorts of discussions go on behind the scenes:
[jwplayer mediaid="3559"]

How’s that for transparency?

Ion Cannons?

I’m shooting this news piece down but it’s not really that bad of a headline.

Twin Creeks Technologies has successfully built a particle accelerator so powerful (100mA at 1 MeV) that it can produce solar panel medium at 200 micrometer thickness at very low costs. Here’s an image of the ‘Hyperion Particle Accelerator’:
Hyperion Particle Accelerator

The result is an estimated cost of $0.40 per watt for domestically manufactured solar panels. This is currently almost half the price of solar panels which are built in Chinese factories and shipped across the ocean in diesel burning ships.

So I will grant this headline some reprieve, it’s far more interesting than Google’s announced HTTPs only for search queries, but is it just an attempt by solar panels to get back into the spotlight (oh man) after the recent news about heat-conversion LEDs? It certainly would be nice to have a cheap solar panel solution if we are able to abundantly produce light from free heat energy? :)

SEO news blog post by @ 11:06 am on March 13, 2012


Successful Google Hack-a-thon

For years now Chrome has been staring down it’s nose at the other browsers when it comes to security. In fact for the last 4 years, Chrome has been entered into HP’s Pwn2Own security competition, and nobody has successfully hacked it, unlike competing browsers.
Chrome finally hacked
This year Google’s Pwnium competition, which offers $1 million for successfully demonstrated exploits, has managed to finally uncover 2 vulnerabilities in the browser’s ‘sandbox’.

The successful hacker, Sergey Glazunov, has earned himself $60,000 for demonstrating his exploit, and a heap of recognition that will no doubt ensure Mr.Glazunov of a promising future in the IT industry.

Sergey’s exploits were patched in just under 24hrs, and now the browser is even more secure than it was previously. Obviously even at $60,000.00 this was a great win for both Google and it’s users. Finding/fixing exploits before they can be used in the wild makes me all warm and fuzzy.

This leaves $940,000.00 of unclaimed cash rewards to anyone else who can find a way to exploit Chrome’s many layers of security.

Happy Sun Spot Day!

Today is also a special day for technology around the planet as we are just getting hit by one of the largest solar flares in 5 years, part of a slightly early 11 year sun-cycle that last ended in 2002.

At the moment the flare activity is a diminished threat based on expectations, or in laymen’s terms it’s currently looking like a dud.

This could change at any moment however and tomorrow is expected to be the peak of flare activity coming from sun spot AR1429. This sun spot has been growing since March 2nd and at this point it’s 7 times the size of planet Earth. It is so large that amature observers are able to photograph the sun spot without a telescope. Here’s an image of sun spot AR1429 that David Tremblay of Alto, New Mexico, took earlier today during a dust storm:

Sun Spot AR1429

While there’s no immediate health risks associated with these flares, our technology isn’t immune to the interference, and sensitive transmissions, such as GPS and flight navigations systems could be compromised at any moment during this event. There is even some concerns about power failures and large outages in the power grid.

NASA as always is the best spot to nerd out and view the event, they even have a 2048×2048 resolution MP4 you can watch if your computer can handle it. Just click the image below to get to the current NASA news page.

SEO news blog post by @ 10:44 am on March 8, 2012


Easy options for de-personalization

Today I saw the start of a graphical ad campaign by DuckDuckGo aimed at explaining how search personalization creates a ‘bubble’ that traps your search ability. Here is the link to the ad-site if you want to give your brain a wash.

Mark Zuckerberg has been quoted as saying,

“a squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”

The heart of the matter isn’t new, TED’s got a pretty decent presentation from a ‘user’ perspective dating back to May 2011:
[jwplayer mediaid="3446"]

So what’s DuckDuckGo squawking about?

I think it’s time to burst their bubble by taking a look at the options we have and why the suggestion of ‘try something new’ doesn’t really ‘fit the bill’. ;)

Bursting the Bubble Myth

It is very true that search engines know a lot of ways to customize search results based on information that the browser gives the sites you visit. You have some options depending on what you need to accomplish.

For every-day searches:

  • Use the browser you use the most often.
  • Your search results will be relevant to you if you use Google or Bing.
  • DDG results will be relevant to the way DDG thinks results should be filtered because they are avoiding personalization.

For research based searches in your location:

  • Use ‘incognito’ or ‘private browsing’ modes. (* see below for Google tip)
  • Your search results on major search engines will not be related to your personal tastes, just your location/language.
  • DDG won’t change search results according to their advertising.

For research that is not based on language or location:

  • Use a fresh browser, switch your language on a system level, and use a proxy to make your queries from multiple locations.
  • Search results will need to be combined and compared at this point because there will be differences each time.
  • From what we’ve seen, this level of unique information does elicit a variety of search results even from unbiased search engines because language and location are very large factors in search queries.

* When searching with Google you can add “&pws=0″ to the search URL to see the search without personalization. This only turns off the ‘personalized web search’ function so the results will still be in your language and relevant to your location.

You could also add a short-cut to your browser so that you can search with personalization turned off by default, change the default language, location, etc..

While changing the search parameters is only ‘mostly effective’ I will be doing a follow-up post, complete with video guides, on how to do this and how to make it simple with shortcuts in the address bar.

If you still want to guess at the macro images from last month you aren’t too late. We are accepting guesses until we announce the winner next week, so feel free to go back to the old posts from last month and let us know what your little eye spies.

PS: There have been two versions of Minecraft 1.2x released today so far, some features weren’t even in the public builds so there’s some fresh bugs and features to explore. We have been waiting for this version to release to announce a new contest based on Minecraft! Stay tuned for full details in a post to come very soon!

SEO news blog post by @ 11:50 am on March 1, 2012


Rick Mercer on Toews – Nailed it!

A brand new, previously undocumented, ranking signal that affects both Google and Bing would be a huge topic change for this blog. Sadly the search engine optimization world hasn’t been that exciting lately.

Heck, tech-news has pretty much been landing on two key-words, ‘censorship’ and ‘patents’, with folks amusing themselves over the similarities between Yoko Ono ruining the Beatles just like China is ruining Apple.

Lets face it, if you can’t ship your iPads over a trademark dispute in the country they are made, and you are getting international criticism over your decision to leverage cheap labour to make the rest of your wares, you are in big trouble no matter what business we’re talking about.

Speaking of nailing things, Rick Mercer just released a video sharing his take on the Vic Toews debate:

Beauty job eh?

The main goal of this post was to make sure I shared the video that should have been included with yesterday’s Vic Toews blog post.

On top of not catching the video as it came out, I didn’t post a Week 4 macro image to guess at. (Yeah, I know right?)

So here’s the final February macro image for guessers who want to hedge their chances at getting picked:

February Macro number 4Big Hint: This is relevant to the Vic Toews discussion.
If you think you know what this is, or where this is, send us your best guess via Twitter or G+

SEO news blog post by @ 11:46 am on February 22, 2012


Vikileaks – Oh Toews..

Let me just start this off with:

Not a Child Pornographer
While that seems like an odd preface, this is Vic Toews’ style of politics.

From the beginning of Vic Toews’ efforts to push bill C-30 onto Canadians he’s been mighty unpopular with technologists that understand what such a bill would require in terms of cost to implement and maintain. Further to the technologists complaining about the expense of such a proposal, there’s groups pointing to the missing evidence that the bill is needed, groups asking for evidence that the bill would have any positive effects, and finally there’s the groups of people who enjoy civil liberty without being called ‘child pornographers’

So when I heard this morning that ‘Anonymous’ was threatening Vic Toews with a leak of information it was an instant blog article.

Risky VicKeep in mind that since the last blog post I made on Vic (here), someone (allegedly within parliament) leaked his Twitter activity exposing the semi un-known rumour that he’d cheated on his then-wife with his under-age babysitter and still has an ongoing affair with the young girl.

Now, if that info is already on the wires, what does ‘Anonymous’ have that’s too private to share unless Vic gives them no choice?

Plus if folks want to defend the freedom to post pretty much anything on-line, why post threats that give merit to the efforts of Mr.Toews?

Don’t get me wrong, I totally get the hypocrisy of Mr.Toews putting forward a bill that seems more about his own personal evils than any honest need. I can see why Anonymous might feel they MUST get involved to save Canada from this man’s ill considered blind crusade. I just wish they would either give Mr.Toews both barrels or say nothing.

Perhaps Anonymous was going for a scare tactic because they don’t have any further dirt on Vic? Seems like the minister doesn’t have much fears and won’t be taking the threats seriously at least. In an open letter delivered on the weekend Vic’s crew seemed totally unconcerned about the threat chalking it up to the ‘usual politics’ saying the RCMP would be involved in this any future threats, with no plans to stop anything.

So while this incident has been a great spotlight on Bill C-30, it looks like a toothless threat to deter a man who’s willing to label people as ‘child pornographers’ simply for not agreeing with him. Anonymous should have seen that one coming.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:28 am on February 21, 2012


Canadians: Why are we hitting ourselves?

Remember when you were bullied as a kid with the old ‘hey why are you punching yourself?’ gag? Yeah it was sort of funny because you weren’t actually hitting yourself even if your own hands were getting sore slapping your own face.
Why are you hitting yourself

Yet here we are years later (well for most of us) and we are watching our Government pass legislation that will allow us to pay extra taxes for a black’end eye?

Without a shred of evidence to prove a need or direct correlation between monitoring and prevention, next week Canada will be facing a new law that not only requires ISPs to track subscribers, but also removes court involvement from the process giving police direct authority to seize information from ISPs.

The new Lawful Access legislation even goes further, allowing the Police to enable and monitor the tracking mechanisms built into modern cell phones for up to a year, without court involvement.

The Last Pepper Spray

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m an SEO and not a politician or a lawyer. This is my take from reading a few news articles on the pending law and the variety of details is a bit staggering, I just about spat my coffee on the screen reading this clip from the Montreal Gazette:

if the so-called Lawful Access law is passed, it would give police access to webbrowsing history and sensitive personal information, and would grant greater permission to track the cellular phones of suspects

“Webbrowsing history” seems a bit far fetched, but it’s not impossible to track this info at an ISP level and since the move itself seems a bit nuts, I can see why reporters might be going a bit overboard reacting to the details.

I know that my browsing history, especially when I am working on back-links/research for clients, is a confidential business asset. I cannot fathom how a court of law would suggest it’s fine for a police officer to have access to such info without warrant. Even if the officer obtaining the information is above suspect, are the people working with the officers above reproach to the point where court involvement is moot?

Obviously, with a week to go people are getting anxious about the possibility of this passing, so I urge folks to take some time to look it over. I know that if I was more skilled with law I’d be giving it a serious review as the prospects seem frightening and the motivation is questionable/lacking.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:31 am on February 13, 2012


Google’s Arnaque Carte

I was tempted to title this blog post ‘Why it’s cheaper to just block France‘ but that implied a lot and wasn’t as much fun as ‘Google’s Map Scam’ (translation).

Ever since the days of Google suggest, there has been some serious merde tossed at Google by French businesses and organizations. I think we all remember the famous French victories search?

French victories search

Well apparently that algorithm has caused quite a stir for the French as they actually sued Google to get them to remove ‘Arnaque’ from showing in a suggest result for ‘cnfdi’ because it looked bad! Seriously, the French are complaining that the suggest results are too ‘honest’ and they took legal action to have Google give a fake result for that suggest query:

cnfdi search

Then again in late 2011 Google lost a French court case over a suggest result that added the French version of ‘crook/swindler’ to the end of a search string for a French insurance company. The sum of that settlement was almost $65,000 and again, the problem is that Google isn’t censoring it’s information enough.

If that wasn’t bad enough, this week a French mapping company that offers similar services to Google Maps has won a settlement of over $660,000 against Google for providing it’s mapping services for free. Yep, once again, Google’s too honest/generous and France wants justice!

From my personal perspective, if I was Google, I’d just give France the same treatment as China, setup some massive IP block restrictions, and then go get some freedom fries with my spare time and money.

Freedom Fries
$7.50 for a tub of fries? Sweet!

SEO news blog post by @ 2:28 pm on February 2, 2012


Google’s New (lack of) Privacy Policy

Google announced Tuesday that it will be combining more than 70 current privacy policies to make a blanket privacy canon that will allow Google to access and use a user’s information over any of the company’s platforms such as Gmail, Google+ and YouTube. Google users will not have the option of opting out of this new privacy policy.

Google's Privacy Policy

Google’s director of privacy, product, and engineering, Alma Whitten blogged to clarify the changes that will become effective March 1:

What does this mean in practice? The main change is for users with Google Accounts. Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

This is also part of an ongoing struggle between various search engines and social media sites that are directly competing with Google to collect user data. This information is like gold for advertising companies that target advertisements based upon consumer internet habits, trends and searches. Free speech advocates and analysts see this as a step towards users losing their anonymity.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:19 pm on January 25, 2012


Leftover SOPA scum

Congrats to everyone that participated in the SOPA/PIPA Jan 18th blackout, even if all you did was sit on Twitter and complain(some strong language was used), you did something to bring the topic into the foreground.

The internet is unified

Yesterday’s on-line unity was a clear message to the political parties backing these bills. Last I checked the opposition to PIPA was only 6 senators away from the required 41 “no” votes needed to keep PIPA stuck in the Senate for good. While I haven’t seen a public list of senator opposition to SOPA, it too needs 41 “no” votes to end the future of the bill.

While this sounds great, it really just means that the entertainment industry, and fans of public censorship, now have to try even harder to keep their efforts out of the public eye. Make no mistake, there are people, wealthy and misguided, that will keep trying to find a way to sneak this sort of law through. Don’t think that’s a fair/optimistic assessment of the situation, well here’s the flip side (Very strong language/opinion warning) from Mr.Maddox.

Just last night I was trying to get some programming done while watching a bunch of movies I’ve been backlogged on. One of the movies in the stack was ‘Kick-Ass‘ and I won’t spoil a decent film for you with too much info, but there’s a scene where they are streaming a web broadcast live on the news. As the live stream becomes ‘too violent’ for television the audience quickly switches to the web to watch the rest of the live stream on-line.

While most folks watching the film were probably totally distracted by the context of the scene, I was immediately thinking about all the conservative types watching this unfold and thinking to themselves:

‘This should never be possible, we should have the ability to censor a live stream that is so disturbing! If it can’t be shown on TV it shouldn’t be viewable on the Internet! Just think of all the things the internet could broadcast un-censored! We need something like this SOPA/PIPA thing we can abuse!’

I’m not sure if the big players in Hollywood actually intended that sort of reaction to the scene, I’m not saying the film is a brain-wash attempt by the industry, but the thought did cross my very ‘open’ mind, so it stands to reason I wouldn’t be the only one.

In fact if you haven’t looked at ACTA, you might want to check it out. This is a more international version of PIPA/SOPA with the same issues surrounding loose definitions and loopholes that could be exploited while doing little to actually stop piracy. ACTA has been bouncing around since 2006 with a bunch of countries already signed on to the current version.

The closure date for signing onto ACTA isn’t until 2013 but it looks like there may be some difficulties getting all signing countries to agree on a final version (yay for diversity!). A notably large issue of ACTA, especially in the eyes of the EFF, is that it has been drafted in secret, hidden from public eyes by participating governments around the world. So if you haven’t poked your nose into it, you really should.

Speaking of closure, I think Chia Bart’s pretty much grown all that he will and I’m cheating now to try and get the top of his head to sprout.

Chia Bart # 6 - Looking leafyLeaf me alone! The kid is not my sun!

SEO news blog post by @ 12:25 pm on January 19, 2012


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