iPhone tracking function…is our privacy all but gone?

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When I first saw the MacIntosh 1984 Super Bowl spot I had really no idea that big brother would be placing a tracking device right in the palm of my hand…well it is 2011 and by now you have probably all heard the stories about the iPhone tracking function.

If you’re worried about privacy, you can turn off the function on your smartphone that tracks where you go. But that means giving up the services that probably made you want a smartphone in the first place. After all, how smart is an iPhone or an Android if you can’t use it to map your car trip or scan reviews of nearby restaurants?

The debate over digital privacy flamed higher this week with news that Apple’s popular iPhones and iPads store users’ GPS coordinates for a year or more. Phones that run Google’s Android software also store users’ location data. And not only is the data stored — allowing anyone who can get their hands on the device to piece together a chillingly accurate profile of where you’ve been — but it’s also transmitted back to the companies to use for their own research.

Now, cellphone service providers have had customers’ location data for almost as long as there have been cellphones. That’s how they make sure to route calls and Internet traffic to the right place. Law enforcement analyzes location data on iPhones for criminal evidence — a practice that Alex Levinson, technical lead for firm Katana Forensics, said has helped lead to convictions. And both Apple and Google have said that the location data that they collect from the phones is anonymous and not able to be tied back to specific users. But hey remember that movie Eagle Eye? I don’t trust anyone these days…do you?
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But lawmakers and many users say storing the data creates an opportunity for one’s private information to be misused. Levinson, who raised the iPhone tracking issue last year, agrees that people should start thinking about location data as just as valuable and worth protecting as a wallet or bank account number.

“We don’t know what they’re going to do with that information,” said Dawn Anderson, a creative director and Web developer in Glen Mills, Pa., who turned off the GPS feature on her Android-based phone even before the latest debate about location data. She said she doesn’t miss any of the location-based services in the phone. She uses the GPS unit in her car instead.

“With any technology, there are security risks and breaches,” she added. “How do we know that it can’t be compromised in some way and used for criminal things?”

Privacy watchdogs note that location data opens a big window into very private details of a person’s life, including the doctors they see, the friends they have and the places where they like to spend their time. Besides hackers, databases filled with such information could become inviting targets for stalkers, even divorce lawyers.

Do you sync your iPhone to your computer? Well, all it would take to find out where you’ve been is simple, free software that pulls information from the computer. Carumba! Your comings and goings, clandestine or otherwise, helpfully pinpointed on a map.

One could make the case that privacy isn’t all that prized these days. People knowingly trade it away each day, checking in to restaurants and stores via social media sites like Foursquare, uploading party photos to Facebook to be seen by friends of friends of friends, and freely tweeting the minutiae of their lives on Twitter.
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More than 500 million people have shared their personal information with Facebook to connect with friends on the social networking service. Billions of people search Google and Yahoo each month, accepting their tracking “cookies” in exchange for access to the world’s digital information. And with about 5 billion people now using cellphones, a person’s location has become just another data point to be used for marketing, the same way that advertisers now use records of Web searches to show you online ads tailored to your interest in the Red Sox, or dancing, or certain stores.

The very fact that your location is a moving target makes it that much more alluring for advertisers. Every new place you go represents a new selling opportunity. In that sense, smartphone technology is the ultimate matchmaker for marketers looking to assemble profiles on prospective customers.

What do you guys think?

Microsoft and Yahoo try to double team Google

Microsoft appears to have finally locked up rival Yahoo in a long-awaited Internet search partnership aimed at narrowing Google’s commanding lead in the most lucrative piece of the online advertising market.
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A person with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press that the details of the Microsoft-Yahoo alliance are expected to be announced Wednesday. This person spoke Tuesday night on condition on anonymity, confirming earlier reports, because the deal was not yet final.

Both Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo declined to comment late Tuesday.
The deal does not appear to be as far-reaching as many investors envisioned.

For instance, Yahoo would not get cash payments in advance from Microsoft. That development could disappoint investors. Yahoo Chief Executive Carol Bartz had pledged she would join forces with Microsoft only for “boatloads of money.”

Microsoft Makes Deal with Facebook

Microsoft recently failed in its pursuit of Yahoo. It is paying people to use its search engine. Now Microsoft thinks it has found a promising source of users for its foundering search service: Facebook, the social networking site.
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Microsoft said Thursday at a meeting with financial analysts at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., that it would soon begin providing Web search services and associated advertisements by the end of the year on the American portion of the popular social network.
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It makes sense in business the adage location, location , location is the mantra retailers use as one of the keys to successful business. “One of the issues with Microsoft search is that people just haven’t been exposed to it,” said Greg Sterling, founder of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm. “Familiarity and inertia keep people using what they use on the Web.”
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To Microsoft, Facebook is a quick way to expand the audience for its search engine. More than 29 million people actively use Facebook in the United States. They will soon see prominent displays of Microsoft’s Live Search box on their friends’ and their own Facebook pages.

The agreement augments an existing advertising deal that the companies struck in 2006 and later expanded globally. Microsoft already sells and manages display advertisements on Facebook. Last October, the companies inched even closer together when Microsoft invested $240 millionfor a 5 percent ownership stake in Facebook.

The search deal could be a lift to Microsoft as it seeks to catch up with Google and Yahoo in the search business. In June, Google accounted for 61.5 percent of search queries in the United States, dwarfing Yahoo, with 20.9 percent, and Microsoft, with 9.2 percent of queries, according to tracking firm comScore. One of the reasons Microsoft pursued Yahoo so doggedly this year was to increase its share in the overall market.

The deal marks the second important distribution agreement for Microsoft’s search service in as many months. In June, Hewlett-Packard, the world’s largest PC maker, agreed to put Microsoft’s service on its desktops.

“Tag” You’re It. Impact of New Technologies on the Web

As we are all on Xanga and are familiar with “tags” I thought it would be interesting to write about search engines. Two new technologies that impact a client’s media plan the most these days are Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
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SEO is the process of improving and placing a website in the top of the search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN. It increases the accessibility of a website and improves the amount of clients who see and visit it. Search engine optimization improves a website’s position in the search engines on the basis of identification by keywords and phrases that people use to search services and products.

“Last year advertisers spent $5.75 billion on SEM, a forty four percent increase over the previous year.” (www.zeroonezero.com, 2007) SEM is an online advertising strategy that aims to make a company’s website position higher within the search results of the major search engines so that more targeted visitors visit the website.

SEM services such as Pay Per Click search engine advertising or organic SEO have become major categories in online advertising spending in the past five years. “This year the spending on SEM will reach $7.19 billion and by 2010 we can expect spending to reach at least $11 billion.” (www.zeroonezero.com, 2007)

These new technologies to improve gaining targeted traffic to a product or services web site are essential for delivering strong results. Imagine a site being one of nearly 256,000,000 competing web pages on Yahoo Web Results for example. The average consumer may only consider the top ten at most.

Even if a site is considered the best site in the market if it is not ranked highly by SEO it could be deemed unimportant and not worthy of a look by potential users.