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On the 24th of March I was in Vancouver doing some pro-bono work teaching a group of charities and non-profit organizations some of the ins-and-outs of effective web site marketing. Well, a little ways into discussing how to boost Google local search engine results I was asked by a participant how her charity can be on Google Local without showing her address. I was stumped! The only way I knew how to do that was through a PO Box which I did not recommend and the out-of-the-question methods commonly used by spammers. Well, in a wonderful occurrence of synchronicity, thanks to Matt McGee’s post that day on Search Engine Land I discovered later that Google had just added that very capability to a raft of Google Local Business Center accounts; allowing business owners to hide their address (among other enhancements).
Read more…

In the following video Google’s “Business Product Manager for Trust and Safety” (phew what a title) Shuman Ghosemajumder discusses Google’s interest-based advertising, how to opt-out of it and some of the misinformation that may make the technology seem invasive.

I think this video may be helpful to you if you are curious how Google targets you with advertising content based on your online activities.

Here is the video on YouTube if you cannot see it here.
by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.
Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Big Brother’s Internet

Whether it is for spreading propaganda to a nation’s populous – or suppressing it – governments have always sought to control new forms of media. From the printing press to the radio and the television, there has been the presence of political powers.

Today’s new media is, of course, the internet. And, it is the most potent form of media yet. However, though the internet’s power to broadly and immediately reach an audience is unparalleled, it is far too large and complex a system to be controlled exclusively by just one group or entity.

Nevertheless, world governments still try to manipulate what they can; however they can. Read more…

Friday, November 21st, 2008


A lot of people are unaware of, the philanthropic wing of Google. Since its inception, has been involved in a variety of initiatives covering such global issues as health and disease, climate change, education, poverty and alternative energy.

Their involvement includes grants for a wide variety of projects, encouraging employee involvement and use of their own innovative technologies to help make the world a better place. Read more…

Last week Google began turning PDF files of scanned printed documents into digital text, and as a result their searchable index has expanded once again.

Previously, only rarely would a scanned document appear in the organic search results. With the technology of optical character-recognition (OCR) implemented now these scanned PDFs will find their way into the results. Read more…

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Google and Your Private Data

Google Privacy & IP AddressesLike most websites Google keeps a log of IP addresses in order to track visitor behavior, and to help serve up more useful ad targeting. Previously they held onto this non-identifying information for 18 months following your visit to their site.

Over the past couple of years regulators and policymakers have had privacy concerns over the storage of this data, and as a result Google has cut the time it holds onto this information by half, down to 9 months. Read more…

caption on image says - CAUTION Slippery Slope proudly brought to you by FISAIn a move that chills my bones yesterday George Bush attained congressional approval to make “a massive expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” (FISA). This security upgrade provides FISA with “the power to order Google, AT&T and Yahoo to forward to the government all e-mails, phone calls and text messages where one party to the conversation is thought to be overseas.” Source, Wired Blog Network.

So what does this mean to you? Obviously this is being done to catch terrorists and protect the American people… a noble pursuit without a doubt. Unfortunately, it also cuts off 3 vital methods of once private communication that journalists were able to utilize when researching stories using foreign contacts. After all, there is no way a journalist can feel comfortable connecting with a foreign source if they know the source is unprotected by journalistic confidentiality. As a result, a short time after the bill was passed the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit today challenging the constitutionality of the bill. More information on that is available in the Wired posting that alerted me to this travesty of privacy. Read more…

What would you do if you suddenly found your private residence plastered over Google Street View, along with photos of your yard, pool, and other private property? Well, this very thing has happened to Christine and Aaron Boring, and they have since filed a lawsuit against Google.

According to The Smoking Gun, when one of the vehicles shooting photos for the mapping service made a wrong turn up a 50 foot private driveway, it also continued snapping photos and those photos made it onto the live version of Google Street View.

Google spokesman Larry Yu told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “There is no merit to this action. It is unfortunate litigation was chosen to address the concern because we have visible tools, such as a You Tube video, to help people learn about imagery removal and an easy-to-use process to facilitate image removal.”

The Boring’s are seeking “in excess of Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars for compensatory, incidental, and consequential damages, punitive damages, costs, all allowable attorneys’ fees, and all other damages deemed to be just,”

Another home owned by Janet and George McKee also found its way onto Google Street View. This series of photos is far more intrusive, as the vehicle had to drive up a long winding driveway to approach the house. No word yet on whether or not the McKee’s will also be filing suit. More info and photos on this instance can also be seen at The Smoking Gun.

The “Boring” photos have since been removed from Street View, however, the Mckee’s photos are apparently still listed. Searching Google Maps for the Boring’s Address (1567 Oakridge Lane, Pittsburgh, PA 15237), and doing a fair bit of scrolling to the West, you will eventually find their photos have been blacked out and removed from Google.

A Facebook press release announced the following today:

Starting tomorrow (Weds), we are making limited public search listings available to people who are not logged in to Facebook. A public search listing provides, at most, the name and profile picture of any Facebook member that has their search privacy settings set to “Everyone”. It will show less information about a person than results of a search performed by someone logged in to Facebook. We wanted to give people who had never come to Facebook, or who are not currently registered, the opportunity to discover their friends who are on Facebook.

The news has caused a bit of an uproar from Facebook fans concerned about their privacy. In my opinion the risks are extremely low with the minimal amount of information provided but it is a vastly smart move for this popular social media website. Why is it a smart move? By opening the gates to spiders Facebook will amplify its impressive footprint by allowing search engine users to discover Facebook while they search for specific people. This all ads up to a hell of a lot more market share in the social media web space which is sure to make an IPO all the more tantalizing for investors.

One thing is for sure… Facebook nay sayers should definitely take a step back and reconsider their standpoint because I am in good company believing that Facebook is poised to be the Google of social media.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.

On June 7th the San Francisco Chronicle published an article about the growing privacy concerns related to the planned Google and DoubleClick merger. According to the article a coalition of privacy groups have requested that federal regulators prohibit the merged companies from compiling detailed dossiers about users’ online behavior.”

It would be a rare case for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to consider privacy implications when ruling on the merger (since they usually deal with fair trade concerns) but this precedent may be worthwhile due to the considerable personal dossiers expected to be combined by the two companies. Read more…