theEweekly Wrap: Data, Dotcom and @#~^&);
|O2 owns up||It was revealed on Tuesday that mobile network O2 was accidentally sharing user data. A technical problem caused users’ phone numbers to be shown to the owners of the websites they visited. This data disclosure is thought to have been taking place since 10 January 2012. There was a social media outcry following its discovery by customer Lewis Peckover, and the glitch was fixed on Wednesday. In a statement O2 said: “We have seen the report published this morning suggesting the potential for disclosure of customers’ mobile phone numbers to website owners. We investigated, identified and fixed it this afternoon. We would like to apologise for the concern we have caused.”
O2 hastened to explain that usually, phone number are only shared when “absolutely required by trusted partners who work with us on age verification, premium content billing, such as for downloads, and O2’s own services”. However, during the two weeks where the disclosure was taking place, phone numbers of any 3G users could have been accessible to all site owners. The concern is that site owners will still have those numbers in their server logs, and could utilise them for aggressive mobile marketing campaigns, SMS spam or even fraud. O2 is now co-operating with the Information Commissioner’s office and Ofcom to investigate the extent of data disclosure.
|Megaupload behind bars||The weekend was dominated by news that popular file sharing site Megaupload had been seized and shut down by the US Department of Justice. Criminal cases were brought against founder Kim Dotcom and three other executives, while the company’s substantial assets were frozen. This legal action was founded on the site’s infringement of copyright; however, questions have been raised as to how the US DoJ could shut down a site based in Hong Kong, run by Germans living in New Zealand, and all without a trial. Although the shutdown took place just hours after the widespread SOPA/PIPA protest blackout, it was actually the 2008 PRO-IP law that allowed the DoJ to shut down Megaupload.
This week, hacktivist group Anonymous entered the fray by launching Denial of Service attacks on the DoJ, FBI and other US government sites in retaliation. Meanwhile in New Zealand, Kim Dotcom was denied bail on Monday. It was revealed that shotguns and a panic room were discovered at the NZ$30m mansion Dotcom was renting in Auckland, while NZ$17m of assets were seized. The raid was timed to coincide with Dotcom’s birthday celebrations, so some of his guests could also be arrested. Megaupload executives Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato were granted bail yesterday, while Mathias Ortmann is awaiting a hearing. The FBI wants to extradite all four so they can face trial in the US for racketeering, money laundering and three counts of copyright infringement.
|Google learns punctuation||Google has begun generating search results for punctuation marks and other non-alphabet characters. The phenomenon was first noticed by Alex Chitu in the Google Operating System blog, with the search index now containing results for a full stop, comma, per cent sign, hash, currency signs, brackets, pluses, minuses, equals and @. A question mark or asterisk still return no results.
At first, it appears that this Google algorithm update works by substituting the punctuation mark for its name, and searching for that; for example, the top result for [:] is the Wikipedia page for the intestines, while the results for [‘] and [apostrophe] are identical. However, in other instances it appears that this isn’t the case, as the results for the character and the name are different. The change also has some interesting implications for SEO, as it could affect companies that use punctuation in their brand name or keywords – although Google will have to explain how it works first. Marks & Spencer is already inadvertently in 3rd place for [&], while the NSPCC ranks highly for [.] following their campaign using the words ‘full stop’. Sadly, the band !!! remains unGoogleable.