Posts Tagged 'Twitter'

*Your Insurance Company Might Charge You Extra For Using Social Media & Location Based Services

As Social Media & Location Based Services are suspected to lead to an increased risk of burglaries, insurance companies are contemplating about increasing their insurance premiums for users of such services.

As reported last week, most users are unaware about the wealth of information they broadcast into the web through their Facebook-status or Twitter feed. As Richard Evens in the Telegraph has reported, this might lead to big rises in home insurance premiums of people who use such services and offers following advise:

1. Never post your home address or other personal information such as your home phone number on social networking sites

2. Don’t follow people you don’t know on social networks and use block others from seeing your profile if you don’t know them

3. Turn off location-based services on Twitter and Facebook unless you absolutely need to use them.

*Social Media Services Provide A Rich Resource for Data Mining

While people in the past used to be terribly worried about hackers etc. breaking into their computer and thus accessing their data, the current (at least gradually progressing) exhibitionism on the social web (feel free to call it ‘web 2.0‘) combined with a status quo of today’s search technology already enables to gain impressive insights not only into user’s private details, but also into users’ behaviour.

Such insights are of great relevance for e.g. the advertising industry as they enable advertisers to ‘efficiently target‘ the users and to supply them with ‘tailored ads‘, minimizing advertising waste coverage.

Not being able to index social networks thus constitutes a competitive disadvantage and thus search engines are willing to pay to be granted access to such data. As the data on e.g. Twitter and Facebook however is changing in “real time” SEs were required to modify the way in which they index data to be able to cope with short term peaks caused by unexpected events (e.g. Hudson river plane crash, Michael Jackson’s death, more >>here<<).


The service TweetPsych for example creates a psychological profile of any public Twitter account and compares it to the others already in their database. This enables the service to identify those traits/issues that are used more or less frequently by the user analysed.


Far less creepy but still interesting, Google also offers a service to help you gaining and combining information from the (social) web. The service Google Social Graph, still a Beta and aiming at developers, makes information about the public connections between people on the Web, expressed by certrain markup languages (XFN and FOAF) and other publicly declared connections, easily available. The service however returns only web addresses of public pages and publicly declared connections between them. The service is not able to  access non-public information, such as private profile pages or websites accessible to a limited group of friends.

Google Social Graph should help help users connect to their public friends more easily.

Google’s statement on the sources for their data doesn’t necessarily mean much as having e.g. a friend on facebook who has fully published and opened his profile for search engines will thus also enable search engines to gain access to certain data from your profile.


Since the most recent change of Facebook’s Privacy Policy in December 2009 some data (picture, current city, friends list, gender, and fan pages) is now deemed to be ‘publicly available information‘, which means that users have no way to prevent any other Facebook user from viewing this information on their profile. Thus it is e.g. easy for marketers to create a dummy facebook account and to supply facebook with an email-list of its customers. Facebook then scans the email-list and will as a consequence supply the marketer about his customers with all the information below:


“Certain categories of information such as your name, profile photo, list of friends and pages you are a fan of, gender, geographic region, and networks you belong to are considered publicly available to everyone, including Facebook-enhanced applications, and therefore do not have privacy settings. [...]“

This data is furthermore also accessible to the developers of applications used by your friends. That means that you don’t even have to use the apps yourself to allow the developers of your friends’ apps’ so get your publicly available information. An option (FaceBook API opt-out) which could be used to prevent this got removed from Facebook through its last Privacy Policy change. For more information on this issue please refer to the EFF.

*Keyword Advertising Money Makes Twitter Profitable

Allowing the big players on the search engine market to index their users’ tweets has allegedly brought Twitter USD 25 million and thus pushed it -clearly ahead of its initial finance plan- into profitability. (something FaceBook & Co are still dreaming of ;)

For more details please refer to WIRED.com or Bloomberg.com.

*When searching the web for real time content, searching becomes browsing

Illustration: Draplin Design Co @ Wired
Illustr.: Draplin Design Co @ WIRED

1st generation search (1994-1998): Searching for a specific website? Go to a directory, e.g. Yahoo, search by category and then chose the website you are looking for.

2nd generation search (1998- … ) Searching for a piece of information? Go to a search engine, e.g. Google and enter your query, browse through the results and chose your site/blog etc.

3rd generation search (2009- … ) Hear a rumour on the web or a tweet such as e.g. Michael Jackson’s death, plane crush on the Hudson river, riots in Iran, Tiger Woods last status update on Facebook or the AG’s opinion on the French Adword cases. Go to a search engine like Google or Bing? BAD IDEA. Why?


According to Clive Thompson of WIRED Google has -for almost a decade- organized/ranked the Web by figuring out who has authority. Google measures which sites have the most links pointing to them—crucial votes of confidence—and checks to see whether a site grew to prominence slowly and organically, which tends to be a marker of quality. If a site amasses a zillion links overnight, it is assumed that it this site will almost certainly be a spam-website.

So for example when When Michael Jackson died on June 25, millions of people surfed to Google News to find the latest information about what had happened. The spike in traffic was so massive that Google suspected a malware attack and began blocking anyone searching for “Michael Jackson.” (please see graph below)

Screen shot 2009-10-23 at 09.32.47
“borrowed” from WIRED as usual

As there seems to be a “need” which Google can’t satisfy at the moment a new generation of search engines like Tweetmeme, OneRiot, Topsy, Scoopler, and Collecta are trying to redefine what makes a piece of information important.

- Some of these sites offer a Digg-like indexed front page that displays hot topics, while others just include a simple search field. But most of them rely heavily on Twitter. When a burst of tweets citing a particular subject or URL emerges, it’s a “signaling event,” as Rishab Ghosh of Topsy puts it. To make sure they’re not just getting hoodwinked by spammers, these new search engines employ some clever tricks, like crawling tweeted URLs and discarding those that land on sites containing spamlike language. Most disregard Twitter users who behave like spambots—for example, ones that follow thousands of people but have very few followers themselves.

- Other, such as OneRiot has a toolbar that lets users flag an interesting post immediately. Collecta actively imports blog posts and tweets so they appear in search results less than a second after they go live, rather than the hours it can take regular search engines to catalog the same info.

The result is something curiously different from regular searching: If you hunt for “Michael Jackson” on a traditional engine like Google.com or Bing, the vast majority of the links remain the same for hours. Authority changes slowly on the “old” Web. But real-time search engines deliver different, updated results almost every time. The creators of these new engines argue that their goal isn’t to answer questions— à la Google—but to organize experience into a keyhole glimpse of what the world is doing at this very moment.It’s exactly what your friends are going to be talking about when you get to the bar tonight,”.

So what?

Still, what makes this development so interesting for me is that when speaking about the likeliness of confusion while searching people tend to think of the old style Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for which e.g. French courts believe that users assume that when search for a certain product, company or trademark that all the (sponsored) ads on the SERP will somehow have to be related to the company or trademark owner. [TGI Nanterre, 02.03.2006, Hotels Méridien c/ Google France, RLDI 2006/15 Nr. 438, 28 [Costes].] So when users are already being confused when facing a clear and well structured such as the Bing or Google SERP, what will happen if they are trying to look at the SERP of a real time search engine? Maybe soon someone will come up with the argument of “initial & perpetual confusion“.

I am glad to see that the GA or the German BGH have adopted a far more modern approach, taking into account not only the reality how search engines finance and have always financed themselves, but also surfing the web REQUIRES a minimum level of experience, skill and that the average user is not a 65yrs old civil servant who has received a computer from his grand children as a present for his retirement. [I thought at this point about making some pretty harsh remarks about old judges at Supreme Courts ... but I am positive that such "novel" issues are mainly dealt with by their much younger clerks]

And let’s face it, the average search skills of an ordinary user are very, very poor but why does everybody assume the web has to be easy to handle as a …. toaster? The pace at which the web is moving is steadily increasing and thus, although new or more sophisticated search engines (e.g. Bing displaying Tweets & Facebook status messages) will help to handle the ever increasing stream of information, also users have to pace up a little bit if they want to be able to follow.

[I guess that was a pretty pointless statement now but typing all the questionable decisions French courts produce all day one really gets a bit annoyed ;) ]

*First Trademark Infringement Case Against Fake Twitter Account

I was already wondering when this would happen. I’m a bit late reporting it, but according to Jim Salter of the The Associated Press he story goes like this:

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is suing the social-networking site Twitter, [the complaint can be accessed >>here<<] claiming an unauthorized page that used his name [...] damaged his reputation and caused emotional distress. [...] The lawsuit claims that someone created a false account under La Russa’s name and posted updates, known as “tweets,” that gave the false impression that the comments came from La Russa. The suit said the comments were “derogatory and demeaning” and damaged La Russa’s trademark rights. The account bearing La Russa’s name is no longer active. The lawsuit includes a screen shot of three tweets. One posted on April 19 said: “Lost 2 out of 3, but we made it out of Chicago without one drunk driving incident or dead pitcher.

I am wondering if La Russa can really prove that his “trademark rights” got infringed as the fake La Russa account was not selling any products or services. This will make it difficult to prove consumer confusion. I am more of the opinion that maybe his personality rights got infringed, while bearing in mind that the fake account was according to Balasubramani clearly labeled ad a parody and thus should thus be protected by Fair Use  / The First Amendment.

As the parties are apparently  unwilling to settle, let’s  see how the Superior Court of California in San Francisco decides.

If you are interested in this issue you might be interested in Venkat Balasubramani‘s opion on this case.


This Satelite Doesn’t Beep But It ‘Tweets’

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