A bit of Google love

From the Official Google Blog: Our position on California’s No on 8 campaign

However, while there are many objections to this proposition — further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text — it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 — we should not eliminate anyone’s fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.

I have new respect for Google.
And I’m still totally bemused by sheer amount of effort some people will put into stopping two people they’ve never heard of from getting married. Surely it’s unhealthy to be *that* obsessed with the love lives of others. ‘Homophobes are that way because they’re repressing their homosexuality’ is a glib line, but it would explain an awful lot.

It’s not about China, honest

Really, it’s not. Apparently.
I’m not sure what I think about this – I guess progress and an acknowledgement of the importance of human rights and online access to information is important, and it has to start somewhere.
Big three help online rights

Three of the biggest IT companies in the world have approached the US Congress with suggestions on how to bring human rights laws to the online world.
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have explained how to extend human rights to the internet and what they could do to help spread the laws.
They suggest a code which would be based around a set of principles to which companies would have to adhere, as well as guidelines on ensuring those rights and frameworks on how to enforce the rules and guarantee accountability.
The move follows up from a development in July, when Richard Durbin, a US senator, asked each of the companies to provide suggestions.

Ethical fashion directory

The Guardian have produced an ‘ethical fashion directory’. It’s a little tricksy – click on titles and random new windows open, and you have to click on an image to view different sorts of clothes (which opens new windows in the background, not always obvious), but it’s still useful: Ethical fashion directory.

Over the past few years I’ve frequently heard people say “Well I’d love to buy more ethical fashion, but I’ve no idea where to start …” Here is our solution. Our directory will provide, I hope, a means of navigating the sometimes confusing world of ethical fashion and make it easy for you, the consumer, to find exactly what you are looking for.

Guess who?

From today’s Observer:

‘They have amassed more information about people in 10 years than all the governments of the world put together. They make the Stasi and the KGB look like the innocent old granny next door. This is of immense significance. If someone evil took them over, they could easily become Big Brother.’

The clue is in the article title, Google, 10 years in: big, friendly giant or a greedy Goliath?

Chester, however, is an outspoken critic on a crusade. He continues: ‘Google have been very hypocritical. They try to place a digital halo around their activities. They should be at the forefront of acknowledging that these are the most powerful marketing tools around and there should be safeguards in place. Google claims it’s there to provide information but it’s really there to collect data and provide advertising, and they simply can’t own up to it.’

[Google CEO] Schmidt raised eyebrows on a trip to London last year when he declared: ‘We cannot even answer the most basic questions about you because we don’t know enough about you. The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask questions such as “What shall I do tomorrow?” and “What job should I take?” This is the most important aspect of Google’s expansion.’
A month later, the human rights watchdog Privacy International ranked the company bottom in a major survey of how securely the leading internet companies handle their users’ personal information. Liberty, the civil liberties organisation, and the National Consumer Council have also expressed concern.

See also Into the future: Pros and cons of a Google world:

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK
We have long-standing concerns about Google regarding the way it is betraying its own principles in going against established international norms around freedom of information. When you go on a Google search engine in London and look for a picture of Tiananmen Square, you get that iconic picture of a man standing in front of a tank. If you go to google.cn and do the same search you’ll get a picture of happy smiley tourists. Specific words such as Tibet, democracy, Tiananmen Square are heavily censored. We think that filtering process should be transparent. The rest of us who know that we’re using Google in an uncensored fashion have a duty to stand up for people who don’t have that access.

Future geek chicks?

From the BBC on Microsoft’s survival strategy (innovation and research):

Boku is a video game which is basically aimed at creating the computer programmers of tomorrow.
Principal programme manager Matt MacLaurin, a father of a three and three-quarter year-old daughter, designed Boku “as a tool so that kids can make their own games and its secretly a tool to teach kids what programming is like without getting too bogged down in the detail”.

Mr MacLaurin says Boku’s marriage of creativity and education is a clever way to hook children into this world.
He noted that girls took just two hours to become completely conversant with Boku while he fudged on how long the boys took.

Other interesting ideas include ‘E-Science in the cloud’:

In the carbon project known as Fluxdata, a group of 400 scientists from across the world are looking at how vegetation is being affected by carbon emissions.
In the past they might well have worked in isolation and only exchanged information via email assuming they would know who else was conducting complementary research.

In other news, yay Eurovision!

Andalucia goes OS

Biggest ever Spanish open source agreement signed

The Spanish government received praise for its continuing commitment to business innovation based on open standards.
Last week, Ubuntu’s Mark Shuttleworth told the BBC that the public was now turning to open source to improve their computing experiences.
Mr Shuttleworth said he had seen a real shift over the last six months, from people seeing open source as either a super-specialist tool for people who run data centres or something only an enthusiast would be interested in, to something which is increasingly popular with the commercial PC industry.

The visible effect of trawling

The difference a photo makes is interesting.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Loving Our Oceans to Death has a Landsat satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico

The cloudy water that you see is the direct result of commercial bottom trawlers dragging large, heavy nets across the seafloor, denuding it of all life in their quest for a few marketable fish and shrimps. Unfortunately, most bottom trawlers destroy as much as 20 pounds of “bycatch” — unmarketable corals, sponges, fishes and other animals — for every pound of commerically valuable “seafood” that they retrieve, while they leave behind huge, choking clouds of mud and sediment that take weeks or longer to settle.

“Until recently, the impact was basically hidden from view,” he continued. “But new tools — especially Internet-based image sites, like Google Earth — allow everyone to see for themselves what’s happening. In shallow waters with muddy bottoms, trawlers leave long, persistent trails of sediment in their wake.”

What can you do to reduce this enviromental destruction? Until the industrial fishing industry proves that they are acting in a more environmentally responsible manner, you can boycott eating orange roughy, Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish), and all shrimps. (Keep in mind that those shrimp species that are not caught by trawling are usually farmed in shallow coastal mangroves, which also leads to tremendous, and possibly irreversible, environmental damages).

But don’t just stop buying trawler-caught seafood – tell your supermarket or fishmonger why you’ve stopped buying it. Your consumer action can make a huge difference.

Tim Berners-Lee on tracking and privacy on the internet

From the BCS, Berners-Lee ‘wary’ of all web tracking:

Mr Berners-Lee explained that this type of targeting could lead to information about a user’s habits getting into the hands of unwanted parties and that instead, ISPs should have to comply with the same rules and regulations that any other utility company would.

Mr Berners-Lee said a user’s internet activity information was akin to a person’s private property, however.
“It’s mine – you can’t have it. If you want to use [that data] for something, then you have to negotiate with me. I have to agree, I have to understand what I’m getting in return,” he said.