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Finance News

By - October 20, 2006

A little birdy has tipped me to some updates on Google Finance. There are now comparison charts, new chart settings and features, more market data, and the ability to import portfolios from other sites. I like where this is going, and Yahoo Finance also has added new features as well…

Data Switzerland?

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If you’re wealthy, you have options. You can put your money in a Swiss bank, for example, and your privacy and service levels increase significantly. Switzerland has set a level of regulations around financial transactions which protect the wealthy consumer from prying foreign governments, among other interested parties.

Those of you who’ve read this site for a while know I tend to go off from time to time on the issues implied by the Database of Intentions, and the clickstreams which comprise it. One of the trickiest issues if that of privacy and security: in my “Ephemeral to Eternal” riff I get into the implications of living online, and wonder when our culture will finally grapple with the implications of same.

In short, there’s an awful lot of data about each of us available to third parties, and we have precious little knowledge of it, much less control, editing privileges, ownership, or permissions control. Want some proof points? Look to the DOJ’s massive fishing expedition earlier this year, or AOL’s huge data breach. Tip of the iceberg….

It strikes me that as our society wakes up to the potential abuses of this data, and our lack of any control over it, there will be an opportunity for the free market to respond. Root.net is one such response, but it does not solve the core issue of governance and jurisdiction – as long as the data is housed on US soil and with US corporations (or on your own computer), it will still be subject to US law, including PATRIOT and its kin. (Have you heard about the loss of habeas corpus, for example? Did you know that anyone can be classified as an “enemy combatant” by the President, and therefore lose habeas? Scary, indeed).

Anyway, one idea that’s been bumping around my head a long time, and which I hope you all can help me think through, is the concept of what I’ll call the “Data Switzerland.” The concept is simple: why can’t companies that hold massive amounts of our personally identifying information – companies like Yahoo, AOL, Google, Verizon, etc – simply warehouse that information in a country that has consumer-friendly data privacy laws? Why can’t my search history, my particular entries in the database of intentions, my clickstreams, be housed in this Data Switzerland, if I so chose?

After all, Google and Microsoft both have selectively decided to house some of its data outside of China for quite similar reasons. Why not give those of us who fear abuse by third parties in the US the same option? Is it because such a move would anger US government too much? Might it even be illegal for some reason?

Those of you who are lawyers and policy experts, please chime in on this idea. It’s certainly not new, and perhaps it’s been considered and discarded for any number of reasons. But I, for one, would be happy to pay to have this peace of mind. As an inveterate Internet user, I’m data wealthy. I’d like to have options.

Update: Readers have pointed me to HavenCo, and this article in Wired (and of course, to Cryptonomicon). Good stuff, but my goal would be for major companies that own our data, like Google, to in fact act like HavenCo.

As for the issues of geographical disbursement and latency, I am sure they could be dealt with by storing copies of our datatrails in RAM, no?

The CC effect: 22m searchable, sharable, photos

By - October 19, 2006

Picture 6-5Mark Glaser takes an interesting snapshot, on MediaShift, looking at how traditional media makers are beginning to discover Creative Commons’ affect on digital photography. According to Glaser, the combination of Flickr and the CC has made 22 million searchable and sharable photos available online– including print-ready grade photos. A close-up on how that changes business and resources for professional photo editors, journalists, and bloggers. Flickr: Creative Commons

AdWords Website Optimizer Tool

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Google has a new tool out that allows AdWords advertisers to track and analyze experimental changes in their landing page designed to boost conversion and ROI. The Website Optimizer measures success of grouped or singular altered elements, like copy or images, and compares their conversion percentage changes. Participation in the limited beta testing has some requirements.

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Slow Week

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Forgive my low posting volume this week, folks, I am battling some airborne illness which hit me on my way back from NY. Back at it when I’ve fought the bugger off.

Give Me Back My Google

By - October 17, 2006

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This site automatically strips out a ton of affiliate spam from Google. The results are quite revealing.

How does affiliate spam make it into Google in the first place? Well, not everyone thinks it’s spam. Via Matt Haughey.