Google warned by EU over Street View photos

European Union data privacy regulators are telling Google to warn people before it sends cameras out into cities to take pictures for its Street View maps, adding to the company’s legal worries in Europe.

Google should shorten the time it keeps the original photos from one year to six months, regulators also said in a letter to the company obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday.

In a statement, Google said its need to retain Street View images for one year is “legitimate and justified.”

The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., said it already posts notifications on its website about where its Street View cameras are clicking. The alert system on Thursday indicated Google’s picture-taking vehicles have been cruising the streets of Nantes, France, and possibly other nearby cities.

Street View launched in the U.S. in 2007 and now adds photos of real-life street scenes to Google’s maps of around 100 cities worldwide. To soothe privacy concerns, it uses special software to blur pictures of faces and car licence plates.

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Google vital for Chinese scientists: survey

A survey of scientists in China has found that a large majority of them use Google in their research and their work would be hampered if the search engine left the country.

The journal Nature surveyed 784 Chinese researchers and found that more than three-quarters of them use Google as their primary search engine.

More than 80 per cent of the survey’s respondents said they use Google to find academic papers and more than half of them use the Google Scholar tool to search scientific literature.

David Bousfield, a London-based information and publishing consultant, told Nature that the findings are typical of scientists working in most countries in the world.

“Google and Google Scholar have become indispensable tools for scientists,” Bousfield said.

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Privacy watchdog rebukes Google for Buzz

Canada’s privacy commissioner has chastised Google for not consulting with her before launching its Buzz social-networking service.

“We have seen a storm of protest and outrage over alleged privacy violations and my office also has questions about how Google Buzz has met the requirements of privacy law in Canada,” Jennifer Stoddart said in a statement Wednesday.

“My office has a variety of resources available to help companies build privacy into their products and services. When companies consult with us at the development stage, they can avoid the problems we’ve seen in recent days.”

Google Buzz, launched last week, integrates Twitter and Facebook-like communications and media-sharing functions into users’ Gmail accounts. When users turned the service on last week, many of their most emailed contacts were automatically added as public followers, which prompted privacy concerns. Critics said the service inadvertently exposed contacts and communications to anyone following the user on Buzz.

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Yahoo-Microsoft ad deal gets OK (finally)

Microsoft and Yahoo have received clearance from regulators in Washington and Europe to proceed with a search partnership intended to challenge Google.

The companies announced Thursday that the partnership has been approved without restrictions by the Justice Department and the European Commission. Under the 10-year agreement, Microsoft’s Bing search engine will process search requests and steer search-related ads on Yahoo. Yahoo is due to get 88 per cent of the revenue generated from the ads placed alongside the search results on its sites.

The companies said they will begin implementing the deal in the coming days by shifting Yahoo’s search platforms to Microsoft. They hope to move most advertisers and publishers before the 2010 holiday season, but may wait until 2011 if necessary, and expect to complete the process by early 2012.

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Microsoft adds Facebook, MySpace to Outlook

Microsoft is taking another step toward turning Outlook, its desktop email program, into a hub for information from popular social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

On Wednesday, Microsoft is releasing a “beta” test version of the Outlook Social Connector. The add-on software, which was first discussed last November, adds a new pane to the main email reading screen on Outlook. When a user clicks to read an email message, the new pane fills up with the sender’s most recent social-networking activities. Those could include the addition of a professional contact on LinkedIn or a “what I’m doing now” status update from Facebook.

Microsoft has a mixed record when it comes to web trends. The company’s free Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger programs are widely used, but its Windows Live blog/social network didn’t pick up much steam in the face of competition from Facebook. In this case, a small startup called Xobni has already built an Outlook add-on that combines inbox search with content from Facebook, LinkedIn and others.

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Canadian Privacy commissioner reviewing Google Buzz

Concerns around Google’s recently unveiled Buzz feature are deepening with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada looking into the social-networking tool.

Valerie Lawton, a spokeswoman for the privacy office, said the office is looking into concerns about Buzz.

“We understand the public concern about privacy issues related to Google Buzz,” she said. “Our office is looking at the issue.”

Lawton added that the office may comment further on Wednesday.

Google has ignited a hailstorm of criticism with Buzz, which adds real-time communication and media-sharing features found on popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to its Gmail service.

Buzz users can share status updates, news stories, videos and photos, and they can link in feeds from sites such as Twitter and Picasa.

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