Google, Facebook Petition FISA Court for Greater Transparency


Internet giants Google and Facebook once again said they want to be more transparent regarding their dealings with the most secretive court in the United States.

The companies submitted petitions on Monday stating their desire to be able to publish statistical reports on requests for information they receive under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

In a blog post, Google announced it had filed an amended petition (.PDF) in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), not only asking for the ability to disclose statistics, but also requesting that the court make public its hearing on the matter.

“Given the important public policy issues at stake, we have also asked the court to hold its hearing in open rather than behind closed doors,” the blog post reads. “It’s time for more transparency.”

Rule 17 of the FISC’s rules and procedures states that a judge determines if a hearing is necessary and sets a time and place for the hearing. If the matter is “non-adversarial,” the hearing is likely to occur “within the Court’s secure facility” — in other words, behind closed doors.

“Thank you for your inquiry. We have no comment,” Department of Justices spokesman Andrew Ames said in an emailed reply to our phone call requesting more information on if and when the proceedings regarding these petitions may happen.

UPDATE: Sept 10, 2:00 p.m. ET

Ames emailed us the FISC’s response to Google’s and Microsoft’s amended petitions (Microsoft originally filed one in June), saying the government would respond to the motions by Sept. 30 at 5:00 p.m. The court has not yet replied to motions filed by Facebook and Yahoo, according to its website.

The language in Google’s petition appears to be somewhat different than a previous version, submitted in June, which requested the ability to disclose “limited, aggregate statistics.”

Facebook announced a similar motion through a press release on Monday.

“We hope and believe the action we take today will help spur the United States government to provide greater transparency about its efforts aimed at keeping the public safe,” the release reads, “and we will continue to be aggressive advocates for greater disclosure.”

The company’s petition closely resembles Google’s in that it calls for the ability to release “aggregate data” regarding FISA requests.

Both petitions mirror the sentiment of a letter (.PDF) calling for greater transparency, which Google and Facebook cosigned with many other tech companies and civil liberties groups on July 18. That letter was addressed to President Barack Obama, members of Congress and other Federal intelligence and judiciary personnel.

A Google spokesperson said, aside from its blog post, the company is not commenting on the record regarding this petition. Facebook did not respond to our requests for comment by publishing time.

UPDATE: Sept. 10

Yahoo also filed a suit in the FISC on Monday, petitioning to be able to publish statistics on surveillance requests made by the government.

“We believe that the U.S. Government’s important responsibility to protect public safety can be carried out without precluding Internet companies from sharing the number of national security requests they may receive,” Yahoo’s attorney Ron Bell wrote in a blog post.

Image: Flickr, Robert Scoble

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The Story Of How Gmail Works

 doesn’t only want to be the world’s most used Internet company and service. They also want to impact the environment as little as possible.

To express all the painstaking efforts they take, Google made this adorable animation that is covered on GeekoSystem, ABCNews, and DigitalTrends


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Google Searches for ‘Who Is Running for President’ Spike


It’s Election Day, and it seems Americans are figuring out who is running for president just in the nick of time.

Google search trends show that searches for “who is running for President” have steadily risen over the year, spiking in just the past few days:

Let’s just say better late than never?

Most of the searches for “who is running for President” came out of North Carolina, with Ohio and Pennsylvania coming in second and third, respectively.

“Am I registered to vote” is another current hot search trend, with more than 50,000 searches today. “Where do I vote,” turned up as a common search of the day as well, but Google’s polling locator is helping those folks out. As of 11 a.m. EST today, the Google voter info tool was accessed 16 million times.

Google’s Election and Politics team also compiled several other political trends over the election season. They found similarities in which states were Googling “Obama” and “Romney” — Vermont, New Hampshire and Ohio were at the top of both lists.

Though search interest peaked for both candidates just after the second presidential debate, the overall searches for President Obama were higher than Gov. Mitt Romney’s. Ohio has also gotten increased search attention as a swing state this election, and Google found Obama garnered more search queries in that state than Romney.

“Ohio” also quickly rose to the top as the term searched alongside “voter fraud,” potentially related to a glitch in voting software in the state. Virginia was another state many voters searched for when it came to voting fraud.

Check out more stats about Google searches this election in the infographics:

What terms have you been searching for most this election? Share in the comments below.

Special Report: Politics Transformed E-Book

Mashable explores the trends changing politics in 2012 and beyond in Politics Transformed: The High Tech Battle for Your Vote, an in-depth look at how digital media is reshaping democracy.

Read a few of the top posts from the series:

Take it with you, buy Politics Transformed: The High Tech Battle for Your Vote on e-book and get access to four exclusive interviews!

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‘The Internship’ Underwhelms on Opening Weekend


The Internship, the comedy featuring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as fortysomething interns at Google, came in at No. 4 in the box office this weekend, marking an underwhelming launch.

The film earned $18.1 million over the weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. That puts it behind Ethan Hawke sci-fi thriller The Purge, which placed at No. 1 with $36.4 million, and Fast & Furious 6 and Now You See Me, with $19.8 million and $19.5 million, respectively. The Internship opening also paled in comparison to Wilson and Vaughn’s last big film, The Wedding Crashers, which brought in $33.9 million in its opening weekend in 2005.

Reviews for the movie have also been disappointing. The Internship received a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many reviews took issue with Google’s involvement in the film. The New York Times called the film a “two-hour commercial for GoogleWorld masquerading as an aspirational buddy comedy,” while said the film “[glorifies] Google as both a successful company and a mystical entity that makes the world a better place. This sentiment is treated without irony.”

Google allowed a great deal of access to The Internships‘s filmmakers. During Google I/O, CEO Larry Page explained that the company’s involvement with the film aimed to make engineers into heroes. “They were making a movie we decided we’d get involved,” he said, explaining that computer science has an image problem in which techies are seen as “nerdy curmudgeons.” However, in The Internship, a tech-savvy Google employee character is “by far the coolest character in the movie.”

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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Wikipedia Gets a Makeover. Should It Look More Like Google?


We all love Wikipediasome of us more than others.

But have you ever felt like it could do with a redesign? Something to make it look a little easier on the eye, with more white space — you know, more Google-ish?

That’s exactly what designers at a Lithuanian creative agency called New! set out to do. You can see the results here, at a site called Wikipedia Redefined — and in the gallery below.

This isn’t an officially sanctioned redesign, and there’s no word on whether the Wikimedia Foundation (owners of the nonprofit site) have shown any interest. We’d like to think so, though, as this version of the site seems a lot more user-friendly. Not to mention a lot more research-friendly: check out the quoting, highlighting and article-tabbing options.

Check out the screenshots, and let us know in the comments: would you prefer Wikipedia if it looked this way?

Find Out How Google Earth Is Changing The World


Mashable is excited to announce that Rebecca Moore, engineering manager at Google Earth Outreach and Google Earth Engine will join the 2012 Social Good Summit. Moore will share her insights on how Google Earth is being used by individuals and organizations to make a positive impact in the world.

From exploring the effects of logging in the Amazon to mapping the refugee and genocide crises in Darfur, Google Earth Outreach supports non-profits, communities and indigenous peoples around the world by applying Google’s mapping tools to the world’s pressing problems.

Rebecca Moore joined Google in 2005, where she conceived and now leads the Google Earth Outreach program and Google Earth Engine.

Through her leadership at Google, Moore has shown how technology can play an integral role in the sustainability of many indigenous cultures. At the Social Good Summit, she will share what she has learned and ways that other organizations can make the best use of Google’s mapping technologies.

Moore will join other world leaders at the Mashable Social Good Summit, taking place Sept. 22-24 in New York City. Last week, we announced that Oscar winner Forest Whitaker will also join the Social Good Summit.

Register for Social Good Summit 2011 - Presented by Mashable, 92Y and UN Foundation - September 19 - 22, 2011 in New York, NY  on Eventbrite

Confirmed Speakers

Further details and speakers will be announced soon on Mashable.

Brought to you by Mashable, 92nd Street Y, the United Nations Foundation, Ericsson, the U.N. Development Programme and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the third annual Social Good Summit promises to once again showcase the unparalleled potential of citizens united through social media and technology to change the world.

Purchase your tickets now

Date: Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, through Monday, Sept. 24, 2012
Time: 1:00-5:00 p.m. and 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. each day
Location: 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave., New York, NY
Tickets: $50 per day or $130 for three-day pass.

Register for Social Good Summit 2011 - Presented by Mashable, 92Y and UN Foundation - September 19 - 22, 2011 in New York, NY  on Eventbrite

About Ericsson

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If Google Was A Person Part 2

If Google Was A Person Part 2


Remember College Humor‘s  hilarious sketch depicting what it would be like if Google was a guy?

After such a viral success the comedy channel has returned to the premise for a second time to again demonstrate what it would be like if Google was person. 


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Now Playing: Google’s Music Timeline

Make way for the Google Music timeline — a high-tech graph showing the rise, fall and introductions of musical genres, as well as a guide for understanding music history visually.

Beginning in 1950, the timeline starts with jazz, showing which artists ruled the charts and even those one-hit wonders. After jazz, click on pop to see which other subcategories are included, like dance pop. Regardless of the genre you select, the seven most popular artists and albums of that genre sit just below the graph. The key to understanding the most popular genre at a certain time is the thickness of the stripe on the graph: The thicker the stripe, the more popular it was at the time.

However, fans of classical music might be disappointed: Classical music was not included on the timeline. The logic behind this omission is based in the confusion of whether a piece’s true release date was when a composer wrote it or when it was recorded by a philharmonic. According to Google, people usually think of classical music in terms of its composition date, not its recording date. Since the music timeline is based on recording date, it didn’t make sense to include classical music.

Like Google Sightmap, a heat map showing the most-photographed locations in the world, the music timeline also uses crowdsourced data from the music on Google Play. This data defines “popular” by the number of users who have a particular artist or album in their music libraries.

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A Brief History of Instant Messaging


Among its many uses and benefits, the Internet has transformed and simplified how people communicate with each other around the globe. In addition to email, instant messaging has played a large role in bringing people together. From ICQ to AIM, Google Chat to Facebook Chat, Internet users have been able to send messages to each other instantaneously for years.

But where did it all start? Instant messaging has been an evolving idea for a long time, so it’s somewhat difficult to pinpoint its origin. In fact, did you know that instant messaging, or at least an early form of the concept, actually predates the World Wide Web?

Here’s a look at the important advances of instant messaging made over the past 50 years.

Impressive Beginnings

The phrase “instant messaging” entered common usage in the early 1990s, but the concept actually dates back to the mid-1960s. Multi-user operating systems such as the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS), which was created at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Computation Center in 1961, allowed up to 30 users to log in at the same time and send messages to each other. The system, which is perhaps closer to what we now think of as email, had hundreds of registered users from MIT and other New England colleges by 1965.

In the 1970s, programmers worked on peer-to-peer protocol, allowing universities and research labs to establish simple communication between users of the same computer.

The Zephyr Notification Service, also created at MIT through Project Athena in the 1980s, used Unix to locate and send messages to users. Some institutions, including MIT and Carnegie Mellon University, still use the service.

The 1980s also saw great interest in the bulletin board system, or BBS — a system that allowed users to use a terminal program to upload and download software and exchange direct messages with others.

In 1982, Commodore International released the Commodore 64 PC. The Commodore 64 included an Internet service, Quantum Link (also known as Q-Link), which came to be known as America Online (AOL) in the ’90s. Q-Link users could pay a monthly fee to send text-based messages to others via modem, and the receiver had the option of responding to or ignoring the messages.

CompuServe’s CB Simulator, created in 1980 to simulate citizens band radio through text-based messages and user handles, is considered the first service dedicated to online chat.

The Rise of the Instant Messaging Market

CompuServe CB Simulator

In 1996, Israeli company Mirabilis launched ICQ, a text-based messenger that was the first to really reach a widespread market of online users. ICQ allowed for multi-user chats, file transfers, a searchable user directory and more. AOL acquired Mirabilis and ICQ in 1998, later selling it to Digital Sky Technologies in 2010. The latest version of ICQ includes Facebook integration, mobile sync and further updates.

The true turning point, however, occurred in 1997, when AOL launched AIM, attracting a new generation of tech-savvy Internet users. When you think of AIM, you can probably hear the sounds of opening and closing doors when friends appeared and disappeared on your Buddy List. Like the services before it, AIM allowed users to send messages to each other, and included user profiles, away messages and icons for more engagement. With AIM also came the development of different bots, such as StudyBuddy and SmarterChild (which have since been retired), with whom users could interact. By 2005, AIM dominated the instant messaging market with 53 million users. Chat rooms, in which multiple people could IM with each other, were another popular AOL feature.

Yahoo launched Yahoo! Messenger in 1998, originally under the name Yahoo! Pager. Used with a user’s Yahoo! ID, Yahoo! Messenger included customized “IMVironments,” address book integration and custom status messages. Like AOL, Yahoo had a chat room service.

Pidgin, founded as “Gaim” in 1998 as an open-source instant messaging client, allowed users to reach contacts on several operating systems. In 2007, it was estimated that Pidgin had 3 million users.

Microsoft released MSN Messenger in 1999. A press release from its launch read, “MSN Messenger Service tells consumers when their friends, family and colleagues are online and enables them to exchange online messages and email with the more than 40 million users of the MSN Hotmail TM Web-based email service as well as with people using AOL Instant Messenger.” Microsoft renamed the service Windows Live Messenger in 2005, adding photo sharing capabilities, social network integration and games. In 2009, the company announced more than 330 million active users every month.

Instant Messaging Language

A major aspect of the rise of instant messaging in the 1990s was the shorthand language and acronyms that came with it:

  • BRB: Be Right Back

  • LOL: Laugh(ing) Out Loud

  • OMG: Oh My God/Gosh

  • ROFL: Rolling On Floor Laughing

  • TTYL: Talk To You Later

  • TY: Thank You

  • NP: No Problem

  • OTP: On The Phone

  • and many, many more.

IM language became so ubiquitous that it’s completely common usage today, even in emails and SMS mobile text messaging.

Instant Messaging in the 2000s

In 2000, Internet users took notice of Jabber, a multi-protocol instant messenger that acted as a single gateway for users to chat with friends and access their buddy lists on all of the big networks at the time: AIM, Yahoo and MSN. is the original IM service based on Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). Most recently, in August 2012, Jabber disabled new registrations due to user abuse and denial of service attacks.

Apple developed iChat, or iChat AV, for its Mac OS X operating system in 2002. Mac users could integrate their address books and Apple Mail in a native app compatible with AIM. In 2011, Apple announced iMessage for the updated Mac OS. Both iChat and iMessage were replaced earlier this year by OS X Mountain Lion’s Messages, allowing users to send unlimited messages to almost any Apple product.

Founded in 2003, Skype allows Internet users to communicate with others through video, voice and instant messaging. The instant messaging aspect of the service, while perhaps not its most popular function compared to video conferences, is used by many. In July 2011, Skype announced integration with Facebook, so users could see Facebook friends on Skype and see Facebook Chat through both services.

Meebo began in 2005 as an instant messaging service accessed via web browser. Before it was acquired by Google last June, it supported Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, AIM, ICQ, and later MySpaceIM, Facebook Chat, Google Talk and others. Meebo had also developed mobile versions for iPhone and Android.

Social Media Chat

In 2005, Google released Google Talk, often referred to as Google Chat or Gchat. Available in various web, native and mobile applications, Google Talk always appears in a Gmail user’s window, allowing for easy communication with email contacts. The service includes text-based messaging, voice calls and video conferences. Most recently, Google Talk has been integrated with Google+, allowing users to chat while in the social network.

Myspace developed MySpaceIM in 2006 as an addition to its social platform — the first social network to do so. Users could instant message with friends on their desktops, as well as online starting in 2009, through MySpaceIM for Web. Later the service was integrated with Skype.

Facebook released Facebook Chat in 2008, allowing users to instant message one friend or multiple people through the groups feature while logged into the social network. In 2011, Facebook announced the incorporation of video in Chat — integrated with Skype — and has also released the mobile app Facebook Messenger.

Where will these services go next? Tell us your thoughts on the future of instant messaging in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, tupungato.

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