Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Google Play Store Warning

Monday, 5 August 2013

Before installing an app from the Google Play Store, if you do not otherwise have familiarity with the app's developer, look at the time-stamp listed for the latest version. If this version is only a day-or-so old, then look at the time-stamps for the app reviews. If all of these are only from the previous day-or-so, then wait a couple of days before installing the app.

I discovered that scam-ware is being posted to the Play Store, sometimes with thousands of shill down-loads and shill reviews, to give to it the appearance of legitimacy. Google acts to remove this scam-ware, but it takes them some time to catch up to it.


The Play Store review system is unfortunately very easily manipulated, and some developers are doing just that even for apps that are not themselves intended as scam-ware. Hundreds or thousands of shill reviews are posted over time. (These reviews are typically short, and sometimes absurd, as when a utility is said to be a great game.) Negative reviews are marked as Unhelpful by shills, and positive previews perhaps as Helpful; which, since the Play Store normally presents reviews ordered by Helpful-ness, means that negative reviews slide out of sight.

Missing Links

Monday, 11 February 2013

Assuming that you do much surfing of the WWWeb, you've surely noticed that there are a great many sites that now require one to use an account with an external social-networking service in order to access functionality that previously would have been available without such an account. For example, to comment to some sites which are not themselves hosted on Yahoo! or on Facebook or on Google+, one must none-the-less log into an account with one of these services.

From the perspective of the site-owners, reliance upon such external services can reduce the costs of managing site-access. The external social networks provide this management partly as valued-added to their account-holders, but providing this service is a means of building a behavioral profile of those account-holders.[1] (To this day, most people do not assimilate the fact that most social-networking services exist largely as profiling services.) As you might expect, I feel that efforts to build such profiles should be resisted.

I understand both the problems of the client-sites instead independently managing access, and the difficulties of knowing just where to draw some objective line that would distinguish acceptable and unacceptable external services. (For example, it seems to be perfectly acceptable to require a verified e.mail account, and even to require a verified e.mail account from a service that is not black-listed. But, once one requires a verified e.mail account from a service that is white-listed, one may be pushing visitors into allowing themselves to be profiled (by an e.mail-service provider), if the white-list is overly constrained.)

What seems inexcusable to me is not simply handing access-control over to an external service, but handing it over exclusively to one external service that is a profiling service. The very worse case of such inexcusability is handing control over to the biggest of these services, Facebook, but it remains inexcusable to give exclusivity to any other external service (unless that service has some real guarantee against building profiles).

Which brings me to a policy change that I will be effecting for my own 'blog, not-withstanding that it has never required an external account to access its functionality.


At this and some other sites, a list of implicitly or explicitly recommended links is provided, outside of the body of principal content. (With the present formatting of this 'blog, they are in a right-hand column.)

In the case of my own list, I will be removing (or refraining from providing) links whenever I discover that the only evident way to access those other sites or to comment to them is by using an account with exactly one external social-networking site.

For example, if a 'blog is not hosted on Facebook, but the only readily seen way to comment to it is by using a Facebook account, then I will not wilfully provide a link to it. I will continue to link to Facebook sites; I will continue to link to sites where the only readily seen ways of commenting use social-networking accounts, so long as accounts from more than one social network may be used.

This policy only applies to the sort of generalized recommendations represented by that list. I may continue to link within principal content to such things as news-stories at sites that are enabling such profiling.


[1] I don't know that those handing access-management off to such services receive side-payments for doing so, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I'm shocked… shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

By way of zenicurean I learn that Google has announced its horror that the Chinese regime has, in fact, not much respect for the right of political dissent.


There's a sort of underground, which is perpetually trying to draw attention to the fact that various corporations from the United States and elsewhere provided support for Nazi Germany prior to relevant nationalizations or declarations of war. For example, IBM supplied information technology, which was subsequently used for such things as tracking-down Jews.

But the Nazis didn't have the first or the last regime to violate human rights, and the firms that sold the means for them to do so weren't the first or last folk to try not to think too hard about whom they were helping. American firms sold war equipment to both sides during the First World War. After the Second World War, businesses sold resources and technology to repressive regimes, variously communist or anti-communist; the United States government often subsidized or otherwise promoted such sales, depending upon what soul-less pragmatists thought to be in the national interest. And it isn't as if American sales have to be to foreign states to support repression.

We need to judge the present and the past with a perspective that doesn't lose sight of either, to understand that doing business with Hitler or with Stalin is part of the same sort of behavior as doing business with Hu or with Putin, and vice versa. We need to see that there isn't some simple discontinuity of acceptability that places Hizzoner on one side and der Führer on the other.

I'm not here telling anyone whom to condemn and whom to excuse. Rather, I'm saying that one should be reluctant to try to draw lines of any sort on slippery slopes. As to one's own behavior, I suggest that a line be drawn before one is on the slope at all.

Shot like Ben!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Some of my searches on Google are resulting in a 403 error return (Forbidden) from Google itself, with this message:

We're sorry…

… but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now.

We'll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the meantime, if you suspect that your computer or network has been infected, you might want to run a virus checker or spyware remover to make sure that your systems are free of viruses and other spurious software.

If you're continually receiving this error, you may be able to resolve the problem by deleting your Google cookie and revisiting Google. For browser-specific instructions, please consult your browser's online support center.

If your entire network is affected, more information is available in the Google Web Search Help Center.

We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope we'll see you again on Google.

This is, of course, a bit annoying. But it is also interesting, as it says that Google is acting to stop the use of their system by malware. However, I don't see how spyware per se would make use of Google.

The searches in which I've engaged which have triggered this have used the Google site operator, and have looked for a PHP-generated page. Further, the 403 error return is more likely to come after I have moved through multiple pages of results.

My inclination is to think that what Google is really trying to block is some sort of zombie searching for vulnerabilities in the sites to which it provides links.

Rough Approximation

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Quoth Google:

Results 1 - 17 of about 5 for "robby robertson" discography. (0.23 seconds)

The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!

Friday, 22 February 2008

Google has discovered this 'blog.