As New Horizons Reaches Pluto, Arguments Will Be Settled And Mysteries Revealed

Three decades of development are about to culminate in a 24 hour period of discovery.
Tomorrow NASA’s New Horizons space probe will reach the finale of its 9-year journey to the outer reaches of the solar system. The mission, a 13-year study in marshaling resources, could be a lesson to any startup. And regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s flyby, the probe has already revealed one hell of a planet.
Planning for the New Horizons mission began in 1989 thanks to the work of Dr. Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto. The economics and logistics of this Pluto require a fast flyby and subsequent transmission of 64 GB of scientific data at a snail’s pace of just 1 kilobyte/second. Starting the day after tomorrow, if all has gone well, thirteen months will be needed to transmit the data back to Earth from over 6 billion kilometers away.
“At 7:49 AM EDT on Tuesday, July 14 New Horizons will pass by Pluto at 30,800 miles per hour (49,600 kilometers per hour), with a suite of seven science instruments busily gathering data. The mission will complete the initial reconnaissance of the solar system with the first-ever look at the icy dwarf planet.” – NASA
Initially, the mission called for using a low-cost derivative of the Galileo and Cassini deep space probes called the Mariner Mark II. With a name right off the car lots of Detroit, the Mariner Mark II was supposed to be the lowest cost option. However, it wasn’t cheap enough as NASA went through a dark period of budget cuts and austerity through the nineties.
The remains of Clyde Tombaugh are perched on the hull of the New Horizons space probe, about to fly by the planet he discovered in 1930. Tombaugh’s ashes will then continue a voyage into the Cosmos. (Credits: NASA)
Fast-forward to the alternative that became New Horizons and Americans now have a nuclear-powered, baby grand piano-sized probe on final approach to the planet (discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, a Kansas farm boy working at Flagstaff Arizona’s Lowell Observatory). Tombaugh passed away in 1997, but his cremated remains are along for New Horizon’s journey through space. His are the only human remains to leave the Earth-Moon system and the solar system.
While New Horizons has been on its long trek to Pluto on the edge of the Solar System, human affairs took a toll on the planet’s status. When New Horizons was launched, Pluto was the 9th planet of the Solar System, and upon its arrival the former planet is now categorized as only one of many dwarf planets of our Solar System.
Perhaps Pluto will; through New Horizons. After a 3,461 day journey, in its final day before the flyby, the space probe is revealing that this small body — a dwarf planet by designation of the IAU, and the only dual synchronized tidally locked bodies in the solar system — has complex and mysterious surface features. Features that could possibly present a case for its to return to the status of the 9th planet of our system.
Like the other planets in the Solar System, Pluto and Charon were formed 4.6 billions years ago. The New Horizons team has aged 10 years since launch and some long-standing members like Stern  have been waiting for this moment for nearly three decades. There have been achievements along the route to Pluto. A flyby of Mars, of Jupiter and its moons and of an asteroid, but it is almost all for naught if the space probe fails in its final hours as it flies by the binary system of Pluto and Charon.
A NASA illustration of the New Horizons space probe during closest approach to the Pluto-Charon binary system. (Credit: NASA)
During nearly the entire journey, the New Horizons team has depended on the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) to return images. The telescopic system makes up for the modest 1 megapixel detector, 13 year old technology far exceeded by today’s smartphone cameras. Together, the three cameras will resolve features as small as 100 meters (320 feet) during the flyby.

The probe will fly within 13,000 kilometers (8000 miles) of Pluto’s surface and within 29,000 kilometers (18,000 miles) of Charon’s. During closest approach, two cameras – Ralph and Alice – are critical to mission success. Named after the iconic characters of the American sitcom the Honeymooners, these instruments are imaging spectrometers. Alice will image the surface in ultraviolet light and Ralph will in visible and infrared. Altogether, the spectral images will reveal the chemical composition of Pluto’s and Charon’s surface and Pluto’s ultra-thin atmosphere.
The New Horizons space probe showing the location of the science instruments including the primary cameras for the flyby –  Ralph & Alice. Details of the science instruments  (Illust. Credit: NASA)
The space probe has stopped radio communications in order to focus all its resources and literally turn all its attention towards Pluto and Charon. The probe’s cameras will scan the two small bodies with the pushbroom method of optical scanning. The probe’s computer will step through a rehearsed command sequence that will turn the space probe towards the planet’s surface and towards Charon and the tiny moonlets of the Pluto system.

YC-Backed Interviewed Uses Automated Simulations To Evaluate Job Candidates

YC-Backed Interviewed Uses Automated Simulations To Evaluate Job Candidates
Interviewed, launching from Y Combinator’s most recent batch of startups, is looking to help employees make better hiring decisions.
It’s not uncommon for employers to be wowed by a candidate’s interview skills, only to find that their actual on-the-job skills are lacking. Interviewed fixes this issue by creating advanced simulations for job candidates who are interviewing for non-technical positions like sales, customer support, or administrative positions.
The simulations on Interviewed are extremely realistic, and include the use of mock tools like email and phone calls. For example, a three-part sales simulation first had me write a cold email, then reply to a customer inquiry, and lastly make a cold sales call (using my real cell phone) for a potential client.
The phone simulation has a variety of response paths, and offered different responses based on what I said. The company said each time a candidate talks they can prompt up to eight responses, like having a secretary either send you to voicemail or letting you through to talk to the manager in charge of purchasing.
The simulations include a FAQ, giving a user all the necessary background information on the mock company they are “working for” (pricing, features, etc.).Besides that, the candidate is on their own.
Interviewed also offers tests on subjects like real estate law and financial accounting for hiring managers that would also like to focus on a candidate’s knowledge, rather than their skill set.
Founded by early employees of 42 Floors (YC W12), the service was originally conceived during a period of rapid hiring at the commercial real estate startup. The company would hire new employees only to find out that their actual performance wasn’t on par with what their resume and credentials suggested.
Darren Nix, cofounder of Interviewed, explained that some companies currently run their own mock simulations, but the process is so time-consuming that it is often done at the last stage before hiring.
By automating the simulations, Interviewed’s platform allows companies to administer these simulations on a mass scale, reducing the chance that companies pass over someone who is actually awesome at the required skills.
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 5.53.57 PM
The service scores each simulation on scale of one to five (including half numbers). When asked how accurate the automated scoring process can be, Nix said that test results so far have indicated a large dispersion between scores (rather than being clustered around one number), which he explained is an indication of a good simulation.
Nix also explained that the service uses machine learning to continually improve how it judges candidates.
The company is planning to offer customizable simulations to larger organizations, while offering off-the-shelf versions to small companies. Nix shared that Interviewed aims to eventually have a central hiring location where users can take simulations, then send their results directly to companies that are hiring employees with those skills.

Apple Pay Has Officially Launched In The U.K.

Apple Pay Has Officially Launched In The U.K.
The Eagle has landed. An accidental tweet told us that the U.K. wouldn’t have to wait for Apple Pay much longer, and that tweet was right. Apple Pay has officially launched in the U.K.
Finally! It has been available to customers here in the US since last October, so your time has finally come, U.K.
Hopefully your bank is one of the launch participants: American Express, First Direct, HSBC, Nationwide, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Ulster Bank. I use Simple as my bank and had to wait until like a month ago to try Apple Pay out. It was worth the wait.
As far as where you can do your shopping? Here’s a partial list of stores that kinda sound familiar to me, but not really: Boots, BP, Costa, Liberty, Lidl, M&S, McDonalds, Starbucks and my fav, Wagamama.
According to Apple, the service will be available in 250,000 locations.
AppleInsider notes that you might only be able to make smallish purchases at first, sadly:
Apple Pay vice president Jennifer Bailey confirmed current point of sale terminal software is capable of processing low cost transactions, though purchases above 20 pounds will need software upgrades. Once merchants decide to update their POS systems, the limit is expected to rise to 30 pounds in September, the report said.
We’ve tried it out in the real world, so have a watch before you hit up *Wagamama.

Securing Startups Will Be Yet Another Gauntlet For Greece

Securing Startups Will Be Yet Another Gauntlet For Greece
Last Sunday Greeks overwhelmingly voted “no,” to reject the bailout terms international lenders put before their country – a bailout for a $1.7 billion payment to the IMF that had expired several days earlier on July 1.
What will happen now to both Greece and its place in the European Union and, in particular, the Euro itself is an open question. This uncertainty has Greece’s entrepreneurs worried – not only about their startups but their country’s nascent startup ecosystem.
“Startups always face challenges,” said Georgios Gatos, co-founder and COO of Incrediblue, an online platform for private yacht, motorboat, and sailboat holidays. “As a company we were born and raised during the crisis (in 2012) and we learned how to move forward. What has happened in Greece with capital controls and the referendum was a strong shock for all of us, but we are prepared.”
Part of that preparation has included working with investors that have backed Incrediblue. Incrediblue has raised $2.6 million from investors in Greece and the United Kingdom to date. The company’s latest round of funding, $1.8 million, led by Connect Ventures in early May, is drawn out of London. “This has worked for us under these unfortunate times,” Gatos said.
And Gatos said that recent times have been unfortunate. “Greece is one of the top countries to visit,” Gatos said. Greece is the 7th most popular destination for travelers in the world, driving nearly $39 billion into the Greek economy or 18 percent of the country’s GDP. Twenty four million people visited Greece last year.
As a company we were born and raised during the crisis (in 2012) and we learned how to move forward. What has happened in Greece with capital controls and the referendum was a strong shock for all of us, but we are prepared.
— Georgios Gatsos, COO Incrediblue
“Recent developments led to a major drop in last minute bookings,” Gatos said.
Other areas in Greek tourism have been luckier. Alexandros Trimis, a serial entrepreneur in the tourism space, told me that that his latest venture,, an online service that books chauffeurs for visitors to Greece, has not seen any drop in customers.
However, he said, he is looking at expanding to locations outside Greece. “Thus far we haven’t seen any cancelations but if things evolve for the worse, then we are not sure what we will do,” Trimis said.
Dimitris Koutsolioutsos, the founder of Farmers Republic, also expressed concern. His business, a fair trade marketplace for small farmers to sell and deliver locally grown organic produce, has seen a 70 percent drop in revenue in the last ten days.
“We cannot operate normally. Clients don’t have cash. Farmers don’t have cash to buy gas to put in the truck to come to our shop to sell our products or deliver goods to our warehouse,” Koutsolioutsos said. “We don’t sell the cheapest or lowest quality of tomato or rice or pasta. We have good value for products. Now the consumer is totally price sensitive. People want to buy the cheapest.”
18587594884_1d22ae84fa_oKoutsolioutsos noted that if Greece opts to exit the Eurozone, Farmers Republic would be forced to change its business model, shifting it from its current B2C (farmers to consumer) to a B2B that sells internationally to retailers. “We will be forced to relocate our headquarters,” he said in order not to lose the access he has now to European markets.
His investors have advised him as much. “Shut it down, change the model, and move out of Greece,” they told Koutsolioutsos. “We don’t believe in Greece anymore.”
Emilios Markou, the founder of Hellas Direct, a direct-to-consumer online car insurance company, told me that his four-year old startup has felt little if any negative impact from the Greek debt crisis. Because people aren’t buying gas, fewer people are on the road. “Fewer people driving means less accidents,” Markou said. He is watching, however, for an increase in fraud claims.
Things have been tougher for Argiris and Dimitrios Bendilas, the brothers who founded Total Eclipse, a gaming company in 2004.
“Seeing your country in disarray doesn’t really help you start the day full of optimism,” Argiris Bendilas told me. In particular they are concerned about a product launch planned for October.
If the rumors about a default and a haircut on deposits materialize, Total Eclipse won’t have the money to roll out its new product on time. Capital controls imposed last week have already affected the company, which is having trouble paying international bills.
“We made the mistake of keeping all our funds here in Greece,” Argiris Bendilas said. They have since started redirecting Total Eclipse’s revenues to a new account abroad.
The brothers haven’t decided to do more than that and leave Greece. “We fear, though, that things will get much worse and we’ll be forced to,” Argiris Bendilas said.
“Making high quality games for the global market is very tough as it is. Doing that in Greece, with an absent organized industry makes it even harder. It has never been easy for us to find highly skilled game engineers, with so few game development studios here, and combined with the expected brain drain due to the recent events, things are bound to get much worse,” Argiris Bendilas said.
Overall, Bendilas said, it was sad to see all the work that all Greek startups have put in over the past five years, “being threatened in just a week’s time.”
“Our startup scene, which was even taken to the next level by the introduction of the JEREMIE funds in 2013, now faces the biggest of issues: trust,” Bendilas said. “Our startup scene’s foundations have been shaken very badly and restoring them will require a lot of time, patience, strong will and hard work.”
Incrediblue’s Georgios Gatos echoed the same sentiment, though added some optimism. “It took us about 6 years as an ecosystem to be where we are and it will be a shame to see all these efforts vanish. On the other hand, we are entrepreneurs. We find solutions and we thrive,” he said.

Development Of A $200 WiFi Router Geared Towards Whistleblowers Was Just Suspiciously Cancelled

Development Of A $200 WiFi Router Geared Towards Whistleblowers Was Just Suspiciously Cancelled
In the world of whistleblowers, any packet of revealed identifying information means game over.
ProxyHam, a $200 WiFi router aimed at those seeking the utmost in anonymity, promised to mask users’ IP addresses and place their geographic coordinates miles away from their actual locations. Plans to create the device, set to be unveiled at August’s Las Vegas Def Con convention, were mysteriously axed Friday and the company behind its production, Rhino Security Labs, is giving no further statement.
Ben Caudill, a researcher at Rhino Security Labs, was set to unveil full hardware specs at the conference but has since been removed from the list of speakers at the conference.
The device was described by Caudill on the Def Con events page:
From the US to China and beyond, anonymity on the internet is under fire – particularly for whistleblowers. National interests are pushing for greater control and monitoring of internet content, often invoking harsh punishments for informers and journalists, if caught. While a range of technologies (such as ToR) can provide some level of anonymity, a fundamental flaw still exists: a direct relationship between IP address and physical location. If your true IP is ever uncovered, it’s game over – a significant threat when your adversary owns the infrastructure.
To resolve this issue, I present ProxyHam, a hardware device which utilizes both WiFi and the 900Mhz band to act as a hardware proxy, routing local traffic through a far-off wireless network – and significantly increasing the difficulty in identifying the true source of the traffic. In addition to a demonstration of the device itself, full hardware schematics and code will be made freely available.
Given the sudden and unexplained cancellation of development (in addition to the obvious implications for evading online surveillance), many have theorized that the ProxyHam project was killed off by government authorities.
“While it is pure speculation on my part, since no one can speak on record,” Steve Ragan wrote for CSO Online. “It would look as if a higher power – namely the U.S. Government – has put their foot down and killed this talk.”
Rhino Security Labs was not immediately available for a comment.

Asian Matchmaking App Paktor Lands $7.4M To Go Beyond Romance And Into Friendships

Asian Matchmaking App Paktor Lands $7.4M To Go Beyond Romance And Into Friendships
You might think that the path for dating apps is to focus on romance and love. But that may not be the case for one Tinder-like app in Asia.
Paktor, a service focused on Southeast Asia, today closed a SG$10 million ($7.4 million) Series B round that will go towards expanding its userbase and — interestingly — developing beyond romantic matchmaking to connect people with new, platonic friends.
We last checked in on the Singapore-based company when it raised $3 million last November. Its newest capital comes from existing investor Vertex Venture Holdings, and new backers Majuven, and Convergence Ventures. Paktor has seen its registered userbase rise from 1.5 million in November to more than five million today. The company claimed a number of other metrics have grown too: it is now making 12 million matches per month, while the total number of swipes per month has rise from 300 million to 500 million.
Paktor CEO and co-founder Joseph Phua previously told us that convincing the often socially conservative natives in Southeast Asia and Taiwan — the markets where the service sees the most traction — to date via an app is tricky, but now he told TechCrunch that he believes the app and concept behind it has made significant progress.
Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, is on track to overtake Taiwan to become Paktor’s largest market, and that embodies the kind of growth it has seen.
“We thought Indonesia would be potentially more conservative, but actually young people are very moderate,” Phua said in an interview. “We found them to be very willing to try new products and tell their friends.”
Now, Paktor is focused on making its mark in other parts of Asia, particularly Japan and Korea. It had previously tested its service in those markets, but Phua said the funding gives it an opportunity to make a more concerted effort this time.

Premium Services

Phua and his team of 50 have focused on growing the service across Southeast Asia, but they have begun seeding the concept of premium services among batches of guinea pig users. So, while Paktor doesn’t have a premium membership, like Tinder Plus, it has tested features such as gifting, search base on premium metrics (job and education, not just location), and contacting ‘top’ users on each country’s leaderboard.
A more rounded premium offering is likely to come before the end of the year. But, unlike Tinder and other rivals, Paktor is also working on some ideas that are perhaps unusual for dating apps.
For one thing, it runs group chat rooms. Those are initially based on location and designed to help discover new people in a different way to straight up hot-or-not photo matching. It was designed to reflect the interest in group dates that is commonplace across Asia. Phua said his first date with his fiance, whom he met on Paktor, was among a group of friends, and I’ve anecdotally heard similar stories from friends across Southeast Asia.

But, for some group chat is a little odd. I was put in a chat with 30 other users — male and female — on joining the app. I found it to be a little confusing — seeing guys’ comments in my feed was a little odd since I was trying to match with ladies — but Phua explained that the feature is also testing a broader thesis: that Paktor can expand beyond romance and connect people via interest and other platonic ways.

Connecting People For Friendship

Inspired by IRC and other messaging services from the past, which allowed people to connect based on interest groups for friendships and sometimes dating, Phua believes that there’s an opportunity to do much more than romantic matching.
“Beyond pushing our userbase in other parts of Asia, we want to test usage type expansions. We think there’s a white elephant in the room that people don’t touch, namely how can I meet somebody not for a relationship, but social interactions around food, sport or other interests.
“So one of our objectives now is how can we create a product within a product that lets people connect for the sake of meeting socially,” Phua said.
That mantle is largely occupied by Facebook, which has more than a billion monthly users and, as Phua himself admits, is huge across Asia. Nonetheless, the Paktor CEO is keen to explore areas where Paktor can develop beyond just sitting in its current space.
“Staying in dating is extremely profitable, but it limits our ceiling. If we stay in dating, our company can aspire to be IAC [the firm behind Tinder], rather than [a social media platform like] Facebook.”
A (perhaps) cynical part of me thinks that Asia’s general reluctance to spend money on digital goods or premium membership services might be beyond this ambition to expand Paktor’s vision into non-romantic relationships, but Phua told me that — for now — those plans are exactly that, plans. The company is working on a series of ideas that will “take us down that path,” Phua said, but it will take some time before that manifests itself in actual features inside the app.

VideoStitch Grabs $2.25 Million To Produce 360 Video In Real Time

VideoStitch Grabs $2.25 Million To Produce 360 Video In Real Time
French startup VideoStitch just raised $2.25 million from Alven Capital for its video editing software solution. This isn’t your average video editing software, as the company is able to output a live 360 feed using multiple action cameras, making it perfect for virtual reality headsets.
I had the chance to try out the company’s latest demo last week, and I was particularly impressed by what the company had to offer. In the first demo, VideoStitch was using three GoPros connected to a computer. This computer was stitching these three video outputs in real time, calibrating the luminosity and removing all sorts of artefacts in order to produce a perfect 360 live video.
And here’s where it makes a lot more sense. I then put an Oculus Rift headset on, and I could move my head around and look at a live video feed. I was totally immersed in this video. The cameras were only a couple of feet away from me, but this technology could be used to virtually teleport yourself to remote locations. Also worth noting, the video was perfectly fluid and I couldn’t see any artefact.
The second demo is a brand new demo that was a lot more resource intensive. The company bought a duck meat can and taped a bunch of GoPros around it. Once again, the GoPros were connected to a computer. This time, the company’s software was able to output a 3D video feed in real time. Again, I could move my head around and look at the office around these GoPros, but this time it was in 3D — It blew my mind.
Finally, VideoStitch isn’t just about live 360 videos. The company also works with many video professionals and enthusiasts already, providing them a simple software to stitch videos together. I looked at a few videos shot around the world — one on a sailboat, another one in San Francisco, another one on top of a car, etc. With a simple tap, I could switch between all these videos, getting the impression that I was traveling around the world in no time.
Kima Ventures and business angels, such as Daniel Marhély, Errol Ginsberg and Laurent Asscher, also participated in today’s round. The company plans to hire more people and iterate as quickly as possible on its impressive technology. Behind the scene, there are some very complicated image processing math algorithms.
There are many potential use cases for 360 videos, and virtual reality headsets are just one of them. For example, you could display a 360 video on a phone and move around a scene using your phone’s gyroscope. And of course, I can’t wait to see what talented movie directors could do with this technology.
It’s just the beginning for VideoStitch, but the company could quickly become an essential piece of the movie production industry. Action cameras and virtual reality headsets seem to have a bright future ahead, and directors will need tools to take advantage of all that.

Confluent Closes $24M Series B Round For Its Apache Kafka-Based Stream Data Platform

Confluent Closes $24M Series B Round For Its Apache Kafka-Based Stream Data Platform
The open source Kafka real-time stream data service was incubated at LinkedIn over five years ago. Since then, Kafka has become an Apache open-source project and the original developers left LinkedIn last year to launch Confluent, an enterprise startup that — unsurprisingly — focuses on Kafka.
The Confluent team today announced that it has closed a $24 million Series B round led by Index Ventures with participation from prior investor Benchmark Ventures, which led the company’s $7 million Series A round.
The company plans to use this new capital to build out its platform. This includes improving security features and management tools, as well as the stream processing capabilities of Kafka. In addition, the company also wants to expand its lineup of plugins for existing databases.
At its core, Apache Kafka is a real-time messaging service. At LinkedIn, for example, it handled over 800 billion messages every day (that’s a combination of backend tools and user-facing notifications). Current users of the technology include the likes of LinkedIn, Netflix, Uber, Cisco and Goldman Sachs. Its real-time capabilities make it an ideal solution for emerging Internet of Things services that have to ingest large amounts of data or even large online gaming services, but the current trend toward microservices means that Kafka’s can become the central hub and buffer for ingesting and moving data between users and databases. It could be used for ingesting data that’s destined for a Hadoop install, for example, or for feeding stream processing services based on Apache Samza (which also came out of LinkedIn). Using Kafka’s plugins, enterprises can also connect their existing database systems with these tools, which allows them to leverage these new technologies without having to switch to a new database platform.
Confluent CEO Jay Kreps and head of engineering Neha Narkhede (who both co-founded the company together with  told me that the Jun Rao) told me that the team decided to go with Index as the lead investor because of the firm’s experience in working with similar open source companies, including Hortonworks and Elastic (previously elasticsearch), for example. Index partner Mike Volpi will join Confluent’s board.
“Confluent’s platform can also support hundreds of applications built by disparate teams and is scalable, reliable enough to handle critical updates, and features a stream-processing framework that integrates easily and makes data available for real-time processing,” Volpi said in today’s announcement. “Jay, Neha and Jun have created a highly intelligent product and we are excited to support their continued growth.”
Confluent will offer Kafka as a supported commercial product, but the company also offers services around the platform, including technical consulting and training.

Google Should Give U.S. Citizens More Privacy Rights, Says Consumer Watchdog

Google Should Give U.S. Citizens More Privacy Rights, Says Consumer Watchdog
U.S. consumer rights organization, Consumer Watchdog, has lodged a complaint with the FTC that Google is being “unfair and deceptive” by not extending the sorts of individual privacy rights it now offers Europeans — under Europe’s May 2014 ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling — to its U.S. users.
Specifically it’s calling for Google to afford U.S. citizens a ‘right to relevancy’ in terms of the data that is associated with their identity online. Let’s just say that a very large red alarm klaxon probably just sounded in Mountain View.
As European philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once noted, long before U.S. Internet giants were getting embroiled in European data protection legislative frameworks, if you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into you.
“Google’s refusal to consider such requests in the United States is both unfair and deceptive, violating Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, in a statement on the complaint. “We urge the Commission to investigate and act.”
The so-called right to be forgotten (rtbf) ruling refers to a judgement by Europe’s top court that private individuals have a right to ask that search engines delist outdated, irrelevant or erroneous information from search results associated with their own name.
The court judged that search engines are data controllers and therefore that existing European data protection legislation applies to them. Source data is not removed from the Internet, merely decoupled from the requester’s identity in search results.
Since the rtbf ruling came into effect, Google — which remains by far the dominant search engine in Europe, with a circa 90 per cent share of the market — has received more than 280,000 requests for delisting in Europe, granting around 40 per cent of them. It keeps a running tally of totals here. And currently only delists on European sub-domains, not on
“Honoring the Right To Be Forgotten, or Right To Relevancy, is an important tool to protect privacy. Google’s own experience in Europe demonstrates that Right To Be Forgotten removal requests can be managed in a way that is fair and not burdensome for Google,” the Consumer Watchdog complaint argues.
It asserts:
Google’s anti-consumer behavior around privacy issues is deceptive. The Internet giant holds itself out to be committed to users’ privacy, but does not honor requests that provide a key privacy protection.
Not offering Americans a basic privacy tool, while providing it to millions of users across Europe, is also an unfair practice. Acts or practices by a business are unfair under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act if they cause or are likely to cause substantial injury to consumers that consumers cannot reasonably avoid themselves and that is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or competition.
As well as arguing that a workable rtbf in Europe makes it viable for Google to offer American users the same privacy rights, Consumer Watchdog points to Google’s announcement last month that it would begin offering a process for all web users to request the removal of “revenge porn” imagery — a policy that Google couched as narrow and limited”, evidently keen to avoid the kind of calls for a general rtbf it’s now fielding.
Consumer Watchdog’s complaint also notes that Google already edits out other information from U.S. search results — such as National identification numbers, bank account numbers and credit card numbers, and images of signatures.
It’s clear that very large cracks have appeared in Google’s go-to argument against expanding individual privacy rights over the online data hierarchies it generates (i.e. that its search algorithms are ‘an impartial and immutable indexer of truth and knowledge online’). The more truthful assessment is Google’s algorithms are the proprietary and commercially driven levers powering a clicks-for-ads business.
Consumer Watchdog’s complaint cites several specific examples where individuals’ lives are being adversely affected by continued association with digital data about past events — such as a person who was wrongly charged with a violent crime where the charges were subsequently dropped but whose mug-shot photo continues to be associated with her online identity; or the victim of a car crash whose family continues to see a photo of her decapitated body if they Google her name.
Google is clearly feeling a lot more heat than usual on the issue of privacy, both within Europe and as awareness of the rtbf ruling has rippled out across the Atlantic. Last month it announced it was centralizing some user controls with the launch of a new privacy dashboard which it claims improves transparency about how its business gathers and uses user data.
We’ve reached out to Google for comment on the Consumer Watchdog complaint and will update this story with any response.

Uber Is Now Testing “Suggested Pickup Points”

Uber Is Now Testing “Suggested Pickup Points”
Uber is going to tell you where you should get picked up. A few days after I wrote a story recommending that Uber launch a feature called “Suggested Pickup Location”, I’ve spotted the company testing a feature called “Suggested Pickup Points” in San Francisco.
When dragging the pickup pin, the feature explains that passengers can “save time at these locations”, and shows places nearby where it would quicker for the driver to pick them up. Users can drop their pin on these green dots, see the address, and then walk there to shorten their wait time.
Only some users are seeing the test, though it’s appeared on iOS for uberPool, uberX, and Uber Black Car. I’ve reached out to the company for more info and will update when we hear back. Though an Uber employee has said the company can crank out updates, a feature like this probably takes more than a few days to build. Still, apparently we agree there’s a lot of merit to this idea.
The suggestions pop up extremely quickly as you drag your pin around, which makes it feel satisfying rather that annoying. The design seems intuitive enough not to baffle users, even if Uber extends it to less smartphone-savvy locales.
Uber Suggested Pickup
Uber appears to using past pickup data to power suggestions for where drivers can pull over most easily. By referencing where drivers have tended to stop in the past, it seems to have compiled a map of where there’s space for cars to retrieve humans.
For example, at the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T ballpark above, Uber suggests people head to one of the corners outside, rather than in the middle of the block where traffic rushes and there’s nowhere to pull over. If you’re in an one-way alleyway, Uber recommends you head out to the next main street. It’s an impressive merging of big data crunching and product design.
As I wrote in my article on Sunday, shaving time off the wait between when a passenger hails and a driver arrives to the pickup point has benefits for everyone:
  • Drivers waste less time and gas going to scoop up their fares, so they save money and can do more rides per hour on the job
  • Drivers avoid the stress of being honked at for stopping in the middle of the street where there’s nowhere to pull over
  • Bicyclists and other motorists don’t have to navigate around drivers waiting in the street
  • Car services can offer shorter pickup ETAs, making them more convenient and appealing to customers
  • Car services can boost their available car supply with the same number of drivers since getting started in the right direction makes routes take less time to run
  • Car services have more flexibility in increasing their tax since drivers naturally take home more money because they’re running more rides on less gas
  • Car services earn more money since mandatory minimum fees mean they typically make more money the more total rides they carry
  • Passengers get from hail to destination faster
  • Passengers pay less since they don’t take inefficient routes due to being picked up going the wrong direction
When my friend was shown the Suggested Pickup Points tonight, Uber didn’t take into account his destination. If it did, it could factor in which direction the car would want to be pointed to speed up the ride. It didn’t show any suggestions when given an exact pickup address, so for now it seems intended for people who are starting from their GPS dot.
In this test, users weren’t offered any discount or other incentive to use the Pickup Points beyond saving some time. That distinguishes it from Lyft Line’s HotSpots, which are effectively discounted bus stops for its carpools.
Eventually, Uber could use Suggested Pickup Points to prevent causing its own traffic jams in front of popular venues. It could also help Uber infiltrate places like Las Vegas where its banned. Big hotels like those in Sin City are understandably worried about pedestrians wandering away from designated taxi loops and into traffic trying to find their Ubers. Pickup Points could instill order.
At its heart, Uber is about saving people time. With Suggested Pickup Points, it’s found a way to earn more money by letting users save themselves.