In the software world, there has been a longstanding gentleman's agreement between developers and security professionals. The agreement has always been that if a security flaw is found in a major piece of software, the flaw will be revealed only to the development team of the product. The flaw will not be revealed to the public until the developers have had ample time to research the problem and decide how to handle it, plus time to release a patch.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the software industry has changed; it is no longer populated by professionals, but instead by children who have no frame of reference for how actions affect others. Google has been the poster child for unprofessional behavior dressed up as cute, with no regard for the impact of their actions. A great example of this corporate culture issue is Google Project Zero.
The concept of the program is sound: a security research firm within a software company ensuring consumer safety. That is not how they treat the program, however. Instead of researching their own software, or the software that affects their platforms, of which there would be plenty to research (
tablets, Chrome, Android), but that isn't their main goal. Instead, they spend their time researching the competitors: Microsoft and Apple.
Even that concept is not bad - a external source of security information can be essential. The problem with Project Zero is the way Google handles data: incredibly unprofessionally. They start the way a sane, rational adult would handle it: they release the information to the development firm. That is where the rational ends, though. The information has a set 90 day shelf life, which Google does not feel it important to amend, no matter the severity of the issue in question. That means, if there is a flaw in Windows that could take 4 months to fix and patch, Google will release how to exploit the issue to the public at least a month before a patch can be issued.
If your goal is to be a professional member of the community, that is unacceptable behavior. Google, however, has never had any interest in being a professional, valuable member of the software community, or the global community as a whole. Instead, their goal is to be the "popular kids." If you remember the "popular kids" from school, they were the ones that no one actually liked - they just had the ability to convince people they were popular by being mean to everyone that isn't them.
Based on their recent behavior, I can only assume that this is the mentality they are going for, either consciously or subconsciously. Luckily, their mean girls routine hasn't caused any real damage yet, but it will. At some point they will uncover something major and release it to the public causing massive consumer damage. Hopefully, with information in the public, Google will feel pressure to stop acting out and treat the industry with respect. If not, the only solution will be for consumers to make their voice heard and tell Google their behavior is not acceptable.
Hatred, a third person killing simulator, has received an Adult Only rating from the ESRB. The information comes to us via a developer on the game's forum, whose post said,
Well, I'm not quite convinced why Hatred got AO rating while it lacks any sexual content, but it's still some kind of achievement to have the second game in history getting AO rating for violence and harsh language only.
The title is actually the third game to receive the AO rating for only violence, but that statistic aside, it does not spell success for the title. One of the previous titles,
Thrill Kill, was canceled before release by Electronic Arts after purchasing the publisher and objecting to the content. The other game, Manhunt 2, was edited to allow its release at all, before being patched by gamers.
The AO rating is important for a number of reasons, but foremost is that Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony all have policies of not allowing games with AO ratings on their platforms. Even Value has a policy against AO titles on Steam, which is why
Manhunt is available on the platform, but the sequel is not. Even retail sales are troubled for PC, as Gamestop, Target and Walmart will not carry the title for PC, either, if it retains the AO rating.
So, this leaves a difficult decision for the company: either alter the game to drop the rating or try to release the game for PC only without the support of anyone.
Manhunt decided to go for a hybrid approach: they released a version of the game with everything intact for the PC, but released an altered version of the game for consoles. The future of the game is unclear at this point, but a comment on the forum says,
I would prefer to get a standard M+ rating, because with AO we will have problems to get to consoles in the future, but on the other hand I think you guys (our fans) would be disappointed with it.
So, the developers, or at least one, would prefer to keep the game intact, but a decision like this often comes down to money. While it is a different world 7 years later, and the game could be successful because of press received from the issue, it is more likely that the publisher will decide to alter the game to allow for mass release.
Earlier this week, the world was introduced to a new website which promised to
ship your enemies glitter. The site describes its process as,
We've had enough so here's the deal: there's someone in your life right now who you ******* hate. Whether it be your ****** neighbour, a family member or that ***** Amy down the road who thinks it's cool to invite you to High Tea but not provide any weed.
So pay us money, provide an address anywhere in the world & we'll send them so much glitter in an envelope that they'll be finding that **** everywhere for weeks. We'll also include a note telling the person exactly why they're receiving this terrible gift. Hint: the glitter will be mixed in with the note thus increasing maximum spillage.
The story was picked up by all kinds of sites, such as FastCompany, Mashable, USA Today, Yahoo and more. After all of the publicity, it turns out that this literally days-old website had so many orders that they were unable or unwilling to keep up with it. In fact, before shutting down new orders, he had racked up over $20,000 worth of sales and over 2.5 million page views.
Those numbers were too much for the owner, though, as new orders were shut down and the site has been
put up for auction. At the time of writing, the auction has reached over $70,000 with over 330 bids. Included in the auction is the domain, the software and all emails received about orders and interviews.
If you are an entrepreneur type or just plain sick, this might just be the business for you.
YouTube has been having some stiff competition lately. Between up-and-comers like Vessel and Hitbox, Amazon
picking up Twitch for just under $1 billion and Vimeo locking in some content deals, YouTube has merely been able to ride out the storm. That's been the case for a while, with many YouTube stars leaving the site for greener pastures, in both viewers and money. Now, the video-streaming site is fighting back with Google's really big wallet.
In a move that should've happened a few months ago, Google is targeting its biggest and most popular content creators, in hopes that with enough cash, the talent will stay on the platform. Specifics of the deals differ from person to person, but in General, YouTube has been asking each channel to post exclusively to YouTube for a period of time before putting the video on other sites. Some top channels have even been offered cash incentives to create additional content for YouTube only.
Oddly enough, YouTube seems to be most concerned with Vessel, a video start-up that hasn't launched yet but is backed by former Hulu CEO Jasaon Kilar. Vessel has been one of the more active companies gunning for the giant's top tier talent. Vessel currently has $75 million in venture capital and should be finalizing its program lineup before the year it out.
One YouTuber who has requested to remain anonymous has said that, "I would like to remain on YouTube. But some of the competing offers are incredibly attractive."
CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojciki, recently spoke
at a Recode event and openly admitted to incentives being offered to popular channels but declined to provide details. All of the conversation, however, was surrounded by the idea that YouTube would launch a paid subscription. With Vimeo already offering that and Vessel getting ready to launch, a YouTube spokesperson added to that point by saying that the company has been supporting its content creators from the beginning, and it has ""been increasing that support through a broad range of activities including marketing and content funding."
It's hard to say what will happen at this point, but with as much competition that's been circling the YouTube ship for a while, this was bound to happen sooner or later. If enough offers are thrown around and enough talent leaves, YouTube may lose its top spot as the go-to place for video in the very near future.
Much like the lawsuit earlier this year with
Apple having to refund purchases made by children, Google is now under fire for the same thing. The FTC has finally settled with Google over the identical matter, and Google will be contacting customers starting next week in order to discuss potential refunds of in-app purchases.
The FTC proposal in September has assigned Google to hand out at least $19 million in refunds to customers who, essentially, were allowing their children to make purchases on their devices without securing their credit card information. It should also be noted that many apps did not require a PIN or password prior to making an in-app purchase. Because of this, the FTC has decided that, like Apple, Google will be responsible for the total cost of any purchases made without parental authorization.
As per the settlement, Google does not have a cap on the final amount it will have to pay out, but it will have to be at least $19 million. If somehow Google refunds less than that, the balance will have to be sent to the FTC instead. The ruling also placed a limit on the age of the claim, with in-app purchases having to be made in 2011 or later. Customers will have a one-year windows to request a refund from the time Google sends them information on how to proceed.
It is also interesting to note that there were a total of
16 public comments made on the proposed settlement between the FTC and Google. They are definitely worth reading in order to provide some perspective on the case as a whole. In one of the cases, a parent set up a restricted access account for her child, yet she was still able to make purchases within a game without authorization.
In the end, it looks like Google will escape for about $12 million less than Apple did, at least at the minimum. Does this ruling affect you? Will you be making a claim to Google for some unauthorized charges? Let us know in the comments below.