Household names that just can't keep a secret

So which companies do you trust? Every year for the past seven, independent research group the Ponemon Institute has published a report on the Most Trusted Companies for Privacy. This US-based survey asks 100,000 adults to rate the larger organisations out there. This year, AmEx, HP, Amazon and IBM made the top four. Microsoft and eBay also got into the top 20, but Apple and Google didn't _ for the first time in several years. The problem is that people these days no longer trust IT organisations, believing that they have precious little regard for users' privacy. In fact, the prevailing opinion is that these firms collect users' personal info and profit from it, either by using it themselves or by selling the data to others.

Case in point: Facebook. Facebook is another name that has dropped out of the top 20, as have Yahoo!, Dell and AOL over the past few years. Not so long ago, a search with Google would return results on public Facebook events. Try it yourself by going onto Facebook and finding an upcoming event. Now log out of Facebook and try searching for the same event in Google. Facebook recently unveiled a beta search facility called Graph Search that has been forwarded to the approximately one billion Facebook users. If you actually do get a hit on the search, the link takes you straight to a Facebook login page. Or, put another way, Facebook has made its once-public pages private. Like Google, Bing has also missed out.

These are very recent changes and they highlights the "it's ours and we'll be the ones making any money on it, thank you very much" approach now starting to pervade all forms of social media. The problem of the new Facebook search is that it allows linking of information, that was not previously available, by reducing privacy. If you go to http://actualfacebookgraphsearches.tumblr.com/ you will find examples of the type of searches Graph Search allows: like "Family Members of people who live in China and like Falun Gong" or "Married People who like Prostitutes".

Before, this kind of information wasn't so easy to work out, but now you can get it from Facebook with a couple of clicks.

Representatives of Facebook have tried to justify the new system by using terms like "you can control who can see your friend lists", but the defaults are always fully open and not the more privacy-friendly options. The result here is essentially a web within a web that allows Facebook to control their users and so make more money. It allows for more targeted advertising; to be fair, just like Google does. This is just one of the reasons why sites like Facebook have fallen on we-trust-you lists.

Bow down before the might of the tablet. If you were unsure who the master is now, look no farther than numbers from the UK wing of GfK, a market-watcher that tracks over-the-counter sales. There were more tablets sold in the UK in December than notebooks sold in the last quarter of 2012. Tablets were also about 23% less expensive in 2012 than in 2011, mostly due to all the 7-inch models that appeared. There are more brand names and a lot more models coming. I expect this trend to continue for at least another few more months, as even more models and brands appear, but after that I'm not so sure.

Someone forgot to tell Hitachi that the hard drive is dying. They've just announced a 1.2TB drive running at 10,000rpm. They did this by adding a new platter to their Ultrastar range. This makes it the largest disk with that speed rating. The platters are glass not aluminium and this means they can be thinner, so four platters will now fit into the space once taken up by three. There are competitors in this space, but not at that storage size.

Iadmit to being excited about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S4 which is probably coming out in mid-April. It will have a 5-inch screen _ with 440ppi resolution (or 1920 x 1080p) _ and it may even be a flexible one. A four-core CPU or even an eight-core Exynos 5 processor looks possible, running at 1.8 GHz. Expect it to have Android 4.2.1 or a newer version with wireless charging. There will also be a 13mp camera.

So what do you do if you have a new operating system and are having problems getting it out to more people? Or you've created a product you want to get greater exposure for? You start doing deals. And that is what Microsoft has been doing for some time now. Bing not being adopted? Simply have Yahoo! use it for 10 years instead of their own search engine.

Convince Nokia to drop their OS and use Windows Phone, then buy Skype. When more Windows 8 is needed, invest in Dell. Sorry, but I'm not buying that last one and neither, it seems, are PC users because sales of Windows 8 are still very lethargic. Microsoft is blaming OEMs and computer-makers for not making enough touch-based screens. Manufacturers point out that if they'd built all those Ultrabooks they'd be broke.


James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at jclhein@gmail.com.

About the author

columnist
Writer: James Hein
Position: Database Writer