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Harvard Professor Doesn’t Understand AdSense

The BBC has an article posted today about a research paper that offers some provocative conclusions.  The premise is that a Harvard professor did a study which purports to show that Google searches on people’s names return results with a racial bias, based on stereotyped racial associations of the names themselves:

She found that names like Leroy, Kareem and Keisha would yield advertisements that read “Arrested?”, with a link to a website which could perform criminal record checks.

Searches for names such as Brad, Luke and Katie would not – instead more likely to offer websites that can provide general contact details.

“There is discrimination in the delivery of these ads,” concluded Prof Sweeney, adding that there was a less than 1% chance that the findings could be based on chance.

The article also contains this response attributed to Google:

“It is up to individual advertisers to decide which keywords they want to choose to trigger their ads,” the search giant said.

It seems the real issue here is that the prof doesn’t understand how A/B testing for AdSense advertising works.* Continue reading Harvard Professor Doesn’t Understand AdSense


So I hear Michigan has a new law that says employers are not allowed to ask employees for their facebook passwords. Maybe I’m just out of the loop, but I can’t think of a legitimate context in which an employer could claim it was appropriate to ask an employee, or a potential employee, to give up their password to any email or personal social network account. *

Although employees have more protections, the new law doesn’t prevent employers from gaining access to any electronic devices they provide such as an iPad, laptop or cellphone. Which is why employers should have a clear policy so employees know what to expect when they use company-owned technology.

Employers can still restrict and prohibit access to certain websites on electronic devices if they pay for them in whole or part.

I mean, come on guys.  That’s pretty entry-level stuff.  Employees don’t have an expectation of privacy covering activity on work computers.  And if you don’t have a policy prohibiting pr0n at work or on company devices, maybe that’s something you should think about.  And if you have managers who claim the need to snoop through your employees’ social media use to decide whether or not they . . . → Read More: WHAT IS YOUR PASSWORD

Closing the Universe: Google Reader, G+, and RSS feeds

Last week Google pushed out an update to its Google Reader RSS aggregator service.  Ostensibly they did it to improve performance and have consistent look&feel branding across the Google marquee products.  As part of the update, they removed the “share” icon and feature from Reader and replaced it with a “+1″ button that includes the option to share an item on Google Plus.

I have been using the Easy Feed WordPress plugin to scrape interesting articles from my Google Reader RSS feed and share them here as headlines.  New articles were posted to the feed whenever I clicked “share” in Reader.   Since Google removed the “share” feature, it is no longer possible for me to post new items to that RSS feed.  Since it’s over a week stale now, I’m just going to shut that widget down.

Some folks who are smarter than I am and who were also using this system figured the problem out last week, and suggested that if you wanted to continue to use the Reader -> RSS -> WordPress publishing chain, the smart thing to do would be to use Plusfeed to find the RSS / Atom feed produced by your Google Plus . . . → Read More: Closing the Universe: Google Reader, G+, and RSS feeds