Weekend Update 05.15.10–The Privacy-Schmivacy Edition

It has been a rough week for a few tech companies, and all the hubbub seems to be centered around private data in public places. Facebook has taken more than a few on the chin this week, and it wasn’t the only company that committed privacy missteps. Weekend Update is seriously considering sealing all our personal data in a lead-lined jar and burying it in the yard behind AllThingsD HQ. Maybe Kara and the crew can talk a little sense into us.

BoomTown began this week with a little D-gazing to get us all amped for the coming conference. She posted a video of Steve Jobs from way back in the days of D2 (we are about to enjoy D8 at the end of the month). Jobs has agreed to make an appearance at this year’s D as well, so we can look forward to yet another savory interview. Kara followed with a post about John Lilly, CEO of Mozilla, who is leaving the software world for Greylock Partners. Lilly will continue to serve on Mozilla’s board and is leaving at a time when Firefox, Mozilla’s signature product, is enjoying an all-time high market share near 25 percent. Toward the end of the week, Kara revealed that semistealth start-up Kakai, which is now called Kno, will debut its student-focused e-reader at the upcoming D Conference. Weekend Update wonders if this one will have legs since you can basically draw a straight line between the new reader and the Web’s largest online textbook renter, Chegg.

Early in the week, Digital Daily brought readers another installment from Apple’s (AAPL) “oh brother” file. It seems that yet another prototype iPhone made it out of grand master Steve’s grasp, this time in Vietnam. The identity of this particular phone has not been confirmed, but it sure looks like the real thing, right down to the chips inside. Yep. This one got dismantled too. In other smartphone news, John reported later in the week that Google would be closing its online Nexus One store in favor of selling the phones through retailers like everyone else. We guess they should have put “beta” up on that page too. That gets rid of some of the sting. On Friday, John closed things out with another tidbit to throw on the privacy concern pile. It came out that Google’s (GOOG) famous Street View cars (yep, the ones that take all the pictures) have been collecting data on all the Wi-Fi networks they drive past. That in itself isn’t news. We knew they were doing that. What’s new is that they were inadvertently gathering “payload data,” or the actual data being passed over unsecured networks while they drove past. This puts Google in a tough spot of having data it doesn’t want just when everyone is getting up in arms over privacy violations. We’re curious to see what the “un-evil” response to this oversight will be.

MediaMemo started things off early with coverage of President Obama’s comments on electronic distraction. It seems the president is a little concerned that the prevalence of iThings in the world today is going to distract the attention of the world’s future problem solvers. He might have a point, but isn’t this the president who was so attached to his BlackBerry that he ordered a special, supersecret encrypted one so that he could keep using it after he’d been given the nuclear launch codes? Just saying. Later on in the week, we all got word that one of TV’s longest-running franchises, “Law and Order,” will be canceled after 20 years. While it may not mean much to the viewing audience, as we still have seemingly endless spinoffs to hold us (not to mention 20 years of reruns), it is big news for the countless actors who filled their downtime playing junkies, murderers and victims. Peter rounded things out by bringing a little sense to the convoluted story of the iPhone leak. The much-needed wrap-up helped us sort out the whole sordid tale and make sense of all the finger pointing.

Walt covered interesting new ground this week with some digital products to help you organize all the vital data in your life. Both Orggit and InformationSafe aim to help you keep track of important records with cloud and local-storage solutions. Walt admitted that it is early days for these types of services, but sees promise in what they offer as life in the cloud gets more complicated. In Mossberg’s Mailbox, Walt demystified the “n” and “g” differences in Wi-Fi tech and gave some advice on the new line of superfast laptops on the way from Apple. Weekend Update will admit to being a confused more than once by all the wireless options, but no more, thanks to Walt. Katie rounded out our week of coverage with a review of the new Sony (SNE) “Dash,” a passive countertop Web device that aims to bring another Web-connected screen into the room. Katie is a little skeptical of the device, as it seems to have more than a few bugs and doesn’t really have a niche to fill.

We’re counting down to D8 and the numbers are getting pretty small now. Weekend Update can’t wait to see what Kara and Walt will drag out of the world’s tech leaders. We guess you’ll just have to stay tuned along with us.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald