Ever wonder how the US government can force Google to reveal your “private” data? You’re definitely not alone. That’s why the world’s most popular search engine is finally revealing a breakdown of the kinds of legal process that our government uses when compelling the site to hand over user data.
According to Google’s semi-annual transparency report, which consists of data compiled between July and December 2012, the search engine received 8,438 U.S. government requests for information about 14,791 users. However, according to a blog post by the company’s legal director for law enforcement and information security Richard Salgado, Google overall received 21,389 requests for information about 33,634 users during the last six months of 2012.
The transparency report states that:
- 68% of the requests Google received from government entities in the U.S. were through subpoenas, issued under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. These request the site to hand over user-identifying information and are easy for the govt. to get because they usually don’t even involve judges.
- 22 percent% of government requests were through ECPA search warrants. These are generally issued by judges under ECPA, based on a demonstration of probable cause to believe that certain information related to a crime is presently in the place to be searched.
- 10% were mostly court orders issued under ECPA by judges or other difficult-to-categorize processes.
Google fully or partially complied with 88% of the user data requests from the U.S. government.
Big Tech was one of the top-performing sectors in 2012, and stocks for several of its companies are in position for more success in 2013. The industry is sitting on record earnings, record margins ,and record cash, with companies like Cisco Systems on track to deliver earnings of $1.77 per share in 2013, an all-time high. Extra cash in the hands of big tech companies will likely create opportunities for them to invest in growth, pay dividends and buy shares back this year. Here are our picks for the best stocks to own this year:
1. Cisco Systems Inc.
Cisco is the largest provider of networking gear, a status which protected it from some of the price erosion that hit the consumer-hardware side of the tech sector in 2012. The company showed a dividend yield of nearly 3%; it looks undervalued, trading with a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) of 11, a nice discount to its peer P/E average of 15.
2012 was certainly Oracle’s year, up 31% on the year. Full-year 2013 earnings are expected to increase 9% to $2.55 per share. With a P/E ratio of just 13, Oracle trades at a discount to its 10-year average P/E of 16, as wel as its peers’ average.
3. eBay Inc.
EBay saw its margins fall a few years back, but management implemented new initiatives to become more profitable and boost growth which are now paying off. PayPal, eBay’s payment unit has been a big growth driver, and the company has been partnering with real-world retailers to develop mobile apps that can help draw more consumers. Analysts are projecting year-over-year earnings growth of 17% in 2013, calling for full-year earnings of $2.40 per share.
According to a new report from Goldman Sachs, TV will be the big tech battleground in 2013. The global investment banking and securities firm believes that the next big market disruption could come as smart TVs are rolled out. Their reasoning:
- TV carries a higher purchase price than a smartphone, with average 46-inch set costing roughly 3X the average wholesale price of smartphone.
- The replacement cycle for televisions at around eight years is roughly 4X that of a smartphone. While this does push out revenue, in their view it also creates the potential for competitive disruption as they believe that consumers will match the platform of their more frequently purchased smartphones and tablets to the television they already own. TV effectively raises the consumer’s cost to switch platforms.
- As a shared device the television has the potential to impact the platform choice of an entire household rather than a single individual.
So far, Apple Inc. is poised to seize the initiative, and Goldman Sachs expects Google Inc, Microsoft Corporation and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. to provide it with some solid competition. They believe TVs made by those big tech giants will further entrench users in their particular ecosystem. More than that, television could even have the potential to affect platform decisions for multiple people at once, rather than for just a single individual.
Microsoft is doing everything possible to push customers to its new Windows Phone 8 operating system and convince them that it’s better than Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. This is no easy task, as Windows Phone has yet to make a dent in the market dominated by Google and Apple. According to Strategy Analytics, Microsoft phones will only account for 4% of the U.S. smartphone market in 2012.
Hoping to change that, Microsoft officially launched the latest version of its smartphone OS at the end of October, and according to CEO Steve Ballmer, soon you won’t be able open a magazine or watch TV without seeing an ad for the new Windows products.
At its launch, Microsoft highlighted a handful of the smartphone OS’s new features. For parents, there is the Kid’s Corner, a new limited mode for the phone that can be customized for your children. Data Sense monitors how much of your data plan is being consumed, then optimizes your data usage so you can get more out of it. Microsoft’s SkyDrive feature can be used to sync photos, videos and Office documents across multiple Windows devices. The OS also has added support for sharing-feature near field communication, over-the-air updates and support for quad-core processors.
Ballmer says the Windows Phone app store will have 46 of the top 50 apps from other stores, and announced that the new platform will include apps and games such as Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Jetpack Joyride, Cut the Rope and Pandora (all new Windows Phone 8 users will get one year of free music, no ads).
The first devices designed specificially for Windows Phone 8 should be available in stores and online starting in November.