Google location tracking + gmail lawsuit

Google’s settled the Buzz privacy lawsuit; OK, but not that interesting.

What’s interesting is that I received this email from Google, even though I’m a UK user of gmail (if this is TL;DR then just focus on the final paragraph):

Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception to let you know that we’ve reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz (, a service we launched within Gmail in February of this year.

Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and recently reached a settlement in this case.

The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users’ concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be.

Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011. This email is a summary of the settlement, and more detailed information and instructions approved by the court, including instructions about how to opt out, object, or comment, are available at

This mandatory announcement was sent to all Gmail users in the United States as part of a legal settlement and was authorized by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

I’m a gmail user, but Google has clearly marked my account as UK-based.

I know this because my From address is “” – due to a trademark lawsuit that Google lost a few years back in the UK, where a different firm holds the “gmail” trademark.

So … Google “knows” I’m UK based, yet I received this USA-targetted email. Coincidentally, I was physically in the USA when the email was sent.

I have all Google’s location-seeking stuff explicitly disabled, so is it co-incidence that Google sent me this? A mistake?

Or are they actively tracking the incoming IP addresses of every gmail user, and tracking their current country of origin that way, updating each time you check email?

conferences games industry international iphone massively multiplayer

5-year predictions (2009 to 2014) for the MMO/Online Games industry

Last week at the LOGIN conference I sat on a panel with three far more smart/successful/famous people than myself entitled “Online Games 2014: Twelve Spoilers for the Future” (I think I was there as “the argumentative one” ;)). The real value of the panel was the four of us arguing^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hdiscussing each other’s predictions, and the audience suggestions afterwards, but the predictions themselves were pretty interesting alone, just to compare and contrast.

I couldn’t liveblog this session (obviously) and it looks like no-one else did, so – until the slides go up on the conference website – here’s what I can remember of the predictions (I may get some of these wrong, apologies!):

  1. There will be tonnes of cheap rackspace; anything that uses Cloud Computing will be very successful thanks to low cost base
  2. iPhone will become the dominant gaming platform
  3. We’re heading into a big recession that may do well for the MMO industry
  4. Browser-based MMOs will disappear in favour of iPhone/SmartPhone-based MMOs
  5. South Korean MMO Publishers will vanish as a major player in the MMO industry, eclipsed and swallowed by Chinese and SEA MMO Operators (“non-publishing” backgrounds)
  6. Europe will get its first successful Europe-wide MMO publisher, and that company will quickly rise to dominance over the more fractured USA MMO publisher market
  7. Advertiser-sponsored Virtual Worlds will be huge in number and variety
  8. A small percentage of advertiser-sponsored VWs will succeed – but will dominate the mainstream MMO market, since for them “profit is optional”
  9. Traditional game developers will be blindsided by the advertiser-sponsored MMOs
  10. Most PC MMOs (IIRC “90% or more”) will become F2P
  11. Console development-studios will become dominant in the MMO market since they are best at “polish” and very high quality user-experiences
  12. …and one more I’ve forgotten (!). Actually, some of the above I suspect I’ve misinterpreted – have to wait for the slides to be posted to check…

I’ve never before engaged in these kinds of generic future predictions, because I have so little confidence in either my own ability to describe them, or in my ability to understand other people’s ones in a useful fashion. I joined this session because the opportunity to argue them against other people was a lot more interesting. As stated above, I think our conversations on the panel were a lot more valuable than the actual predictions themselves.

Of course, when it comes to more narrow, specific predictions, well … if I really knew the answers there, I wouldn’t be telling you, I’d be making billions out of knowing :). And anyway, at that point you’re effectively asking me what the precise strategy is of my current employer (whoever that may be), which I’m generally not going to be able to reveal :).

FYI the speakers on the panel:

  1. David Edery, previously Worldwide Games Portfolio Manager for XBLA
  2. Charlie Stross, author of Halting State, Accelerando, etc
  3. Tarrney Williams, previously General Manager of Relic Entertainment
  4. + me, of course

Getting paid in Dollars with a UK bank: don’t use PayPal


I travel to the USA frequently, both for conferences and for business/meetings. On each occasion, I spend anything from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand (sometimes the hotels are paid in dollars, sometimes part of the airfares, plus all the spending for the duration of the visit).

Over the years, I occasionally received payment from USA companies, although in the past year this has become more frequent. Obviously, it’s stupid for me to pay the exchange rate premium twice (once in each direction) AND pay commision (twice!) AND pay any bank-specific charges for the priviledge – when I’m actually guranteed to spend those dollars sooner or later as actual dollars.

I asked my UK bank (Halifax) about opening a dollar account. They claimed to have never heard of such a thing, and had the temerity to open a browswer window and go surfing on Google to try and find out if it’s a service they offer (they offer at least three different services along those lines – Halifax’s head office should probably put a call through to the Brighton branch-manager and ask why they have untrained staff manning the branch at the moment).

So I went looking into the alternatives myself. The main things I need are:

  1. Deposit money in dollars (preferably by transfer from other people’s USA accounts)
  2. Deposit money in sterling (I’d avoid this, but it might be necessary if I have a lot of USA spending to do at some point)
  3. Withdraw dollars from ATMs in the USA
  4. Transfer money in dollars to other people’s USA accounts (payment for services etc)