This week in web perf news the IRS website was used to steal over 100,000 tax returns, Google rolled out algorithm adjustments to remove offensive Google Maps results, Bing added how-old.net to its image search, and Google and Bing announced their searches will be indexing apps across multiple devices.
Criminals used IRS website to steal massive amount of tax information
A sophisticated breach of the IRS website that helped criminals gain access to tax returns of up to 100,000 people this week. The IRS disclosed that they believe the breach originated in Russia. The criminals used the personal information of real taxpayers to gain access to a service provided by the IRS called, “Get Transcript”. They were able to download half of the forms attempted and claimed tax refunds in the names of 15,000 people. The IRS announced they would notify the 200,000 people potentially affected by mail.
Google apologizes for racist search queries returning Google Maps results
Google allowed users the power to edit and improve Google Maps, and it backfired. This week, Google officially apologized after “certain offensive search terms were triggering unexpected map results”. The Washington post first shed light on the issue by showing that the outcomes of several racially offensive search queries resulted in the White House in Google maps. Google decided to suspend user ability to edit Google Maps, stating they would be working on “making the moderation system more robust.” The team has been working hard to extend the existing algorithmic change used to minimize the impact of Googlebombs in regular Google search. “Simply put, you shouldn’t see these kinds of results in Google Maps, and we’re taking steps to make sure you don’t” said Jen Fitzpatrick, the VP of Engineering and Product Management. Google said the change will gradually roll out globally to address the majority of the searches and will be refined over time.
Microsoft integrates how-old.net tool into Bing
Microsoft’s how-old.net tool has now been integrated into Bing’s image search. The popular tool was debuted last month at Build 2015, allowing users to upload images of people and have their ages estimated utilizing facial recognition APIs. Now users can apply the same tool to images found in search results. To test out the new addition, search for an image of a person using bing by clicking the Images link on the search results page. Then, click on an image to select it, and hover over it. Click on the how-old.net tool when it appears on the right side of the image to try it out. The tool has proven to be very inaccurate at times, but Microsoft has been continuously working on improving the feature.
Bing and Google begin indexing apps for several devices
This week Bing announced that it is creating a “massive index of apps and app actions” to improve the model of how users interact with apps. The search engine revealed that they are analyzing the web for app links and actions markup. Bing suggested users to get an edge on using app linking and schema.org actions now, and provided detailed descriptions on how to do so. This means users will soon be able to find relevant content within iOS, Android, and Windows 10 apps from Bing Search results (including Cortana).
Days later Google announced that they will be extending app indexing to include iOS devices. Now a Google search will be able to surface relevant app content from both Android and iOS apps, and will be able to find relevant app information. App indexing will only launch for a small group initially in order to test it, but the technology will be made available to developers as soon as possible. Developers can get to work on making sure their apps are ready now.