Five Companies That Dropped The Ball This Week

More Bad News On The Facebook Privacy Front

A report this week that some popular Facebook applications leak personal information to advertisers is the latest shot of image-tarnishing negativity to hit the social networking site. The issue affects tens of millions of users, even those who've taken the precaution to adjust their privacy settings to the strictest levels.

"Many of the popular applications, or 'apps,' on the social networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information -- in effect, providing access to people's names and, in some cases, their friends' names -- to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies," according to a report this week in The Wall Street Journal.

Facebook described the reports as "exaggerated" and said the issue stems from a design flaw in how Internet browsers work. However, whether this will help quiet the drumbeat of negative-privacy-related news that's swirling around Facebook remains to be seen.

Microsoft Loses Top Visionary Ray Ozzie

He's not leaving the company right away, but Ray Ozzie's decision this week to step down from his position as chief software architect at Microsoft is a blow to a company that's trying to position itself as a leader in cloud computing.

Ozzie's chief achievement was envisioning and executing on his vision for Windows Azure, a cloud computing platform that lets ISVs and developers build apps that run and store data on servers in Microsoft data centers.

Ozzie took over the chief software architect role that Bill Gates once held and was seen as a possible heir apparent to the CEO throne at Microsoft. But a href="/news/applications-os/227900315/microsoft-partners-it-was-time-for-ozzie-to-go.htm">Ozzie's influence has been dwindling over the course of the past year, and he's rarely been seen at Microsoft events.

Microsoft says Ozzie will stay on for an unspecified period to help out with the company's entertainment technology business. Whatever this means isn't clear, but Microsoft partners say the most worrisome part of the news is that Microsoft doesn't plan on naming a new chief software architect.

AT&T iPhone Subscriptions Take A Hit

AT&T's third-quarter profit tripled, and the carrier says it activated a record 5.2 million iPhones during its third quarter. However, just 24 percent of these were new iPhone subscribers, with the rest of this figure representing upgrades.

Verizon is eventually getting the iPhone; it's just a matter of when. And everyone by now knows that AT&T's iPhone subscribers aren't getting a level of service that could be considered remotely acceptable. This, combined with several new strong Android smartphones that hit the market last quarter, could mean the honeymoon of iPhone exclusivity revenue could finally be ending for AT&T.

Google Gets Canadian Smackdown Over Street View Wi-Fi Sniffing

Google's Street View woes continued this week when a Canadian government investigation found that the company violated the country's privacy law in its collection of personal information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

"Our investigation shows that Google did capture personal information -- and, in some cases, highly sensitive personal information such as complete e-mails. This incident was a serious violation of Canadians’ privacy rights,’ Canada Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said in a statement.

Stoddart acknowledged that Google didn't intentionally break the law and was unaware that it was collecting people's personal data. ’This incident was the result of a careless error -- one that could easily have been avoided,’ she said in the statement.

Dell Tries To Copy Apple, Seeks To Shed 'Cheap' Image

Dell this week said it's planning to spend "hundreds and hundreds of millions" of dollars on a consumer advertising campaign that will seek to erase the PC maker's longstanding focus on low-cost products. "We're going to stop mentioning price as the single important aspect," said Paul-Henri Ferrand, chief marketing officer for Dell's global consumer, and small and medium business division, as reported by Reuters.

This one's a real head-scratcher. Dell wants people to know it has premium products too, and it's trying to give Apple a run for its money in this segment. But will spending all that money really change peoples' perceptions? Why not sink that investment into, you know, actually making top-notch products and letting the market decide if they're good enough to warrant standing in line for 24 hours before their release?