German Officials to Investigate Facebook’s Data Policies The Hamburg data protection agency has launched a formal investigation into Facebook’s data policy. The agency claims that Facebook keeps information about non-users without their permission, which is assumed to be gathered through Facebook’s ‘invite’ feature. Johannes Caspar, who runs the privacy agency in Hamubrg, issued an official letter to Facebook on Wednesday. Facebook has yet to respond. Twitter Launches @earlybird Twitter launched its new @earlybird account this week, dedicated to serving followers with special deals and ‘earlybird’ coupons. Here’s how it works: Twitter will serve followers of the @earlybird account with special, timely offers from businesses that pay to be in the stream. The account currently has 13,000 or so followers, but that number is bound to grow in time. What’s interesting about the prospect of the @earlybird is that it may be the first real opportunity for Twitter to capitalize on its growing search base. If the first @earlybird account works as imagined, it could lead to more specific accounts for competitive verticals, like flights, auto insurance, technology offers and so on. Twitter’s the World’s Fastest Growing Search Engine Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Twitter’s co-founder Biz Stone revealed that Twitter serves more than 24 billion search a month, making it the fastest growing search engine, ahead of Bing’s approximate 4.1 Billion and Yahoo’s 9.4 billion searches. Apple and Google Fight on the App Front Google improved the mobile version of the YouTube website this week. The upgrade to m.youtube.com is, according to Google’s blog post on the topic, really fast and incorporates “larger, more touch-friendly elements, making it easier to access videos on the go,” as well as, “the features and functionality you’ve come to expect from the .com site, like search query suggestions, the options to create playlists, the ability to designate “favorite,” “like” or “unlike” videos directly from your device.” If the new mobile interface proves to be as good as it sounds, it could make Apple’s YouTube iPhone app obsolete. YouTube Introduces Leanback On Wednesday, YouTube announced the beta launch of their new YouTube Leanback service. According to the YouTube’s blog, the new service is more specifically tailored to the interests, tastes of individual users. According to the blog, “YouTube Leanback is all about letting you sit back, relax and be entertained. Videos tailored to your interests play as soon as you visit the site and they play in full screen and high definition, continuously. There’s no need to click, search, or browse, unless you want to, of course. Watching YouTube becomes as easy as watching TV.” Facebook’s User Growth Plateaus Facebook’s growth seems to have lost a bit of steam in the last month. According to the monthly growth data published by Inside Facebook, Facebook only gained 320,000 new U.S. users in June 2010 -- a dramatic drop from the 7.8 the site accumulated last month. Ryan Singel, from Wired.com, takes a closer look at the causes behind this drop, asking if Facebook’s privacy problems have played a role, or whether Facebook’s U.S. population is simply saturated. Search Market Share Number: June 2010 Hitwise, a British search marketing analytics firm, released their search market numbers for June 2010. According to their report, Bing gained 7 percent last month, stealing 1 percent from Google’s market share. Google, however, still accounted for 71.7% of U.S. searches conducted last month.