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Huawei confirms the new Mate 30 Pro won’t come with Google’s Android apps • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei’s consumer products division, revealed onstage at a press event in Germany this morning that the company has been forced to drop Google’s Mobile Services (GMS) license on the Mate 30 series of devices.

“We cannot use the Google Mobile Services core, we can use the Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) core,” explained Yu very briefly. “Today that’s because of a US ban that these phones cannot preinstall the GMS core, it has forced us to use the HMS Core running the Huawei app gallery on the Mate 30 series phones.”

Google’s Play Store is an essential part of the company’s Google Mobile Services license, and it’s how the majority of Android-powered handsets outside of China get access to apps. Huawei can’t really work around this very easily, so instead, it’s simply building its own alternative to Google’s Play Store and associated services. Huawei is using $1bn to fund development, user growth, and marketing of its own Huawei Mobile Services.

There are 45,000 apps already integrated with Huawei Mobile Services, but there will be many thousands more that will need to be tweaked and made available in Huawei’s App Gallery. It’s a big task to get developers to support its own app store, but the company has no other real alternative.

Huawei spent less than a minute talking about the Android ban onstage, during a presentation that lasted nearly two hours. It’s clear the company has some big work ahead of it to convince consumers and developers that its version of Android, based on Android Open Source Project, will be viable.</p>

Huawei's $1bn to try to create a virtuous circle - developers bring users who buy phones which brings developers - is just like Microsoft's effort with Windows Phone 7 (<a href="">$100 per app, up to 10 apps, per developer</a>), and as doomed outside China. (And inside China, why would you write for Huawei rather than just to be on top of WeChat?) There are 2.7m apps on Google Play.

European carriers won't want the Mate 30: too much hassle doing customer support for people trying to get Netflix and not understanding why it isn't there. And "Android" is a Google trademark - so Huawei can't market it as an Android handset.
huawei  mate30  google 
10 hours ago by charlesarthur
'A white-collar sweatshop': Google Assistant contractors allege wage theft • The Guardian
Julia Carrie Wong:
<p>to some of the Google employees responsible for making the Assistant work, the tagline of the conference – “Keep making magic” – obscured a more mundane reality: the technical wizardry relies on massive data sets built by subcontracted human workers earning low wages.

“It’s smoke and mirrors if anything,” said a current Google employee who, as with the others quoted in this story, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. “Artificial intelligence is not that artificial; it’s human beings that are doing the work.”

The Google employee works on Pygmalion, the team responsible for producing linguistic data sets that make the Assistant work. And although he is employed directly by Google, most of his Pygmalion co-workers are subcontracted temps who have for years been routinely pressured to work unpaid overtime, according to seven current and former members of the team.

These employees, some of whom spoke to the Guardian because they said efforts to raise concerns internally were ignored, alleged that the unpaid work was a symptom of the workplace culture put in place by the executive who founded Pygmalion. That executive, Linne Ha, was fired by Google in March following an internal investigation, Google said. Ha could not be reached for comment before publication. She contacted the Guardian after publication and said her departure had not been related to unpaid overtime.</p>

The depressing reality is how Wizard-of-Oz these assistants seem to be: ignore the temp worker behind the curtain.
google  ai  assistant  bots  machinelearning 
3 days ago by charlesarthur
Google just fixed one of Android’s biggest problems • BGR
Chris Smith:
<p>Backing up data on a smartphone shouldn’t be a chore, regardless of operating systems, and you should perform regular backups to protect yourself against accidents. Just because a phone is lost, stolen, or destroyed, doesn’t mean your data has to be. Also, regular backups will make it a lot easier to switch to a new device.

The easiest way to do this is by using a cloud service of your choosing. Apple has given iPhone and iPad users the ability to back up their files, contacts, messages, and photos with the help of a full device backup in iCloud. Google, meanwhile, took its time to come up with an iCloud-like solution. But, going forward, Android users will be able to perform full device backups with the help of Google’s One cloud storage.

Announced in a blog post, the new Google One phone backup comes with each Google One account, with memberships starting at $1.99 per month for 100GB of storage.</p>

Jeepers. Even Apple doesn't charge for the first 5GB, and it introduced iCloud in 2011. Has Google honestly taken eight years to come up with something less good than Apple relating to cloud storage?
google  android  backup 
6 days ago by charlesarthur
Good stuff first: Google moves to prioritize original reporting in search • Nieman Journalism Lab
Laura Hazard Owen:
<p>In an effort to put original reporting in front of users, Google’s VP of news Richard Gingras <a href="">announced Thursday</a> that the company has changed its global search algorithm to “highlight articles that we identify as significant original reporting,” and to keep such articles in top positions for longer.

The change is available in Google search now and will roll out to Google News and Google Discover shortly, Search Engine Land reported.

Google doesn’t venture to define exactly what original reporting is, saying vaguely, “There is no absolute definition of original reporting, nor is there an absolute standard for establishing how original a given article is. It can mean different things to different newsrooms and publishers at different times, so our efforts will constantly evolve as we work to understand the life cycle of a story.”

These “efforts” do include actual humans making judgments: The company noted that it has “more than 10,000 raters around the world” evaluating the Google algorithm.</p>

The fact that Google News (and then Google Search) tends to give priority to the most recent, rather than the original, version of a story has annoyed journalists pretty much since Google News's inception. Google Search is as bad, but less obvious. The problem is, when someone adds extra to a story - more context? New facts? Turns it from anonymous, unconfirmed to named, confirmed - how do you treat that?
google  algorithm  news 
7 days ago by charlesarthur
Evolving “nofollow” – new ways to identify the nature of links • Official Google Webmaster Central Blog
Danny Sullivan and Gary Illyes:
<p>Nearly 15 years ago, the nofollow attribute was introduced as a means to help fight comment spam. It also quickly became one of Google’s recommended methods for flagging advertising-related or sponsored links. The web has evolved since nofollow was introduced in 2005 and it’s time for nofollow to evolve as well.

Today, we’re announcing two new link attributes that provide webmasters with additional ways to identify to Google Search the nature of particular links. These, along with nofollow, are summarized below:

rel="sponsored": Use the sponsored attribute to identify links on your site that were created as part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements.

rel="ugc": UGC stands for User Generated Content, and the ugc attribute value is recommended for links within user generated content, such as comments and forum posts.

rel="nofollow": Use this attribute for cases where you want to link to a page but don’t want to imply any type of endorsement, including passing along ranking credit to another page.</p>

Bet there are going to be lots of requests to sites which have sold links to spammers who'll be requesting that their link now be marked "ugc" or "sponsored" as they figure out how that affects them in Google's rankings.
seo  google  linkedin 
9 days ago by charlesarthur
Facebook, Google face off against a formidable new foe: state attorneys general • The Washington Post
Tony Romm:
<p>The nation’s state attorneys general have tangled with mortgage lenders, tobacco giants and the makers of addictive drugs. Now, they’re setting their sights on another target: Big Tech.

Following years of federal inaction, the state watchdogs are initiating sweeping antitrust investigations against Silicon Valley’s largest companies, probing whether they undermine rivals and harm consumers. Their latest salvo arrives Monday, when more than 40 attorneys general are expected to announce their plan to investigate Google, delivering a rare rebuke of the search-and-advertising giant — and its efforts to maintain that dominance — from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The states seek to probe allegations that the tech industry stifles start-ups, delivers pricier or worse service for Web users and siphons too much personal information, enriching their record-breaking revenue at the cost of consumer privacy.

“The growth of these [tech] companies has outpaced our ability to regulate them in a way that enhances competition,” said Keith Ellison, a Democratic attorney general from Minnesota who is signing on to the effort to probe Google.

“They need to be regulated,” he continued, “and my view is, it’s the state AGs job to do it, particularly when the federal government is not necessarily a reliable partner in the area."</p>

Going to be fun seeing how they do it, though. How do you split up Google? Which bits do you break off, which do you allow to remain together? Easier to regular individual pieces (such as Google Shopping) than the whole, but even then you run into problems around what is corporate "speech" and thus, in effect, protected.
antitrust  google  facebook 
11 days ago by charlesarthur
Google accused of secretly feeding personal data to advertisers • Financial Times
Madhumita Murgia:
<p>New evidence submitted to an investigation by the Irish data regulator, which oversees Google’s European business, accused the US tech company of “exploiting personal data without sufficient control or concern over data protection”.

The regulator is investigating whether Google uses sensitive data, such as the race, health and political leanings of its users, to target ads. In his evidence, Johnny Ryan, chief policy officer of the niche web browser Brave, <a href="">said he had discovered the secret web pages</a> as he tried to monitor how his data were being traded on Google’s advertising exchange, the business formerly known as DoubleClick.

The exchange, now called Authorized Buyers, is the world’s largest real-time advertising auction house, selling display space on websites across the internet.

Mr Ryan found that Google had labelled him with an identifying tracker that it fed to third-party companies that logged on to a hidden web page. The page showed no content but had a unique address that linked it to Mr Ryan’s browsing activity.

Using the tracker from Google, which is based on the user’s location and time of browsing, companies could match their profiles of Mr Ryan and his web-browsing behaviour with profiles from other companies, to target him with ads.</p>

Sneaky. And nobody in the US would know about it, of course.
google  eu  adtech  alphabet 
15 days ago by charlesarthur
Spam in your Google Calendar? Here’s what to do • Krebs on Security
Brian Krebs:
<p>all that a spammer needs to add an unwelcome appointment to your calendar is the email address tied to your calendar account. That’s because the calendar applications from Apple, Google and Microsoft are set by default to accept calendar invites from anyone.

Calendar invites from spammers run the gamut from ads for porn or pharmacy sites, to claims of an unexpected financial windfall or “free” items of value, to outright phishing attacks and malware lures. The important thing is that you don’t click on any links embedded in these appointments. And resist the temptation to respond to such invitations by selecting “yes,” “no,” or “maybe,” as doing so may only serve to guarantee you more calendar spam.

Fortunately, the are a few simple steps you can take that should help minimize this nuisance. To stop events from being automatically added to your Google calendar:

• Open the Calendar application, and click the gear icon to get to the Calendar Settings page.<br />• Under “Event Settings,” change the default setting to “No, only show invitations to which I have responded.”</p>

Apple had a problem with this in 2016; now it's Google's turn to be targeted, which is happening (and Google says it's working on a fix).
google  calendar  spam 
15 days ago by charlesarthur
Trusted Face smart unlock method has been removed from Android devices • Android Police
Rita el Khoury:
<p>Face unlock is more widely available on smartphones nowadays, but many of us seem to forget that Android has always had a barebones — albeit easily fooled — equivalent of the feature for years. Android Smart Lock's Trusted face was added in 2014 and has been accessible to users on all Android devices until recently. Now, it's completely gone from stock and OEM devices, running Android 10 or below.

The feature was accessible under Settings -> Security -> Smart Lock -> Trusted face. It didn't use any biometric data for security, instead just relying on your face to unlock your device. A photo could easily fool it. The writing was on the wall for its removal: It was broken on Android Q Beta 6 and we know Google has been working on a more secure face authentication method.

But it's not only Android 10 that no longer has the Trusted face option. We've verified that the option is gone from the OnePlus 6T, Samsung Galaxy S9 and S10, Nokia 3.2, all of which are running Android Pie stable. That's because Smart Lock was never really part of the firmware, but was always controlled by Google Play Services…</p>

And Google Play Services gets updated, and it goes away. Strange that after five years Google has only now decided that it's not secure enough.
google  facerecognition  security  android 
15 days ago by charlesarthur
Huawei was prepared for anything—except losing Google • The Information
Juro Osawa:
<p>To reduce its reliance on American-made chips inside its phones, for example, Huawei switched to alternatives that it made in-house.

But when it came to one of its most critical American business partners—Google, the creator of the Android mobile operating system that powered all of Huawei’s smartphones—the Chinese company had trouble imagining a parting of ways. In 2016, a top Huawei executive passed on an opportunity to partner with the maker of an Android alternative called Sailfish, seeing little need for a Plan B, according to people familiar with the matter. To the contrary, Huawei explored ways to become more intertwined with Google: A few years ago, the two companies discussed whether Huawei could help the US company bring Google Photos to China, where most Google internet services are blocked by the country’s regime, a person with knowledge of the talks said.

Now its failure to anticipate life without Google has come to haunt Huawei [because it won't be able to pre-install Google Play or Google apps on phones; that won't be popular in Europe and other overseas markets where buyers expect those.]

…Huawei has said that it will hold an event in Munich on Sept. 19 to unveil its new flagship model, the Mate 30. But at the event, Huawei may not be able to say when it will actually start selling the Mate 30 in Europe and other overseas markets, employees familiar with the situation said. Huawei still is trying to figure out how to address the problem of missing Google services, the employees said.</p>
huawei  google 
16 days ago by charlesarthur
Deconstructing Google’s excuses on tracking protection • Freedom To Tinker
Jonathan Mayer and Arvind Narayanan:
<p>Blocking cookies is bad for privacy. That’s the new disingenuous argument from Google, trying to justify why Chrome is so far behind Safari and Firefox in offering privacy protections. As researchers who have spent over a decade studying web tracking and online advertising, we want to set the record straight.<br />Our high-level points are:

1) Cookie blocking does not undermine web privacy. Google’s claim to the contrary is privacy gaslighting.

2) There is little trustworthy evidence on the comparative value of tracking-based advertising.

3) Google has not devised an innovative way to balance privacy and advertising; it is latching onto prior approaches that it previously disclaimed as impractical.

4) Google is attempting a punt to the web standardization process, which will at best result in years of delay.

What follows is a reproduction of excerpts from yesterday’s announcement, annotated with our comments.</p>

This is quite a takedown of Google's claims that it would really love to do what Safari and Firefox are doing in terms of cooking blocking, but, uh, it's <em>complicated</em>.
apple  google  firefox  browsing  privacy 
18 days ago by charlesarthur
iPhone hackers caught by Google also targeted Android and Microsoft Windows, say sources • Forbes
Thomas Brewster:
<p>The unprecedented attack on Apple iPhones <a href="">revealed by Google this week</a> was broader than first thought. Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation said that Google’s own Android operating system and Microsoft Windows PCs were also targeted in a campaign that <a href="">sought to infect the computers and smartphones of the Uighur ethnic group in China</a>. That community has long been targeted by the Chinese government, in particular in the Xinjiang region, where surveillance is pervasive.

Google’s and Microsoft’s operating systems were targeted via the same websites that launched the iPhone hacks, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

That Android and Windows were targeted is a sign that the hacks were part of a broad, two-year effort that went beyond Apple phones and infected many more than first suspected. One source suggested that the attacks were updated over time for different operating systems as the tech usage of the Uighur community changed. Android and Windows are still the most widely used operating systems in the world. They both remain hugely attractive targets for hackers, be they government-sponsored or criminal.</p>

This puts something of a different cast onto the Google Project Zero blogpost, which gives the strong impression that only iOS was targeted. If Google knew about attacks on Android and Windows, why didn't it blog those? If it didn't, how did it miss them, since they must have been on the same sites, at the same time?
google  ios  android  hacking  china 
18 days ago by charlesarthur
A new way to help students turn in their best work • Google Blog
Brian Hendricks, product manager for Google Suite for Education:
<p>Today’s students face a tricky challenge: In an age when they can explore every idea imaginable on the internet, how do they balance outside inspiration with authenticity in their own work? Students have to learn to navigate the line between other people’s ideas and their own, and how and when to properly cite sources.
We've heard from instructors that they copy and paste passages into Google Search to check if student work is authentic, which can be repetitive, inefficient and biased. They also often spend a lot of time giving feedback about missed citations and improper paraphrasing. By integrating the power of Search into our assignment and grading tools, we can make this quicker and easier. 

That’s why Google is introducing <a href="">originality reports</a>. This new feature—with several reports included free in every course—will be part of Classroom and Assignments, which was also announced today. We create originality reports by scanning student work for matched phrases across hundreds of billions of web pages and tens of millions of books. </p>

My initial reaction was that this is totally depressing - that you're forced to twiddle words around so they're desperately different from what you found in a book, and even then you might fall afoul of a book or paper you've never actually read, because how many ways are there to frame some sentences? Maybe the reality will be better. Maybe the teachers should have to take it too.
google  plagiarism 
5 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google in jobs search dispute • Reuters
Foo Yun Chee and Paresh Dave:
<p>Google’s fast-growing tool for searching job listings has been a boon for employers and job boards starving for candidates, but several rival job-finding services contend anti-competitive behaviour has fuelled its rise and cost them users and profits.

In a letter to be sent to EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager and seen by Reuters, 23 job search websites in Europe called on her to temporarily order Google to stop playing unfairly while she investigates. Similar to worldwide leader Indeed and other search services familiar to job seekers, Google’s tool links to postings aggregated from many employers. It lets candidates filter, save and get alerts about openings, though they must go elsewhere to apply.

Google places a large widget for the two-year-old tool at the top of results for searches such as “call-centre jobs” in most of the world.

Some rivals allege that positioning is illegal because Google is using its dominance to attract users to its specialised search offering without the traditional marketing investments they have to make.

Other job technology firms say Google has restored industry innovation and competition.

The tensions expose a new front in the battle between Google and online publishers reliant on search traffic, just as EU and US competition regulators heed calls to scrutinise tech giants including Google…

…Lack of action could spur the signatories, which include British site Best Jobs Online to German peers Intermedia and Jobindex, to follow with formal complaints against Google to Vestager, a person familiar with the matter said.

Berlin-based StepStone, which operates 30 job websites globally, and another German search service already have taken that step, another source said.</p>

Same as so many others: Google scrapes the sites and then re-presents the information, but to its own advantage.
google  jobs 
5 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Less than half of Google searches now result in a click • SparkToro
Rand Fishkin:
<p>We’ve passed a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden. In June of 2019, for the first time, a majority of all browser-based searches on resulted in zero-clicks.

<img src="" width="100%" />

Throughout this post, I’ll be using numbers from the clickstream data company, Jumpshot. They are, in my opinion, the best, most reliable source of information on what happens inside web browsers because of how they gather, process, and scale their estimates. That’s why SparkToro, and Moz (my previous company) are both customers of Jumpshot. Given all the nice things I say about them, it might sound like they’re paying me, but the opposite is true; we’re paying them. You can find more on their methodology in the endnote on this post.</p>

That 4.4% of searches leading to ad clicks is huge, in my view. I bet a lot of those are accidental on mobile, or people not realising that the first screen of mobile search results is essentially all ads and that most of the top of the desktop results are ads too.

As Fishkin also points out, Google is wriggling like mad to avoid answering this question in public, despite being asked by a US Congressman.
google  search  ads 
5 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Three years of misery inside Google, the happiest company in tech • WIRED
Nitsha Tiku:
<p>In a lot of ways, Google's internal social networks are like a microcosm of the internet itself. They have their filter bubbles, their trolls, their edgelords. And contrary to popular perception, those networks are not all populated by liberals. Just as the reactionary right was rising on YouTube, it was also finding ways to amplify itself inside Google's rationalist culture of debate.

For some time, for instance, one of the moderators of the company's Conservatives email list was a Chrome engineer named Kevin Cernekee. Over the years, Google employees have described Cernekee fairly consistently: as a shrewd far-right provocateur who made his presence felt across Google's social network, trolling both liberals and conservatives.

In August 2015, the giant IndustryInfo mailing list broke into a roiling debate over why there were so few women in tech. The previous year, Google had become the first Silicon Valley giant to release data on the demographics of its workforce—and revealed that 82% of its technical workers were male. To many inside the IndustryInfo thread, the number constituted clear and galling evidence that Google had to change. When the conversation devolved into a brawl over the merits of diversity—one that Cernekee joined—a senior vice president at Google attempted to shut it down. Cernekee proceeded to bombard the executive's Google+ page with posts about his right to critique the pro-diversity “Social Justice political agenda.” “Can we add a clear statement of banned opinions to the employee handbook,” he wrote, “so that everybody knows what the ground rules are?” In response, Google HR issued Cernekee a written warning for “disrespectful, disruptive, disorderly, and insubordinate” comments.</p>

The stuff about Cernekee feels like the only particularly new stuff in this long, long piece. He sounds like a jerk.
google  criticism 
5 weeks ago by charlesarthur
New York Times still detects Chrome Incognito Mode after fix • 9to5Google
Kyle Bradshaw:
<p>With the release of Chrome 76, Google attempted to put a stop to web developers and publishers detecting people using Chrome’s Incognito Mode. Unfortunately, it seems their efforts may be all for naught, as at least one major news outlet, The New York Times, has managed to put their hard paywall back up for those using Chrome Incognito.

We’ve been tracking Google’s effort to block Incognito Mode detection since February when we discovered a document laying out the Chrome development team’s intentions. Since then, Google rolled out the functionality to all devices with the release of Chrome 76.

Of course, since then multiple security researchers have discovered at least two new ways of detecting Incognito Mode, which can just as easily be copied to almost any website. Google knew this was inevitable, which is why they <a href="">publicly explained their desire for user privacy</a> and urged sites to consider not circumventing this Incognito Mode protection method.</p>

Google's explanation was "Our News teams support sites with meter strategies and recognize the goal of reducing meter circumvention, however any approach based on private browsing detection undermines the principles of Incognito Mode. We remain open to exploring solutions that are consistent with user trust and private browsing principles."

Nice, but the News team and its "exploring solutions" isn't actually paying the bills at the NYT and elsewhere. The paywall is.
media  paywall  google  news  incognito 
5 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google wants Travel and Maps to be the place you plan trips from start to finish • The Verge
Natt Garun:
<p>An update coming to Google Flights will now show travellers guides on popular destinations based on their country and the time of year. You can also specify exact travel dates and destinations to get historical data on flight prices and find the best time to book. Google says it’s so confident in this price prediction that it will offer a refund on select flights if a fare drops after you’ve booked. (It’s not automatic and you still have to file a claim, but it’s a nice deal if you’re planning to get away ahead of the Labor Day holiday.) The offer starts next Tuesday August 13th until September 2nd, and is limited to travellers flying out of the US.

Flights will also begin to show the fare class differences on Alaska and Delta airlines so travelers can differentiate between various economy seats. Google says because so many airlines have their own verbiage on what an economy seat may entail, it’s hoping to standardize the language by showing people what type of ticket they’re getting before they book. The company also says it will continue to work to add other airlines in the future.</p>

That's really useful. Also offering augmented reality when you're trying to find your way around in a location.
google  maps 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
DeepMind’s latest AI health breakthrough has some problems • OneZero
Julia Powles:
<p>In one paper, <a href="">published in the journal Nature</a>, with co-authors from Veterans Affairs and University College London, DeepMind claimed its biggest healthcare breakthrough to date: that artificial intelligence (AI) can predict acute kidney injury (AKI) up to two days before it happens.

AKI — which occurs when the kidneys suddenly stop functioning, leading to a dangerous buildup of toxins in the bloodstream — is alarmingly common among hospital patients in serious care, and contributes to hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States each year. DeepMind’s bet is that if it can successfully predict which patients are likely to develop AKI well in advance, then doctors could stop or reverse its progression much more easily, saving lives along the way.

Beyond the headlines and the hope in the DeepMind papers, however, are three sobering facts.

First, nothing has actually been predicted–and certainly not before it happens. Rather, what has happened is that DeepMind has taken a windfall dataset of historic incidents of kidney injury in American veterans, plus around 9,000 data-points for each person in the set, and has used a neural network to figure out a pattern between the two.

Second, that predictive pattern only works some of the time. The accuracy rate is 55.8% overall, with a much lower rate the earlier the prediction is made, and the system generates two false positives for every accurate prediction.

Third, and most strikingly of all: the study was conducted almost exclusively on men–or rather, a dataset of veterans that is 93.6% male. </p>

Turns out there are plenty of other anomalies about the data: armed forces veterans are far less likely to have AKI than the general population. But Powles (who has critiqued other DeepMind work) is only just getting started. The rest of the article is a very thorough look at what the papers aren't telling you.
health  google  ai  healthcare  Machinelearning  deepmind 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
There is no evil like reCAPTCHA (v3) • Stoicism & Me
Nils Gronkjaer:


But don't for one second think that it has anything to do with some increasing level of complexity in the war against bots. No no no. How long it takes to now solve these things has increased due to completely deliberate and specific choices that Google has made in reCAPTCHA v3.

I'm talking about why, despite you being a completely normal human being of sound deductive capability. You... just... keep... FAILING these things!

So why... whyyyy does this happen? It isn't because you are in fact a dunce who cannot count up to 3 or cannot tell how many buses or traffic lights there are in a few blurry photos and it also isn't because you don't know what a fire hydrant looks like. The reason that people fail reCAPTCHA v3 prompts so consistently now is because Google realised there was no punishment to forcing people to solve more of these 'human verification puzzles' and only more to gain by forcing (yes it IS forcing) people to train their AI for free.</p>

Got to agree that it seems like one ends up doing a lot more of these screens than in the past. All for the good of Waymo's self-driving cars, it seems. They're never "click the pictures with rivers" or "click the pictures with waterskiers".
google  recaptcha 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google ordered to halt human review of voice AI recordings over privacy risks • TechCrunch
Natasha Lomas:
<p>A German privacy watchdog has ordered Google to cease manual reviews of audio snippets generated by its voice AI. 

This follows a leak last month of scores of audio snippets from the Google Assistant service. A contractor working as a Dutch language reviewer handed more than 1,000 recordings to the Belgian news site VRT which was then able to identify some of the people in the clips. It reported being able to hear people’s addresses, discussion of medical conditions, and recordings of a woman in distress.

The Hamburg data protection authority told Google of its intention to use Article 66 powers of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to begin an “urgency procedure” under Article 66 of GDPR last month.</p>

Surprise: Google complied. It told Ars Technica that "Shortly after we learned about the leaking of confidential Dutch audio data, we paused language reviews of the Assistant to investigate. This paused reviews globally." No date for resumption.
google  voice  audio  data 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google to ask rivals to bid to be default search on Android phones • Bloomberg
Natalia Drozdiak:
<p>Alphabet’s Google will require rivals to bid in order to become listed as alternative search providers on Android smartphones, a move to try to keep additional antitrust scrutiny at bay.

Starting next year, Google will prompt users to make a choice between Google and three other rival options as their default search provider. Google <a href="">invited search providers to bid as part of an auction</a> on the new choice screen, which will appear when a user sets up a new Android smartphone or tablet in Europe for the first time.

The European Commission, the bloc’s antitrust body, last year fined Google €4.3bn ($4.8bn) for strong-arming device makers into pre-installing its Google search and Chrome browser, giving it a leg up because users are unlikely to look for alternatives if a default is already preloaded. The EU ordered Google to change that behavior and threatened additional fines if it failed to comply.

Eric Leandri, chief executive of Paris-based search engine Qwant, called Google’s move "a total abuse of the dominant position" to "ask for cash just for showing a proposal of alternatives."

…A European Commission spokeswoman said the EU would be "closely monitoring the implementation of the choice screen mechanism" and noted that the changes allow rival search engines the possibility to strike deals with smartphone and tablet manufacturers to pre-install their services.</p>

Seems fair, as long as Google is obliged to bid, and its losing bid price goes to the winner, or distributed to the other bidders if Google has the highest bid. If the EU says it got its dominant position through monopoly abuse, why should it be allowed to continue monetising it?
google  antitrust  search  android  auction 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Do smartphones need gesture HMI? • Strategy Analytics
Paul Brown on the promised "gesture" control for the forthcoming Google Pixel 4:
<p>Gestures are not something new to smartphones. In 2013, Samsung introduced the Galaxy S4 with a host of gestures. However, most of these gestures were cumbersome and inefficient, had low adoption, and many were removed from future Samsung devices.

According to Google’s blog post, the number of initial gestures on the Pixel 4 will allow the user to undertake the following three functions, just by waving your hand:

• Skip songs<br />• Snooze alarms<br />• Silence phone calls

Using gestures to snooze alarms and silence phone calls could be very useful.  These are both tasks that will likely occur when the user is not holding the phone. Waving a hand over the phone when either event occurs is a very simple action, and one that requires less cognitive effort than picking up the phone and pressing buttons (physical or on the touchscreen). However, there may be a concern that the user accidentally silences a phone call when they move their hand towards the phone to pick it up and answer the call. The required gesture and how it can differentiate a user’s intent is key here.</p>

Samsung's S4's "<a href="">Air Gestures</a>" were amazingly annoying. As Brown points out, with the Pixel, if the gesture doesn't work when the display isn't lit (eg to skip the song), then you'll need to tap it to then gesture. In which case you might as well wake-and-tap. But if it works when the display is off, the potential for accidental gesturing is huge. I'm not convinced.
samsung  google  pixel  gesture  ux  ui 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google is quietly testing 'Play Pass' app and game subscription, taking on Apple Arcade • Android Police
Corbin Davenport:
<p>Earlier this year, Apple announced Apple Arcade, a monthly subscription service that gives you access to a library of mobile games (including some exclusive titles) on iOS devices. Apple Arcade isn't live yet, but Google is already testing its own competing service, named Play Pass.

XDA Developers found evidence last year that Google was working on the Play Pass service, but now the company is starting to test it. We received screenshots from a reader [shown in the story], which show the signup page for Play Pass and the $4.99 monthly cost. Of course, the price could change before the final rollout.

An info page reads, "Explore a curated catalog spanning puzzle games to premium music apps and everything in between. From action hits to puzzles and fitness trackers, with Google Play Pass you unlock access to hundreds of premium apps and games without ads, download fees or in-app purchases." Another screen shows Stardew Valley and Marvel Pinball as some of the included games.</p>

Our reader stormyparis <a href="">reckons</a> that if it could target 1 billion users, and get 5% of them, it could generate $3bn, but then you have to look at what people wouldn't spend as a result of their subscription, so..

It's probably only going to appeal to the whales who spend way more than $5 per month, though. And it doesn't "take on" Apple Arcade. It's entirely parallel and separate, and won't mean Android gets the games sooner than iOS.
google  apps  arcade  android  ios 
7 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google unlocks 33% of publisher paywalls on July 30. This is what happens next • What’s New In Publishing
Monojoy Bhattacharjee:
<p>A number of major publishers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, Medium, The Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times and The Dallas Morning News have safeguards in place to stop users from accessing paywalled content using Incognito Mode.

We tested the beta version of Chrome’s next update to gauge the extent of damage that will be inflicted on publisher paywalls. To cut a long story short, things aren’t looking good.

We tried to breach the paywalls of the publishers listed using Chrome’s current browser (v. 75), in Incognito Mode. Without fail, the websites detected the intrusion attempt and prevented access to the content. 

Using v.76 (beta), each and every one of the paywalls got unlocked without any difficulty whatsoever. 

Take a look at the screenshots below [in the story]. In each case, we tried opening the exact same page using the current version and the upcoming one. [The upcoming one gets past the paywall.]

No further explanations necessary.</p>

Maybe leaky paywalls have had their day.
Paywall  google  chrome  news 
7 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Huawei and Google were working on new smart speaker before Trump’s ban • The Information
Juro Osawa:
<p>Before the US president’s action, which was in response to national security concerns, Huawei’s plan was to unveil the new speaker at the IFA tech trade show in Berlin this September, the people said. The speaker, powered by Google Assistant, was aimed at markets outside China, and Huawei was hoping to sell it online in the US.

“We worked on this project with Google for a year and made a lot of progress. Then everything suddenly stopped,” said a Huawei employee who declined to be named. 

A Huawei spokesman declined to comment. Google representatives didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment. 

Huawei has been a major Google business partner for years: Huawei phones run on the Android operating system and Huawei smartwatches use Google’s OS for wearable devices. The smart speaker project, which hasn’t previously been reported, highlights the breadth of Google’s collaborations with Huawei, the world’s second-largest smartphone maker by shipments. Before May, the two companies also discussed other topics including how to make Huawei phones compatible with Android Auto, a Google program that connects cars with smartphones, according to the people familiar with the matter.</p>

That must have really annoyed Samsung: it hasn't had anything like that kind of help from Google. But after the publicity that Huawei has had, how eager would people have been to have a permanent listening device in their home branded to a Chinese company?
huawei  google  smartspeaker 
7 weeks ago by charlesarthur
How Russian antitrust enforcers defeated Google's monopoly • Matt Stoller's Substack
Matt Stoller:
<p>In Russia, the anti-monopoly case played out quite differently [from that in Europe on the tying of Android to mobile default search for Google]. The Russians were not intimidated by American technology companies, not only because of residual bitterness over the end of the Cold War and a hostile geopolitical relationship with America, but because they had Yandex. Russian engineers and scientists were just as innovative as those in Silicon Valley, and they had their own search giant to prove it.

The FAS [Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service] was also hostile to Google because of a very basic problem that the company brought upon itself. Google did not take the FAS as seriously as it should have, under the assumption the FAS would rule for Yandex for protectionist reasons. It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption, to believe a Russian government agency would find for a Russian company. But Google never acknowledged Yandex had a serious argument, even though a respected economic consulting firm, the European arm of Charles River Associates, had done the economic analysis underpinning Yandex’s complaint.

The Russians ruled in 2015, and again in late 2016, roughly a year and a half after the start of the case and far faster than that of the EU. In 2017, Google settled, agreeing to present a “choice screen” to all Android phone users letting the user pick in a neutral manner which search engine to use. Immediately upon implementing the choice screen, Yandex recaptured a chunk of market share from Google. And its market share then stabilized.</p>
google  russia  yandex 
8 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Celebritynetworth’s statement submitted to the US House Subcommittee on Antitrust • Medium
Brian Warner set up a site called CelebrityNetWorth - and then Google noticed it:
<p>By 2014 we had a staff of 12 writers, developers and designers. We were thriving and even entertaining acquisition offers. At the time, I thought of our site as one of Google’s best partners and that we had limitless potential. I could never have imagined that within three very painful years CelebrityNetWorth would be brought to the brink of insolvency. And the culprit wouldn’t be shifting user tastes or a technological change. The culprit was Google.

On April 23, 2014, I received an email from a Data Researcher at Google. In subsequent calls and emails the Data Researcher explained that net worth queries were one of Google’s most consistently popular categories of search. As such, she was tasked with finding an API or dataset from our site that would help “enhance user experience at Google Search”. If we granted Google access to an API, any user who searched for a celebrity’s net worth would be shown a large box with our answer at the top of the search result page.

I asked the Data Researcher why we would ever allow this. What benefit could giving away our most valuable asset possibly create for CNW? Clearly this would cause a catastrophic drop in traffic since users would no longer need to visit our site and therefore would no longer generate ad revenue. When pressed, the Google team said it would be good exposure for our brand. What they left unsaid was that the implementation of such a scheme would have accelerated our demise. Google’s diminutive (and sometimes non-existent) attribution to original content creators means fewer clicks and eyeballs to the web. The nebulous suggestion that “exposure” would make up for this somehow demonstrates how starkly different Google’s motives are today.

On this same call I asked if we could be paid a flat fee or a royalty for providing an API. I was told they would not pay a fee and if we did not agree to give them an API they would either make one on their own or scrape one together from other sources.
I declined Google’s request to provide an API to our data.</p>

Things didn’t go well subsequently.
Google  antitrust 
8 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Tinder bypasses Google Play, joining revolt against App Store fee • Bloomberg
Olivia Carville:
<p>Tinder joined a growing backlash against app store taxes by bypassing Google Play in a move that could shake up the billion-dollar industry dominated by Google and Apple Inc.

The online dating site launched a new default payment process that skips Google Play and forces users to enter their credit card details straight into Tinder’s app, according to new research by Macquarie analyst Ben Schachter. Once a user has entered their payment information, the app not only remembers it, but also removes the choice to swap back to Google Play for future purchases, he wrote.

“This is a huge difference," Schachter said in an interview. “It’s an incredibly high-margin business for Google bringing in billions of dollars," he said.

The shares of Tinder’s parent company, Match Group Inc., spiked 5% when Schachter’s note was published on Thursday. Shares of Google parent Alphabet Inc. were little changed…

…Match declined to answer questions about whether the company was also investigating bypassing Apple’s App Store. Match is expected to discuss the payment flow change with analysts and investors during its next earnings call on Aug. 6.</p>

Haven't people always been able to bypass Google's app store fees? It's just that getting them to pay in the app is more convenient for them, as it's all entered there. Bypassing Apple is much harder, and a hassle for the customer.
google  tinder  appstore  payment 
8 weeks ago by charlesarthur
I wish Google's Smart Displays were the kitchen companions they promised to be • Android Police
David Ruddock:
<p>The first fundamental flaw of using a smart display as a recipe canvas is that the display can only access a limited subset of recipes available online. These recipes must either have schema formatting that Google recognizes in its search platform and then displays in a cookie cutter style on the display, or algorithmically be flagged as a recipe and render as a desktop web page (often in barely readable, tiny font). For now, only the largest recipe repositories online use the dedicated markup formatting, and mostly because they received early access to this tool from Google. Ordinary sites are able to do it as well, but many simply haven't - and some websites have such heavily customized recipe formatting that Google's one-size-fits-all approach simply wouldn't make sense for them.

This means that when you search for a recipe, you're only getting a curated selection of the total search results for that recipe on the web. And oftentimes, I dig through a half dozen or more recipes before deciding on the one that sounds best or provides the most information on the processes and techniques involved. Searching "red pepper soup" on a smart display will yield results, but it won't yield the one I settled on after doing a search on my phone last week, because apparently Google doesn't think that page contains a recipe.

When I do find a recipe I want, I should be able to just push that recipe from my laptop, phone, or tablet to the smart display - at the very least it could give me a web browser view. But it can't. There is no way to push web content to the smart display, it can only show you pages in the results of a voice search query. This, frankly, makes no sense: the screen is clearly capable of and does display web pages, it just won't let you display any page you want.</p>

So he says it ends up being what most people use these devices for - a music player, and a timer.
design  android  google  recipe 
9 weeks ago by charlesarthur
The Metamorphosis • The Atlantic
Henry A. Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, Daniel Huttenlocher:
<p>In the nuclear age, strategy evolved around the concept of deterrence. Deterrence is predicated on the rationality of parties, and the premise that stability can be ensured by nuclear and other military deployments that can be neutralized only by deliberate acts leading to self-destruction; the likelihood of retaliation deters attack. Arms-control agreements with monitoring systems were developed in large part to avoid challenges from rogue states or false signals that might trigger a catastrophic response.

Hardly any of these strategic verities can be applied to a world in which AI plays a significant role in national security. If AI develops new weapons, strategies, and tactics by simulation and other clandestine methods, control becomes elusive, if not impossible. The premises of arms control based on disclosure will alter: Adversaries’ ignorance of AI-developed configurations will become a strategic advantage—an advantage that would be sacrificed at a negotiating table where transparency as to capabilities is a prerequisite. The opacity (and also the speed) of the cyberworld may overwhelm current planning models.

The evolution of the arms-control regime taught us that grand strategy requires an understanding of the capabilities and military deployments of potential adversaries. But if more and more intelligence becomes opaque, how will policy makers understand the views and abilities of their adversaries and perhaps even allies?</p>

Yes, it really is that unindicted war criminal Henry Kissinger (age 96), ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt (64), American academic Daniel Huttenlocher (59). The article's full of vagueisms - unsurprisingly - but the idea of nation states using AI for their defence/attack strategies is quite worrying.
ai  schmidt  google 
9 weeks ago by charlesarthur
How US tech giants are helping to build China’s surveillance state • The Intercept
Ryan Gallagher:
<p>The OpenPower Foundation — a nonprofit led by Google and IBM executives with the aim of trying to “drive innovation” — has set up a collaboration between IBM, Chinese company Semptian, and US chip manufacturer Xilinx. Together, they have worked to advance a breed of microprocessors that enable computers to analyze vast amounts of data more efficiently.

Shenzhen-based Semptian is using the devices to enhance the capabilities of internet surveillance and censorship technology it provides to human rights-abusing security agencies in China, according to sources and documents. A company employee said that its technology is being used to covertly monitor the internet activity of 200 million people…

…Anna Bacciarelli, a researcher at Amnesty International, said that the OpenPower Foundation’s decision to work with Semptian raises questions about its adherence to international human rights standards. “All companies have a responsibility to conduct human rights due diligence throughout their operations and supply chains,” Bacciarelli said, “including through partnerships and collaborations.”

Semptian presents itself publicly as a “big data” analysis company that works with internet providers and educational institutes. However, a substantial portion of the Chinese firm’s business is in fact generated through a front company named iNext, which sells the internet surveillance and censorship tools to governments.</p>
ibm  google  china  surveillance 
9 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Yep, human workers are listening to recordings from Google Assistant, too • The Verge
<p>In the story by VRT NWS, which focuses on Dutch and Flemish speaking Google Assistant users, the broadcaster reviewed a thousand or so recordings, 153 of which had been captured accidentally. A contractor told the publication that he transcribes around 1,000 audio clips from Google Assistant every week. In one of the clips he reviewed he heard a female voice in distress and said he felt that “physical violence” had been involved. “And then it becomes real people you’re listening to, not just voices,” said the contractor.

Tech companies say that sending audio clips to humans to be transcribed is an essential process for improving their speech recognition technology. They also stress that only a small percentage of recordings are shared in this way. A spokesperson for Google told Wired that just 0.2 percent of all recordings are transcribed by humans, and that these audio clips are never presented with identifying information about the user.

However, that doesn’t stop individuals revealing sensitive information in the recording themselves. And companies are certainly not upfront about this transcription process. The privacy policy page for Google Home, for example, does not mention the company’s use of human contractors, or the possibility that Home might mistakenly record users.

These obfuscations could cause legal trouble for the company, says Michael Veale, a technology privacy researcher at the Alan Turing Institute in London. He told Wired that this level of disclosure might not meet the standards set by the EU’s GDPR regulations. “You have to be very specific on what you’re implementing and how,” said Veale. “I think Google hasn’t done that because it would look creepy.”</p>

Guess it's time for Apple to say yes or no to this question, just for completeness. But this certainly backs up why I don't activate any Google Assistant or Alexa devices. Google <a href="">has a blogpost about this</a>, complaining about the worker "leaking confidential Dutch audio data". Sure, but if the data hadn't been there in the first place...
google  ai  privacy  speech 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google’s 4,000-word privacy policy is a secret history of the internet • The New York Times
Charlie Warzel:
<p>The late 1990s was a simpler time for Google. The nascent company was merely a search engine, and Gmail, Android and YouTube were but glimmers in the startup’s eye. Google’s first privacy policy reflected that simplicity. It was short and earnest, a quaint artifact of a different time in Silicon Valley, when Google offered 600 words to explain how it was collecting and using personal information.

That version of the internet (and Google) is gone. Over the past 20 years, that same privacy policy has been rewritten into a sprawling 4,000-word explanation of the company’s data practices.

This evolution, across two decades and 30 versions, is the story of the internet’s transformation through the eyes of one of its most crucial entities. The web is now terribly complex, and Google has a privacy policy to match.</p>

The visuals for this - because it is done through visuals - are lovely, but also telling. The longer the privacy policy, the less private you are to the company.
google  internet  privacy  gdpr 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Is Firefox better than Chrome? It comes down to privacy • The Washington Post
Geoffrey Fowler:
<p>Seen from the inside, [Google's] Chrome browser looks a lot like surveillance software.

Lately I’ve been investigating the secret life of my data, running experiments to see what technology really gets up to under the cover of privacy policies that nobody reads. It turns out, having the world’s biggest advertising company make the most popular Web browser was about as smart as letting kids run a candy shop.

It made me decide to ditch Chrome for a new version of nonprofit Mozilla’s Firefox, which has default privacy protections. Switching involved less inconvenience than you might imagine.

My tests of Chrome vs. Firefox unearthed a personal data caper of absurd proportions. In a week of Web surfing on my desktop, I discovered 11,189 requests for tracker “cookies” that Chrome would have ushered right onto my computer but were automatically blocked by Firefox. These little files are the hooks that data firms, including Google itself, use to follow what websites you visit so they can build profiles of your interests, income and personality.

Chrome welcomed trackers even at websites you would think would be private. I watched Aetna and the Federal Student Aid website set cookies for Facebook and Google. They surreptitiously told the data giants every time I pulled up the insurance and loan service’s login pages.</p>
google  chrome  privacy  firefox 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google hardware: paging Dr. Porat • Radio Free Mobile
Richard Windsor thinks Ruth Porat, Google's CFO, is going to run her knife over its hardware division, particularly for the Pixel phones:
<p>Samsung has done a much better job at taking on Apple given its scale, brand, distribution and the fact that its core competence is to take the innovations of others and make them smaller, better and cheaper.

In exactly the same vein, I have also argued that Samsung’s investments in Bixby and software and services represent different symptoms of the same affliction.

This is why I have argued that Samsung and Google should stop wasting money on each other’s core competence and throw their lot in together.

The problem for Google hardware is that the days of underperforming businesses hiding under the skirts of the giant search cash machine are coming to an end. We have already seen this as in March, the Pixel Slate and Pixelbook team was cut back due to the lacklustre sales of the product. The three versions of the Google Pixel have sold in paltry volumes with market share never reliably exceeding 0.3% with 4.5m units sold in 2018.

Given the low volume, I would estimate the gross margin of this product is around 20% in the best instance which after product development costs and marketing leaves very little if anything left over.

This is not the kind of performance that Google is used to which combined with an apparent inability to really get the hardware right means that Dr. Porat will be asking some very hard questions of this division this year. Consequently, I think that Google needs to see a significant step up in performance with the Pixel 4, otherwise, it too may fall under the surgeon’s knife.</p>

Remember, you heard it here first. Unless you get his newsletter, which is often provocative.
google  pixel  hardware 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
I used Google ads for social engineering. It worked • The New York Times
Patrick Berlinquette:
<p>You don’t have to be a marketer with years of experience to do this. You just need to follow the instructions and put up a credit card (a few hundred bucks will suffice).

Recently, I followed the <a href="">[Google] blueprint</a> [used against people searching for Isis propaganda] and created a redirect campaign of my own.

The first step was to identify the problem I wanted to address. I thought about Kevin Hines and how his fate might have changed if cellphones with Google had existed back in 2000 when he tried to take his own life.

Could Kevin [Hines, who tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge] have been redirected? Could he have been persuaded — by a few lines of ad copy and a persuasive landing page — not to jump? I wondered if I could redirect the next Kevin Hines. The goal of my first redirect campaign was to sway the ideology of suicidal people.

The problem my campaign addressed: Suicidal people are underserved on Google. In 2010, Google started making the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline the top result of certain searches relating to suicide. It also forced autocomplete not to finish such searches.

The weakness of Google’s initiative is that not enough variations of searches trigger the hotline. A search for “I am suicidal” will result in the hotline. But a search for “I’m going to end it” won’t always. “I intend to die” won’t ever. A lot of “higher-funnel” searches don’t trigger the hotline.

I hoped my redirect campaign would fill the gap in Google’s suicide algorithm. I would measure my campaign’s success by how many suicidal searchers clicked my ad and then called the number on my website, which forwarded to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.</p>
google  advertising  marketing  socialwarming 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google accused of ‘flipping the bird’ at New Zealand laws after Grace Millane murder | World news | The Guardian
Charles Anderson:
<p>Tech giant Google has been accused of “flipping the bird” at New Zealand laws by refusing to change company policy after it broke suppression orders related to the murder case of British backpacker Grace Millane.

Last December, a 27-year-old Auckland man appeared in the city’s high court charged with murdering Millane. His name was suppressed but it appeared in Google’s “what’s trending in New Zealand” email that went out to thousands of subscribers.

Millane, 22, from Essex, vanished in Auckland in December. Her body was later found in the Waitākere Ranges, west of the city.

Google executives met with New Zealand justice minister Andrew Little in Wellington to discuss the suppression breach, and assured the minister and prime minister Jacinda Ardern the issue would be dealt with.

However, when justice officials followed up with Google in March and again this week, the company said it had no plans to make changes. Little released an email from Google’s New Zealand government affairs manager Ross Young on Wednesday.

“We have looked at our systems and it appears that last year’s situation was relatively unique as it was a high-profile case involving a person from overseas, which was extensively reported by overseas media,” the email read…

…[Little said:] “In the end, Google is effectively acting as a publisher and publishing material that is under suppression orders in New Zealand, and they cannot and should not be allowed to get away with that.”</p>

Interesting question. Google Alerts simply take a headline (and excerpt) of content that's already around. Is that publishing? Of course it is: news organisations republish content from Reuters and Associated Press all the time. The difference is that news orgs take some care about what they put out. Google's learning that the hard way.
google  publishing  newzealand 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google begins showing British Android users rival search engines to appease EU regulators
Margi Murphy:
<p>Google has begun asking British smartphone users whether they would like to switch to rival search engines in a bid to appease European regulators.

Android users will now have the option to go online using search engines such as Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo or privacy-focused Google critic DuckDuckGo.

Google hopes the tactic will brush off any further advances from the European Commission, which delivered it a record €4.34bn fine (£3.9 bn) for being anticompetitive in July 2018. 

The European Commission’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager said it was wrong for Google to require Android manufacturers to install Google’s search app and Chrome browser app as a condition for licensing Google’s app store.

 While she acknowledged that Google didn’t prevent customers from using other search engines, she said that only 1pc of Android users chose to do so…

…“Once you have it, it is working, very few are curious enough to look for another search app or browser,” said Vestager.

At the time, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said the decision rejected “the business model that supports Android, which has created more choice for everyone, not less”.

Google’s web browser Chrome has always appeared as the default. Now, Android users are being asked whether they would like to download one different apps offering the same service instead.</p>

Hang on, though. Other browsers offer Google as the default search engine. What if people were assigned a search engine randomly?
google  android  browser  default 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Fake Samsung firmware update app tricks more than 10 million Android users • ZDNet
Catalin Cimpanu:
<p>Over ten million users have been duped in installing a <a href="">fake Samsung app</a> named "Updates for Samsung" that promises firmware updates, but, in reality, redirects users to an ad-filled website and charges for firmware downloads.

"I have contacted the Google Play Store and asked them to consider removing this app," Aleksejs Kuprins, malware analyst at the CSIS Security Group, told ZDNet today in an interview, after <a href="">publishing a report on the app's shady behaviour</a> earlier [on July 4].

The app takes advantage of the difficulty in getting firmware and operating system updates for Samsung phones, hence the high number of users who have installed it.

"It would be wrong to judge people for mistakenly going to the official application store for the firmware updates after buying a new Android device," the security researcher said. "Vendors frequently bundle their Android OS builds with an intimidating number of software, and it can easily get confusing."</p>

Was still there on Friday evening. I think it might have been a mistake to publish his report on a huge public holiday in the US.
samsung  fake  firmware  app  google 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google still keeps a list of everything you ever bought using Gmail, even if you delete all your emails • CNBC
Todd Haselton:
<p>In May, I wrote up something weird I spotted on Google’s account management page. I noticed that Google uses Gmail to store a list of everything you’ve purchased, if you used Gmail or your Gmail address in any part of the transaction.

If you have a confirmation for a prescription you picked up at a pharmacy that went into your Gmail account, Google logs it. If you have a receipt from Macy’s, Google keeps it. If you bought food for delivery and the receipt went to your Gmail, Google stores that, too.

You get the idea, and you can see your own purchase history by going to Google’s Purchases page.

Google says it does this so you can use Google Assistant to track packages or reorder things, even if that’s not an option for some purchases that aren’t mailed or wouldn’t be reordered, like something you bought a store.

At the time of my original story, Google said users can delete everything by tapping into a purchase and removing the Gmail. It seemed to work if you did this for each purchase, one by one. This isn’t easy — for years worth of purchases, this would take hours or even days of time.

So, since Google doesn’t let you bulk-delete this purchases list, I decided to delete everything in my Gmail inbox. That meant removing every last message I’ve sent or received since I opened my Gmail account more than a decade ago.

Despite Google’s assurances, it didn’t work.</p>
google  gmail  purchases  data  retention  surveillance 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Alexa, is voice still the next big thing after mobile? • The Information
Priya Anand:
<p>“I haven’t heard a mass market groundswell of consumers saying, ‘I will not buy Product X if it doesn’t have “Works with Google” or Alexa integration.’ It’s a feature and nice to have for a percent of people,” said Niccolo de Masi, the chief innovation officer of Resideo, a maker of connected thermostats, security systems and other products. “It hasn’t tipped into being a mass market thing.”

Some companies have put Alexa, including the microphones and speakers necessary to communicate with the assistant, directly into their products. In January, Kohler, the manufacturer of kitchen and bathroom fixtures, unveiled an Alexa-enabled toilet that starts at $8,000—which will be available for purchase in 2020—with speakers and lights that can be controlled by voice commands. It also put Alexa into a $1,465 mirror, allowing people to “ask to adjust the lights to the ideal brightness for any grooming activity, play music, get the weather, tell a joke, and more,” as it says in an online brochure for the product.

A person familiar with Kohler’s sales figures said early demand for the mirror was below its expectations. That may partly be due to the fact that Amazon’s least expensive Alexa device, the Echo Dot, sells for a tiny fraction of the mirror. “They’re competing with a $30 device that’s being sold at cost and that’s really hard to do unless there’s some killer use case,” the person familiar with Kohler’s efforts said.</p>

As Benedict Evans said some while back, the problem with voice is that it's like the terminal line: it doesn't show you what the affordances of the interface are. What can you say? How do you have to say it? What feedback does it give you on errors? If you've never used a terminal line, you won't know the stark horror of facing the implacable blinking cursor and trying to work out how to coax it into life. But just imagine trying to work out how to order something different by voice, and you can see it.
alexa  amazon  voice  google 
11 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google internet balloon spinoff Loon still looking for its wings • Reuters
Paresh Dave:
<p>Google’s bet on balloons to deliver cell service soon faces a crucial test amid doubts about the viability of the technology by some potential customers.

The company behind the effort, Loon says its balloons will reach Kenya in the coming weeks for its first commercial trial. The test with Telkom Kenya, the nation’s No. 3 carrier, will let mountain villagers buy 4G service at market-rate prices for an undefined period. Kenya’s aviation authority said its final approval would be signed this month.

Hatched in 2011, Loon aims to bring connectivity to remote parts of the world by floating solar-powered networking gear over areas where cell towers would be too expensive to build.

Its tennis-court-sized helium balloons have demonstrated utility. Over the last three years, Loon successfully let wireless carriers in Peru and Puerto Rico use balloons for free to supplant cell phone towers downed by natural disasters.

Kenyan officials are enthusiastic as they try to bring more citizens online.</p>

Loon is still going? Perhaps the last remaining bonkers moonshot thing around.
google  loon  internet 
11 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Kudlow: US sales to Huawei won't imperil national security • The New York Times
Associated Press:
<p>[White House economics adviser Larry] Kudlow told "Fox News Sunday" and CBS' "Face the Nation" that Huawei will remain on an American blacklist as a potential security threat. He stressed that additional US licensing "will be for what we call general merchandise, not national security sensitive," such as chips and software generally available around the world.

"What's happening now is simply a loosening up for general merchandise," Kudlow said. "This is not a general amnesty."

Trump made the announcement Saturday after meeting with China's Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Japan. Trump said US companies could make the sales if the transactions don't present a "great, national emergency problem."

Several Republican senators immediately expressed concerns. In a tweet Saturday, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called the decision a "catastrophic mistake." Sen. Lindsey Graham [Republican, South Carolina], told CBS that Trump's agreement was "clearly a concession," and also said it would be a mistake if sales to Huawei involved "major technology."

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., described the Chinese company as a clear threat to US national security. "To me, Huawei in the United States would be like a Trojan horse ready to steal more information from us," he told NBC's "Meet the Press."</p>

The reversal on Huawei was predictable enough - Trump doesn't do anything on principle, even when everyone around him knows that something should be done on principle - but this is just baffling. American companies were banned from selling to Huawei, and it looked like it would cripple the Chinese company. So is Google still on the banned list, given that its products aren't generally available?
huawei  google  android  ban 
11 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google's new reCaptcha has a dark side • Fast Company
Katharine Schwab:
<p>According to two security researchers who’ve studied reCaptcha, one of the ways that Google determines whether you’re a malicious user or not is whether you already have a Google cookie installed on your browser. It’s the same cookie that allows you to open new tabs in your browser and not have to re-log in to your Google account every time. But according to Mohamed Akrout, a computer science PhD student at the University of Toronto who has studied reCaptcha, it appears that Google is also using its cookies to determine whether someone is a human in reCaptcha v3 tests. Akrout wrote in an April paper about how reCaptcha v3 simulations that ran on a browser with a connected Google account received lower risk scores than browsers without a connected Google account. “If you have a Google account it’s more likely you are human,” he says. Google did not respond to questions about the role that Google cookies play in reCaptcha.

With reCaptcha v3, technology consultant Marcos Perona and Akrout’s tests both found that their reCaptcha scores were always low risk when they visited a test website on a browser where they were already logged into a Google account. Alternatively, if they went to the test website from a private browser like Tor or a VPN, their scores were high risk.

To make this risk-score system work accurately, website administrators are supposed to embed reCaptcha v3 code on all of the pages of their website, not just on forms or log-in pages. Then, reCaptcha learns over time how their website’s users typically act, helping the machine learning algorithm underlying it to generate more accurate risk scores.</p>

But that also means Google is seeing everything you do. Okayyy but.. it does anyway?
google  privacy  captcha 
12 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Millions of business listings on Google Maps are fake—and Google profits • WSJ
Rob Copeland and Katherine Bindley:
<p>Once considered a sleepy, low-margin business by the company and known mostly for giving travel directions, Google Maps in recent months has packed more ads onto its search queries. It is central to Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s hope to recharge a cresting digital-advertising operation.

Often, Google Maps yields mirages, visible in local business searches of U.S. cities, including Mountain View, Calif., Google’s hometown. Of a dozen addresses for personal-injury attorneys on Google Maps during a recent search, only one office was real. A Viennese patisserie was among the businesses at addresses purported to house lawyers. The fakes vanished after inquiries to Google from The Wall Street Journal.

The false listings benefit businesses seeking more customer calls by sprinkling made-up branches in various corners of a city. In other cases, as Ms. Carter discovered, calls to listed phone numbers connect to unscrupulous competitors, a misdirection forbidden by Google rules but sporadically policed by the company.

Hundreds of thousands of false listings sprout on Google Maps each month, according to experts. Google says it catches many others before they appear.

The Justice Department is laying the groundwork for a broad antitrust probe of Google, which will include a look at the company’s dominant advertising platform, the Journal has reported. </p>

How do you solve a problem like the internet?
google  map  business  internet  socialwarming 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Google says it’s done making tablets and cancels two unreleased products • The Verge
Chris Welch:
<p>Google went so far as to reveal that it has axed two in-development tablet products, moving the employees who had been working on them to other areas of the company. (Most have apparently joined the Pixelbook team.) The tablets were both smaller in size than the Pixel Slate and were planned for release “sometime after 2019.” But disappointing quality assurance testing results led Google to completely abandon both devices. Google informed employees of its decision on Wednesday.

The Pixel Slate received largely mediocre reviews when it went on sale last year. Google earned praise for the device’s hardware design, but the software felt unfinished — Chrome OS has yet to really feel at home on a tablet — and lower-priced versions of the Slate suffered from extremely sluggish performance and lag. Google has resolved some of those issues with updates, but more than anything else, the company might have realized that taking on Apple’s iPad was going to be a losing battle. The iPad is offered at multiple price points, has an enormous selection of apps, and is set to gain productivity enhancements this fall with the rollout of iPadOS.

The Pixelbook, meanwhile, has been met with much better feedback from customers since its release in 2017 owing to its fantastic keyboard, nice screen, lightweight design, and unique style. And it’s now clear that a new model is on the way. A Google spokesperson told Computer World, which also reported on this news, that it’s “very likely” a Pixelbook 2 will see release before the end of 2019.</p>

Google's saying Android slates have reached the end of their evolution (and zero profitability - note that's not the case for iPads). It's going to focus "solely on laptops" for ChromeOS - which also implies that ChromeOS (or a fusion, or Fuchsia) isn't going to come to Android tablets either.
android  tablets  google 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Google is finally taking charge of the RCS rollout - The Verge
Dieter Bohn:
<p>We’ve been hearing about RCS, the replacement for SMS texting, for over a year now, but actually using the next-generation service has been nearly impossible due to complicated carrier and phone maker politics. But now Google is taking over: later this month, Android users in the UK and France will be able to opt in to RCS Chat services provided directly by Google instead of waiting for their carrier to support it.

That seems like yet another minor status check-in on the service meant to replace SMS, but in fact it’s a huge shift in strategy: as Google rolls this offering out to more countries, it should eventually mean that RCS will become universally available for all Android users.

For the first time in years, Google will directly offer a better default texting experience to Android users instead of waiting for cellphone carriers to do it. It’s not quite the Google equivalent of an iMessage service for Android users, but it’s close. Not knowing when or if RCS Chat would be available for your phone was RCS’s second biggest problem, and Google is fixing it.

RCS’s biggest problem is that messages are still not end-to-end encrypted. iMessage, WhatsApp, and Signal are secured in that way, and even Facebook has said it will make all its apps encrypted by default. Google’s chat solution is increasingly looking out of touch — even immoral.</p>

Immoral is maybe overplaying it, but the reality is that if you're communicating with someone you know then you'll almost certainly be using one of those three services (or perhaps also Telegram). RCS is too late. Google's never had a sensible comms strategy.
google  communications  rcs 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Inside Huawei’s secretive plans to develop an operating system to rival Google’s Android • South China Morning Post
<p>Huawei’s self-developed OS would be able to support a range of products and systems within its ecosystem, including smartphones, computers, tablets, TVs, automobiles and smart wear, which would also be compatible with all Android applications and existing web applications, Yu was quoted as saying in a Securities Times report published on May 21.

“The Huawei OS is likely to hit the market as soon as this fall, and no later than spring next year,” Yu said in a WeChat group discussion. Although the screenshot of the conversation has been widely circulated on Chinese media, Huawei has declined to verify the information.

“I am not able to reveal more information beyond Yu’s remarks,” Zhao Ming, president of Honor, one of Huawei’s two smartphone brands, told reporters in Shanghai last month, when asked for an update on the proprietary OS.

Questions remain though over potential user experience issues and whether overseas customers will actually want a phone without popular Google apps.

Google’s Android and Apple’s proprietary iOS have a stranglehold on smartphone operating systems, accounting for 99.9% of the global market [outside China], according to Gartner estimates last year.

Huawei was confident of its OS prospects in China as it believed developers and local consumers would support and build up the ecosystem quickly, the sources said. Huawei’s sales have continued to rise in the country as the Android system used on the mainland has never carried Google services, to comply with government restrictions.

But Bloomberg reported on June 5 that consumer fear in Europe that Huawei phones would quickly become out of date has meant demand for its devices has “dropped off a cliff” in some markets there, according to analysts.

“It is not the best time to introduce an OS as Huawei would have liked to try it when they have an even bigger market share,” one analyst said. “Domestically it may be OK, but the company remains concerned about the international response.”</p>
huawei  os  android  google 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Lyrics site accuses Google of lifting its content • WSJ
Robert McMillan:
<p>Genius said it notified Google as far back as 2017, and again in an April letter, that copied transcriptions appear on Google’s website. The April letter, a copy of which was viewed by the Journal, warned that reuse of Genius’s transcriptions breaks the terms of service and violates antitrust law.

“Over the last two years, we’ve shown Google irrefutable evidence again and again that they are displaying lyrics copied from Genius,” said Ben Gross, Genius’s chief strategy officer, in an email message. The company said it used a watermarking system in its lyrics that embedded patterns in the formatting of apostrophes. Genius said it found more than 100 examples of songs on Google that came from its site.

Starting around 2016, Genius made a subtle change to some of the songs on its website, alternating the lyrics’ apostrophes between straight and curly single-quote marks in exactly the same sequence for every song.

When the two types of apostrophes were converted to the dots and dashes used in Morse code, they spelled out the words “Red Handed.”

<img src="" width="100%" />

In a statement, Google said the lyrics on its site, which pop up in little search-result squares called “information panels,” are licensed from partners, not created by Google.</p>

Classic Google; exactly the same as it was <a href="">doing with Yelp back in 2013</a>. Genius doesn't actually own the lyrics, but it must own the copyright of the careful curation of the apostrophes.
google  lyrics 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
New security warning issued for Google's 1.5 billion Gmail and Calendar users • Forbes
Davey Winder:
<p>users of the Gmail service are being targeted primarily through the use of malicious and unsolicited Google Calendar notifications. Anyone can schedule a meeting with you, that's how the calendar application is designed to work. Gmail, which receives the notification of the invitation, is equally designed to tightly integrate with the calendaring functionality.

When a calendar invitation is sent to a user, a pop-up notification appears on their smartphone. The threat actors craft their invitations to include a malicious link, leveraging the trust that user familiarity with calendar notifications brings with it.

The researchers have noticed attackers throughout the last month using this technique to effectively spam users with phishing links to credential stealing sites. By populating the location and topic fields to announce a fake online poll or questionnaire with a financial incentive to participate, the threat actors encourage the victim to follow the malicious link where bank account or credit card details can be collected. By exploiting such a "non-traditional attack vector," the criminals can get around the fact that people are increasingly aware of common methods to encourage link-clicking.

"Beyond phishing, this attack opens up the doors for a whole host of social engineering attacks," says Javvad Malik, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4. Malik told me that in order to gain access to a building, for example, you could put in a calendar invite for an interview or similar face to face appointment such as building maintenance which, he warns "could allow physical access to secure areas."</p>

Google was told about this in 2017, and said that "making this change would cause major functionality drawbacks for legitimate API events with regards to Calendar." But don't worry! It scans for malicious links. Huh. Apple had a similar problem like this - spammy calendar invites being sent, mainly from China - <a href="">in November 2016</a>. Seems to have solved it.
security  hacking  google 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
The new wilderness • Idle Words
Maciej Cieglowski on the erosion of what he calls "ambient privacy" - the expectation that your interactions aren't monitored or remembered:
<p>Ambient privacy is particularly hard to protect where it extends into social and public spaces outside the reach of privacy law. If I’m subjected to facial recognition at the airport, or tagged on social media at a little league game, or my public library installs an always-on Alexa microphone, no one is violating my legal rights. But a portion of my life has been brought under the magnifying glass of software. Even if the data harvested from me is anonymized in strict conformity with the most fashionable data protection laws, I’ve lost something by the fact of being monitored.

One can argue that ambient privacy is a relic of an older world, just like the ability to see the stars in the night sky was a pleasant but inessential feature of the world before electricity. This is the argument Mr. Zuckerberg made when he unilaterally removed privacy protections from every Facebook account back in 2010. Social norms had changed, he explained at the time, and Facebook was changing with them. Presumably now they have changed back.

My own suspicion is that ambient privacy plays an important role in civic life. When all discussion takes place under the eye of software, in a for-profit medium working to shape the participants’ behavior, it may not be possible to create the consensus and shared sense of reality that is a prerequisite for self-government. If that is true, then the move away from ambient privacy will be an irreversible change, because it will remove our ability to function as a democracy.

All of this leads me to see a parallel between privacy law and environmental law, another area where a technological shift forced us to protect a dwindling resource that earlier generations could take for granted.</p>

Always a must-read; easily comprehensible phrasing, but conveying deep meaning.
google  facebook  privacy  politics  democracy 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Google is ending its confusing integration between Google Photos and Drive • The Verge
Chris Welch:
<p>Google has long offered syncing between Google Photos and Google Drive, but it’s putting an end to that in the name of simplicity. “We’ve heard feedback that the connection between these services is confusing, so next month, we’re making some changes to simplify the experience across Drive and Photos,” Dan Schlosser and Jason Gupta, product managers for Drive and Photos respectively, wrote in a blog post today. There’s also an article for G Suite customers, since this decision affects all end users.

When the change takes effect in July, photos and videos you add to Drive won’t automatically appear in Photos and vice versa. Additionally, file deletions won’t sync between the two. “This change is designed to help prevent accidental deletion of items across products,” Schlosser and Gupta wrote. Indeed, the current system provides ample opportunity for users to screw something up and unknowingly lose important photos if they’re not careful.</p>

Totally overdue. It only made sense if you were in that tech-head space that could see things with different names as being part of the same thing. Otherwise you'd be surprised when something added to Drive shows up in Photos.
google  drive  photos 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Google rewards reputable reporting, not left-wing politics • The Economist
<p>To test for favouritism, The Economist ran an experiment, comparing a news site’s share of search results with a statistical prediction based on its output, reach and accuracy.

We first wrote a program to obtain Google results for any keyword. Using a browser with no history, in a politically centrist part of Kansas, we searched for 31 terms for each day in 2018, yielding 175,000 links.

Next, we built a model to predict each site’s share of the links Google produces for each keyword, based on the premise that search results should reflect accuracy and audience size, as Google claims. We started with each outlet’s popularity on social media and, using data from Meltwater, a media-tracking firm, how often they covered each topic. We also used accuracy ratings from fact-checking websites, tallies of Pulitzer prizes and results from a poll by YouGov about Americans’ trust in 37 sources.

If Google favoured liberals, left-wing sites would appear more often than our model predicted, and right-wing ones less. We saw no such trend. Overall, centre-left sites like the New York Times got the most links—but only about as many as our model suggested. Fox News beat its modest expectations. Because most far-right outlets had bad trust scores, they got few search results. But so did Daily Kos, a far-left site.

Our study does not prove Google is impartial. In theory, Google could serve unbiased links only to users without a browsing history. If fact-checkers and Pulitzer voters are partisan, our model will be too.</p>

Not surprising, but good to have The Economist do the legwork.
google  economist  algorithm  news 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Google warns of US national security risks from Huawei ban • Financial Times
Kiran Stacey and James Politi:
<p>Google in particular is concerned it would not be allowed to update its Android operating system on Huawei’s smartphones, which it argues would prompt the Chinese company to develop its own version of the software.

Google argues a Huawei-modified version of Android would be more susceptible to being hacked, according to people briefed on its lobbying efforts. Huawei has said it would be able to develop its own operating system “very quickly”.

One person with knowledge of the conversations said: “Google has been arguing that by stopping it from dealing with Huawei, the US risks creating two kinds of Android operating system: the genuine version and a hybrid one. The hybrid one is likely to have more bugs in it than the Google one, and so could put Huawei phones more at risk of being hacked, not least by China.”

Washington has been concerned for years that telecoms equipment sold by Huawei could be used by Beijing for hacking. But since Donald Trump entered office, these concerns have come to the fore.</p>

Seems a bit of a stretch. The obvious retort from the US admin side would be "so tell everyone not to buy from Huawei. Get a logo like 'Intel Inside' but saying 'Google Inside' - 'Good To Google'? - and rely on that."
google  huawei  android 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Google Stadia launches 4K game-streaming in November for $9.99/mo • TechCrunch
Lucas Matney:
<p>Top-level details are the company’s Stadia Pro service will launch in November for $9.99 per month. The price gets you 4K 60fps streaming but you’ll need at least a 35 mbps internet connection to get that speed. Alongside the streaming capabilities, you’ll get access to some Stadia games with the Pro subscription.

At launch, the service is coming to the USA, UK, Canada, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Users in Hawaii, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands aren’t supported on Stadia.

We also learned that playing Stadia on a mobile device will be confined to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a at launch so that means no iOS or iPadOS devices at launch though you’ll be able to play in the Chrome browser on your Mac. Not a ton of love for Apple devices though.

Google will be offering a free base subscription next year that lets gamers who purchase titles from the Stadia store stream them for free at 1080p 30fps. This is a major announcement and something that Google really slid into the stream at the very end, but this is really going to put some pressure on the company to have some quality free content to keep gamers interested in the Pro tier.</p>

This will be going up against <a href="">Apple Arcade</a>, an all-you-can-eat games fest targeting iOS and macOS (and tvOS.. well, Apple TV) devices which is probably going to launch about the same time for the same money but will work offline and won't require you to buy games.

Not gonna lie, looks tough for Google.
google  games  stadia  apple  arcade 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Apple restricts ads and third-party trackers in iPhone apps for kids • TechCrunch
Zack Whittaker:
<p>Apple has told developers to stop including third-party trackers in apps designed for kids — or they face having their apps pulled from the app store.

The tech giant quietly updated its guidelines for apps that are submitted to the app store’s kids category following the keynote address at its annual developer conference on Monday.

“Apps in the kids category may not include third-party advertising or analytics,” the new guidelines say. Previously, the guidelines only restricted behavioral advertising tracking.

Apple also currently prohibits apps in the kids category from including links that point outside the app or contain in-app purchasing.

Apple has come under fire for its recent marketing campaign claiming “what happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone,”  which critics say is misleading. All too often apps include ads or tracking code that allows app makers to collect information about the device, including its location and other data, and send it back to base so companies can better target its users with ads, learn more about how you use the app, and more.

Just last week, the Washington Post found over 5,400 app trackers were uploading data from an iPhone over a single week — even at night when the phone owner was asleep.</p>

Wonder if Google will follow suit.
apple  google  tracking  kids 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
238 Google Play apps with more than 440 million installs made phones nearly unusable • Ars Technica
Dan Goodin:
<p>If the prevalence of abusive Google Play apps has left you numb, this latest report is for you. Carefully concealed adware installed in Google-approved apps with more than 440 million installations was so aggressive that it rendered mobile devices nearly unusable, researchers from mobile security provider Lookout said Tuesday.

BeiTaAd, as the adware is known, is a plugin that Lookout says it found hidden in emojis keyboard TouchPal and 237 other applications, all of which were published by Shanghai, China-based CooTek. Together, the 238 unique apps had a combined 440 million installs. Once installed, the apps initially behaved normally. Then, after a delay of anywhere between 24 hours and 14 days, the obfuscated BeiTaAd plugin would begin delivering what are known as out-of-app ads. These ads appeared on users' lock screens and triggered audio and video at seemingly random times or even when a phone was asleep.

"My wife is having the exact same issue," one person reported in November in this thread discussing BeiTaAd. "This will bring up random ads in the middle of phone calls, when her alarm clock goes off or anytime she uses any other function on her phone. We are unable to find any other information on this. It is extremely annoying and almost [makes] her phone unusable."

…Lookout reported the behavior of BeiTaAd to Google, and the apps responsible were subsequently either removed from Play or updated to remove the abusive plugin. There's no indication that CooTek will be banned or otherwise punished for breaching Play terms of service on such a mass scale and for taking the steps it did to hide the violation. The remaining 237 CooTek apps that embedded the plugin are listed at the end of Lookout's post. </p>

Ad fraud on a huge scale, no doubt. Just as the invention of the ship created the shipwreck, the ad-supported app created ad fraud.
Adfraud  google  apps 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Google Chrome, the perfect antitrust villain? •
Alex Danco wrote this on Thursday, before the WSJ story that the DOJ was looking at Google on antitrust grounds:
<p>Chrome’s market dominance in recent years is a great example of how Google has used its scale and influence to draw the back-end plumbing of the internet more tightly under its control, all under the banner of “it’s all open source; how could we be bad guys?” It’s not like we haven’t seen this playbook before: an Android phone may be running open source Linux (cool!), but without Google Services and the Google Play Store, it’s a brick. They’ve mastered separation of the strategic openness of Android with the accompanying strategic closed-ness of everything that runs on it and makes it actually worth something. 

The biggest fight here recently is over standardizing the rules around DRM: the Digital Rights Management framework of laws and restrictions that came into being through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and govern the rules around digital access and permission. (The free software community, as you might guess, absolutely hates DRM. I’ll probably write another Snippets issue soon about this.)

Google has done something sneaky here: by successfully lobbying for DRM standards in web browsers across the whole internet, Google has made it so that anyone can build or modify their own Chrome-based browser as they want to, just like before. But in order for it to be able to play video (a pretty big prerequisite of the modern internet), they have to license a proprietary DRM plugin from Google called Widevine. 

This isn’t the first time Google has used this tactic, and it’s a good one: “Oh, nice open source project you’ve got there! You’re free to do anything you want with it, which obviously makes us the progressive good guys of the Free Internet. However, if you want it to actually work in any real-world conditions, then you’ll need to license our proprietary stuff and play by our very particular rules.” </p>

Certainly a better argument than many on this.
google  chrome  antitrust 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Justice Department is preparing antitrust investigation of Google • WSJ
Brent Kendall and John D. McKinnon:
<p>The department’s antitrust division in recent weeks has been laying the groundwork for the probe, the people said. The Federal Trade Commission, which shares antitrust authority with the department, previously conducted a broad investigation of Google but closed it in 2013 without taking action, though Google made some voluntary changes to certain business practices.

The FTC and the department have been in talks recently on who would oversee any new antitrust investigation of a leading US tech giant, and the commission agreed to give the Justice Department jurisdiction over Google, the people said.

With turf now settled, the department is preparing to closely examine Google’s business practices related to its search and other businesses, the people said.

It couldn’t immediately be learned whether Google has been contacted by the department. Third-party critics of the search giant, however, already have been in contact with Justice Department officials, some of the people familiar with the matter said.</p>

This story is amazingly thin on detail, which hasn't changed through being repeated over the weekend up and down the techosphere. I doubt Google is that worried, at least existentially; the US DoJ hasn't done nearly as many tech cases as the EU, and the big one - against Microsoft - hardly stopped it, long-term.
google  doj  antitrust 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
The North Face used Wikipedia to climb to the top of Google search results • AdAge
Ann-Christine Diaz:
<p>When you first start planning a big trip, step one will likely happen at the Google search bar. Step two might be clicking onto the images of your target destination. The North Face, in a campaign with agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made, took advantage of this consumer behavior to keep its name top of mind with travelers considering an adventure sports excursion.

The brand and agency took pictures of athletes wearing the brand while trekking to famous locations around the world, including Brazil’s Guarita State Park and Farol do Mampimptuba, Cuillin in Scotland and Peru’s Huayna Picchu. They then updated the Wikipedia images in the articles for those locations so that now, the brand would appear in the top of Google image search results when consumers researched any of those locations—all done for a budget of zero dollars.

“Our mission is to expand our frontiers so that our consumers can overcome their limits. With the ‘Top of Images’ project, we achieved our positioning and placed our products in a fully contextualized manner as items that go hand in hand with these destinations," explained Fabricio Luzzi, CEO of The North Face Brazil in a statement. </p>

As you might expect, Wikimedia (owner of Wikipedia) is <a href="">absolutely furious</a> about this.
google  advertising  wikipedia 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Google revives controversial cold-fusion experiments • Nature
Elizabeth Gibney:
<p>Google’s team was made up of 30 researchers who had no strong opinions on cold fusion. All had access to each other’s data and apparatus, and could review each other’s work.

The researchers <a href="">pursued the three experimental strands</a> that they deemed sufficiently credible. In one, they tried to load palladium with amounts of deuterium hypothesized to be necessary to trigger fusion. But at high concentrations the team was unable to create stable samples.

A second strand followed up on 1990s work by US physicists who claimed to have generated anomalous levels of tritium — another heavy hydrogen isotope, created only through nuclear reactions — by bombarding palladium with pulses of hot deuterium ions. Google’s analysis of nuclear signatures showed no tritium production from this experiment.

A final strand involved heating up metallic powders in a hydrogen-rich environment. Some current proponents of cold fusion claim that the process produces excess and unexplained heat, which they theorize is the result of fusing elements. But across 420 tests, the Google-funded team found no such heat excess.

But the researchers say that both palladium experiments warrant further study. The hypothesized effects in the tritium experiment could be too small to measure with current equipment, they suggest. The team also says that further work could produce stable samples at extremely high deuterium concentrations, where interesting effects might occur.</p>

They revived it, but only to put a stake through it. It's 99.9999% certain that cold fusion isn't a thing.
coldfusion  google 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Inside Apple's top secret testing facilities where iPhone defences are forged in temperatures of -40C • The Independent
Andrew Griffin:
<p>The cost of those [Apple] products has led to some criticism from Apple's rivals, who have said that it is the price of privacy; that Apple is fine talking about how little data it collects, but it is only able to do so because of the substantial premiums they command. That was the argument recently made by Google boss Sundar Pichai, in just one of a range of recent broadsides between tech companies about privacy.

"Privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services," [Google chief Sundar] Pichai wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times. He didn't name Apple, but he didn't need to.

Pichai argued that the collection of data helps make technology affordable, echoing a sentiment often heard about Apple, that their commitment to privacy is only possible because their products are expensive and it can afford to take such a position. Having a more lax approach to privacy helps keep the products made by almost all of the biggest technology products in the world – from Google to Instagram – free, at least at the point of use.

"I don't buy into the luxury good dig," says Federighi, giving the impression he was genuinely surprised by the public attack.

"On the one hand gratifying that other companies in space over the last few months, seemed to be making a lot of positive noises about caring about privacy. I think it's a deeper issue than then, what a couple of months and a couple of press releases would make. I think you've got to look fundamentally at company cultures and values and business model. And those don't change overnight.

"But we certainly seek to both set a great example for the world to show what's possible to raise people's expectations about what they should expect the products, whether they get them from us or from other people. And of course, we love, ultimately, to sell Apple products to everyone we possibly could certainly not just a luxury, we think a great product experience is something everyone should have. So we aspire to develop those."</p>

Lots of other details in there, but this is the core.
apple  privacy  google 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Urbanism under Google: lessons from Sidewalk Toronto • SSRN
Ellen P. Goodman and Julia Powles:
<p>In October 2017, Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs embarked on its first prototype smart city in Toronto, Canada, planning a new kind of data-driven urban environment: “the world’s first neighborhood built from the internet up.” Although the vision is for an urban district foregrounding progressive ideals of inclusivity, for the crucial first 18 months of the venture, many of the most consequential features of the project were hidden from view and unavailable for serious scrutiny. The players defied public accountability on questions about data collection and surveillance, governance, privacy, competition, and procurement. Even more basic questions about the use of public space went unanswered: privatized services, land ownership, infrastructure deployment and, in all cases, the question of who is in control. What was hidden in this first stage, and what was revealed, suggest that the imagined smart city may be incompatible with democratic processes, sustained public governance, and the public interest.

This article analyzes the Sidewalk project in Toronto as it took shape in its first phase, prior to the release of the Master Innovation and Development Plan, exploring three major governance challenges posed by the imagined “city of the future”: privatization, platformization, and domination.</p>

The paper is a free download. It points out the hyperbolic nature of what Sidewalk has promised, compared to what's been achieved.
sidewalk  google  toronto 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
An algorithm may decide who gets suicide prevention • OneZero on Medium
Jake Pitre:
<p>The researchers behind <a href="">the New Media + Society paper</a> set out to understand this odd quirk of Google’s algorithm, and to find out why the company seemed to be serving some markets better than others. They developed a list of 28 keywords and phrases related to suicide, Scherr says, and worked with nine researchers from different countries who accurately translated those terms into their own languages. For 21 days, they conducted millions of automated searches for these phrases, and kept track of whether hotline information showed up or not.

They thought these results might simply, logically, show up in countries with higher suicide rates, but the opposite was true. Users in South Korea, which has one of the world’s highest suicide rates, were only served the advice box about 20% of the time. They tested different browser histories (some completely clean, some full of suicide-related topics), with computers old and new, and tested searches in 11 different countries.

It didn’t seem to matter: the advice box was simply much more likely to be shown to people using Google in the English language, particularly in English-speaking countries (though not in Canada, which Scherr speculates was probably down to geographical rollout). “If you’re in an English-speaking country, you have over a 90% chance of seeing these results — but Google operates differently depending on which language you use,” he said. Scherr speculates that using keywords may simply have been the easiest way to implement the project, but adds that it wouldn’t take much to offer it more effectively in other countries, too.

A Google spokesperson, who asked not to be quoted directly, said that the company is refining these algorithms.</p>
google  algorithm  machinelearning 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Google’s Duplex uses AI to mimic humans (sometimes) • The New York Times
Brian X. Chen and Cade Metz:
<p>“It sounded very real,” Mr. Tran said in an interview after hanging up the call with Google. “It was perfectly human.”

Google later confirmed, to our disappointment, that the caller had been telling the truth: He was a person working in a call center. The company said that about 25% of calls placed through Duplex started with a human, and that about 15% of those that began with an automated system had a human intervene at some point.

We tested Duplex for several days, calling more than a dozen restaurants, and our tests showed a heavy reliance on humans. Among our four successful bookings with Duplex, three were done by people. But when calls were actually placed by Google’s artificially intelligent assistant, the bot sounded very much like a real person and was even able to respond to nuanced questions.

In other words, Duplex, which Google first showed off last year as a technological marvel using AI, is still largely operated by humans. While AI services like Google’s are meant to help us, their part-machine, part-human approach could contribute to a mounting problem: the struggle to decipher the real from the fake, from bogus reviews and online disinformation to bots posing as people.</p>

Forgivable; these are still very early days for this technology. Did you expect you'd be able to say "a machine will be able to make a booking with a restaurant, and it will seem like a human" a couple of years ago?
duplex  google  ai  machinelearning  artificialintelligence 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
The platform patrons: how Facebook and Google became two of the biggest funders of journalism in the world • Columbia Journalism Review
Mathew Ingram:
<p>Taken together, Facebook and Google have now committed more than half a billion dollars to various journalistic programs and media partnerships over the past three years, not including the money spent internally on developing media-focused products like Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s competing AMP mobile project. The result: These mega-platforms are now two of the largest funders of journalism in the world.

The irony is hard to miss. The dismantling of the traditional advertising model—largely at the hands of the social networks, which have siphoned away the majority of industry ad revenue—has left many media companies and journalistic institutions in desperate need of a lifeline. Google and Facebook, meanwhile, are happy to oblige, flush with cash from their ongoing dominance of the digital ad market.

The result is a somewhat dysfunctional alliance. People in the media business (including some on the receiving end of the cash) see the tech donations as guilt money, something journalism deserves because Google and Facebook wrecked their business. The tech giants, meanwhile, are desperate for some good PR and maybe even a few friends in a journalistic community that—especially now—can seem openly antagonistic.

Given that tangled backstory, it’s no surprise the funding issue is contentious. Should media companies really be involved in rehabbing the images of two of the wealthiest companies on earth, especially when they are fundamentally competitors? Yet, given the financial state of journalism, wouldn’t it be irresponsible not to take the funds?</p>

Do you think they might be conflicted? Now read on.
Facebook  google  media  journalism 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Facebook and Google pressured EU experts to soften fake news regulations, say insiders • Open Democracy
Nico Schmidt and Daphné Dupont-Nivet:
<p>Matters came to a head when Goyens and other members of the group suggested looking into whether European policy on commercial competition could have a role in limiting fake news. Such a move would have allowed the EU competition commissioner to examine the platforms’ business models to see whether they helped misinformation to spread. "We wanted to know whether the platforms were abusing their market power," says Goyens.

She recalls that in a subsequent break Facebook’s chief lobbyist, Richard Allan – another member of the expert group – said to her: "We are happy to make our contribution, but if you go in that direction, we will be controversial."

Allan spelled out more clearly what this meant to another group member: "He threatened that if we did not stop talking about competition tools, Facebook would stop its support for journalistic and academic projects.”

Facebook declined to comment on these incidents. In the end, the proposed vote on competition policy tools never took place.

The platforms had influence over the group’s decisions in other ways, too. "It was not made transparent [to some members of the group] that some members had a conflict of interest. Because they worked for organisations that received money from the platforms," says Goyens.

“The Google people did not have to fight too hard for their position,” says another group member, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It quickly became clear that they had some allies at the table.”

At least 10 organisations with representatives in the expert group received money from Google. One of them is the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, at the University of Oxford. By 2020, the institute will have received almost €10m from Google to pay for its annual Digital News Report. Google is one of 14 funders of this major project, which began in 2015. The institute declared this funding relationship to the European Commission in its application to be part of the expert group.

A number of other organisations represented on the group have also received funding from the Google Digital News Initiative, including the Poynter Institute and First Draft News.</p>
Facebook  google  news 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Exclusive: Google suspends some business with Huawei after Trump blacklist - source • Reuters
Angela Moon:
<p>Alphabet Inc’s Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware and software products except those covered by open source licenses, a source close to the matter told Reuters on Sunday, in a blow to the Chinese technology company that the U.S. government has sought to blacklist around the world.

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd will immediately lose access to updates to the Android operating system, and the next version of its smartphones outside of China will also lose access to popular applications and services including the Google Play Store and Gmail app.

Details of the specific services were still being discussed internally at Google, according to the source. Huawei attorneys are also studying the impact of the U.S. Commerce Department’s actions, a Huawei spokesman said on Friday. Huawei was not immediately reachable for further comment.</p>

If this is continued, it's calamitous for Huawei; without Google apps and the Google Play Store, it can't serve customers. (It's unclear whether existing Huawei phones will lose access.) In Q1 2019 it shipped a total of 59m smartphones; of those, <a href="">29.9m were in China</a>, so half were outside. This decision affects the half outside China.

Bear in mind though that this may be a negotiating ploy - just as Trump's ban on China's ZTE, which could have razed it, was imposed in April 2018 and lifted a month later, apparently amid some trade bargaining. At least with ZTE there was a clear reason - its breach of technology embargoes with Iran. For Huawei, there's no such smoking gun.
huawei  google  android 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Google Gmail tracks your purchase history (not just from Google); here's how to delete it • CNBC
Todd Haselton and Megan Graham:
<p>Go here to see your own:

“To help you easily view and keep track of your purchases, bookings and subscriptions in one place, we’ve created a private destination that can only be seen by you,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC. “You can delete this information at any time. We don’t use any information from your Gmail messages to serve you ads, and that includes the email receipts and confirmations shown on the Purchase page.”

But there isn’t an easy way to remove all of this. You can delete all the receipts in your Gmail inbox and archived messages. But, if you’re like me, you might save receipts in Gmail in case you need them later for returns. In order to remove them from Google Purchases and keep them in your Gmail inbox, you need to delete them one by one from the Purchases page. It would take forever to do that for years’ worth of purchase information.

Google’s privacy page says that only you can view your purchases. But it says “Information about your orders may also be saved with your activity in other Google services ” and that you can see and delete this information on a separate “My Activity” page.

Except you can’t. Google’s activity controls page doesn’t give you any ability to manage the data it stores on Purchases.</p>

There's an even more interesting page: <a href="">Purchases and Subscriptions</a>, which you reach by hitting the back button on the Purchases page. What is Google up to with this? It's tracking purchases and subscriptions from absolutely all over. It might say that it's not using this to serve you ads, but frankly it's hard to think what this is for except that - unless it's being fed to the AI systems, which then make some sort of conclusion about ads. Perhaps it's to *avoid* serving you ads about things you've already bought - in which case "we don't use the information to serve you ads" would just about be true.
google  privacy  purchases 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
A report from the AMP advisory committee meeting • Terence Eden's blog
Terence Eden doesn't like Google's AMP. So, obviously, he joined its advisory committee:
<p>My top recommendations:<br />•
Publish all user research<br />
Don't allow new components to be created without a clear user story and research to support them.<br /> • Accessibly audit:
Don't validate pages which can't pass an automated a11y test<br />• Stop the forced bundling: Let users opt out of seeing AMP pages<br />• Don't require AMP for prominent placement<br />• Stop discriminating against non-Google browsers<br />• Reconsider AMP4Email - lots of concerns from smaller email providers; security and archiving concerns<br />• Work with the ecosystem rather than imposing

Conclusions<br />
The meeting was good natured. While there were some robust discussions, the AC seemed fairly unified that Google had to seriously rework parts of the AMP project.

As I said in the meeting - if it were up to me, I'd say "Well, AMP was an interesting experiment. Now it is time to shut it down and take the lessons learned back through a proper standards process."</p>

As always, a force for good and good sense.
Google  amp 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Google to push new ads on its apps to snare shoppers • Reuters
Paresh Dave:
<p>Alphabet Inc’s Google will begin featuring ads on the homepage of its smartphone app worldwide later this year, as the search engine expands its advertising real estate to boost revenue from mobile shoppers.

Google said on Tuesday it will also start placing ads with image galleries in search results and show ads in new spots on Google Maps, increasing opportunities for advertisers.

The changes come as choppy revenue growth prompt questions from some Alphabet investors about whether services such as and Facebook's Instagram are drawing online shoppers and in turn, advertisers away from Google.

Google executives told reporters on Monday the latest features were a response to how users behave, not competition.

The company wants to make it easier for users to discover and buy new products because they shop in spurts while watching TV or sitting in the bathroom, said Oliver Heckmann, vice president of engineering for travel and shopping.</p>

Remember Tom Foremski's article a couple of weeks back wondering whether Google could keep growing its revenue? There you go. This is indeed about how users behave: show them enough ads and some percentage of them will click them, whether by accident or some weird purpose.
google  advertising 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Privacy rights and data collection in a digital economy • Idle Words
Maciej Cieglowski, who runs the Pinboard service but is also one of the clearest thinkers on the state of the internet, gave evidence last week to the US Congress. As you'd expect, it's a must-read:
<p>Until recently, even people living in a police state could count on the fact that the authorities didn’t have enough equipment or manpower to observe everyone, everywhere, and so enjoyed more freedom from monitoring than we do living in a free society today. [Note: The record for intensive surveillance in the pre-internet age likely belongs to East Germany, where by some estimates one in seven people was an informant.].

A characteristic of this new world of ambient surveillance is that we cannot opt out of it, any more than we might opt out of automobile culture by refusing to drive. However sincere our commitment to walking, the world around us would still be a world built for cars. We would still have to contend with roads, traffic jams, air pollution, and run the risk of being hit by a bus.

Similarly, while it is possible in principle to throw one’s laptop into the sea and renounce all technology, it is no longer be possible to opt out of a surveillance society.

When we talk about privacy in this second, more basic sense, the giant tech companies are not the guardians of privacy, but its gravediggers.

The tension between these interpretations of what privacy entails, and who is trying to defend it, complicates attempts to discuss regulation.

Tech companies will correctly point out that their customers have willingly traded their private data for an almost miraculous collection of useful services, services that have unquestionably made their lives better, and that the business model that allows them to offer these services for free creates far more value than harm for their customers.

Consumers will just as rightly point out that they never consented to be the subjects in an uncontrolled social experiment, that the companies engaged in reshaping our world have consistently refused to honestly discuss their business models or data collection practices, and that in a democratic society, profound social change requires consensus and accountability.</p>
Surveillance  society  google  facebook 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Google launches Portals, a new web page navigation system for Chrome • ZDNet
Catalin Cimpanu:
<p>At the I/O 2019 developer conference yesterday, Google launched a new technology called Portals that aims to provide a new way of loading and navigating through web pages.

According to Google, Portals will work with the help of a new HTML tag named < portal >. This tag works similarly to classic < iframe > tags, allowing web developers to embed remote content in their pages.

The difference between a portal and an iframe tag is that Google's new Portals technology is an upgrade over iframes.

Google says portals allow users to navigate inside the content they are embedding --something that iframes do not allow for security reasons…

…Google engineers hope that their new Portals technology will take over the web and become the standard way in which websites transition between links.</p>

Chrome dev track-only, non-standard ("it is not a W3 Standard nor is it on th W3C Standards Track"). Remember when Google was about the open web? Now it's about the Google-defined web. When Microsoft used to do this stuff, people went mad.
google  chrome  standard  portal 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
One year later, restaurants are still confused by Google Duplex • The Verge
Natt Garun:
<p>Some employees were even skeptical about whether the voice on the other line is truly a robot. Gabriel Murphy, owner and chef at Gogi’s Restaurant in Jacksonville, Oregon, said he tried the AI out on his staff as he monitored the call in private. When he later told them it was Duplex, the team didn’t believe they were truly talking to an AI. “None of the staff seemed to have any issue with it, [but] there were plenty of jokes about Skynet and machines taking over,” Murphy says.

But Google’s machines don’t seem to be taking over yet. As the US continues to deal with an <a href="">onslaught of spammy robocalls</a>, it seems that many restaurant employees are inadvertently shielding themselves from Duplex by ignoring incoming calls that do not display a person’s name. Mark Seaman, a manager at two-year-old restaurant Queens Bully, in Forest Hills, New York, says he often tries to avoid calls from businesses that look like they could be pitching the restaurant on a product or service. “Most of our growth comes from our own social media efforts and the parties we throw,” Seaman tells me. “We get calls all the time from people trying to sell us something [we don’t need].”

Although Google does not personally call businesses to convince them to buy ads, it stands to reason why many restaurant employees would shy away from answering calls that list the company in its caller ID in the first place. As Google plans to extend Duplex beyond restaurants and into other appointment-based services like hair salons, it’ll have to do more to convince businesses that its robocalls, at least from the surface, are different than the ones most Americans are accustomed to.</p>

The Caller ID issue is going to be a big one. Americans suffer terribly from spam calls. (Though what if Google gets <a href="">its CallJoy system</a> to answer them? AI talking to AI. Or would it block them?) Also, it's been less than a year that Duplex has been in use. You'd have got the same reaction (generally) to the iPhone, iPad, Amazon Echo etc a year after their launch.
google  duplex  robocall 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
What happened after my 13-year-old son joined the alt-right • The Washingtonian
<p>the transfer, midyear, to a new school—after he’d been wrongly accused, unfairly treated, then unceremoniously dropped by his friends—shattered Sam. He felt totally alone. I counseled patience, naively unprepared for what came next: when he found people to talk to on Reddit and 4chan.

Those online pals were happy to explain that all girls lie—especially about rape. And they had lots more knowledge to impart. They told Sam that Islam is an inherently violent religion and that Jews run global financial networks. (We’re Jewish and don’t know anyone who runs anything, but I guess the evidence was convincing.) They insisted that the wage gap is a fallacy, that feminazis are destroying families, that people need guns to protect themselves from government incursions onto private property. They declared that women who abort their babies should be jailed.

Sam prides himself on questioning conventional wisdom and subjecting claims to intellectual scrutiny. For kids today, that means Googling stuff. One might think these searches would turn up a variety of perspectives, including at least a few compelling counterarguments. One would be wrong. The Google searches flooded his developing brain with endless bias-confirming “proof” to back up whichever specious alt-right standard was being hoisted that week. Each set of results acted like fertilizer sprinkled on weeds: A forest of distortion flourished.</p>
politics  altright  google  algorithm 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Google thought my phone number was Facebook’s and it ruined my life • VICE
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:
<p>In the last three days, I’ve gotten more than 80 phone calls. Just today, in the span of eight minutes, I got three phone calls from people looking to talk to Facebook. I didn’t answer all of them, and some left voicemails.

Initially, I thought this was some coordinated trolling campaign. As it turns out, if you Googled “Facebook phone number” on your phone earlier this week, you would see my cellphone as the fourth result, and Google has created a "card" that pulled my number out of the article and displayed it directly on the search page in a box. The effect is that it seemed like my phone number was Facebook's phone number, because that is how Google has trained people to think.

Considering that on average, according to Google’s own data, people search for “Facebook phone number” tens of thousands of times every month, I got a lot of calls.

“[Google is] trying to scrape for a phone number to match the intent of the search query,” Austin Kane, the director for SEO strategy for the New York-based consulting company Acknowledge Digital, told me in an email. “The first few web listings ... don't actually have a phone number available on site so it seems that Google is mistakenly crawling other content and exposing the phone number in Search Engine Results Pages, thinking that this is applicable to the query and helpful for users.” (Vice Media is a client of Acknowledge Digital.)

When I reached out to Facebook’s PR to get their thoughts, a spokesperson started his email response with: “Huh, that’s an odd one.”</p>

But the fault is Google's.
facebook  google  search 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Google tops 15 million music subscribers as it chases Spotify • Bloomberg
<p>Google’s paid music services have eclipsed 15 million subscribers, according to two people familiar with the numbers, a milestone for a company that has struggled to build subscription media businesses.

The figure includes subscribers to two services - YouTube Music and Google Play Music, an older service that is being folded into YouTube Music - said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The number also includes some customers who are still on promotional trials.

Google, part of Alphabet Inc., is still a long way from the market leaders: Spotify has more than 100 million subscribers, while Apple has more than 50 million. But the progress is a good sign for an ad-supported company that has rarely gotten customers to pay for its services.

YouTube declined to comment on the total number of customers for its paid music service, but said subscribers to YouTube Music and Premium grew 60% between March 2018 and March of this year. Premium subscribers pay for the music service, as well as access to the regular YouTube without ads.</p>

Lousy headline.It's probably more accurate to say it's chasing Amazon, which has <a href="">somewhere over 20m</a>, though those mix Prime and Music Unlimited subscribers.
google  music  amazon 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Google Face Match brings privacy debate into the home • Financial Times
Tim Bradshaw:
<p>The “Google Nest” rebranding comes with a prompt for Nest customers to merge their user accounts with their Google profiles. “We want to make sure we are seamlessly integrating these devices,” said Rishi Chandra, vice-president and general manager of Google’s Home and Nest products.

For some customers, merging Nest data could include years of information on a family’s comings and goings, home energy usage and security camera video recordings. Google says it will not use that information for advertising.

“That data will never be used for ads personalisation,” said Mr Chandra, before being corrected by a member of Google’s public relations team. “We can never say never,” he added hastily, “but the commitment we are making is, it is not being used.”

Google is hoping to recapture some of the trust it lost this year when it emerged that its Nest security hub included a secret microphone. Mr Chandra conceded that it was a “mistake” not to inform customers when it went on sale.</p>
google  nest  privacy 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Google I/O 2019: new, cheaper Pixel smartphone announced • Bloomberg
Mark Gurman:
<p>Google executive Brian Rakowski said the cheaper devices are designed to fill in for people left behind by the rising price of many high-end phones. "We can adapt, and this is a good example," he added.

The 3a and 3a XL displays aren’t as advanced as those on the high-end Pixel smartphones. But in a test, the screens weren’t noticeably inferior. They look nearly identical to the current Pixel 3 line, save for a few key differences:

The new phones have a poly-carbonate back instead of glass or metal; lack wireless charging; main processor is a slightly slower Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor (Google says it makes up for some of that with software); 64 gigabytes of storage, but lack the 128 gigabyte option of the more-expensive models; one camera on the front instead of two, which means Group Selfie mode isn’t available on these devices; Pixel Visual Core, a Google chip for processing photos, is missing. Google is replacing that with software that processes photos instead.

Still, the 3a line does include some new features:

Battery life is 30 hours, slightly more than the regular Pixel 3; a headphone jack, so people don’t need to pay extra for wireless earbuds; an augmented-reality feature for 3-D navigation in Google Maps is coming to the phone as a preview (it’ll come to other Pixels as well); camera app gets a Time Lapse feature, which has been present on iPhones (other Pixels will get this too)

Last week, [CFO Ruth] Porat suggested the Pixel phones didn’t perform well in the first quarter. "Hardware results reflect lower year-on-year sales of Pixel, reflecting in part heavy promotional activity industrywide, given some of the recent pressures in the premium smartphone market."</p>

So having failed to set the premium market alight, Google's aiming to do it on the midrange market. Think the competition there is going to be even fiercer; the question is whether Google's prepared to manufacture in sufficient volume to make a difference (as <a href="">Benedict Evans observed</a>).
google  pixel  smartphone 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
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