Google closes data loophole amid privacy fears over abortion ruling

Google closes data loophole amid privacy fears over abortion ruling

Enlarge (credit: Lari Bat | Getty Images)

Google is closing a loophole that has allowed thousands of companies to monitor and sell sensitive personal data from Android smartphones, an effort welcomed by privacy campaigners in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision to end women’s constitutional right to abortion.

It also took a further step on Friday to limit the risk that smartphone data could be used to police new abortion restrictions, announcing it would automatically delete the location history on phones that have been close to a sensitive medical location such an abortion clinic.

The Silicon Valley company’s moves come amid growing fears that mobile apps will be weaponized by US states to police new abortion restrictions in the country.

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#android, #biz-it, #google, #period-trackers, #policy, #privacy, #roe-v-wade

Google loses two execs: one for Messaging and Workspace, another for Payments

A large Google logo is displayed amidst foliage.

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallup | Getty Images)

Google had a pair of high-ranking executives leave this week. The first was Bill Ready, Google’s “President of Commerce, Payments & Next Billion Users,” who left to become CEO of Pinterest. The second big departure is Javier Soltero, who was vice president and GM of Google Workspace, Google’s paid business app, and was the leader of Google Messaging. Both executives made big changes to Google in their nearly three-year stints at the company. Now that they are leaving, it’s unclear what the future of their respective products holds.

Ready was only at Google for two-and-a-half years, where his highest-profile move was presiding over the disastrous rollout of a significant Google Pay revamp. The new Google Pay app was spearheaded by Ready’s payments team, led by another recently ousted executive, Caesar Sengupta. The Google Pay revamp brought an app originally developed for India to the US, where the requirement for phone number-based identity came with a huge list of downgrades: The Google Pay website had to be stripped of payment functionality, the app no longer supported multiple accounts, and you couldn’t be logged in to multiple devices.

The rollout of the new app was also clumsy. Slowly, over a month or two, users were kicked out of the old Google Pay and had to transition to a new app. The new identity system wasn’t backward compatible with the old Google Pay, though, which meant users still on the old app couldn’t send money to users on the new app.

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#google, #tech

Google hit with more privacy complaints for “deceptive” sign-up process

Google hit with more privacy complaints for “deceptive” sign-up process

Enlarge (credit: 400tmax | iStock Unreleased)

More than a billion people worldwide have signed up for Google accounts, clicking through screens promising that “your personal info is private and safe.” This week, Google’s sign-up process came under fire when European Union consumer rights groups issued new privacy complaints suggesting that the opposite is true—that Google intentionally designs default settings to deceive new users into granting permissions to harvest and share a broad swath of personal info.

“The language Google uses at every step of the registration process is unclear, incomplete, and misleading,” the European consumer organization BEUC told Reuters. BEUC is helping to coordinate a potential civil lawsuit in Germany and several new complaints to data-protection authorities from consumer rights groups in France, Greece, the Czech Republic, Norway, and Slovenia.

The key issue in these complaints is how hard Google makes it for account users to choose privacy-friendly options. It’s much easier, the consumer groups argue, to set up an account to share personal info than to protect it. As Tech Crunch reported, Google designed a one-click “express personalization” option allowing data tracking, while “manual personalization” requires 10 clicks to turn off tracking.

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#data-protection, #european-union, #google, #policy, #privacy

Google’s powerful AI spotlights a human cognitive glitch

Google’s powerful AI spotlights a human cognitive glitch

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When you read a sentence like this one, your past experience tells you that it’s written by a thinking, feeling human. And, in this case, there is indeed a human typing these words: [Hi, there!] But these days, some sentences that appear remarkably humanlike are actually generated by artificial intelligence systems trained on massive amounts of human text.

People are so accustomed to assuming that fluent language comes from a thinking, feeling human that evidence to the contrary can be difficult to wrap your head around. How are people likely to navigate this relatively uncharted territory? Because of a persistent tendency to associate fluent expression with fluent thought, it is natural—but potentially misleading—to think that if an AI model can express itself fluently, that means it thinks and feels just like humans do.

Thus, it is perhaps unsurprising that a former Google engineer recently claimed that Google’s AI system LaMDA has a sense of self because it can eloquently generate text about its purported feelings. This event and the subsequent media coverage led to a number of rightly skeptical articles and posts about the claim that computational models of human language are sentient, meaning capable of thinking and feeling and experiencing.

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#ai, #google, #language, #science

Chrome OS update automatically brings photos from Android to your Chromebook

Chrome OS update automatically brings photos from Android to your Chromebook

Enlarge (credit: Acer)

Google announced Chrome 103 on Thursday, making it easier to share photos from Android to your Chromebook. The company also said an update that will simplify Bluetooth connections is on the way.

As detailed in a blog post by Alexander Kuscher, director of Chrome OS Software at Google, the update builds on the Phone Hub app released to Chrome OS last year. It works with smartphones running Android 5.1 and later and lets you view the phone’s text messages and battery life and bring over tabs from your mobile Chrome browser to your Chromebook’s browser.

In Chrome 103, photos you take on your Android Phone will automatically show up in the Phone Hub under a new “Recent photos” section.

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#chrome-os, #chromebooks, #google, #laptops, #software, #tech

Comcast and Google emerge as top contenders to serve ads on Netflix

A person's hand holding a remote control in front of a TV screen with a Netflix logo.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Comcast’s NBCUniversal subsidiary and Google are the “top contenders” to serve advertisements on Netflix when the streaming service rolls out its planned ad-supported tier, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. Netflix “is still in the early stages of developing the strategy and has explored a range of tie-ups in recent weeks,” the WSJ wrote, citing people familiar with the matter.

A deal with NBCUniversal would likely mean that “Comcast’s video ad unit, FreeWheel, would supply technology to help serve up ads, while NBCUniversal’s ad-sales team would help sell ads in the US and Europe,” the report said. The Alphabet-owned Google, of course, has plenty of experience serving ads, including on its own YouTube and YouTube TV video platforms. Netflix already uses Google’s ad-buying tools.

A deal with either NBCUniversal or Google would likely be exclusive, the WSJ report said. Comcast/NBCUniversal and Google aren’t the only contenders, as “Roku has also had early talks with Netflix about ad partnerships,” the report said. The Information reported last week that Netflix executives recently “met with representatives of both Roku and Comcast to discuss arrangements under which those companies would handle either the ad sales or the technical infrastructure for Netflix’s forthcoming ad-supported tier of service.”

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#comcast, #google, #nbcuniversal, #netflix, #policy

Google to pay $118 million after being accused of underpaying 15,500 women

A sculpture of a large Google logo in the shape of a

Enlarge / Google’s new Bay View campus in Mountain View, California, on Monday, May 16, 2022. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Google has agreed to pay $118 million to settle a class action lawsuit that alleges the company underpaid female employees. The agreement will release Google from claims that it “paid women in Covered Positions less than it paid men for substantially similar work, that Google assigned women to lower levels than it assigned men, and that Google failed to pay all wages due to employees upon their separation of employment,” the settlement says.

The settlement covers about 15,500 women who have worked for Google in California since 2013, the plaintiffs’ law firm said in an announcement on Saturday. Four named plaintiffs will get separate payouts: $75,000 for lead plaintiff Kelly Ellis and $50,000 each for the other three, in addition to their regular share from the net settlement fund. The settlement class covers a wide range of workers with 236 job titles.

The net settlement fund will have about $86 million after attorneys’ fees and other deductions, providing an average of about $5,500 for each class member. The lawsuit alleged that “Google paid women, on average, approximately $16,794 less per year than similarly situated men, in base pay, bonus, and stock.”

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#google, #policy

Chromebooks work toward more versatile window snapping 

Chromebooks work toward more versatile window snapping 

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Google is working to make the use of multiple windows in Chrome OS a bit more flexible. While Chromebooks are currently limited to two windows, each taking up 50 percent of the screen, it appears users will soon have the option to have one window occupy two-thirds of the screen while the second window uses the remaining third.

As first spotted by the Chrome Story blog and noted by Chrome Unboxed on Sunday, a code change in the Chromium Gerrit points to a developing feature meant to “add partial split.” This is just an experimental flag, so its release, while likely, isn’t guaranteed.

The feature as currently being developed would reportedly still limit Chrome OS users to viewing two windows on a Chromebook screen but add greater flexibility. Potential use cases include using the smaller window for a social media feed or using one window for pulling information from and another for taking notes and writing on.

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#chrome-os, #chromebooks, #google, #tech

Google places engineer on leave after he claims group’s chatbot is “sentient”

Google places engineer on leave after he claims group’s chatbot is “sentient”

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Google has ignited a social media firestorm on the nature of consciousness after placing an engineer on paid leave who went public with his belief that the tech group’s chatbot has become “sentient.”

Blake Lemoine, a senior software engineer in Google’s Responsible AI unit, did not receive much attention last week when he wrote a Medium post saying he “may be fired soon for doing AI ethics work.”

But a Saturday profile in the Washington Post characterizing Lemoine as “the Google engineer who thinks the company’s AI has come to life” became the catalyst for widespread discussion on social media regarding the nature of artificial intelligence. Among the experts commenting, questioning or joking about the article were Nobel laureates, Tesla’s head of AI and multiple professors.

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#ai, #google, #machine-learning, #science, #tech, #turing-test

Quantum computer succeeds where a classical algorithm fails

Image of a chip above iridescent wiring.

Enlarge / Google’s Sycamore processor. (credit: Google)

People have performed many mathematical proofs to show that a quantum computer will vastly outperform traditional computers on a number of algorithms. But the quantum computers we have now are error-prone and don’t have enough qubits to allow for error correction. The only demonstrations we’ve had involve quantum computing hardware evolving out of a random configuration and traditional computers failing to simulate their normal behavior. Useful calculations are an exercise for the future.

But a new paper from Google’s quantum computing group has now moved beyond these sorts of demonstrations and used a quantum computer as part of a system that can help us understand quantum systems in general, rather than the quantum computer. And they show that, even on today’s error-prone hardware, the system can outperform classical computers on the same problem.

Probing quantum systems

To understand what the new work involves, it helps to step back and think about how we typically understand quantum systems. Since the behavior of these systems is probabilistic, we typically need to measure them repeatedly. The results of these measurements are then imported into a classical computer, which processes them to generate a statistical understanding of the system’s behavior. With a quantum computer, by contrast, it can be possible to mirror a quantum state using the qubits themselves, reproduce it as often as needed, and manipulate it as necessary. This method has the potential to provide a route to a more direct understanding of the quantum system at issue.

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#computer-science, #google, #physics, #quantum-computing, #quantum-mechanics, #science

Big Tech pulls out all the stops to halt “self-preferencing” antitrust bill

Big Tech pulls out all the stops to halt “self-preferencing” antitrust bill

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Amazon and Alphabet are spearheading what is shaping up to be the most intense political campaign by corporate America in recent history as part of a last-ditch attempt to stop Congress from passing laws to curb their market power.

The companies are targeting a “self-preferencing” bill which would prevent large online platforms from using their dominance in one field to give other products an unfair advantage — for example, Alphabet using its Google search engine to promote its travel or shopping products.

If the bill goes through, it is likely to lend momentum to a wave of legislation aimed at strengthening America’s competition rules, in what could be the biggest update of the country’s antitrust rules in a generation.

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#amazon, #antitrust, #apple, #google, #meta, #policy, #tech

Google Play Movies & TV is getting replaced on Android and iOS

Google Play Movies & TV is getting replaced on Android and iOS

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Google TV is taking another step in its takeover of Google Play Movies. The app is rolling out to iOS on Wednesday, where it is an in-place upgrade for Google Play Movies & TV. As announced in March, Play Movies & TV is also losing its spot in the Play Store on Android this week, where it was a top-level tab. There’s now not much left of Play Movies & TV or Google’s original ambitions for the Play brand.

The Google TV app for iOS.

The Google TV app for iOS. (credit: Google)

We can talk about the new thing first: The Google TV app is out on iOS. On Android, the app is part media store, part content-aggregation guide. You might have noticed that there are a lot of streaming services. Google TV is sort of a modern-day TV guide, letting you know what shows are playing on which apps, and that function is making the jump to iOS. Google says iOS users can “take your library on the go” but only for “movies and shows you have previously rented or purchased with your Google account.” So it sounds like the store part of Google TV is not making the cut. If you have to run the Android TV or Google TV operating systems on your TV, you can also now use your iOS device as a remote control.

Google also finally went ahead with its plan to strip video purchases from the Play Store this week, making Google TV (well, and YouTube, I guess) the primary way to buy video content from Google on Android. Google Play was originally envisioned as an all-encompassing media empire, covering the Google Play Music, Google Play Magazines/Newsstand, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Books, all sold inside the Google Play Store. The Play Store ships as the default app store on all of the world’s 3 billion Android devices (“Android” is a registered trademark of Google and does not include forks). Lining Google’s highly trafficked app store with a slew of media content stores seemed (and still seems) like a solid strategy.

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#google, #google-play, #google-tv, #tech

New data shows only two browsers with more than 1 billion users

Safari on a Mac, displaying the Google Chrome website.

Enlarge / Safari on a Mac, displaying the Google Chrome website. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple’s Safari web browser has more than 1 billion users, according to an estimate by Atlas VPN. Only one other browser has more than a billion users, and that’s Google’s Chrome. But at nearly 3.4 billion, Chrome still leaves Safari in the dust.

It’s important to note that these numbers include mobile users, not just desktop users. Likely, Safari’s status as the default browser for both the iPhone and iPad plays a much bigger role than its usage on the Mac.

Still, it’s impressive given that Safari is the only major web browser not available on Android, which is the world’s most popular mobile operating system, or Windows, the most popular desktop OS.

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#apple, #browser, #chrome, #google, #google-chrome, #market-share, #safari, #tech, #web-browser

Google urged to stop collecting phone location data before Roe v. Wade reversal

A pro-choice demonstrator holds a sign with a coat hanger and the words

Enlarge / A pro-choice demonstrator in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 11, 2022. (credit: Getty Images | Stefani Reynolds)

More than 40 Democratic members of Congress called on Google to stop collecting and retaining customer location data that prosecutors could use to identify women who obtain abortions.

“[W]e are concerned that, in a world in which abortion could be made illegal, Google’s current practice of collecting and retaining extensive records of cell phone location data will allow it to become a tool for far-right extremists looking to crack down on people seeking reproductive health care. That’s because Google stores historical location information about hundreds of millions of smartphone users, which it routinely shares with government agencies,” Democrats wrote Tuesday in a letter led by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). The letter was sent to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Specifically, Google should stop collecting “unnecessary customer location data” or “any non-aggregate location data about individual customers, whether in identifiable or anonymized form. Google cannot allow its online advertising-focused digital infrastructure to be weaponized against women,” lawmakers wrote. They also told Google that people who use iPhones “have greater privacy from government surveillance of their movements than the tens of millions Americans using Android devices.”

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#google, #policy

Google Russia forced to declare bankruptcy after bank account seizure

The Google doodle for Russia National Day 2016.

Enlarge / The Google doodle for Russia National Day 2016. (credit: Google)

Google’s going… out of business?! That’s apparently the case in Russia. As Reuters reports, Google’s Russia subsidiary plans to file for bankruptcy after “the authorities seized its bank account, making it impossible to carry on operations.” Reuters has a statement from Google:

The Russian authorities’ seizure of Google Russia’s bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations. Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy.

A regulatory filing showed Google Russia has been expecting to file for bankruptcy since March 22. The division did $2 billion in revenue last year, but that doesn’t matter much when authorities take your entire bank account.

Unlike many tech companies that have abandoned Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Google has tried to keep doing business in the country. Heavy hitters like Google Search, YouTube, Maps, Gmail, and Google Play are all still running in Russia. Google’s most important product, the ad platform, was shut down on March 3 in Russia after the Russian government started demanding it censor ads about the war. Over the next few days in March, the big four credit card companies all pulled out of Russia, making normal business transactions very difficult. Google cited this “payment system disruption” as the reason for shutting down Google Play paid apps.

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#google, #russia, #tech

Google backtracks on legacy GSuite account shutdown, won’t take user emails

A battered and bruised version of the Google logo.

Enlarge / An artist’s rendering of Google’s current reputation. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Google finally launched a solution for people with “legacy” GSuite Google accounts. After initially threatening to shut down free GSuite accounts if users didn’t start paying for the service, Google has completely backed off. Once users jump through some sign-up hoops, Google will allow their ~16-year-old accounts to continue functioning. You’ll even get to keep your email address.

The saga so far, if you haven’t been following, is that Google has a custom-domain user account service, currently called “Google Workspace” and previously called “G Suite” and “Google Apps.” The service is mostly a normal Google account that lets you use an email that ends in your custom domain name rather than “@gmail.com.” Today this service is aimed at businesses and costs money each month, but that was not always the case. From 2006 to 2012, custom domain Google accounts were free and were even pitched at families as a geeky way to have an online Google identity.

In January, some bean counter at Google apparently noticed this tiny group of longtime users was technically getting a paid service for free and decided this was unacceptable. Google posted an announcement in January declaring these people “Legacy GSuite users” and basically told them, ‘Pay up or lose your account.’ These users signed up for a free Google service and stored data on it for as long as 16 years, and there were no indications it would ever be charged. Google held this decade-plus of user data hostage, telling users to start paying business rates for Workspace or face an account shutdown.

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#google, #google-gsuite, #tech

Apple and Google’s outdated apps ban would cut each store by a third

Apple and Google’s outdated apps ban would cut each store by a third

(credit: Apple)

Both members of our favorite mobile duopoly, Google and Apple, recently announced plans to cull outdated apps in their respective app stores. Last month, both companies decided any app that hadn’t been updated in two years would be removed. Early in April, Google announced a two-year cutoff plan that would kick-in in November, and later in the month, Apple started emailing developers, giving them 30 days’ notice to update or be removed. It’s hard to know what culling two-year-old apps will look like, so exactly how many apps are we talking about?

CNET has data from the analyst firm Pixalate, which says the two-year cutoff would remove 869,000 apps from Google Play and around 650,000 from the App Store. That’s about a third of each store’s current total app selection. Those numbers would have Google Play changing from 2.6 million apps to 1.7 million apps and the App Store from 1.95 million apps to 1.3 million.

That Google number is an estimate since Google officially said the cutoff point is two years. Apple has not publicly specified a cutoff point. The company has only personally emailed developers, saying it is removing apps that have “not been updated in a significant amount of time,” but some developers have pegged this date as two years.

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#app-store, #apple, #google, #google-play-store, #tech

The Pixel 6a is getting a new fingerprint sensor, wider 14-country rollout

The Pixel 6a.

Enlarge / The Pixel 6a. (credit: Google)

The Pixel 6a is shaping up to be one most promising smartphone releases of the year. With a flagship-class system on a chip and a $450 price tag, it looks like Google is taking a credible swing at the iPhone SE. Since Thursday’s announcement, a few more details have come out that didn’t make the keynote.

First off, the Pixel 6a will be Google’s widest smartphone release ever, by a small margin. Remember, the Pixel 5a release was Google’s smallest ever, launching in just two countries, the US and Japan. Google’s device available support page was updated Thursday, and the Pixel 6a is back up to the usual 13 Pixel launch countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and United States.

But wait! There’s more: Google also says the Pixel 6a will be coming to India later this year, bringing it to 14 countries. That’s a new record for Google’s comparability small (Apple and Samsung ship in 100-plus countries) phone hardware operation. India is a strange choice since it’s one of the most competitive global smartphone markets. Google will need to significantly drop the price of the Pixel 6a to be competitive there. We don’t know the Indian price yet, but check out the replies to that tweet announcement, which is full of Indian consumers already dragging the phone for its assumed $450 price tag and being “only” 60Hz. It’s going to be a tough battle.

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#google, #google-pixel-6a, #tech

Google’s new Android Auto interface works with any screen size

The many sizes of Android Auto.

Enlarge / The many sizes of Android Auto. (credit: Google / Ron Amadeo)

Android Auto, Google’s car interface app for Android, is getting a new, more flexible design at Google I/O. Android Auto previously demanded a pretty rigid screen aspect ratio. It could not handle things like large, vertically oriented car screens, and would often resort to pillar boxing or letterboxing the UI to keep a reasonable layout. Now, Google says the interface is “built to adapt to any screen size” thanks to a new panel design.

Google says “there are three main functionalities that drivers prioritize in their cars: navigation, media and communication,” and the new Android Auto design puts each of those interfaces in its own panel. Maps gets the biggest, main panel, media and communication panels get stacked next to each other, and there’s a combo status/navigation bar. To accommodate the million different screen sizes, these items can be arranged in whatever orientation works best in the car.

One example, close to the current Android Auto configuration, shows the combo bar oriented vertically against the side of the screen, followed by a vertical stack of the message and media panels, then a big Google Maps panel. Another example of a more vertical screen design shows a big Google Maps panel on top of the message and media panels, with the combo bar on the bottom. Things can be arranged to fit.

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#android-auto, #google, #tech

The Google Pixel Watch is official, launches this fall

The Google Pixel Watch is official, launches this fall

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Years of rumors are finally coming to fruition today—Google is finally launching the Pixel Watch. Google has been building a smartwatch OS for eight years, but it has never made self-branded smartwatch hardware. That changes today, or at least “this fall,” when the Pixel Watch is slated to hit store shelves.

Google only gave a brief overview of the Pixel Watch on Wednesday and didn’t include specs or a price. The watch includes Fitbit integration, the expected Google apps, and the design that leaked earlier. The front is all glass with spinnable crown on the site. The body is stainless steel and the bands are removable. It supports NFC for tap and pay, and there’s a new Google Home app.

The bands come off.

The bands come off. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Google’s smartwatch OS—first called “Android Wear” and now “Wear OS”—has been dormant for years in both the hardware and software categories. Qualcomm strangled the Android smartwatch market by going six years between significant smartwatch system on a chip releases, and Google let three years pass between major Wear OS updates. Google launched a plan to resurrect its smartwatch platform in the past year, with the launch of Wear OS 3, and a serious, more reliable hardware partner in Samsung. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 dumped Samsung’s Tizen OS and is the first (and so far only) Wear OS 3 watch. So far, the plan seems to be working, with Counterpoint Research tracking a huge Wear OS market share increase year over year, and now the OS is in striking distance of the Apple Watch.

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#google, #google-pixel, #google-watch, #pixel-watch, #tech

Google forced to end Play Store app sales in Russia

The Google doodle for Russia National Day 2016.

Enlarge / The Google doodle for Russia National Day 2016. (credit: Google)

Google no longer offers paid apps or paid app updates to Russian users. A new support page—first spotted by 9to5Google—says, “Google Play is blocking the downloading of paid apps and updates to paid apps in Russia starting May 5, 2022.”

Many companies have voluntarily stopped their business in Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine, but Google makes it clear it’s not voluntarily ending payments in the country. In March, Google said it was forced to “pause” its billing system for users “due to payment system disruption.” (The big four credit card companies voluntarily pulled out of Russia in March over the Ukraine invasion, making it basically impossible for Google to offer paid apps.) Now Google says the blocking of paid apps is “part of our compliance efforts.”

The page says “users cannot purchase apps and games, make subscription payments or conduct any in-app purchases of digital goods using Google Play in Russia.” Free apps will continue to be available, and paid apps you’ve already purchased will still be available for download and use, but any purchases will now show an error message. Subscriptions will not be able to be renewed and will be canceled. Because Google is only dealing with a lack of credit card processing, it says developer payouts to Russian developers will continue.

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#google, #russia, #tech, #ukraine-invasion

Apple, Google, and Microsoft want to kill the password with “Passkey” standard

The first Thursday of May is apparently “World Password Day,” and to celebrate Apple, Google, and Microsoft are launching a “joint effort” to kill the password. The major OS vendors want to “expand support for a common passwordless sign-in standard created by the FIDO Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium.”

The standard is being called either a “multi-device FIDO credential” or just a “passkey.” Instead of a long string of characters, this new scheme would have the app or website you’re logging in to push a request to your phone for authentication. From there, you’d need to unlock the phone, authenticate with some kind of pin or biometric, and then you’re on your way. This sounds like a familiar system for anyone with phone-based two-factor authentication set up, but this is a replacement for the password rather than an additional factor.

A graphic has been provided for the user interaction:

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#apple, #google, #microsoft, #passkey, #password, #tech

YouTube Go is dead, and you can probably blame YouTube Premium

YouTube Go is dead, and you can probably blame YouTube Premium

Enlarge (credit: YouTube)

YouTube Go is probably not an app that many of our US readers are familiar with, given its singular focus on the developing world, but it scored more than 500 million downloads in its six years of existence. It’s also dead. YouTube recently announced the app will be shutting down this August.

YouTube Go was the herald for Google’s “next billion users” plan in 2016. When you’re as big as Google and count “most Internet users” as your customer base, the best way to chase growth is to get more people on the Internet. The result was several “Go”-branded products, which targeted low-end devices with limited Internet access. One of the biggest developing markets was India.

With YouTube Go shutting down, YouTube cites improvements in the main YouTube app as the primary reason. The company says the main app has seen “improved performance for entry-level devices or those that watch YouTube on slower networks.” YouTube says the main app also has “a better overall user experience [and] offers features that aren’t available on YouTube Go that many have asked for—such as the ability to comment, post, create content, and use dark theme.”

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#google, #tech, #youtube, #youtube-premium

Lawsuit claims more Fitbits are burn hazards, includes gross pictures

Lawsuit claims more Fitbits are burn hazards, includes gross pictures

Enlarge (credit: Fitbit)

Google and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled 1.7 million Fitbit Ionic smartwatches earlier this year, citing “78 reports of burn injuries in the United States, including two reports of third-degree burns and four reports of second-degree burns.” A new lawsuit claims the recall was not enough, and that “the same defect exists throughout all” Fitbit products.

The Fitbit Iconic’s recall was due to faulty batteries that would overheat and burn a user’s skin. It’s hard to believe “all” Fitbit products are affected by this defect, but given that companies tend to share designs and components across products, it would not be surprising to hear that multiple smartwatch-style models contain defective batteries.

Two women named in the lawsuit claim they were burned by their Fitbits; one had a Fitbit Versa Light and the other a Fitbit Versa 2. The lawsuit also points out several online reports of burns from Fitbit products, like the Fitbit Versa and Fitbit Sense lines. Fitbit’s replies usually claim these reports are due to “skin irritation” or “friction,” but the lawsuit contends that this is not the case, saying that these products can “overheat and pose a significant hazard for burns and fires” due to a defect in “the battery and charging system.”

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#fitbit, #google, #tech

Bandcamp says it can’t afford Google Play billing, Epic files injunction

Coins rain on a piggy bank labeled Epic Games.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Epic and Google are gearing up for another legal battle. You might recall that Google has an in-app billing crackdown coming to the Play Store soon. The new rules require all apps selling digital goods to use Google Play Billing by March 31, so Google gets a cut of the sales. Any app in non-compliance has been unable to ship updates since March 31, but the real deadline is June 1, when these apps will be removed from the Play Store. Epic Games bought the popular independent music site Bandcamp in March, and it’s already taking Google to court over its newest acquisition. Bandcamp isn’t in compliance with the billing rules, so it’s due for a ban in June. As part of its antitrust case against Google, Epic is filing a motion for a preliminary injunction to block Bandcamp’s de-listing from the Play Store.

Epic has attacked Google and Apple over their app store rules and what Epic says are excessive fees. In March, there were a lot of questions surrounding why the creator of Fortnite and the Unreal Engine would buy an independent music site. One line of commentary from Music Business Worldwide founder Tim Ingham seems to have nailed Epic’s strategy. Ingham notes that Epic failed to get Apple to reduce its 30 percent app store cut, in part because the alternative model Epic could demonstrate to the court, the Epic Games Store and its 12 percent fee, wasn’t profitable. Apple’s lawyers argued the unprofitability of Epic’s Games Store justified Apple’s 30 percent fees.

Bandcamp is a profitable digital content business, though. Bandcamp has a searchable content store, and it hosts and delivers the content by charging artists a 10 to 15 percent commission. Ingham predicted Epic would hold up Bandcamp’s business model as a viable alternative to Apple and Google’s app store fees, and that Epic would use its new acquisition to attack app store owners. It looks like we’re seeing the first actions of that plan.

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#bandcamp, #epic-games, #google, #google-play, #tech

Ford delays switch to Android Automotive until 2023

Ford delays switch to Android Automotive until 2023

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Last February, Ford announced that it was partnering with Google for its infotainment operating system. The automaker had used Blackberry QNX as the underlying OS for Sync 4, but like many other OEMs, it has found Android Automotive to be a compelling alternative. Unfortunately for Ford, that migration is not going very smoothly. Ford CEO Jim Farley told The Verge that the company is months behind schedule.

“We’re making a lot of progress. I’m very impressed with the team that Google has put in place. They’ve been very accommodating—you can imagine that we don’t want a generic solution for the instrument panel for Mustang. We want, like, line lock to do a burnout. But it is slightly delayed, so that’ll be later in the fall,” Farley told the Verge.

Google’s OS—distinct from Android Auto, which simply casts the phone’s screen and audio to the car’s infotainment system—is quickly finding favor among OEMs, which can now offer their customers the convenience of Google Maps and the highly capable Google Voice Assistant, as well as the potential for a robust third-party app market.

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#android-automotive, #cars, #ford, #google, #infotainment

Hackers are exploiting 0-days more than ever

VPNfilter had a total of nine modular tools discovered thus far by researchers, potentially turning thousands of routers into a versatile attack platform.

Enlarge / VPNfilter had a total of nine modular tools discovered thus far by researchers, potentially turning thousands of routers into a versatile attack platform.

Previously unknown “zero-day” software vulnerabilities are mysterious and intriguing as a concept. But they’re even more noteworthy when hackers are spotted actively exploiting the novel software flaws in the wild before anyone else knows about them. As researchers have expanded their focus to detect and study more of this exploitation, they’re seeing it more often. Two reports this week from the threat intelligence firm Mandiant and Google’s bug hunting team, Project Zero, aim to give insight into the question of exactly how much zero-day exploitation has grown in recent years.

Mandiant and Project Zero each have a different scope for the types of zero-days they track. Project Zero, for example, doesn’t currently focus on analyzing flaws in Internet-of-things devices that are exploited in the wild. As a result, the absolute numbers in the two reports aren’t directly comparable, but both teams tracked a record high number of exploited zero-days in 2021. Mandiant tracked 80 last year compared to 30 in 2020, and Project Zero tracked 58 in 2021 compared to 25 the year before. The key question for both teams, though, is how to contextualize their findings, given that no one can see the full scale of this clandestine activity.

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#0-day, #biz-it, #google, #hacking, #mandiant, #project-zero

Thanks to a search page overhaul, you can now search comments on Reddit

Reddit now supports comment searches, but that's not the only improvement to the search feature.

Enlarge / Reddit now supports comment searches, but that’s not the only improvement to the search feature. (credit: Reddit)

On Thursday, Reddit announced a significant overhaul to search functionality on its website. Comments are fully searchable for the first time, and other improvements have been made to ensure more robust, comprehensive, and useful search results.

Reddit says that this is the first time in the site’s 16-year history that everything is searchable, from users to posts to communities to comments. Users can also search for comments within specific subreddits, allowing for more targeted searches than looking for a term across all of Reddit.

To access comment searches, click the “comments” tab at the top of the results page once you’ve typed in a query in the search bar located at the top of the website. Also, the search results page has a new look on both desktop and mobile.

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#google, #reddit, #search, #tech

Fitbit gains FDA approval for new atrial fibrillation-detection feature

The Fitbit app showing information on irregular rhythm notifications.

Enlarge / The Fitbit app showing information on irregular rhythm notifications. (credit: Google)

Google-owned wearable brand Fitbit announced Monday that it will soon introduce a new atrial fibrillation-detection feature to its devices.

According to a blog post from Google, Fitbit received clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), clearing the way for the feature to be deployed to Fitbit wearables in the near future.

Google cites data from a global disease study to state that atrial fibrillation affects around 33.5 million people around the world. Citing another study, it claims that those who suffer from atrial fibrillation have five times as much stroke risk as others.

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#afib, #atrial-fibrillation, #fda, #fitbit, #google, #health, #irregular-heart-rhythm, #smartwatch, #tech, #wearables

The Senate bill that has Big Tech scared

The Senate bill that has Big Tech scared

Enlarge (credit: Wired | Getty Images)

If you want to know how worried an industry is about a piece of pending legislation, a decent metric is how apocalyptic its predictions are about what the bill would do. By that standard, Big Tech is deeply troubled by the American Innovation and Choice Online Act.

The infelicitously named bill is designed to prevent dominant online platforms—like Apple and Facebook and, especially, Google and Amazon—from giving themselves an advantage over other businesses that must go through them to reach customers. As one of two antitrust bills voted out of committee by a strong bipartisan vote (the other would regulate app stores), it may be this Congress’ best, even only, shot to stop the biggest tech companies from abusing their gatekeeper status.

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#antitrust, #apple, #big-tech, #google, #microsoft, #policy

Google and iFixit team up to offer Pixel parts online

Google and iFixit team up to offer Pixel parts online

Enlarge (credit: iFixit)

iFixit has signed a deal with Google to make Pixel repairs much easier. iFixit.com will sell genuine Google parts individually and in kits later this year. Both companies published blog posts about the collaboration.

Google says that parts will be offered for the “Pixel 2 through Pixel 6 Pro, as well as future Pixel models, in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and EU countries where Pixel is available.” iFixit is the leading site for consumers wanting to find parts and instructions on how to fix devices, and soon, it will sell Pixel screens, batteries, cameras, and more. If you don’t want to fix the phone yourself, Google points out that it also has authorized repair deals with uBreakiFix in the US and Canada and “similar partnerships with walk-in support providers in Canada, Germany, Japan, and the UK.”

Google’s deal with iFixit comes on the heels of a similar agreement with Samsung, which is also planning to offer smartphone parts through the repair site. Samsung’s partnership with iFixit starts this summer and only covers the S20, S21, and Tab S7+, though Samsung says it wants to expand the program over time. Google’s deal with iFixit covers everything back to the 2017 Pixel 2, which is surprising given that many earlier Pixels were made in partnership with Android manufactuers like LG or HTC. Apple is also embracing the DIY repair market with its own in-house parts service.

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#google, #google-pixel, #ifixit, #tech

Google Maps brings traffic-light and stop-sign icons to navigation

Look at all those details! Maps will show traffic lights, stop signs, and building outlines in navigation mode.

Look at all those details! Maps will show traffic lights, stop signs, and building outlines in navigation mode. (credit: Google)

It might be hard to believe, but there are still some incredibly useful features that can be added to Google Maps. The latest addition brings traffic-light and stop-sign icons to navigation mode.

Traffic lights have appeared in Google Maps in some areas since 2020. Not everyone had access to them, though, and they never seemed to show up while navigating. Now, lights and stop signs will appear on everyone’s routes while navigating. That should give users a better feel for how their trip will go and when they should turn. Google says many more normal map details will soon be visible in the navigation view, including building outlines and areas of interest.

While a ton of details pop up on the regular map, navigation mode previously stripped out most of them, and the spaces between roads have usually been blank. For cities with a high level of Google Maps details, you’ll also start to see the specific shape and width of a road, including medians and islands.

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#google, #google-maps, #tech

Google will soon hide neglected apps in the Play Store

Google will soon hide neglected apps in the Play Store

Enlarge (credit: Google Play Store)

Google Play is moving forward in its war on old, un-updated apps. The Play Store has had a rolling minimum level for Android version support for a while now; developers have to use a “target API level” that is one year old or newer, or they will be unable to update their apps. Now, Google is announcing a second rolling minimum—if an app’s target API level is two years old, the app will be hidden from the Play Store listings. That means users searching for a new app to install won’t see abandoned apps.

Android’s “target API level” system is sort of like a backward-compatibility setting for Android apps. Every new version of Android is identified by a new API level, which goes up by one with every release. Currently, Android 12L is API level 32, and Android 13 will be API level 33. Every version of Android comes with new features and security restrictions for app developers, but because Google doesn’t want to break old apps with every release, the API level system lets app developers “target” the version of the Android features and restrictions they would like to run under.

The target API level doesn’t have anything to do with the minimum version of Android that an app will run on (that would be the second big app setting, the “minimum API level”); it just lets apps say, “I am coded with compatibility for Android 12 features and restrictions, if they are available.” In this case, the app would get access to the Android 12 features and have the Android 12 security restrictions applied to it, and it would run normally on older versions.

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#api, #google, #google-play-store, #tech

Apple defies Russian government, restores opposition voting app

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's "Smart Voting" app.

Enlarge / Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s “Smart Voting” app. (credit: Natalia Kolesnikova/Getty Images)

Apple has restored an app sponsored by Alexei Navalny, a prominent leader of Russia’s political opposition, to the company’s Russian app store. Apple took down the app last September, days before Russia’s legislative elections, under pressure from the Russian government.

Russian voters went to the polls last September to elect representatives to five-year terms in the Duma, Russia’s legislature. Russia does not have free and fair elections, so no one expected Putin’s party, United Russia, to lose its majority. But opposition figures like Navalny still saw the election as an important opportunity to register public disapproval of Putin’s regime. To help Russia’s fractious opposition parties coordinate, Navalny created an app that listed endorsements for hundreds of candidates.

The Washington Post reported that days before the election, the Russian government sent agents to the homes of top Apple and Google executives in Russia, demanding that Navalny’s app be removed from the companies’ app stores. Russian authorities claimed that Navalny’s group was an “extremist” organization. If Apple and Google failed to comply within 24 hours, the government said, their Russian executives would go to prison.

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#apple, #free-speech, #google, #policy, #russia, #sanctions, #ukraine

Chrome’s “Topics” advertising system is here, whether you want it or not

The Privacy Sandbox settings.

Enlarge / The Privacy Sandbox settings. (credit: Google)

Google is on a quest to kill the third-party web cookie, which is often used by advertisers to track users for targeted ads. Unlike other browser companies like Apple and Mozilla, which block third-party cookies outright, Google is one of the world’s largest advertising companies. It doesn’t want to kill the third-party cookie without first protecting its primary revenue source. Google seems to view user tracking as a mandatory part of Internet usage, and instead of third-party cookies, it wants to build a user-tracking system directly into its Chrome browser. Google’s eye-roll-inducing name for this advertising system is the “Privacy Sandbox,” and on Thursday, the company released its latest tracking solution in Chrome’s nightly “Canary” builds.

The latest Chromium Blog post laid out the current timeline, “Starting today, developers can begin testing globally the Topics, FLEDGE, and Attribution Reporting APIs in the Canary version of Chrome. We’ll progress to a limited number of Chrome Beta users as soon as possible. Once things are working smoothly in Beta, we’ll make API testing available in the stable version of Chrome to expand testing to more Chrome users.”

Topics will have Chrome locally track your browsing history and build a list of interests, which Chrome will then share with advertisers whenever they ask for ad targeting. If you want a breakdown of the API name-checked in Google’s statement, the FLEDGE API is responsible for both running an ad action directly on your device and picking an advertiser and then targeting users based on behavior, like leaving an item in a shopping cart. The Attribution Reporting API is responsible for measuring ad clicks, impressions, and tracking purchase conversions.

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#ad-tracking, #chrome-canary, #google, #targeted-ads, #tech

Google’s next US antitrust issue: Google Maps

The logo for the board game Monopoly, complete with Uncle Pennybags, has been transformed to say Google.

Enlarge / Let’s see, you landed on my “Google Ads” space, and with three houses… that will be $1,400. (credit: Ron Amadeo / Hasbro)

Google’s latest antitrust headache is coming from the US government, which is starting to take issue with how Google bundles Google Maps and restricts developers from using competing services. Nothing’s official yet, but Reuters’ sources say the US Justice Department “breathed new life into an investigation of Google Maps to determine if bundling the service together with other Google software illegally stifles competition.”

The DOJ investigation is concerned with two Google Maps strategies. The first is surprisingly all about Android Automotive—note that this is not Android Auto, the phone app. Android Automotive (fully spelled out) is a full operating system manufacturers can ship on their cars. We covered it on the Polestar 2 last year. Like on phones, Google bundles its apps on Android Automotive. Google Maps is a killer app in a car, but if manufacturers want Google Maps, Google requires them to take the Play Store, the Google Assistant, YouTube Music, and any other car apps the company makes. The Justice Department is concerned that this requirement stifles competition.

What’s surprising about this move by the DOJ is that the US never made Google do anything about app bundling on phones, which is a much larger market. Android Automotive is a very new, very limited OS, available on only around 10 vehicles, like the Polestar 2, other Volvo vehicles like the XC40 Recharge, the GMC Hummer EV, and soon 2023 Ford vehicles. Android, meanwhile, is on about 2.5 billion phones worldwide. The US has gone after Google for limiting app store competition on Android, paying to be the default search engine on most platforms, promoting its own services in search, and anticompetitive behavior in the advertising market. But Google is still free to bundle its apps on phones.

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#google, #google-android, #google-maps, #tech

Antitrust bill in Senate would help rein in Big Tech platforms, DOJ says

Antitrust bill in Senate would help rein in Big Tech platforms, DOJ says

Enlarge (credit: James Leynse/Corbis)

The Department of Justice is throwing its weight behind an antitrust bill working its way through the Senate, with the department saying that it needs new tools to help police markets dominated by platforms such as Amazon, Meta (formerly Facebook), Apple, and Google.

“The Department views the rise of dominant platforms as presenting a threat to open markets and competition, with risks for consumers, businesses, innovation, resiliency, global competitiveness, and our democracy,” Peter Hyun, acting assistant attorney general, wrote in a letter to the Senate. “Discriminatory conduct by dominant platforms can sap the rewards from other innovators and entrepreneurs, reducing the incentives for entrepreneurship and innovation.” The letter was first obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, cosponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would limit Big Tech firms’ ability to “unfairly preference” their own products and services. For example, under the proposed bill, Amazon couldn’t boost search rankings of its private-label products, and Apple and Google couldn’t do the same for their apps in their app stores.

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#amazon, #antitrust, #apple, #department-of-justice, #facebook, #google, #platforms, #policy

Data-harvesting code in mobile apps sends user data to “Russia’s Google”

Photo taken on October 12, 2021 in Moscow shows Russia's internet search engine Yandex's logo on a laptop screen. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Enlarge / Photo taken on October 12, 2021 in Moscow shows Russia’s internet search engine Yandex’s logo on a laptop screen. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images) (credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev | Getty Images)

Russia’s biggest Internet company has embedded code into apps found on mobile devices that allows information about millions of users to be sent to servers located in its home country.

The revelation relates to software created by Yandex that permits developers to create apps for devices running Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, systems that run the vast majority of the world’s smartphones.

Yandex collects user data harvested from mobiles, before sending the information to servers in Russia. Researchers have raised concerns the same “metadata” may then be accessed by the Kremlin and used to track people through their mobiles.

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#android, #apple, #biz-it, #data-harvesting, #google, #ios, #security, #yandex

Bungie slams YouTube’s DMCA system in lawsuit against Destiny takedown fraudsters

Image from game maker Bungie advertising Destiny 2's Season of the Risen.

Enlarge (credit: Bungie)

Bungie slammed YouTube’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) process in a lawsuit against 10 John Doe defendants accused of sending fraudulent takedown notices against Destiny 2 videos.

“Doe Defendants were able to do this because of a hole in YouTube’s DMCA-process security, which allows any person to claim to be representing any rights holder in the world for purposes of issuing a DMCA takedown,” Bungie wrote in a complaint filed Friday in US District Court for the Western District of Washington. Bungie continued:

In other words, as far as YouTube is concerned, any person, anywhere in the world, can issue takedown notices on behalf of any rights holder, anywhere. A disgruntled infringer or a competitive content producer, for example, can issue takedown notices purportedly on behalf of Disney, or Fox, or Universal—or even Google itself. All they need to do is: (1) fill out the video removal form… (2) have a Google account—including, upon information and belief, one created that same day and with fake information; and (3) fill out information and click verification buttons fraudulently certifying that they have the right to submit the takedown request, with no verification done by YouTube.

While YouTube and its owner Google were not named as defendants, they feature heavily throughout Bungie’s complaint. The 10 Doe defendants haven’t been identified yet because of “the Byzantine procedural labyrinth Google required before it would address the fraud its users were committing, let alone identify who its fraudsters were,” Bungie wrote.

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#bungie, #destiny-2, #dmca, #gaming-culture, #google, #policy, #youtube

Google routinely hides emails from litigation by CCing attorneys, DOJ alleges

Google CEO Sundar Pichai looking at his phone.

Enlarge / Google CEO Sundar Pichai uses his phone during the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 12, 2018, in Sun Valley, Idaho. (credit: Getty Images | Drew Angerer )

The US Department of Justice and 14 state attorneys general yesterday asked a federal judge to sanction Google for misusing attorney-client privilege in order to hide emails from litigation.

“In a program called ‘Communicate with Care,’ Google trains and directs employees to add an attorney, a privilege label, and a generic ‘request’ for counsel’s advice to shield sensitive business communications, regardless of whether any legal advice is actually needed or sought. Often, knowing the game, the in-house counsel included in these Communicate-with-Care emails does not respond at all,” the DOJ told the court. The fact that attorneys often don’t reply to the emails “underscor[es] that these communications are not genuine requests for legal advice but rather an effort to hide potential evidence,” the DOJ said.

The DOJ made its argument in a motion to sanction Google “and compel disclosure of documents unjustifiably claimed by Google as attorney-client privileged” and in a memorandum in support of the motion. “The Communicate-with-Care program had no purpose except to mislead anyone who might seek the documents in an investigation, discovery, or ensuing dispute,” the DOJ alleged.

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#doj, #google, #policy

Steam on Chromebooks is ready for testing, comes with steep requirements

<i>Portal 2</i> is one of the games Google recommends trying.

Enlarge / Portal 2 is one of the games Google recommends trying. (credit: Google)

After prematurely announcing that Steam on Chromebooks was ready for testing last week, Google is making the release official today. The alpha version of Steam on Chrome OS is currently available in the Chrome OS 14583.0.0 Dev channel, as announced via a post in Google’s Chrome Developers Community.

Not all Chromebooks will be able to run Steam, however. Google said only the following machines can try the alpha:

  • Acer Chromebook 514 (CB514-1W)
  • Acer Chromebook 515 (CB515-1W)
  • Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (CP713-3W)
  • Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 (CX5500)
  • Asus Chromebook CX9 (CX9400)
  • HP Pro c640 G2 Chromebook
  • Lenovo 5i-14 Chromebook

“Because many games have high performance demands, we’ve focused our efforts thus far on a set of devices where more games can run well,” Google said.

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#chromebooks, #gaming-culture, #google, #laptops, #steam, #tech

Google buys Micro LED startup Raxium, wants to make AR displays

Logo for Raxium Micro LED company.

Enlarge (credit: Raxium)

Google is adding more fuel to the AR fire burning inside the company. The Information reports Google has struck a deal to buy Raxium, a “five-year-old startup that develops tiny light-emitting diodes for displays used in augmented and mixed reality devices.”

Raxium hasn’t released a commercial product, but its work revolves around Micro LEDs, which can make the kind of tiny displays AR devices need. Today, pretty much everyone buys their OLED display technology from Samsung, but Micro LEDs are expected to be the next big thing, and there’s no clear winner in that market yet. Apple has been investing in the technology for some time and bought a Micro LED startup in 2014, while Meta is partnering with a company called Plessey for Micro LED tech. The juggernaut Samsung is also interested in the market and is already selling Micro LED TVs.

Google’s latest wave of AR development involves job listings for an “Augmented Reality OS” that promises to reach “billions” of people and a “Project Iris” AR headset. The hardware division also bought a company called “North,” which made AR glasses that actually looked normal. That “Project Iris” headset is supposedly due out in 2024.

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#google, #microled, #raxium, #tech

Whoops: Google announced Chrome OS Steam alpha, but it’s not ready yet

Google shared this image during its Games Developer Summit keynote yesterday.

Enlarge / Google shared this image during its Games Developer Summit keynote yesterday. (credit: Google)

Google yesterday said that the “Steam on Chrome OS” alpha had launched, but it turns out that Steam on Chromebooks isn’t actually ready for testing.

During the Google for Games developer summit keynote yesterday, Google product director Greg Hartell said, “The Steam alpha just launched, making this long-time PC game store available on select Chromebooks for users to try.” He encouraged people to visit the Chromebook community forum for more information. But at the time, as many noticed, there was no alpha or new information there.

While it may have seemed like a low-key announcement for Steam on Chrome OS, which Google hasn’t updated the public on since announcing the Valve partnership in 2020, it turns out that Haller misspoke. Steam on Chrome OS is not yet available for testing. It should be soon, however.

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#chromebooks, #gaming-culture, #google, #laptops, #tech

Google “hijacked millions of customers and orders” from restaurants, lawsuit says

Google “hijacked millions of customers and orders” from restaurants, lawsuit says

Enlarge

Google is being sued by a Florida restaurant group alleging that the tech company has been setting up unauthorized pages to capture food orders rather than directing them to the restaurant’s own site.

Google uses “bait-and-switch” tactics to get customers to place takeout or pickup orders through “new, unauthorized, and deceptively branded webpages,” according to the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Left Field Holdings, a restaurant company that runs Lime Fresh Mexican Grill franchises. On those pages, customers are prompted with large buttons to order with food delivery companies like GrubHub, DoorDash, or Seamless.

“Google never bothered to obtain permission from the restaurants to sell their products online,” the lawsuit says. “Google purposefully designed its websites to appear to the user to be offered, sponsored, and approved by the restaurant, when they are not—a tactic, no doubt, employed by Google to increase orders and clicks.”

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#food-delivery, #google, #lawsuit, #policy, #restaurants

EU and UK open antitrust probe into Google and Meta over online ads

KRAKOW, POLAND - 2018/08/20: Social media apps with European Union flag are seen in this photo illustration.
The European Commission is planning issue a regulation that allows to fine social media platforms and websites if they don't delete extremist post within one hour. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Enlarge / KRAKOW, POLAND – 2018/08/20: Social media apps with European Union flag are seen in this photo illustration.
The European Commission is planning issue a regulation that allows to fine social media platforms and websites if they don’t delete extremist post within one hour. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Regulators in Europe and the UK have opened an antitrust probe into a deal between Google and Meta on online advertising, in the latest effort to tackle the market power of the world’s biggest technology companies.

The move follows US antitrust investigators who are also probing an agreement informally known as “Jedi Blue.” The search engine giant and Facebook’s parent company have been accused of working together to carve up advertising profits, acting together to buttress their businesses.

The EU and UK probes represent the latest assault on Big Tech from global regulators that are also preparing to unleash new rules designed to challenge the primacy of groups such as Google, Meta and Amazon. In response, US tech groups have launched lobbying efforts in Washington and Brussels in an effort to protect their interests.

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#advertising, #alphabet, #antitrust, #eu, #facebook, #google, #meta, #podcasts, #uk

Hands-on: Gmail’s new sidebar feels like a big banner ad for Google Chat

Screenshot of email interface.

Enlarge / The new Gmail design. You can see a chat popup in the bottom left. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Gmail’s latest redesign seems to have finally started hitting a wide number of accounts over the weekend. The new desktop site changes up the 2018 design by turning the top and side portions of the web app gray, turning the red highlight to blue, and rounding over some of the corners. Oh yeah—it also adds a big, second sidebar to the left side of the screen. The normal Gmail sidebar showing all your mail sections is still there, but now there’s a whole additional sidebar that is basically an app switcher for other Google apps. It’s weird.

The new colors are fine, but Gmail is theme-able anyway, so the new default design doesn’t really matter much. But the new “integrated view” and sidebar will probably cause controversy. You’re on Gmail.com to check your email, and now on the side of the screen, there are four new buttons. There’s “Mail,” which is just Gmail. Then “Chat” and “Spaces,” which are both for Google’s latest messaging service, Google Chat. Then there’s a button for Google Meet, Google’s Zoom competitor.

That’s pretty much it. A top-to-bottom vertical bar to display four measly buttons (five if you count the returning hamburger button) and then a desolate Siberian wilderness of whitespace. Oh, if you happen to get an incoming Google Chat, you’ll see a profile picture pop-up in the abyss that is the bottom of the new sidebar. This is a huge waste of space for buttons that are irrelevant if you visit Gmail to—you know—use Gmail.

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#gmail, #google, #google-chat, #tech

Australia’s standoff against Google and Facebook worked—sort of

Australia’s standoff against Google and Facebook worked—sort of

Enlarge (credit: Elena Lacey | Getty )

Over Zoom, Australia’s communications minister, Paul Fletcher, has the air of a man in the middle of a victory speech. He credits his team and the country’s competition regulator for succeeding where others had failed: forcing tech giants to pay for news. “There were a lot of people saying you can’t really succeed in taking on the global digital giants,” he says, sitting beneath strip lighting in his Sydney constituency office. But Fletcher and Australia’s federal treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, persevered. In 2020, when the Australian government asked the competition regulator to develop a law that would force tech giants to pay for the news that appears on their feeds, Fletcher was aware of the stories others used as warnings. When Germany’s biggest news publisher, Axel Springer, tried to block Google from running snippets of its articles in 2014, it backtracked after just two weeks once traffic plunged. When Spain tried to force Google to pay for news in 2014, the search giant just left—blocking Google News in the country for seven years.

Google threatened Australia with even more drastic action. In January 2021, the tech giant suggested Australians could lose access to its entire search engine if Fletcher and Frydenberg’s “news media bargaining code,” which would force platforms to pay news publishers for links, came into force. Facebook also lobbied hard against the code, arguing that news makes up less than 4 percentof the content people see in their news feed. On February 17, Australians woke up to discover that all news links had been wiped off the platform, leaving the Facebook pages of the country’s biggest media companies completely blank. Traffic to news websites sank 13 percent, illustrating exactly what the government said it was worried about. Facebook’s actions “confirm for all Australians [the] immense market power of these media digital giants,” Frydenberg said at the time.

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#australia, #big-tech, #copyright, #facebook, #google, #monopsony, #news, #policy

Pixel 7 leaks show Google finally has a consistent phone business

Two phones side-by-side.

Enlarge / Behold the Pixel 7 Pro. It looks just like the Pixel 6. (credit: OnLeaks x Smartprix)

The Pixel 6 is just a few months old, but the first leaks of the Pixel 7 designs are out. Google seems to have sent the CAD files to the case manufacturing industry recently, since both Steve Hemmerstoffer (aka OnLeaks) and David Kowalski (aka xleaks7) have posted Pixel 7 renders today.

These unofficial render leaks are usually based on measurements Google needs to send to third parties in order to have accessories (like cases) ready for their release dates. That means the shape of everything should be accurate down to the millimeter, but finer details (like materials, colors, or the placement of camera lenses inside a camera block) could still be up in the air.

Even with those caveats, there’s no getting around the big picture presented by both renders: the Pixel 7 looks like the Pixel 6. We loved the Pixel 6 design, so bringing that forward to the Pixel 7 is the best outcome we could have hoped for. The upcoming mid-range Pixel 6a is expected to also follow the same design motif. We actually ended the Pixel 6 review by saying, “Hopefully, this is a new beginning for Google Hardware: the start of a stable, cohesive product roadmap, consistent hardware design, and significant year-to-year process.” So far, it looks like we’re getting all that stability and consistency that we were hoping for.

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#google, #google-pixel, #google-pixel-7, #tech

HP and Lenovo Chromebooks expected to support Steam

HP's Pro c640 G2 enterprise Chromebook is expected to get Steam support.

HP’s Pro c640 G2 enterprise Chromebook is expected to get Steam support. (credit: HP)

HP, Lenovo, Acer, and Asus are expected to be among the first companies to release gaming Chromebooks. A code change in the Chromium Gerrit suggests the vendors are working on Chrome OS devices that will support Steam.

In January 2020, Google said it would bring Steam to Chromebooks, and the plan may be starting to take shape. 9to5Google spotted a code change on Saturday showing a list of what appears to be Chromebook models that will support Steam:

None of the laptop makers contacted got back to us in time for publication. Google has told Ars Technica in the past that a lot of experimentation happens in the Chromium Gerrit, so things can look different by the time changes hit consumers.

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#chromebooks, #gaming-culture, #google, #laptops, #tech

Android’s toothless “Privacy Sandbox” fails to answer iOS tracking limits

A large Google logo is displayed amidst foliage.

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallup | Getty Images)

Google is announcing the “Android Privacy Sandbox” today, a move the company says will be “a multi-year initiative” to introduce “more private advertising solutions” into Android. After Apple made tracking opt-in in iOS 14, Android wants to be seen as matching its main rival. Today’s announcement is in addition to existing ad systems, not a replacement for them, so this will probably be even less effective than the “Privacy Sandbox” for Chrome.

Apple’s tracking changes blew up the advertising industry and are already costing ad-based companies like Facebook $10 billion in revenue for the year. Google, the world’s largest ad company, doesn’t seem to want to do that on Android.

Here’s how Google addresses iOS 14 in its blog post:

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#android, #google, #tech