Archives for Google

The Battle Between Amazon and Google Continues at CES 2019

UPS versus FedEx. MasterCard versus Visa. AT&T versus Verizon. All these famous rivalries pale in comparison to the biggest of the modern day – Amazon versus Google.

“The Battle for Second Place,” as it were, the two internet giants have been duking it out for years. According to Statista, Amazon and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) were the number two and three largest companies in the world by market value in 2018 respectively. By mid-year, Amazon was worth $777.8 billion U.S. dollars, with Alphabet trailing closely behind with a market value of 766.4 billion. Both are still a ways off from Apple’s gold medal showing of $926.9 billion, but the battle is fierce nonetheless.

Recently, the rivalry has been focused on smart home supremacy. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are the market leaders in the smart-speaker environment, and they were both front and center at CES 2019, the world’s largest consumer tech show, which took place from January 8-11 in Las Vegas.

There were over 30 brand-new products compatible with voice assistants announced at CES this year, from ceiling fans and tech-driven crock pots to futuristic smart glasses and even Kohler’s smart toilet. While many of these products play nice with both Alexa and Assistant, some of the exclusives include a new front-door camera from the people at Amazon’s Ring and Google Assistant’s new “interpreter” mode that translates conversations in real time.

If we’re handing out awards for ostentation, Google took the crown this year with its massive booth outside the Las Vegas Convention Center – the centrepiece of which was the “It’s a Small World” promo that Google itself called “part ride, part marketing stunt.” Complete with singing animatronics, riders were carted through various scenes that showed off some of Google Assistant’s features, such as GPS navigation and the new interpreter mode.

Whether you’re a fan of Amazon, Google, or neither, it’s clear from the showing at CES that 2019 is going to be another big year for the smart-gear market.

Google working on detecting spam from call ads

A new report from Search Engine Land explains that Google is looking to crack down on spam advertisements. According to the publication, “Google has begun informing advertisers that it may record some of the calls that come in through call-only ads and call extensions in ads.”

Google is apparently making a goal of protecting users “from fraud and spam and to ensure a trusted environment for advertisers.”

In an email to Search Engine Land, a Google spokesperson said, “Fraud in the advertising calls ecosystem is a growing issue and we are committed to combating it and improving call quality for consumers. We have introduced a program in the U.S. to record a small fraction of the calls in call ads. Our efforts will help prevent spam and other negative user experiences as well as reduce wasted marketing spend for advertisers.”

You might know that Google already has a similar program with text ads, in which it collects data to better understand and detect signs of fraud. The call program will work “much in the same way.” Google wants to build a model that will automate fraud detection and prevent fraudulent calls and texts.

The program will work in the following way: “only a small fraction of calls will be recorded, and only in the U.S. Callers will hear a message that Google will record the call for quality assurance — a standard type of message used across industries… Google will anonymize recording data and evaluate calls to ensure they comply with Google’s ad policies around misleading, inappropriate and harmful ads.”

Google promises none of the information collected will be used for ad targeting.

Source: – Google to record some calls from ads for quality assurance
Published: October 9, 2018

Get ready for the Pixel 3

On October 9th, Google will be announcing the upcoming Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones. According to TechRadar, excited customers can also begin pre-ordering the devices immediately following the announcement.

The news apparently comes from an email received by Android Central. As Tech Radar explains, “The email also apparently shows a number three, which transitions between black, white and mint colors, which seems an obvious hint that the Google Pixel 3 range might come in those shades.”

The mint theory is backed up by leaked images of a white Google Pixel 3 phone with a mint-coloured power button. Mint is not a colour commonly seen in smartphones, so this is a potentially unique design that could stir up some real attention.

TechRadar says that Android Central’s email ended by suggesting “some things to ask Google Assistant, namely ‘What’s this announcement about?’, ‘When are you making this announcement?’, and “How can I found out more about this announcement?’ … The answers don’t give much away, but one response is ‘Looks like there might be something about a new phone – and maybe, just maybe a few other new things.’”

Source: – Google Pixel 3 pre-orders apparently start on October 9
Published: October 5, 2018

Confidential Mode is the Snapchat of Gmail

Gmail users! Haven’t you always wanted to send and receive self-expiring messages through your trusted email service? No? Well, you’re getting it anyways! According to Android Authority, Gmail’s new ‘Confidential Mode’ is bringing “self-deleting messages” which allow “you to specify an expiration date or manually revoke access to a message.”

Messages sent in Confidential Mode also cannot be copied, forwarded, printed, or downloaded. If you’re really serious about sending a an email confidentially, you can choose to require the recipient to enter a passcode (sent via SMS or email) before opening the message. Android Authority specifies, “SMS-based passcodes are the only option if your recipient is using a Gmail account — recipients using another email service can receive either SMS or email passcodes… SMS-based passcodes are only supported in Europe, India, Japan, North America, and South America.”

If you’re familiar with the world’s biggest self-deleting messaging service, Snapchat, then you will know the app notifies you if someone ever takes a screenshot of your snap. In contrast, Gmail’s Confidential Mode both allows screenshots and does not include an alert function when one is taken. So Confidential Mode is not perfect, but it does allow a certain amount of control over your emails.

Confidential Mode is available now for Gmail Users. You should be able to enable it when composing a new message.

Source: – Gmail now has Snapchat-style self-deleting messages
Published: August 17, 2018

Watch out for this Google Maps scam

There are a lot of scams out there – and a lot of different avenues that scammers use. A surprising one, perhaps, is Google Maps. According to ZDNet, scammers have been using Google Maps URL-sharing feature to trick users into opening links to “shady websites.”

The security firm Sophos says this is a successful tactic because Google Maps “lacks a mechanism to report scammy links.” The main website that Sophos observed the links redirecting to was a Russian diet-pill scheme targeting English speakers.

“Between the legitimate Google URL shortener you’d probably trust, and the Russian URL you probably wouldn’t, the redirection chain bounces you through another Google URL belonging to Google Maps,” Sophos researcher Mark Stockley wrote for ZD Net.

Google can fix this problem, claims ZDNet, by ensuring that “if a URL in the link parameter isn’t a link to Google Maps, then it shouldn’t be allowed.”

In the meantime, if you use link sharing over Google Maps, be proactive and only open links from users you know and trust.

Source: – Google Maps user? Beware attackers using URL-sharing to send you to shady sites
Published: May 2, 2018

Google’s Project Yeti could be the Netflix for video games

Would you be interested in a Netflix for video games? Because Google might deliver. A new project the company is working on, codenamed Yeti, will reportedly be a subscription-based video game streaming service.

The move toward more gaming isn’t altogether surprising. Google recently hired Phil Harrison, a high-profile game industry veteran who worked for Microsoft and ran Sony PlayStation’s first-party studio and research and development teams. Google also owns Owlchemy Labs, a VR tech company responsible for the popular Job Simulator VR game. And by itself, Google has had great success with Google Play mobile.

Yeti may run on Chromecast, but there are also reports of Google developing a new console for the service. The latter makes sense, seeing as Phil Harrison has significant experience with console development.

If you think Yeti is a brilliant idea, you’re not the only one. Video game subscription services like Utomik and Jump are already available for PC.

Source: – Google is reportedly building a game streaming subscription service
Published: February 7, 2018

This Google app is raising privacy concerns and social media buzz

Maybe you’ve seen a friend – or more likely, a celebrity – using Google’s new Art & Culture app. You know, the one where their selfie is matched with the most similar-looking painting from Google’s enormous art database? Well according to Google, the app has already seen over 30 million downloads. Depending on your perspective, that either means 30 million people are just having some fun with this new tech, or 30 million people have just used Google’s facial recognition technology without understanding the privacy implications. As it turns out, many are concerned about the latter.

People are concerned that Google could be doing anything it wants with the facial data it collects via the application. To amend some of these worries, Google has added a disclaimer in the app, and written in a blog post that it “only keeps [the data] for the time it takes to search for matches.”

Despite this attempt to placate fears, some jurisdictions remain so skeptical of this technology that the selfie aspect of the Art & Culture app is prohibited. According to AdWeek, the selfie matching feature “isn’t available in Illinois and Texas, due to laws that heavily restrict how companies can use biometric technology.”

There are also conflicting voices on whether or not Google’s promises are to be believed. Travis Jarae, CEO of identity research company One World Identity, told AdWeek that “we have no reason to doubt Google’s claim that selfies are only stored in the cloud long enough to generate portrait matches, and are not saved on any servers.”

Jarae believes Google is likely using the selfies to “train and improve the quality of their facial recognition AI.” But he does want people to think about the data they’re giving apps and do research about the implications.

Conversely, the director of privacy and data for the Center for Democracy and Technology, Michelle De Mooy, told AdWeek that people should be wary. ““It’s important to consider that the only thing governing their practices at the moment (except in Texas and Illinois) is their privacy policy, which might change,” De Mooy explained.

The point to take away is, be aware of what data you’re giving applications, and read the privacy policies and disclaimers before you do. Be aware of the potential risk, and decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth it.

Google won’t tolerate apps that gather your data without consent

Google seems to be cracking down on developers that collect personal user data without consent. It is also tightening the rules on which ads can appear in Android applications. According to an article by TechSpot, Google’s “Safe Browsing team has expanded its Unwanted Software Policy to address further ‘unwanted and harmful behaviors on Android.’”

This includes apps that handle data – such as phone numbers, email addresses, etc. – being required to prompt users for permission to collect that information. Likewise, apps’ privacy policies must be displayed within the application itself. TechSpot explains that the amended rules now state that “if an app collects and transmits personal data that is unrelated to its functions, then it must highlight this fact before transmission and seek consent from the user first.”

Best of all? If developers don’t comply within 60 days of these new rules being posted, Google will notify users via Google Play Protect that these apps could potentially breach their expectations of privacy. This continues Google’s trend of fighting against ads that it considers to be “deceptive, disruptive, inappropriate, or interfere with applications or device functionality.” These apps continue to be regularly removed from the Google Play Store, and have been for quite some time.

Google to share profits with news publishers

Google is reportedly working a new system that would “help drive potential subscribers toward news publishers as part of a revenue-split agreement,” says Forbes. Google is apparently in talks with big names in the media to work out a deal that would involve ad-targeting tricks to help encourage more subscribers for news sites.

Google’s news chief Richard Gringas told The Financial Times that the deal in the works would offer publishers a better deal than its arrangement with advertisers, in which 70 percent of revenue is directed to the visited websites.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has been earning billions per quarter in revenues from advertising on Google and YouTube. However, it does have a rival in the Internet’s other goliath, Facebook. Fortune says that “together the companies are expected to account for half of online ad revenue worldwide and more than 60% domestically.” However, Alphabet has time and again stated it is not part of an advertising duopoly with Facebook.

The arrangement for news publishers is still a while from release, with no estimate of when to expect it.

Google stops challenging federal search warrants

Search warrants on data are a little different than those on physical property – especially because a lot of data is stored on overseas servers. According to the Justice Department of the United States, Google has stopped challenging warrants from U.S judges that request data from these servers.

A lot of tech companies, including Google, have challenged these warrants in the past after a federal appeals court sided with Microsoft when the issue came up in a drug investigation. As explained by Ars Technica, “Microsoft convinced the New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals—which has jurisdiction over Connecticut, New York, and Vermont—that US search-and-seizure law does not require compliance with a warrant to turn over e-mail stored on its servers in Ireland.” The government has challenged the court’s decision, but the Supreme Court has not decided whether or not to hear the case.

But courts have not always sided with tech companies. Google has even been found in contempt of court for refusing to comply with a D.C judge’s order to hand over data stored overseas. Perhaps that is why the company has moved away from Microsoft and stopped challenging these kinds of warrants.

It is a tricky issue, and not everyone agrees on the philosophy that data should be turned over from servers abroad. But according to Ars, the government’s theory is that “where the tech sector stores data should not matter. What matters is whether a company can access that data in the US, according to the Justice Department.”