Archives for Google

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: androidauthority.com – 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: zdnet.com – 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: venturebeat.com – 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.”

Is the $100 Google Mobile Web Developer certificate worth it?

Has your dream always been to be a Google-certified mobile web developer? Well, now is your chance. According to The Next Web (TNW), Google recently launched a certification program for mobile web developers, in which you must successfully pass a “Mobile Web Specialist” exam and interview, in return for a badge that can be used on websites and resumes. Recipients of the certification are also entered into a registry, so that employers can check if their certification is legitimate. The certification costs $99.

“The exam content focuses on several fundamental areas, like creating and formatting forms, and rudimentary JavaScript. Google has also thrown a few advanced topics in for good measure, like front-end networking, and building ‘progressive’ applications that work offline and ‘offer a native app experience’,” said TNW.

This might sound like a cool program, and it is affordable in comparison to some competitors, but whether or not it is worth the time and money is still up for debate. As the TNW article on the certification explains, “Software development is something that, by and large, doesn’t tend to concern itself with certifications. Plenty of people enter the field without having gone to university at all.” Basically, prior experience might be a lot more valuable on your CV than a badge from Google.

That doesn’t mean there’s no reason to get the certification. It is an extra qualification and it cannot hurt. Time will tell how helpful the badge is for job applicants in the web development field.

Google Chrome to add perma-mute button

Nobody likes noisy popups on websites. In fact, ad blocker extensions might not be so popular if it weren’t for those annoying little videos. If you feel these frustrations, then Google Chrome has a nice surprise for you. According to PC Mag, the browser will soon add a setting that can permanently mute certain web pages.

Google’s François Beaufort wrote in a Google+ post on August 25 that Chrome “is currently experimenting with a setting to mute a website directly from the Page Info bubble. This will give you more control about which website is allowed to throw sound at you automatically.”

Right now, you’re able to silence any website in Chrome by right-clicking the browser tab and selecting the “Mute Tab” option. This new setting will allow you to permanently mute sites, meaning you will not have to hit the mute button every time you visit. On top of this, Chrome plans on automatically blocking some of the most annoying adverts starting in 2018 – including ads that play audio or prevent you from visiting a webpage.

PC Mag explains that this setting is currently available as a part of Google Chrome Canary, “a version of the browser designed to give developers and early adopters access to the newest features before they’re available to the general public.” The Chrome team has not disclosed when this will be available to regular Chrome users.

Beware of this CopyCat malware infecting Android

According to CNET, researchers from Check Point have found that more than fourteen million Android devices around the world have been infected by a new strain of malware called CopyCat. It roots into phones, hijacks apps, and is generating millions of dollars in fraudulent ad revenue. Most of CopyCat’s victims are in Asia, but more than 280,000 of the infected phones are in the United States.

Google, who had been tracking the malware for a couple years now, updated Play Protect to block CopyCat. CheckPoint claims there is no evidence of CopyCat being distributed through Google Play – instead users are getting hit through third-party app downloads and phishing attacks.

“Play Protect secures users from the family, and any apps that may have been infected with CopyCat were not distributed via Play,” Google said in a statement.

The way CopyCat works is by pretending to be a popular app on third-party stores.

“Once downloaded, [the CopyCat app] collects data about the infected device and downloads rootkits to help root the phone, essentially cutting off its security system.” CNET explained. “From there, CopyCat can download fake apps, as well as hijack your device’s Zygote — the launcher for every app on your phone.”

CheckPoint estimates that nearly 4.9 million fakes apps have been installed on the infected devices, displaying around 100 million ads. The hackers responsible have generated an estimated $1.5 million in two months.