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  1. A work boycott from the Group of Nine is yet another hurdle to the company’s efforts to compete for sensitive government work. Earlier this year, a group of influential software engineers in Google’s cloud division surprised their superiors by refusing to work on a cutting-edge security feature. Known as “air gap,” the technology would have helped Google win sensitive military contracts. The coders weren’t persuaded their employer should be using its technological might to help the government wage war, according to four current and former employees. After hearing the engineers’ objections, Urs Hölzle, Google’s top technical executive, said the air gap feature would be postponed, one of the people said. Another person familiar with the situation said the group was able to reduce the scope of the feature. The act of rebellion ricocheted around the company, fueling a growing resistance among employees with a dim view of Google’s yen for multi-million-dollar government contracts. The engineers became known as the “Group of Nine” and were lionized by like-minded staff. The current and former employees say the engineers’ work boycott was a catalyst for larger protests that convulsed the company’s Mountain View, California, campus and ultimately forced executives to let a lucrative Pentagon contract called Project Maven expire without renewal. They declined to name the engineers and requested anonymity to discuss a private matter. Internal disputes are common at Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which gives employees ample space to air grievances. But dissent is on the rise (as it is at other tech companies). Last month, in a highly unusual move, a Google employee proposed that executive compensation be tied to efforts to make the company more diverse and inclusive. That proposal was easily voted down by shareholders, but the engineers’ boycott could actually hamper Google’s ability to compete. Big federal contracts often require certification to handle sensitive data—authorizations that rivals Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have, but Google doesn't. Without certain measures including air gap technology, Google may struggle to win portions of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, a Pentagon deal worth upwards of $10 billion. It's unclear if Google has abandoned air gap technology or is still planning to build it over employees’ objections. The feature is not technically very difficult, so Google could easily find other engineers to do the work. While over 4,000 people at the company signed a petition against Project Maven, that’s roughly 5 percent of total full-time staff. A company spokesperson declined to comment. Google cloud chief Diane Greene has expressed continued interest in working with government. Federal agencies are among the largest spenders on corporate computing and starting to gravitate toward cloud services. In March, Greene and her deputies proudly touted Google's new approvals under FedRAMP, federal compliance standards for information technology. Google was approved FedRAMP “Moderate,” a designation required for almost 80 percent of government cloud contracts. Google cloud staff said internally that the Project Maven deal was “fast-tracking” higher FedRAMP authorization, according to a Gizmodo report. For now, Google falls short of rivals. Both Microsoft's Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have “High” certificates that authorize them to hold sensitive or classified data and sell to bodies like the Central Intelligence Agency. To do so, both companies had to set up a separate service called a government cloud. A critical component of that service is the air gap. Put simply, it physically separates computers from others on a network. So rather than store data from multiple companies on a single server or system, as the commercial cloud providers typically do, a company or agency can place its data and computing processes in isolation on a single piece of hardware. That separation is particularly desirable for agencies in national security, says Michael Carter, vice president of Coalfire, a cybersecurity firm. “Amazon and Azure can literally say, ‘This is your rack,’” he says. “In the government, they want to know where their data is. So if you want to wipe it, go wipe it.” In sales pitches, Google touts the security features of its cloud service. In a March press briefing, company executives noted how their artificial intelligence software could spot cybersecurity attacks early. “We think that Google cloud is today the most secure cloud out there,” Hölzle said during the briefing. The entities most likely to require air-gap security systems are government agencies or financial firms. While experts debate the technology’s merits, it does give customers “psychological” comfort, according to Jim Reavis, who runs Cloud Security Alliance, an industry group. “They’re used to having their own computer that they look at, their own blinking light,” he says. “I do question whether or not that’s useful security.” Greene and other Google executives will have to persuade employees it’s possible to bid for government contracts without violating Google’s new ethical standards. After pledging not to renew the Project Maven contract, which involves using artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage, the company issued a set of AI principles this month that prohibit weapons work. But they don’t rule out selling to the military, and Google continues to pursue other Defense Department cloud contracts. “We are still doing everything we can within these guidelines to support our government, the military and our veterans,” Greene wrote in a blog on June 7. “For example, we will continue to work with government organizations on cybersecurity, productivity tools, healthcare, and other forms of cloud initiatives." Several Googlers protesting Project Maven have complained about poor communication from senior leaders. Most staff outside the cloud unit were unaware of the contract until February—five months after it was signed—when questions about the deal began circulating more widely on internal message boards. At one point, Greene told staff the deal was worth a meager $9 million. Subsequent reports revealed Google expected the contract to rake in $15 million and grow to as much as $250 million. Google has yet to address these reports publicly. But on June 8, a day after the company issued its ethical charter, Greene addressed the discrepancy in an internal note. “In speaking about Maven, I did not always have accurate information,” she wrote in an email viewed by Bloomberg News. “For example, I said the contract was $9 [million] when it actually was a different number.” Google employees have a history of objecting on ethical grounds. After the Edward Snowden revelations in 2013, several engineers confronted Hölzle about allegations the company had assisted the government in its surveillance program. They threatened to resign, telling Hölzle, “this isn't why we signed up for the company,” according to a former senior executive who attended the meeting. Hölzle voiced his support for the engineers, this person says. The latest confrontation at Google coincides with growing concern about the entire industry’s relationship with the U.S. government. Civil rights groups have targeted Amazon for selling facial recognition tech to police departments. Microsoft faced similar heat for its work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Some Google employees resigned over the Project Maven deal. Tyler Breisacher, a software developer on Google infrastructure who left in April, cited the lack of clear communications about the contract and how Google's software was being used. Management, he says, appeared surprised at the response from employees once they shared more about the program. “It seems like they weren't expecting it to be as controversial as it was,” he says. Breisacher, who joined Google in 2011, says the company has changed. Earlier, if employees felt a decision was bad for Google, its users or the broader world, they had their leaders’ ears. “It felt like you were really listened to,” he says. Greene wrote in the internal email that she wanted to address the “trust issue that has developed” in the past five months. She said she regretted not emailing earlier to correct her misstatement about the size of the Project Maven deal. “In the past, I would have,” Greene wrote, “but in the current climate of leaks, the sense was that it would be a mistake to do because the correction would leak and start another ‘press cycle’ that would not be good for any of us.” Source
  2. Google maintains a rapidly growing list of copyright-infringing URLs which they haven't indexed yet. This blacklist ensures that these links are never added to the search engine. Thanks to a new update in the transparency report, we now know how many non-indexed links every takedown notice includes, which is surprisingly high in some cases. In recent years, Google has had to cope with a continuous increase in takedown requests which target pirate sites in search results. The total number of ‘removed’ URLs just reached 3.5 billion and millions more are added every day. While that’s nothing new, Google just started sharing some additional insight into the nature of these requests. As it turns out, millions, if not hundreds of millions, of the links copyright holders target have never appeared in Google’s search index. Earlier this year Google copyright counsel Caleb Donaldson revealed that the company had started to block non-indexed links ‘prophylactically.’ In other words, Google blocks URLs before they appear in the search results, as some sort of piracy vaccine. “Google has critically expanded notice and takedown in another important way: We accept notices for URLs that are not even in our index in the first place. That way, we can collect information even about pages and domains we have not yet crawled,” Donaldson noted. “We process these URLs as we do the others. Once one of these not-in-index URLs is approved for takedown, we prophylactically block it from appearing in our Search results,” he added. Unfortunately, Google provided no easy way to see how many links in a request were not indexed, but that has now changed. Over the past week or so the search engine added a new signal to its DMCA transparency report listing how many of the submitted URLs in a notice are not indexed yet. In some cases, this is the vast majority. Take the Mexican branch on the anti-piracy group APDIF, for example. This organization is one of the most active DMCA reporters and has asked Google to remove over a million URLs last week alone. As can be seen below, the majority of the links appear to be non-indexed links. We browsed through dozens of recent listings from APDIF and these reveal a pattern where in most cases over 90% of the submitted URLs are not in Google’s search results. Google now reporting non-indexed takedown requests These URLs are obviously not removed since they weren’t listed. According to the company’s earlier statement, they are put on a separate blocklist instead, which prevents them from being added in the future. APDIF is not the only reporter that does this though. Rivendell, the most active sender of all, also has a high rate of non-indexed links, often well over 50%. The tactic turns out to be rather common. Well known players such as Fox, Walt Disney, NBC Universal, BPI, and the RIAA, all report non-indexed links as well, to varying degrees. Not all reporting agencies have such high rates as APDIF. However, it is clear that millions of non-indexed pirate URLs are added to the preemptive blocklist every month. Technically, the DMCA takedown process is meant for links and content which actually exist on a service, but it appears that Google doesn’t mind going a step further. TorrentFreak reached out to the search giant several days ago, hoping to find out what percentage of the overall requests are not in Google’s search results, but at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back. Source
  3. Google in the coming weeks is expected to fix a location privacy leak in two of its most popular consumer products. New research shows that Web sites can run a simple script in the background that collects precise location data on people who have a Google Home or Chromecast device installed anywhere on their local network. Craig Young, a researcher with security firm Tripwire, said he discovered an authentication weakness that leaks incredibly accurate location information about users of both the smart speaker and home assistant Google Home, and Chromecast, a small electronic device that makes it simple to stream TV shows, movies and games to a digital television or monitor. Young said the attack works by asking the Google device for a list of nearby wireless networks and then sending that list to Google’s geolocation lookup services. “An attacker can be completely remote as long as they can get the victim to open a link while connected to the same Wi-Fi or wired network as a Google Chromecast or Home device,” Young told KrebsOnSecurity. “The only real limitation is that the link needs to remain open for about a minute before the attacker has a location. The attack content could be contained within malicious advertisements or even a tweet.” It is common for Web sites to keep a record of the numeric Internet Protocol (IP) address of all visitors, and those addresses can be used in combination with online geolocation tools to glean information about each visitor’s hometown or region. But this type of location information is often quite imprecise. In many cases, IP geolocation offers only a general idea of where the IP address may be based geographically. This is typically not the case with Google’s geolocation data, which includes comprehensive maps of wireless network names around the world, linking each individual Wi-Fi network to a corresponding physical location. Armed with this data, Google can very often determine a user’s location to within a few feet (particularly in densely populated areas), by triangulating the user between several nearby mapped Wi-Fi access points. [Side note: Anyone who’d like to see this in action need only to turn off location data and remove the SIM card from a smart phone and see how well navigation apps like Google’s Waze can still figure out where you are]. “The difference between this and a basic IP geolocation is the level of precision,” Young said. “For example, if I geolocate my IP address right now, I get a location that is roughly 2 miles from my current location at work. For my home Internet connection, the IP geolocation is only accurate to about 3 miles. With my attack demo however, I’ve been consistently getting locations within about 10 meters of the device.” Young said a demo he created (a video of which is below) is accurate enough that he can tell roughly how far apart his device in the kitchen is from another device in the basement. “I’ve only tested this in three environments so far, but in each case the location corresponds to the right street address,” Young said. “The Wi-Fi based geolocation works by triangulating a position based on signal strengths to Wi-Fi access points with known locations based on reporting from people’s phones.” Beyond leaking a Chromecast or Google Home user’s precise geographic location, this bug could help scammers make phishing and extortion attacks appear more realistic. Common scams like fake FBI or IRS warnings or threats to release compromising photos or expose some secret to friends and family could abuse Google’s location data to lend credibility to the fake warnings, Young notes. “The implications of this are quite broad including the possibility for more effective blackmail or extortion campaigns,” he said. “Threats to release compromising photos or expose some secret to friends and family could use this to lend credibility to the warnings and increase their odds of success.” When Young first reached out to Google in May about his findings, the company replied by closing his bug report with a “Status: Won’t Fix (Intended Behavior)” message. But after being contacted by KrebsOnSecurity, Google changed its tune, saying it planned to ship an update to address the privacy leak in both devices. Currently, that update is slated to be released in mid-July 2018. According to Tripwire, the location data leak stems from poor authentication by Google Home and Chromecast devices, which rarely require authentication for connections received on a local network. “We must assume that any data accessible on the local network without credentials is also accessible to hostile adversaries,” Young wrote in a blog post about his findings. “This means that all requests must be authenticated and all unauthenticated responses should be as generic as possible. Until we reach that point, consumers should separate their devices as best as is possible and be mindful of what web sites or apps are loaded while on the same network as their connected gadgets.” Earlier this year, KrebsOnSecurity posted some basic rules for securing your various “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices. That primer lacked one piece of advice that is a bit more technical but which can help mitigate security or privacy issues that come with using IoT systems: Creating your own “Intranet of Things,” by segregating IoT devices from the rest of your local network so that they reside on a completely different network from the devices you use to browse the Internet and store files. “A much easier solution is to add another router on the network specifically for connected devices,” Young wrote. “By connecting the WAN port of the new router to an open LAN port on the existing router, attacker code running on the main network will not have a path to abuse those connected devices. Although this does not by default prevent attacks from the IoT devices to the main network, it is likely that most naïve attacks would fail to even recognize that there is another network to attack.” For more on setting up a multi-router solution to mitigating threats from IoT devices, check out this in-depth post on the subject from security researcher and blogger Steve Gibson. Source
  4. Google announced on Monday that it will invest $550 million in Chinese e-commerce company JD.com. The all-cash investment, by which Google will buy 27 million new shares of NASDAQ-listed JD at $40.58 per share, is expected to aid Google in competing with Amazon.com in e-commerce sales and advertising. The deal would give Google about one percent of JD shares, which are also owned by Walmart and Tencent Holdings. Google has been blocked in China since 2010 for refusing to censor content, and the deal could help strengthen its Chinese connections, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. Google has an artificial intelligence laboratory in Beijing, and recently introduced its Files Go app in China, a digital storage application. JD is China's second-largest e-commerce website, with about 25 percent of China's business-to-consumer Internet market share. It remains far behind Alibaba's 60 percent markets share. Google and JD said they sought a retail infrastructure that can better personalize the shopping experience in several markets, including Southeast Asia. JD also said it will make some items available, through Google Shopping, available to U.S. and European markets. The partnership can open a retail channel for JD to sell products globally at a time when a trade war between China and the United States could be imminent, CNBC reported. < Here >
  5. Google Chrome Software Removal Tool is an easy-to-use program which tries to get a broken Chrome installation working again.Launch it and the tool scans your PC for programs which Google considers "suspicious" or "known to cause problems with Chrome", and offers to remove them. Bizarrely, the CSRT won't give you the names of these suspicious programs, so you'll have to trust it. Or you can just run the program to see if it thinks there are any, then click "Cancel" instead of "Remove" when the report appears. Whatever you do, once the scan is complete, CSRT launches Chrome with the chrome://settings/resetProfileSettings command, prompting you to reset your Chrome settings. Click "Reset" and Chrome will be reset to its default settings, otherwise just close the window to continue as usual. There are no other settings or options, nothing else to do at all. Google provides few details of what the Chrome Software Removal Tool actually does. They do claim. Find programs and components that affect Chrome If you notice changes in the settings of your Chrome browser, there is a small utility that can help you identify the issue and correct it. Created by Google itself, it goes by the name of Chrome Cleanup Tool (Google Chrome Software Removal Tool), enabling you to detect programs that interfere with Google Chrome and remove them. Since toolbars, browser add-ons and pop-up ads are not typical malware, your antivirus solution might fail to detect their presence. Chrome Cleanup Tool is specifically designed to find programs and components whose installation resulted in modifications of Chrome's settings, providing you with a simple means to reset them. Remove interfering components with a click The application does not require installation and starts looking for suspicious programs as soon as you launch it. The number of findings are displayed within a small window, along with an option to remove them all, but their names are not revealed, so as to prevent name modifications that might cause Chrome Cleanup Tool not to work as it should. In some cases, a system reboot might be required in order for the changes to take effect. Once the issue is fixed, Chrome restarts and prompts you to reset the browser settings. Scan for malicious programs that cause issues with Chrome Chrome Cleanup Tool is an attempt to enhance the browsing experience of Chrome users, providing them with a simple method to factory reset the settings and remove programs that cause trouble to the browser. More aggressive malware might be impossible to remove or detect, so you might need a reputable antivirus solution to clean the system. Note that this application is not designed to search for all types of viruses and malware components, but only those that cause issues with Google Chrome. Homepage or here Download: Link 1 - New Link 2 - New
  6. Google is bracing itself for what will likely be a record-breaking EU fine in the coming weeks. The Financial Times reports that the EU antitrust investigation into Android is concluding, and a fine is expected to be announced in July. The European Commission has been investigating Android after rivals complained that Google has been abusing its market dominance in software than runs on smartphones. Google has been accused of limiting access to the Google Play Store unless phone makers also bundle Google search and Chrome apps, a practice that may have breached EU antitrust rules. Google has also reportedly blocked phone makers from creating devices that run forked versions of Android, as part of an anti-fragmentation agreement. A fine is reportedly expected next month, but it’s not clear how big it will be. The EU could fine Google up to $11 billion, 10 percent of Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) annual turnover. It’s unlikely that Google will be fined the full $11 billion, but anything over $2.7 billion would set a new record. Google was previously hit with a record-breaking $2.7 billion fine last year by the European Commission for breaking antitrust laws. The EU accused Google of demoting rivals and unfairly promoting its own services in search results related to shopping. Google’s previous fine didn’t lead to any significant changes to its business, but the Android case could be very different. Google has been accused of bundling its search engine with Android, and the European Commission could force the company to make changes to this practice. Google could face its own Microsoft moment, with years of monitoring to ensure the company is compliant with any changes imposed by the EU. Microsoft had a similar fight with the EU more than 10 years ago. Microsoft was accused of bundling its Windows Media Player with Windows, and the EU forced it to unbundle the app so that competitors could get a fair advantage. Microsoft created a special version of Windows for Europe without the app, but it was the EU’s next ruling that really hurt the company. Microsoft was also accused of bundling its Internet Explorer browser with Windows, and the EU forced the company to include a browser ballot with non-Microsoft browsers in an effort to improve competition. The EU’s changes helped push browser alternatives like Firefox and Chrome directly inside Windows, and rival browsers benefited. If the EU forces Google to make similar changes inside Android, those will be a much bigger headache than a record-breaking fine. Microsoft was paralyzed by the EU oversight, and the company had to consider its business decisions wisely as a result. We’ll find out next month if Google will face similar action. Source
  7. Google as a window into our private thoughts What are the weirdest questions you've ever Googled? Mine might be (for my latest book): “How many people have ever lived?” “What do people think about just before death?” and “How many bits would it take to resurrect in a virtual reality everyone who ever lived?” (It's 10 to the power of 10123.) Using Google's autocomplete and Keyword Planner tools, U.K.-based Internet company Digitaloft generated a list of what it considers 20 of the craziest searches, including “Am I pregnant?” “Are aliens real?” “Why do men have nipples?” “Is the world flat?” and “Can a man get pregnant?” This is all very entertaining, but according to economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, who worked at Google as a data scientist (he is now an op-ed writer for the New York Times), such searches may act as a “digital truth serum” for deeper and darker thoughts. As he explains in his book Everybody Lies (Dey Street Books, 2017), “In the pre-digital age, people hid their embarrassing thoughts from other people. In the digital age, they still hide them from other people, but not from the internet and in particular sites such as Google and PornHub, which protect their anonymity.” Employing big data research tools “allows us to finally see what people really want and really do, not what they say they want and say they do.” People may tell pollsters that they are not racist, for example, and polling data do indicate that bigoted attitudes have been in steady decline for decades on such issues as interracial marriage, women's rights and gay marriage, indicating that conservatives today are more socially liberal than liberals were in the 1950s. Using the Google Trends tool in analyzing the 2008 U.S. presidential election, however, Stephens-Davidowitz concluded that Barack Obama received fewer votes than expected in Democrat strongholds because of still latent racism. For example, he found that 20 percent of searches that included the N-word (hereafter, “n***”) also included the word “jokes” and that on Obama's first election night about one in 100 Google searches with “Obama” in them included “kkk” or “n***(s).” “In some states, there were more searches for ‘[n***] president’ than ‘first black president,’” he reports—and the highest number of such searches were not predominantly from Southern Republican bastions as one might predict but included upstate New York, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, industrial Michigan and rural Illinois. This difference between public polls and private thoughts, Stephens-Davidowitz observes, helps to explain Obama's underperformance in regions with a lot of racist searches and partially illuminates the surprise election of Donald Trump. But before we conclude that the arc of the moral universe is slouching toward Gomorrah, a Google Trends search for “n*** jokes,” “bitch jokes” and “fag jokes” between 2004 and 2017, conducted by Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker and reported in his 2018 book Enlightenment Now, shows downward-plummeting lines of frequency of searches. “The curves,” he writes, “suggest that Americans are not just more abashed about confessing to prejudice than they used to be; they privately don't find it as amusing.” More optimistically, these declines in prejudice may be an underestimate, given that when Google began keeping records of searches in 2004 most Googlers were urban and young, who are known to be less prejudiced and bigoted than rural and older people, who adopted the search technology years later (when the bigoted search lines were in steep decline). Stephens-Davidowitz confirms that such intolerant searches are clustered in regions with older and less educated populations and that compared with national searches, those from retirement neighborhoods are seven times as likely to include “n*** jokes” and 30 times as likely to contain “fag jokes.” Additionally, he found that someone who searches for “n***” is also likely to search for older-generation topics such as “Social Security” and “Frank Sinatra.” What these data show is that the moral arc may not be bending toward justice as smoothly upward as we would like. But as members of the Silent Generation (born 1925–1945) and Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964) are displaced by Gen Xers (born 1965–1980) and Millennials (born 1981–1996), and as populations continue shifting from rural to urban living, and as postsecondary education levels keep climbing, such prejudices should be on the wane. And the moral sphere will expand toward greater inclusiveness. < Here > [Note: If the content is deemed inappropriate here, please close the thread ASAP. Thank you.]
  8. SEATTLE - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday sued Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG), saying the companies failed to maintain information about political advertising as required by state law. Washington law requires the companies to maintain information about buyers of political ads, the cost, how they pay for it and the candidate or ballot measure at issue, according to the lawsuits, filed in King County Superior Court on Monday. The companies also must make that information available to the public upon request. Ferguson said neither Facebook nor Google did so, even though Washington candidates and political committees have spent nearly $5 million to advertise on those platforms in the past decade. "Washington's political advertising disclosure laws apply to everyone, whether you are a small-town newspaper or a large corporation," Ferguson said in a statement. "Washingtonians have a right to know who's paying for the political advertising they see." Social media companies have been under pressure to be more transparent when it comes to political ads, including issue ads, which factored prominently in Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections. Facebook has started allowing users to search an archive of political ads. It announced last month that it was expanding its ad disclosure requirements, which include labels that users can click to learn more about who paid for the ads and how many people saw them. "Attorney General Ferguson has raised important questions and we look forward to resolving this matter with his office quickly," Rob Leathern, Facebook's director of product management, said in an emailed statement. Last month Google said it would do a better job of verifying the identity of political ad buyers in the U.S. by requiring a copy of a government-issued ID and other information. Google would also require the disclosure of who is paying for the ad. "We are committed to transparency and disclosure in political advertising," Google said in a statement Monday. "We are currently reviewing the complaint and will be engaging with the Attorney General's office." The lawsuits in Washington state cited reporting by the Seattle alternative newspaper The Stranger, which sought the information from Google and Facebook last December, to no avail. The state is seeking fines and legal fees. < Here >
  9. Summary Search is a large driver of revenue and doesn't require data but what other portions of Alphabet's advertising model will be affected by the GDPR? How much revenue do the higher risk methods currently contribute to earnings? Where is Alphabet most likely to incur GDPR fines? How will non-personalized ads affect earnings and network sites? Alphabet (GOOG) was announced in 2015 as a holding company to help separate Google’s advertising business from the sprawling investments in Fiber internet, cloud computing, smart home products and connected car products. While these new gadgets and the promise of AI have helped successfully rebrand Google’s search and advertising business, it’s important to remember that Alphabet is still an old-fashioned advertising company with nearly 90% of Q1 2018 revenue, or $26.6 billion, coming from advertising and only 15%, or $4.6 billion, coming from these other ambitions. Therefore, understanding the nuances of advertising especially as it relates to data regulations is going to be key for any savvy Alphabet investor. While you can invest in Alphabet for AI or connected cars, we are in the beginning of the hype cycle for these technologies, whereas the current stock price reflects advertising. Unfortunately, top-rated analysts struggle to understand Alphabet’s business model as it relates to the GDPR and CEO Sundar Pichai did not offer any answers. In the Q1 2018 earnings call, Mark Mahaney of RBC Capital Markets asked if the “GDPR or other regulation is likely to impact materially the targeting capabilities that advertisers have on Google?” The CEO replied: “You know, above everything else as we are working through GDPR we are making sure we are focused on getting that user experience right for our users and our partners. But to clarify your question further, you know, first of all, it's important to understand that most of our ad business is Search, where we rely on very limited information, essentially what is in the keywords to show a relevant ad or product. And so, you know, we've been preparing this for 18 months and I think ­­ I think, you know, we have focused on getting the compliance right. It will be a years’ long effort and, you know, we are helping not just us, but our publishers and partners. But overall, we think we'll be able to do all that, you know, with a positive impact for users and publishers and advertisers, and so our business.” This answer was over-simplified at best. Yes, Search is a large driver of revenue but what are the other portions of the advertising machine which will be affected? And how much revenue do the higher risk methods currently contribute to earnings? In addition, while Alphabet has been preparing for 18 months, they recently dropped new terms and conditions on publishers only 8 weeks before the GDPR took effect – and publishers are not happy about it. Publishers are essential for quite a few elements to the Alphabet’s advertising machine as they provide additional surface area for ad space. By installing Google’s ad software onto websites and applications, publishers allow Google to advertise on their sites. Most importantly, because this relates to ad revenue from networks outside of Google-owned properties, this portion of revenue is what holds the highest risk in this new era of data regulations – and the revenue is sizeable enough to lead to missed earnings in the future. Alphabet & Data Regulations: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly The Good: Search Doesn’t Need Data; Gmail, Chrome and Google Maps Have User Consent Quite a few of Google’s data-driven applications and services such as Gmail, Chrome and Google Maps can easily obtain user permission in exchange for the services these applications and browser provides. In addition, Google AdWords, which is based off search intent, will provide a safe haven Google’s advertising revenue as this does not require the company to harvest private data. However, even search is not immune as it’s been enriched with data such as location to enhance search results. The Bad: Android OS Collects Surveillance-Level Data without User Consent In one study of 850,000 internet users last year, mainly in the U.S. and Europe, Google tracked 64% of all pages loaded by mobile and web browsers It’s hard to know where to start when looking at Google’s sprawl of potential data regulation issues. We could start with the fact they have a deal with data brokers that gives them access to 70% of our purchases made with credit cards and debit cards (without consent). The company is literally in your bank account. This is for the purpose of letting advertisers know if you completed a sale following an ad seen on one of Google’s properties. Another place to start is implicit data for advertising purposes, which uses your search history to target ads to you outside of Google search. This is why when you privately email your friend about a trip to Rome, you mysteriously get advertisements for flights to Rome on other websites. While online tracking and conversion tracking are both invasive, the Android operating system is a surveillance-level behemoth with over 2 billion devices in circulation while littered with millions of applications leaking data to Alphabet’s advantage. Exponentially speaking, Android is impossible to contain. One study by the French research organization Exodus Privacy and Yale University’s Privacy Lab found that more than three in four Android apps contain a third-party tracker which extracts personal information, including location and in-app behavior. The apps the trackers were discovered includes Uber, Twitter, Spotify, and Tinder. The Privacy Lab found the in-app trackers revealed “an extensive data mining market buried within the mobile app ecosystem” enabling physical surveillance including through the use of WiFi, Bluetooth and ultrasonic sound inaudible to the human ear to track geolocations in real time. Takeaway: Android will be the most likely source for fines by the European Union as it will be challenging to partition device IDs by geographies. Some have conjectured Alphabet will risk fines before voluntarily reducing their cyber intelligence. The fines are 1.6% of annual global revenue, or $4.4 billion for Google. The Ugly: Walking the Razor’s Edge Between Data Violations and Non-Personalized Ads Data collected from the Android OS augments and enriches data science modeling for Alphabet to monetize the data elsewhere. That “elsewhere” is Adsense, AdX and AdMob. Google’s AdSense and AdX Networks enable non-Google websites to incorporate Google display advertising, and this is what current publishers are in an uproar about. To summarize, Alphabet is attempting to become a co-controller for data in some instances and a processor in other instances. It’s unknown how the European Union will view data leaks from publishers to Alphabet. Source: Quora The level of involvement Google has as either a co-controller or processor is important for investors to understand as these regulations continue to play out. This may be hard to imagine today, but if data collection returns to property-owned data collection only, then the premium price advertisers pay for Google ad inventory may diminish as Google will struggle to differentiate itself from other advertising options from a campaign ROI standpoint if or when it fails to get the proper consent to collect the data and broker the ads. Source: Statista The worst case scenario here is that Google has to display “non-personalized” ads where consent isn’t obtained – which Google is already prepared to do: “As previously announced, we're also launching a Non-Personalized Ads solution (DFP/AdX, AdMob, AdSense) to enable publishers to present EEA users with a choice between personalized ads and non-personalized ads (or to choose to serve only non-personalized ads to users in the EEA).” As mentioned above, this is where the premium price can potentially recede. By being forced to serve non-personalized ads, the competitive advantage Google has will diminish in this circumstance. Bottom Line: While Search is intact, there are many layers to data collection and ad targeting which will lower ROI campaign performance as the data Alphabet is allowed to collect continues to wane. In this article, we’ve discussed that the Android OS is leaky and the most likely part of Alphabet’s business to be fined. As far as revenue is concerned, non-personalized ads is the potential weakness especially on network sites as $17.59 billion was earned from network sites annually in 2017. Source
  10. Google will not seek another contract for its controversial work providing artificial intelligence to the U.S. Department of Defense for analyzing drone footage after its current contract expires. Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene announced the decision at a meeting with employees Friday morning, three sources told Gizmodo. The current contract expires in 2019 and there will not be a follow-up contract, Greene said. The meeting, dubbed Weather Report, is a weekly update on Google Cloud’s business. Google would not choose to pursue Maven today because the backlash has been terrible for the company, Greene said, adding that the decision was made at a time when Google was more aggressively pursuing military work. The company plans to unveil new ethical principles about its use of AI next week. A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about Greene’s comments. Google’s decision to provide artificial intelligence to the Defense Department for the analysis of drone footage has prompted backlash from Google employees and academics. Thousands of employees have signed a petition asking Google to cancel its contract for the project, nicknamed Project Maven, and dozens of employees have resigned in protest. Google, meanwhile, defended its work on Project Maven, with senior executives noting that the contract is of relatively little value and that its contribution amounts merely to providing the Defense Department with open-source software. But internal emails reviewed by Gizmodo show that executives viewed Project Maven as a golden opportunity that would open doors for business with the military and intelligence agencies. The emails also show that Google and its partners worked extensively to develop machine learning algorithms for the Pentagon, with the goal of creating a sophisticated system that could surveil entire cities. The two sets of emails reveal that Google’s senior leadership was enthusiastically supportive of Project Maven—especially because it would set Google Cloud on the path to win larger Pentagon contracts—but deeply concerned about how the company’s involvement would be perceived. The emails also outline Google’s internal timeline and goals for Project Maven. In order to work on Project Maven, Google Cloud faced a challenge. The company would need to use footage gathered by military drones to build its machine learning models, but it lacked the official government authorization to hold that kind of sensitive data in its cloud. That authorization, known as FedRAMP, establishes security standards for cloud services that contract with the government. But Google didn’t have it—so it had to rely on other geospatial imagery for its early work on Project Maven. According to an email written by Aileen Black, an executive director overseeing Google’s business with the U.S. government, Project Maven sponsored Google’s application for higher levels of FedRAMP authorization, Security Requirements Guide 4 and 5. “They are really fast tracking our SRG4 ATO (security cert),” she wrote. “This is priceless.” In late March of this year, Google announced that it had been granted provisional FedRAMP 4 authorization to operate, or ATO. “With this ATO, Google Cloud Platform has demonstrated its commitment to extend to government customers,” Suzanne Frey, Google’s director of trust, security, privacy, and compliance, told reporters during a press call. Obtaining this authorization was crucial not just for Project Maven, but for Google’s future pursuit of other government contracts. Google is reportedly competing for a Pentagon cloud computing contract worth $10 billion. Greene had told concerned employees during meetings that Google’s contact with the Department of Defense was worth only $9 million, Gizmodo first reported—a relatively small figure as far as government contracts go. However, internal emails reviewed by Gizmodo show that the initial contract was worth at least $15 million, and that the budget for the project was expected to grow as high as $250 million. This set of emails, first reported by the New York Times, show senior executives in Google Cloud worrying about how Google’s involvement in Project Maven would be perceived once it became public. In another set of emails not previously made public, Google employees working on Project Maven described meeting with Lieutenant General Jack Shanahan, who has spearheaded the Maven initiative, and other government representatives at Google’s offices. These emails describe technical milestones for Maven and describe Google’s in-depth efforts to develop the technology. Google secured the Project Maven contract in late September, the emails reveal, after competing for months against several other “AI heavyweights” for the work. IBM was in the running, as Gizmodo reported last month, along with Amazon and Microsoft. One of the terms of Google’s contract with the Defense Department was that Google’s involvement not be mentioned without the company’s permission, the emails state. Other emails describe meetings in late 2017 with Pentagon representatives at Google’s Mountain View and Sunnyvale offices. “Customer considers Cloud AI team the core of the MAVEN program, where everything else will be built to test and deploy our ML models,” one message reads. Google planned to deliver the product of its work at the end of March, and continue refining it through June. The company also assigned more than 10 of its employees to work on Project Maven. When Gizmodo reported Google’s involvement in the project earlier this year, Google downplayed its work, saying it had merely provided its open-source TensorFlow software to the Pentagon. However, Google intended to build a “Google-earth-like” surveillance system that would allow Pentagon analysts to “click on a building and see everything associated with it” and build graphs of objects like vehicles, people, land features, and large crowds for “the entire city,” states one email recapping a Maven kickoff meeting with Pentagon representatives. Google’s artificial intelligence would bring “an exquisite capability” for “near-real time analysis,” the email said. By December, Google had already demonstrated a high accuracy rate in classifying images for Project Maven. Working with imagery provided by a geospatial imagery firm, DigitalGlobe, and data labeling provided by an artificial intelligence firm, CrowdFlower, Google was able to build a system that could detect vehicles missed by expert image labelers. Despite the excitement over Google’s performance on Project Maven, executives worried about keeping the project under wraps. “It’s so exciting that we’re close to getting MAVEN! That would be a great win,” Fei-Fei Li, chief scientist for AI at Google Cloud, wrote in a September 24, 2017 email. “I think we should do a good PR on the story of DoD collaborating with GCP from a vanilla cloud technology angle (storage, network, security, etc.), but avoid at ALL COSTS any mention or implication of AI.” “Google is already battling with privacy issues when it comes to AI and data; I don’t know what would happen if the media starts picking up a theme that Google is secretly building AI weapons or AI technologies to enable weapons for the Defense industry,” she added. Greene told employees today that the conversation about the ethical use of artificial intelligence is huge and that Google is at the forefront of that conversation. “It is incumbent on us to show leadership,” Greene said, according to a source. Source Side note: now some company no one ever heard of will get the contract and no one will care because it's not Google and them and Facebook get most of the media coverage.
  11. (Reuters) — As Europe’s new privacy law took effect on Friday, one activist wasted no time in asserting the additional rights it gives people over the data that companies want to collect about them. Austrian Max Schrems filed complaints against Google, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, arguing they were acting illegally by forcing users to accept intrusive terms of service or lose access. That take-it-or-leave-it approach, Schrems told Reuters Television, violates people’s right under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to choose freely whether to allow companies to use their data. “You have to have a ‘yes or no’ option,” Schrems said in an interview recorded in Vienna before he filed the complaints in various European jurisdictions. “A lot of these companies now force you to consent to the new privacy policy, which is totally against the law.” The GDPR overhauls data protection laws in the European Union that predate the rise of the internet and, most importantly, foresees fines of up to 4 percent of global revenues for companies that break the rules. That puts potential sanctions in the ballpark of anti-trust fines levied by Brussels that, in Google’s case, have run into billions of dollars. Andrea Jelinek, who heads both Austria’s Data Protection Authority and a new European Data Protection Board set up under GDPR, appeared to express sympathy with Schrems’ arguments at a news conference in Brussels. Asked about the merits of Schrems’ complaints, Jelinek said: “If there is forced consent, there is no consent.” Scourge of Facebook Schrems was a 23-year-old law student when he first took on Facebook and he’s been fighting Mark Zuckerberg’s social network ever since – becoming the poster-boy for data privacy. He won a landmark European court ruling in 2015 that invalidated a ‘safe harbour’ agreement allowing firms to transfer personal data from the EU to the United States, where data protection is less strict. With GDPR in mind, he recently set up a non-profit called None of Your Business noyb.eu (noyb) that plans legal action to blunt the ability of the tech titans to harvest data that they then use to sell targeted advertising. His laptop perched on the table of a traditional Viennese coffee house, Schrems showed how a pop-up message on Facebook seeks consent to use his data – and how he is blocked when he refuses. “The only way is to really accept it, otherwise you cannot use your Facebook any more,” Schrems explained. “As you can see, I have my messages there and I cannot read them unless I agree.” Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, said in a statement that the company has prepared for 18 months to ensure it meets the requirements of GDPR by making its policies clearer and its privacy settings easier to find. Facebook, which has more than 2 billion regular users, has also said that advertising allows it to remain free, and that the whole service, including ads, is meant to be personalized based on user data. “1,000-euro brick” Schrems said, however, that Instagram, a photo-sharing network popular with younger users, and encrypted messaging service WhatsApp – both owned by Facebook – also use pop-ups to gain consent and bar users who refuse. The action brought by noyb against Google relates to new smartphones using its Android operating system. Buyers are required to hand over their data or else own “a 1,000-euro brick” that they can’t use, Schrems said. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Noyb is filing the four claims with data protection authorities in France, Belgium, Germany and Austria. Ensuing litigation may play out in Ireland, where both Facebook and Google have their European headquarters. One filing, made against Facebook on behalf of an Austrian woman, asks the country’s data protection authority to investigate and, as appropriate, prohibit data processing operations based on invalid consent. It also asks the regulator to impose “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” fines as foreseen by GDPR, which in Facebook’s case could run to 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion). “So far it was cheaper just to ignore privacy rights,” said Schrems. “Now, hopefully, it’s going to be cheaper to follow them because the penalties are so high.” Source
  12. Security researchers from Google and Microsoft have found two new variants of the Spectre attack that affects processors made by AMD, ARM, IBM, and Intel. Rumors about this new flaw leaked online at the start of the month in a German magazine, but actual details were published today. AMD, ARM, Intel, Microsoft, and Red Hat have published security advisories at the time of writing, containing explanations of how the bugs work, along with mitigation advice. Bug known as SpectreNG The bugs —referred to in the past weeks as SpectreNG— are related to the previous Meltdown and Spectre bugs discovered last year and announced at the start of 2018. Both Google and Microsoft researchers discovered the bug independently. The bugs work similarly to the Meltdown and Spectre bugs, a reason why they were classified as "variant 3a" and "variant 4" instead of separate vulnerabilities altogether. The most important of these two is Variant 4. Both bugs occur for the same reason —speculative execution— a feature found in all modern CPUs that has the role of improving performance by computing operations in advance and later discarding unneeded data. The difference is that Variant 4 affects a different part of the speculative execution process —the data inside the "store buffer" inside a CPU's cache. Red Hat has published a YouTube video explaining how the bug affects modern CPUs. https://www.youtube.com/embed/Uv6lDgcUAC0 As Red Hat breaks it down in a more technical explanation, the vulnerability... "An attacker who has successfully exploited this vulnerability may be able to read privileged data across trust boundaries," Microsoft said in a similar advisory, confirming a Red Hat assessment that the flaw could be used to break out of sandboxed environments. Google's Jann Horn, the man behind the Meltdown and Spectre flaws, has also published proof-of-concept code. Intel and AMD x86 chipsets, along with POWER 8, POWER 9, System z, and ARM CPUs are known to be affected. Intel has published a detailed list of affected CPU series in a security advisory. Variant 4 can be exploited remotely, via JavaScript code in the browser. Microsoft said it did not detect any exploitation attempts, though. Additional patches released Leslie Culbertson, executive vice president and general manager of Product Assurance and Security at Intel Corporation, said that the original Meltdown and Spectre patches from January 2018 should be enough to mitigate Variant 4 as well. Nonetheless, Intel also announced new patches. "We’ve already delivered the microcode update for Variant 4 in beta form to OEM system manufacturers and system software vendors, and we expect it will be released into production BIOS and software updates over the coming weeks," Culbertson said. "This mitigation will be set to off-by-default, providing customers the choice of whether to enable it." "In this configuration, we have observed no performance impact. If enabled, we’ve observed a performance impact of approximately 2 to 8 percent," Culbertson added. Red Hat and Microsoft announced new patches as well (see links to security advisories for mitigation advice). Source
  13. 'We can't delete court cases, and you can't make us' New Zealand courts are asking Google to take down content associated with current criminal proceedings, to the usual and resounding “No” from the Chocolate Factory. In a row that's been bubbling along for months, lawyers and judges in New Zealand have repeatedly complained that Google retains stories and images subject to court orders. The court orders have left New Zealand news outlets unable to report on the trial currently before the courts, instead referring back to a 2017 case – also suppressed by court orders until its conclusion – as examples of the gap between their situation and Google's. As the New Zealand Herald reported, the court hopes to ensure a fair retrial with the order, by preventing jurors from viewing evidence already ruled inadmissable. The newspapers resisted the order, partly because they knew even if they complied, international reports would still be available – but they lost, and they had to comply. However, when the same order was delivered to Google New Zealand, Google told the court it could not comply, and anyhow, the Kiwi company has nothing to do with Google's search operations, which reside in California and aren't covered by New Zealand law. As New Zealand tech commentator Paul Brislen told Vulture South, someone might be in contempt of court, but if they're out of reach, there isn't much a court can do about it. “It's a fairly pivotal moment [in defining] the split between the international provider and the local operation,” he said. Brislen said it sounds like “sophistry or madness” to deny a connection between Google New Zealand and Google in the US: “You're dealing with Google or you're not.” He said such cases as this and Facebook's GDPR-driven relocation of European users from Irish-domiciled contracts to California showed the giants are more interested in “working around the law rather than with the law – or ignoring the law entirely”. As well as denying New Zealand's jurisdiction in the matter, Google says its database is simply too big for it to remove details of the stories covered by the court order. A Google engineer said in an affidavit “Google New Zealand Limited has no ability to comply with the interim orders,” the NZ Herald reported. Source
  14. Google's auto-complete and related search functions are revealing the identity of rape victims who have been granted anonymity. The issue was discovered in a Times newspaper investigation of several prominent sexual assault cases. Searches for attackers or alleged attackers automatically reveal the names of the women they have been accused of raping. Google said it had removed all examples it had been "made aware of". The firm told the BBC: "We don't allow these kind of auto-complete predictions or related searches that violate laws or our own policies. "We encourage people to send us feedback about any sensitive or bad predictions." Rape charity, The Survivors Trust, told the Times it was "beyond shocking" that Google's search engine threw up the names of victims. Google recently expanded its removals policy to cover predictions in search which "disparage victims of violence and atrocities". Google's auto-complete predictions and related searches are automatically generated based on popular or trending searches. In the case of information about rape victims, it is likely that the suggestions appeared following searches on victims' names which may have been illegally exposed on social media. The Times found that, in the case of an alleged rape, typing the defendant's name plus a common search term brought up the alleged victim's name. In another case, the same search also produced a name and home town. It also found that searching for a victim's name brought up the abuser's name as a related search. Google does have systems which automatically catch inappropriate suggestions in search but it processes billions of searches each day, meaning some will fall through the net. The firm also co-operates with courts to help prevent sensitive predictions from appearing in search. Victims in sexual offence cases have automatic lifelong anonymity, even if the accused is acquitted. Breaching this carries fines of up to £5,000. According to the Times, at least nine people have been convicted for posting names of victims on social media. < Here >
  15. Europe, America getting twitchy about web search dominance US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has added his voice to a growing number of government officials calling for large tech companies to be investigated for potential antitrust violations. Asked whether Google was abusing its market dominance as a monopoly, Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday "these are issues that the Justice Department needs to look at seriously," and argued that it was important to "look at the power they have" noting that companies like Google "have a greater and greater impact on the economy." Mnuchin's willingness to directly criticize Google and other tech companies and argue that they should be under investigation is just the latest sign that Washington DC is serious about digging in the market power of Big Internet. It is notable that it was 20 years ago, almost to the day, that America finally dealt with another tech antitrust problem when the Justice Department and 20 state attorneys general filed suit – on May 18, 1998 - against what was then the most powerful tech company in the country: Microsoft. You can read El Reg's extensive coverage which started with this story in August 1998 and ran for some time. Game of monopoly, anyone? Mnuchin's comments on Google came after a special 60 Minutes episode that focused in part on the company and its effective search monopoly. That segment was notable for the inclusion of two people: EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager and Yelp founder Jeremy Stoppelman. Vestager is responsible for a number of big European actions against US tech giants, including: fining Facebook €110m ($130m) for "misleading" regulators about matching user IDs when it bought WhatsApp; ordering Ireland to recover €13bn ($15bn) in taxes from Apple; and fining Google €2.4bn ($2.8bn) for promoting its own shopping search service over those of smaller rivals. It was on that last part – Google using its 90 per cent control of the search engine market to promote is own services and downgrade its competitors - that the TV segment focused on. Vestager was quite plain in her view when she said that the EU not only felt that Google was acting illegally but that "we can prove it." Her staff ran through over a billion Google searches and found that Google was knowingly manipulating its search algorithms to promote its own products and push competitors far down the ranking. "It's very difficult to find the rivals," she noted. "Because on average, you'd find them only on page four in your search results." This was, she said, "done on purpose" and she said Google was rigging the game – which is illegal. Stop! pelman For his part, Yelp founder Stoppelman complained that it would be impossible to start his review-based service today and pointed out that Google plants its own services at the top search results – using a search for "sushi San Francisco" to illustrate his point. Google places its own listings and ratings service, connected to Google Maps, at the top of the page and the Yelp listings – which are typically the first or second link in all other search engines – are shoved far down the page. The issue is more noticeable on a mobile phone where, Stoppelman notes, the entire screen is taken up with Google-owned information. None of this is exactly new: lots of people – including us at The Register, – have pointed out that Google has for years abused its position to promote its own products and services and bump down competitors. And, of course, the FTC actively ruled that Google had "strengthened its monopolies over search and search advertising through anti-competitive means", including stealing content and limiting advertisers. But, famously, the FTC decided not to pursue an antitrust investigations – which had nothing whatsoever to do with the extremely cosy relationship that Google had with the Obama Administration. That tech love-in died with the Trump Administration (which, by contrast, appears to have a strong bias in favor of Big Cable and fossil fuel companies) and Mnuchin's comments are just the latest in a growing chorus of concern over tech giants, ranging from market abuse to fake news, in the corridors of power. Feels the same? So are we finally at the same point we were in 1998 when, after years of complaints about Microsoft abusing its market power, the authorities are finally willing to overcome their free-market bias and ignore the healthy campaign contributions to act on behalf of the American people? We will have to see, but it feels fairly similar right now. It is not the same of course: no one is forcing people to use Facebook, and, as Google is fond of saying, a competing search engine is just a click away. But at the same time, Facebook has its code on just about every major website, and Google pays companies billions of dollars to make sure it is the default search engine. Things change but that same sense of a company doing something obviously wrong because no one is in any position to stop is very much present. When you have mainstream TV shows and cabinet secretaries chiming in, it may be a sign that the tide has turned. Oh, and Google removed its "don't be evil" motto and philosophy from its website at some point in the past few weeks. Just saying. Source
  16. A Spiceworks survey highlighted the overwhelming demand for better cloud security, and showed that most companies were turning to the tried and true option of Microsoft. As more information moves online, a significant number of companies have moved their data storage to the web as well, opting for cloud storage and data management services like DropBox and Google Drive. But with news of hacks and digital break-ins hitting headlines each day, companies are not just choosing the cheaper option, but the option that they believe will keep them, and their information, the safest. Digital IT platform Spiceworks conducted a survey published Monday on cloud storage services, speaking to 544 business technology professionals across North America and Europe on a wide variety of topics related to cloud-based data management. Of those surveyed, 80% said their companies were using some form of cloud storage system, while another 16% said their companies would do so within the next two years. Comparatively, in 2016, only 53% of organizations were using cloud services. But a number of companies have already been burned by poor cloud security, with 16% of respondents saying their businesses' cloud service had been hit by security incidents, generally involving "unauthorized access, stolen credentials, or data theft," in the last 12 months. "It's evident organizations are putting more trust into cloud storage services, but some are still hesitant despite the recent growth in adoption," Peter Tsai, a senior technology analyst at Spiceworks, said in a press release. "Although cloud storage services often include features that help secure sensitive corporate information, there will always be risks involved when entrusting your data to a third party." And one in four businesses agree. The survey found that 97% of businesses believe security is the most important factor in choosing a cloud service, and 25% of companies did not believe there was anything they could do to truly secure their cloud data. That is where Microsoft OneDrive has an edge, according to IT professionals. Even though Dropbox was ahead of OneDrive in 2016 according to usage rates, damaging hacks that same year prompted many businesses to move over to the Microsoft service. Nearly 69 million Dropbox accounts were compromised in 2016, with passwords and login information showing up on hacker websites. In this year's survey, 51% of organizations reported using OneDrive, up from 31% in 2016. Dropbox is now tied with Google Drive at 34% each, up only one percentage point compared to 2016, when it led the field. Another 10% of organizations said they would either be switching over to or starting to use OneDrive within the next two years. OneDrive was particularly popular with larger companies, being used in businesses with over 1,000 employees 59% of the time. It also led the way at 54% among medium-sized businesses with under 1,000 employees. Much of this adoption is due to how OneDrive is viewed amongst IT professionals. Tsai said in the release that 39% of IT workers identified OneDrive with security. But businesses also value ease of use, and despite high rankings for Dropbox in that category, many companies were already using other Windows services, which made OneDrive a more seamless fit. "What can explain this shift, especially OneDrive's rise to the top (which is expected to continue over the next two years)? If you follow the dollars, the answer is clear. According to a separate Spiceworks data snapshot on productivity suites, more than 50 percent of organizations already pay for Office 365, and an additional 17 percent of organizations plan to within the next two years," Tsai wrote. "Because 1TB of OneDrive storage is included per user with each Office 365 subscription, it makes sense that OneDrive usage tracks very closely with Office 365 adoption. As organizations want to do more with less, it makes financial sense for companies to go with OneDrive if they're already paying for Office 365." Tsai said that as "bundling" becomes more common, OneDrive and Google's G Suite will be easier options for businesses, and standalone cloud storage systems like Dropbox may struggle to innovate and differentiate themselves. The big takeaways for tech leaders: 80% of businesses now use cloud-based data management systems, and 97% said security was a top priority for them. Microsoft's OneDrive was the most popular cloud service for large and medium sized businesses. Source
  17. Collective action seeking up to £3.2bn for claims Google bypassed privacy settings of Apple’s Safari browser The collective action is being led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd over claims Google bypassed the privacy settings of Apple’s Safari browser on iPhones . Google is being sued in the high court for as much as £3.2bn for the alleged “clandestine tracking and collation” of personal information from 4.4 million iPhone users in the UK. The collective action is being led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd over claims Google bypassed the privacy settings of Apple’s Safari browser on iPhones between August 2011 and February 2012 in order to divide people into categories for advertisers. At the opening of an expected two-day hearing in London on Monday, lawyers for Lloyd’s campaign group Google You Owe Us told the court information collected by Google included race, physical and mental heath, political leanings, sexuality, social class, financial, shopping habits and location data. Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Lloyd, said information was then “aggregated” and users were put into groups such as “football lovers” or “current affairs enthusiasts” for the targeting of advertising. Tomlinson said the data was gathered through “clandestine tracking and collation” of browsing on the iPhone, known as the “Safari Workaround” – an activity he said was exposed by a PhD researcher in 2012. Tomlinson said Google has already paid $39.5m to settle claims in the US relating to the practice. Google was fined $22.5m for the practice by the US Federal Trade Commission in 2012 and forced to pay $17m to 37 US states. Speaking ahead of the hearing, Lloyd said: “I believe that what Google did was quite simply against the law. “Their actions have affected millions in England and Wales and we’ll be asking the judge to ensure they are held to account in our courts.” The campaign group hopes to win at least £1bn in compensation for an estimated 4.4 million iPhone users. Court filings show Google You Owe Us could be seeking as much as £3.2bn, meaning claimants could receive £750 per individual if successful. Google contends the type of “representative action” being brought against it by Lloyd is unsuitable and should not go ahead. The company’s lawyers said there is no suggestion the Safari Workaround resulted in any information being disclosed to third parties. They also said it is not possible to identify those who may have been affected and the claim has no prospect of success. Anthony White QC, for Google, said the purpose of Lloyd’s claim was to “pursue a campaign for accountability and retribution” against the company, rather than seek compensation for affected individuals. He said: “The court should not permit a single person to co-opt the data protection rights of millions of individuals for the purpose of advancing a personal ‘campaign’ agenda and should not allow them to place the onus on individuals who do not wish to be associated with that campaign to take positive steps to actively disassociate themselves from it.” Tom Price, communications director for Google UK said: “The privacy and security of our users is extremely important to us. This case relates to events that took place over six years ago and that we addressed at the time. “We believe it has no merit and should be dismissed. We’ve filed evidence in support of that view and look forward to making our case in Court.” Source
  18. Google has agreed to create a fund of 11 million dollars as part of a a class action settlement for terminating or disabling a publisher's Adsense accounts, but not paying out any balances that the publisher had at the time. The class action complaint filed by a California company named Free Range Content, Inc. alleged that Google would shut down an Adsense account shortly before a payment was to be made and then deny the publisher the balance owed on the account. While the Plaintiffs ultimately feel they would have won the case, they also acknowledged in the settlement agreement that they "recognize that Google raised defenses as to both liability and damages, which created a material risk that Plaintiffs would not have prevailed." Google on the other hand has "has at all times denied—and continues to deny—any and all alleged wrongdoing. Specifically, Google denies that its conduct concerning Google AdSense violates any law, and it is prepared to continue its vigorous defense, including at summary judgment and trial. Even so, taking into account the uncertainty and risks inherent in summary judgment and trial, Google has concluded that continuing to defend this Action would be burdensome and expensive." With both the plaintiff and Google recognizing that this case could have gone either way, they both felt it was in the best interests to settle rather than continue what would be an expensive case. As part of the settlement agreement an 11 million dollar fund will be created, with no more than $5,000 being paid to Class Representatives, no more than $2,750,000 being paid to the class action lawyers, and $116,045 reimbursed to the lawyers for costs and expenses. The rest of the money will be used to pay Settlement Class Members whose accounts were terminated or disabled by Adsense and were not paid the current balance of their accounts. Amount of payment is based on various criteria The amount of money that a claimant will be paid depends on the payment group they would fall under, which is based on whether a notice of dispute was sent in a timely manner, when they were terminated, and what Adsense agreement their account was bound by. For "Payment Group 1", the publisher would receive 100% of the balance, "Payment Group 2" would receive 50%, and "Payment Group 3" would receive 30%. The minimum amount that can be claimed is $3.00 and any remaining distributions will be distributed as a “cy pres” award, which is proposed to go to Public Justice Foundation and Public Counsel. For those who have had their Adsense accounts terminated or disabled by Google and were not paid the balance, you can visit the http://www.adsensepublishersettlement.com/ site to submit a claim. Should Google's actions be considered criminal? Some are also concerned about the heavy handed actions of Google and their actions having no consequences. For example, a user on Hacker News was baffled that an action like this would not be considered a criminal act. Terminating an account for breaking policy is one thing, but taking their money is another thing altogether. Source
  19. Employees working at Google have learned about the companies collaboration with a controversial military program that has come to known as Project Maven which will speed up analysis by automatically classifying images of Drone footage of different objects and people and currently around a dozen employees at the company have resigned because of the companies continued involvement of the project. Many of those who have left think that this project takes advantage of the artificial intelligence in an unethical way for drone warfare and Googles political decisions will decrease the users trust with these kind of actions from the company. The employees who are working on this project said that they have been less transparent with their workforce as the days go by in this project and there have been many controversial decisions about this particular project. According to the statements given by multiple employees who have resigned, they think humans should be responsible to do the potentially lethal work, not algorithms and furthermore Google shouldn’t be involved in the military work at all. From many years Google has promoted an open work culture that has encouraged the employees to challenge the product decisions made by the company. But some employees feel that their leadership no longer as attentive to their concerns, leaving them to face the fallout. “Over the last couple of months, I’ve been less and less impressed with the response and the way people’s concerns are being treated and listened to,” one employee who resigned said. In addition to these resignations, nearly 4000 employees are against Project Maven in an internal petition that currently asks Google to shut down the project immediately. The employees are currently demanding the company to end its Pentagon contract which is complicated by Googles claims it is only providing open-source software to Project Maven, which means the military would be able to still use the technology, even if Google didn’t accept payment or offer technical assistance. < Here >
  20. Australians are reportedly paying their telco providers for the data harvested by tech giant The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will investigate reports Google harvests huge amounts of data from Android phones, including detailed location information, after the software company Oracle revealed Google could be harvesting a gigabyte of data from devices each month. Not only does data transfer raise new privacy concerns for the 10 million Android users in Australia but they are also reportedly paying their telco providers to send the data. If it is in the vicinity of the gigabyte a month Oracle estimates, it is likely costing millions. The Australian revealed that Oracle had made a presentation to the ACCC, which is holding an inquiry into digital platforms. The inquiry was prompted by the concerns of Australian media companies about the impact that Google and Facebook are having on the advertising market. According to the Oracle presentation to the ACCC, Android devices send detailed information on searches and what is being viewed. But they can also send precise locations even if location services are turned off, and they do not have a Sim card or apps installed. Google has mapped IP addresses, wifi connection points and mobile towers, which allow it to know where a device is connecting or attempting to connect without using the phone’s location service. According to the chairman of the Australian Privacy Foundation, David Vaile, the company initially did this as part of its Street View surveying but it is now kept up-to-date by the huge amount of data that Android device users are routinely sending back. Android phones also include barometric devices that can use air pressure to calculate where a person is located in a multistorey building. Google argues that the tracking of data is done with the permission of phone users but there is a question over whether there is valid consent. The Google privacy policy, under the heading “Data we process when you use Google”, says: “When you search for a restaurant or watch a video on You Tube, for example, we process information about that activity – including information like the video you watched, device IDs, IP addresses, cookie data and location.” But it does not explicitly refer to Android devices, just Google services. It also says: “When you use Google services we may collect and process information about your actual location.” The chairman of the ACCC, Rod Sims, confirmed the regulator had been given a presentation by Oracle and would look into Google’s practices as part of its inquiry into digital platforms. “The ACCC met with Oracle and is considering information it has provided about Google services,” Sims said. “We are exploring how much consumers know about the use of location data and are working closely with the privacy commissioner.” Vaile said users had to realise that Google and Facebook were in the commercial surveillance business and the heart of their business model was selling services for advertising purposes. “They are both extremely good at manipulating the law and they use those legalities,” he said. “Their initial approach is to ignore any potential breaches of privacy and, as we have now seen, when people notice, their approach is to ask for forgiveness.” Google had made it clear that it saw its future in artificial intelligence, Vaile said. “Google has self-evolving machine-learning algorithms that use this data being sent from Android devices,” he said. “They let them loose on the data and see what they come up with. Yes, they want to improve their services but on a competitive basis they want to consolidate their leadership in AI.” Vaile said that while Google had slowly improved in its approach to protecting customer rights, it was still a mosaic – and third-party apps and devices could also be capturing large amounts of data from Android devices. In April, Google owner Alphabet reported an 84% rise in profits for the previous quarter to $9.4bn. < Here >
  21. OK Google, we get it. You are smarter than the other assistants. This has been the subtext of recent Google I/O developer conferences. Google talked about its progress in taking on Amazon and Apple. In terms of market share, Google has a long ways to catch up. According to Voicebot.ai, a website that focuses on voice computing, Amazon has Alexa in some 12,000 connected devices, compared to 5,000 for Google and just 194 for Apple's Siri. But in smarts, Google topped not just our informal survey, but many recent ones as well, including surveys from online marketing firm Stone Temple and investment company Loup Ventures. We spent the weekend asking the same 150 questions to the Google Assistant on Google Home, Amazon's Alexa via the Echo speaker and Apple's Siri on the iPhone. Google answered correctly 80% of the time, compared to 78% for Amazon and 55% correct for Siri. A quick caveat for our methodology—if Google and Amazon gave us a complete, audio answer to the question, that counted as a successful response. When an assistant said it wasn't set up to respond, or didn't know, that counted as a fail. And when Siri responded with a "Here's what I found on the Web," and a link to look it up ourselves, that also counted as a non-answer. (We tried some of those questions again with Apple's HomePod, which is a $350 speaker rival to the Echo and Google Home, but didn't fare much better. While it did answer one query, the rest returned with a "I can't get the answer on the HomePod" response.) Our questions came from a variety of courses: we cribbed from the 800 questions posed in recent surveys by Loup, the suggested queries on Amazon, Google and Apple's websites to ask their assistants, and topics offered by social media. Google, via the Home speaker, told us how to get to the nearest Mexican restaurant, what time the Avengers movie was playing at the cineplex, who won the Best Picture Oscar of 1989, the date and flight number of my next scheduled airline flight and the definition of a first cousin once removed. What it couldn't tell us was also quite interesting. Some notable Google Assistant failures. It couldn't: Read our latest G-mail email aloud. Which Siri could do, but not Alexa. Google the movie "Back to the Future." Tell me "Who was Jesus Christ." Answer if aliens really exist and why cats have whiskers. (Alexa has answers for both and Siri was happy to tell me about Jesus.) Alexa indeed was surprisingly strong when it came to hard core science factoids that Google excels in, like naming the melting point of gold, how far away the Moon is from the Earth and citing the weight of the Sun. It can translate 'good morning' in German (all three can do this) and tell you how to say 'thank you' in Japanese. (As can Google, Siri can't.) Both Google and Amazon can play your morning news briefings—Siri doesn't do this. Alexa can read recipes, and being that it's Amazon, also order paper towels, batteries, dog food or even shop for an iPad. Siri couldn't do any of this with audio directions, instead "Here's what I found on the Web," and links. Google Home could do all the shopping as well, by sending you to Google Express, it's answer to Amazon, but it puts a $100 limit on purchases, so the iPad was out, but the other products could be sent. With Siri, as always, it's a matter of managed expectations. It generally could answer most of the questions posed by Apple on the Siri section of its website, like using it to call and text friends, set timers and appointments, relay information ("When is the L.A. Galaxy's next home game?) and tell what the weather would be like today, tomorrow and on the weekend. But we've got some caveats. Apple suggests we ask Siri to play "the top song from 1985," on its website. Yet, when I ask, it says, "Sorry, I don't know what topped the charts on that date." Google Home has come a long way since we first reviewed it in 2016 and it got so many questions wrong. We'd like to see simple improvements like learning how to "Google" information more effectively (the Back to the Future query was an easy one), read my latest e-mail and texts aloud, improve on sports stats ("What's Alabama's record this season?" was missed and learn how to answer the Jesus question. To close the gap even more, Bret Kinsella, the publisher of Voicebot, which focuses on voice computing, thinks Google has done a great job showcasing the utility of the product —now it should be more fun. "I'd like to see them humanize it more, have it do more things you can do as a family." like letting users know what's on Netflix tonight or adding more games. But seriously, it's Apple that has its work cut out for it, not Google. And we'd like to offer a simple suggestion. Stop having Siri direct us "to the Web," and instead announce actual answers, just like Google Home and Alexa. Siri's super low 55% response rate on our survey is due to the fact that it keeps offering non hands free, "Here's what I found on the Web," links, when its rivals offer true audio replies. For many of the questions, Apple is competitive. even when it's system clearly had the answers. When asked to tell me where to get a car repaired on locally, instead of reading me choices, it sends links to the Firestone shop. Ask where to buy golf clubs and you get a link to a nearby golf course. Inquire about recipes for a Tom Collins drink or how to make banana bread, and Siri directs you to look it up online. Apple has the data. If Amazon and Google could do it, there's no good reason why Siri couldn't join this party. Make that one shift, and the successful query gap could be closed significantly overnight. < Here >
  22. Google will be emailing millions of its users to tell them about its redesigned privacy policy Google has updated the presentation of its privacy policy ahead of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that comes into force in a few weeks. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and Google is adopting this approach to its new privacy policy that will roll out on May 25, the day GDPR takes effect in Europe, introducing stricter rules on data collection, usage and consent. The layout of the new privacy policy, which is available to view today, has been noticeably simplified compared with the current one. The contents are largely unchanged, but rather than using text-heavy chapters with descriptions and bullet points, the new policy leads with a list of content categories that can be clicked to hop to each section of the policy. Each section of the policy now includes illustrations or short YouTube videos that explain in simple language what the policy means and what devices and services it covers, including Android, Chrome, Search, Maps, YouTube and Google Home. The purpose of the redesign is to make it easier for users to find information about what data Google collects and understand why it does it. It also offers links within the policy that lead to privacy settings. "We've improved the navigation and organization of the policy to make it easier to find what you're looking for; explained our practices in more detail and with clearer language; and added more detail about the options you have to manage, export, and delete data from our services," William Malcolm, director of privacy legal at Google EMEA, wrote in a blogpost. Google will also be emailing all its users to inform them about the new policy, meaning billions of people are set to receive the notification. Another part of Google's GDPR compliance effort focuses on data portability. To support this issue, Google recently released the Data Transfer Project on GitHub, which currently offers "early-stage" open-source code that will eventually be available for any developer to enable direct transfers of data between two services. "Data Transfer Project envisions an ecosystem of adapters that convert a range of proprietary formats into a small number of canonical formats useful for transferring data," Google says on its GitHub page. "This allows data transfer between any two service providers using the service provider's existing authorization mechanism, and allows each service provider to maintain control over the security of their service." To encourage service providers to adopt the technology, the project draws a distinction between a user's data and a service provider's data. "Portability should not extend to data collected to make a service operate, including data generated to improve system performance or train models that may be commercially sensitive or proprietary." Finally, Google is rolling out its Family Link Android app to all countries within the EU. Until now the Family Link service was only available in the UK and Ireland in the EU. The app lets parents create a Google Account for their child's Android device and manage what apps their children can use. "Under the new rules, companies must get consent from parents to process their children's data in certain circumstances," notes Malcolm. < Here >
  23. Other cities have embraced the company, but in Kreuzberg opposition to a planned Google campus is vociferous. What makes Berlin different? In the streets next to Görlitzer Park – an oblong patch popular with skaters, dog walkers and the odd drug dealer in the east of Kreuzberg in Berlin – you soon spot signs of contention about the newcomer to the neighbourhood. One is scrawled across a wall: “Fuck off Google.” If interested, please, read this rather long article < here >.
  24. Volvo Cars, the premium car maker, today announced it is working with Google to embed the voice-controlled Google Assistant, Google Play Store, Google Maps and other Google services into its next-generation Sensus infotainment system, based on Google’s Android operating system. Volvo Cars’ partnership with Google will further enhance the way Volvo customers engage with and interact with their cars. Apps and services developed by Google and Volvo Cars are embedded in the car, plus thousands of additional apps are available through the Google Play Store that is optimised and adapted for Android-based car infotainment systems. Since the next generation of Sensus will run on Android, new apps and software updates will be available in real-time and can be automatically applied. This allows future Volvo cars to react to customer needs and offer drivers up-to-date information and predictive services. “Bringing Google services into Volvo cars will accelerate innovation in connectivity and boost our development in applications and connected services,” said Henrik Green, senior vice president of research and development at Volvo Cars. “Soon, Volvo drivers will have direct access to thousands of in-car apps that make daily life easier and the connected in-car experience more enjoyable.” The Google Assistant provides a central voice interface for the car that allows drivers to control in-car functions such as air conditioning, and use apps to play music and send messages. This integration contributes to reducing driver distraction, helping drivers keep their eyes on the road at all times. Google Maps will also enable the next generation of Sensus to provide refreshed map and traffic data in real time, keeping drivers informed about upcoming traffic situations and proactively suggesting alternative routes. Today’s announcement builds on the strategic relationship between Volvo Cars and Google, when Volvo Cars last year announced the new generation of its infotainment system will be based on Google’s Android platform. The first Android-based system will launch in a couple of years from now. Volvo Cars is committed to developing strategic relationships with third parties to broaden the range of connected services offered to Volvo customers, embracing the disruption currently underway in the car industry. The company also continues to develop its own apps, software and connected services within the Volvo Car Group, using its growing force of software engineers. “The Google partnership is an important strategic alliance for Volvo Cars,” Henrik Green said. “The Android platform, Google services and Google’s working relationship with app developers in-house and worldwide will help us further improve the Volvo car experience.” < Here >
  25. Microsoft infamously coined the euphemism “embrace, extend, extinguish” to describe their strategy for disrupting markets dominated by open standards. These days, Microsoft seems to have turned the other leaf, contributing to a huge amount of open source and supporting open standards, and is becoming a good citizen of the technology community. It’s time to turn our concerns to Google. Google famously “embraced” email on April Fool’s day, 2004, which is of course based on an open standard and federates with the rest of the world. If you’ve read the news lately, you might have seen that Google is shipping a big update to GMail soon, which adds “self-destructing” emails that vanish from the recipient’s inbox after a time. Leaving aside that this promise is impossible to deliver, look at the implementation - Google emails a link to a webpage with the actual email content, and does magic in their client to make it look seamless. Thus, they “extend” email. The “extinguish” with GMail is also well underway - it’s infamous for having an extremely strict spam filter for incoming emails from people who run personal or niche mail servers. Then there’s AMP. It’s an understatement to say Google embraced the web - but AMP is how they enter the “extend” phase. AMP is a “standard”, but they don’t listen to any external feedback on it and it serves as a vehicle for keeping users on their platform even when reading content from other websites. This is thought to be the main intention of the service, as there are plenty of other (and more effective) ways of rewarding lightweight pages in their search results. The “extinguish” phase comes as sites that don’t play ball get pushed out of Google search results and into obscurity. AMP is perhaps the most blatant of Google’s strategies, serving only to further Google’s agenda at the expense of everyone else. The list of grievances continues. Consider Google’s dizzying collection of chat applications. In its initial form, gtalk supported XMPP, an open and federated standard for chat applications. Google dropped support for XMPP in 2014 and continued the development of their proprietary platform up thru today’s Hangouts and Google Chat platforms - neither of which support any open standards. Slack is also evidently taking cues from Google here, recently shutting down their own IRC and XMPP bridges. Google Reader’s discontinuation fits too. RSS’s decline was evident before Google axed it, but killing Reader dealt a huge blow to any of RSS’s remaining momentum. Google said themselves they wanted to consolidate users onto the rest of their services - none of which, I should add, support any open syndication standards. What of Google’s role as a participant in open source? Sure, they make a lot of software open source, but they don’t collaborate with anyone. They forked from WebKit to get Apple out of the picture, and contributing to Chromium as a non-Googler is notoriously difficult. Android is the same story - open source in principle, but non-Googler AOSP contributors bemoan their awful approach to external patches. It took Google over a decade to start making headway on upstreaming their Linux patches for Android, too. Google writes papers about AI, presumably to incentivize their academics with recognition for their work. This is great until you notice that the crucial piece, the trained models, is always absent. For many people, the alluring convenience of Google’s services is overwhelming. It’s hard to hear these things. But we must face facts: embrace, extend, extinguish is a core part of Google’s playbook today. It’s important that we work to diversify the internet and fight the monoculture they’re fostering. < Here >
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