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  1. Google Pixel 5's chipset may be barely better than the Pixel 4a's Not a top-end offering Google Pixel 4a (Image credit: TechRadar) The Google Pixel 5 is expected to be Google's top-end smartphone for the year, but it seems it might not have the processing power of other premium smartphones - in fact, it could be only a small step above the recently-launched budget Google Pixel 4a. This news comes from leaked Pixel 5 AI benchmarks, as discovered by MyFixGuide, which lists the phone as having the Snapdragon 765G chipset. We'd expected the handset to have the Snapdragon 865 or even 865 Plus processor - those are the best chipsets available to Android phones right now, and would give the phone a lot more processing power than the 765G. We've heard previous rumors that the phone won't be as top-end as, say, the Pixel 4, and perhaps the chipset is one area the company has decided it doesn't need to go all-out in. When the phone launches later in the year, we'd hope the price tag reflects any sacrifices though. Basically a Pixel 5a If this information is correct, the Google Pixel 5 will likely have processing power similar to the Pixel 4a. That has a Snapdragon 730G chipset, and on the Geekbench website we can see it often scores roughly 1600 in multi-core tests. Compare that to the OnePlus Nord and Moto G 5G Plus, two Snapdragon 765G phones, which scored 1877 and 1822 respectively - those scores aren't much higher than the Pixel 4's. When you consider that Snapdragon 865 phones like the Xiaomi Black Shark 3, Sony Xperia 1 II and OnePlus 8 all got above 3000 in that same test, it becomes clear that the 765G is much closer to the 730G than the 865. In short, the Google Pixel 5's processing power might barely beat out that of its 'budget' relative. We'll be testing the phone when it's released to find out, but if it does indeed coming running the Snapdragon 765G then that's likely to be the case. Google Pixel 5's chipset may be barely better than the Pixel 4a's
  2. Google is delaying the shutdown of Chrome apps, but you probably weren’t using them anyway The company extended its shutdown timeline for Chrome apps Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Google is going to let you use Chrome apps for a little while longer, as the company on Monday announced an extension to its planned timeline to end support for the software (via 9to5Google). If you aren’t familiar with Chrome apps, they’re apps that you install in Chrome that work similarly to apps that you’d launch from your desktop — like this one for read-it-later app Pocket. But they aren’t widely adopted — Google said that “approximately 1 percent of users on Windows, Mac, and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps” all the way back in August 2016 when it first announced plans to wind down support for the platform. In January, Google said Chrome apps would stop working on Windows, Mac, and Linux this year (technically, the company set a June 2020 deadline, but it doesn’t look like it actually followed through). Now, Google says Chrome apps will work on those platforms until June 2021. Organizations can extend support for Chrome apps on those platforms for an extra year, meaning they’ll work through June 2022. And if you’re a Chrome OS user, Google will now end support for Chrome apps in June 2022 instead of June of next year. But no matter what platform you’re on, Google says support for Chrome apps will end on all platforms by June 2022. Chrome extensions will still work, though — and in fact, making an extension is one of the options that Google recommends as an alternative for developers who now need to transition away from Chrome apps but still want to offer similar functionality within the Chrome browser. Google is delaying the shutdown of Chrome apps, but you probably weren’t using them anyway
  3. Google Pixel 4a is off to a strong start, as the cheap phone sells out on Amazon The Google Pixel 4a is capable budget smartphone (Image credit: Google) The Google Pixel 4a is flying off virtual shelves and has already sold out on Amazon after pre-orders opened on Monday, August 3. Google’s budget smartphone packs in all the desirable features that make the Pixel range so appealing, such as a fantastic camera that excels at low-light photography, and a stock version of Android OS. The phone has proven to be such a hit, that it’s already become the ‘#1 Best Seller’ on Amazon’s unlocked cellphones list and is currently unavailable. For $349.99 / £349 / AU$599, the Google Pixel 4a sports a 5.81-inch screen, 6GB of RAM and is powered by a Snapdragon 730G. There’s only one color available, Just Black, but that hasn’t stopped people from pre-ordering the phone in their droves. With phones continuing to attract a more premium price tag with each new iteration, there’s a sizable gap in the market for capable, cheaper phones to dominate. Apple has also set its sights on capturing the consumer who’s after a phone that won’t cost the Earth with its iPhone SE, which is significantly more affordable than other iPhone models. Cheap and cheerful We believe Google could be onto a winner with the Google Pixel 4a and enjoyed its compact size, clean interface and great point-and-shoot camera in our review. It isn’t perfect, though, as the battery life could be better, and we noted that the phone feels rather cheap in the hand. We're expecting to see another phone from Google in the coming months: the Google Pixel 5. This likely won't match the low price tag of the Pixel 4a, however, as it will likely warrant a more high-end price tag. Google Pixel 4a is off to a strong start, as the cheap phone sells out on Amazon
  4. Google begins rolling out Nearby Share to select Pixel and Samsung phones After some time as a limited beta, which recently expanded to more testers, Google has today announced that it is rolling out Nearby Share – an AirDrop competitor – to Android 6.0 phones and newer. The search giant says that the feature has been in development for years and that it has been a highly requested feature. The feature lets users easily share “files, links, pictures, and more” with other Android users. The company says that the feature negates the need to go through the long process of searching for a contact, selecting files, and other steps when users want to share files or other content with someone in close proximity. Nearby Share “automatically chooses the best protocol for fast and easy sharing using Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, WebRTC or peer-to-peer WiFi”, letting users share content even when they are offline. The feature also boasts of privacy controls that let users share anonymously, for those that are wary of sharing contact information. It also lets users set their visibility depending on their choice to avoid unsolicited transfers. The functionality lets users set themselves to “hidden,” visible to “some contacts” or visible to “all contacts”. The Mountain View company also confirmed that it will be bringing Nearby Share to Chromebooks “in the coming months”, making it easier to share files between Android devices and Chromebooks. Nearby Share will begin rolling out to select Pixel and Samsung phones first. The firm adds that it is working with its partners to bring the feature to more devices in the coming week. It is interesting to see the feature roll out to Samsung devices first since select devices from that OEM already offer an alternative to the feature called Quick Share. Regardless, the addition of the feature to other phones will be a welcome addition since there has been no native solution since the deprecation of Android Beam. Google begins rolling out Nearby Share to select Pixel and Samsung phones
  5. Google invests $450 million in ADT, gets exclusive hardware deal ADT will use Google hardware, and Google gets an army of ADT installers. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Google and ADT have announced, "a long-term, strategic partnership" that will see Google invest $450 million in ADT and the two companies combine their smart home and home security lineup. Google says the two companies will work together to "create the next generation of the helpful home," while ADT says the deal "will combine Nest's award-winning hardware and services, powered by Google's machine-learning technology, with ADT's installation, service and professional monitoring." A site detailing the collaboration is up at adt.com/google. Google and ADT have both been working toward smart home security solutions over the years. Google is coming from the position of an Internet company moving into smart homes, while ADT is starting from an old-school home-security company that doesn't want to get run over by these smart home upstarts. By now, both have covered the same areas and have a ton of overlap. There are Google and ADT smartphone apps, smart displays, security cameras, smoke detectors, and, of course, home-security systems, with motion detectors, entryway sensors, keychain presence sensors, security keypads, and monthly subscriptions. (Google's security solution is the not-very-well-known Nest Secure). Google doesn't have an in-house solution for professional remote monitoring, but Nest Secure worked with Brinks Home Security monitoring. ADT doesn't have an in-house solution for smart home automation like voice commands and smart speakers, but ADT devices worked with Z-Wave, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa devices. Merging the Google and ADT product lines seems to mean Nest hardware with ADT monitoring and installation. ADT CEO Jim DeVries spoke to the Financial Times (paywalled) and categorized his company's hardware relationship with Google as "exclusive," meaning ADT will only sell Google devices in the future. A big shoutout in both press releases is given to ADT's army of installers, which, for Google, will be one of the main business improvements. Smart home solutions, especially ones that want every door and window to be monitored, can involve purchasing and installing dozens of devices. The prospect of even planning for a system like this can be too much for many potential customers, but now an ADT installer can show up and handle everything from estimates to installations using Google hardware. Google's $450 million will get a 6.6 percent stake in ADT. ADT says "Each company will commit an additional $150 million, subject to the achievement of certain milestones, to be used for co-marketing, product development, technology and employee training to advance the partnership." Nest has been going through a rocky transition from standalone company to Google sub-brand lately. Google shut down the "Works with Nest" ecosystem, breaking third-party apps and device interoperability. It killed Nest accounts and forced Google accounts on users while merging what was previously considered sensitive smart home data into Google's Big Data collection. The changes have reportedly lead to some third-party installers dumping Nest products for less restrictive alternatives. Google has also extended the Nest brand to most of its smart home products. That means Google Home speakers, Google Wi-Fi, and Chromecast will eventually all live under the Google Nest sub-brand, e.g., "Google Home" is now the "Google Nest Home." While the deal will eventually see ADT exclusively install Google hardware, but getting there will take some time. ADT says it "expects to offer certain Google devices to its customers beginning this year and to expand the integration in 2021." Listing image by Google Google invests $450 million in ADT, gets exclusive hardware deal
  6. Google finally launches the Pixel 4a After multiple delays and a multitude of leaks, Google has finally taken the wraps off the Pixel 4a, the company’s affordable variant of its flagship Pixel 4 smartphone. The Pixel 4a was expected to be launched at the company’s annual Google I/O event earlier this year but the pandemic necessitated the cancellation of the event. Unlike other technology brands, Google didn’t host a virtual event as well. Google positions Pixel 4a as an affordable smartphone that packs in the camera prowess of its flagship smartphone as well as a clean and secure Android experience. For the camera duties, you’ll get a single 12MP camera at the back but it features Pixel 4’s marquee astrophotography mode. For on-device security, there’s the Titan M security module and Google commits that the phone will receive OS and security updates for three years. The Adaptive Battery feature promises all-day battery life. Google Pixel 4a Specifications Operating System: Android 10 Display: 5.81"-inch Full HD+ OLED | HDR+ compliant | Corning Gorilla Glass 3 Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G RAM: 6GB LPDDR4x Storage: 128GB Front Camera: 8MP | 1.12μm pixel size | ƒ/2.0 aperture | 84° field of view Rear Camera: 12.2MP | 1.4μm pixel width | ƒ/1.7 aperture | 77° field of view | OIS + EIS Battery: 3140mAh | USB-C 18W Fast Charge Dimensions: 144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm | 143g Although, a stripped-down version of the Pixel 4 as expected, the Pixel 4a is a definite step up from the last year’s 3a. The latest model jumps from a Snapdragon 670 processor to the 7xx series mobile platform this time around. Since there is only one memory variant, both RAM and storage also get a bump. Unlike last year, there will not be a Pixel 4a XL - Google is releasing only one size variant this time around. While this might be because of the supply chain stress but it will also help Google to reduce the production and logistics costs. However, there will be a 5G variant coming later this year along with the launch of Pixel 5. The Pixel 4a (5G) will be priced at $499 when it launches in fall. Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5 will be available in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia. The Pixel 4a once again comes with those trademark fabric cases by Google. There are three variants available - Basically Black, Static Grey, and Blue Confetti. The Pixel 4a though is available in only one color variant this year, priced at $349. The phone is now available for pre-order in the U.S. on the Google Store and on Google Fi. From August 20, the 4a will be available through the Google Store, BestBuy.com, Amazon, and more, as well as carriers including U.S. Cellular and Verizon. Because of the disruptions due to the pandemic, the phone will be launched in other markets later this year – in October in India, for example. Source: Google Google finally launches the Pixel 4a
  7. Google’s ‘trust tokens’ are here to take cookies down a peg The company plans to eventually phase out third-party cookies in the Chrome browser Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Google said earlier this year it would join other web browser companies to block third-party cookies in Chrome, and today, developers have their first chance to test a proposed alternative to tracking users across the web: trust tokens. Unlike cookies, trust tokens are designed to authenticate a user without needing to know their identity. Trust tokens would not be able to track users across websites, because they’re theoretically all the same, but they could still let websites prove to advertisers that actual users — not bots — visited a site or clicked on an ad. (An explainer on GitHub suggests that websites could issue multiple different kinds of trust tokens, though.) Google’s been a little slower to adapt a solution for the third-party tracking cookies that everyone seemingly hates; Safari and Firefox already block them by default, though Safari is more aggressive about it. But Mike Schulman, Google’s vice president for ads privacy and safety, reiterated in a blog post that the company still plans to eventually phase out third-party cookies in Chrome as well. In addition, Google is making some tweaks to the “why this ad” button that lets you see why some ads are targeted to you. The new “about this ad” label will now provide the verified name of the advertiser, too, so you can tell which companies are targeting you, and make it clearer to people how Google collects personal data for ads. The new labels will begin rolling out toward the end of the year. The company also announced an extension for its Chrome browser, currently in alpha, called Ads Transparency Spotlight, which should provide “detailed information about all the ads they see on the web.” Users will be able to see details about ads on a given page, see why ads are shown on a page, and a list of other companies and services with a presence on the page, such as website analytics or content delivery networks. Google’s ‘trust tokens’ are here to take cookies down a peg
  8. Google suffers first revenue decline as ads hit by pandemic Executives express cautious optimism for a return to growth. Enlarge / Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019. Lyu Liang | VCG | Getty Images 43 with 25 posters participating Google has suffered its first recorded revenue decline, as the coronavirus crisis wiped 8 percent from advertising income in the latest quarter and depressed parent company Alphabet’s revenues by 2 percent from the year before. Despite the unprecedented fall-off in its core business, however, Google executives said conditions had improved as the quarter progressed, and offered cautious optimism for a return to growth in the current period. Sundar Pichai, chief executive, said Google had seen “the early signs of stabilization, as users returned to commercial activity online.” Ruth Porat, chief financial officer, added that the search advertising business had ended the quarter with revenue roughly flat compared with the previous year, and had also seen “a modest improvement” in July. The advertising business is closely tied to the broader economy, she added, and “fragile” conditions left the outlook uncertain in the months ahead. Google’s advertising is heavily dependent on small and medium-sized businesses, which have been the hardest hit in the downturn. The advertising decline was partially offset by a 6-percent increase at YouTube, where some improvement in demand for brand advertising lifted revenue to $3.8 billion. The company’s cloud business also posted a 43-percent jump in revenue, to $3 billion. Though the performance echoed the gains reported by other cloud computing companies during the pandemic, the growth was still lower than the 52 percent of the preceding three months, and below most expectations. Google missed out on the pandemic-fueled bounce at rival Amazon in the latest quarter because its cloud business is far smaller than Amazon Web Services, while repeated attempts to boost its position in online commerce have failed to gain traction. Mr Pichai said he was confident its latest efforts, under a new management team, would yield “long-term” results. The company’s executives said three months ago that Google had started the second quarter with advertising revenue suffering a “mid teen year-on-year decline.” But they also surprised investors at the time with the news that they were seeing the first signs of stabilization in search advertising. Since then, Alphabet’s shares have risen 25 percent, nearly double the rise in the broader US stock market. After the results news, the price was up less than 1 percent. Alphabet—which counts on Google for more than 99 percent of its revenue—reported gross revenue in the latest period of $38.3 billion. Net revenue, after deducting traffic acquisition costs, fell less than a percentage point, to $31.6 billion. Earnings per share declined 29 percent, to $10.13, as costs rose 7 percent, despite a company-wide moratorium on all but essential hiring. Most analysts had expected Alphabet’s net revenue to fall 4 percent to $30.5 billion in the latest quarter, with earnings per share dropping to $8.34. They had also forecast a return to growth in the third quarter, with revenues expected to rebound nearly 3 percent and earnings per share up 6 percent. Google suffers first revenue decline as ads hit by pandemic
  9. Google wants Samsung to kill Bixby, Galaxy App Store Google offers Samsung a higher revenue share in exchange for offing its ecosystem. Enlarge / Bixby on the Galaxy S9. Ron Amadeo 74 with 61 posters participating Reuters and Bloomberg are both independently reporting that Google is pushing Samsung to back away from its duplicate Android ecosystem and promote Google apps instead. A "correspondence" between the two companies was seen by both sites, which saw Google push Samsung to promote the Play Store and Google Assistant over the Galaxy App Store and Samsung's Bixby assistant. Google was apparently willing to open its wallet and pay Samsung to make it happen. Bloomberg's interpretation of the negotiations is pretty vague, saying the deal "would promote Google's digital assistant and Play Store for apps on [Samsung] devices." The later Reuters report is a lot more specific, saying Samsung is "considering dropping its Bixby virtual assistant and Galaxy Apps Store from its mobile devices." Reuters goes on to say that "Google is dangling more lucrative terms for Samsung than in previous deals if it retreats from its app strategy." Part of Google's immense web of Android protection is sharing ad revenue and Play Store app revenue with phone manufacturers, and offering Samsung a higher share is an easy way to bribe the South Korean company into submission. Whether Samsung would actually be willing to kill Bixby and the Galaxy App store is up in the air. Samsung has invested piles of money in Bixby since its launch in 2017, but Bixby hasn't been very successful. Samsung acquired the assistant startup Viv Labs, which was founded by the creators of Siri, and put the company to work improving Bixby. But Samsung's voice assistant still can't hang in the same crowd as the Google Assistant, Apple's Siri, and Amazon Alexa. Voice assistants are primarily interfaces to a search engine and a services ecosystem, two things Samsung doesn't really invest in, so it has been hard for the company to turn Bixby into something useful. When you say "take a note," where does it go? Google and Apple both have a sprawling ecosystem for notes, music, reminders, calendar events, photos, maps, and more, all available from your phone and the Web. Samsung's ecosystem gap means that Bixby relies on a cobbled-together web of third-party services or controlling apps on your Samsung phone, which are mostly forks of Google's base Android apps. Samsung's Bixby ships on its Android devices, its Tizen smartwatches, and on some refrigerators (no, really). But that's about it. Samsung announced a Bixby smart speaker as the "Galaxy Home" in 2018, but nearly two years have gone by and the product is nowhere to be seen. Samsung pivoted to a cheaper "Galaxy Home Mini" instead, but Home Mini doesn't seem like it ever became a commercial product either. Samsung offered it as a free bonus for some Galaxy S20 pre-orders in South Korea, but it's not for sale. The real test of a voice assistant is a smart speaker, which has no interface other than voice, and Samsung doesn't seem confident in Bixby's ability to pull this off. The main problem I see with killing Bixby is that it would leave Samsung's smart watches without a voice assistant at all. I doubt Google would build Google Assistant for Tizen watches. Samsung's Galaxy App store is used to update Samsung's core Android apps that ship with a phone, but there's really no reason to keep it around for most countries. Relying entirely on the Play Store is tough since Google Play isn't available in China, so in that country, Samsung's own app store is useful. The company's app store doesn't seem to be entirely successful in China, either, though—the AppInChina App Store Index rates Samsung as the 15th most-popular app store in China. Enlarge / The Galaxy S20 Ultra's default setup, with a big, white Google Search bar, Galaxy App Store, and Play Store, all on the home screen. Ron Amadeo I have trouble imagining Samsung abandoning Bixby and the Galaxy App Store when it has been so concerned about its reliance on Google in the past. Bloomberg blames the coronavirus for why Samsung would be open to something like this, saying, "the drop in demand for mobile devices during the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the company's need for revenue and weakened its negotiating position with a key partner." Currently, Google products have very strong default placement on Samsung phones. Both the Play Store and Google Search bar ship on the first home screen, and Google is the default search engine. When we last saw Google's Play Store and app licensing terms for Android, the location and defaultness of Google services were enshrined in the contract. Google made things like the location of the search bar and Play Store icons a requirement for licensing the company's closed-source Android apps—Google wanted spots on the home screen. The EU actually took Google to task for its placement rules, saying that Google's licensing terms were anticompetitive. Google's argument was that Android's development was offered to OEMs for free, and the inclusion and placement of these apps funded its development through ad and app revenue. Google's concession to EU regulators was to add a paid flexibility tier to Google Play licensing, where OEMs could pay up to $40 to unbundle Google's apps and placement requirements. Nothing about Google's licensing terms stops phone manufacturers from building competing and duplicate services, and on a Samsung phone, the Galaxy App Store also lives on the home screen, right next to the Play Store. Bixby typically gets its own dedicated hardware button on the side of a Samsung phone, and while that is now remappable to a different app, you specifically can't map it to the Google Assistant. Reuters says that "the companies are aiming to finalize terms by Friday." Samsung's Galaxy Note 20 launch is next week, which seems a bit too early to see any dramatic software changes. But we'll be on the lookout for the prominence of Bixby in the company's presentation. Google wants Samsung to kill Bixby, Galaxy App Store
  10. Google will keep 200,000 workers home through next summer Google is the first major tech company to announce office closures until mid-2021. Enlarge / Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in 2018. Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images 135 with 66 posters participating, including story author Google will keep "nearly all" of its workforce—around 200,000 employees and contractors—working from home for another year, The Wall Street Journal has reported. Google CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly made the decision last week. The long timeline gives more certainty for Googlers who are making school and housing decisions for the coming academic year. Previously Google workers were due back in the office in January. Companies across Silicon Valley—and across the broader US economy—have been keeping their offices closed longer as the severity of the coronavirus pandemic becomes more clear. In May, Facebook announced that it was making a permanent shift toward allowing more employees to work from home. All Facebook workers are encouraged to work from home through the end of the year. Amazon is encouraging employees to work from home through the end of the year. Twitter said in May that employees could work from home indefinitely. Its offices will be closed through at least September. Microsoft is allowing employees to work from home until at least October. While working from home is a new option for a lot of American workers, Ars Technica has been a work-from-home organization for decades. Our writers and editors offered some remote working tips in a March article. Google will keep 200,000 workers home through next summer
  11. Google sued by ACCC for expanded personal data use without consent The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken legal action against the tech giant Google over the allegation that the company failed to properly inform the customers on how their data is being used and did not get the consent of customers when expanding its personal data use and privacy policy. The case is filed against the firm for combining users personal information in Google accounts with their activities on non-Google sites in 2016, to display ads. "This meant this data about users' non-Google online activity became linked to their names and other identifying information held by Google. Previously, this information had been kept separately from users' Google accounts, meaning the data was not linked to an individual user," the ACCC said. The ACCC also accused Google of using the newly-combined information to improve the commercial performance of its advertising businesses.“We are taking this action because we consider Google misled Australian consumers about what it planned to do with large amounts of their personal information, including internet activity on websites not connected to Google,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement. After the advent of coronavirus contact-tracing apps, critics have been vocal about their right to privacy, as they fear that these apps could be used to individually track users. Similarly, the U.S. regulatory body, concerned about how tech companies treat user data, has summoned Big Tech CEOs for a congressional hearing. Source: Reuters Google sued by ACCC for expanded personal data use without consent
  12. Google reportedly peeks into Android data to gain edge over third-party apps Google is already under investigation by Congress, DOJ, and 50 state AGs. Enlarge Aurich Lawson / Getty Images 37 with 31 posters participating, including story author Google for several years has collected app-usage data collected from Android phones to develop and advance its own competing apps, a new report alleges. The project, called Android Lockbox, "collects sensitive Android user data" for use within Google and has been in effect since at least 2013, The Information reports. An internal team that tracks the worldwide usage of Google's first-party apps "also has used Lockbox data on third-party apps to show executives how Google services were performing compared to rivals," sources told The Information. The data was used earlier this month in India, where Google planned to roll out a competitor app to TikTok. The information is collected through Google Mobile Services, the collection of apps and APIs such as Google, Chrome, Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Maps that usually comes pre-installed with Android. Google told The Information that it does access usage data on other Android developers' apps but only through an API that has also been available to third-party developers since 2014. While the API grants developers access to information about phones on which their apps are installed, however, Google has much wider insight into the broad pool of all Android phones globally. A Google representative told The Information, "The API doesn't obtain any information about in-app activity and our collection of this data is disclosed to and controllable by users" but did not comment on how Google uses that or any other data to research or develop competitors to other apps. Sound familiar? If The Information's allegations are accurate, antitrust regulators are likely to have a whole lot of questions for Google. As we here at Ars have explained before, antitrust law isn't just about monopolies. It's also about a broad bucket of behaviors that are considered anticompetitive under the law. Using your power as one of the biggest companies in the world to put the squeeze on startups who could eventually become viable, serious competitors is one of those anticompetitive behaviors, and regulators don't like it. Four of the biggest US tech firms—Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, and Facebook—are all under a bevy of state, federal, and international antitrust probes at this moment, investigating whether—and, if so, to what extent—those companies grew and maintained their market power through underhanded, unlawful tactics. Facebook in particular has been scrutinized for using data on competitors in almost exactly the way the new report accuses Google of doing. The social giant used a VPN it acquired, called Onavo, to redirect traffic through Facebook servers, where it could be logged and analyzed. That data let Facebook see what competition apps were growing in popularity so that it could then either buy out those start-ups or launch competitors. One of those competitors was Snapchat. Last fall, reports surfaced that Snap for several years kept a dossier, called Project Voldemort, documenting Facebook's attempts first to acquire it and later, after acquisition didn't work, to copy Snapchat's key features. US investigators are also widely assumed to be probing the way in which Apple can leverage data from the iOS App Store to inform its own software development. The EU is also probing the way Apple privileges its first-party apps after Spotify last year filed a complaint against the company. Google reportedly peeks into Android data to gain edge over third-party apps
  13. The big winner in Slack’s Microsoft fight could be Google Slack is about to face even greater competition SlackSlack surprised Microsoft with a competition complaint in Europe yesterday. After arguing for months that Microsoft Teams isn’t a true competitor to Slack and is more akin to Zoom, Slack finally admitted what was clear all along: Microsoft Teams is a competitor, and Slack is finding it hard to compete with Microsoft. It’s not a surprising admission, but if Slack is finding it hard to compete with Microsoft, then it’s going to face even greater headaches once Google finally gets its act together. After fumbling with communications apps for years, there are early signs that Google is now ready to take on Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. Google’s enterprise play has huge implications for Slack’s EU antitrust bid — and the company’s future beyond it. Slack looks set to face two giant tech companies leveraging their dominant products to take a big slices of the workplace communications business. If Slack manages to convince the EU to take action against Microsoft’s bundling, it still faces the looming threat of Google bundling its own apps and services in a similar way. And for antitrust crusaders, G Suite shows that the bundling problem is much bigger than Microsoft. Slack’s competition complaint, published yesterday, is targeted solely at Microsoft and focused on the company’s bundling of Teams with its Office 365 subscription. “What we’re asking for is that Teams be separated from the Office suite and be sold separately with a fair commercial price tag associated with it so it competes on the merit with our product,” explained David Schellhase, Slack’s legal chief, in a call with reporters yesterday. “It really is as simple and straightforward as that.” Slack for IPhone. Microsoft has bundled a variety of productivity apps with its Office suite for decades, and it chose to bundle Teams free to Office 365 customers when it launched back in 2016. This bundling, alongside tight Office integration, has made it hard for Slack to convince businesses that are already paying for Office to pay extra to get Slack. But Google looks set to replicate that tactic. G Suite, which includes regular Gmail users, passed 2 billion active users earlier this year, and G Suite’s new boss, Javier Soltero, said at the time that “changing the way people work is something we are uniquely positioned to do.” Soltero arrived at Google recently after a four-year career at Microsoft, a company he joined originally when the software giant acquired Acompli, which later became Outlook for iOS. He’s already demonstrated his expertise for spotting trends and filling the gaps with apps and services that were good enough for Microsoft to acquire. If he can repeat this at Google, then Slack has another giant competitor ready to bundle and leverage its popular communications and productivity apps. Google has already shown signs it’s moving toward catching up with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack. Google made Meet free earlier this year to try to compete with Zoom’s sudden popularity, and it has started integrating the videoconferencing app deeply into Gmail and Google Calendar. The next step toward true Slack and Teams competition is Google’s early work toward integrating Google Chat, Rooms, and Meet into Gmail. This won’t arrive until later this year, but it’s clearly a big priority at Google. Google Meet Gmail integration. If Google can truly execute here and provide a more coherent communications platform that merges email, chat, and video calls into a single experience, then that’s as big a threat to Slack as well as Microsoft Teams. Slack didn’t have a good answer to the looming threat of Google, and why Google’s bundling approach is less of a threat than Microsoft’s. “Google and Microsoft are different,” says Schellhase, responding to a question about why Microsoft’s work with Teams is different from Google’s recent approach. “Microsoft has a dominant position with the Office productivity suite and all of the ancillary software. There’s no law against having a dominant position, but there are laws about how companies that have dominant market share have to behave. One thing they cannot do is tie a new independent product to the dominant product that they’ve got.” If you look at the raw numbers between Google and Microsoft’s reach or dominance, Office is used by around 1.2 billion people, and Google says G Suite is used by 2 billion. The key difference between these numbers is that the vast majority of people who are using Office are using it as part of a work license or subscription, whereas the overwhelming majority of what Google calls G Suite users are the approximately 1.5 billion Gmail users who probably aren’t all using the service for work. So far, Google hasn’t focused on leveraging those free users into enterprise clients — but when it starts, it could become a major player overnight. Microsoft dominates the workplace with Office, but Google clearly dominates consumer usage of email, search, and with services like YouTube. Google’s free services are used for work, too. This is especially true in education, where G Suite and Chromebooks continue to take over classrooms across the US. Google’s ability to bundle and integrate Meet free with Gmail should still be a cause for concern for Slack, even if the company isn’t willing to admit that or fight that battle just yet. It’s still not clear whether the European Commission will even formally investigate Slack’s complaint. We likely have months of uncertainty until a decision is made, and these are keys months ahead for Microsoft, Google, Slack, Zoom, and many others fighting for how businesses and students communicate. “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella back in April. Businesses have been flocking to services like Microsoft Teams and Zoom during the pandemic. While Microsoft Teams overtook Slack usage with 13 million daily users a year ago, that wasn’t enough to prompt an EU complaint. It’s clear that the digital transformation that businesses are being forced to accelerate during this pandemic has pushed many more to Microsoft Teams instead of Slack. Microsoft Teams usage skyrocketed nearly 40 percent in a single week at the beginning of the pandemic, moving from 32 million to 44 million. That shift hasn’t slowed down either, with Microsoft revealing back in April that Teams is now at 75 million daily active users. Slack has said it has broken user records due to increased demand for remote working, but the company has only said 12.5 million concurrent Slack users so far. That number is also different from the 12 million daily active users Slack previously disclosed back in October. Microsoft has responded to Slack’s EU complaint, and the company used the opportunity to highlight an area it feels Slack missed out on: videoconferencing. While Slack does actually support videoconferencing, Microsoft says, “With COVID-19, the market has embraced Teams in record numbers while Slack suffered from its absence of video-conferencing.” Slack’s videoconferencing is far inferior to Teams, and it’s the big reason behind Slack partnering up with Amazon to transition to Chime for voice and video calling. Slack’s miss on reliable video calling and videoconferencing highlights one of the main differences between Microsoft Teams and Slack. Microsoft has leveraged its investments in Lync and Skype and rolled them into Teams and chat, while Slack has brilliantly adapted IRC for the workplace and has ambitions to truly eliminate business email. The differences between Slack and Teams have allowed both to compete for different customers, especially as Microsoft caters to the Office crowd and Slack for a combination of G Suite, Zoom, and other tools. Google is looming large, though. The tighter integration of Google Meet into Gmail hits at a Slack weakness, and if Google is able to produce a compelling Slack competitor, then Slack will face far bigger problems than Microsoft alone. The big winner in Slack’s Microsoft fight could be Google
  14. Google Moves to Secure the Cloud From Itself Confidential Virtual Machines allows Google Cloud Services Customers to keep data secret—even when it's being actively processed. Photograph: FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images Sensitive data needs to be encrypted both at rest and in transit—that is, when it's passively stored and when it's being sent from one spot to another. Covering these two bases protects information a lot of the time, but still doesn't account for every scenario. Now Google Cloud Services—which counts PayPal, HSBC, and Bloomberg as customers—is working to fill a crucial gap. When you're storing tons of data in the cloud, you typically don't just move it into place and then leave it. Organizations generally want to actively process the information they hold—meaning cloud customers want to comb and index their data, train machine learning models with it, or otherwise crunch some numbers. With that priority in mind, Google is today introducing a "confidential computing" feature known as Confidential Virtual Machines, which will allow customers to keep their data encrypted and inaccessible even while it's being processed. Any entity that runs its own data center might want to have this protection, but it's especially valuable when organizations entrust their data to rented infrastructure from cloud providers like Google. Without confidential computing mechanisms to process data privately, Google needs unencrypted or cleartext access to data—meaning law enforcement or attackers themselves could use this gap to access information stored in the cloud. "It’s kind of obvious for our customers to look into cloud for capacity, but then the bigger problem is the lines are blurring," says Nelly Porter, a senior product manager at Google Cloud. "Who is in control? How can I assure that I can protect my data? Data has to be processed, so you load it in memory in cleartext and don’t have any additional protection. And confidential computing is trying to solve this. Despite the fact that we have very strong protections and isolation, cryptographic isolation is much stronger." The new feature uses second-generation Epyc processors from AMD as its foundation. In a cloud platform where lots of customers are all sharing the same infrastructure, "virtual machines" are a common tool for keeping customers separate, giving them access to their own dedicated "computers" and "servers" through virtualization, rather than through allotting dedicated physical hardware. The virtual machines Google and AMD launched for Google Cloud Services in February (known as N2D VMs) have special security features that allow AMD's processors to generate and manage encryption keys that stay on the chip. In this way, the system can encrypt a customer's virtual machines so they're inaccessible from Google Cloud Services' general infrastructure, but can still decrypt data for processing inside a walled garden that only customers can access. "If I look at today, an admin has the ability to peer in and see what’s going on in each one of those VMs. And if I have a bad actor on one of those VMs there are tools that they can use to break out into neighbors' VMs, peer inside and see the data, because it’s all unencrypted," says Greg Gibby, senior product manager at AMD. "But now, as the admin spins up VMs, they can no longer peer into those VMs and see the data. And if I have a bad actor in those VMs and they break into another one, they can’t see the data that’s encrypted." With Confidential Virtual Machines turned on, data is decryptable on the chip itself but remains encrypted to everyone else, including Google, since they can't access the decryption keys stored only on the chip. All of this could make the chip’s own security a single point of failure, though. "The high-level goal of confidential computing is to protect data even when it is in use. That’s a fantastic goal and would have a major impact on security and privacy," says Brown University researcher Seny Kamara. "That being said, I’m really skeptical about providing confidential computing based on special hardware. We’ve seen so many attacks already against purpose-built chips like Intel SGX, and there’s no reason to believe the attacks will stop." Google and AMD aren't the only tech giants working on confidential computing. A consortium of industry leaders—including ARM, Intel, Microsoft, Facebook, and Huawei—launched last summer to promote the practice. And both Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services have launched confidential computing features over the last couple of years using variations on the secure hardware approach. Google says, though, that it focused on creating a version of the offering that's as dead simple as possible for customers to turn on, even for massive amounts of data. There's an add-on charge, but essentially all you have to do is check a box. "Anything that you previously couldn't run with encryption, this single checkbox transforms your infrastructure into confidential VMs," Porter says. The new feature is the first in what Google calls its Confidential Computing Portfolio, which will eventually include other tools to make encryption as ubiquitous as possible across Google Cloud Services. For some, the caveat that Confidential VMs still rely on potentially vulnerable hardware is a deal breaker. This risk is ever present with hardware-based trust schemes across all sorts of digital products. But when you're renting space in shared cloud infrastructure, any effort to keep more data encrypted more of the time could be an important way to protect your turf. Google Moves to Secure the Cloud From Itself
  15. Pixel 4a render appears on the Google Store If you've been anxiously waiting for the Google Pixel 4a, you won't have to wait much longer. As spotted by 9to5Google, the new mid-range handset has appeared on the company's own store. Naturally, that likely means that a launch is imminent. The device was originally supposed to launch at Google's I/O 2020 developer conference, and that rumor is seemingly confirmed by the May 12 date shown in the renders. Unfortunately, I/O was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Google Pixel 4a is expected to arrive with a Snapdragon 730 chipset, an improvement over the Snapdragon 670 that was found in the Pixel 3a. It's also expected to include a 5.81-inch 2340x1080 OLED screen, a 3,080mAh battery, and 6GB RAM. It does borrow the square camera housing with rounded corners that's seen on the Pixel 4 series, but there's only one camera lens. No XL model is expected. There's not much that we don't know about the handset besides pricing. However, if it follows the same trend that was set by last year's Pixel 3a, then it should start at under $400. Pixel 4a render appears on the Google Store
  16. Google is bringing the fruits of its cross-platform app making framework Flutter to Linux desktops with help of Canonical no less. Over 500,000 developers already use Flutter, Google’s open source UI framework, to building mobile apps, and tech is often pitched as an alternative to React Native. But while the Flutter SDK has been available on Linux to create apps for other platforms it wasn’t possible to build desktop Linux apps. That changes today. Build Linux Apps with Flutter “[We] are happy to jointly announce the availability of the Linux alpha for Flutter alongside Canonical, the publisher of Ubuntu, the world’s most popular desktop Linux distribution,” writes Google’s Chris Sells in a blog post. Google said last year that it wanted to bring Flutter build software to desktop platforms. And with Ubuntu the go-to OS for mobile app creation (including ones built using the Flutter SDK) there’s much merit in allowing devs to use the software to make apps for the underlying platform too. But don’t fear some kind of Frankenstein mobile fudge; Flutter aims to be a first-class citizen on Linux. Google says it has done ‘extensive refactoring’ to the engine to support, power, and provide native desktop experiences. While Dart, the programming language that underpins the toolkit, is now able to take advantage of desktop integration features. Canonical investing heavily Canonical is also putting a team of developers to work on the tech alongside Google’s own engineers. The company says it will collaborate with Google to “improve Linux support and maintain feature parity with the other supported platforms”. What makes Flutter so popular? Well, the tech allows devs to code an app once and have it run on multiple different platforms, including mobile and macOS. But with the new alpha apps built using this tech can also run on the Linux desktop. Install Flutter SDK on Ubuntu To get started building apps (for whatever platform) you don’t need to install a spaghetti tnagle of intertwined dependencies and developer tools. Just install the Flutter SDK from the Snap Store, add the Dart plugin in an IDE like Visual Studio Code, and get coding: Install Flutter SDK from the Snap Store here Note: to build desktop Linux apps using Flutter you do need to run the following commands after installing the SDK: flutter channel dev flutter upgrade flutter config --enable-linux-desktop You may also wish to install the flutter-gallery snap too. This showcases the range of widgets and interface components available for use — and will almost certainly give you lots of inspiration for what you could create! Finally if you’re less interested in making apps and more keen on trying them do check out Flokk Contacts. This is sample desktop Flutter app built to show off what the tech is capable of on desktop. Source
  17. Google, Facebook, and Twitter halt government data requests after new Hong Kong security law The companies are reviewing a new security law that gives China power to stifle dissent Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Google, Facebook, and Twitter are pausing the processing of data requests from the Hong Kong government as they review a new security law that went into effect on July 1st. Google put its pause into place as soon as the law took effect last Wednesday. “[W]hen the law took effect, we paused production on any new data requests from Hong Kong authorities,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge in an email, “and we’ll continue to review the details of the new law,” the spokesperson said. Twitter also halted its handling of government requests as of July 1st, with Facebook announcing its pause on Monday, The New York Times reported. Social media platforms typically produce private user information in response to valid court orders, depending on the legal process in various countries. But under this new position, all the companies will, at least temporarily, ignore the requests coming from the government of Hong Kong. The new policies are in response to China’s new national security law in Hong Kong, which was first proposed in May. Hong Kong has traditionally enjoyed significant independence from mainland China, but the central Chinese government has tightened restrictions on speech in Hong Kong in recent months, bringing a gradual end to the “one country, two systems” principle. China’s push toward more control has led to widespread protests across Hong Kong, which began last year. In particular, the new security law gives China the power to limit political dissent against the Communist Party, making it unlawful to engage in “secession, subversion, organization and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.” Those powers are particularly relevant for social platforms, which may be hosting the now-criminalized subversive activities. Google, Facebook, and Twitter have both been banned in China for several years, part of the so-called “Great Firewall,” under which government censors and monitors track online activity. The new security law has already compelled several political opposition parties in Hong Kong to disband, NPR reported, and is expected to further chill political dissent against Beijing in Hong Kong. “We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an email to The Verge. Twitter says it is reviewing the new law to assess the implications, adding many terms of the new law are “vague and without clear definition,” a spokesperson wrote in an email to The Verge. “Like many public interest organizations, civil society leaders and entities, and industry peers, we have grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law.” Facebook has a process for reviewing government requests, which takes into account its own policies and local laws as well as international human rights standards, the spokesperson added. “We are pausing the review of government requests for user data from Hong Kong pending further assessment of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with international human rights experts.” Facebook has offices in China and uses Chinese suppliers to manufacture some of its hardware, including its Oculus VR headsets and its Portal video chat devices. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has attempted to mend relations with China in the past, meeting with Communist Party leaders while in Beijing for an economic forum in 2016. More recently, he’s pushed concerns about China setting the terms for online engagement. “If another nation’s platform sets the rules,” Zuckerberg said last year, “our nation’s discourse could be defined by a completely different set of values.” Google, Facebook, and Twitter halt government data requests after new Hong Kong security law
  18. Google begins rolling out dark mode support for Sheets, Docs, and Slides Google is beginning to roll out dark theme support to Sheets, Docs, and Slides on Android starting today. The apps have been one the holdouts for dark theme support, with the search giant bringing the theme to its other services and offerings such as the Google app. The company says that the dark theme will “intelligently adjust the product interface and user-generated content” to make the app more usable in darker environments. Once the feature is made available, the apps will obey the system’s theme settings. However, as is customary with most apps, users can switch to the light theme through the settings for each individual app by heading to Menu > Settings > Theme > Dark. In addition to that, users can also view how their content will look in the dark mode by heading to the three-dot menu and tapping on the ‘view in light theme’ toggle. The colors in the content are not affected by the change in modes and remain constant. The ability to change to a darker theme is a welcome addition for those that prefer the mode on other apps and the system. The firm notes that the feature is rolling out to all G Suite customers and users with personal accounts starting today. However, the rollout is staggered, and the Mountain View company says that it could take longer than 15 days for the feature to be visible to all customers. There is no information on when the theming option will be made available to iOS users. Google begins rolling out dark mode support for Sheets, Docs, and Slides
  19. geeteam

    Hidden Android Secret Codes

    How well do you know your Android device? Here are some of the hidden Android secret codes. Since most hidden menus are manufacturer specific, there’s no guarantee that they’ll work across all Android smartphones, but you can try them out nevertheless on your Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Sony and other devices. Be advised, though, that some of these can cause serious changes to your device’s configuration, so don’t play with something that you don’t fully understand. You can find more of these spread across the internet, and they’re usually very handy to have, even if just to show off your geekiness to your social circle. Update x1: More codes! Source : Redmondpie
  20. Google Phone gets Verified Calls to let you know why a business is calling Google is rolling out a new Verified Calls feature for the Phone app to let a user know that they are receiving a call from a business and the reason behind it. The company explains that the Verified Calls feature is meant to avoid scams and fraud calls by verifying the identity of the business that is calling, display their reason for calling as well as their business logo. All these details will be shown on the incoming call screen so a user knows that they are receiving a genuine call from a business and its purpose without picking the phone up. Google also confirms that a user's private data is not shared with the businesses at any time during this process. Verified Calls are different from call screening as in the latter, Assistant screens the calls after it is picked up. The former requires businesses to send their phone number, the phone number they are calling, and the reason they are calling like "Scheduling your internet installation." This information is then relayed by Google's server to the Phone app on your device. Then, when the business calls you, Google compares the incoming call information with the one provided by the business and then shows it on the Phone app. Within a few minutes of the verification being completed, Google will delete your phone number and the reason for calling from its servers. The Verified Calls feature is turned on by default provided you have the Google Phone app on your device and have your number linked to your Google account. Google Phone gets Verified Calls to let you know why a business is calling
  21. Sounds like Google’s Pixel 4A is nearly ready — and won’t have radar The FCC just authorized a new Google phone dubbed “G025.” Image: @OnLeaks / 91Mobiles “Where is Google’s Pixel 4A?” That’s the question we asked two weeks ago, bringing you up to speed on how Google had seemingly missed the typical window to release its thoroughly-leaked followup to the company’s impressive but short-battery-lived Pixel 4 flagship. But a new FCC filing today, spotted by XDA-Developers, suggests the more affordable Pixel 4A is nigh. Technically, it’s not a given that the Google phone newly authorized by the Federal Communications Commission actually is the Pixel 4A, nor that Google is actually going to announce it anytime soon, if ever. All we know for sure is that the Google “G025J” can now be sold in the United States, and that we typically see the FCC authorize such phones shortly before they’re official. Google doesn’t make a lot of phones, and it seems likely that since “G020” meant Pixel 4, a “G025” would be some sort of half-step successor. Oh, but I lied, we can glean one other thing from the FCC filings: this phone almost certainly won’t have Google’s tiny Soli radar sensor chip for “Motion Sense” gesture controls and quicker face unlocks. Why do I say that? That radar tech uses millimeter wave radio frequencies, which would have to be disclosed in these FCC docs... and they’re not. They showed up in the Pixel 4 FCC’s filings as appearing between 58 and 63.5GHz. But it’s not like previous leaks suggested the Pixel 4A would have Soli, and it’s not clear where the sensor would have even lived: leaked images suggest the new phone won’t have the Pixel 4’s same sensor-filled bezel to begin with. Here’s everything else we think we know about the Pixel 4a so far, including its rumored 5.81-inch display, processor, battery, camera, and the return of the headphone jack and fingerprint reader. Image: Pigtou Sounds like Google’s Pixel 4A is nearly ready — and won’t have radar
  22. Google will automatically delete activity history for new Google accounts Google has announced some improvements in its approach to protecting user privacy. Last year, the company introduced the ability for users to setup auto-delete for their location history as well was their web and app activity. This let users set how long they want to allow Google to keep their data before it's deleted. Later in the year, a similar feature was announced for YouTube data. Starting today, new Google accounts will no longer need to set up automatic data deletion for web and app activity or location history. When you create a new account, it will automatically set to automatically delete your data after 18 months, though you can still choose to keep it forever or delete it sooner. For existing accounts, whichever option is currently selected will remain active. For YouTube history, a similar principle is being followed, but data will be kept for 36 months instead of 18 by default. This will also apply to new accounts, or accounts turning on the YouTube history for the first time. There are more changes on the way, though. Google is making it possible to access your privacy settings by using Search, so you can type in things like "Google Privacy Checkup" to get a card where you can change the privacy settings for your account. Google is also making it easier to enable Incognito mode in its apps by pressing and holding on your profile picture to switch instantly. This feature is currently available in Search, Maps, and YouTube on iOS, and will roll out more broadly over time. Google is also bringing its Password Checkup tool - which can tell users if their password has been compromised in a known breach - into the Security Checkup tool for Google Accounts. As a result, the Password Checkup extension for Chrome will be discontinued in the coming months. Going forward, Google promises to continue to invest in keeping its users' data private, expanding its differential privacy library to Java and Go programming languages, and working to comply with privacy regulations around the world. Google will automatically delete activity history for new Google accounts
  23. Google is on a mission to stop you from reusing passwords It’s adding its Password Checkup tool to the Security Checkup dashboard Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge “Passwords are one of the worst things on the internet,” Mark Risher, Google’s senior director for account security, identity, and abuse told The Verge. Though they’re essential for security and to help people log in to many apps and websites, “they’re one of the primary, if not the primary, ways that people actually end up getting compromised.” It’s a strange thing for a Google security executive to say because the last time you logged into Gmail, you probably typed in a password. But the company has been trying to nudge users away from the model for years, or at least minimize the damage. And in the coming weeks, one of Google’s quietest tools in that fight — the Password Checkup plugin — will be getting a higher profile, as it joins the Security Checkup dashboard built into every Google account. Risher is right to be concerned. Though you can use a tool like a password manager to help keep track of your logins, a lot of people just end up reusing passwords for many accounts. Fifty-two percent of people reuse the same password for multiple accounts, according to the results of a poll published in February 2019 by Google and polling firm Harris. Thirteen percent of people reuse that password for all of their accounts, that poll found. And Microsoft said in 2019 that 44 million Microsoft accounts used logins that had been leaked online. While reusing passwords can be one way to remember a complex word, phrase, or combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that you think no one will ever be able to guess, the practice can put your personal information in danger. If that reused password gets leaked as part of a data breach, hackers could then have the key to many of your other online accounts — no matter how complex the phrase is. “We know from other research we’ve done in the past that people who’ve had their data exposed by a data breach are 10 times more likely to be hijacked than a person that’s not exposed by one of these breaches,” said Kurt Thomas, a member of Google’s anti-abuse and security research team. Google has been trying to help users build better password habits for some time, slowly but surely. For years, the company has offered a built-in password manager in Google Accounts on Chrome and Android that can save your passwords and autofill them on websites and apps, for example. But over the past year or so, Google has also been working to help people proactively make better passwords with Password Checkup. The tool checks logins against a database of 4 billion leaked credentials, seeing if the password you’re typing in matches one that’s already leaked. It’s not a new idea, but Google is uniquely well-positioned to offer something like Password Checkup. The company has access to billions of passwords and the scale to roll out Password Checkup to billions of users in a way that integrates with account security tools on which many people already rely. Here’s what Password Checkup will look like in Security Checkup. Image: Google Figuring out how to let Password Checkup flag compromised credentials in a privacy-respecting way was a tough technical problem that required a combined effort from both Google and Stanford. The challenge was finding a way to automatically check a user’s credentials against a database of breached logins without revealing that information to Google or giving the user access to the whole database, all while scaling that solution to Google’s huge user base, researchers from both organizations told me. To do so, Google stores a hashed and encrypted version of every known username and password exposed by a data breach. Whenever you log into an account, Google will send a hashed and encrypted version of your login info against that database. That way, Google can’t see your password, and you can’t see Google’s list of known-compromised logins. If Google detects a match, Google will show an alert recommending that you change your password for that site. An infographic from Google describing how Password Checkup works. Image: Google Google gets compromised logins from “multiple different sources and trusted partners,” Thomas said, including underground forums where password dumps are openly shared. “We have an ethical policy that we will never pay criminals for stolen data,” he continued. “But just by virtue of how these markets work, very often, [stolen data] will bubble up and become available.” Using personas Google has in those marketplaces, the company can acquire the data, he said. Password Checkup took about two to three years from inception to having it appear in many Google products, according to Thomas. Down the line, Google wants to have Security Checkup email you when it detects that a stored login has been compromised in a data breach, which the company plans to launch in the coming months. And later this year, Google aims to let people use Password Checkup in Chrome even if they aren’t logged into a Google account. Google isn’t the only company to offer some kind of password-checking functionality. Paid password manager 1Password recommends changing weak or duplicated passwords and also offers Watchtower, which checks your logins against Troy Hunt’s Have I Been Pwned database of more than 9 billion compromised accounts and flags any matches. And Apple announced yesterday that its next version of Safari will have a password-monitoring tool that appears to work similarly to Password Checkup. But Google has an advantage in helping people with their passwords thanks to its massive scale. And tools like Password Checkup and the built-in password manager ladder up to a broader goal to make online security easier for users. “What I like security to be — and what I think [Password Checkup] is a good example of — is, ‘how do you make it easier for regular people to do the right thing?’” Google’s VP of security engineering Royal Hansen told The Verge. “It’s not about alerting you with more and more problems,” he said. “It’s about making it easier for you to do, frankly, the most basic step.” Google is on a mission to stop you from reusing passwords
  24. Google doesn't always show the most relevant results to users. Much to the delight of copyright holders, popular pirate sites have started to 'disappear' from the search engine. This goes far beyond traditional DMCA takedown notices and is not without collateral damage. Google is widely regarded as the best search engine, a reputation the company has carefully built up over the past two decades. However, when it comes to one particular niche, Google’s results are rapidly deteriorating. We’re talking about pirate sites. As background, it’s good to mention that search engines have been under a lot of pressure to remove pirate sites from their indexes entirely. Google categorically refused to do so. Instead, it chose to push down popular pirate sites for certain keywords, including movie and music titles. This started many years ago and worked as intended, according to Google. Someone searching for “Game of Thrones torrent” was not going to find The Pirate Bay in the top results. Similarly, filters were set up for music-related queries as well. As a result, pirate sites saw their search traffic decline drastically. This meant a drop in new visitors to these sites. However, people could still find these pirate sites by searching for their name. We use the past tense here because that has changed for many sites as well. Over the past few months, it has become harder and harder to find the homepages of some popular pirate sites. Instead, Google points people to Wikipedia pages or entirely different – sometimes scammy – sites that use the same name. We’ll address a few examples here, contrasting our findings with Bing and DuckDuckGo. We start with 1337x.to, a popular torrent site that has been around for well over a decade. While search results may vary from day to day and can differ based on location, our tests across several continents failed to show the official ‘1337x.to’ domain in the top results when searching for “1337x.” 1337x’s official Wikipedia entry is highlighted among the top results and in the “knowledge graph“. However, it sits among a list of unofficial ‘1337x’ entries which drives visitors to third-party sites. This provides a major opportunity for scammers and phishing sites. Of course, Google hasn’t suddenly forgotten the details of the real 1337x site. Also, the ‘disappearance’ of the main domain is not the result of a DMCA notice, as that would be explicitly highlighted and 1337x’s homepage doesn’t link to any infringing content directly. The official site has likely been punished based on some algorithms. When we compare the results to other search engines, the difference is clear, with Bing and DuckDuckGo returning the official 1337x homepage on top. That is the correct result for this query. The same disappearing trick also applies to other popular torrent sites, such as Torrentz2, EZTV, NYAA, and LimeTorrents. Google users who enter these keywords in Google’s search engine are not directed to the official sites, but will see unaffiliated sites on top that hijack traffic by using the same name. A search for NYAA on Google, for example, doesn’t show the official domain anywhere on the first results pages. Again, DuckDuckGo has no trouble finding the official site and Bing returns the proper result as well, including a search box that allows people to search the site directly. TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of LimeTorrents.info, one of the most popular torrent sites, who confirmed that Google’s actions have impacted the site’s traffic. That also applies to the site’s official proxy domains too. However, the number of people searching for ‘Limetorrents’ hasn’t dropped, so these people end up elsewhere now. “Google removed almost all torrent site homepages from its search results and our site’s traffic is affected too,” LimeTorrents’ operator says. In this case, the disappearance is not linked to a DMCA notice either. The disappearance of homepages is not limited to torrent sites. The same can be observed for other pirate sites, including streaming portals. For example, Kissanime is nowhere to be found in Google’s top results. Again, Bing and DuckDuckgo have no trouble locating the correct URL. That doesn’t mean that other search engines are without ‘issues.’ When we searched for Fmovies on Bing and DuckDuckGo we noticed that all official URLs have been removed. Google still indexes Fmovies.to links (not in the top results of course), but doesn’t show them when searching for “Fmovies” In some instances, Google’s ‘decisions’ can result in outright embarrassing situations. For example, a search for Fmovies and other popular pirate brands now shows an Associated Press (AP) story on top. This may sound like a legitimate link but it’s not. AP runs paid press releases filled with pirate keywords which promote the pirate streaming portal Yolamovies. That’s not a good look. When we look at The Pirate Bay’s results, things get complicated. In many of the locations the popular torrent site wasn’t listed in the first pages of results. This can be quite confusing and points people to malware warnings and copycats, a trap even the BBC fell for. Interestingly, however, the official TPB domain was the top result in our North American tests. This means that TPB’s localized ‘disappearance’ may be the result of local traffic patterns, which change in countries where the site is blocked. While these observations are intriguing, we have no idea why Google is acting this way. A likely option would be to limit the exposure of certain infringing sites. However, the question is whether it actually improves the situation, as people are now driven to third-party pirate sites, which may not have good intentions. Google’s actions are also interesting in light of comments that were made earlier regarding the removal of entire domains. “Whole-site removal is ineffective and can easily result in the censorship of lawful material,” Google previously said, adding that it would send “the wrong message by favoring over-inclusive private censorship over the rule of law.” With their current measures, pirate sites remain indexed. However, when one can no longer find 1337x’s non-infringing homepage by typing in “1337x,” there’s certainly some type of algorithmic censorship involved, inadvertent or not. Source
  25. The tech giants have funded a bevy of political groups, including those producing positive polling, and engaged in other fingerprint-free tactics designed to deter regulators. David Espinoza appeared unhappy when Arizona joined scores of states investigating Google last year. The Phoenix-based owner of a shoe-and-leather store wrote in a local newspaper he was “amazed and a little dumbfounded” by regulators’ campaign to “change how digital platforms operate.” “The current system is working for small businesses, and as the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he wrote. But Espinoza’s words, published in September by the Arizona Capitol Times, weren’t entirely his own. They were written on his behalf by an advocacy group that’s backed by Google and other tech behemoths, reflecting Silicon Valley’s stealthy new attempts to shape and weaponize public perception in response to heightened antitrust scrutiny. Under the withering microscope of government watchdogs, tech giants including Amazon, Facebook and Google have funded a bevy of political groups that have helped push positive polling and engaged in other fingerprint-free tactics designed to deter regulators who are seeking to break up or penalize the industry. The approach reflects the growing threats they now face from the Justice Department and the country’s top attorneys general, who have been investigating them on antitrust grounds. The Connected Commerce Council, for example, is a Washington-based nonprofit that bills itself as a voice for small businesses. But it counts Amazon, Facebook and Google as “partners,” and in recent months the group known as 3C has put its muscle to work arguing that Silicon Valley giants do not threaten competition, stifle smaller rivals and harm consumers in the process. Espinoza, a bootmaker by profession, said he was approached by 3C last year after he participated in a Google seminar meant to help small businesses better use digital tools. The advocacy group then wrote the opinion piece largely on his behalf, which appeared online just days after state attorneys general announced their antitrust probe of the company. The opinion piece did not indicate that 3C largely penned it. Espinoza said he still supported Google, whose technology, including its ad tools now under government investigation, have helped his company reach new customers across the country. But he also said he didn’t know about Google’s relationship with 3C, a group of which he is a member, before being contacted by The Post this week. “I’m not surprised,” Espinoza said. Google is “a big company … and they have the finances to extend themselves as much as they can.” Jake Ward, the president of 3C, said his organization represents thousands of small businesses, not Silicon Valley’s largest players. The organization often seeks to encourage corporate founders to share their views publicly, he added. “It is our responsibility, on behalf of our small business members, to protect the existing model and promote the market, which is working exceedingly well,” Ward said, later adding: “We are not, and will not work for, Big Tech.” Amazon and Facebook declined to comment. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Julie Tarallo McAlister, a spokeswoman for Google, said in a statement that the company supports “a range of organizations like the Connected Commerce Council that are working to help small businesses grow and prosper online.” Silicon Valley tech giants — and companies across a range of industries — often back a wide array of advocacy groups to boost their political fortunes. They aren’t required to disclose how much they spend on these organizations and exactly how involved they are in their day-to-day decisions, but ethics watchdogs say their participation alone is important. “It is an example of industry spending money and exerting influence, but doing it in a way that is meant to give the impression that it is not coming from industry,” said Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group. Bookbinder added: “They wouldn’t be members if they didn’t agree with the thrust of what these organizations are pushing for.” The tech industry’s attempts to shore up its public image in recent months reflects the seriousness of the U.S. government’s new antitrust scrutiny. After years of threats, state and federal leaders have embarked on the kind of inquiries that could result in dramatic changes to the way Amazon, Facebook and Google operate, including punishments that could break apart those companies. With Amazon, regulators are concerned that the e-commerce giant improperly gleans data from third-party sellers in an attempt to give its own products and services an advantage. In looking at Facebook, government officials have probed complaints it has gobbled up its digital rivals, leaving few viable competitors in social networking. And watchdogs have probed Google’s search, advertising and smartphone businesses to determine whether they’ve stifled competition, following in the footsteps of European regulators who have already penalized the company. All three tech giants deny they have violated state and federal antitrust rules. Still, Justice Department officials are expected to file a lawsuit against Google alleging it violated federal competition laws as soon as this month. Nearly every state’s attorney general, meanwhile, could follow with their own complaint in July, The Post previously reported. The antitrust lawsuits come roughly seven years after U.S. officials first probed Google for violating competition law but ultimately decided against bringing a case in court. With legal action imminent — and President Trump recently taking fresh, aggressive aim at Silicon Valley — the industry’s largest companies have shelled out sizable sums to lobby in Washington. Amazon, Facebook and Google have spent more than $11 million combined over the first three months of 2020 to influence federal action on a range of issues, including antitrust, according to ethics disclosures filed with Congress. The amount is slightly higher than the same period in 2019. But those figures do not reflect the hard-to-track sums spent by the industry to shape public opinion beyond the Beltway. Many in the tech industry privately say they’ve adopted such tactics because they face an onslaught of criticism from a wide array of new opposition groups, such as the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit that has produced research critical of tech companies including Amazon and Google. The group does not list its current backers, and it declined to detail them fully Tuesday. In the past it has courted Google’s critics, including Oracle, though the campaign maintains it is not taking corporate contributions. Facebook, for example, already has invested in a forthcoming advocacy group known as American Edge. The organization shares a similar structure to organizations such as the National Rifle Association, which blitzes airwaves with ads and doesn’t have to disclose its donors. The new tech group has sought to enlist support from other tech companies including Amazon and Google, according to two people familiar with the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. It is not clear whether either company intends to join. The Post first reported last month on the group’s imminent plans for launch. The tech industry also has sought to funnel dollars to a wide array of conservative groups in recent years, hoping to earn more favor among Republicans in power at the White House and in Congress. That includes the National Taxpayers Union, a right-leaning outfit that typically targets government spending it sees as wasteful. Last month, the NTU tapped a firm that previously polled for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign to gauge voter sentiment about big tech. They focused their efforts on Arizona, Texas and other states that are actively investigating Google and other companies, and their findings concluded that voters would rather see their attorneys general focusing on other issues, including the opioid epidemic. The survey explicitly asked if states should punish companies including Amazon and Google, which publicly have acknowledged their past financial support of the NTU. Pete Sepp, the president of the organization, declined to discuss the NTU’s donors or the exact reasons it commissioned the poll, though he stressed that he and his organization have worked on competition-related issues for decades. “We have huge historical footprint in the antitrust issue space that transcends any tech firm and goes well before their founding,” he said. Such research — seeking to channel public sentiment — is a battle-tested tactic in antitrust probes, former regulators say. It’s meant to “press upon public officials, and indirectly upon agencies, that [companies] enjoy broad public support for what they’re doing,” said William Kovacic, a top professor at George Washington University’s law school who previously served on the Federal Trade Commission. “To tamper with them in a significant way is to anger the broader public.” Two years ago, the Connected Commerce Council launched as a voice for small businesses, and Ward, its leader, has grown the organization into an operation that represents more than 10,000 entrepreneurs. The group provides technical support, helping owners and employees use tech tools to place ads, manage their checkbooks and reach new customers online, he said. The goal was to connect these smaller operators to larger companies, according to Ward, who found that “policy and politics collided pretty quickly on what I was trying to do.” In the end, he has found himself defending Amazon, Facebook and Google because it’s better for the start-ups 3C represents, he said. By September 2018, 3C members had sounded off in support of major tech companies during a regulatory proceeding at the Federal Trade Commission. 3C also helped produce opinion pieces, including the one published by Espinoza in 2019. Ward said the work is critical because regulators and readers otherwise never would hear from small businesses. In more recent months, 3C has amped up its letter-writing campaigns, dispatching missives targeting Texas and other states now investigating large technology companies. Its letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in May, signed by 200 members, even said the state should not penalize Big Tech amid the coronavirus crisis. “During a pandemic, when many storefronts are shuttered and businesses that are still running are operating entirely online, it is the wrong time to demand changes in digital technology operations and business models,” they said. In doing so, however, Ward has stressed his organization’s independence. “We don’t lobby on their behalf,” he said. “And we’re not advocates for their larger positions.” Paywall Source Free Mirror Source
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