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  1. Trump's Huawei ban means no early access to Android Q, no Google app ecosystem. Enlarge / Huawei's latest flagship, the P30 Pro. Huawei President Trump issued an executive order last week banning "foreign adversaries" from doing telecommunication business in the US. The move was widely understood as a ban on Huawei products, and now we're starting to see the fallout. According to a report from Reuters, Google has "suspended" business with Huawei, and the company will be locked out of Google's Android ecosystem. It's the ZTE ban all over again. Reuters details the fallout from Trump's order, saying "Huawei Technologies Co Ltd will immediately lose access to updates to the Android operating system, and the next version of its smartphones outside of China will also lose access to popular applications and services including the Google Play Store and Gmail app." Huawei's loss of access "to updates" is most likely a reference to Android Q, which hardware manufacturers get early access to. Since Android is open source, Huawei could resume development once the source code comes out. The real killer is the loss of the Google Play Store and Google Play Services, which unlocks access to the billions of Android apps and popular Google apps like Gmail and Maps. Reuters claims this will only happen to "the next version" of Huawei's smartphones, presumably meaning existing devices with the Play Store will continue to work. Huawei doesn't do much smartphone business in the US, so banning Huawei from selling phones to US consumers won't change much. Huawei has made a few attempts to break into the US market, but pressure from Congress on Huawei's individual business partners, like AT&T and Verizon, have caused them to walk away from deals with the company. Besides smartphones, Huawei is also one of the biggest suppliers of network and telecom equipment in the world, and this ban will keep the company's routers, towers, and other equipment out of US networks. An earlier Reuters report detailed the problem the ban would cause in rural states like Wyoming and Oregon, which have adopted Huawei equipment. The real change here is the banning of US companies from supplying Huawei with software and hardware. Outside of China, this move is a death sentence for Huawei smartphones in places like Europe and India. There isn't a single viable alternative to Google's Android ecosystem, so Google-less Huawei smartphones would have a tough time in the market. The only company that has sort of made Google-less Android work is Amazon, which sells forked Android tablets that are so cheap and disposable they come in a six-pack. Amazon is also a US company, though, so the Amazon App Store presumably wouldn't be available to Huawei, either. Huawei's explosive growth will probably be coming to an end, if the ban sticks. Counterpoint In Huawei's home nation of China, not much will change. Google doesn't do much business in China, so the Play Store and Google Play Services do not exist there. The app store landscape is pretty fragmented as a result, with most OEMs running their own app store or licensing a third-party app store from other Chinese companies like Tencent or 360 Mobile. When ZTE faced a similar ban from doing business in the US last year, the company was forced to shut down worldwide operations. According to Reuters, 25 percent of ZTE's smartphone components come from the US, and the one-two punch of being banned from Google's Android app ecosystem and from buying Qualcomm's smartphone chips were too much for the company. Huawei is a lot bigger than ZTE, though, and more independent. Qualcomm has a near-monopoly on high-end Android SoCs and cellular connectivity technology, but Huawei is one of two Android manufacturers (the other is Samsung) with its own chip design division. Huawei flagships all have SoCs from Huawei's "HiSilicon" chip division, and the company even makes its own 5G modems. If the ban really does stick, a possible future path for Huawei is to ship forked, Google-less versions of Android with the Huawei App Store, extending its Chinese app ecosystem to the rest of the world. Huawei has also done some development work on an in-house operating system, but it's unclear if this would be a better option than forking Android. Huawei is the number two smartphone vendor in the world, behind Samsung and ahead of Apple, and saw its device shipments grow by an explosive 50% year over year. Whatever decision it makes is a big deal for Google and the rest of the Android ecosystem. Source: Google reportedly ends business with Huawei, will cut it off from Play Store (Ars Technica)
  2. Google Admits It Stored "Some" Passwords in Plain Text Since 2005 Google revealed that an unspecified number of passwords of G Suite users were stored in plain text for many years. At this point, you’re probably wondering what the heck is G Suite? And you would be right to do so. If you’re just a regular Google user, you have nothing to worry about because G Suite is a set of tools for companies that incorporates cloud computing, productivity, and collaboration software developed by Google. In theory, the problem might not be all that significant, but we have to take a look at the context. It’s not that the passwords were stored in plain text, something that happened to other companies over the years; it’s that this problem has been around since 2005.A little too late to the partyThe phrase “we take security very seriously” is used way too often by companies after their data was compromised or after some security breach is discovered. Users are always being asked to change their passwords because companies don’t actually take security seriously, as Google claims. “However, we recently notified a subset of our enterprise G Suite customers that some passwords were stored in our encrypted internal systems unhashed. This is a G Suite issue that affects business users only–no free consumer Google accounts were affected–and we are working with enterprise administrators to ensure that their users reset their passwords. We have been conducting a thorough investigation and have seen no evidence of improper access to or misuse of the affected G Suite credentials,” says Google in an announcement. There are a couple of problems from the start. Translated, Google says that only paying customers were affected, so people who use other free services are safe, as if this makes it better, somehow. Secondly, “we have seen no evidence of improper access” is not a guarantee. They can’t really tell users with 100% confidence that’s the case. To make matters even worse, this problem was actually introduced by Google back in 2005, and it remained in place until 2019. While it’s good that they finally managed to find and fix this security problem, an obvious question remains. How many of these issues remain hidden in the dark because they weren’t discovered by Google just yet? Source
  3. United States has waged a war against Chinese telecom giant Huawei for some time now. But now the big guys are joining the fight. According to reports, Google will stop all collaboration with Huawei. Decision means that Huawei phones wont get any new Android updates, ever. It also means that all future Huawei phones will be blocked from accessing Google services. No access to Gmail, no access to Google Play store, etc. Huawei will still have an access to open sourced versions of Android, but without the access to Google's proprietary services and APIs. Google will also cease all collaboration and support for Huawei that involves Android development and testing, Reuters' sources say. Google's decision comes shortly after United States officially added Huawei to the U.S. trade blacklist. Huawei also owns popular sister phone brand, Honor, and the decision applies to that brand, too. UPDATE Google has confirmed the yesterday's news about Google revoking Huawei's Android license. Company said that the decision is based on United States adding Huawei officially to the country's trade blacklist on Thursday and that it is simply obeying the decision made by the U.S. It also states that the decision wont affect the current Huawei phones and that those will still have access to Google's services and updates. However, it is not clear whether the current Huawei phones will continue to receive Android updates or updates to Google services. Huawei losing its Android license means that it has to rely on open sourced version of Android (AOSP) for its Android updates. This means that all new Android versions will arrive to Huawei models with considerable delay - sometimes the delays between the official Android update and AOSP update have been almost a year or so. More importantly, Huawei will lose its access to Google services. This means that all future models of Huawei phones must ship without Google services: Google Play Store, YouTube, Google search and Gmail. Google also denies all support to Huawei's Android device development. The decision also applies to Huawei's other brand, Honor. INTEL and Qualcomm After yesterday's decision by Google to revoke Huawei's Android license, more bad news are piling for Huawei. Now, U.S. semiconductor giants Intel and Qualcomm have stopped supplying parts to Huawei. Even though Huawei has its own chip manufacturing business that produced Kirin chips and others for mobile phones, the company still relies heavily on U.S. chips for most of its other products. Effectively, the decision by Qualcomm and Intel will mean that the Huawei's PC manufacturing business ceases to exist. Only U.S. companies produce chips needed to build x86 compatible computers, at least in scale that is required by a giant like Huawei. Furthermore, some of the Huawei's phone models - especially those in the high end - use at least some U.S. -made chips - and this will mean trouble for those models, too. The decision is based on U.S. administration putting Huawei officially to its trade blacklist on Thursday, making it illegal for any U.S. company to do business with Huawei. Article 1 Article 2 Article 3
  4. Add a recovery phone number to block automated hijack attempts: Google Study finds adding a phone number to a Google account blocks all automated attempts, 99% of bulk attacks, and 66% of targeted attacks. (Image: Google) Google has said the addition of a recovery phone number is able to block all automated bot attempts to access accounts via credential stuffing. The search giant conducted a year-long study with New York University and the University of California, San Diego that resulted in a pair of papers. "Our research shows that simply adding a recovery phone number to your Google Account can block up to 100% of automated bots, 99% of bulk phishing attacks, and 66% of targeted attacks that occurred during our investigation," researchers from Google AI said in a blog post. See: Google wants you to stop using its SMS two-factor sign-in The researchers found using an SMS code as an extra factor of authentication stopped 76% of targeted attacks, 96% of bulk phishing, and 100% of automated bots. While using promptsimproves the numbers to 90% of targeted, 99% of bulk, and 100% of automated attacks. For perfect scores across the board, users should use a physical key. Also: Google to replace faulty Titan security keys The researchers looked into 350,000 hijacking attempts on 1.2 million users across Google's 14 different login challenges. The team said 38% of users were not able to access their phone when needing the extra authentication factor, while in a scenario asking for secondary email address, 34% of users could not name it. Regardless of challenge method, over 94% of people in all instances were able to regain access to their account in a week. At last month's Google Cloud Next conference, the search giant said it wanted to use Android phones as security keys in the future. "Think of it like a security key in almost every modern Android phone ... a very easy-to-use form factor for over a billion users," Google Trust and Security marketing lead Rob Sadowski said at the time. "Having that as your authenticator really makes it easy to use and always available." However, Google recommends at least two security keys be registered, in case one is lost. Source
  5. The Nest ecosystem is dead. Nest accounts are dead. Nest's privacy firewall is dead. Ron Amadeo / Nest MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Don't be distracted by the shiny new "Nest" smart display that was just announced: Nest died at Google I/O 2019. "Google Nest" is the new reality now, where Nest is no longer a standalone company but instead is a sub-brand (not even a division) of Google. The shutdown of Nest as an independent company was announced in 2018, but the pile of announcements at and around I/O 2019 marks the first time we're seeing what the future of Nest looks like inside of Google. Nest laid out its future in an ominously titled "What's Happening" page on Nest.com and a notice on the Works with Nest page. It sounds like a brutal outcome for users, who are looking at a dead-end ecosystem, potentially broken smart homes, and the shattering of the Google/Nest privacy firewall. Meet the “Google Nest Learning Thermostat” First up is Google's salvaging of the Nest brand as a general purpose smart home sub-brand. Just as Google has the "Pixel" brand for smartphones and laptops, it will now use the "Nest" brand similarly, so get used to saying and reading "Google Nest," which now means "a Google smart home product." The first item announced under this new branding was the Google Nest Hub Max, a bigger version of the Google Home Hub smart display. The original Home Hub is getting renamed as well and is now the Google Nest Hub. The new branding hasn't hit the Google Store yet, but dig through Google's help pages and you'll see that every Nest product has been renamed to "Google Nest." Now we have the "Google Nest Learning Thermostat," the "Google Nest Protect," "Google Nest Secure Alarm System," "Google Nest Hello" (this one is a doorbell), and the "Google Nest Cam IQ Outdoor." These are all a bit awkward and wordy, but they have nothing on the "Nest x Yale Lock with Google Nest connect," which is the actual name of a Nest door lock now. The takeaway here is that since Nest is not a standalone company anymore, "Nest" doesn't get to be a standalone product brand anymore. Officially, it will always be "Google Nest." So far, the Google Home speakers have not been renamed, but if Google is really serious about this, we might end up with "Google Nest Speakers" or something similar. Google Wi-Fi is also not yet called "Google Nest Wi-Fi." The Chromecast has not gotten a name change yet, either—though as a streaming stick named after a Web browser, it still has the strangest branding of any Google product. Nest’s smart home platform is dead Enlarge / "Works with Nest" will no longer work with Nest. Nest The second big thing to come out of the show is that Google is killing the "Works with Nest" platform. This was a smart home platform that would let the Nest thermostat act as a hub and coordinator for a lot of your other smart home products. A notice on the "Works with Nest" webpage reads, "Works with Nest is winding down." Google's smart home strategy will now revolve around only the "Works with Google Assistant" program, and Nest's ecosystem will shut down in a bit over three months, on August 31, 2019. I'm sure there are "Works with Nest" ecosystem users out there that bought products specifically because they "Worked with Nest." When the service shuts down in August, it sounds like all of those (probably expensive) third-party smart home products will stop working with any Nest-based automation workflows. This mandatory feature removal situation is pretty much a smart home owner's worst nightmare. Nest-branded products will continue to work with each other, but since "Works with Nest" was a program that let other services talk to Nest, a lot of third-party integrations will be going away. The Verge has a good rundown of just how many services are going to break, and it's a brutal who's who of smart home products. Amazon Alexa, Philips Hue, IFTTT, Logitech Harmony, Lutron lights, August Home, and Wemo switches will all be affected. Alexa, it seems, will be getting special treatment and will continue to work. Google has a special page for Alexa, which reads, "We are working with Amazon to migrate the Nest skill on Amazon Alexa to ensure a smooth transition for Nest customers prior to winding down the Works With Nest program in August." Google and Amazon have had trouble working together in the past, but they seem to have called a truce lately. Other services have not been so lucky, and there are already emails out from IFTTT, Lutron, and others declaring the death of their Nest integration. "Works with Nest" users will be facing a broken smart home and will have to pick up the scraps of their smart home ecosystem and MacGyver together another solution out of the pieces. The somewhat good news is that most smart home products are compatible with multiple smart home ecosystems, so it should be rare for something to turn into a complete brick. You'll just have to switch to a new ecosystem, go through a ton of setup, and be ready to deal with all the things that won't work the same way they worked before. Theoretically ,some of these services could continue to talk to Nest by supporting the Google Assistant system instead. "Works with Nest" was always a bit of a strange solution for smart home management. It made the thermostat the center of your smart home not because that made any sense from a smart home architecture perspective but because a thermostat was Nest's most popular product. "Works with Nest" didn't offer any kind of control interface for this ecosystem of smart devices, either. If you, for example, managed to find a "Works with Nest" smart lighting system, Nest didn't give you a way to actually control the lights—just location detection through the Nest app. "Works with Google Assistant" is a voice and touch-centric smart home solution, which makes a lot more sense. The system revolves around Google Home speakers and Google Nest smart displays, which are both excellent control interfaces. You can turn on lights and lock doors with voice or touch commands; you can raise the temperature on a thermostat; and you can run routines that do a lot of these things at once. Nest accounts and data separation is dead As part of the Googification of Nest, Nest accounts are being phased out of Google's smart home strategy. Existing users won't have their Nest accounts taken away, but the FAQ on Nest.com "strongly recommends" Nest users migrate to a Google account. Nest's FAQ warns that "As Nest offers new connected home devices and services in the future, many of those will only be available to our users with Google Accounts." New Nest users will be required to use a Google account. Migrating to a Google Account means turning all your Nest data over to Google—data that previously had been kept separate. Google says it will use your Nest data in accordance with the Google Privacy Policy. Nest data includes a lot of scary feeds from motion sensors, cameras, and microphones and Google has a whole extra page up on "Google Nest Privacy" in the home, where it outlines three major principles: We will be transparent about the data we collect and why We will never sell your personal information to anyone We will empower you to review, move, or delete your data There are even special pages outlining principles and data retention for cameras, microphones, home sensors, and Wi-Fi data. Keeping the Nest data separate from Google was a big concession made when Google bought the company, designed to allay privacy fears. Now that that is going away, I would imagine some Nest users are not happy. Other Nest things that will probably die in the future So far it seems like the plan is to remove as many Nest-proprietary things as possible and get Nest people on Google versions of those products and services. Nest's website promises that "over the coming months, you’ll begin seeing changes across our products, accounts, services, and policies as we bring everything together under Nest." It would not surprise me to hear that all of these "changes" involve shutting down a Nest product or service in favor of a Google version. We just had a clash between "Works with Nest" and "Works with Google Assistant," and the Nest product was shut down, so let's whip out our crystal ball and extend this to a few other points of crossover. The Google Home app versus the Nest App Enlarge / The Nest app. Nest The app situation is a mess right now, with both a "Google Home" app and a "Nest" app. The Nest app is for thermostats, cameras, the security system, smoke detectors, and any other old Nest products, while the smart speakers, Chromecast, and "Google Nest" smart displays use the Google Home app. The Google Nest hardware rebranding muddies the app situation. People buying a newly branded Google Nest Hub or Google Nest Hub Max might be tempted to install the Nest app, but that would be wrong—these products need to be set up in the Google Home app. The Nest Hub Max smart display has a camera on top, and while this is a "Nest cam" that can record video to Nest's security camera cloud system, the video feed is also viewable in the Google Home app. Having two smart home apps for inconsistently named products seems like a really clunky solution, and with the Google Home app already picking up some basic Nest camera compatibility, it would not surprise me to hear that the Nest app will shut down. As a Nest thermostat user, I would love for the Nest app to die, because the Nest app is awful. It is unable to get basic functionality right like reliable background location, which is kind of important for a "smart" thermostat designed to sync the house temperature with your comings and goings. Nest app crashes frequently and even when it does work, it doesn't follow any of Google's design language. The Nest transition FAQ page asks "What will happen to the Nest app?" and gives a curt response of "At this time, the Nest app will continue to be available." Google could have answered this question with lots of flowery language about how great the Nest app is and how it empowers users to do more with their smart home ecosystem experience, but this answer instead makes it sound like the Nest app will be jettisoned as soon as Google Home re-implements all of its features. Nest Aware versus Google One Another overlap is in the area of cloud storage subscriptions, where Nest has Nest Aware and Google has Google One. Nest Aware gives you online storage of Nest Cam video footage for $5-$30 a month, depending on how far back you want your video history to go. Google One is an upsell for more storage on your Google Account. A basic Google account gets 15GB of storage for Gmail, Drive, documents, and photos, and Google One offers upgrades starting at 100GB for $2 a month and going to stratospherically high prices, like 30 terabytes for $300 a month. Double dipping on storage subscriptions would be pretty lame, but given that Nest products will start to use a Google account, and Google One is for more storage on your Google account, it would make sense for Google One to give you storage for Nest camera footage. Google has other subscription products, but those are always for content, like ad-free YouTube, YouTube TV, or Google Music streaming. In these cases Google is paying a third-party for content and that money needs to come from somewhere. RIP Nest the company, hello Google Nest Enlarge Nest While Google wanted to spin the Google Nest Hub Max unveiling at Google I/O as some kind of positive thing, it feels like we are witnessing the end of Nest as it used to be. The new "Google Nest" will be all Google, all the time, and anything that isn't a built-by-Google device, application, or service now seems like a legacy item. At some point in the future, it seems like only the brand will be left. I've gone to Nest product launches several times, and every time the company would talk about how Nest was the most recognized brand in smart homes. Clearly Google still values the Nest mark and wants to keep the brand around inside Google, but first it has to go through a clumsy and awkward shutdown process, which will almost certainly be damaging to the brand's reputation with existing users (and anyone else paying attention). Google has been on a bit of a product shutdown rampage in 2019, and you can add "Works with Nest" to the list of things Google has murdered lately, along with Google Inbox, Google+ Google Hangouts, Google Music, and Chromecast Audio. Source: Nest, the company, died at Google I/O 2019 (Ars Technica)
  6. Fuchsia may hold the key to the future of Android, Chrome, and everything in between Photo:" Android and Chrome chief Hiroshi Lockheimer speaking at a live recording of The Vergecast at Google I/O 2019 in Mountain View, California. Google Fuchsia remains shrouded in mystery, but the company is slowly beginning to open up about the next-generation operating system, what its purpose is, and what devices it might power. At Google’s I/O developer conference this past week, Android and Chrome chief Hiroshi Lockheimer offered some rare insight into Fuchsia, albeit at a very high level, in front of public audiences. What we do know about Fuchsia is that it’s an open source project, similar to AOSP, but could run all manner of devices, from smart home gadgets to laptops to phones. It’s also known to be built on an all-new, Google-built kernel called “zircon,” formerly known as “magenta,” and not the Linux kernel that forms the foundation of Android and Chrome OS. Beyond that, we don’t know much and have only really seen a brief peek at a prototype Fuchsia-powered user interface two years ago. There have also been reports over the last 12 months or so regarding Google Fuchsia dev tests on the Pixelbook and nebulous plans for a product development timetable that would see an official Fuchsia device released in three to five years. Plus, the Google Home Hub (now called the Nest Hub) is thought to be one of the test devices for Fuchsia. But onstage during a live recording of The Vergecast yesterday, Lockheimer finally opened up about the ultimate goal of Fuchsia. “We’re looking at what a new take on an operating system could be like. And so I know out there people are getting pretty excited saying, ‘Oh this is the new Android,’ or, ‘This is the new Chrome OS,’” Lockheimer said. “Fuchsia is really not about that. Fuchsia is about just pushing the state of the art in terms of operating systems and things that we learn from Fuchsia we can incorporate into other products.” He says the point of the experimental OS is to also experiment with different form factors, a hint toward the possibility that Fuchsia is designed to run on smart home devices, wearables, or possibly even augmented or virtual reality devices. “You know Android works really well on phones and and you know in the context of Chrome OS as a runtime for apps there. But Fuchsia may be optimized for certain other form factors as well. So we’re experimenting.” Lockheimer became somewhat cryptic at the end of his answer, following it up with, “Think about dedicated devices... right now, everybody assumes Fuchsia is for phones. But what if it could be used for other things?” At a separate Android fireside chat held at Google I/O earlier today, Lockheimer provided some additional details, although still similarly cryptic in his specifics. “It’s not just phones and PCs. In the world of [the Internet of Things], there are increasing number of devices that require operating systems and new runtimes and so on. I think there’s a lot of room for multiple operating systems with different strengths and specializations. Fuchsia is one of those things and so, stay tuned,” he told the audience, according to 9to5Google. Source
  7. A quirk in Google’s search algorithm turned me into Facebook’s customer support. I’m waiting for the subway when the phone rings. On the other end of the line an angry woman is shouting at me about her Facebook account. I hang up. A few hours later, I’m walking to get some lunch when someone calls. “I forgot my Facebook password,” the man says. I sigh, and—once again—explain that I can’t help. Later, while at my desk, someone else calls up. “I’m trying to get a hold of Facebook,” a man says. “They are taking my American rights away from me. They’re anti-free spech, anti-American, they’re pro Muslim.” The man says Facebook disabled his account after he wrote a post that, he explains, “wasn’t even horrible.” This keeps happening. In the last three days, I’ve gotten more than 80 phone calls. Just today, in the span of eight minutes, I got three phone calls from people looking to talk to Facebook. I didn’t answer all of them, and some left voicemails. Initially, I thought this was some coordinated trolling campaign. As it turns out, if you Googled “Facebook phone number” on your phone earlier this week, you would see my cellphone as the fourth result, and Google has created a "card" that pulled my number out of the article and displayed it directly on the search page in a box. The effect is that it seemed like my phone number was Facebook's phone number, because that is how Google has trained people to think. Considering that on average, according to Google’s own data, people search for “Facebook phone number” tens of thousands of times every month, I got a lot of calls. “[Google is] trying to scrape for a phone number to match the intent of the search query,” Austin Kane, the director for SEO strategy for the New York-based consulting company Acknowledge Digital, told me in an email. “The first few web listings ... don't actually have a phone number available on site so it seems that Google is mistakenly crawling other content and exposing the phone number in Search Engine Results Pages, thinking that this is applicable to the query and helpful for users.” (Vice Media is a client of Acknowledge Digital.) When I reached out to Facebook’s PR to get their thoughts, a spokesperson started his email response with: “Huh, that’s an odd one.” I obviously can’t blame Facebook for Google’s faulty algorithm. But the fact that Facebook does not have a customer support number is contributing to this. (Facebook, instead, offers a portal for users who need help.) Of course, I could blame VICE’s formidable SEO. Or I could blame myself, for putting my phone number in my stories as a way to get tips from readers who might have something newsworthy to share. But on this query, Google's algorithm was clearly broken—for some reason, it thought it was a good idea to extract and prominently display a phone number from article hosted on vice.com that’s titled “Facebook’s Phone Number Policy Could Push Users to Not Trust Two-Factor Authentication.” Google's search algorithms are why it became so powerful in the first place, but sometimes, however, the algorithm is painfully stupid. In 2017, The Outline showed that Google often displayed completely wrong information at the top of the results when people searched for things like “Was President Warren Harding a member of the KKK?” or “Why are firetrucks red?” The article delved into the so-called “featured snippets,” those big boxes at the top of search results that are supposed to give users a quick answer to what they’re looking for. The Outline piece proved that in the search for convenience, Google was getting things wrong. In a nutshell, this is another example of that exact same problem. Motherboard has previously explained, for example, that Google's overreliance on Wikipedia has left it open to trolling—the company's "knowledge box," which shows up on the right hand side of search results for some queries, are often pulled from Wikipedia, which led in one case to the search engine equating the Republican party with "Nazism." On Wednesday, I told Google that my number was being mistakenly shown when people searched for "Facebook phone number." A few hours later, a Google spokesperson said they would remove my number as soon as possible. “This feature is generally used to surface phone numbers from websites and make it easy for users to find them. In this case it was a triggering error and was pulling the phone number you had listed at the end of the article,” a company spokesperson wrote in an email. “There's also the coincidence that your article happened to be about Facebook and phone numbers, so it was highly relevant to that query and was ranking high up in results, adding to the confusion for people when your number appeared towards the top of the results page.” After reaching out to Google to get my number removed, the company fixed it. And now, when you Google "Facebook phone number" on mobile, the number that is shown is from an NPR article, which explains that the number Google was displaying is associated with a Facebook scam. Thankfully, that number is now out of service, but it doesn't give me any more faith in Google's algorithm. At least people will stop calling me. Podcast via SoundCloud Source
  8. The Google Assistant got yet another home today, this time in the Nest lineup. Enlarge Google At its annual developers conference, Google expanded its line of Assistant home devices and renamed the entire family. The new Nest Hub Max is the 10-inch version of the existing Google Home Hub with some added features, and now the entire Assistant device family will fall under the Nest branding. So the Home Hub will now be called the Nest Hub, and so on. The new Nest Hub Max has a 10-inch touchscreen, making it larger than the original, 7-inch Nest Hub. This also puts it more in line with partner devices like Lenovo's Smart Display for the Google Assistant. Aside from Google's virtual assistant, inside the Nest Hub Max is a smart home control system that lets you ask the Assistant to turn on smart lights, adjust thermostats, and play music all from one device. It also supports thread similarly to Nest Connect, so it can control thread-compatible, low-power devices like smart door locks. A glaring omission from the Nest Hub was a camera, but Google fixed that with the Nest Hub Max. The tiny camera that sits atop the display can work just like a Nest home security camera, allowing you to see what's going on in your home even when you're out. Many of the standard Nest features apply, including motion alerts and notifications when the camera detects an unknown person in your home. The camera also supports video calling with Google Duo, so you can make a receive calls using Google's video chat app from a bunch of different devices include iOS mobile devices and any PC that has a Chrome browser. A green indicator light shows when the camera is active. Google claims that video recording and streaming can only be done intentionally, and users can electronically disable the camera and mic by using the physical switch on the back of the Nest Hub Max. Google also expanded on its optional voice match feature with the new face match feature on the Nest Hub Max. If you choose to enable this feature, the device's camera will create a face model it can use to recognize you when you walk in front of the camera. When it successfully recognizes your face or another person in your household's face, it will show information like reminders that are unique to your Google profile. All information used in face match is processed locally on the device and the face models are encrypted, so your data doesn't leave your home. The larger design of the Nest Hub Max should make it a better multimedia device than the Nest Hub. The display can stream live TV from YouTube TV in addition to playing music from YouTube Music. It has a rear-facing woofer as well, which should help it pump out louder and better sounding music than the previous hub. The Nest Hub Max will launch in the US, UK, and Australia later this summer for $229, and the Nest Hub will remain available but it will now cost $129 (down from $149). Source: Google renames Assistant home devices, debuts $229 Nest Hub Max (Ars Technica)
  9. Google Adds New Option to 'Auto-Delete' Your Location History and Activity Data Google is giving you more control over how long you want the tech company to hold on to your location history and web activity data. Google has introduced a new, easier, privacy-focused auto-delete feature for your Google account that will allow you to automatically delete your Location History and Web and App Activity data after a set period of time. Google's Location History feature, if enabled, allows the company to track locations that you have visited, while Web and App Activity tracks websites you have visited and apps you have used. Until now, Google allowed you to either altogether disable the Location History and Web and App Activity feature or manually delete all or part of that data, providing no controls for regular deletion so that users can manage their data efficiently. However, an AP investigation last year revealed that even if you turn off the Location History feature in all your accounts, Google services on Android and iPhone devices continue to track your movements. Just last month, it was also revealed that Google maintains a database containing detailed location records from hundreds of millions of phones around the world, called Sensorvault, that's reportedly being used by law enforcement agencies to solve crime cases. Following the revelation, U.S. Congress last week asked Google CEO Sundar Pichai to issue a briefing by May 10 on a series of questions on how the Sensorvault database is used and shared by the company. After concerns and feedback from users over their data, Google introduced the new auto-delete feature, allowing users to now select how long they want their location and web activity data to be saved on the company's servers by providing them to choose between three options: Keep until I delete manually Keep for 18 months then delete automatically Keep for 3 months then delete automatically Here's How You Can Enable Auto-Delete Option Though the option is not available yet, the GIF shared by Google describes the step-by-step process to activate the auto-delete feature: Visit Google homepage and tap on your profile picture in the upper-right corner Click on the Google Account button. Select the Data & Personalization tab and click Web & App activity Select "Choose to delete automatically." Choose between "Keep until I delete manually," "Keep for 18 months," and "Keep for 3 months" options Click Next and confirm your choice With these settings enabled, the search engine giant will regularly clear out every bit of the location history and web activity data Google holds on you every three months or every 18 months as per your choice. For users who don't want the company ever to track their location or web and app history can simply turn off their "Location History" and "Web and App Activity" settings. According to Google, the auto-delete feature for Location History and Web & App Activity will be rolling out "in the coming weeks." Facebook last year announced a similar privacy feature called Clear History, allowing users to delete cookies and history 'associated with your account' manually. The feature has been delayed and is now expected to launch this fall. Source
  10. Google Bans App Developer Due to Ad Fraud And Policy Violations Google has been in the news for cracking down on numerous apps from its Play Store. However, this time, the operation seems to target a specific developer. Google has banned an app developer alongside removing their apps due to ad fraud for violating Google policies. Google Bans App Developer From Play Store As revealed by BuzzFeed, Google banned an app developer from China due to huge scale ad fraud. The developer not only conducted ad fraud but also violated other Google policies. The Chinese app developer DO Global who partly belongs to the Chinese internet giant Baidu, the developer had a huge customer base with 600 million downloads. The ad fraud first came into the limelight from a BuzzFeed reportpublished a couple of weeks ago. The reporters exposed the malpractices of DO Global – a Chinese developer. Their investigation unveiled how the developers collected users’ information through their apps and sent the data to China. Most of their apps concealed their links to the developers, showing general publisher names. That again is a violation of Google policies. BuzzFeed and CheckPoint also exposed at least six different apps from the developers involved in ad fraud. “At least six of DO Global’s apps, which together have more than 90 million downloads from the Google Play store, have been fraudulently clicking on ads to generate revenue, and at least two of them contain code that could be used to engage in a different form of ad fraud.” Checkpoint termed the campaign as ‘PreAMo’ indicating the involvement of three ad agencies – Presage, Admob, and Mopub. Considering these malpractices, Google has removed around 46 different apps from the developers and is also hinting towards an overall ban. According to a Google Spokesperson, “We actively investigate malicious behavior, and when we find violations, we take action, including the removal of a developer’s ability to monetize their app with AdMob or publish on Play.” Developers Accepted Google’s Decision While there have been numerous instances in the past where Google removed certain apps from the Play Store due to malicious activities, waging a crackdown against a developer is something rare. Google justified their action by reasoning the multiple violations of its policies by the app developers. According to a statement from DO Global to BuzzFeed, the developers apologize and accept Google’s decision. “We regret to find irregularities in some of our products’ use of AdMob advertisements. Given this, we fully understand and accept Google’s decision.” Source
  11. Google Releases the First Android System Update on Google Play Store Google has started testing out a new Android system update distribution system that relies on the Google Play Store and not on the built-in update feature of each device. The most recent Android Q beta update for the Google Pixel is thus available from the Google Play Store, just like a typical app update, as per this reddit discussion. Android uses different update mechanisms for apps and the operating system. While firmware and system updates are shipped to devices through a dedicated update tool implemented (and customized) by each manufacturer, app updates are delivered via the Google Play store and are managed by Google. Beginning with this update, and possibly with the stable release of Android Q later in the summer, Android system updates could also make their way to the Google Play Store. This technically means that OS updates could be released to Android devices faster than before, though it remains to be seen how Google would manage carrier and manufacturer policies for each update.Dealing with slow updatesTimely updates on Android is currently one of the biggest problems of the platform, as companies typically release system updates and the monthly security patches several weeks or even months after Google makes them available for its devices. With the Google Play Store model, the search giant could try to tackle this problem, though again, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how this strategy aligns with the plans of other manufacturers. The new implementation is still in its early days, and users claim their devices are rebooted automatically after the updates are downloaded. No prompt is displayed to require permission for a device restart, but there’s no doubt such a feature would be added by the time the new feature makes its way to production devices. Further details are expected to be shared by Google in just a few weeks at Google’s I/O developer conference, and in the meantime, you can try out the new update distribution system by entering the Android Q beta program. Source
  12. Former Mozilla exec: Google has sabotaged Firefox for years Former and current Mozilla engineers are reaching their boiling points. A former high-ranking Mozilla executive has accused Google of intentionally and systematically sabotaging Firefox over the past decade in order to boost Chrome's adoption. He is not the first Firefox team member to come forward and make such accusations in the past eight months; however, his allegations span far beyond current events and accuse Google of carrying out a coordinated plan that involved introducing small bugs on its sites that would only manifest for Firefox users. OOPS AFTER OOPS Johnathan Nightingale, a former General Manager and Vice President of the Firefox group at Mozilla, described these issues as "oopses." "When I started at Mozilla in 2007 there was no Google Chrome, and most folks we spoke with inside [Google] were Firefox fans," Nightingale recollected in a Twitter thread on Saturday. "When Chrome launched things got complicated, but not in the way you might expect. They had a competing product now, but they didn't cut ties, break our search deal - nothing like that. In fact, the story we kept hearing was, 'We're on the same side. We want the same things'," the former Mozilla exec said. "I think our friends inside Google genuinely believed that. At the individual level, their engineers cared about most of the same things we did. Their product and design folks made many decisions very similarly, and we learned from watching each other. "But Google as a whole is very different than individual googlers," Nightingale said. "Google Chrome ads started appearing next to Firefox search terms. Gmail & [Google] Docs started to experience selective performance issues and bugs on Firefox. Demo sites would falsely block Firefox as 'incompatible'," he said. "All of this is stuff you're allowed to do to compete, of course. But we were still a search partner, so we'd say 'hey what gives?' And every time, they'd say, 'oops. That was accidental. We'll fix it in the next push in 2 weeks.' "Over and over. Oops. Another accident. We'll fix it soon. We want the same things. We're on the same team. There were dozens of oopses. Hundreds maybe?" "I'm all for 'don't attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence' but I don't believe Google is that incompetent. I think they were running out the clock. We lost users during every oops. And we spent effort and frustration every clock tick on that instead of improving our product. We got outfoxed for a while and by the time we started calling it what it was, a lot of damage had been done," Nightingale said. NOT THE FIRST ACCUSATIONS And Nightingale is not the first Firefox team member to come forward and make such accusations. In July 2018, Mozilla Program Manager Chris Peterson accused Google of intentionally slowing down YouTube performance on Firefox. He revealed that both Firefox and Edge were superior when loading YouTube content when compared to Chrome, and in order to counteract this performance issue, Google switched to using a JavaScript library for YouTube that they knew wasn't supported by Firefox. Source
  13. Google gives Android users in Europe more search, browser options To comply with a European Commission ruling, Android users in Europe will be presented with new screens offering alternatives to Chrome and Google Search. Google on Thursday outlined how it plans to give Android users in Europe more search app and browser options, in order to comply with a European Commission anti-trust ruling against it. Back in July 2018, the European Commission hit Google with a record €4.34 billion fine for its restrictions on Android device makers and network operators, charging the restrictions were meant to "cement its dominant position in general internet search." Google appealed the fine in October but a week later announced steps it would take to comply with the ruling. Then in March, the company announced it would offer more search and browser options for Android users in Europe. In a blog post Thursday, Google product manager Paul Gennai explained how it would do so: Over the next few weeks, Google will start rolling out new screens that will pop up the first time a European Android user opens Google Play after receiving an incoming update. One screen will present five options for search apps, and one screen will present five options for browsers. The lists will include any search apps or browsers that are already installed. Apps that aren't installed will be chosen based on their popularity and shown in a random order. The new screens will show up on both new and existing Android phones in Europe. If a user does choose to download any new search apps or browsers, Google will then help the user set them up. If a user downloads a search app from the screen, Google will also ask them whether they want to change Chrome's default search engine the next time they open Chrome. Meanwhile, the European Commission last month fined Google yet again, this time hitting the company with a €1.49 billion fine over contracts with third-party websites that locked out rivals from placing search ads on these sites. Source
  14. Google bans logins from embedded browser frameworks to prevent MitM phishing Google previously banned logins initiated from browsers where JavaScript had been disabled. Google announced today a security update for the Google user login system that the company hopes will improve its overall security protections against MitM-based phishing attacks. According to Jonathan Skelker, Product Manager and Account Security for Google, the company plans to block any user login attempts initiated from an embedded browser framework technology. This includes any logins attempted from tools like the Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF), XULRunner, and others. EMBEDDED BROWSERS FRAMEWORKS ABUSED FOR MITM PHISHING Over the past year, cyber-criminals have been using these tools as part of man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. Crooks that manage to place themselves in a position to intercept the user's web traffic for the Google login page will often use an embedded browser framework to automate the login operation. The user enters their Google login credentials on a phishing page, and then the crooks operating the page use an embedded browser framework to automate the login operation on the real Google server. They use this technique to bypass two-factor authentication systems, and embedded browser frameworks are usually the component that interacts with Google servers on the cyber-criminal's behalf. GOOGLE CAN'T TELL EMBEDDED BROWSERS FROM REAL USERS "Because we can't differentiate between a legitimate sign in and a MITM attack on these platforms, we will be blocking sign-ins from embedded browser frameworks starting in June," Skelker said. This is just Google's latest security update the company has rolled out for its user login system. Last October, the company banned any login attempts from browsers where JavaScript was disabled. In June 2016, Google banned any login attempts initiated from embedded browsers such as WebView. As for the developers who will now have to rip out embedded browser frameworks like CEF from their apps, Google is recommending that they use browser-based OAuth authenticationinstead --a solution that isn't prone to phishing attacks. "Aside from being secure, it also enables users to see the full URL of the page where they are entering their credentials, reinforcing good anti-phishing practices," Skelker said. "If you are a developer with an app that requires access to Google Account data, switch to using browser-based OAuth authentication today." Source
  15. NOTE: I have included two articles here since they are related. At the end of each article is the link to it. Google’s Sensorvault Is a Boon for Law Enforcement. This Is How It Works. Investigators have been tapping into the tech giant’s enormous cache of location information in an effort to solve crimes. Here’s what this database is and what it does. Law enforcement officials across the country have been seeking information from a Google database called Sensorvault — a trove of detailed location records involving at least hundreds of millions of devices worldwide, The New York Times found. Though the new technique can identify suspects near crimes, it runs the risk of sweeping up innocent bystanders, highlighting the impact that companies’ mass collection of data can have on people’s lives. Why does Google have this data? The Sensorvault database is connected to a Google service called Location History. The feature, begun in 2009, involves Android and Apple devices. Location History is not on by default. Google prompts users to enable it when they are setting up certain services — traffic alerts in Google Maps, for example, or group images tied to location in Google Photos. If you have Location History turned on, Google will collect your data as long as you are signed in to your account and have location-enabled Google apps on your phone. The company can collect the data even when you are not using your apps, if your phone settings allow that. Google says it uses the data to target ads and measure how effective they are — checking, for instance, when people go into an advertiser’s store. The company also uses the information in an aggregated, anonymized form to figure out when stores are busy and to provide traffic estimates. And those who enable Location History can see a timeline of their activities and get recommendations based on where they have been. Google says it does not sell or share the data with advertisers or other companies. Does Google collect other forms of location data? Yes. Google can also gather location information when you conduct searches or use Google apps that have location enabled. If you are signed in, this data is associated with your account. The Associated Press reported last year that this data, called Web & App Activity, is collected even if you do not have Location History turned on. It is kept in a different database from Sensorvault, Google says. To see some of the information in your Location History, you can look at your timeline. This map of your travels does not include all of your Sensorvault data, however. Raw location data from mobile devices can be messy and sometimes incorrect. But computers can make good guesses about your likely path, and about which locations are most important. This is what you see on your timeline. To review all of your Location History, you can download your data from Google. To do that, go to Takeout.Google.com and select Location History. You can follow a similar procedure to download your Web & App Activity on that page. Your Location History data will appear in computer code. If you can’t read code, you can select the “JSON” format and put the file into a text editor to see what it looks like. Can I disable the data collection? Yes. The process varies depending on whether you are on a phone or computer. In its Help Center, Google provides instructions on disabling or deleting Location History and Web & App Activity. How is law enforcement using the data? For years, police detectives have given Google warrants seeking location data tied to specific users’ accounts. But the new warrants, often called “geofence” requests, instead specify an area near a crime. Google looks in Sensorvault for any devices that were there at the right time and provides that information to the police. Google first labels the devices with anonymous ID numbers, and detectives look at locations and movement patterns to see if any appear relevant to the crime. Once they narrow the field to a few devices, Google reveals information such as names and email addresses. Article Tracking Phones When detectives in a Phoenix suburb arrested a warehouse worker in a murder investigation last December, they credited a new technique with breaking open the case after other leads went cold. The police told the suspect, Jorge Molina, they had data tracking his phone to the site where a man was shot nine months earlier. They had made the discovery after obtaining a search warrant that required Google to provide information on all devices it recorded near the killing, potentially capturing the whereabouts of anyone in the area. Investigators also had other circumstantial evidence, including security video of someone firing a gun from a white Honda Civic, the same model that Mr. Molina owned, though they could not see the license plate or attacker. But after he spent nearly a week in jail, the case against Mr. Molina fell apart as investigators learned new information and released him. Last month, the police arrested another man: his mother’s ex-boyfriend, who had sometimes used Mr. Molina’s car. The warrants, which draw on an enormous Google database employees call Sensorvault, turn the business of tracking cellphone users’ locations into a digital dragnet for law enforcement. In an era of ubiquitous data gathering by tech companies, it is just the latest example of how personal information — where you go, who your friends are, what you read, eat and watch, and when you do it — is being used for purposes many people never expected. As privacy concerns have mounted among consumers, policymakers and regulators, tech companies have come under intensifying scrutiny over their data collection practices. The Arizona case demonstrates the promise and perils of the new investigative technique, whose use has risen sharply in the past six months, according to Google employees familiar with the requests. It can help solve crimes. But it can also snare innocent people. Technology companies have for years responded to court orders for specific users’ information. The new warrants go further, suggesting possible suspects and witnesses in the absence of other clues. Often, Google employees said, the company responds to a single warrant with location information on dozens or hundreds of devices. Law enforcement officials described the method as exciting, but cautioned that it was just one tool. “It doesn’t pop out the answer like a ticker tape, saying this guy’s guilty,” said Gary Ernsdorff, a senior prosecutor in Washington State who has worked on several cases involving these warrants. Potential suspects must still be fully investigated, he added. “We’re not going to charge anybody just because Google said they were there.” It is unclear how often these search requests have led to arrests or convictions, because many of the investigations are still open and judges frequently seal the warrants. The practice was first used by federal agents in 2016, according to Google employees, and first publicly reported last year in North Carolina. It has since spread to local departments across the country, including in California, Florida, Minnesota and Washington. This year, one Google employee said, the company received as many as 180 requests in one week. Google declined to confirm precise numbers. The technique illustrates a phenomenon privacy advocates have long referred to as the “if you build it, they will come” principle — anytime a technology company creates a system that could be used in surveillance, law enforcement inevitably comes knocking. Sensorvault, according to Google employees, includes detailed location records involving at least hundreds of millions of devices worldwide and dating back nearly a decade. The new orders, sometimes called “geofence” warrants, specify an area and a time period, and Google gathers information from Sensorvault about the devices that were there. It labels them with anonymous ID numbers, and detectives look at locations and movement patterns to see if any appear relevant to the crime. Once they narrow the field to a few devices they think belong to suspects or witnesses, Google reveals the users’ names and other information. ‘‘There are privacy concerns that we all have with our phones being tracked — and when those kinds of issues are relevant in a criminal case, that should give everybody serious pause,” said Catherine Turner, a Minnesota defense lawyer who is handling a case involving the technique. Investigators who spoke with The New York Times said they had not sent geofence warrants to companies other than Google, and Apple said it did not have the ability to perform those searches. Google would not provide details on Sensorvault, but Aaron Edens, an intelligence analyst with the sheriff’s office in San Mateo County, Calif., who has examined data from hundreds of phones, said most Android devices and some iPhones he had seen had this data available from Google. In a statement, Richard Salgado, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security, said that the company tried to “vigorously protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement.” He added that it handed over identifying information only “where legally required.” Mr. Molina, 24, said he was shocked when the police told him they suspected him of murder, and he was surprised at their ability to arrest him based largely on data. “I just kept thinking, You’re innocent, so you’re going to get out,” he said, but he added that he worried that it could take months or years to be exonerated. “I was scared,” he said. A Novel Approach Detectives have used the warrants for help with robberies, sexual assaults, arsons and murders. Last year, federal agents requested the data to investigate a string of bombings around Austin, Tex. Uncharted Legal Territory The practice raises novel legal issues, according to Orin Kerr, a law professor at the University of Southern California and an expert on criminal law in the digital age. One concern: the privacy of innocent people scooped up in these searches. Several law enforcement officials said the information remained sealed in their jurisdictions but not in every state. In Minnesota, for example, the name of an innocent man was released to a local journalist after it became part of the police record. Investigators had his information because he was within 170 feet of a burglary. Reached by a reporter, the man said he was surprised about the release of his data and thought he might have appeared because he was a cabdriver. “I drive everywhere,” he said. These searches also raise constitutional questions. The Fourth Amendment says a warrant must request a limited search and establish probable cause that evidence related to a crime will be found. Warrants reviewed by The Times frequently established probable cause by explaining that most Americans owned cellphones and that Google held location data on many of these phones. The areas they targeted ranged from single buildings to multiple blocks, and most sought data over a few hours. In the Austin case, warrants covered several dozen houses around each bombing location, for times ranging from 12 hours to a week. It wasn’t clear whether Google responded to all the requests, and multiple officials said they had seen the company push back on broad searches. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that a warrant was required for historical data about a person’s cellphone location over weeks, but the court has not ruled on anything like geofence searches, including a technique that pulls information on all phones registered to a cell tower. Google’s legal staff decided even before the 2018 ruling that the company would require warrants for location inquiries, and it crafted the procedure that first reveals only anonymous data. “Normally we think of the judiciary as being the overseer, but as the technology has gotten more complex, courts have had a harder and harder time playing that role,” said Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “We’re depending on companies to be the intermediary between people and the government.” In several cases reviewed by The Times, a judge approved the entire procedure in a single warrant, relying on investigators’ assurances that they would seek data for only the most relevant devices. Google responds to those orders, but Mr. Kerr said it was unclear whether multistep warrants should pass legal muster. Some jurisdictions require investigators to return to a judge and obtain a second warrant before getting identifying information. With another warrant, investigators can obtain more extensive data, including months of location patterns and even emails. Mixed Results Investigators in Arizona have never publicly disclosed a likely motive in the killing of Joseph Knight, the crime for which Mr. Molina was arrested. In a court document, they described Mr. Knight, a 29-year-old aircraft repair company employee, as having no known history of drug use or gang activity. Detectives sent the geofence warrant to Google soon after the murder and received data from four devices months later. One device, a phone Google said was linked to Mr. Molina’s account, appeared to follow the path of the gunman’s car as seen on video. His carrier also said the phone was associated with a tower in roughly the same area, and his Google history showed a search about local shootings the day after the attack. After his arrest, Mr. Molina told officers that Marcos Gaeta, his mother’s ex-boyfriend, had sometimes taken his car. The Times found a traffic ticket showing that Mr. Gaeta, 38, had driven that car without a license. Mr. Gaeta also had a lengthy criminal record. While Mr. Molina was in jail, a friend told his public defender, Jack Litwak, that she was with him at his home about the time of the shooting, and she and others provided texts and Uber receipts to bolster his case. His home, where he lives with his mother and three siblings, is about two miles from the murder scene. Mr. Litwak said his investigation found that Mr. Molina had sometimes signed in to other people’s phones to check his Google account. That could lead someone to appear in two places at once, though it was not clear whether that happened in this case. Mr. Gaeta was arrested in California on an Arizona warrant. He was then charged in a separate California homicide from 2016. Officials said that case would probably delay his extradition to Arizona. A police spokesman said “new information came to light” after Mr. Molina’s arrest, but the department would not comment further. Months after his release, Mr. Molina was having trouble getting back on his feet. After being arrested at work, a Macy’s warehouse, he lost his job. His car was impounded for investigation and then repossessed. The investigators “had good intentions” in using the technique, Mr. Litwak said. But, he added, “they’re hyping it up to be this new DNA type of forensic evidence, and it’s just not.” Article
  16. Google and Apple asked to remove China’s TikTok in India: Report The decision follows reports that Foxconn is looking to expand manufacturing operations in India. India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has reportedly asked for the removal of China's video and live-streaming app TikTok, with the Economic Times claiming the government asked Apple and Google to remove it from their respective app stores. Citing people familiar with the matter, the reportsaid MeitY's order will stop further downloads of the application, but those already possessing the app will be able to continue using it on their device. The move follows the Indian Supreme Court on Monday refusing to stay an earlier order by the Madras High Court to ban the app. It is expected the matter will be heard by the Madras High Court on April 22. As the Economic Times explained, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court passed an order earlier this month directing the government to prohibit TikTok from being downloaded in India. It also restricted media companies from telecasting any videos that are made using the application. The ban follows reports that China's Foxconn is expanding its manufacturing operations in India. Foxconn is Apple's largest and most well-known assembler and iPhone manufacturer. According to the South China Morning Post, Foxconn will start mass producing Apple products in India this year. The report also said that Foxconn's 69-year-old founder and chairman Terry Gou Tai-ming will decrease his workload during the day-to-day operations, hoping to pass down his 45 years of experience to younger management. It was detailed in November that Foxconn was planning to cut operational costs by 20 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) following a "very difficult and competitive year". At the time, it was said roughly 10% of non-technical staff would be eliminated from the payroll in 2019. The reduction of expenses in the iPhone manufacturing sector to the tune of six billion yuan, roughly a third of Foxconn's current expenditure in the business, was also flagged in an internal memo. It was also revealed in January that Foxconn had shed around 50,000 contract jobs since October. Source
  17. Blow for Google, Facebook as EU approves tougher copyright regulations Google and other online platforms will have to sign licensing agreements with musicians, performers, authors, news publishers and journalists to use their workREUTERS | April 16, 2019, 07:40 IST Google will have to pay publishers for news snippets and Facebook filter out protected content under new copyright rules aimed at ensuring fair compensation for the European Union's $1 trillion creative industries. EU governments on Monday backed the move launched by the European Commission two years ago to protect Europe's creative industries, which employ 11.7 million people in the bloc. "When it comes to completing Europe's digital single market, the copyright reform is the missing piece of the puzzle," the Commission's president Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement. Under the new rules, Google and other online platforms will have to sign licensing agreements with musicians, performers, authors, news publishers and journalists to use their work. The European Parliament gave a green light last month to a proposal that has pitted Europe's creative industry against tech companies, internet activists and consumer groups. Wikipedia blacked out several European sites in protest last month, while the change was opposed by Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. But 19 countries, including France and Germany, endorsed the revamp, while Belgium, Estonia and Slovenia abstained. Under the new regime Google-owned YouTube, Facebook's Instagram and other sharing platforms will have to install filters to prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials. Google said the new rules would hurt Europe's creative and digital economies, while critics said it would hit cash-strapped smaller companies rather than the tech giants. Poland said the overhaul was a step backwards as the filter requirement may lay the foundation for censorship. EU lawmaker for the European Pirate Party Julia Reda, who had campaigned against the reforms, said critics could take their case to court but it would be slow and difficult and that the best thing would be to monitor fair implementation. The European Magazine Media Association, the European Newspaper Publishers' Association, the European Publishers Council, News Media Europe and independent music labels lobbying group Impala welcomed the move. EU countries have two years to transpose the copyright directive into national laws. ($1 = 0.8835 euros) Source
  18. Google’s chief diversity officer, Danielle Brown, has left the company. Brown, who became Google’s CDO in June 2017 after serving in a similar role at Intel, announced today that she’s joined payroll and benefits startup Gusto to lead its chief people operations. In Brown’s LinkedIn post announcing the job change, she noted that she will have the opportunity to “engage and support an internal team” as well as “influence how we build our product to drive positive change around critical issues like diversity, compliance, and employee engagement for millions of workers in the U.S.” For Google, this means Melonie Parker will step into the role of CDO, following a nine-month stint as Google’s head of diversity. In a statement to TechCrunch, Google VP of People Operations Eileen Naughton said: "We’re grateful to Danielle for her excellent work over the past two years to improve representation in Google’s workforce and ensure an inclusive culture for everyone. We wish her all the best in her new role at Gusto. We’re fortunate to have a deep bench of experienced leaders and are delighted that Melonie Parker, who has been our Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, will step up to become Google’s Chief Diversity Officer and Director, Employee Engagement. Melonie has 20 years of HR experience, and a passion for improving workforce representation and inclusion. We’re deeply committed to this work and have made progress, but there’s more we need to do." Perhaps it’s no surprise that, following one diversity-related issue after another (anti-diversity manifesto, sexual harassment allegations, employee-led walkouts, etc.), Google’s chief diversity officer has decided to seek potential greener pastures. It’s also worth noting that Google has been through its fair share of diversity leads. In 2016, then-Google head of diversity Nancy Lee left the company, saying she was retiring. However, Lee has since joined electric scooter startup Lime as its chief human resources officer. Google is currently 68.4 percent male, 54.4 percent white, 39.8 percent Asian, 3.3 percent black, 5.7 percent Latinx and 0.8 percent Native American, according to its most recent diversity report. Source
  19. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”), a civil liberties group based in Washington D.C., filed an amicus brief in the United States vs. Wilson case concerning Google scanning billions of users’ files for unlawful content and then sending that information to law enforcement agencies. Bypassing the Fourth Amendment EPIC alleges that law enforcement is using Google, a private entity, to bypass the Fourth Amendment, which requires due process and probable cause before “searching or seizing” someone’s property. As a private entity, Google doesn’t have to abide by the Fourth Amendment as the government has to, so it can do those mass searches on its behalf and then give the government the results. The U.S. government has been increasingly using this strategy to bypass Fourth Amendment protections of U.S. citizens and to expand its warrantless surveillance operations further. Image Hashes vs. Image Matches Google and a few other companies have “voluntarily” agreed to use a database of images hashes from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to help the agency find exploited children. More than that, the companies would also give any information they have on the people who owned those images, given they are users of said companies’ services and have shared the images through those services. Image hash values are unique alphanumerical strings of characters that can be associatedwith images. These values are then used to match one image to another and see if the files are 100% identical. EPIC alleges that Google has gone even beyond this voluntary commitment to help NCMEC find criminals who exploit children by using image hash matching, and it’s now also using image matching techniques that can look at different files to see whether or not they contain a certain image. EPIC said this is very different from the first case of hash matching because image matching can result in many false positives (the algorithm can say that a certain file contains the original image, even though it doesn’t). Referring Innocent People to Law Enforcement EPIC noted that neither Google nor the government has revealed how the image matching algorithm works nor have they revealed accuracy, reliability, or validity of the technique, all of which are required for scientific evidence in court. EPIC argues that Google or other companies could use similar algorithms to scan not just for images of exploited children, but also for other purposes such as determining if files contain religious views, political opinions, or “banned books.” Google was recently involved in a controversy about its development of a censored search engine for China, called “Project Dragonfly.” The search engine would enable the identification of material that the Chinese government considers “sensitive,” which likely goes much further than images of exploited children. A Need for Algorithmic Transparency In the Carpenter vs. United States case, the Supreme Court recognized that the existing Fourth Amendment standards need to be reexamined in the new digital age. The Court ruled that the government couldn’t automatically track individuals’ locations everywhere they go for long periods of time without a warrant. If the equivalent of the digital surveillance translated to the physical world meant that the government would have to deploy costly surveillance operations that would rarely happen, then the much cheaper automated digital surveillance shouldn’t be permitted without a warrant, either. EPIC argued in its new briefing that automated scanning of files for various “crimes” falls into the same category. Even if the scanning of files can be cataloged as “private search,” the government would need to have “virtual certainty” that the files it intends to open are the same ones that were scanned by the private company, and this may not be possible. The government can’t guarantee that the files identified by Google are the same ones that the user uploaded. This is also why EPIC believes that algorithmic transparency is critical for software that interacts with the justice system and provides information that incriminates users of various services. Source
  20. Does Google meet its users’ expectations around consumer privacy? This news industry research says no A significant majority of consumers do not expect Google to track their activities across their lives, their locations, on other sites, and on other platforms. Numerous privacy scandals over the past couple of years have fueled the need for increased examination of tech companies’ data tracking practices. While the ethics around data collection and consumer privacy have been questioned for years, it wasn’t until Facebook’s Cambridge Analytics scandal that people began to realize how frequently their personal data is shared, transferred, and monetized without their permission. Cambridge Analytica was by no means an isolated case. Last summer, an AP investigation found that Google’s location tracking remains on even if you turn it off in Google Maps, Search, and other apps. Research from Vanderbilt professor Douglas Schmidt found that Google engages in “passive” data collection, often without the user’s knowledge. His research also showed that Google utilizes data collected from other sources to de-anonymize existing user data. That’s why we at Digital Content Next, the trade association of online publishers I lead, wrote this Washington Post op-ed, “It isn’t just about Facebook, it’s about Google, too” when Facebook first faced Capitol Hill. It’s also why the descriptor surveillance advertising is increasingly being used to describe Google and Facebook’s advertising businesses, which use personal data to tailor and micro-target ads. Consumers are on alert. DCN surveyed a nationally representative sample1 to find out what people expect from Google — and, as with a similar study we conducted last year about Facebook, the results were unsettling. Our findings show that many of Google’s data practices deviate from consumer expectations. We find it even more significant that consumer’s expectations are at an all-time low even after 2018, a year in which awareness around consumer privacy reached peak heights. The results of the study are consistent with our Facebook study: People don’t want surveillance advertising. A majority of consumers indicated they don’t expect to be tracked across Google’s services, let alone be tracked across the web in order to make ads more targeted. Nearly two out of three consumers don’t expect Google to track them across non-Google apps, offline activities from data brokers, or via their location history. There was only one question where a small majority of respondents felt that Google was acting according to their expectations. That was about Google merging data from search queries with other data it collects on its own services. They also don’t expect Google to connect the data back to the user’s personal account, but only by a small majority. Google began doing both of these in 2016 after previously promising it wouldn’t. Google’s personal data collection practices affect the more than 2 billion people who use devices running their Android operating software and hundreds of millions more iPhone users who rely on Google for browsing, maps, or search. Most of them expect Google to collect some data about them in exchange for use of services. However, as our research shows, a significant majority of consumers do not expect Google to track their activities across their lives, their locations, on other sites, and on other platforms. And as the AP discovered, Google continues to do some of this even after consumers explicitly turn off tracking. With new laws in Europe and California and with federal discussions about how to bring similar protections to the rest of America, it’s critical to understand what consumers actually demand, align expectations to those demands, and rebuild trust in our industry. Consumers expect nothing less. Source
  21. Google makes billions from its cloud platform. Now it’s using those billions to buy up the internet itself — or at least the submarine cables that make up the internet backbone. Above: An operator works during the mooring of an undersea fiber optic cable near the Spanish Basque village of Sopelana on June 13, 2017. In February, the company announced its intention to move forward with the development of the Curie cable, a new undersea line stretching from California to Chile. It will be the first private intercontinental cable ever built by a major non-telecom company. And if you step back and just look at intracontinental cables, Google has fully financed a number of those already; it was one of the first companies to build a fully private submarine line. Google isn’t alone. Historically, cables have been owned by groups of private companies — mostly telecom providers — but 2016 saw the start of a massive submarine cable boom, and this time, the buyers are content providers. Corporations like Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon all seem to share Google’s aspirations for bottom-of-the-ocean dominance. I’ve been watching this trend develop, being in the broadband space myself, and the recent movements are certainly concerning. Big tech’s ownership of the internet backbone will have far-reaching, yet familiar, implications. It’s the same old consumer tradeoff; more convenience for less control — and less privacy. We’re reaching the next stage of internet maturity; one where only large, incumbent players can truly win in media. Consumers will soon need to decide exactly how much faith they want to place in these companies to build out the internet of tomorrow. We need to decide carefully, too; these are the same companies that are gaining access to a seemingly ever-increasing share of our private lives. Walling off the garden If you want to measure the internet in miles, fiber-optic submarine cables are the place to start. These unassuming cables crisscross the ocean floor worldwide, carrying 95-99 percent of international data over bundles of fiber-optic cable strands the diameter of a garden hose. All told, there are more than 700,000 miles of submarine cables in use today. While past cable builders leveraged cable ownership to sell bandwidth, content providers are building purposefully private cables. The internet is commonly described as a cloud. In reality, it’s a series of wet, fragile tubes, and Google is about to own an alarming number of them. The numbers speak for themselves; Google will own 10,433 miles of submarine cables internationally when the Curie cable is completed later this year. The total shoots up to 63,605 miles when you include cables it owns in consortium with Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon. Including these part-owned cables, the company has enough submarine infrastructure to wrap around the earth’s equator two-and-a-half times (with thousands of cable miles to spare). The impetus for Google’s submarine projects This submarine cable boom makes more sense when you look at the growth of traffic that’s taken place in the past decade. In the Atlantic and Pacific, content providers accounted for over half of total demand in 2017. Content provider data use has skyrocketed from less than eight percent to near 40 percent in the past 10 years. It should be noted here that stats are significantly lower in Africa and the Middle East, suggesting that developed nations hunger for video content and cloud apps are a driver of the trend. This is supported by overall international bandwidth use between countries. In 2017, India only used 4,977 Mbps of international bandwidth. The U.S. used a staggering 4,960,388 Mbps that same year. The cost of privatized infrastructure Like the removal of Net Neutrality, privatizing internet infrastructure has only reduced prices for consumers. The problem we now face is a moral one: Do we want a private internet? Or do we want to preserve the “Wild West” web that we’ve had to this point? Unfortunately, the question isn’t as simple as drawing a line between “good” and “bad” network optimizations. Practices like edge networking and zero-rating are critical to the business models of companies like Netflix and AT&T — they also don’t technically violate the rules, and ultimately deliver much better services to consumers. As we look to the future, we need to start asking ourselves what the internet is really going to look like whenever the content services that already command so much of our attention are in control of the internet backbone as well. Privatized infrastructure may bring untold benefits for consumers in the short run, but is there a cost we aren’t considering? Source
  22. Google has finally planned to introduce what iPhone users were enjoying for years. According to Android Q documentation, Android Q to natively support the 3D Touch-like feature called “deep press.” Although they both mean pretty much the same, the name “deep press” makes more sense as compared to the 3D-Touch. The feature will allow you to perform various actions such as bring up the context menu without having to tap here and there multiple times. Just tell your fingers to put some extra pressure and it’ll do the trick for you. It’s early days and the feature is yet to make its way to the Android Q Build, therefore, we haven’t been able to see the feature in action. Assuming the feature works more or less the same as the iOS, there is one major concern and that is compatibility. It’s not clear whether the existing smartphones running Android Q will be able to cash in on the new feature or they will be left out. It’s been four years(almost) since Apple launched 3D-Touch feature in iPhone 6s and with every new iPhone, the 3D-Touch got more feature-rich. That said, I think this year’s Google I/O will see Google talking extensively about the feature and you might see the company taking a dig at iPhone but for that to happen it has to deliver. Source
  23. Google's product support has become a joke, and the company should be very concerned. Enlarge / An artist's rendering of Google's current reputation. Aurich Lawson It's only April, and 2019 has already been an absolutely brutal year for Google's product portfolio. The Chromecast Audio was discontinued January 11. YouTube annotations were removed and deleted January 15. Google fibre packed up and left a fibre city on February 8. Android Things dropped IoT support on February 13. Google's laptop and tablet division was reportedly slashed on March 12. Google Allo shut down on March 13. The "Spotlight Stories" VR studio closed its doors on March 14. The goo.gl URL shortener was cut off from new users on March 30. Gmail's IFTTT support stopped working March 31. And today, April 2, we're having a Google Funeral double-header: both Google+ (for consumers) and Google Inbox are being laid to rest. Later this year, Google Hangouts "Classic" will start to wind down, and somehow also scheduled for 2019 is Google Music's "migration" to YouTube Music, with the Google service being put on death row sometime afterward. We are 91 days into the year, and so far, Google is racking up an unprecedented body count. If we just take the official shutdown dates that have already occurred in 2019, a Google-branded product, feature, or service has died, on average, about every nine days. Some of these product shutdowns have transition plans, and some of them (like Google+) represent Google completely abandoning a user base. The specifics aren't crucial, though. What matters is that every single one of these actions has a negative consequence for Google's brand, and the near-constant stream of shutdown announcements makes Google seem more unstable and untrustworthy than it has ever been. Yes, there was the one time Google killed Google Wave nine years ago or when it took Google Reader away six years ago, but things were never this bad. For a while there has been a subset of people concerned about Google's privacy and antitrust issues, but now Google is eroding trust that its existing customers have in the company. That's a huge problem. Google has significantly harmed its brand over the last few months, and I'm not even sure the company realizes it. Google products require trust and investment Enlarge / The latest batch of dead and dying Google apps. Google is a platform company. Be it cloud compute, app and extension ecosystems, developer APIs, advertising solutions, operating-system pre-installs, or the storage of user data, Google constantly asks for investment from consumers, developers, and partner companies in the things it builds. Any successful platform will pretty much require trust and buy-in from these groups. These groups need to feel the platform they invest in today will be there tomorrow, or they'll move on to something else. If any of these groups loses faith in Google, it could have disastrous effects for the company. Consumers want to know the photos, videos, and emails they upload to Google will stick around. If you buy a Chromecast or Google Home, you need to know the servers and ecosystems they depend on will continue to work, so they don't turn into fancy paperweights tomorrow. If you take the time to move yourself, your friends, and your family to a new messaging service, you need to know it won't be shut down two years later. If you begrudgingly join a new social network that was forced down your throat, you need to know it won't leak your data everywhere, shut down, and delete all your posts a few years later. There are also enterprise customers, who, above all, like safe bets with established companies. The old adage of "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" is partly a reference for the enterprise's desire for a stable, steady, reliable tech partner. Google is trying to tackle this same market with its paid G Suite program, but the most it can do in terms of stability is post a calendar detailing the rollercoaster of consumer-oriented changes coming down the pipeline. There's a slower "Scheduled release track" that delays the rollout of some features, but things like a complete revamp of Gmail eventually all still arrive. G Suite has a "Core Services" list meant to show confidence in certain products sticking around, but some of the entries there, like Hangouts and Google Talk, still get shut down. Developers gamble on a platform's stability even more than consumers do. Consumers might trust a service with their data or spend money on hardware, but developers can spend months building an app for a platform. They need to read documentation, set up SDKs, figure out how APIs work, possibly pay developer startup fees, and maybe even learn a new language. They won't do any of this if they don't have faith in the long-term stability of the platform. Developers can literally build their products around paid-access Google APIs like the Google Maps API, and when Google does things like raise the price of the Maps API by 14x for some use cases, it is incredibly disruptive for those businesses and harmful to Google's brand. When apps like Reddit clients are flagged by Google Play "every other month" for the crime of displaying user-generated content and when it's impossible to talk to a human at Google about anything, developers are less likely to invest in your schizophrenic ecosystem. Hardware manufacturers and other company partners need to be able to trust a company, too. Google constantly asks hardware developers to build devices dependent on its services. These are things like Google Assistant-compatible speakers and smart displays, devices with Chromecast built in, and Android and Chrome OS devices. Manufacturers need to know a certain product or feature they are planning to integrate will be around for years, since they need to both commit to a potentially multi-year planning and development cycle, and then it needs to survive long enough for customers to be supported for a few years. Watching Android Things chop off a major segment of its market nine months after launch would certainly make me nervous to develop anything based on Android Things. Imagine the risk Volvo is taking by integrating the new Android Auto OS into its upcoming Polestar 2: vehicles need around five years of development time and still need to be supported for several years after launch. Google’s shutdowns cast a shadow over the entire company With so many shutdowns, tracking Google's bodycount has become a competitive industry on the Internet. Over on Wikipedia, the list of discontinued Google products and services is starting to approach the size of the active products and services listed. There are entire sites dedicated to discontinued Google products, like killedbygoogle.com, The Google Cemetery, and didgoogleshutdown.com. I think we're seeing a lot of the consequences of Google's damaged brand in the recent Google Stadia launch. A game streaming platform from one of the world's largest Internet companies should be grounds for excitement, but instead, the baggage of the Google brand has people asking if they can trust the service to stay running. In addition to the endless memes and jokes you'll see in every related comments section, you're starting to see Google skepticism in mainstream reporting, too. Over at The Guardian, this line makes the pullquote: "A potentially sticky fact about Google is that the company does have a habit of losing interest in its less successful projects." IGN has a whole section of a report questioning "Google's Commitment." From a Digital Foundry video: "Google has this reputation for discontinuing services that are often good, out of nowhere." One of SlashGear's "Stadia questions that need answers" is "Can I trust you, Google?" Enlarge / Google's Phil Harrison talks about the new Google Stadia controller. Google One of my favorite examples came from a Kotaku interview with Phil Harrison, the leader of Google Stadia. In an audio interview, the site lays this whopper of a question on him: "One of the sentiments we saw in our comments section a lot is that Google has a long history of starting projects and then abandoning them. There's a worry, I think, from users who might think that Google Stadia is a cool platform, but if I'm connecting to this and spending money on this platform, how do I know for sure that Google is still sticking with it for two, three, five years? How can you guys make a commitment that Google will be sticking with this in a way that they haven't stuck with Google+, or Google Hangouts, or Google fibre, Reader, or all the other things Google has abandoned over the years?" Yikes. Kotaku is totally justified to ask a question like this, but to have one of your new executives face questions of "When will your new product shut down?" must be embarrassing for Google. Harrison's response to this question started with a surprisingly honest acknowledgement: "I understand the concern." Harrison, seemingly, gets it. He seemingly understands that it's hard to trust Google after so many product shutdowns, and he knows the Stadia team now faces an uphill battle. For the record, Harrison went on to cite Google's sizable investment in the project, saying Stadia was "Not a trivial product" and was a "significant cross-company effort." (Also for the record: you could say all the same things about Google+ a few years ago, when literally every Google employee was paid to work on it. Now it is dead.) Harrison and the rest of the Stadia team had nothing to do with the closing of Google Inbox, or the shutdown of Hangouts, or the removal of any other popular Google product. They are still forced to deal with the consequences of being associated with "Google the Product Killer," though. If Stadia was an Amazon product, I don't think we would see these questions of when it would shut down. Microsoft's game streaming service, Project xCloud, only faces questions about feasibility and appeal, not if Microsoft will get bored in two years and dump the project. How did we get here? Google's love of product shutdowns is mostly just a side effect of Google's love for developing products. Calling anything a "Google Product" is usually a gross simplification—Google rarely does anything as a singular company. Instead, the industry giant is made up of autonomous product groups that develop and launch things on their own schedule. This is why Google often ends up making "Two of everything:" different teams don't communicate and end up tackling the same problem with different ideas. Google's strategy of having multiple teams throw things against the wall to see what sticks leads to lots and lots of products and services launching all the time, all with varying levels of quality, integration with other Google products, and varying lifetimes. It also leads to lots and lots of product cancellations. A better way to frame launches and other decisions inside of Google is try to figure out which team inside of Google has built a product, and to view each product team as a separate entity. The Google Assistant does well, because it is run by the Google Search team. On the other side of the spectrum, we have the Google Messaging team, which—after Hangouts, Hangouts Chat, Allo, Duo, Google Voice, and Android Messages—has pretty much no credibility left at all. The Android Team is easily one of the steadiest, most reliable groups at Google. Having various teams launch whatever hardware they want was a mess until all the hardware was put under the control of a new Google Hardware division. The Gmail team lives under the "Google Apps" umbrella, and it's responsible for developing and shutting down Inbox. Google Apps, with its enterprise focus, is usually a stalwart group, and Inbox is the first big shutdown from the Google Apps team in a long time. Google Fiber is not even part of Google; instead, it's a separate company under Google's parent company, Alphabet. Every shutdown has a story Google+ was created as a brand-new division inside of Google, led by Vic Gundotra. Back in 2011, success in social was considered critical to Google's survival, and Gundotra was given the title of "Senior Vice President." That made him one of eight or so people that regularly reported to then-CEO Larry Page. From here Google+ followed a pattern we see a few times with Google product launches and cancellations: Gundotra, the driving force behind Google+, left Google (or perhaps was compelled to leave Google) in 2014, which signaled the beginning of the end for Google+. Google+ was immediately stopped, Plus' more successful features were spun off, and eventually Google killed Google+ after a revelation of data security issues was made public. Any website with traffic analytics will tell you that Google+ usage has been continually declining, but shutting down a major product due to a data leak is certainly a strange decision. I could understand if the product was being abandoned entirely, but the enterprise version of Google Plus will continue to live on. Google has even promised a redesign and new features for the enterprise version. Hangouts was a product that never quite found a solid home inside Google. It was cooked up by the Google+ team as a way to combine all of Google's other messaging services into a single app. When Plus started its death spiral, Hangouts didn't have an obvious home in another division at Google. Eventually, the standalone messaging team was created, but it seemed more interested in starting its own (numerous) projects than supporting a messaging app created by someone else. Google Play Music is dying due to pretty much the same situation as Hangouts. Back in 2011, iOS had a great music solution (iTunes), while Android didn't. So Google Music was created by the Android team as part of the "Android Market" content store. With Web clients and plans to branch out onto iOS, the "Android Market" branding didn't make a ton of sense, so eventually the "Google Play" brand was born, and eventually Google Play became separate from the Android division. Now we have Google's YouTube taking over a lot of Google's media content strategy with all new apps, and just like Hangouts, it seems like a solid product is dying due to "not invented here" syndrome. I could go on forever about the explanations behind Google's many shutdowns. The shutdowns are all from independent teams making independent decisions, with products, employees, and divisions shifting around as time goes by. The rationale behind each shutdown doesn't really matter though—the problem is the cumulative effect of all these individual shutdowns on Google's reputation and Google's customers that, time and time again, have products taken away from them. Maybe it’s time for a public roadmap With all of the shutdowns already announced, I'm not sure there's anything Google can do to help its reputation at this point. The amount of people I see still bringing up Google Reader's shutdown is incredible—having a frequently used Web service snatched away from you sticks with people. If people lose confidence in Google's ability to host a stable lineup of services, more and more users will move out of the Google ecosystem. Then, like we're already seeing with Stadia, the company would face an uphill battle to get people to use its new products. I've been promoting a "wait and see" approach for most new Google products since at least 2016. But to see Google's support now become the subject of punchlines on the Internet should be extremely concerning for Google. One thing that could placate Google users is for the company to just tell us what is going on. Google already makes support promises for some of its products. Pixel phones and Chromebooks both have dashboards that show promised support windows and public end-of-life dates. Meanwhile, Google already hosts various uptime pages and other statistics. I want communication from Google that says which products will be around for a long time and which are a low priority at the company. Would it be so hard to publicly commit to running Stadia for five years no matter what? For its more successful products, Google could commit to 10 years of running a service and update the dashboard from time to time with later dates. I realize most companies don't do this, but most companies don't have the reputation Google has for killing products. It makes sense to counter the memes of "haha, how long until Google discontinues this product?" with a public statement of "not for at least seven years." We just want to see a damn product roadmap, Google. Give us a list of "Long Term Support (LTS)" products. Enlarge / Google posts public support timelines for Pixel phones, why not products and services, too? Google Google likes to experiment, but it needs to be better at communicating what products will be around for a while and which ones will be thrown against the wall to see what sticks. Sometimes Google is good with this kind of communication. The recent launch of Google's Reply app was handled well, for example. Google called the service "an experiment," and it was from a new skunkworks inside Google called "Area 120." Everything about the service made it sound like a temporary testing ground, and when the product was shut down, Google's messaging was great: "Reply was an experiment, and that experiment has now ended." This was a fine way to go about things. By contrast, nothing about the launch of Google Inbox made it sound like a product that would only stick around for a few years. Inbox was "years in the making," and the blog post made it seem like Google's email client for the future. As it stands now, products that were the center of the company a few years ago (RIP, Google+) are on the chopping block in 2019, and Google seems ready to kill any product that doesn't have a billion daily active users. Without knowing the reason behind this wave of shutdowns (was there some new mandate inside the company to trim down?), nothing from Google seems safe anymore. Google neglected to mention Google Voice in its last big messaging update. Should we read into that? Waze's features are slowly being moved over to Google Maps. Is that a bad sign? (Android) Wear OS is basically in last place in the smartwatch wars. Nest doesn't make a profit and recently was stripped of its Google independence. Google's Fuchsia OS is staring down an expensive multi-year development cycle, and the supposed plan to replace Android will be a steep uphill battle. How confident are you that all of these products will be around in a few years? Every time Google shuts down a product, its reputation is harmed. A shutdown makes users feel betrayed, it makes trusting other Google services harder, and it makes it harder for Google to pitch new products to users. With so many shutdowns happening lately, I've got to wonder if Google users will start to seek similar services from companies that simply seem more stable. Source: Google’s constant product shutdowns are damaging its brand (Ars Technica)
  24. After 4 months of waiting, that is the response I got from Widevine, Google’s DRM for web browsers. For the last 2 years I’ve been working on a web browser that now cannot be completed because Google, the creators of the open source browser Chrome, won’t allow DRM in an open source project. The browser I’m building, called Metastream, is an Electron-based (Chromium derived), MIT-licensed browser hosted on GitHub. Its main feature is the ability to playback videos on the web, synchronized with other peers. Each client runs its own instance of the Metastream browser and transmits playback information to keep them in sync. If someone is creating a browser that wants to playback media, they’ll soon discover the requirement of DRM for larger web media services such as Netflix and Hulu. There are a few DRM providers for the web including Widevine, PlayReady, and FairPlay. As far as I’m aware, Widevine is the only available DRM for a Chromium-based browser, especially so for Electron. Chromium accounts for roughly 70% market share of all web browsers, soon to include Microsoft’s upcoming Edge browser rewrite. Waiting 4 months for a minimal response from a vendor with such a large percentage of the market is unacceptable. This isn’t something I’m alone in either, several Electron users have waited months for a response. More prominently, the creators of Brave Browser also had issues waiting for replies from Google Widevine. “This is a prime example for why free as in beer is not enough. Small share browsers are at the mercy of Google, and Google is stalling us for no communicated-to-us reason.” - Brian Bondy, Co-founder & CTO of Brave I’m now only left with two options regarding the fate of Metastream: stop development of a desktop browser version, or pivot my project to a browser extension with reduced features. The latter requiring publishing to the Google Chrome Web Store which would further entrench the project into a Google walled garden. If you know of any way to help out, please get in touch. See post on Hacker News for discussion thread. Source
  25. Google Releases Android Security Patch for April 2019 with 89 Security Fixes Google released the Android Security Patch for April 2019 in an attempt to further improve the overall security and stability of Android devices. Android Security Patch for April 2019 consists of the 2019-04-01 and 2019-04-05 security patch levels, which address a total of 89 vulnerabilities across several components, including the Android framework, Media framework, Android system, and Qualcomm components. The most sever of them all could allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code by using a malicious file. “The most severe of these issues is a critical security vulnerability in Media framework that could enable a remote attacker using a specially crafted file to execute arbitrary code within the context of a privileged process. The severity assessment is based on the effect that exploiting the vulnerability would possibly have on an affected device,” reads the security bulletin.Improvements for Pixel devices In addition to patching security flaws, the Android Security Patch for April 2019 update also improves the performance and reliability of supported Pixel devices. For Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL users, it improves the voice-unlocking performance for Google Assistant and the Wi-Fi connectivity during eSIM activation for some mobile carriers. For some Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL devices, the update removes the screen flash when ambient display wakes. On the other hand, Pixel and Pixel XL users will notice better Bluetooth connectivity after installing the Android Security Patch for April 2019, which is now rolling out worldwide and will complete in the next few days. It is recommended that you update your Android devices to Android Security Patch for April 2019 as soon as possible. To update, simply access the system updates section in the settings of your device. If you don’t see the update yet, try again in a few hours or days. Android Security Patch for April 2019 is available now for all Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, and Pixel 3 XL users. Source
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