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  1. Google is bringing back human moderators to oversee YouTube content, taking over from automated systems that were given more responsibilities at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. YouTube revealed in late August that in the three months prior, 11.4 million videos have been removed from the platform for violating its Community Guidelines. This is the highest number of videos taken down from YouTube over a three-month period since the service was launched in 2005, and it was attributed to the higher reliance on A.I. as the pandemic prevented human reviewers from going to work. YouTube admitted, however, that some of the videos would have been erroneously removed. “One of the decisions we made [at the beginning of the pandemic] when it came to machines who couldn’t be as precise as humans, we were going to err on the side of making sure that our users were protected, even though that might have resulted in a slightly higher number of videos coming down,” YouTube’s chief product officer told the Financial Times. The Google-owned company revealed that it has reversed the decision to take down 160,000 videos, the Financial Times reported. Normally, less than 25% of appeals are successful, but under A.I. moderation, the percentage of successful appeals has increased to 50%. However, while Mohan claims that more human moderators will start overseeing YouTube content, it remains unclear how that will happen amid the ongoing pandemic. Digital Trends has reached out to Google for additional details on their working arrangements, and we will update this article as soon as we hear back. Source
  2. Google adds iOS 14 Search widgets, as Chrome and Gmail get default app support Apple launched iOS 14 to the general public on Wednesday, and developers are updating their apps to support the latest features. Google, in an attempt to make access to its apps easier, is adding Search widgets and the ability to set Chrome as the default browser. The Cupertino firm's latest mobile OS lets users create prominent home screen widgets, and Google is making use of that by offering "lightning-fast access to Search." The first widget, pictured below, is 2x2 and has a bar up top that opens the keyboard to allow for immediate text input. The second one spans across the entire home screen and contains three shortcuts: Lens, Voice Search, and Incognito. To set up the widgets, users need to ensure that they have updated to version 125.1 in the App Store. The Mountain View firm has provided the following instructions: Press and hold on the home screen of your iPhone or iPad Tap the plus icon on the upper left corner to open the widget gallery Search for & tap the Google app Swipe right/left to select the widget size Tap “Add Widget” Place the widget and tap “Done” at the upper right corner iOS 14 lets users set the default browser and email app, however, preferences reset after a device reboot for now. Similar to how it operates on desktop platforms, Chrome can open links from any app, while any mailto: links will redirect users to Gmail's compose screen. The browser update is live now, and the Gmail update will be rolling out soon. To set Chrome or Gmail as your default apps, follow these steps: Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, scroll down until you see “Chrome” / "Gmail" and tap on it Tap on “Default Browser App” / "Default Mail App" Choose “Chrome” / "Gmail" Google says that it will add more widgets in the coming weeks to "make your iPhone even more helpful". Google adds iOS 14 Search widgets, as Chrome and Gmail get default app support
  3. Disclosed tracking, helicopter parenting programs are still kosher In an update to its Android Developer Program Policy, Google on Wednesday said stalkerware apps in its app store can no longer be used to stalk non-consenting adults. Stalkerware, which the web giant defines as "code that transmits personal information off the device without adequate notice or consent and doesn't display a persistent notification that this is happening," may still be used for keeping track of one's kids. But starting October 1, 2020, the ad biz says it's no longer acceptable for Android apps in the Google Play Store to track another person, such as a spouse, without permission, unless there's a persistent visible notification that data is being transmitted. The ban follows a similar prohibition in August on Google-served ads for "spyware and technology used for intimate partner surveillance," which reportedly hasn't worked very well. In recent years, computer security experts have argued that the privacy and security risks in intimate relationships remain haven't been adequately anticipated or addressed. But rules against invasive behavior aren't necessarily effective. Via Twitter, Michael Veale, a lecturer at University College London, observed that a 2018 research paper "found that 'abusers frequently exploit dual-use applications—tools whose main purpose is legitimate but that can be easily repurposed to function as spyware,' so banning explicit stalkerware of questionable efficacy." Google will continue to allow non-stalkerware apps (i.e. policy compliant apps) to monitor and track people, provided the programs are not marketed as surveillance apps, they disclose any such functions, and they present the requisite persistent notification and icon. Monitoring apps of the permissible sort continue to be subject to removal for violating applicable laws in the locations where they're published, and may not link to resources (e.g. servers, SDKs) that provide policy violating functions or non-compliant APKs hosted outside the Google Play Store. Google's developer policy update also includes a ban on misrepresentation, both for apps and developer accounts. Apps or accounts that impersonate a person or organization, or attempt to conceal the app's purpose or ownership, or engage in coordinated misleading activity, are no longer allowed. Online gambling apps have been disallowed too, except for in Brazil (with government approval), France, Ireland, and the UK. Source
  4. Alphabet Inc.'s Google faces a multibillion-dollar lawsuit in Britain over claims that YouTube routinely breaks privacy laws by tracking children online. The suit, filed on behalf of more than five million British children under 13 and their parents, is being brought by privacy campaigner Duncan McCann and being supported by Foxglove, a tech justice group. The claimants estimate that if they’re successful, there would be as much as $3.2 billion (2.5 billion pounds) in compensation, worth 100 to 500 pounds per child. The filing alleges that YouTube's methods of targeting underage audiences constitute "major breaches" of U.K. and European privacy and data rules designed to protect citizens' control over their own private information. YouTube has "systematically broken these laws by harvesting children's data without obtaining prior parental consent," it alleges. A spokesperson for YouTube declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday but added that the video streaming service isn't designed for users under the age of 13. "We launched the YouTube Kids app as a dedicated destination for kids and are always working to better protect kids and families on YouTube," the company said in an emailed statement. Privacy watchdogs have in recent months turned their attention more closely to the protection of children’s data, with regulators in Ireland looking to clarify the rights of children under the European Union’s strict data protection rules, and the U.K.'s information commissioner publishing a code of practice with specific standards for online services to follow. ByteDance Ltd.'s social media app TikTok has in recent months also come under scrutiny by several EU data watchdogs over its processing of children's data. It’s the first class-action suit in Europe brought against a tech firm on behalf of children, according to the claimants. The legal action is being backed by Vannin Capital, a global litigation funder. “The cost of YouTube’s so-called free service is kids that are addicted to online content and influenced by large tech companies that have stolen their privacy,” said Cori Crider, director of Foxglove. “Google won’t clean up its act until it’s forced to do so by the courts.” Source
  5. Google to launch Pixel 5, new Chromecast, and smart speaker on September 30th 5G versions of the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A are on the way Image: Google Google is planning to launch its Pixel 5 smartphone, a new Chromecast, and a new smart speaker later this month. Google has started inviting members of the media to a special event on September 30th, promising new hardware. “We invite you to learn all about our new Chromecast, our latest smart speaker, and our new Pixel phones,” reads the invite. Google already confirmed its plans to launch a Pixel 5 later this year, complete with 5G connectivity. The Pixel maker revealed its launch plans alongside the introduction of the Pixel 4A last month, promising 5G versions of the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia. Google’s event invite. A new Chromecast is on the way, too, and an update to Google’s smart speakers. That will likely be the Nest smart speaker that Google confirmed back in July after an image of the speaker leaked online. The speaker looks like it’ll be something between the Nest Mini and the larger Google Home Max, with the ability to stand vertically. Two new mysterious Google hardware devices appeared at the FCC last month, looking like they’re related to a new Android TV product that Google has reportedly been preparing for a while. Google is rumored to be working on a TV dongle codenamed “Sabrina” that would use Android TV and a traditional remote-driven UI. Chromecast devices are typically driven by smartphones, and Google’s invite specifically mentions Chromecast so it’s not clear if these two devices will appear later this month. Google’s event will take place virtually on September 30th at 2PM ET / 11AM PT, and The Verge will be covering all of Google’s announcements live. Google to launch Pixel 5, new Chromecast, and smart speaker on September 30th
  6. Under pressure from rightsholders, Google makes pirate sites harder to find in search results. As a result, pirates are increasingly advising each other to use DuckDuckGo instead. Surprisingly, in response to a very popular 'pirate' search term, Google appears to agree its rival is the best option. In an ideal world, search engine users would be presented with the most authoritative set of results in response to a specific search. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world but companies like Google, given the scale of the task, do a reasonable job of helping us find what we’re looking for, with some caveats. Piracy-Related Searches Are Tampered With By design, Google and other search engines have been deciding what’s ‘best’ for us for years. After all, it’s their own algorithms that decide which sites appear in response to any kind of search. Precisely how these decisions are made are closely-guarded secrets but in more recent years and under pressure from copyright holders, we known that Google has been heavily tampering with piracy-related searches. The general line is that Google voluntarily demotes and downranks sites for which it receives large numbers of valid DMCA notices. The theory is that sites are punished for continually infringing copyright so when users search for a particular movie, for example, torrent and streaming sites aren’t presented as the top options. As a result and unless searchers use a considerable amount of ‘Google-Fu’, Google is no longer a good place to find pirated content. In fact, people are more likely to find scammy and dangerous sites instead, as they bubble their way to the top to occupy the vacuum. Need the Pirate Bay Or a Proxy? Forget Google With The Pirate Bay the ‘proud’ receiver of millions of copyright complaints, searching for the site by name in Google is almost pointless. Even though the search term clearly shows what the user is looking for, the site doesn’t appear in the first few pages of Google’s results, unless people search for its precise domain. However, with the site blocked by ISPs all around the world, what millions of people are actually looking for these days is Pirate Bay proxy services that facilitate access to the site. Over time, these also receive millions of complaints so Google downranks these too. DuckDuckGo, on the other hand, produces exactly what one might expect as a result of these searches – ThePirateBay.org on the top and a list of Pirate Bay proxies respectively. DuckDuckGo is Less Comprehensive But Also More ‘Honest’ Search engine DuckDuckGo has a tiny 0.5% of the search market but with its pro-privacy stance, is increasingly favored when it comes to seeking out pirate content. The results that appear in response to searches tend to feel much more authentic when compared to those presented by Google, a suggestion perhaps that less or even no ‘tampering’ is taking place. While this might not please copyright holders, DuckDuckGo’s relative obscurity doesn’t make it a prime target for them right now but in a bizarre twist we noticed this week, it appears Google has somehow determined that its rival is the most authoritative option when it comes to a particular ‘pirate’ search. Google’s Algorithm Promotes DuckDuckGo to the Top Spot This week it was revealed that in Australia, Google will voluntarily block proxies and mirrors of pirate sites without being presented with a court order. This followed a similar agreement in 2019 which saw Google de-index more than 800 pirate sites. This move piqued our interest so we carried out a simple Google search for “pirate bay proxies”. The screenshot below reveals what we were presented with. Accurate But Surprising in More Ways Than One Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this top result is that Google is promoting a rival’s service. This is interesting since whenever it reasonably can, modern-day Google has a tendency to recommend its own product. Had it done that here, however, users would get caught in an infinite loop of finding little of value. The other interesting thing about this valuable top-spot placement is that it promotes a custom search on DuckDuckGo when indexing internal searches of other sites is usually discouraged by Google itself. All that having been said, Google has arguably done its job here to perfection. Either by design or otherwise, its algorithms have determined that DuckDuckGo is the best place to find Pirate Bay proxies. And they have got that absolutely spot on. The Bigger Picture of Search Engines and Piracy It’s worth noting that if we look at the history of piracy on the Internet, it existed long before Google was founded. In fact, most early online piracy didn’t rely on today’s searchable web at all, with locations of file dumps mostly spread via word of mouth, early chat technologies, and newsgroups. But back then, of course, a whole generation was yet to be born, with most parents still unaware that the Internet existed. The point is that while mainstream piracy arguably began with Napster, it only exploded when the content of eDonkey and BitTorrent networks became searchable on the web. Search engines, rightly or wrongly depending on viewpoint, played a massive role in that. What we will probably see in the next few years, however, is that role diminishing again. By choice or by force, Google will undoubtedly clamp down further on piracy and its rivals will eventually have to follow suit. It may take a while but basic searches will no longer prove useful to pirates and they will have to find other ways to educate themselves on where to find content. Most large file-sharing discussion communities – and there were many – died out years ago, partly due to waning interest, partly due to the rise of social networks. But mainly because piracy was no longer niche and presented on a plate, often via search engines. These communities may have to rise again because (and you can quote me on this) Reddit, Facebook and similar platforms will eventually go the same way as search engines when it comes to piracy. Source: TorrentFreak
  7. More evidence mounts for Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G launches this month Both handsets spotted in new FCC filings (Image credit: Google) Officially revealed at the launch of Google's Pixel 4a last month, the search giant's upcoming Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G handsets are now inching closer to release, with new FCC filings in the US lending credence to a previous report that they could be launching as soon as September 30. As reported by 9to5Google, new regulatory filings assumed to be for multiple variants of the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G have landed at the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which more often than not indicates that a launch is imminent. Interestingly, charts included with the FCC filings suggest that the Google Pixel 5 will offer separate variants for both the Sub-6 and mmWave 5G bands. While mmWave technology offers much faster downlink speeds over 5G than bands that are Sub-6 only, it does so at the expense of geographical coverage, leading us to assume that your carrier and region will determine which version of the phone you receive. As for the Pixel 4a 5G, it appears the handset will only offer support for the slower Sub-6 bands, which seems about right given its very reasonable price of $599 (AU$799 / around £448). What to expect Both phones (including the top-tier Pixel 5) are expected to carry the Snapdragon 765G chipset, which is the processor currently driving a number of upper mid-range handsets, including the Motorola Edge Plus and the LG Velvet. This would suggest that Google is looking to keep the price of its next flagship down, rather than take on the likes of Samsung's beastly (and incredibly expensive) Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. That said, we'll have to wait until the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G are officially launched to find out exactly what Google has in store for us. More evidence mounts for Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G launches this month
  8. Google to pass digital services tax costs onto advertisers Google has reportedly told British advertisers that they will have to cover the costs for the U.K.’s digital services tax that came into effect in April. From November 1, Google will start charging advertisers an additional 2% in fees to cover the costs. The new tax, which Google has decided to pass onto customers, charges 2% on revenues generated in the U.K. The tax is levied against revenue specifically from search engines, social media platforms, and online market places – meaning that Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon are all targets. Advertisers in the UK’s aren’t the only ones affected by the change, in a statement, Google said: “The Regulatory Operating Costs are being added due to significant increases in the complexity and cost of complying with regulations in Turkey. In Austria and the United Kingdom, the digital services tax (DST) fee is driven by the new digital services tax in these countries.” The new tax looks to bring in up to £500 million each year but tech firms are very keen not to pay out of their profits. Aside from Google, Amazon has also started passing on the costs of the digital services tax to sellers in the U.K. from today. Google to pass digital services tax costs onto advertisers
  9. Google's upcoming Android TV dongle could be surprisingly affordable Chromecast replacement leak points to bargain US price (Image credit: Google) Following its recent appearance in an FCC filing, Google's long-rumored Android TV dongle, is now closer than ever to an official reveal thanks to a listing found within US retailer Home Depot's internal systems. And, if the listing's pricing is to be believed, it will be surprisingly affordable. As reported by 9to5Google, the Android TV-powered Chromecast Ultra successor will be priced at $49.99 (around £37 / AU$68), placing it right in the same ballpark as the Amazon TV Fire Stick 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick. According to Home Depot's listing, which can still be viewed thanks to Google Cache, the streaming device will be called Sabrina as per previous rumors. That said, it's worth noting that both the image and description included in Home Depot's now-removed Sabrina listing was that of the current Chromecast Ultra, and not of the expected Android TV-powered dongle with remote – this implies the listing is more of a placeholder than anything concrete. (Image credit: 9to5Google) Of course, there is some new information to be found within Home Depot's system, including the names of at least three expected colors for the device: Rock Candy, Como Blue and Summer Melon. While Como Blue suggests a similar color to the Nest Mini's Sky variant, the other two color options could be just about anything. We won't know for sure until Google officially unveils its new streaming device, which should be sooner rather than later. Google's upcoming Android TV dongle could be surprisingly affordable
  10. Can Australia Force Google and Facebook to Pay for News? A proposed law would require the tech giants to negotiate with publishers. Similar attempts in Europe have largely failed. Illustration: Sam Whitney Australians visiting Google.com last week found, hovering below the search bar, an exclamation point encased in a yellow triangle. A warning: “The way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk from new government regulation.” The warning links to an open letter from Google Australia and New Zealand managing director Mel Silva. Google’s and YouTube’s offering in Australia could become “dramatically worse,” she warns. The services themselves are “at risk.” All Australians users could be affected. Silva’s warning stems from a proposed law that would require Google and Facebook to negotiate with news outlets and pay for news content featured on their platforms. Australian regulators say the tech giants benefit from publishing news generated by others, but Google and Facebook are so dominant in search and social, respectively, that publishers can’t make them pay for it. It’s not the first time a country has tried to force Google and Facebook to pay media companies for republishing their news. A 2014 Spanish law required publishers to charge Google for the headlines and snippets of their stories that appeared on Google News. In response, the company removed the Google News service from Spain and took Spanish publishers off its news service globally. Readership of news stories dropped, particularly at smaller, less-well-known outlets, according to one study. Last year, France wrote into law an EU copyright directive that demands Google pay for the news content that appears on its sites. Google was ordered back to the bargaining table this year after it removed French publishers’ snippets from its search results and did not pay for links. In 2014, Germany’s biggest publishing house briefly barred Google from featuring snippets of its articles in a bid to make the search giant pay licensing fees but backed out after traffic plunged. Australian officials studied those efforts and took a different approach. They are not relying on copyright law, and they included measures designed to prevent Google or Facebook from dropping or down-ranking Australian news based on whether outlets try to negotiate a price, as happened in Europe. In response, Google is pitting itself against “big media companies” and appealing to the Australian public to oppose the proposal. Regulators and media executives around the world are watching to see if Australia can succeed where others have stumbled. The Australian approach could set a global precedent, says Belinda Barnet, a senior lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology. “If every country in the world starts demanding the same, then it will have an impact on [Google and Facebook’s] financial model.” The proposed Australian law emerged from an 18-month inquiry into the power of digital platforms by the country’s competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The commission concluded that many news businesses are reliant on—and benefit from—Google and Facebook for traffic but have little bargaining power with the tech giants. It also found that while Google and Facebook derived little advertising revenue from featuring news headlines and snippets on their sites, original news content benefited both platforms. More than one-third of Facebook users reported using the social media site to access news, according to the ACCC. Google placed a Top Stories carousel of headlines and snippets in response to 8 to 14 percent of queries, which the commission said indicated that Google values surfacing news content. Google’s ability to provide high-quality and reliable search, and Facebook’s ability to attract and retain eyeballs on its feed, the ACCC argued, relied to some degree on their ability to showcase independent, accurate news content. The dispute is “about the extent to which [news publishers’] content drives traffic, and they don’t receive returns from that,” says Terry Flew, a professor at the Queensland University of Technology. He says the proposed law recognizes “that each party derives benefit from the other. In the case of the platforms, it’s the content; in the case of the publishers, it’s the distribution channels.” Australia, Flew says, has “proposed that there must be a just price, if you like, for the financial benefit gained by the platforms.” That just price is intended to result from negotiations between the online platforms and media companies. Should they fail to agree, the parties will submit “final offers” to a panel of arbitrators, who must choose one or the other. The proposed law also would require that Google and Facebook give news outlets 28 days notice of changes to their algorithms that would harm news businesses, such as removing snippets, down-ranking publishers, or closing Google News in the country. Violations, including of the nondiscrimination requirement, could result in fines of up to 10 percent of the platform’s annual revenue in Australia—for each offense. Silva, the Google executive, says the company pays some publishers for their content, through a licensing agreement announced in June with several Australian, Brazilian, and German publishers, and is looking to do more so, but that the draft code is “unworkable.” Google says the continual changes to its algorithm make it impractical to identify changes that might affect news businesses. The proposal, Silva said in a statement, “ignores the significant value Google provides to news publishers.” Sharing details about the algorithm “would provide an unfair advantage to news businesses and help them feature more prominently in organic search results at the expense of other businesses, creators, and website owners,” she said, adding that the proposal also doesn’t include safeguards for data shared with news businesses. Together, Google argues, these conditions put its services in Australia at risk. “We’re going to do everything we possibly can to get this proposal changed,” Silva wrote in the open letter to Australians. Asked in July whether this could mean removing Australian news from its services, Silva replied: “All options are on the table.” Facebook hasn’t directly appealed to users to oppose the proposed law. Will Easton, the company’s managing director in Australia and New Zealand, said in a statement when the proposal was released in July, “We are reviewing the government's proposal to understand the impact it will have on the industry, our services, and our investment in the news ecosystem in Australia.” Fires, a Pandemic, and 8 Reporters Australia’s news media industry has been contracting, with title closures and journalist job losses across the country. Media companies are in a bind, Flew says. They can’t afford not to be on Facebook and Google, but the distribution of news on the platforms undermines news media companies’ ability to monetize their content and build brands. In its inquiry, the competition commission found that after viewing news snippets, some consumers won’t click through to a news site where the publisher can generate advertising revenue. Google and Facebook account for 71 percent of the $6.5 billion (US) spent annually in Australia. But the commission did not base its proposal on lost advertising revenue. Rather, it argues that the content itself is of intrinsic value to platforms and therefore they should pay for it. One of the country’s largest media companies, Nine, headed by a former federal treasurer, has suggested the two companies compensate media companies up to $432 million (US) for use of their content. Belinda Barnet, senior lecturer, Swinburne University of Technology For smaller outlets, any compensation at all would be welcome. Bruce Ellen’s team of eight journalists at the Latrobe Valley Express newspaper, covering an area east of Melbourne, has had a busy year. Summer bushfires singed the edges of their readership’s region. Then, as Covid-19 hit in the autumn and returned for a second, more deadly wave in the winter, the newspaper published breaking and exclusive stories about test shortages and the outbreak of clusters in the area. This kind of reporting could not be found anywhere else. But it appears via a Google search and is posted on Facebook, including by the paper itself. “We get no recompense from Google at all,” says Ellen, general manager of the paper. “Not one cent. My P&L shows nothing at all.” News is valued by users of Facebook and Google and can attract and keep users on the platforms. It costs his business to produce this content, but so far it has cost Facebook and Google nothing to feature it in headline or snippet form. “They’re leveraging our content to drive traffic,” says Ellen. The proposed law is not a panacea for the problems facing news media, he says.“We have to row our own boat.” But it could help stop the hemorrhaging of journalists and publications. For his paper, believed to be the last regional newspaper in Australia to print two editions a week, it might just mean survival. “In reality it means we can continue to employ the same number of journalists,” he says. A Battle for Public Opinion The code has received a generally warm reception from Australian news businesses. News Corporation Australasia executive chair Michael Miller called it a “watershed moment.” In a statement, he said that the law would mean that the platforms, which derive “immense benefit” from news content “will no longer be able to use their power to walk away from negotiations with news creators … The tech platforms' days of free-riding on other people's content are ending.” A consultation period over the proposed law ended Friday. The ACCC will consider revisions before putting the proposal before Parliament. With general support from both the governing conservative coalition and the Labor opposition, the legislation is expected to pass. “Then we get into the realm of public opinion and pressure,” says Flew, the Queensland professor. “The strongest card that Google and Facebook have is a strong dislike of News Corporation and mainstream media in general in Australia, in particular among young people.” Google “could potentially rally the troops in a way that no other company could,” says Barnet. “It’s their only option. But it’s huge.” Shortly after Google released its open letter, the ACCC responded, accusing Google of spreading “misinformation” by suggesting it might have to charge for its services or share additional user data. Google disputes that its letter included misinformation. “Our little ACCC has got the chutzpah,” says Barnet. Back in the Latrobe Valley, Ellen harbors a cautious optimism. “But the fight has only just begun,” says the newspaper manager. “I assure you.” Can Australia Force Google and Facebook to Pay for News?
  11. Google proposed Web Bundles could threaten the Web as we know it Web Bundles is a new proposed standard by Google designed to change the Web fundamentally. The main idea behind the technology is that sites may bundle a full webpage into a single file. Currently, when you open a webpage in any browser, content, e.g. images or scripts, gets loaded individually. The web browser parses the source of the webpage and loads the content based on the references that it finds in the code. Google notes on the Web Bundles announcement page on its Web Dev website: A Web Bundle is a file format for encapsulating one or more HTTP resources in a single file. It can include one or more HTML files, JavaScript files, images, or stylesheets. Web Bundles are part of the company's Web Packaging proposal that also include Signed HTTP Exchanges and Loading. The technology offers several unique features and benefits according to Google that include that they load "near instantly when served locally", "enables executable JavaScript", or easier sharing of resources. Not everyone agrees with Google's assessment and description of the new technologies. Privacy researcher Peter Snyder published an analysis on the Brave company blog that highlights the dangers of the new technology in regards to privacy, content blocking, and the Open Web in general. He points out that the technology can be used to "change the Web from a hyperlinked collection of resources (that can be audited, selectively fetched, or even replaced), to opaque all-or-nothing “blobs” (like PDFs or SWFs)". A main point of criticism is that Web Bundles allow sites to evade privacy and security tools, and that they make URLs less meaningful. At root, the common cause of all these evasions is that WebBundles create a local namespace for resources, independent of what the rest of the world sees, and that this can cause all sorts of name confusion, undoing years of privacy-and-security-improving work by privacy activists and researchers. Webmasters may use Web Bundles to randomize URLs, reuse URLs, and hiding dangerous URLs. The core of the issue lies in the fact that content that is inside WebBundles may be different from content that is offered elsewhere. Sites could use random URLs for tracking and advertising scripts to make blocking harder or even impossible, and they could even go a step further by using the names of legitimate resources for advertising or invasive content. Web Bundles are already integrated in Chromium and development versions of Google Chrome. The experimental feature is disabled for the time being but users may enable it on chrome://flags by searching for Web Bundles. Snyder sees the benefits of Web Bundles but also the dangers if the standard is released in its current state. As a user, there is little that can be done in this regard other than to watch how this will all unfold in the future. Google proposed Web Bundles could threaten the Web as we know it
  12. Google has reached a new voluntary agreement with copyright holders in Australia. The search engine promises to block proxies and mirrors of pirate sites without a court order. The new agreement aims to fix a loophole that made alternative addresses of blocked pirate sites easy to find. Years ago, Australia was often described as a hotbed for piracy. This was a thorn in the side of copyright holders, who repeatedly asked the Government to help out. On the top of their list was new legislation that would make it possible to compel ISPs to block pirate sites. In 2015 this wish became reality with the passing of Section 115a of Australia’s Copyright Act. Soon after the amendments became law, the first blocking requests were submitted and since then ISPs have been ordered to block hundreds of sites. The entertainment industry was happy with this new enforcement tool. However, they also felt that it wasn’t enough. Village Roadshow’s Graham Burke, in particular, took aim at Google and other search engines, which still indexed these pirate sites and many alternatives. The Proxy and Mirror Loophole To address these and other loopholes, new legislation was passed in 2018 which made it easier for proxies and mirrors to be blocked. In addition, it also opened the door to a new type of measure that required search engines to block pirate sites. Initially, Google fiercely opposed the new plans but in a surprise move last year, the search engine voluntarily agreed to remove hundreds of sites from its Australian search results. This agreement was made without a court order. Instead, Google chose to remove sites that the ISPs were already blocking. This was a step forward in the eyes of the rightsholders, but it was far from perfect. After being blocked, pirate sites would simply switch to new domains which are easy to find through search engines. While these are eventually covered through updated court orders, the process can take weeks. “The pirates are taking advantage of the lag time between their criminal mirror site going up by changing one letter and us taking three or four weeks to go back through the court system,” Burke, who’s also the Chair of Creative Content Australia, told SMH. Google Steps Up its Anti-Piracy Game, Again To fix this ‘loophole’ Google has now agreed to a new arrangement that goes even further. In an agreement with copyright holders, Google promises to de-index mirrors and proxies as soon as they are reported. This will happen before a court order is issued, without any judicial oversight. That said, it only applies to (presumed) alternative locations of domains that have previously been targeted by a blocking injunction. This effectively addresses the mirror and proxy problem while the rightsholders are still in the process of getting an updated court order. By doing so, it will be harder for pirates to find alternative domain names. “This is shutting down that loophole and it’s massive,” Burke said. Did Google Have a Change of Heart? Google’s cooperative stance runs counter to comments that were made earlier by the search engine. The company repeatedly argued that removing full domains from its search results is dangerous. In addition, it actively protested Australia’s blocking plans when they were announced. TorrentFreak asked Google for a comment on the new voluntary agreement and how it differs from its previous statements, but the company didn’t immediately respond. Speaking with SMH, the search engine said that it hopes this measure will help address the piracy problem. “We are hopeful these measures will be a welcome step towards protecting copyright and will provide a faster solution for rightsholders,” Lucinda Longcroft, director of public policy at Google Australia said. Source: TorrentFreak
  13. Unredacted suit shows Google’s own engineers confused by privacy settings Users could make change, but it was "difficult enough that people won’t," one employee wrote. Enlarge Sean Gallup | Getty Images 67 with 49 posters participating Newly unsealed and partially unredacted documents from a consumer fraud suit the state of Arizona filed against Google show that company employees knew and discussed among themselves that the company's location privacy settings were confusing and potentially misleading. In 2018, the Associated Press reported that Maps and some other Google services (on both iPhone and Android) were storing users' location data even when users had explicitly turned Location History off. "There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including: Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services," a Google spokesperson told the AP at the time. "We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time." Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich's office launched its own investigation following the AP report, and in May 2020 the state sued Google, alleging that the company violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The initial lawsuit was heavily redacted, as the Arizona Mirror reports. But following an August 3 petition from trade groups Digital Content Next and the News Media Alliance, the judge has ordered several documents related to the case to be unsealed, and a new, less-redacted version of the suit is now available. The new version of the suit (PDF) includes a number of employee emails and chat logs where Google employees agreed with the AP story, and these employees highlighted their own frustrations with the settings. Among the highlights: "The current UI feels like it is designed to make things possible, yet difficult enough that people won’t figure it out." "Some people (including even Googlers) don’t know that there is a global switch and a per-device switch." "Indeed we aren’t very good at explaining this to users. Add me to the list of Googlers who didn’t understand how this worked and was surprised when I read the article ... we shipped a UI that confuses users." "I agree with the article. Location off should mean location off, not except for this case or that case." "Speaking as a user, WTF?" another employee said, in additional documentation obtained by the Arizona Mirror. "More specifically I **thought** I had location tracking turned off on my phone. So our messaging around this is enough to confuse a privacy focused (Google software engineer). That’s not good." "In the case of location information, we’ve heard feedback, and have worked hard to improve our privacy controls," a Google spokesman told the Mirror. "In fact, even these cherry picked published extracts state clearly that the team’s goal was to ‘Reduce confusion around Location History Settings.'" The “oh shit meeting” The suit also provides a fascinating insight into how Google reacts when a negative news item about the company goes big. "The day the AP story was published," the suit says, "Google turned into crisis mode and held a self-styled 'Oh Shit' meeting in reaction to the story." The company's communications team published daily reports (PDF) after the AP's story went live, tracking where and when stories about the AP's bombshell were being published and following what social media accounts with significant influence were saying about the story. Day-one coverage of the story was "100% negative," the report found, with 93 percent of stories identified covering "the lack of user consent / creepy factor," 51 percent mentioning "misleading controls," and 32 percent of stories providing some kind of how-to information for customers to opt out or manage their data, the report concluded. "We're seeing a growing narrative driven by third party commentary (policy influencers) that alludes to FTC / congressional action," the report said, citing stories by CNET, Vanity Fair, and Wired. "This will likely become a bigger focus as the week goes on." The day two, day three, and day four reports covered the slow decline of the headline in the natural churn of the news cycle. By the end of day two, "this story was no longer on the list of top 10 trending stories across tech," and Google fielded fewer than 10 additional press inquiries, as opposed to the 40+ it received on day one. Unredacted suit shows Google’s own engineers confused by privacy settings
  14. Google Duo could be reportedly replaced with Meet Google currently has two video calling services, Duo and Meet. The former is primarily meant for consumers and has been widely praised for its AR features and its ability to work over low bandwidth internet connections. As for Meet, it is targeted towards enterprise customers. However, Google seemingly feels it has too many video calling apps and plans to replace Google Duo with Meet. The decision is a result of Google bringing all its consumer services under one umbrella and under the leadership of Javier Soltero, the head of G Suite, who had announced the unified team back in May that it did not make sense for the company to have two different video calling apps. The merger has been codenamed "Duet" inside Google -- short for 'Du'o and Me'et.' The 9to5Google report states that the decision to merge the two video calling services came as a surprise to the Duo team. The sources also made it clear that Duo will go away at the end of this transition which could take up to two years. Since the pandemic began and video calling services have surged in popularity, Google has been making rapid improvements to Meet and even made it free for all type of users. While Duo has also received some major feature updates during this time, the pace of development of the app has slowed down compared to other video calling apps. Google has already issued a statement on the report and while it does not reference anything that's said in the report, it does not refute any of the claims made in it as well. “We’re fully invested in Duo, which has seen astonishing growth during the pandemic. People around the world are relying on video calling more than ever, and we have no plans to interrupt that. We’ll continue to invest in building new Duo features and delivering a delightful experience for our users, customers and partners. We brought the Duo organization under Javier Soltero’s leadership in May, and it follows that we’re looking at ways that our video calling products can improve alongside one another.” While Meet has surged in popularity, Duo itself has also become popular among consumers especially since it is now being used by many Android OEMs as the default video calling app. Source: 9to5Google Google Duo could be reportedly replaced with Meet
  15. Google and Mozilla to extend search deal according to reports Reports suggest that Google and Mozilla will extend the search deal that makes Google Search the default search engine of the Firefox web browser in most regions by three years. ZDnet reports that Mozilla and Google will extend the search deal for another three years. Google will pay Mozilla between $400 and $450 million per year for the privilege of becoming the Firefox web browser's default search engine in most regions. Forbes' report followed claiming that the Google and Mozilla deal was done. The news organization did not provide information on the specifics of the deal though. Mozilla announced a second round of layoffs this week after it announced in January 2020 that it laid off 70 employees. In August 2020, Mozilla revealed that it would lay off 250 employees, a good quarter of the organization's entire workforce to better prepare for the coming years. The announcement was published at a time when it was not clear if the Mozilla-Google search deal would be renewed. Most of Mozilla's revenue comes from the search deal with Google, and failure to renew it would put the company in a difficult situation considering that more than 90% of its entire revenue would vanish overnight. While Mozilla would have some options to find another partner, e.g. Microsoft's Bing Search engine would be the first choice probably because of Microsoft's financial capabilities, it would probably result in Mozilla being paid less for the deal. Mozilla or Google have not confirmed the deal yet. A renewed partnership with Google would give Mozilla three more years to find new revenue sources outside of its main revenue generating product Firefox. While it is possible that a deal could be renewed again in 2023, Mozilla's reliance on a single source of revenue is something that the organization has been worried about for some time. Mozilla launched a white labeled VPN product called Mozilla VPN recently in some regions. The commercial product uses a subscription model but it is to early to tell how successful it will be in the long run. Considering that the price is $5 at the time per month, and that part of the revenue goes straight to the actual operator of the VPN, Swedish company Mullvad, it would take lots of customers to reach even 1% of the money that Mozilla gets from Google per year for the search deal. Google and Mozilla to extend search deal according to reports
  16. Google Pixel 5 price and more just leaked, but you probably shouldn't believe it Why you shouldn't believe everything you read online (Image credit: Future) With a few exceptions, Google Pixel phones arrive in pairs, with a 'standard' and 'XL' model released together, with no differences other than size and battery capacity. However a new rumor says the Google Pixel 5 will only come in the XL size, with no 'standard' model. This comes via Twitter user @ImjustsayingJC, who doesn't have a track record of leaking major pre-release information on phones – we'll come back to this – so we'd certainly take the leak with a pinch of salt for now. According to the leak, the phone – which would presumably just be called the Google Pixel 5 – will have the Snapdragon 765G chipset, will cost $699 (which converts to roughly £530 or AU$980), and will have an in-screen fingerprint sensor instead of using facial recognition like the Pixel 4 phones. We've heard the Snapdragon 765G claim before, so that has some semblance of likelihood, but other than that all of this information is new to us – and it may serve as a cautionary tale when it comes to which leaks to take seriously. No track record We've not seen leaks from @ImjustsayingJC before, and given that their Pixel 5 leak Tweet is the only one of theirs we can find that's had lots of engagement, they don't seem to be a prolific leaker at all. This lack of a track record means we have to take what they say with so much salt that it could give us heart problems – there's no indication that they have any valid insider sources, or any way of obtaining legitimate information. The wording of the tweet backs that up: "according to information I have been provided" and "expected to come" are both hedges that make the leaker seem uncertain of the information. It's quite possible we're wrong, and that the Google Pixel 5 really will come out in just an XL version – if so, we'll look forward to having another leaker to pay attention to. It's also possible, though, that this is simply a case of something we see frequently in tech world: people making big claims about upcoming products to attract social engagement, despite not actually having the information they claim. For this reason it's worth really scrutinizing new leaks from unproven sources, so that you don't get excited for something that's unlikely to materialize. Either way, when it comes to the Google Pixel 5 we'll find out around October, because that's when the launch is expected. Stay tuned to TechRadar in the run-up to that, as we analyze all the new information that comes our way. Google Pixel 5 price and more just leaked, but you probably shouldn't believe it
  17. Google Pixel 5's chipset may be barely better than the Pixel 4a's Not a top-end offering Google Pixel 4a (Image credit: TechRadar) The Google Pixel 5 is expected to be Google's top-end smartphone for the year, but it seems it might not have the processing power of other premium smartphones - in fact, it could be only a small step above the recently-launched budget Google Pixel 4a. This news comes from leaked Pixel 5 AI benchmarks, as discovered by MyFixGuide, which lists the phone as having the Snapdragon 765G chipset. We'd expected the handset to have the Snapdragon 865 or even 865 Plus processor - those are the best chipsets available to Android phones right now, and would give the phone a lot more processing power than the 765G. We've heard previous rumors that the phone won't be as top-end as, say, the Pixel 4, and perhaps the chipset is one area the company has decided it doesn't need to go all-out in. When the phone launches later in the year, we'd hope the price tag reflects any sacrifices though. Basically a Pixel 5a If this information is correct, the Google Pixel 5 will likely have processing power similar to the Pixel 4a. That has a Snapdragon 730G chipset, and on the Geekbench website we can see it often scores roughly 1600 in multi-core tests. Compare that to the OnePlus Nord and Moto G 5G Plus, two Snapdragon 765G phones, which scored 1877 and 1822 respectively - those scores aren't much higher than the Pixel 4's. When you consider that Snapdragon 865 phones like the Xiaomi Black Shark 3, Sony Xperia 1 II and OnePlus 8 all got above 3000 in that same test, it becomes clear that the 765G is much closer to the 730G than the 865. In short, the Google Pixel 5's processing power might barely beat out that of its 'budget' relative. We'll be testing the phone when it's released to find out, but if it does indeed coming running the Snapdragon 765G then that's likely to be the case. Google Pixel 5's chipset may be barely better than the Pixel 4a's
  18. Google is delaying the shutdown of Chrome apps, but you probably weren’t using them anyway The company extended its shutdown timeline for Chrome apps Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Google is going to let you use Chrome apps for a little while longer, as the company on Monday announced an extension to its planned timeline to end support for the software (via 9to5Google). If you aren’t familiar with Chrome apps, they’re apps that you install in Chrome that work similarly to apps that you’d launch from your desktop — like this one for read-it-later app Pocket. But they aren’t widely adopted — Google said that “approximately 1 percent of users on Windows, Mac, and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps” all the way back in August 2016 when it first announced plans to wind down support for the platform. In January, Google said Chrome apps would stop working on Windows, Mac, and Linux this year (technically, the company set a June 2020 deadline, but it doesn’t look like it actually followed through). Now, Google says Chrome apps will work on those platforms until June 2021. Organizations can extend support for Chrome apps on those platforms for an extra year, meaning they’ll work through June 2022. And if you’re a Chrome OS user, Google will now end support for Chrome apps in June 2022 instead of June of next year. But no matter what platform you’re on, Google says support for Chrome apps will end on all platforms by June 2022. Chrome extensions will still work, though — and in fact, making an extension is one of the options that Google recommends as an alternative for developers who now need to transition away from Chrome apps but still want to offer similar functionality within the Chrome browser. Google is delaying the shutdown of Chrome apps, but you probably weren’t using them anyway
  19. Google Pixel 4a is off to a strong start, as the cheap phone sells out on Amazon The Google Pixel 4a is capable budget smartphone (Image credit: Google) The Google Pixel 4a is flying off virtual shelves and has already sold out on Amazon after pre-orders opened on Monday, August 3. Google’s budget smartphone packs in all the desirable features that make the Pixel range so appealing, such as a fantastic camera that excels at low-light photography, and a stock version of Android OS. The phone has proven to be such a hit, that it’s already become the ‘#1 Best Seller’ on Amazon’s unlocked cellphones list and is currently unavailable. For $349.99 / £349 / AU$599, the Google Pixel 4a sports a 5.81-inch screen, 6GB of RAM and is powered by a Snapdragon 730G. There’s only one color available, Just Black, but that hasn’t stopped people from pre-ordering the phone in their droves. With phones continuing to attract a more premium price tag with each new iteration, there’s a sizable gap in the market for capable, cheaper phones to dominate. Apple has also set its sights on capturing the consumer who’s after a phone that won’t cost the Earth with its iPhone SE, which is significantly more affordable than other iPhone models. Cheap and cheerful We believe Google could be onto a winner with the Google Pixel 4a and enjoyed its compact size, clean interface and great point-and-shoot camera in our review. It isn’t perfect, though, as the battery life could be better, and we noted that the phone feels rather cheap in the hand. We're expecting to see another phone from Google in the coming months: the Google Pixel 5. This likely won't match the low price tag of the Pixel 4a, however, as it will likely warrant a more high-end price tag. Google Pixel 4a is off to a strong start, as the cheap phone sells out on Amazon
  20. Google begins rolling out Nearby Share to select Pixel and Samsung phones After some time as a limited beta, which recently expanded to more testers, Google has today announced that it is rolling out Nearby Share – an AirDrop competitor – to Android 6.0 phones and newer. The search giant says that the feature has been in development for years and that it has been a highly requested feature. The feature lets users easily share “files, links, pictures, and more” with other Android users. The company says that the feature negates the need to go through the long process of searching for a contact, selecting files, and other steps when users want to share files or other content with someone in close proximity. Nearby Share “automatically chooses the best protocol for fast and easy sharing using Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, WebRTC or peer-to-peer WiFi”, letting users share content even when they are offline. The feature also boasts of privacy controls that let users share anonymously, for those that are wary of sharing contact information. It also lets users set their visibility depending on their choice to avoid unsolicited transfers. The functionality lets users set themselves to “hidden,” visible to “some contacts” or visible to “all contacts”. The Mountain View company also confirmed that it will be bringing Nearby Share to Chromebooks “in the coming months”, making it easier to share files between Android devices and Chromebooks. Nearby Share will begin rolling out to select Pixel and Samsung phones first. The firm adds that it is working with its partners to bring the feature to more devices in the coming week. It is interesting to see the feature roll out to Samsung devices first since select devices from that OEM already offer an alternative to the feature called Quick Share. Regardless, the addition of the feature to other phones will be a welcome addition since there has been no native solution since the deprecation of Android Beam. Google begins rolling out Nearby Share to select Pixel and Samsung phones
  21. Google invests $450 million in ADT, gets exclusive hardware deal ADT will use Google hardware, and Google gets an army of ADT installers. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Google and ADT have announced, "a long-term, strategic partnership" that will see Google invest $450 million in ADT and the two companies combine their smart home and home security lineup. Google says the two companies will work together to "create the next generation of the helpful home," while ADT says the deal "will combine Nest's award-winning hardware and services, powered by Google's machine-learning technology, with ADT's installation, service and professional monitoring." A site detailing the collaboration is up at adt.com/google. Google and ADT have both been working toward smart home security solutions over the years. Google is coming from the position of an Internet company moving into smart homes, while ADT is starting from an old-school home-security company that doesn't want to get run over by these smart home upstarts. By now, both have covered the same areas and have a ton of overlap. There are Google and ADT smartphone apps, smart displays, security cameras, smoke detectors, and, of course, home-security systems, with motion detectors, entryway sensors, keychain presence sensors, security keypads, and monthly subscriptions. (Google's security solution is the not-very-well-known Nest Secure). Google doesn't have an in-house solution for professional remote monitoring, but Nest Secure worked with Brinks Home Security monitoring. ADT doesn't have an in-house solution for smart home automation like voice commands and smart speakers, but ADT devices worked with Z-Wave, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa devices. Merging the Google and ADT product lines seems to mean Nest hardware with ADT monitoring and installation. ADT CEO Jim DeVries spoke to the Financial Times (paywalled) and categorized his company's hardware relationship with Google as "exclusive," meaning ADT will only sell Google devices in the future. A big shoutout in both press releases is given to ADT's army of installers, which, for Google, will be one of the main business improvements. Smart home solutions, especially ones that want every door and window to be monitored, can involve purchasing and installing dozens of devices. The prospect of even planning for a system like this can be too much for many potential customers, but now an ADT installer can show up and handle everything from estimates to installations using Google hardware. Google's $450 million will get a 6.6 percent stake in ADT. ADT says "Each company will commit an additional $150 million, subject to the achievement of certain milestones, to be used for co-marketing, product development, technology and employee training to advance the partnership." Nest has been going through a rocky transition from standalone company to Google sub-brand lately. Google shut down the "Works with Nest" ecosystem, breaking third-party apps and device interoperability. It killed Nest accounts and forced Google accounts on users while merging what was previously considered sensitive smart home data into Google's Big Data collection. The changes have reportedly lead to some third-party installers dumping Nest products for less restrictive alternatives. Google has also extended the Nest brand to most of its smart home products. That means Google Home speakers, Google Wi-Fi, and Chromecast will eventually all live under the Google Nest sub-brand, e.g., "Google Home" is now the "Google Nest Home." While the deal will eventually see ADT exclusively install Google hardware, but getting there will take some time. ADT says it "expects to offer certain Google devices to its customers beginning this year and to expand the integration in 2021." Listing image by Google Google invests $450 million in ADT, gets exclusive hardware deal
  22. Google finally launches the Pixel 4a After multiple delays and a multitude of leaks, Google has finally taken the wraps off the Pixel 4a, the company’s affordable variant of its flagship Pixel 4 smartphone. The Pixel 4a was expected to be launched at the company’s annual Google I/O event earlier this year but the pandemic necessitated the cancellation of the event. Unlike other technology brands, Google didn’t host a virtual event as well. Google positions Pixel 4a as an affordable smartphone that packs in the camera prowess of its flagship smartphone as well as a clean and secure Android experience. For the camera duties, you’ll get a single 12MP camera at the back but it features Pixel 4’s marquee astrophotography mode. For on-device security, there’s the Titan M security module and Google commits that the phone will receive OS and security updates for three years. The Adaptive Battery feature promises all-day battery life. Google Pixel 4a Specifications Operating System: Android 10 Display: 5.81"-inch Full HD+ OLED | HDR+ compliant | Corning Gorilla Glass 3 Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G RAM: 6GB LPDDR4x Storage: 128GB Front Camera: 8MP | 1.12μm pixel size | ƒ/2.0 aperture | 84° field of view Rear Camera: 12.2MP | 1.4μm pixel width | ƒ/1.7 aperture | 77° field of view | OIS + EIS Battery: 3140mAh | USB-C 18W Fast Charge Dimensions: 144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm | 143g Although, a stripped-down version of the Pixel 4 as expected, the Pixel 4a is a definite step up from the last year’s 3a. The latest model jumps from a Snapdragon 670 processor to the 7xx series mobile platform this time around. Since there is only one memory variant, both RAM and storage also get a bump. Unlike last year, there will not be a Pixel 4a XL - Google is releasing only one size variant this time around. While this might be because of the supply chain stress but it will also help Google to reduce the production and logistics costs. However, there will be a 5G variant coming later this year along with the launch of Pixel 5. The Pixel 4a (5G) will be priced at $499 when it launches in fall. Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5 will be available in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia. The Pixel 4a once again comes with those trademark fabric cases by Google. There are three variants available - Basically Black, Static Grey, and Blue Confetti. The Pixel 4a though is available in only one color variant this year, priced at $349. The phone is now available for pre-order in the U.S. on the Google Store and on Google Fi. From August 20, the 4a will be available through the Google Store, BestBuy.com, Amazon, and more, as well as carriers including U.S. Cellular and Verizon. Because of the disruptions due to the pandemic, the phone will be launched in other markets later this year – in October in India, for example. Source: Google Google finally launches the Pixel 4a
  23. Google’s ‘trust tokens’ are here to take cookies down a peg The company plans to eventually phase out third-party cookies in the Chrome browser Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Google said earlier this year it would join other web browser companies to block third-party cookies in Chrome, and today, developers have their first chance to test a proposed alternative to tracking users across the web: trust tokens. Unlike cookies, trust tokens are designed to authenticate a user without needing to know their identity. Trust tokens would not be able to track users across websites, because they’re theoretically all the same, but they could still let websites prove to advertisers that actual users — not bots — visited a site or clicked on an ad. (An explainer on GitHub suggests that websites could issue multiple different kinds of trust tokens, though.) Google’s been a little slower to adapt a solution for the third-party tracking cookies that everyone seemingly hates; Safari and Firefox already block them by default, though Safari is more aggressive about it. But Mike Schulman, Google’s vice president for ads privacy and safety, reiterated in a blog post that the company still plans to eventually phase out third-party cookies in Chrome as well. In addition, Google is making some tweaks to the “why this ad” button that lets you see why some ads are targeted to you. The new “about this ad” label will now provide the verified name of the advertiser, too, so you can tell which companies are targeting you, and make it clearer to people how Google collects personal data for ads. The new labels will begin rolling out toward the end of the year. The company also announced an extension for its Chrome browser, currently in alpha, called Ads Transparency Spotlight, which should provide “detailed information about all the ads they see on the web.” Users will be able to see details about ads on a given page, see why ads are shown on a page, and a list of other companies and services with a presence on the page, such as website analytics or content delivery networks. Google’s ‘trust tokens’ are here to take cookies down a peg
  24. Google suffers first revenue decline as ads hit by pandemic Executives express cautious optimism for a return to growth. Enlarge / Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019. Lyu Liang | VCG | Getty Images 43 with 25 posters participating Google has suffered its first recorded revenue decline, as the coronavirus crisis wiped 8 percent from advertising income in the latest quarter and depressed parent company Alphabet’s revenues by 2 percent from the year before. Despite the unprecedented fall-off in its core business, however, Google executives said conditions had improved as the quarter progressed, and offered cautious optimism for a return to growth in the current period. Sundar Pichai, chief executive, said Google had seen “the early signs of stabilization, as users returned to commercial activity online.” Ruth Porat, chief financial officer, added that the search advertising business had ended the quarter with revenue roughly flat compared with the previous year, and had also seen “a modest improvement” in July. The advertising business is closely tied to the broader economy, she added, and “fragile” conditions left the outlook uncertain in the months ahead. Google’s advertising is heavily dependent on small and medium-sized businesses, which have been the hardest hit in the downturn. The advertising decline was partially offset by a 6-percent increase at YouTube, where some improvement in demand for brand advertising lifted revenue to $3.8 billion. The company’s cloud business also posted a 43-percent jump in revenue, to $3 billion. Though the performance echoed the gains reported by other cloud computing companies during the pandemic, the growth was still lower than the 52 percent of the preceding three months, and below most expectations. Google missed out on the pandemic-fueled bounce at rival Amazon in the latest quarter because its cloud business is far smaller than Amazon Web Services, while repeated attempts to boost its position in online commerce have failed to gain traction. Mr Pichai said he was confident its latest efforts, under a new management team, would yield “long-term” results. The company’s executives said three months ago that Google had started the second quarter with advertising revenue suffering a “mid teen year-on-year decline.” But they also surprised investors at the time with the news that they were seeing the first signs of stabilization in search advertising. Since then, Alphabet’s shares have risen 25 percent, nearly double the rise in the broader US stock market. After the results news, the price was up less than 1 percent. Alphabet—which counts on Google for more than 99 percent of its revenue—reported gross revenue in the latest period of $38.3 billion. Net revenue, after deducting traffic acquisition costs, fell less than a percentage point, to $31.6 billion. Earnings per share declined 29 percent, to $10.13, as costs rose 7 percent, despite a company-wide moratorium on all but essential hiring. Most analysts had expected Alphabet’s net revenue to fall 4 percent to $30.5 billion in the latest quarter, with earnings per share dropping to $8.34. They had also forecast a return to growth in the third quarter, with revenues expected to rebound nearly 3 percent and earnings per share up 6 percent. Google suffers first revenue decline as ads hit by pandemic
  25. Google wants Samsung to kill Bixby, Galaxy App Store Google offers Samsung a higher revenue share in exchange for offing its ecosystem. Enlarge / Bixby on the Galaxy S9. Ron Amadeo 74 with 61 posters participating Reuters and Bloomberg are both independently reporting that Google is pushing Samsung to back away from its duplicate Android ecosystem and promote Google apps instead. A "correspondence" between the two companies was seen by both sites, which saw Google push Samsung to promote the Play Store and Google Assistant over the Galaxy App Store and Samsung's Bixby assistant. Google was apparently willing to open its wallet and pay Samsung to make it happen. Bloomberg's interpretation of the negotiations is pretty vague, saying the deal "would promote Google's digital assistant and Play Store for apps on [Samsung] devices." The later Reuters report is a lot more specific, saying Samsung is "considering dropping its Bixby virtual assistant and Galaxy Apps Store from its mobile devices." Reuters goes on to say that "Google is dangling more lucrative terms for Samsung than in previous deals if it retreats from its app strategy." Part of Google's immense web of Android protection is sharing ad revenue and Play Store app revenue with phone manufacturers, and offering Samsung a higher share is an easy way to bribe the South Korean company into submission. Whether Samsung would actually be willing to kill Bixby and the Galaxy App store is up in the air. Samsung has invested piles of money in Bixby since its launch in 2017, but Bixby hasn't been very successful. Samsung acquired the assistant startup Viv Labs, which was founded by the creators of Siri, and put the company to work improving Bixby. But Samsung's voice assistant still can't hang in the same crowd as the Google Assistant, Apple's Siri, and Amazon Alexa. Voice assistants are primarily interfaces to a search engine and a services ecosystem, two things Samsung doesn't really invest in, so it has been hard for the company to turn Bixby into something useful. When you say "take a note," where does it go? Google and Apple both have a sprawling ecosystem for notes, music, reminders, calendar events, photos, maps, and more, all available from your phone and the Web. Samsung's ecosystem gap means that Bixby relies on a cobbled-together web of third-party services or controlling apps on your Samsung phone, which are mostly forks of Google's base Android apps. Samsung's Bixby ships on its Android devices, its Tizen smartwatches, and on some refrigerators (no, really). But that's about it. Samsung announced a Bixby smart speaker as the "Galaxy Home" in 2018, but nearly two years have gone by and the product is nowhere to be seen. Samsung pivoted to a cheaper "Galaxy Home Mini" instead, but Home Mini doesn't seem like it ever became a commercial product either. Samsung offered it as a free bonus for some Galaxy S20 pre-orders in South Korea, but it's not for sale. The real test of a voice assistant is a smart speaker, which has no interface other than voice, and Samsung doesn't seem confident in Bixby's ability to pull this off. The main problem I see with killing Bixby is that it would leave Samsung's smart watches without a voice assistant at all. I doubt Google would build Google Assistant for Tizen watches. Samsung's Galaxy App store is used to update Samsung's core Android apps that ship with a phone, but there's really no reason to keep it around for most countries. Relying entirely on the Play Store is tough since Google Play isn't available in China, so in that country, Samsung's own app store is useful. The company's app store doesn't seem to be entirely successful in China, either, though—the AppInChina App Store Index rates Samsung as the 15th most-popular app store in China. Enlarge / The Galaxy S20 Ultra's default setup, with a big, white Google Search bar, Galaxy App Store, and Play Store, all on the home screen. Ron Amadeo I have trouble imagining Samsung abandoning Bixby and the Galaxy App Store when it has been so concerned about its reliance on Google in the past. Bloomberg blames the coronavirus for why Samsung would be open to something like this, saying, "the drop in demand for mobile devices during the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the company's need for revenue and weakened its negotiating position with a key partner." Currently, Google products have very strong default placement on Samsung phones. Both the Play Store and Google Search bar ship on the first home screen, and Google is the default search engine. When we last saw Google's Play Store and app licensing terms for Android, the location and defaultness of Google services were enshrined in the contract. Google made things like the location of the search bar and Play Store icons a requirement for licensing the company's closed-source Android apps—Google wanted spots on the home screen. The EU actually took Google to task for its placement rules, saying that Google's licensing terms were anticompetitive. Google's argument was that Android's development was offered to OEMs for free, and the inclusion and placement of these apps funded its development through ad and app revenue. Google's concession to EU regulators was to add a paid flexibility tier to Google Play licensing, where OEMs could pay up to $40 to unbundle Google's apps and placement requirements. Nothing about Google's licensing terms stops phone manufacturers from building competing and duplicate services, and on a Samsung phone, the Galaxy App Store also lives on the home screen, right next to the Play Store. Bixby typically gets its own dedicated hardware button on the side of a Samsung phone, and while that is now remappable to a different app, you specifically can't map it to the Google Assistant. Reuters says that "the companies are aiming to finalize terms by Friday." Samsung's Galaxy Note 20 launch is next week, which seems a bit too early to see any dramatic software changes. But we'll be on the lookout for the prominence of Bixby in the company's presentation. Google wants Samsung to kill Bixby, Galaxy App Store
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