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Google Just Gave 2 Billion Chrome Users A Reason To Switch To Firefox

Berlin, Germany - February 26: In this photo illustration the app of Google Chrome is displayed on a smartphone on February 26, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

Berlin, Germany – February 26: In this photo illustration the app of Google Chrome is displayed on a smartphone on February 26, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

Google is planning to restrict modern ad blocking Chrome extensions to enterprise users only, according to 9to5Google. This is despite a backlash to an announcement by Google in January proposing changes that will stop current ad blockers from working efficiently.

And the software giant is not backing down: It says the only people who can use ad blockers following the change will be Google’s enterprise users.

The proposal–dubbed Manifest V3–will see a major transformation to Chrome extensions that includes a revamp of the permissions system. It will mean modern ad blockers such as uBlock Origin—which uses Chrome’s webRequest API to block ads before they’re downloaded–won’t work. This is because Manifest V3 sees Google halt the webRequest API’s ability to block a particular request before it’s loaded.

People aren’t impressed. Many have complained about the move, which effectively takes control away from the user and creates an incentive to use other services instead.

9to5Google highlighted a single sentence buried in the text of Google’s response to the complaints, which clarified the changes: “Chrome is deprecating the blocking capabilities of the webRequest API in Manifest V3, not the entire webRequest API (though blocking will still be available to enterprise deployments).”

In other words, paid enterprise-only users will still have the ability to block unwanted content. It probably means enterprise customers can develop in-house Chrome extensions, not for ad blocking use, 9to5Google says. For everyone else, the changes announced in January will remain the same.

It’s annoying, to say the least, but the reason for these changes is obvious: Ads are at the heart of Google’s business model.

“We are starting to see Google’s conflict of interest arising,” Sean Wright, an independent security consultant told me. “Google relies on the revenue of advertising, so one can see why they would make such a move.”

What to do

There are many users who won’t use Chrome without an ad blocker, so it will see some switch to other providers such as Firefox. However, Firefox has had its own issues over recent weeks.

It’s important to note that the changes won’t stop all ad blockers from working, but exactly who is affected isn’t totally clear. Google sent me a statement by email, which reads: “Chrome supports the use and development of ad blockers. We’re actively working with the developer community to get feedback and iterate on the design of a privacy-preserving content filtering system that limits the amount of sensitive browser data shared with third parties.”

For now, Wright thinks people should use Brave instead: “Brave is built upon Chromium so all existing Chrome plugins and even themes work on it. This is perhaps why it’s seen an increase in user numbers.”

Another option is using something like Pi-Hole, says Wright. “This works on the DNS level and has blacklists of adverts as well as malicious URLs.”

I’m a freelance cyber security journalist with over a decade’s experience reporting on the issues impacting users, businesses and the public sector.

Source: Google Just Gave 2 Billion Chrome Users A Reason To Switch To Firefox

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How Google’s Work With Motorbike Riders In India Demonstrates Its Plan For Emerging Markets

India is the world’s largest market for motorbikes, with two-wheelers making up 70% of all vehicles registered by its 1.3 billion residents. It’s these motorbike drivers, more so than car owners, that Google needs to please as it competes for mindshare in this emerging market. So when user research showed that motorbikers in India didn’t find Maps useful, a team in Google’s Seattle office was tasked with figuring out how to change it.

A dive into the data revealed that motorbike drivers would only open the app for about 30 seconds and then close it. The team of product experts hypothesized that drivers needed more guidance on their route, so they spun up a prototype that would provide more in-ride prompts. But when they tested it with users in Jaipur, the largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan, the prototype flopped.

The trials and errors to make Maps work better in India were a wake-up call, says Lauren Celenza, lead designer on Google’s two-wheeler project. As Google aims to reach more users in emerging markets like India, South East Asia, Africa and Latin America, the company needed to better integrate user research with product design.

“Opening up of the process beyond the walls of our offices is a playbook that we’re looking to for future projects,” Celenza says.

After actually spending time in India talking to people, the product team realized that the exact opposite of their initial assumption was true: Motorbike drivers didn’t want to look at or listen to their phones at all as they navigated the crowded and often chaotic roads. Instead, they wanted clearer guidance before starting out.

That initial design process highlights the too common tech industry hubris wherein companies launch tools for people far away without proper preparation or understanding of regional wants, needs or cultural differences. At its most anodyne, this approach leads to unpopular products. But it can also fuel real-world crises, like fake news and hate-speech going viral in Myanmar because Facebook didn’t have enough Burmese-speaking moderators.

The Google Maps team on the project ended up building a “two-wheeler mode” with customized routes for motorbikes that simplifies the maps and highlights landmarks to make it easier for drivers to understand and memorize the way before starting out. Since that product launched about a year and a half ago, its usage has grown from one million daily users to 5 million, and Google has launched the feature in more than a dozen new markets.

Two-wheeler mode falls under the domain of what Google calls its “Next Billion Users” initiative to reach users in emerging markets, either by launching new products or adapting old ones. For example, Google launched data-light and offline versions of Search, YouTube and Maps, and created an India-specific payments service called Tez.

At Google’s I/O developers conference last week, the company announced several other features geared at emerging markets. For example, it will start allowing people to pay for Android apps using cash and demoed an automatic text-to-speech service that will initially launch in Google’s Go app for entry-level devices.

“We need to do a lot more work to make sure our technologies and our services actually work really well for these users, including designing the right products for their unique needs,” Caesar Sengupta, vice president of Google’s Next Billion Users group, tells Forbes. “The amount of work we have left to do is still huge.”

In the past year, Google has faced a handful of controversies about how it cooperates with foreign governments. In August, the Intercept reported that the company was working on a version of its search engine in China that would comply with the country’s strict censorship laws. U.S. politicians, human rights activists and Google employees criticized the project, describing it as a tool for oppression and a slap in the face of Internet freedom. Google eventually told Congress in December that it has “no plans” to launch a search engine in China.

This spring, Google (and Apple) received widespread criticism for offering a Saudi Arabian smartphone app that allows husbands to track their wives. The country’s “male guardianship system,” which requires women to obtain male approval for certain actions, makes tracking legal, and Google said it would not remove the app.

Sengupta, who reportedly had a leadership role in the Dragonfly project, said that the company is “really engaged” in debates about the services it provides.

“The world is evolving fast,” he said. “We need to be constantly looking at what we’re doing and what are the right ways to be doing something.”

Contact this reporter at jdonfro [at] forbes.com. Have a more sensitive tip? Reach Jillian via encrypted messaging app Signal at 978.660.6302 using a non-work phone or contact Forbes anonymously via SecureDrop (instructions here: https://www.forbes.com/tips/#6ebc8a4f226a).

I’m a San Francisco-based staff writer for Forbes reporting on Google and the rest of the Alphabet universe, as well as artificial intelligence more broadly.

Source: How Google’s Work With Motorbike Riders In India Demonstrates Its Plan For Emerging Markets

Why Google’s Theme For Its Big Developers’ Conference Could Fall Flat

This week, thousands of visitors will swarm Google’s home city of Mountain View, California, for the company’s annual I/O developers’ conference. The event serves as a state of the union of sorts for Google, allowing it to parade out new products, share milestones for existing ones, and lay out its vision for the future as techies and press from all over the world tune in.

“This year, you’ll hear a lot about how we’re building a helpful Google for everyone,” the company wrote in a press teaser ahead of the show, which starts Tuesday (the bold emphasis is the company’s).

But while Google hopes to wow audiences with presentations on artificial intelligence and accessibility, that rosy messaging may fall flat in light of the company’s recent controversies.

In the past year, Google has faced an unprecedented level of criticism from experts and its own employees on issues like censorship, workplace misconduct, and AI ethics. One consistent theme of the various accusations has been how Google has not, in fact, been helpful for everyone. Google’s timeline since its 2018 conference is studded with complaints of exclusionary behavior.

Take, for example, last fall when The Intercept revealed that the company was secretly developing censored search products in China. Lawmakershuman rights activists, and Google employees alike denounced the plans, and in an open letter, workers admonished the company for building technology that would “aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable.” Google ultimately said it has tabled its plans.

Not long after, employees staged a massive walkout to protest what organizers described as a “workplace culture that’s not working for everyone” following a New York Times report on how Google shielded executives from misconduct claims. Demonstrators shared stories of inequity and harassment, including for Google’s “shadow workforce” of temporary and contract workers, who have less job security and fewer protections than their direct-employee peers. Google has updated a handful of policies and practices since the walkout, but its organizers have continued to push for other changes.

More recently, employees and outsiders called out Google for including Kay Coles James, the president of a conservative think tank, on a new advanced technology advisory council, citing her anti-LGBTQ views. Google eventually disbanded the so-called AI ethics board, saying in a statement that it had “become clear that in the current environment, [the council] can’t function as we wanted,” but didn’t address protestors’ arguments about underrepresented groups, like LGBTQ people, being especially at-risk for unintended consequences for AI.

For Google to hang its conference on the theme of being helpful for everyone without acknowledging its slew of exclusion-based issues may make the company’s intended theme seem hollow or ironic.

This wouldn’t be the first time Google has undermined its own messaging: Last year it sabotaged its recurring I/O mantra about developing “responsible AI” by launching a product that imitated humans but didn’t self-identify as a robot, which raised major ethical red flags.

Gartner research director Werner Goertz, who plans to attend the conference, doubts that any of the many product managers and executives who get up on the main stage will directly address Google’s litany of recent controversies. Viewers will hear details about a cheaper Pixel smartphone and the next edition of Android, but no atonement.

“Remember, I/O is a developers’ conference,” he says. “Google will focus on addressing the technical details, and I don’t think these other topics will really distract from that message.”

Perhaps they should.

Contact this reporter at jdonfro [at] forbes.com. Have a more sensitive tip? Reach Jillian via encrypted messaging app Signal at 978.660.6302 using a non-work phone or contact Forbes anonymously via SecureDrop (instructions here: https://www.forbes.com/tips/#6ebc8a4f226a).

I’m a San Francisco-based staff writer for Forbes reporting on Google and the rest of the Alphabet universe, as well as artificial intelligence more broadly.

Source: Why Google’s Theme For Its Big Developers’ Conference Could Fall Flat

Google Confirms It Will Automatically Delete Your Data — What You Need To Know

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ahead of the annual Google I/O developer festival opening its doors on Tuesday, Google has already made one major announcement: it will soon start deleting your data automatically.

Writing in the official Google safety and security blog, David Monsees and Marlo McGriff, the product managers for Google search and maps respectively, say that the company is responding to user feedback asking to make managing data privacy and security simpler. “You can already use your Google Account to access simple on/off controls for Location History and Web & App Activity,” they say, “and if you choose, to delete all or part of that data manually.” What’s new is the soon to be rolled out “auto-delete controls” that will enable users to set time limits on how long Google can save your data.

Said to be arriving within weeks, the new controls will apply to location history as well as web and app activity data to start with. Users will be able to choose a time limit of between three and 18 months after which the data concerned will automatically delete on a rolling basis. You can already delete this data manually if you want, but the ability to have it deleted automatically is long overdue in my never humble opinion. Especially given reports last year that suggested Google was storing location data even when users had turned off location history and considering the somewhat arduous manual deletion process.

Not that everyone will want to delete this data of course. As with most things online these days it comes down to a choice between privacy and function. Actually, make that a balance between the two as it’s rare for anyone to be totally binary when it comes to such matters truth be told. Google says that this data “can make Google products more useful for you, like recommending a restaurant that you might enjoy, or helping you pick up where you left off on a previous search.” If you are of the don’t store any of my location data thank you very much persuasion, then disabling location history altogether would seem like a better option given that some mobile apps can track location data when they aren’t running. For everyone else, the new auto-deletion controls will be a welcome weapon in the “taking back control of at least some of your data” arsenal.

Keep checking the Data & Personalization section of your Google account settings, specifically the “Manage your activity controls” option I would imagine, to see if the function has rolled out for you in the coming weeks.

Please follow me on Twitter or connect with me on LinkedIn, you can find more of my stories at happygeek.com

I have been covering the information security beat for three decades and Contributing Editor at PC Pro Magazine since the first issue way back in 1994.

Source: Google Confirms It Will Automatically Delete Your Data — What You Need To Know

French regulator orders Google to take measures on advertising — peoples trust toronto

http://bit.ly/2RqgIqZ January 31, 2019 PARIS (Reuters) – France’s competition regulator has ordered Google to take measures regarding some of its advertising methods, saying these had hit French firm Amadeus which runs a directory service in France. “Google will need to quickly clarify the rules for its Google Ads online advertising platform that apply to electronic […]

via French regulator orders Google to take measures on advertising — peoples trust toronto

Bitcoin Scam Compromising Google and Target Accounts Came from Third Party App – Ana Berman

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A recent Bitcoin scam on Twitter that compromised several major companies verified accounts came from a third-party app, tech news outlet the Next Web (TNW) reports Friday, Nov. 16, citing social media officials. Speaking to TNW, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed that the attack came from an outside software provider and not from Twitter’s own system. However, the official refrained from naming the app………….

Read more: https://cointelegraph.com/news/report-bitcoin-scam-compromising-google-and-target-accounts-came-from-third-party-app

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How Congress Could Rein In Google & Facebook – Makena Kelly

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In April, Mark Zuckerberg was called before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees to take responsibility for Cambridge Analytica. It was a brutal hearing, and lawmakers seemed ready for new regulation. “This should be a wake-up call for the tech community,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the influential Commerce Committee said at the hearing. The Democrats weren’t gentle either. “If Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix the privacy invasions,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the committee’s ranking member said, “then we are going to have to. We the Congress………

Read more: https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/31/18041882/congress-data-privacy-google-facebook-gdpr-markey-klobuchar

 

 

 

 

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Google is Not Just An Answer Machine It Monitors Your Responses Too – Ed Finn & Andrew Maynard

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In 1998, began humbly, formally incorporated in a Menlo Park garage, providing search results from a server housed in Lego bricks. It had a straightforward goal: make the poorly indexed World Wide Web accessible to humans. Its success was based on an algorithm that analyzed the linking structure of the internet itself to evaluate what web pages are most reputable and useful. But founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page had a much more ambitious goal: They wanted to organize the world’s information. Twenty years later, they have built a company going far beyond even that lofty goal……

Read more: https://www.business-standard.com/article/technology/google-is-not-just-an-answer-machine-it-monitors-your-responses-too-118092700143_1.html

 

 

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Google And Goldman Back Bitcoin Startup For Small Businesses – Michael del Castillo

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Marwan Forzely has come a long way since his days at Western Union. The serial entrepreneur, who sold his previous company to Western Union to help the money-transfer giant directly connect to customer bank accounts, has raised $25 million to cut intermediary banks out of the payment process altogether.Instead of relying on a series of correspondents to move money between different jurisdictions around the world, Marwan’s latest venture, Veem, uses bitcoin to directly connect its clients’ bank accounts with suppliers and customers…….

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeldelcastillo/2018/09/26/google-and-goldman-back-bitcoin-startup-for-small-businesses/#539a7ad546d9

 

 

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Why Google Fiber Is High-Speed Internet’s Most Successful Failure – Blair Levin & Larry Downes

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In 2010, Google rocked the $60 billion broadband industry by announcing plans to deploy fiber-based home internet service, offering connections up to a gigabit per second — 100 times faster than average speeds at the time. Google Fiber, as the effort was named, entered the access market intending to prove the business case for ultra-high-speed internet. After deploying to six metro areas in six years, however, company management announced in late 2016 that it was “pausing” future deployments……

Read more: https://hbr.org/2018/09/why-google-fiber-is-high-speed-internets-most-successful-failure

 

 

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