Google has issued a serious warning to a number of Google Photos users, stating that their private videos have been accidentally sent to strangers.
The warning will come as a shock to users who have used the service to store videos they don’t wish to be made public, precisely because of Google’s promise to protect their data and keep unshared Photos private.
According to the warning, sent directly via email to all affected users, the blunder caused Google’s ‘Download your data’ service to incorrectly export some stored videos to the wrong user’s archive when bundling them up for download.
This resulted in some users downloading archives with missing videos and, more worryingly, videos that belong to other users.
You can read the text of the email in the tweet from @jonoberheide below:
Google hasn’t revealed the number of accounts affected, but it appears to be relatively small as it’s restricted to those who used ‘Download your data’ within a specific five-day time period of November 21 to November 25 2019. However, even only a small proportion of Google Photos’ over one billion users will likely result in a significant total number of people affected. The wording of the email suggests that Google is confident that it has identified all occurrences of the bug and warned all those affected.
What to do about it
Google’s preferred solution to this predicament is for users to create new data archives and download them again. While this will help anyone with missing videos to retrieve them, it offers no comfort to those who now have no way of knowing which, if any, of their videos have been downloaded and viewed by strangers. Furthermore, we can only hope that there are no other instances of the bug which remain undetected.
I’ve been working as a technology journalist since the early nineties. My passion is photography and the ever-changing hardware and software that creates it, be it traditional cameras and Photoshop or smartphones and tablets with their numerous apps. I have also worked extensively on computing titles such as PC Magazine and Personal Computer World and managed the PCW hardware testing labs. This has seen me testing and reviewing all manner of technologies in print and on line. I take on both written and photographic assignments and you can get in touch with questions, tips or pitches via email. Find me on Instagram @paul_monckton.
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On Tuesday, Google announced what appears, at least at first, to be a fairly monumental change to its Chrome browser: Over the next two years, it plans to “phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome.” Third-party cookies are little pieces of code used by advertisers to track what you do online so they can serve you targeted ads on sites you visit based on where you’ve previously visited.
So, for example, if you browse Pottery Barn’s website, and start seeing ads everywhere for the coffee table you were looking at, it’s usually because of third-party cookies. In reality, while most of us would say it’s kind of creepy, targeted ads are effective. At the same time, they’re also a very real invasion of your privacy–which is a problem. In fact, those privacy concerns are why browsers like Brave and Safari have already ended support for this type of tracking.
Back in August, I wrote about Google’s new “Privacy Sandbox,” which the company said was a way to introduce privacy protections for users online while still allowing digital advertisers to serve up targeted ads. The problem, at the time, was that Google said that it couldn’t eliminate support for third-party cookies because it would have a detrimental effect on the web at large.
Now it seems that’s changing, and there are huge implications for users as well as advertisers. Google’s blog post announcing the change puts it this way:
We are confident that with continued iteration and feedback, privacy-preserving and open-standard mechanisms like the Privacy Sandbox can sustain a healthy, ad-supported web in a way that will render third-party cookies obsolete.
So, let’s look at the good news and the bad news. If you’re a user, there’s mostly good news, because ending third-party cookies is generally good for privacy. The caveat here is that it’s not yet entirely clear how Google plans to have it both ways. Meaning, it’s not clear how Google thinks it can provide a privacy-protected browsing experience that also provides targeted ads.
There’s also the fact that some less ethical advertisers will no doubt resort to other types of more nefarious tracking, like browser and device fingerprinting. Those technologies create a profile of you based on information sent by your browser about your device, the operating system, your location, and other unique identifiers. Safari has introduced protection against that, and it will be interesting if Google takes a similar approach with Chrome.
This leads us to more good news, this time for Google. Google has arguably the most to gain from this change, because its advertising model doesn’t depend on the same type of tracking technology. In effect, by eliminating third-party cookies, Google is edging out any of its digital advertising competitors. Since Chrome is the most popular browser in the world, all of your web traffic is already going through Chrome. It doesn’t need cookies for that.
If you’re a digital advertiser, on the other hand, this could be very bad news. That’s especially true if you’re a smaller business or startup, since both tend to rely more heavily on digital advertising. Larger brands are able to better absorb changes like this, but if you’re bootstrapping a new company and count on PPC advertising to reach your customers, this is going to hurt.
That said, while I’m generally sympathetic to the overall challenge facing entrepreneurs in this regard, I still have to lean in the direction that it’s a good thing whenever tech companies start respecting our privacy. In fact, the headline of my column back in August was that “Google Could Make the Internet Respect Your Privacy.” At the time, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t.
Google sent shockwaves around the internet last month when it was claimed the search giant had built a quantum computer able to solve formerly impossible mathematical calculations–with some fearing bitcoin could be at risk.
Details of Google’s so-called “quantum supremacy,” meaning it can solve calculations impossible with traditional computers, were posted to a Nasa website before being deleted, it was claimed by the Financial Times, a business newspaper.
Google’s quantum supremacy could mean it is able to perform in 200 seconds what would take a powerful computer 10,000 years and potentially mean bitcoin, and the encryption that underpins it, could be broken.
Bitcoin, cryptography, and encryption rely on complex mathematical problems and the fundamentals provide the basis of the internet and digital communication trust.
However, steps can be taken to prevent the likes of Google or any other quantum computer breaking into bitcoin and digital communication.
“Cryptocurrencies can be updated with quantum resistant tech,” said Charles Hayter, chief executive of bitcoin and cryptocurrency data website, CryptoCompare. “This is just a continuation of the age old arms race between crackers and enciphers.”
It would appear Google is still some way away from building a quantum computer that could be a threat to bitcoin or other encryption.
“Google’s supercomputer currently has 53 qubits,” said Dragos Ilie, a quantum computing and encryption researcher at Imperial College London.
Qubits, or quantum bits, are the basic unit of quantum information which use the properties of a quantum system, such as the polarization of a photon or the spin of an electron, where as traditional computers store and process data as a series of ‘1’s and ‘0’s.
“In order to have any effect on bitcoin or most or most other financial systems it would take at least about 1500 qubits and the system must allow for the entanglement of all of them,” Ilie said.
Google may not even be as far along as thought, with subsequent reports suggesting the original post was removed from Nasa’s website because it had not been confirmed.
Meanwhile, scaling quantum computers is “a huge challenge,” according to Ilie.
“As you add more qubits the system becomes more and more unstable … [though] researchers can try different approaches for solving these issues so maybe there are ways to mitigate these problems but right now we are quite far from breaking bitcoin.”
In short, “don’t dump your bitcoins yet,” Ilie added.
I am a journalist with significant experience covering technology, finance, economics, and business around the world. As the founding editor of Verdict.co.uk I reported on how technology is changing business, political trends, and the latest culture and lifestyle. I have covered the rise of bitcoin and cryptocurrency since 2012 and have charted its emergence as a niche technology into the greatest threat to the established financial system the world has ever seen and the most important new technology since the internet itself. I have worked and written for CityAM, the Financial Times, and the New Statesman, amongst others. Follow me on Twitter @billybambrough or email me on billyATbillybambrough.com. Disclosure: I occasionally hold some small amount of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Everyone should see it! Click here! http://youtube.com+watch=@3162039724/… Best cryptocurrency exchanger: https://700.by/101 Best cryptocurrency trading platform: https://700.by/102 The crypto community is reacting to a new report claiming Google has achieved a massive breakthrough in quantum computing. According to the Financial Times, a leaked document written by Google’s researchers says the company has achieved “quantum supremacy.”
In other words, Google has created a quantum computer that can perform a calculation that no other computer on earth has the power to process.“A paper by Google’s researchers seen by the FT, that was briefly posted earlier this week on a NASA website before being removed, claimed that their processor was able to perform a calculation in three minutes and 20 seconds that would take today’s most advanced classical computer, known as Summit, approximately 10,000 years.”
Quantum computers use the properties of atoms and molecules to create systems that can simultaneously explore multiple possible solutions to a problem. Many experts believe quantum tech could be used to crack the modern methods of cryptography that keep the internet secure. The threat to the world of cryptography is real enough that the National Security Agency (NSA) is now working to create new techniques that are resistant to quantum computing. News of Google’s apparent breakthrough made it to the front page of the cryptocurrency subreddit, where crypto proponents pondered the potential impact the advancement could have on blockchain technology.
The question is if and when quantum computing can crack the long strings of letters and numbers known as private keys, which Bitcoin users need to access their funds. So far, Google’s researchers say their quantum computer can “only perform a single, highly technical calculation,” indicating it will still take years until the technology can solve real-world problems.
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.
In April, Google launched its first major Gmail redesign since 2013, and in a sense it was an acknowledgement of all the ways Google had fallen behind.
With 1.4 billion users logging into Gmail at least once per month, the service has become resistant to change. This in turn has been a boon to the email software business, allowing third-party apps like Mailbox, Spark, Astro, and Newton to invent new features on a more regular basis. Several of Gmail’s most notable new features come straight from these apps, and from the broader software world in general. And while some have previously appeared in Google’s more forward-thinking Inbox app, others are new to Gmail entirely.
But as Gmail gets with the times, it’s also introducing some new ideas that haven’t yet occurred to its competitors. The result is a much-needed game of feature leapfrog, which will hopefully compel other email apps to invent even more ways to make email less painful. To that end, here’s a look at what’s new—and not-so-new—with Gmail’s big upgrade:
Not new: Snoozing
One of Gmail’s most overdue additions is a Snooze button, which can resurface old emails at a later date and time. A Gmail extension called Boomerang provided similar functionality eight years ago, followed by AOL’s Alto (which used the term “Snooze”). Mailbox helped popularize the Snooze button in 2013, and it’s since become a table-stakes feature for practically every new email client, including Google’s Inbox, which launched in 2014. Gmail doesn’t do much to advance the concept—in fact, Newton’s mobile app has a handy “snooze until back at desktop” feature that other apps would be wise to copy—but at least it’s there.
Not new: The Side Panel
To make better use of desktop PC real estate, the new Gmail can load miniature versions of Google’s Keep, Calendar, and Tasks apps in a right-hand sidebar. That way, you can quickly take notes, make appointments, and create to-do items without switching browser tabs.
It’s a novel idea for an email app, but the Chromium-based browser Vivaldi offers a similar feature called Web Panels, which can open any webpage in an expandable sidebar view. (Opera also offers web panels through a browser add-on.) Google’s panels do have one advantage: You can create to-do items by dragging an email into Tasks, though that’s also not a new idea. Some Gmail extensions such as Sortd and Yanado offer similar drag-and-drop features.
Not new: High-priority notifications
Gmail has allowed users to filter out bulk mail with inbox tabs for years now, but a new high-priority notifications feature will go a step further, using AI to alert you only to the most important emails. While this feature hasn’t arrived in the new Gmail yet, it sounds similar to Outlook’s Focused Inbox, which first launched on mobile devices in 2015 following Microsoft’s acquisition of Acompli. As Microsoft’s support page notes, Focused Inbox “intelligently presorts your email so you can focus on what matters,” and gets better the more you use it. (Google’s Inbox has offered this type of intelligent filtering since 2014, but only started rolling out priority notifications last year.)
Not new: Hover actions
Here’s another borrowed feature from Google’s Inbox app: By hovering your cursor over an email, you’ll see options to archive, delete, snooze, and mark as read with one tap. It’s a handy way to delete or archive lots of emails in rapid succession.
Google can’t take credit for the idea, though. Among the first to implement hover features was AOL’s Alto, which launched in 2012 and shut down last year. Newton also deserves some credit for going a step further, letting users change the order of hover actions and set up quick actions for spam and folder sorting.
Not new: AI-based nudging
In the coming weeks, Gmail will introduce a new feature called Nudging, which uses artificial intelligence to remind you about emails that might need a response. It could be a neat feature, but it’s not unique to Gmail. Both Astro and Trove provide similar nudges based on artificial intelligence. (The former is more for individuals, while the latter is aimed at companies that want to improve communications within their networks.)
Not new: Assistive unsubscribe
While Gmail can already surface unsubscribe links in mass emails, it’ll soon go a step further by flagging emails you haven’t read in a while and suggesting that you unsubscribe. Again, it’s a feature already offered by Astro, whose “Insights” section offers unsubscribe links for emails you haven’t opened lately.
Kind of new: Confidential Mode
“Confidential mode” refers to a suite of upcoming Gmail features for protecting outbound messages. Users will be able to set expiration dates; prevent emails from being copied, printed, downloaded or forwarded; and lock emails behind a two-factor authentication code sent to the recipient via text message.
Not all of these features are new. Microsoft’s Outlook and Exchange also use Integrated Rights Management technologies to prevent email copying, and they allow users to set expiration dates on emails. Meanwhile, third-party extensions such as Vanishh and Snapmail allow Gmail users to send self-destructing messages today. But on the whole, Gmail will make these features easier for broader audience to use while also adding new ideas like two-factor authentication for individual emails.
New: Attachment links in the inbox
While some apps such as Outlook and Edison Mail provide users with a list of all email attachments, Google’s making things a little easier by surfacing attachment links from the main inbox view. That way, you can quickly view an image or document without having to click into the individual email. This is prime fodder for other email apps to copy in the future.
New: Smart Reply
Google’s Smart Reply feature is supposed to save you time by offering intelligent, canned responses based on the content of the message. For instance, if the email asks if you’d like to meet on Monday, you can tap a button to quickly respond with “Monday works for me.” The feature debuted as part of Google Inbox in 2015, and headed to the mobile version of Gmail last year. Now it’s headed to desktop Gmail, where it remains uncopied by other email apps. (If you don’t trust Google’s AI to write emails for you, check out Spark’s Quick Replies, which let you customize your own one-touch canned responses.)
The makers of other email apps might feel dismayed now that some of their best ideas are part of Gmail proper. But if history is any guide, they’ll have until the year 2023 or so to figure out where to take things next.
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