Tag Archives: Google

Google workers demand end to censored Chinese search project
November 28, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – More than 200 engineers, designers and managers at Alphabet Inc’s Google demanded in an open letter on Tuesday that the company end development of a censored search engine for Chinese users, escalating earlier protests against the secretive project.

FILE PHOTO: Google’s booth is pictured at the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) 2017 in Beijing, China April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Google has described the search app, known as Project Dragonfly, as an experiment not close to launching. But as details of it have leaked since August, current and former employees, human rights activists and U.S. lawmakers have criticized Google for not taking a harder line against the Chinese government’s policy that politically sensitive results be blocked.

Human rights group Amnesty International also launched a public petition on Tuesday calling on Google to cancel Dragonfly. The organization said it would encourage Google workers to sign the petition by targeting them on LinkedIn and protesting outside Google offices.

Google declined to comment on the employees’ letter on Tuesday as Alphabet shares fell 0.35 percent to $ 1,052.28.

Google has long sought to have a bigger presence in China, the world’s largest internet market. It needs government approval to compete with the country’s dominant homegrown internet services.

An official at China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, who was unauthorized to speak publicly, told Reuters on Tuesday there was “no indication” from Google that it had adjusted earlier plans to eventually launch the search app. However, the official described a 2019 release as “unrealistic” without elaborating.

About 1,400 of Google’s tens of thousands of workers urged the company in August to improve oversight of ethically questionable ventures, including Dragonfly.

The nine employees who first signed their names on Tuesday’s letter said they had seen little progress.

The letter expresses concern about the Chinese government tracking dissidents through search data and suppressing truth through content restrictions.

“We object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be,” the employees said in the letter published on the blogging service Medium.

The employees said they no longer believed Google was “a company willing to place its values over profits,” and cited a string of “disappointments” this year, including acknowledgement of a big payout to an executive who had been accused of sexual harassment.

That incident sparked global protests at Google, which like other big technology companies has seen an uptick in employee activism during the last two years as their services become an integral part of civic infrastructure.

Reporting by Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown

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With 1 Simple Move, Google Showed Yet Again Why It's Not the Company You Thought It Was
November 18, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

They hope, though, that you don’t notice when those promises become, well, a little diluted over time.

It’s the thought that counts, after all.

One thought offered by Google when it committed itself to your health was that Deep Mind, its profound subsidiary that uses AI to help solve health problems, was that its “data will never be connected to Google accounts or services.”

Cut to not very long at all and Deep Mind was last week rolled into, oh, Google.

In an odd coincidence, this move also necessitated that an independent review board, there to check on Deep Mind’s work with healthcare professionals, was disappeared.

This caused those who keep a careful eye on Google — such as NYU research fellow Julia Powles — to gently point out the company’s sleight of mouth.

This is TOTALLY unacceptable. DeepMind repeatedly, unconditionally promised to *never* connect people’s intimate, identifiable health data to Google. Now it’s announced…exactly that. This isn’t transparency, it’s trust demolition. 

This is, though, the problem with tech companies. 

We looked at them as if they were run by wizards doing things we could never understand.

Any time we became even slightly suspicious, the tech companies murmured that we should trust them. Because, well, we really didn’t understand what sort of world they were building.

Now, we’re living in it. A world where everything is tradable and hackable and nothing is sacred.

A world where the most common headlines about the company seem to begin: Google fined..

I asked Google whether it understood the reaction to its latest Oh, you caught us, yes, we’re going to do things differently now move. 

The company referred me to a blog post it wrote explaining its actions.

In it, Google uses phrases like major milestone and words like excited

It also offered me these words from Dr. Dominic King a former UK National Health Service surgeon and researcher who will be leading the Deep Mind Streams team: 

The public is rightly concerned about what happens with patient data. I want to be totally clear. This data is not DeepMind’s or Google’s – it belongs to our partners, whether the NHS or internationally. We process it according to their instructions – nothing more.

King added:

At this stage our contracts have not moved across to Google and will not without our partners’ consent. The same applies to the data that we process under these contracts.

At this stage.

Oh, but you know how creepily the online world works.

You know, for example, that advertising keeps popping up at the strangest times and for the strangest things.

Within minutes, certain apps on my phone were full of ads for Google’s new Pixel 3 phone. Which I could buy most easily, said the ads, at a Verizon store. 

Who would be surprised, then, if personal health data began to be linked with other Google services, such as advertising?

Too many tech companies know only one way to do business — to grow and wrap their tentacles around every last aspect of human life. 

The likes of Google operate on a basis of a FOMO paranoia that even teens and millennials might envy.

They need to know everything about you, in case they miss out on an advertising opportunity.

You are not a number. You are a lot of numbers. 

And your numbers help Google make even bigger numbers.

Will that ever change? Probably not.

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Google 'Arbitration Optional' Harassment Plan Limits Groups
November 9, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Google announced changes to how it will handle claims of sexual harassment among employees, including making arbitration optional for individual harassment and sexual assault claims. While additional transparency and protection for workers is a sign of progress, the change is incremental rather than transformative, because Google’s arbitration provision still prohibits collective action. Harassment claims will no longer be forced into private arbitration, but only individuals can now bring their claims before a jury.

It’s unclear whether Google, which has a history of confusing its employees around confidentiality, will make the process of opting out clear or easy. Google has become quicker and more responsive to employee concerns. Nonetheless, a publicized email from CEO Sundar Pichai and an accompanying interview in *The New York Times* still seem like the kind of gauzy public relations efforts that motivated 20,000 employees to join a protest last week to demand transparency and meaningful change. *The Times* reported last month that Google executives were allowed to leave with multimillion-dollar exit packages following credible claims of harassment against them.

Arbitration agreements can be used to obscure harassment allegations and protect serial abusers because employees are required to resolve disputes privately with an arbiter, who is typically paid by the company, rather than in open court. In Silicon Valley, forced arbitration agreements, nondisclosure agreements, and confidentiality clauses are routinely included in employment contracts, just as nondisparagement agreements are tied to severance packages and private settlements.

Organizers of last week’s walkout are disappointed with Google’s response, which they found defensive and dismissive toward their demands for equity. The changes signal the power of collective action, but organizers said they were not consulted ahead of the announcement. They said Google ignored concerns about discrimination and the rights of contract workers, indicating the company wants to continue operating as it has in the past, with transparency stressed in name rather than action. An internal Google website is tracking worker sentiment about whether demands—such as employee representation on the company’s board, which Pichai seemed to brush off—were met.

Google held a company-wide meeting for employees following the announcement. “Overall I felt the town hall was primarily the leadership team centering their own feelings as a performative show of appearing to listen, while substantively ignoring” concerns about gender and racial discrimination, and instead focusing only on harassment, says software engineer Irene Knapp, who participated in the walkout, and also introduced a shareholder proposal to tie executive pay to diversity goals at Google’s last shareholder meeting.

Knapp says it’s unclear whether Google can effectively fulfill the changes it promised. “The leadership team is congratulating itself already, before anything they’ve announced has even been launched—they wouldn’t let any of us get away with that.”

Last week’s walkout was unprecedented in terms of support from Google’s 94,000 employes. Although a wave of worker dissent has been rolling through Silicon Valley’s corporate campuses, it has been difficult to gauge what portion of the workforce shares those concerns.

Pichai’s announcement was delivered in a company-wide email. “We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. It’s clear we need to make some changes,” he wrote alongside a rough outline of plans, such as providing a transparency report “around sexual harassment investigations and outcomes.”

In the same paragraph outlining the arbitration change, Pichai stressed existing worker protections. “Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and arbitration still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy) but, we recognize that choice should be up to you,” he wrote.

But over the past couple of years, both employees and enforcement officials from the Department of Labor have questioned Google’s confidentiality policies, including a lawsuit that alleges the company’s internal process for investigating leaks is illegal. “This change looks like a step in the right direction,” says James Finberg, an attorney with Altshuler Berzon pressing a class-action lawsuit alleging gender bias in pay and promotion.

“Mandatory confidential arbitration can protect repeat sexual harassers, and result in more women becoming the victims of those harassers. Permitting women to file public lawsuits lets people in the company know about the bad behavior. Lawsuits, as opposed to individual arbitration proceedings, also permit women to band together, share resources, and bring about system change,” Finberg wrote in an email to WIRED.

He says the experience of one of the named plaintiffs in his suit, Kelly Ellis, is consistent with the report in The Times. “[Ellis] ended up changing departments, and eventually leaving Google, because a senior manager had been harassing her, and the company’s response was not to move him but to move her. Many women’s careers have been harmed by management not taking such complaints seriously and saying that it was their problem, not the problem of their accuser.”

The change to its arbitration policy brings Google in line with other influential tech companies like Uber and Microsoft, which have altered their binding arbitration policies in the past couple of years in response to disturbing revelations about sexual harassment from women and, in particular, women of color.

At Uber, too, changes came only as a result of internal protest from employees like former engineer Susan Fowler, attempts to sue the company, and public scrutiny over the abhorrent behavior of Uber executives.


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The Demands of the Google Walkout Explained
November 3, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

On Thursday, thousands of Google employees walked out on their jobs to protest how the tech giant handles sexual harassment complaints. The organizers, Claire Stapleton, Tanuja Gupta, Meredith Whittaker, Celie O’Neil-Hart, Stephanie Parker, Erica Anderson, and Amr Gaber, made their demands known at The Cut

Unlike the coal miners in the 1800s, every Google employee could find a new job and walk away. And there are literally millions of people who apply to work there every year and would happily take these jobs without Google conceding a single point. This puts Google in a much stronger position than these employees think. But, let’s go through the demands and talk about what would really happen in this situation.

1. An end to Forced Arbitration. 

Forced arbitration is unpopular–and for good reason. Arbitration is decidedly pro-employer. Employees who do recover in arbitration receive substantially less money than those who win in court, at least according to one study. However, going to court is risky and can be terribly expensive for both sides. While you might win the jackpot if you win a court case, you also may face a company who is far more willing to fight in order to prevent that jackpot and to prevent others from deciding to sue as well. 

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of forced arbitration in Epic Systems Corp. v Lewis, so abandoning forced arbitration is unlikely to happen any time soon. The company has too much to lose and little to gain. 

The demands that people be allowed a witness is common in unionized organizations, where employees are allowed a union rep. This may be something the employees can win on. However, the chances of Google being able to swiftly deal with a sexual harassment case decreases if an employee is allowed to bring her attorney to any meetings. A co-worker or employee representative is much more likely to be allowed.

2. A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity.

Importantly, this is not about fairness in opportunity, even though they use the phrase “opportunity inequity” this is about fairness in the outcome. They want, specifically,  “women of color at all levels of the organization.” Sounds lovely, but there simply aren’t as many women of color who want to do and are qualified for tech jobs as there are other people. When you demand women of color at every level, you’re seriously lowering the possibilities. This demand, if met, would require promotions and hiring based on skin color and gender rather than merit. Not something a smart company wants to do. It’s also illegal under federal law.

They also demand data on pay. As a supporter of transparency in pay, I can get behind this. But, I also give a caution–the employees may not like it when they see it. Once that data goes public within the company, it’s likely someone will leak it to the internet. Google employees will lose public support when it’s clear that the people whining about unfair pay are earning more than most people.

Internally, even with the data “masked” if you break it down far enough, employees will be able to figure out which line of data matches which co-worker. While I’m not opposed to that–it certainly keeps managers honest at raise time–Google employees should make sure that is what they want.

All the additional information, such as information on leaves of absences puts you into dicey privacy issues. While the organizers are probably thinking along the lines of seeing how having a baby impacts one’s career, people take leaves of absence for many other medical and personal reasons. Google would be wise to keep limits that could possibly expose confidential medical issues.

3. A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.

This sounds great! After all, this walkout was prompted by the $ 90 million severance package paid out to Andy Rubin, after he was accused of sexual harassment. Google admitted Rubin wasn’t the only person to leave–48 other people have been fired for sexual misconduct over the past two years.

However, if you start to include names on this report, you’ll find people far less willing to simply take severance packages and walk away. Rubin claims he’s innocent. Naturally, given his status, his departure was never going to remain confidential. A junior-level person, though, may not be willing to walk away quietly without a fight. And that means accusers’ names will come out as well. They would be wise to think through unintended consequences. 

If your goal is to punish and shame, transparent harassment reports are the way to go. If your goal is to get the harassers out of the company, confidentiality may be better. 

4. A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct.

This demand is something every company, big or small, should implement. It should be simple for any employee, intern, or contractor, to file a complaint. There’s no reason a technologically advanced company like Google shouldn’t have this up and running.

That said, a reporting tool is only as good as the people using it. And it’s critical that all reports are thoroughly investigated.

5. Promote the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO  and appoint an Employee Representative to the Board.

These are demands that sound good on paper, but aren’t really something that plays out. A Chief Diversity Officer doesn’t have an equivalent role to the Chief Marketing Officer or the Chief Financial Officer. Elevating the position doesn’t change that. It’s important to remember the goal of the business is to be profitable–not to be diverse. And, for what it’s worth, universities have found that pouring money into diversity officers don’t actually increase faculty diversity. What does work is encouraging minorities to enroll in Ph.D. programs. 

Likewise, Google doesn’t create the tech ready workforce. The universities do. And the universities don’t create students ready to learn, the public schools do. If Google were interested in increasing minority representation they would put money into public schools. 

In a company the size of Google, an employee representative won’t be the solution that they expect. A single person to represent the employees is something that signals virtue but doesn’t likely help anything.

Even if Google concedes to all these demands (which they won’t) the changes will be superficial. 

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Sundar Pichai’s Sexual Misconduct Minefield: Why the Google CEO Is Supporting a Walkout As Another Exec Exits
October 31, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

Alphabet’s “moonshot” unit, X, has lost one of its hotshots. Per Axios and CNBC, director Rich DeVaul left the company yesterday without any exit package, following claims detailed in an extensive New York Times piece last week about rampant sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior at the company.

According to that report, DeVaul told a female engineer who was applying for a position at X that he and his wife were polyamorous. Then he invited her to the Burning Man festival, where he asked her to remove her shirt for a back rub. She agreed only to a neck rub, then discovered later that she didn’t get the job. DeVaul claims X had already decided not to hire her, and he didn’t know she was unaware of this when she came to the festival.

The star of that Times piece was Andy Rubin, Android’s creator, who left Google four years ago with a $ 90 million exit package after allegedly—he denies it—coercing an employee into performing oral sex on him. The company’s protection of Rubin went unreported until last week. There’s also a reference to Alphabet’s now-chief legal officer, David Drummond, who had a child with an employee working in the legal department; when he admitted to the relationship, which was discouraged under company rules, she was the one who got transferred out of the division.

To protest the events that have been revealed, more than 200 Google engineers are planning a “women’s walk” walkout tomorrow. “I feel like there’s a pattern of powerful men getting away with awful behavior towards women at Google‚ or if they don’t get away with it, they get a slap on the wrist, or they get sent away with a golden parachute, like Andy Rubin,” one employee told Buzzfeed.

Sensibly, Google CEO Sundar Pichai is not pushing back against the walkout, telling employees in an email that human resources would “make sure managers are aware of the activities planned for Thursday and that you have the support you need.”

“I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel,” Pichai wrote. “I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society…and, yes, here at Google, too.”

As Pichai noted, Google needs to do more to ensure it takes “a much harder line on inappropriate behavior.” To be meaningful, this will surely have to be a cultural change that involves re-evaluating the consequences for executives who abuse their positions of power, no matter how valuable those individuals are to the company. And whatever the future brings, it’s unfortunate that it took press exposure to bring the company to this point.

A version of this story originally appeared in Fortune’s CEO Daily newsletter. Subscribe here.

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Learn the Simple New Way to Make Google Docs Using Your Browser Bar
October 27, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

Look, we won’t waste your time here. There are more important things going on in the world. But if you use any of Google’s G Suite products, you’ll be glad you read this.

You know how every time you want to create a new Google doc or spreadsheet, you have to go into Google Drive, and then click New, and the click on what kind of file you need, and the whole time you’re just thinking about all the other, better things you could be doing with the six seconds it takes to click those clicks? Good news: You don’t have to do that anymore. Instead, just type in doc.new, or sheet.new, or slide.new, or form.new if you’re an edge case, or whatever. And behold! A new file will unfold before you.

It’s not just those! Variants also work, like sheets.new or spreadsheets.new. And yes, it’s a very small advance. But these days, even the little wins are worth celebrating.

There’s no real magic to this; Google’s just taking advantage of the “.new” top level domain registry, which it has operated since 2014 through its Charleston Road Registry subsidiary. (A TLD is the part of the URL that comes after the dot.) In its application at the time, the company said potential uses “may include but are not limited to applications such as media (tv show.new, author name.new) and marketing campaigns (cheerios.new, shampoo.new).”

“The .new gTLD will provide a new mechanism whereby businesses and individuals can differentiate their content by signifying that their offerings are ‘new,’” the application later continues. A little on the nose, but useful!

In one sense, using .new as a shortcut for G Suite files also serves as something of an advertisement; the company said in a very brief blog post that it plans to open up its fancy TLD to everyone next year. Which is to say, as useful as the Google Docs shortcut is, brace yourself for the shampoo ad sites to come.


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Podcast: VMWorld 2018, Google Assistant, IFA Announcements
September 2, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

This week’s Tech.pinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing VMWare’s (NYSE:VMW) VMWorld conference, chatting about new multi-language additions to Google Assistant (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), and analyzing a variety of product announcements from the IFA show in Europe, including those from Lenovo (OTCPK:LNVGF), Dell (NYSE:DVMT), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Sony (NYSE:SNE), Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) and others.

Disclaimer: Some of the author’s clients are vendors in the tech industry.

Disclosure: None

Editor’s Note: This article covers one or more stocks trading at less than $ 1 per share and/or with less than a $ 100 million market cap. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

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Google Roundup: July's Best New Features For Google's Apps And Devices
July 29, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

What’s new for Google’s apps and devices.Credit: Alexas Photos/Pixabay

Google is always modifying its apps and devices with upgrades and new features. The pace of change is so relentless that trying to keep track can be overwhelming. In case you missed them, here are some of the best new features Google introduced during July.

Site Isolation for the Chrome browser

Site Isolation a major security update for the Chrome browser that protects users from malicious websites that steal sensitive data like passwords and encryption keys. Site Isolation puts content from a website’s domain in a sandboxed process that is prevented from sharing memory with other domains. Malicious websites and threats like Spectre can’t steal what they can’t access.

Site Isolation can increase memory overhead by 10 to 13% in some cases. This change produced a flurry of misleading headlines implying the memory increase is some kind of major problem. It isn’t. The increased memory demands are only likely to result in a performance decline for some users in some circumstances. If you’re a Windows user, it’s a simple matter to find out if Chrome is stressing your system memory with the Task Manager. If it is, easy solutions range from closing some tabs to using any one of a number of Chrome extensions that put background tabs to sleep.

Site Isolation is currently operating in Chrome for Windows, Chrome OS, Mac and Linux. Google estimates that 99% of Chrome users on these operating systems are protected. More information about Site Isolation can be found here.

Chrome 68 labels HTTP websites “Not Secure”Credit: Google

Chrome 68 arrives

Site Isolation wasn’t July’s only security enhancement for the Chrome browser. Warning labels were attached to unsafe websites and users were protected from malicious redirects in Chrome 68 which rolled out several days ago.

While most websites have migrated from the unsafe HTTP network protocol to the much safer HTTPS, some haven’t. Data is sent in clear text over HTTP which means anyone who intercepts it can read it. This is not good if, for example, you enter your credit card information when you buy something online. HTTPS is a secure version of HTTP. Communication between the website and the browser is encrypted and if it is intercepted, it can’t be read without the encryption key.

Chrome 68 adds a “Not secure” warning label in the URL bar at the top of the page on websites that still use HTTP. If you see the label, be aware that any communication with the website is easily stolen.

A website redirect sends the user to a different website or pops up a new window when the user opens a page. Redirects have many legitimate uses, but they are also commonly employed to pop up annoying ads or surreptitiously send users to malicious websites. Chrome 68 interferes with redirects that are frequently used for malicious purposes by opening a window that gives the user the option of moving to the new website or staying where they are.

More information about Chrome 68 can be found here.

The For You tab in Google MapsCredit: Kevin Murnane

Google Maps adds personal recommendations and neighborhood tracking

Google Maps now surfaces information tuned to your tastes and interests with a redesigned Explore tab and a new For You tab. For You also lets you keep track of what’s going on in the neighborhoods where you hang out. Here’s what’s new.

  • The Explore tab gives eating and drinking recommendations for any location you choose. Recommendations can be filtered by type of food.
  • If you’re trying out the places on a trending list, Maps will keep track of the ones you’ve visited and the ones you haven’t.
  • Explore also surfaces upcoming events and activities that can be filtered for the kind of thing that interest you in an area of your choosing. 
  • Restaurants and bars have a numerical rating that reflects Google’s best guess about whether you’ll enjoy the place. The ratings are ennabled on Android but not iOS and location sharing has to be turned on.
  • For You lets you track establishments and neighborhoods. It’s a great way to find out if a new place that caters to your interests has opened in your neighborhood or if something about one of your favorite places has changed.

The revamped Explore tab is available for Android and iOS worldwide. For You is only available for Android in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Japan.

Visual Snapshot brings personalization to the Assistant

Maps wasn’t the only app that received enhanced personalization features in July. Visual Snapshot brings the defunct Google Now’s summary of information that helps you navigating through your day to the Assistant.

Visual Snapshot adds reminders, weather and traffic reports, events on your schedule and more to the Assistant app. It can interact with both Google and third-party apps to corral information from a variety of sources into one convenient location. Visual Snapshot is accessed through an icon that looks like a radiant inbox in the upper right corner of the Assistant app. Tap the icon to see what the Assistant can tell you about the rest of your day.

The perimeter and area of the National Mall in Washington DC.Credit: Kevin Murnane

Google Earth adds a measurement tool

How long is the route you take when you walk your dog? How many acres is your property? What’s the difference between the straight-line distance from your home to your job and the route you actually take to get to work? You can answer all of these questions with Google Earth’s new measurement tool.

Place an anchor on any two points and Google earth will return the distance between them. You can drop a string of anchors on corners and along curves to measure route distances. Enclose a space and Google Earth gives you both the perimeter and the area.

Google Earth’s new measurement tool is available on the web and Android with support for iOS promised sometime in the future.

Waze added to the Android Auto app

Waze was added to Android Auto for in-car displays last July and now it’s finally available for the Android Auto app on phones. Whether you’re using Android Auto on a head unit or a phone, Waze lets you

  • Launch navigation by tapping on a pre-programmed destination or by saying “OK Google” to wake up the Assistant.
  • Get video and audio alerts about upcoming problems and find alternate routes on a large map.
  • Access your personalized Waze experience and view your ETA panel.
  • Report accidents, road hazards or traffic jams through a visual report menu.

Waze for Android Auto is available for Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and up and is optimized for use with a car dock.

Continued Conversation arrives for Google Home devices in the US.Credit: Google

“OK Google” no longer needed before every interaction with a Home device

Google rolled out Continued Conversation in late June but it’s such a huge improvement in ease of use for the company’s Home devices that I had to include it here. With Continued Conversation you don’t have to repeat the wake-up phrase before every subsequent command or query once you’ve begun an interaction with the Assistant in Home. The Assistant has an eight-second window during which it will respond to another input without hearing the wake-up phrase. If it doesn’t hear a command or query after eight seconds, it shuts down. The Assistant will also shut down if you say “Thank you” when you’re finished. Talking to the Assistant in Home feels much more like having a conversation than it did before.

Continued Conversation is toggled off by default. You can turn it on through either the Home or Assistant apps on a smartphone, tablet or Chromebook. More information about continued Conversation can be found here.

These seven new features were the most useful for me, but Google added a lot more during July and you may discover something different that makes your life easier or more enjoyable. Take a look at these articles for more of the new features Google added to it’s apps and devices in late June and July.

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Google 'Accidentally' Reveals Massive Pixel 3 Upgrade
July 29, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Google has done a great job of leaking its new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL on multiple occasions. And now the company has ‘accidentally’ done it again… 

Picked up by the eagled-eyed 9to5Google, today the Google app was updated to version 8.14 and it contains new code which goes a long way to confirming both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will add what is arguably the range’s biggest omission: wireless charging.

Pixel 3 XL ConceptConcept Creator

The giveaway in the updated Google App comes via a string of code referencing a new smart ‘Pixel Stand’. This operates like a smart speaker, gaining access to the Google Assistant by pairing with a Pixel while the phone’s display becomes a contextual, glanceable screen in response to the questions asked.

This functionality requires a Pixel owner to give explicit permission to access this data. As the new Google app code reveals:

<string name=”trusted_dock_action_text”>I Agree</string>

<string name=”trusted_dock_cancel_text”>No thanks</string>

<string name=”trusted_dock_message”>Your Assistant can use your personal info to make suggestions, answer questions, and take actions for you when your phone is locked and on your Pixel Stand</string>

<string name=”trusted_dock_title”>Get personalized help when your phone is on your Pixel Stand</string>

But what about the wireless charging part?

This comes together via a previous version of the Google App which the company launched in June. Code within that version gave away that Google is working on a wireless charging dock codenamed ‘dreamliner’. Given neither the Pixel nor Pixel 2 have wireless charging, their development suggested it must be for the Pixel 3. Now we have the ‘Pixel Stand’.

Pixel 3 XL leaked prototype was verified as realXDA Forums

Adding icing to this cake is the prior leak of a Pixel 3XL prototype which was found to have replaced the metal and glass back of the Pixel and Pixel 2 with gloss and matt glass. Apple made a similar transition from metal to glass last year with the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X and it was specifically to introduce the conductivity required for wireless charging.

Will this addition be enough to compensate for concerns about the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL’s controversial styling and high prices? Well, the Pixel 2XL combined super slick software with great battery life and a jaw-dropping camera to stand out as the best smartphone of 2017, so I have high hopes…

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Google Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL Long Term Reviews: The World’s Best Smartphones

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U.S. tech enforcer says will read 'closely' EU statement on Google
July 18, 2018 6:56 pm|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which has investigated Alphabet’s Google in the past for abuse of web dominance, said on Wednesday he would take a close look at Europe’s recent decision to fine the company 4.34 billion euros ($ 5 billion).

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager addresses a news conference on Google in Brussels, Belgium, July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Speaking at a hearing in Capitol Hill, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said he had spoken on Tuesday with EU antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager.

“We’re going to read what the EU put out very closely,” Simons told a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.

In addition to the fine, equal to about two weeks’ revenue, EU antitrust regulators ordered Google to stop using its Android mobile operating system to block rivals. The U.S. tech company said it would appeal.

Asked about the dominance of Google and Apple in the smartphone market, Simons said: “There is the two of them so they compete pretty heavily against each other.”

He added that markets dominated by few companies are where antitrust enforcers often expect to find “problematic conduct.”

The FTC had previously investigated Google for abusing its huge market share in web search, but ended the probe in early 2013 with a mild reprimand.

Also at the hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers from both political parties pressed the five agency commissioners to do more to stop robocallers and to ensure better security for sensitive data.

To tackle these and other issues, the commissioners – three Republicans and two Democrats – said the agency needed more resources and more authority, specifically the ability to create rules relatively quickly.

Simons and others also called for legislation to give the FTC the authority to seek civil penalties in the case of a data breach.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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