1,000 Googlers sign petition opposing Google's plan to launch a censored Chinese search engine

Over 1,000 Google employees have signed a petition urging senior management to reconsider the company's plan to launch a censored Chinese search product (codename: Dragonfly), a revolt that's been in the works since the news broke; the employees demand transparency about the project and point out that it violates the Association of Computing Machinery's code of ethics. Read the rest

EBGAP: Error Between Google and Privacy

The year is 2031, and I'm going to see Avengers 7 in 8K-vision. I hop in my Goober self-driving car and notice something strange – my location is displayed on the Goober Dashboard, even though I opted out of Google AlwaysTrack™! There's a complete disconnect between what the user interface is telling me and what actually happens without my knowledge or consent.

AP and Princeton University: Google tracks location of users even when they tell it not to

The Associated Press, working with Princeton University researchers, report that Google services on both Android and iOS devices store the user's location irrespective of location data privacy settings. The company was caught after prompting a graduate student to rate a retail store they had recently visited.

Google’s support page on the subject states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. ...The privacy issue affects some two billion users of devices that run Google’s Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search.

There is some elaborate ratmaze of settings you can dig into to actually turn the tracking off, one of which is apparently this "Web and App Activity” panel. Google says it is "being perfectly clear." The AP's interactive map of its researcher being tracked over a three day period shows what is perfectly clear: where you are. Read the rest

Googlers revolt against Google's secret plan to offer censored search tools in China

Two days ago, a source leaked the existence of "Project Dragonfly", a super-secret Google plan to create a censored search-tool for use in China. Read the rest

If Google Maps says a place has a certain name, it now has that name

The East Cut is a neighborhood in San Francisco invented by a branding agency. Such things usually wither on the local-business bullshit vine, but thanks to Google Maps, it's now the plain reality of that part of town.

Another in Detroit is now known by a mispelling, made by the mysterious cartographers who run the service. And one LA community now there was cooked up by a realtor to make a hilly part of Silver Lake sound fancy, and somehow ended up enshrined on the service after he began using it in listings.

Timothy Boscarino, a Detroit city planner, traced Google’s use of those names to a map posted online around 2002 by a few locals. Google almost identically copied that map’s neighborhoods and boundaries, he said — down to its typos. One result was that Google transposed the k and h for the district known as Fiskhorn, making it Fishkorn.

I imagine Google's paid a lot of money to sources it appropriated in its rush to get everything online before anyone else; mapmakers who do this are caught due to Trap Streets, though the traps can be much less obvious than an imaginary street. And sometimes all a reporter need do to expose a falsehood is put two quotes next to each other:

Mr. Robinson said his team asked Google to add the East Cut to its maps. A Google spokeswoman said employees manually inserted the name after verifying it through public sources.

It's funny, but Google describing a "brand experience design company" hired by a local nonprofit as a "public source" is a clever way of making people assume it refers to "public record" or "government" without actually saying so. Read the rest

Leaked documents reveal Google's plan to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market

Project Dragonfly is a secret Google plan to create an Android-based search tool (early versions were called "Maotai" and "Longfei") for use in China (where Google is currently blocked), in collaboration with the Chinese government, where search results related to human rights, democracy, protest, religion and other "sensitive" topics will be censored. Read the rest

I'm an Android loving iPhone user

Hardware reviews are a big part of how I put bread on the table. In order to do my job properly, I’ve got to be something of a platform agnostic.

While I do most of my writing using Apple devices, I also have to consider other platforms in my coverage: software that works well on a laptop running Windows 10 may be a dog’s breakfast on a MacBook once it’s been ported.

A bluetooth speaker that sound great when paired with my iPhone 7 Plus, for example, might sound like hot garbage when linked to another audio source. So I invest in other hardware that may not be used as part of my day-to-day life, but which I still need to think about when doing my job.

About six months ago, I came to the conclusion that maybe hauling the hardware out when it came time to test something and then throwing it back in a box when I’m done with it wasn’t enough: to really understand whether, say a pair of headphones that comes with an app to control their EQ or noise cancellation, without seeing how it fits into my day-to-day life using a given platform. So, I upped the amount of time that I spend working in Windows 10, I now read books on both Kobo and Amazon e-readers and, in a real shift in how I live my lift, I’ve spent more than half a year using Android-powered smartphones as my daily drivers. In the time since I last used an Android device as my go-to, things have improved so much, I was taken aback. Read the rest

Android's keyboard will no longer autocomplete "sit" with "on my face" thanks to me

Last week, I sent an SMS to our babysitter that said, "Hey, are you free to sit on," and rather than offering autocomplete suggestions like "Saturday" or "Friday," the default Android keyboard suggested "on my face and." Read the rest

Google DRM for Email can be disabled by ticking a few boxes in Firefox

Last week, I linked to a critique of Google's new "confidential mode" for Gmail and Google Docs, which purports to allow you to send people documents without letting them print, copy or forward them. Read the rest

Authoritarians used to be scared of social media, now they rule it

A new report from the Institute For the Future on "state-sponsored trolling" documents the rise and rise of government-backed troll armies who terrorize journalists and opposition figures with seemingly endless waves of individuals who bombard their targets with vile vitriol, from racial slurs to rape threats. Read the rest

Google launches a DRM-free audiobook store: finally, a writer- and listener-friendly Audible alternative!

A decade ago, when Amazon acquired Audible, the two companies promised that they'd phase out their DRM, which locked listeners into using their proprietary software and devices to enjoy the books they purchased. Audible never made good on that promise, and stonewalled press queries and industry requests about when, exactly, this fairtrade version of their industry-dominating audiobook store would finally emerge.

Google Translate's deep dream: some translation requests yield weird religious prophesies

Feed 19 repetitions of the word "dog" to Google Translate and ask it for a Maori conversion and you get this: "Doomsday Clock is three minutes at twelve. We are experiencing characters and a dramatic developments in the world, which indicate that we are increasingly approaching the end times and Jesus' return." Read the rest

Gmail rolls out DRM for email and office documents, calls it "Confidential Mode"

Google has rolled out a "Confidential Mode" for Gmail and Google Docs attachments, promising users that they'll be able to send emails to their contacts that can't be shared, printed or copied. Read the rest

YouTube plans to spend $25 million fighting 'fake news.' Here's how.

YouTube just unveiled a plan to combat phony conspiracy videos intended to manipulate or defraud viewers. Read the rest

After London builders' bid to remove a complaint from Mumsnet failed, a mysterious Pakistani-American copyright claim did the job

Annabelle Narey hired a London construction firm called BuildTeam to do some work, which she found very unsatisfactory (she blames them for a potentially lethal roof collapse in a bedroom); so she did what many of us do when we're unhappy with a business: she wrote an online complaint, and it was joined by other people who said that they had hired BuildTeam and been unhappy with the work. Read the rest

Googlers' ethical refusal to build airgap systems curtailed Google's ability to bid on sensitive military contracts

A group of elite Google Cloud engineers simply refused to put any work into an airgap system designed to let the company bid on sensitive military contracts, which undermined the company's ability to seek military work. Read the rest

Microsoft employees pissed over company's connection to ICE

Back in January, Microsoft announced that they were "proud" to support ICE. Honestly, what company wouldn't be? A U.S. federal contract, no matter how large your coffers and corporate reach might be, is a good get, due both to the amount of American lucre you'll pocket and the visuals that come from being trusted by one of the most powerful countries in the world to meet their cloud computing needs.

But hey: it isn't January anymore and Microsoft in June, 2018 is looking a little bit like IBM back in the 1930s.

Under the Trump Administration's direction, ICE and other Homeland Security entities have been busy breaking up families, emotionally scarring thousands of innocent kids, and driving their anguished caretakers into cages, or worse, to suicide. That Microsoft's Azure cloud computing services are helping such villainy along, in any capacity, might be good in the short-term, for the company's bottom line, but the optics are shit. More than this, the company's association with ICE is raising the hackles of some of their their most important assets: not their shareholders or board, but their employees.

According to Gizmodo, a number of Microsoft employees, who prefer to remain anonymous in the interest of protecting their careers, have stepped forward to report that the computer technology company's relationship with ICE has led to growing dissent among the company's workforce. When Giz questioned Microsoft's PR team on the matter, the response was a bit wishy-washy:

From Gizmodo:

Microsoft condemned family separation by ICE in a statement to Gizmodo but declined to specify if specific tools within Azure Government, like Face API—facial recognition software—were in use by the agency.

Read the rest

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