How Google's Sidewalk Labs has outmaneuvered Toronto in its bid to build a "smart city"

Alphabet division Sidewalk Labs (a sister company to Google) is poised to spend $50,000,000 to redevelop a piece of Toronto waterfront called Quayside, filling it with "modular, dynamic" buildings that can be reconfigured as their uses change, data-gathering sensors that will help Sidewalk refine its own products and also allow Quayside to tune its zoning, usage, and management from moment to moment, as well as a new Google headquarters and a bunch of startups, and "affordable" micro-apartments starting at 162 square feet. Read the rest

Apple, Google add 45 minutes to commuter-bus run to avoid 280 highway, where the buses' windows keep getting smashed

No one's sure how the windows on commuter buses between San Francisco and Silicon Valley keep getting smashed on a stretch of the 280 -- maybe it's a pellet gun, maybe it's thrown rocks -- but Apple and Google have informed employees who use the service that their commute is about to get 45 minutes longer as they take alternate routes to avoid that highway. Read the rest

A comprehensive guide to corporate online surveillance in everyday life

Cracked Labs' massive report on online surveillance by corporations dissects all the different ways in which our digital lives are tracked, from the ad-beacons that follow us around the web to the apps that track our physical locations as we move around the world. Read the rest

Google makes machine learning image classifier available to the public

Google's Cloud Automl Vision system -- a machine-learning-based image classifier -- is now available to the general public; anyone can sign up to the program, upload a set of 20-10,000 images and train a new model with them, which they can then use. Read the rest

Google's forgetting the early web

XML pioneer and early blogger Tim Bray went looking through Google for some posts he knew about from 2006 and 2008 and found that Google couldn't retrieve either of them, not even if he searched for lengthy strings that were exact matches for text from the articles; he concluded that "from a busi­ness point of view, it’s hard to make a case for Google in­dex­ing ev­ery­thing, no mat­ter how old and how obscure," and so we could not longer rely on "Google’s glob­al in­fras­truc­ture as my own per­son­al search in­dex for my own per­son­al pub­li­ca­tion­s."

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Two years later, Google solves 'racist algorithm' problem by purging 'gorilla' label from image classifier

In 2015, a black software developer named Jacky Alciné revealed that the image classifier used by Google Photos was labeling black people as "gorillas."

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Web developers publish open letter taking Google to task for locking up with web with AMP

I have often thought that you can divide up the risks of the big internet platforms by plotting a 2X2 grid; on one axis is "wants to spy on everything you do" and on the other is "wants to control everything you do" -- Apple scores low on the first axis (they don't much want to spy on you), and high on the second (they want to control you in intimate and pervasive ways); Google is the reverse (wants to spy on you, but is so capable of following you wherever you go that it doesn't need to control you to do it), while Facebook gets top marks on both (they spy on everything you do and they want to control you from start to finish). Read the rest

Adversarial patches: colorful circles that convince machine-learning vision system to ignore everything else

Machine learning systems trained for object recognition deploy a bunch of evolved shortcuts to choose which parts of an image are important to their classifiers and which ones can be safely ignored. Read the rest

Google says it can mitigate Spectre with "negligible" effect

Two days ago, an industry/academic team released a terrifying alert about a pair of CPU bugs called Spectre and Meltdown that allowed one program to steal data from another, even with the best memory-management and isolation techniques -- news that meant that virtually all the mission-critical computers in the world could no longer be trusted to handle sensitive data securely. Read the rest

Climate deniers beat Google and topped the page on searches for "climate change"

Google has long maintained that it must keep the workings of its search and ad-placement algorithms a secret, lest they provide a roadmap to the kinds of bad actors who'd like tweak the results and give their bad ideas (or sleazy products) pride of placement on its pages. Read the rest

Surveillance advocate Eric Schmidt is stepping down as head of Google parent company Alphabet

Eric Schmidt, the ex-Sun CEO who came onboard at Google to be the "adult supervision" for the founders and who has repeatedly declared privacy dead and dismissed people who worried about surveillance business-models as unrealistic nutcases, is stepping down as head of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Read the rest

A dad looks at a year's worth of voice-searches by his five-year-old

Filmmaker Brett Gaylor (previously) realized that Google had saved all the voice-searches his five-year-old had done since he discovered the feature a year ago; in a charming little animated documentary, Brett muses on the ambivalent miracle of a child being able to do research on anything or anything (but while storing all their intellectual history with a giant, creepy multinational company). Read the rest

#Elsagate: a subreddit that's sleuthing out the weird videos of Youtube Kids

Last month, James "New Aesthetic" Bridle published an influential essay exploring the prolific and disturbing video-spam that had come to dominate Youtube Kids, in which seemingly algorithmically generated videos endlessly recombined a handful of Disney characters and assorted others engaged in violent, abusive and even psychosexual conduct, over a soundtrack of a few repeated public-domain kids' songs, with all sorts of trickery designed to uprank them in Youtube's play-next, recommendation and search results -- keyword stuffing, duration-stretching and more. Read the rest

Excellent, plain-language explainer on corporate and 1 percenter tax evasion, with a simple solution

The New York Times has collaborated with Berkeley economics prof Gabriel Zucman to produce an interactive explainer that walks through the baroque tax-evasion strategies deployed by multinationals like Google and Apple, as well as the super-rich, using plain language and explanatory graphics to get past the deliberately eye-glazing tedium of these arrangements, a shield of boringness that has allowed the super-rich to hide $8.7 trillion from tax authorities while taking advantage of national courts, education, roads, police, and health care. Read the rest

Youtube Kids spammers rack up billions of views on disturbing, violent, seemingly algorithmic videos

James Bridle takes a deep dive into the weird world of Youtube Kids videos, whose popular (think: millions and millions of views) genres and channels include endless series of videos of children being vomited on by family members and machinima-like music videos in which stock cartoon characters meet gory, violent ends. Read the rest

Google's AI thinks this turtle is a rifle

Machine-learning-based image classifiers are vulnerable to "adversarial preturbations" where small, seemingly innocuous modifications to images (including very trivial ones) can totally confound them. Read the rest

Apple brought back Braun design, but Google is bringing back Olivetti

1960s/70s Italian industrial design was led by Olivetti, featuring products with "touches of joy that enliven everyday tasks" featuring bright color and playful forms, very different from the Braun look of minimalist, "Snow White" gadgets that are the precursor to Apple's design language. Read the rest

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