Google Books does copyright right

Steven Melendez discovered some public domain government documents in Google Books that the service wouldn't let him download because they had been misclassified as copyrighted; he filled in an online form and less than a week later, a human had reviewed the documents, agreed that they had been misclassified and removed all restrictions. Read the rest

Raleigh cops are investigating crime by getting Google to reveal the identity of every mobile user within acres of the scene

Public records requests have revealed that on at least four occasions, the Raleigh-Durham police obtained warrants forcing Google to reveal the identities of every mobile user within acres of a crime scene, sweeping up the personal information of thousands of people in a quest to locate a single perp. Read the rest

Google launches "plus codes": open geocodes for locations that don't have street addresses

In much of the world, addresses are difficult to convey because they refer to locations on unnamed streets, in unnumbered buildings, in unincorporated townships, sometimes in disputed national boundaries (I have often corresponded with people in rural Costa Rica whose addresses were "So-and-so, Road Without Name, 300m west of the bus stop, village, nearest town, region"). Read the rest

Explore Disney's parks in 360-degree panoramas via Google Street View

Fans of Disney theme parks, prepare to fritter your day away.

Google announced Tuesday that its Map's Street View feature is now available to explore all of Disney's U.S. theme parks, from California to Florida, in 360-degree panorama.

The parks included are, as follows: Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Magic Kingdom at WDW Resort, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Pandora – The World of Avatar, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, and Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park.

Street View is also available to explore the shops and restaurants at Disney Springs and Downtown Disney District.

Disney Parks Blog writes:

To create the 360-degree imagery at Disney Parks, Google used Street View Trekker, a wearable backpack with a camera system on top. The Trekker is worn by an operator and is moved through walkways and structures, automatically gathering images. Imagery is then stitched together to create the 360-degree panoramas you see today.

Here's a look:

image via Disney Parks Blog Read the rest

Browser extensions to restore "View Image" and "Search By Image" to Google Image search results

It's been 72 hours since Google Images removed the "View Image" and (the even more essential) "Search By Image" buttons from its search-results; now you can just install a browser extension (Firefox, Chrome). Read the rest

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

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