RIP, Google+: long ailing and finished off by a security bug

There was a time when you could get the smartest people at Google to do the stupidest things you could imagine by getting Yahoo to do them first; thankfully that era ended -- only to be replaced by an era in which every stupid thing Facebook did became a bucket-list item for Google management. Read the rest

Tech workers are downing tools and refusing to work on unethical projects

Tech workers are in demand: companies find it easier to raise cash than to hire engineers; this gives workers enormous bargaining power, and they're using it. Read the rest

Google releases Android encrypted DNS app that will help beat censorship

Google sister-company Jigsaw (previously) has released an Android app called Intra that encrypts DNS queries, which allows Android users to bypass one of the most common forms of internet censorship. Read the rest

Detailed look at Google's secret, censored, spying Chinese search tool

Jack Poulson is one of several googlers to quit the company over Project Dragonfly, the company's secret plan to launch a Chinese search tool that will incorporate state surveillance and censorship on behalf of China's authoritarian government. Read the rest

Google, Amazon, Twitter, other Big Tech to Congress: New California data privacy rules too tough

Executives from Google, Twitter, AT&T, Amazon, Apple, and other big tech companies told a U.S. Senate panel today they support updating federal law to protect data privacy, but they want Congress to block California's tough new privacy rules. Read the rest

WWWBasic: code web-pages in BASIC

Google's WWWBasic project allows you to write web-page interactivity using a BASIC-like syntax that will be recognizable to anyone who grew up with early personal computers in the late 1970s and 1980s (it can be imported within Node.js, too, so you can mix Javascript and BASIC). Read the rest

Google changed the settings on Android phones without their owners' permission

A decade ago, Steve Jobs admitted in an interview that Apple had the means to remotely kill core functionalities and apps on iOS devices. Apple purportedly made this possible to ensure that their hardware could not be taken over with malicious apps. I remember being very not OK with this, at the time. But over the years, I completely forgot about it.

Until this week.

From The Verge:

Yesterday a mix of people who own Google Pixel phones and other devices running Android 9 Pie noticed that the software’s Battery Saver feature had been switched on — seemingly all by itself. And oddly, this was happening when the phones were near a full charge, not when the battery was low. As reported by Android Police, initially it was assumed that this was some kind of minor bug in the latest version of Android, which was only released a few weeks ago. Some users thought they might’ve just enabled Battery Saver without realizing.

But it was actually Google at fault.

The company posted a message on Reddit last night acknowledging “an internal experiment to test battery saving features that was mistakenly rolled out to more users than intended.” So Google had remotely — and accidentally — changed a phone setting for a bunch of real-world customers.

Not cool.

Sure, you can argue that it was an honest mistake made by Google's OS development team: they hadn't meant to screw with Android Pie users' handsets. Hell, as soon as it happened, Google hit the interwebz to admit to the mistake. Read the rest

More googlers are quitting over the company's plan to launch a censored, surveilling search product in China

The revelation that Google had been secretly creating a censored, surveilling search product (codenamed Project Dragonfly) in order to re-enter the Chinese market prompted more than 1,000 googlers to sign a letter of protest and a high-ranking resignation from the one of company's top scientists. Read the rest

Google's censored Chinese search engine links every search to the user's phone number

Google's Project Dragonfly was a secret prototype search engine intended to pave the way for the company's return to China; it featured censored search results that complied with Chinese state rules banning searches for topics like "human rights," "student protest" and "Nobel prize." Read the rest

Mozilla's Firefox & Apple's Safari browsers add anti-Facebook and Google privacy protections

Care about your data privacy? Here's a good reason to stop using the Google Chrome browser, and use Firefox or Safari instead on your desktop, laptop, and mobile devices. Read the rest

Machine learning scientist quits Google over plan to launch censored Chinese search tool

Jack Poulson was a research scientist at Google whose work on machine learning work was used to improve Google's search results; now he's quit the company over its Project Dragonfly, a once-secret plan to launch a censored Chinese search engine; Poulson called the move a "forfeiture of our values." Read the rest

How the EU will force all artists to use Youtube, forever

Robert Kyncl, Youtube's Chief Business Officer, writes about Article 13, the EU proposal to force all online services to evaluate all user-generated content with a copyright enforcement algorithm and censor anything that looks like a known copyrighted work (anyone can add anything to the databases of known copyrighted works and prevent it from being posted). Read the rest

Mastercard sold Google data on cardholders' in-store credit card use

Bloomberg:

For the past year, select Google advertisers have had access to a potent new tool to track whether the ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the U.S. That insight came thanks in part to a stockpile of Mastercard transactions that Google paid for. But most of the two billion Mastercard holders aren’t aware of this behind-the-scenes tracking.

...

Google paid Mastercard millions of dollars for the data, according to two people who worked on the deal, and the companies discussed sharing a portion of the ad revenue, according to one of the people.

The battles we thought we were fighting were lost years ago. They just never bothered to tell us. Read the rest

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

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