Google Archive

Google employees uncover ongoing work on censored China search

Google employees have carried out their own investigation into the company’s plan to launch a censored search engine for China and say they are concerned that development of the project remains ongoing, The Intercept can reveal. Late last year, bosses moved engineers away from working on the controversial project, known as Dragonfly, and said that there were no current plans to launch it. However, a group of employees at the company was unsatisfied with the lack of information from leadership on the issue — and took matters into their own hands. The group has identified ongoing work on a batch of code that is associated with the China search engine, according to three Google sources. The development has stoked anger inside Google offices, where many of the company’s 88,000 workforce previously protested against plans to launch the search engine, which was designed to censor broad categories of information associated with human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest. I wonder how many times corporations like Google and Apple have to actively aid the Chinese government in its brutal regime of oppression, torture, concentration camps, and executions before the collective tech press and bloggers stop treating them like golden magic prodigies of democracy and freedom.

Google, siding with Saudi Arabia, refuses to remove widely-criticized government app which lets men track women and control their travel

Google has declined to remove from its app store a Saudi government app which lets men track women and control where they travel, on the grounds that it meets all their terms and conditions. Google reviewed the app — called Absher — and concluded that it does not violate any agreements, and can therefore remain on the Google Play store. Western companies talk a lot about morals and values back home, but overseas, these very same companies drop those morals and values left, right, and centre – whether it’s Apple ignoring all its privacy chest-thumping in China, or in this specific case, Google having zero qualms about hosting and spreading an application that Saudi-Arabian ‘men’ use to opress and abuse women.

We need Chrome no more

The dominance of Chrome has a major detrimental effect on the Web as an open platform: developers are increasingly shunning other browsers in their testing and bug-fixing routines. If it works as intended on Chrome, it’s ready to ship. This in turn results in more users flocking to the browser as their favorite Web sites and apps no longer work elsewhere, making developers less likely to spend time testing on other browsers. A vicious cycle that, if not broken, will result in most other browsers disappearing in the oblivion of irrelevance. And that’s exactly how you suffocate the open Web. When it comes to promoting this mono-browser culture, Google is leading the pack. Poor quality assurance and questionable design choices are just the tip of the iceberg when you look at Google’s apps and services outside the Chrome ecosystem. Making matters worse, the blame often lands on other vendors for “holding back the Web”. The Web is Google’s turf as it stands now; you either do as they do, or you are called out for being a laggard. Without a healthy and balanced competition, any open platform will regress into some form of corporate control. For the Web, this means that its strongest selling points—freedom and universal accessibility—are eroded with every per-cent that Chrome gains in market share. This alone is cause for concern. But when we consider Google’s business model, the situation takes a scary turn. An excellent article on just how dangerous the Chrome monoculture has become to the open web. I switched away from everything Chrome recently, opting instead to use Firefox on my laptop, desktop, and mobile devices.

Google ends forced arbitration for employees

Google is finally ending forced arbitration for its employees. These changes will go into effect for both current and future Google employees on March 21. While Google won’t reopen settled claims, current employees can litigate past claims starting March 21. While it’s nice of Google to end this policy, forced arbitration for employees should clearly be illegal in the first place.

New study: Google manipulates users into constant tracking

Today, the Norwegian Consumer Council has filed a complaint against Google. Based on new research Google is accused of using deceptive design and misleading information, which results in users accepting to be constantly tracked. Google tracks users through “Location History” and “Web & App Activity”, which are settings integrated into all Google accounts. For users of mobile phones with Android, such as Samsung and Huawei phones, this tracking is particularly difficult to avoid. Google is processing incredibly detailed and extensive personal data without proper legal grounds, and the data has been acquired through manipulation techniques, says Gro Mette Moen, acting head of unit, digital services in the Norwegian Consumer Council. Is anybody surprised by this?

Google urged the US to limit protection for activist workers

Google, whose employees have captured international attention in recent months through high-profile protests of workplace policies, has been quietly urging the U.S. government to narrow legal protection for workers organizing online. During the Obama administration, the National Labor Relations Board broadened employees’ rights to use their workplace email system to organize around issues on the job. In a 2014 case, Purple Communications, the agency restricted companies from punishing employees for using their workplace email systems for activities like circulating petitions or fomenting walkouts, as well as trying to form a union. In filings in May 2017 and November 2018, obtained via Freedom of Information Act request, Alphabet Inc.’s Google urged the National Labor Relations Board to undo that precedent. When Google employees protested their company’s policies en masse in walkouts all over the world – organised through company e-mail – Google’s CEO and leadership publicly supported them. Behind their backs, though, they are trying very hard to make such protests much harder to organise. Charming.

Google poaches 14-year Mac veteran from Apple to bring Fuchsia to market

We learned in 2016 that Google was working on an entirely new operating system called Fuchsia. Development continues with newfeatures and testing on a variety of form factors spotted regularly. Google has since hired 14-year Apple engineer Bill Stevenson to work on its upcoming OS, and help bring it to market. It’s not surprising why Google would want someone with that background and experience to bring up Fuchsia. In a LinkedIn post shared yesterday, Stevenson specifically notes “joining Google to help bring a new operating system called Fuchsia to market.” That’s a serious name Google is adding to the already large Fuchsia team, and the focus on bringing the new operating system to market adds fuel to the fire that Fuchsia is definitely more than just a mere research or vanity project.

Proposed revision to Chrome Extension Manifest could cripple content blockers

A proposed change to Chrome would neuter content blockers: While we’re still waiting for a Chromium-powered version of Microsoft Edge to materialize, we do know that it is intended that the browser will end up supporting Chrome extensions. However, according to a draft of the Chrome Extension Manifest V3 implementation, it appears that there could be some bad news for content blocking solutions designed for the browser. According to the draft, use of the webRequest API currently used by content blockers “will be discouraged (and likely limited) in its blocking form” while a non-blocking implementation would allow nothing more than observation of network activity. Instead, developers will have access to the new declearativeNetRequest API. However, the proposal has drawn the ire from content blocker heavyweights such as Raymond Hill, best known as the author of uBlock Origin and uMatrix. This clearly feels like a slippery slope where eventually all forms of content blocking will be either made impossible or very limited. Google is an advertising company, after all, and content blockers must in some way influence the company’s bottom line. Luckily, there’s always Firefox.

Google is buying Fossil’s smartwatch tech for $40 million

Rumors about a Pixel Watch have abounded for years. Such a device would certainly make sense as Google attempts to prove the viability of its struggling wearable operating system, Wear OS. Seems the company is finally getting serious about the prospect. Today Fossil announced plans to sell its smartwatch IP to the software giant for $40 million. Sounds like Google will be getting a nice head start here as well. The deal pertains to “a smartwatch technology currently under development” and involves the transfer of a number of Fossil employees to team Google. Wear OS is definitely struggling, but it sure isn’t because of lack of trying from Fossil. The company has been churning out a whole wide variety of Wear OS devices, and they offer enough choice in design that anyone can find something they like – at acceptable price points, too. Sadly, like any other Wear OS OEM, they’re held back by a lack of acceptable silicon, since Qualcomm has been unable to deliver a chip that’s even remotely as good as Apple’s wearable SoC. Perhaps Google’s stewardship can address this problem.

Fuchsia OS confirmed to have Android app support via Android Runtime

We’ve long suspected that Google’s upcoming operating system, Fuchsia, would join the ranks of Chrome OS (and Android) in its support for Android apps. Today, that suspicion has been confirmed by a new change found in the Android Open Source Project, and we can say with confidence that Fuchsia will be capable of running Android apps using the Android Runtime. This just adds more fuel to the fire for Fuchsia’s future.

A first look at the Fuchsia SDK

With the significant news this week that the Fuchsia SDK and a Fuchsia "device" are being added to the Android Open Source Project, now seems like a good time to learn more about the Fuchsia SDK. Today on Fuchsia Friday, we dive into the Fuchsia SDK and see what it has to offer developers who might want to get a head start on Fuchsia.

Fuchsia is the only publicly known truly new operating system designed and built by one of the major technology companies. It's strange to think this may one day power Chromebooks and "Android" devices alike.

Dr. Google is a liar

It started during yoga class. She felt a strange pull on her neck, a sensation completely foreign to her. Her friend suggested she rush to the emergency room. It turned out that she was having a heart attack.

She didn’t fit the stereotype of someone likely to have a heart attack. She exercised, did not smoke, watched her plate. But on reviewing her medical history, I found that her cholesterol level was sky high. She had been prescribed a cholesterol-lowering statin medication, but she never picked up the prescription because of the scary things she had read about statins on the internet. She was the victim of a malady fast gearing up to be a modern pandemic - fake medical news.

While misinformation has been the object of great attention in politics, medical misinformation might have an even greater body count. As is true with fake news in general, medical lies tend to spread further than truths on the internet - and they have very real repercussions.

We already see the consequences of this with abusive parents not vaccinating their children based on clearly disproven lies and nonsense, but it also extends to other medical issues. What's especially interesting is that this affects people with higher educations a lot more than people with lower educations - might overconfidence be a slow and insidious killer (have a cookie if you catch that reference without Googling/DDG'ing)?

In any event, while people not vaccinating their children should obviously be tried for child abuse, I can't say I can really care about what people do to their own bodies. If a grown adult wants to trust some baseless Facebook nonsense or whatever over qualified medical personnel, then she or he should be free to do so - and suffer the consequences.

Android Emulator picks up support for Fuchsia’s Zircon kernel

With yesterday's Flutter Live event and the stable release of Flutter, one of the primary ways to create Fuchsia apps, Google is one step closer to possibly unveiling their in-development operating system. Another unexpected step is coming, in the form of the official Android Emulator from Android Studio gaining the ability to boot Fuchsia's Zircon kernel.

While Google can be quite fickle, I feel every step forward for Fuchsia is a step towards the grave for Android/Linux.

Riding in Waymo One, Google’s first self-driving taxi service

Waymo, the self-driving subsidiary of Alphabet, launched its first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service here in the Phoenix suburbs on Wednesday - a momentous moment for the former Google self-driving project that has been working on the technology for almost a decade. I was one of the lucky few to test out the company's robot taxi experience a week before the launch. And I say "lucky" because to ride in one of Waymo's autonomous minivans, not only do you have to live in one of four suburbs around Phoenix, but you also have to be in a very exclusive, 400-person club called the Early Riders.

I want this technology to work.

Measuring Google’s “filter bubble”

The filter bubble is particularly pernicious when searching for political topics. That's because undecided and inquisitive voters turn to search engines to conduct basic research on candidates and issues in the critical time when they are forming their opinions on them. If they're getting information that is swayed to one side because of their personal filter bubbles, then this can have a significant effect on political outcomes in aggregate.

Now, after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and other recent elections, there is justified new interest in examining the ways people can be influenced politically online. In that context, we conducted another study to examine the state of Google's filter bubble problem in 2018.

Interesting study into the very real problem of Google's filter bubble, but do note that the study is performed by DuckDuckGo, a competitor to Google Search (one that I use myself, I might add). That being said, all the results, methodology, and data is freely available, and the code used to analyse the data is available on GitHub.

Huawei is testing Google’s Fuchsia OS on the Honor Play

In a Thanksgiving surprise, a new code change has revealed the first Android smartphone to be used as a testbed for Fuchsia, Google's in-development operating system for devices of all kinds. The bigger surprise - it's a Huawei.

Fuchsia is still such a mystery - there's clearly a lot of effort being put into it, but at this point, we still have no solid word on that, exactly, Google intends to do with it.

Google, Microsoft working on Chrome for Windows 10 on ARM

Windows 10 is catching up with all the other operating systems by offering better support for ARM processors, but this means third-party developers will also need to work on making their apps faster in the new ecosystem. Google now seems to have begun work on Google Chrome for Windows 10 on ARM, with a little help from an unexpected ally.

I am a proponent of ARM laptops, simply because of their long battery life and fanless operation. While I personally do not use Chrome, there are many applications that rely on it, such as Discord, which I do use every single day to hang out with friends and play games. Slack, which I personally don't use but is a hugely popular application, also uses Chrome.

Google Discover rolling out to google.com on mobile web

One of the most notable steps Google took last month to prepare for the next 20 years of Search is Google Discover. A rebrand of the Google Feed, it is part of the company's efforts to surface information without users actively having to ask for it. Google Discover is now beginning to roll out in google.com on mobile devices.

I don't quite understand this strong desire to shove "feeds" into every single possible product. Am I just old?

How Google protected Andy Rubin, the ‘father of Android’

What Google did not make public was that an employee had accused Mr. Rubin of sexual misconduct. The woman, with whom Mr. Rubin had been having an extramarital relationship, said he coerced her into performing oral sex in a hotel room in 2013, according to two company executives with knowledge of the episode. Google investigated and concluded her claim was credible, said the people, who spoke on the condition that they not be named, citing confidentiality agreements. Mr. Rubin was notified, they said, and Mr. Page asked for his resignation.

Google could have fired Mr. Rubin and paid him little to nothing on the way out. Instead, the company handed him a $90 million exit package, paid in installments of about $2 million a month for four years, said two people with knowledge of the terms. The last payment is scheduled for next month.

Mr. Rubin was one of three executives that Google protected over the past decade after they were accused of sexual misconduct. In two instances, it ousted senior executives, but softened the blow by paying them millions of dollars as they departed, even though it had no legal obligation to do so. In a third, the executive remained in a highly compensated post at the company. Each time Google stayed silent about the accusations against the men.

Great reporting by The New York Times - a story they've been working on for over a year.

So just to summarise this story: Andy Rubin and several other powerful men at Google have been either paid vast sums of money or given a high-paying job after being credibly accused of sexual harassment. This would be unbelievable if it wasn't 100% in line with everything we know about the male-centric bro culture of the technology industry. This should be 100% unacceptable, and not only the men involved ought to be fired, but Larry Page should also be forced to resign.

Unless these acts have consequences - as opposed to millions of dollars in rewards - society will never get rid of pathetic little men like these.