Google Archive

Making it easier to control your data in Google products

We're always working on making it easier for you to understand and control your data so you can make privacy choices that are right for you. Earlier this year, we launched a new Google Account experience that puts your privacy and security front and center, and we updated our Privacy Policy with videos and clearer language to better describe the information we collect, why we collect it, and how you can control it.

Today, we're making it easier for you to make decisions about your data directly within the Google products you use every day, starting with Search. Without ever leaving Search, you can now review and delete your recent Search activity, get quick access to the most relevant privacy controls in your Google Account, and learn more about how Search works with your data.

I guess it's a good step, but I think we're long past the point where it even matters.

Google’s new smart display does not run Android Things

Unlike regular phone Android, Android Things is not customizable by third-parties. All Android Things devices use an OS image direct from Google, and Google centrally distributes updates to all Android Things devices for three years. Android Things doesn't really have an interface. It's designed to get a device up and running and show a single app, which on the smart displays is the Google Smart Display app. Qualcomm's "Home Hub" platform was purposely built to run Android Things and this Google Assistant software - the SD624 is for smart displays, while the less powerful SDA212 is for speakers.

When it came time to build the Google Home Hub, Google didn't use any of this. At the show, I had a quick chat with Diya Jolly, Google's VP of product management, and learned that Google's Home Hub doesn't run Android Things - it's actually built on Google's Cast platform, so it's closer to a souped-up Chromecast than a stripped-down Android phone. It also doesn't use Qualcomm's SD624 Home Hub Platform. Instead, Google opted for an Amlogic chip.

This is such an incredibly Google thing to do. Build an entire platform specifically for things like smart displays, and then build a smart display that does not use said entire platform. It's a nerdy little detail that virtually no user will care about, but it just makes me wonder - why?

Google unveils Pixel 3, Pixel Slate

Google unveiled its new Pixel phones today, as well as the Pixel Slate, a ChromeOS tablet/laptop device that's basically a cross between an iPad Pro and a Surface Pro. Virtually everything from the event was leaked over the past few weeks, so there were few - if any - surprises. The new devices are certainly interesting, but Google continues its policy of not making these products available in most of the world, so there's little for me to say about them - I have never seen them, let alone used them.

One thing that stood out to me about the Pixel Slate are its specifications - it runs on Intel processors, and in order to get a processor that isn't a slow Celeron or m3, you need to shell out some big bucks. I don't have particularly good experiences with Celeron or m3 processors, and even Intel's mobile i5 chips have never really managed to impress me - hence why I opted for the i7 version of the latest Dell XPS 13 when I bought a new laptop a few weeks ago. In The Verge's video, you can clearly see the user interface lagging all over the place, which seems like a terrible user experience to me, especially considering the price of $599 for the base Celeron model without a keyboard.

Time will tell if this machine is any good, but I am quite skeptical.

Google exposed user data, chose to not disclose it

Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network and then opted not to disclose the issue this past spring, in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage, according to people briefed on the incident and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

A software glitch in the social site gave outside developers potential access to private Google+ profile data between 2015 and March 2018, when internal investigators discovered and fixed the issue, according to the documents and people briefed on the incident. A memo reviewed by the Journal prepared by Google's legal and policy staff and shared with senior executives warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger "immediate regulatory interest" and invite comparisons to Facebook's leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica.

Data leaks and breaches happen. They are a fact of life we're pretty much forced to accept. However, how one handles such a leak sets the willfully malicious apart from those who have the best interests of their users at heart. From Google's response - or lack thereof - to this incident we can clearly deduce to which group Google belongs.

This breach is the reason Google announced the sunsetting of the consumer-facing side of Google+ today.

Google memo Reveals plans to track search users in China

Google bosses have forced employees to delete a confidential memo circulating inside the company that revealed explosive details about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, The Intercept has learned.

The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, code-named Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location - and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have "unilateral access" to the data.

These are the requirements set forth by the Chinese government that you must fulfil in order to do business of this kind in China. It's the same reason why Apple handed over all of its iCloud data to a company owned and run by the Chinese government - if you want to make money in China, you have to play by their rules. It just goes to show that while these companies make romp and stomp about caring about the privacy of western users, said care goes right out the window if it means they can make more money. Your privacy does not matter - only money matters.

And yes, they will do the same thing here in the west the moment it's financially advantagous for them to do so.

Google China prototype links searches to phone numbers

Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users' searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people's queries, The Intercept can reveal.

The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China's ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

Don't be evil.

Where in the world Is Larry Page?

It's not just Washington. Even in Silicon Valley, people have started wondering: where's Larry? Page has long been reclusive, a computer scientist who pondered technical problems away from the public eye, preferring to chase moonshots over magazine covers. Unlike founder-CEO peers (Mark Zuckerberg comes to mind), he hasn't presented at product launches or on earnings calls since 2013, and he hasn't done press since 2015. He leaves day-to-day decisions to Pichai and a handful of advisers. But a slew of interviews in recent months with colleagues and confidants, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were worried about retribution from Alphabet, describe Page as an executive who's more withdrawn than ever, bordering on emeritus, invisible to wide swaths of the company. Supporters contend he's still engaged, but his immersion in the technology solutions of tomorrow has distracted him from the problems Google faces today. "What I didn't see in the last year was a strong central voice about how going to operate on these issues that are societal and less technical," says a longtime executive who recently left the company.

The money quote - quite literally: "People who know him say he's disappearing more frequently to his private, white-sand Caribbean island.". With the numerous challenges Google is facing, it seems odd that Page is being so reclusive.

Google wants to kill the URL

"People have a really hard time understanding URLs," says Adrienne Porter Felt, Chrome's engineering manager. "They're hard to read, it's hard to know which part of them is supposed to be trusted, and in general I don't think URLs are working as a good way to convey site identity. So we want to move toward a place where web identity is understandable by everyone - they know who they're talking to when they're using a website and they can reason about whether they can trust them. But this will mean big changes in how and when Chrome displays URLs. We want to challenge how URLs should be displayed and question it as we're figuring out the right way to convey identity."

Judging by the reactions across the web to this news, I'm going to have the minority opinion by saying that I'm actually a proponent of looking at what's wrong with the status quo so we can try to improve it. Computing is actually an incredibly conservative industry, and far too often the reaction to "can we do this better?" is "no, because it's always been that way".

That being said, I'm not a fan of such an undertaking in this specific case being done by a for-profit, closed entity such as Google. I know the Chromium project is open source, but it's effectively a Google project and what they decide goes - an important effort such as modernizing the URL scheme should be an industry-wide effort.

Google turns 20

No technology company is arguably more responsible for shaping the modern internet, and modern life, than Google. The company that started as a novel search engine now manages eight products with more than 1 billion users each. Many of those people use Google software to search the repository of human knowledge, communicate, perform work, consume media, and maneuver the endlessly vast internet in 2018. On Tuesday, September 4th, Google turned 20 years old, marking one of the most staggeringly influential runs for any corporation in history.

Even though I got into computing way before Google became a household name, it still feels like Google is a lot older than it actually is - almost as if it's always been there. While the company has - like every other technology company - terrible ethics, there's no denying it's a major success story.

$600 Chromebooks are a dangerous development for Microsoft

Among the new hardware launched this week at IFA in Berlin are a couple of premium Chromebooks. Lenovo's $600 Yoga Chromebook brings high-end styling and materials to the Chromebook space, along with well-specced internals and a high quality screen. Dell's $600 Inspiron Chromebook 14 has slightly lower specs but is similarly offering better styling, bigger, better quality screens, and superior specs to the Chromebook space.

These systems join a few other premium Chromebooks already out there. HP's Chromebook x2 is a $600 convertible hybrid launched a few months ago, and Samsung has had its Chromebook Plus and Pro systems for more than a year now. And of course, Google's Pixelbook is an astronomically expensive Chrome OS machine.

These systems should cause ripples in Redmond.

In a way, Google is employing the same tactic Microsoft used to get people hooked on DOS and Windows. Back in the late '80s and early '90s, people wanted the same computer at home as they were using at work, which were DOS and Windows machines. Now, it may be that younger people going off to college want what they were using primary and high school - Chrome OS machines.

Chrome turns 10

Chrome turns 10 this weekend.

Google first released its Chrome browser 10 years ago today. Marketed as a "fresh take on the browser", Chrome debuted with a web comic from Google to mark the company's first web browser. It was originally launched as a Windows-only beta app before making its way to Linux and macOS more than a year later in 2009. Chrome debuted at a time when developers and internet users were growing frustrated with Internet Explorer, and Firefox had been steadily building momentum.

When it was first released as beta, Chrome was a revelation. It was faster than Firefox, and sported a cleaner, simpler UI. I used Chrome from the very first few beta releases, but in recent years the browser has started sucking up more and more resources, and it feels - emphasis on feels - slower than ever before. On Windows, I switched to Edge, which feels a lot faster for me than any other Windows browser, and on my iOS devices I obviously use Safari.

With the new UI redesign coming to Chrome coming Tuesday - I see very little reason to go back.

AP: Google tracks your movements, like it or not

Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.

An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you've used privacy settings that say they will prevent it from doing so.

Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP's request.

Is anyone really surprised by this? Everything tracks you. Your smartphone, your smartphone's operating system, the applications that run on it, the backend services it relies upon, the carrier it uses, and so on. Even feature phones are tracked by your carrier, and of course, even without a phone, countless cameras will pinpoint where you are just fine.

This ship has sailed, and there's nothing we can do about it.

Google Maps says ‘the East Cut’ exists; locals aren’t so sure.

For decades, the district south of downtown and alongside San Francisco Bay here was known as either Rincon Hill, South Beach or South of Market. This spring, it was suddenly rebranded on Google Maps to a name few had heard: the East Cut.

The peculiar moniker immediately spread digitally, from hotel sites to dating apps to Uber, which all use Google's map data. The name soon spilled over into the physical world, too. Real-estate listings beckoned prospective tenants to the East Cut. And news organizations referred to the vicinity by that term.

The swift rebranding of the roughly 170-year-old district is just one example of how Google Maps has now become the primary arbiter of place names. With decisions made by a few Google cartographers, the identity of a city, town or neighborhood can be reshaped, illustrating the outsize influence that Silicon Valley increasingly has in the real world.

The Detroit neighborhood now regularly called Fishkorn (pronounced FISH-korn), but previously known as Fiskhorn (pronounced FISK-horn)? That was because of Google Maps. Midtown South Central in Manhattan? That was also given life by Google Maps.

I never thought about this, but now it seems obvious - Google Maps is so widespread it's basically become the authority on maps. This isn't some new phenomenon, though - cartography has a long history of phantom islands that would appear on maps for decades, sometimes even centuries, even though they weren't real at all.

Whistleblower reveals Google plans for censored search in China

Google is reportedly planning to re-launch its search engine in China, complete with censored results to meet the demands of the Chinese government. The company originally shut down its Chinese search engine in 2010, citing government attempts to "limit free speech on the web". But according to a report from The Intercept, the US tech giant now wants to return to the world's biggest single market for internet users.

According to internal documents provided to The Intercept by a whistleblower, Google has been developing a censored version of its search engine under the codename Dragonfly since the beginning of 2017. The search engine is being built as an Android mobile app, and will reportedly "blacklist sensitive queries" and filter out all websites blocked by China's web censors (including Wikipedia and BBC News). The censorship will extend to Google's image search, spell check, and suggested search features.

In the same vein as before, Google cares about freedom of expression and providing access to information. Unless you're Chinese - then you're shit out of luck.

Google announces its own security key for stronger logins

Today at the Next conference, Google announced a new product called the Titan Security Key, currently available to Cloud customers and scheduled for general sale in the coming months. The key is used to authenticate logins over Bluetooth and USB, similar to existing offerings from Yubico and other providers. A Google representative said the Titan key also includes special firmware developed by Google to verify its authenticity.

Bloomberg: Fuchsia intended to replace Android in five years

Well, here it is. I've been saying for 18 months now that Fuchsia clearly felt like a whole lot more than "just" a research operating system, and that I believed its developers' ultimate goal is to replace Android, which is a dead end. This Bloomberg article by the usually well-informed Mark Gurman is the clearest indication yet that such is, indeed, the end goal.

But members of the Fuchsia team have discussed a grander plan that is being reported here for the first time: Creating a single operating system capable of running all the company's in-house gadgets, like Pixel phones and smart speakers, as well as third-party devices that now rely on Android and another system called Chrome OS, according to people familiar with the conversations.

According to one of the people, engineers have said they want to embed Fuchsia on connected home devices, such as voice-controlled speakers, within three years, then move on to larger machines such as laptops. Ultimately the team aspires to swap in their system for Android, the software that powers more than three quarters of the world's smartphones, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. The aim is for this to happen in the next half decade, one person said.

CEO Sundar Pichai hasn't signed off on all of this just yet, so it's by no means 100% guaranteed - and a lot can change in five years. That being said, it's getting easier and easier to see which way the wind's blowing.

There's also reports of Fuchsia's security and privacy oriented design getting in conflict with Google's ad-driven business model.

The company must also settle some internal feuds. Some of the principles that Fuchsia creators are pursuing have already run up against Google's business model. Google's ads business relies on an ability to target users based on their location and activity, and Fuchsia's nascent privacy features would, if implemented, hamstring this important business. There's already been at least one clash between advertising and engineering over security and privacy features of the fledgling operating system, according to a person familiar with the matter. The ad team prevailed, this person said.

It's sad to hear that, but in the end, not exactly surprising.

Chrome OS isn’t ready for tablets yet

So this is supposed to be a review of the Acer Chromebook Tab 10, a tablet that was designed explicitly and exclusively for the education market. Acer and Google say teachers really wanted a tablet form factor for the classroom, and they really don't want to have to figure out how to manage an entirely new operating system when they're already all in on Chrome OS. And so here it is, finally: an honest-to-goodness Chrome OS tablet.

Keep this article in mind when you read the next item I'm about to post.

A look at Chrome’s new tab design

Chrome is getting a major redesign soon, and this week new changes have started to land in the Chrome's nightly "Canary" build. Google is launching a new version of Material Design across its products, called the "Google Material Theme," and after debuting in Android P and Gmail.com, it's starting to roll out across other Google's major products. On Chrome, this means major changes to the tab and address bar.

I haven't tried the new redesign yet - I don't use Chrome anyway - but judging by the screenshots, I can't say I'm a fan.

Ambitious browser mitigation for Spectre attacks comes to Chrome

Google's Chrome browser is undergoing a major architectural change to enable a protection designed to blunt the threat of attacks related to the Spectre vulnerability in computer processors. If left unchecked by browsers or operating systems, such attacks may allow hackers to pluck passwords or other sensitive data out of computer memory when targets visit malicious sites.

Site isolation, as the mitigation is known, segregates code and data from each Internet domain into their own "renderer processes," which are individual browser tasks that aren't allowed to interact with each other. As a result, a page located at arstechnica.com that embeds ads from doubleclick.net will load content into two separate renderer processes, one for each domain. The protection, however, comes at a cost. It consumes an additional 10 to 13 percent of total memory. Some of the performance hit can be offset by smaller and shorter-lived renderer processes. Site isolation will also allow Chrome to re-enable more precise timers, which Google and most other browser makers disabled earlier this year to decrease chances of successful attacks.