Archive for the ‘google’ Category

Microsoft engineer complains that company is biased against white men

April 22nd, 2019
Microsoft engineer complains that company is biased against white men

Enlarge (credit: Rory Finneren)

Some Microsoft employees are criticizing the company's efforts to increase hiring from under-represented demographics to make its staff more diverse, according to messages leaked to Quartz.

Threads started by an as-yet unnamed female program manager and posted on the internal Yammer message board in January and April assert that white and Asian men are being penalized or overlooked because of hiring practices that reward managers for hiring people outside of those groups. (Quartz hasn't named the employee who is apparently identified in the messages.) Further, the employee questions the value of diversity at all: "Many women simply aren't cut out for the corporate rat race, so to speak, and that's not because of 'the patriarchy,' it's because men and women aren't identical." She follows up that it is "established fact" that the "specific types of thought process and problem solving required for engineering of all kinds (software or otherwise) are simply less prevalent among women," and that women simply aren't interested in engineering jobs.

Established fact?

Of course, these claims seemingly ignore troves of evidence showing how bias seeps into hiring and the workplace. Research has shown merely having a male name produces a more positive assessment of a job application, having a male presenter produces more positive reactions to pitches, and that managers skew their judgement criteria so as to favor men. Software developers who don't happen to be white and male are paid less than white men, and women, unlike men, are viewed negatively when they attempt to negotiate higher pay.

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Posted in diversity, equality, google, James Damore, microsoft, outreach, Policy, Tech | Comments (0)

Amazon and Google settle feud, bring YouTube back to Fire TV devices

April 18th, 2019
The Fire TV Cube is a small Fire TV with an Echo Dot baked into it. It has a shiny black finish around the sides, with a matte black top.

Enlarge / The Fire TV Cube is a small Fire TV with an Echo Dot baked into it. It has a shiny black finish around the sides, with a matte black top. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Feuding tech giants Amazon and Google have come to an agreement on their streaming services. After over a year of absence, the official YouTube app will return to Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs. Google pulled the video streaming app in early 2018 after it could not strike a deal with the online retail giant surrounding the availability of its products and services.

According to reports at the time, Google was unhappy with Amazon because the retailer didn't sell a number of its products, including Chromecast and Google Home devices. The two companies couldn't strike a business deal that pleased both parties, so Google removed the official YouTube app from Fire TV devices at the start of 2018. This came after Google also revoked YouTube access on Amazon's Echo Show devices, citing a "broken user experience."

In the time since YouTube left Fire TVs, users have been able to access the site using browsers. But that experience isn't the most user-friendly, so the real losers in this situation were YouTube lovers that owned Fire TV devices.

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Posted in amazon, chromecast, google, Prime, prime video, streaming, Tech, YouTube, youtube TV | Comments (0)

Google Makes it Tough for Rogue App Developers Get Back on Android Play Store

April 16th, 2019
Even after Google's security oversight over its already-huge Android ecosystem has evolved over the years, malware apps still keep coming back to Google Play Store. Sometimes just reposting an already detected malware app from a newly created Play Store account, or using other developers' existing accounts, is enough for 'bad-faith' developers to trick the Play Store into distributing unsafe

Posted in Android, android apps, Android Malware, Android Security, apps security, google, Google Android, hacking news, Mobile Security, smartphone security | Comments (0)

Google Helps Police Identify Devices Close to Crime Scenes Using Location Data

April 15th, 2019
It's no secret that Google tracks you everywhere, even when you keep Google's Location History feature disabled. As revealed by an Associated Press investigation in 2018, other Google apps like Maps or daily weather update service on Android allows the tech giant to continuously collect your precise latitude and longitude. According to Google, the company uses this location-tracking

Posted in cellphone location tracking, geolocation, google, Google Location History, GPS location tracking, Location Database, location track, mobile location tracking, tracking location | Comments (0)

Amazon admits that employees review “small sample” of Alexa audio

April 11th, 2019
Amazon admits that employees review “small sample” of Alexa audio

Enlarge (credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Most of the time, when you talk to an Amazon Echo device, only Amazon's voice-recognition software is listening. But sometimes, Bloomberg reports, a copy of the audio is sent to a human reviewer at one of several Amazon offices around the world. The human listens to the audio clip, transcribes it, and adds annotations to help Amazon's algorithms get better.

“We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously,” an Amazon spokesman said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg. “We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order [to] improve the customer experience."

Bloomberg hints at a significant workforce doing this kind of work. Bloomberg says Amazon has employees listening to audio clips in offices in Boston, Costa Rica, India, and Romania. Employees interpret as many as 1,000 audio clips in a 9-hour shift.

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Posted in alexa, amazon, apple, google, Policy, Privacy, Siri | Comments (0)

YouTube reportedly ignored extremism in order to boost engagement

April 3rd, 2019
A person's hand holding a smartphone that displays the YouTube app.

Enlarge (credit: Toolstotal)

A new report from Bloomberg's Mark Bergen details in damning specificity how YouTube has allowed extremist content to run rampant on its site. According to the report, YouTube executives, including CEO Susan Wojcicki, repeatedly ignored warnings from YouTube employees regarding extreme and misleading videos gaining popularity on the site. This was done reportedly for "fear of throttling engagement."

Reportedly, "scores" of YouTube and Google employees raised concerns about incendiary content on YouTube. Some also offered solutions—one engineer suggested removing videos from recommendations that were "close to the line" of the company's takedown policy, while another employee wanted to track toxic videos in a spreadsheet to monitor how popular they became over time. YouTube did not take these employees up on their suggestions and continued to turn a blind eye to many types of extreme content.

While none of these rebuttals seem to be documented on paper as official policy, employees were reportedly discouraged from being proactive. YouTube lawyers told employees who were not assigned to moderation tasks to not research toxic content on their own.

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Posted in extremism, Facebook, google, online extremism, online video, streaming, Tech, YouTube | Comments (0)

Google and Walmart team up to let users buy groceries with voice commands

April 2nd, 2019
Google and Walmart team up to let users buy groceries with voice commands

Enlarge (credit: Walmart)

In its latest attempts to battle Amazon, Walmart teamed up with another tech giant to introduce a new way for its customers to buy groceries. According to a blog post by Walmart's senior vice president of digital operations Tom Ward, Walmart will now let those with Google Assistant devices buy groceries just by using their voices. Dubbed Walmart Voice Order, the feature will roll out over the next few weeks to those with Google Home devices along with other Google Assistant-enabled devices including Android smartphones and iPhones.

To begin voice-controlled shopping, users must say "Hey Google, talk to Walmart." Then, they can ask the virtual assistant to add items to their Walmart Grocery cart, and eventually, check out. Like most virtual assistant features, Walmart Voice Order will get better at identifying the specific items you want the more you use it. For example, the feature should be able to identify the type of milk you want based on previous orders.

Google's Assistant is available on more than just Google-made devices. Those with Google Home Hubs can ask Walmart Voice Order to do their shopping just as easily as those with Android smartphones or iPhones with the proper software installed. Ward writes that Walmart is "kicking off the work with Google," but it plans to add other platforms into the mix in the future. That could mean Walmart wants the feature to eventually work with Apple's Siri.

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Posted in alexa, amazon, Biz & IT, google, Google Assistant, online shopping, Tech, virtual assistant, walmart | Comments (0)

Boston Dynamics’ latest robot is a mechanical ostrich that loads pallets

March 29th, 2019

Boston Dynamics has a new YouTube video showing off its newest robot design. This one is a reimagining of the "Handle" robot that the company originally showed off in 2017. Back then the robot could jump four feet in the air and do all kinds of tricks; now its purpose is to load pallets.

Back in 2017 Handle was the company's first public "wheel-legged" robot—that is, the robot is a bipedal design that stands on two legs, but instead of feet at the bottom, the design opts for a set of wheels. Boston Dynamics described the design decision on its website, saying "Wheels are fast and efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs, Handle has the best of both worlds." Wheel legs allowed the original Handle design to have a roughly human form factor (albeit with backward knees) and a top speed of 9 MPH, just by rolling its wheel feet.

The new Handle is no longer humanoid. While it still has wheel-legs with backward-bending knees, it's now more bird-like than human. The two arms have been replaced with a single arm mounted at the top of the bot, making it look like a long neck. The original Handle's top-heavy design has been changed, and now a lot of the robot's mass lives in a large, wildly swinging rear (butt? tail?) that acts a counterweight as the robot lifts things and moves around.

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Posted in Alphabet, boston dynamics, google, robot overlords, Robotics, robots, Tech | Comments (0)

Google brings AMP to email, turning your inbox into an app

March 26th, 2019
Lightning blazes across the night sky.

Enlarge / Lightning bolts have currents from 5,000 up to perhaps as many as 200,000 amps. (credit: John Fowler / Flickr)

Google is bringing AMP, its cut-down version of HTML, to email. Starting today, Gmail on the Web will be able to support embedded AMP content, with support rolling out to mobile clients later. Gmail will also be joined by Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail, and Mail.Ru, with their respective developers promising to add support soon.

AMP for email isn't just a warmed-over version of email with HTML formatting. The embedded AMP content will be able to offer features such as interactivity without having to click away from your inbox. For example, an online store could send you an email about a product or promotion you're likely to be interested in, and the AMP embed could allow both scrolling through pictures of the products and even initiate the purchasing process. Or Pinterest could email you a selection of the day's popular items and you could pin them directly from your inbox.

Accelerated Mobile Pages were introduced by Google in 2015 as a narrow set of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS capabilities that produced pages that are fast to download and render, could easily be packaged together, and were amenable to being embedded in, for example, Google search results pages. JavaScript features were limited to those offered by a Google-supplied library. This greatly curtails the range of things that pages can do in favor of being extremely cache-friendly and having consistently good performance.

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Posted in AMP, gmail, google, HTML, Mail, Outlook, standards, Tech, Web | Comments (0)

Edge-on-Chromium approaches; build leaks, extensions page already live

March 25th, 2019

The Edge Insider extension.

The Edge Insider extension. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's first public release of a Chromium-based version of its Edge browser is fast approaching. Microsoft has published an early version of its extension market for the new browser, and the Windows Store includes a new extension for Edge-on-Chromium. On top of all this, a build of the browser has leaked.

The new build confirms much of what we've seen before: the browser is a minimally changed rebranded version of Chrome, replacing integration with Google's accounts with integration with Microsoft's accounts. This integration is still at an early stage; bookmarks can be synced between systems, but history, passwords, open tabs, autocomplete information, and open tabs don't yet sync.

Google has multiple release channels for Chrome; beyond the Stable channel, there's a Beta channel previewing the next release, the Dev channel previewing the release after that, and the Canary channel, which provides nightly builds. Microsoft's new extension for Edge Insider appears to offer easy switching between channels, announcements, known issues, and asking users for focused testing on particular areas.

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Posted in browsers, chrome, Chromium, EDGE, google, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, Web, Windows | Comments (0)