Archive for the ‘google’ Category

Google pledges not to make custom software for oil and gas extraction

May 20th, 2020
A serious man in a suit speaks into a microphone.

Enlarge / Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in 2018. (credit: Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images)

Google says that it will not "build custom AI/ML algorithms to facilitate upstream extraction in the oil and gas industry," the company announced on Tuesday. This represents a small but significant win for climate activists.

Google's comment coincided with the release of a new Greenpeace report highlighting the role of the three leading cloud-computing services—Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure—in helping companies find and extract oil and gas. Greenpeace notes that extracting known fossil fuel reserves would already be sufficient to push the world over 2 degrees of warming. Uncovering additional reserves will ultimately lead to even more warming.

Climate activists argue that these contracts run counter to the tech giants' broader efforts to fight climate change. All three companies have pledged to make their data centers carbon neutral in the coming decade. Amazon is seeking to bring the entire company's net carbon emissions down to zero by 2040. Jeff Bezos even pledged $10 billion of his own money to fund efforts to combat climate change.

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Posted in amazon, climate change, global warming, google, microsoft, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Failure to delete hate speech could cost Facebook, Google billions in France

May 14th, 2020
A huge (but mostly empty) amphitheater.

Enlarge / Members of the National Assembly (France's legislature) meeting on May 12, amid slowly easing COVID-19 restrictions. (credit: Gonzalo Fuentes | Pool | AFP | Getty Images)

Lawmakers in France this week passed a controversial new law that could impose billions in fines on social media companies that fail to delete certain kinds of content quickly enough—within an hour, in some cases.

The new legislation (page in French) gives online platforms 24 hours from notification to remove certain kinds of content or else face fines.

Content subject to enforcement under the law includes: sexual harassment; child pornography; anything that promotes certain crimes; anything that promotes discrimination, hate, or violence; anything that denies crimes against humanity; and promotion of terrorism. The window for removing content related to child pornography or terrorism is shorter, only one hour.

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Posted in content moderation, Facebook, France, google, Policy, YouTube | Comments (0)

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs scraps its ambitious Toronto project

May 9th, 2020
Sidewalk Labs concept for the scuppered lakefront development in Toronto.

Enlarge / Sidewalk Labs concept for the scuppered lakefront development in Toronto. (credit: Sidewalk Labs)

When Google sibling Sidewalk Labs announced in 2017 a $50 million investment into a project to redevelop a portion of Toronto’s waterfront, it seemed almost too good to be true. Someday soon, Sidewalk Labs promised, Torontonians would live and work in a 12-acre former industrial site in skyscrapers made from timber—a cheaper and more sustainable building material. Streets paved with a new sort of light-up paver would let the development change its design in seconds, able to play host to families on foot and toself-driving cars. Trash would travel through underground chutes. Sidewalks would heat themselves. Forty percent of the thousands of planned apartments would be set aside for low- and middle-income families. And the Google sister company founded to digitize and techify urban planning would collect data on all of it, in a quest to perfect city living.

Thursday, the dream died. In a Medium post, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff said the company would no longer pursue the development. Doctoroff, a former New York City deputy mayor, pointed a finger at the Covid-19 pandemic. “As unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the … project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan,” he wrote.

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Posted in Alphabet, google, Policy, Sidewalk, Tech, toronto | Comments (0)

Half of Americans won’t trust contact-tracing apps, new poll finds

April 29th, 2020
A smartphone belonging to a resident of Cranston, R.I., shows personal notes he made for contact tracing Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Enlarge / A smartphone belonging to a resident of Cranston, R.I., shows personal notes he made for contact tracing Wednesday, April 15, 2020. (credit: Steven Senne | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images)

After what feels like the longest March and April in human history, hundreds of millions of us are itching to reboot the world and get schools, retail, and every other "non-essential" part of society up and running again. Before we can safely do that, though, we'll need an enormous increase in our ability to perform contact tracing—identifying and contacting everyone who's been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19 so that they in turn can hunker down in quarantine and avoid infecting others.

Contact tracing in a small or medium-size community is one thing, but doing it at scale is quite another. There are roughly 330 million people living in the United States, and reaching them all, even with a small army of trained contact tracers, is a challenge, to say the least. Scale, however, is one thing modern technology excels at, so Apple and Google have proposed a platform that would let everyone's smartphones become part of a massive national contact-tracing network.

Before the platform is even developed, though, it's showing two huge problems. First, billions of phones won't be able to use the tech. And second: even among those who could, a solid half of Americans would refuse to because they don't trust insurers or tech companies with their health data.

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Posted in apple, contact tracing, coronavirus, COVID-19, google, HIPAA, Policy, Privacy | Comments (0)

One million people have tried Google Stadia, mobile app estimates suggest

April 23rd, 2020

With Google finally offering a totally free tier of Stadia game streaming earlier this month—including a free two-month trial of its expanded Stadia Pro subscription—now seems like a good time to check in on how many people are even interested in trying Google's new experiment in game distribution. Enter mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower, which is now estimating (via Reuters) that 1 million people have installed the Stadia app across iOS and Android.

Mobile app downloads aren't a perfect analogue for actual Stadia usage. People can download the free app on Android or iOS to browse Stadia's offerings without signing up for the service, for instance (and the iOS version doesn't even support direct game streaming currently). Some Stadia users might also ignore the mobile apps in favor of playing exclusively via browser or a Chromecast Ultra. And app downloads tell us nothing about how much time users are spending playing Stadia, or if they're sticking with the service after their initial download.

All that said, the app download numbers provide a good rough estimate for how many people have even tested Stadia's streaming offerings. Sensor Tower's new 1 million download estimate is up quite a bit from the 750,000 total Stadia app downloads the firm estimated earlier in April, just before the free tier rolled out.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, google, stadia, streaming, streaming gaming | Comments (0)

Uber accuses Levandowski of fraud, refuses to pay $179M Google judgment

April 20th, 2020
A man in a suit carries a folder while walking.

Enlarge / Anthony Levandowski leaves court in September 2019. (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Uber says it shouldn't be on the hook for a massive $179 million judgment owed to Google by Uber's former star engineer, Anthony Levandowski. Uber made that argument in a legal filing last week to a federal bankruptcy court in California. Uber's brief portrays the situation differently than Levandowski, who told the court last month that Uber was legally obligated to pay the award.

Levandowski joined Uber in 2016 after almost a decade at Google, where he had been a leading self-driving engineer. Uber bought Levandowski's months-old self-driving startup Otto for hundreds of millions of dollars, intending to make Levandowski and his team the core of Uber's fledgling self-driving car project.

But things went sour fast. Google sued Uber, alleging that Levandowski had downloaded thousands of confidential documents before his departure and had taken them to his new job. Fearing criminal prosecution for trade secret theft—fears that proved justified—Levandowski invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify during the civil trial between Google and Uber.

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Posted in anthony levandowski, cars, google, Uber, waymo | Comments (0)

Apple and Google detail bold and ambitious plan to track COVID-19 at scale

April 11th, 2020
Apple and Google detail bold and ambitious plan to track COVID-19 at scale

Enlarge (credit: Google)

In a bold and ambitious collaboration, Apple and Google are developing a smartphone platform that tries to track the spread of the novel coronavirus at scale and at the same time preserve the privacy of iOS and Android users who opt in to it.

The cross-platform system will use the proximity capabilities built into Bluetooth Low Energy transmissions to track the physical contacts of participating phone users. If a user later tests positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, she can choose to enter the result into a health department-approved app. The app will then contact all other participating phone users who have recently come within six or so feet of her.

The system, which Google and Apple described here and here respectively, applies a technological approach to what’s known as contact tracing, or the practice of figuring out everyone an infected individual has recently been in contact with. A recently published study by a group of Oxford researchers suggested that the novel coronavirus is too infectious for contact tracing to work well using traditional methods. The researchers proposed using smartphones, since they’re nearly ubiquitous, don’t rely on faulty memories of people who have been infected, and can track a nearly unlimited number of contacts of other participating users.

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Posted in Android, apple, Biz & IT, contact tracing, coronavirus, COVID-19, google, iOS, Policy, Privacy | Comments (0)

Google knows if everyone in your county is actually staying home or not

April 3rd, 2020
The reports are all public, but the nifty magnifying glass effect is not actually included.

Enlarge / The reports are all public, but the nifty magnifying glass effect is not actually included. (credit: Google)

The entire world is scrambling to mitigate the novel coronavirus pandemic. By now, a majority of US states are under some kind of stay-at-home order, with governors nationwide asking or requiring non-essential businesses to close and everyone to plant their butts at home as much as possible.

As the disease continues to march its way across the country and the globe, though—as of this writing, there have been more than 250,000 US diagnosed cases—officials, regulators, and we the work-from-home masses are all wondering: are we all actually complying with these new rules, or is it still chaos on the streets out there somewhere?

Google has unfathomable reams of data from billions of individuals worldwide, and it has pulled some of that location information together into community mobility reports to try to answer that question. Here's the good news: by and large, trips to virtually everywhere that isn't "home" have dropped a whole lot.

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Posted in coronavirus, COVID-19, google, location data, Policy, Privacy, stay at home | Comments (0)

Coronavirus misinformation is the latest test for social media platforms

March 30th, 2020
Stock photo of hands using smartphone with laptop in background.

Enlarge / It's just you and your devices now, in this socially-distanced world we all live in for the time being. Too bad the misinformation campaigns aren't also all on hold. (credit: Luis Alvarez | Getty Images)

The presidential race has fallen off the top of every front page nationwide in favor of coronavirus coverage, but 2020 is still very much a high-stakes election year. Twitter, Facebook, and Google have all promised to beef up their efforts to let information spread freely while limiting falsehoods and disinformation, but it's a long uphill battle—and with a little more than seven months to go until the election, it's one they do not seem to be winning.

The problem, a report today by The New York Times points out, is that not only are foreign disinformation campaigns in full swing, but the metaphorical calls are also coming from inside the house. Some platforms seem to be handling the challenge better than others.

The Times spoke with several employees at both Facebook and Twitter about how they have to change their tactics endlessly, as their adversaries continually modify their own approaches.

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Posted in coronavirus, COVID-19, disinformation, election advertising, Facebook, google, misinformation, Policy, Twitter | Comments (0)

Former Google engineer pleads guilty to stealing confidential document

March 20th, 2020
A man in a suit carries a folder while walking.

Enlarge / Anthony Levandowski leaves court in September 2019. (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Anthony Levandowski, the man at the center of Google's epic legal battle with Uber over trade secrets, has agreed to plead guilty to stealing a single confidential document from Google. The guilty plea is likely to lead to a prison sentence of between two and two-and-a-half years.

Levandowski, a gifted engineer, was one of the early stars of Google's self-driving car project. In 2015, he decided to leave Google to start his own self-driving car startup. According to the plea deal, on his way out the door, Levandowski downloaded thousands of confidential Google documents and transferred them to his personal laptop. Uber acquired the startup a few months later in a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Google conducted a forensic investigation and discovered what Levandowski had done. Google then sued Uber for theft of trade secrets. The companies settled the lawsuit a year later, with Uber giving Google more than $200 million in Uber stock.

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Posted in anthony levandowski, google, Policy, trade secrets, Uber, waymo | Comments (0)